And there we go. That’s 2018 done. And the fact I’ve only managed one blog post here since last year’s ‘end of year’ missive is quite telling. This year has disappeared in a whirlwind of work that some might describe as chaos (including me on a bad day) but I like to affectionately think of as variety. I’m a big believer that in the area I work in, diversity is more important than ever in ensuring a steady stream of work.

When it comes to journalism the landscape is changing and has been for a while. Budgets are tighter than ever and it’s a competitive world out there, so as much as I would love to spend my life writing about food and getting paid handsomely for it, I’ve found that diversifying into other areas gives me the freedom to pursue my interests and dreams as well as pay the bills.

It’s not just a means to and end, though. In 2018 I’ve seen the PR side of my business grow and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’ve cemented relationships with great clients, and also picked up some fabulous new people to work with. Two years ago I would never have dreamed the direction things have taken and in 2019 I can’t wait to seeing how it continues to do.

Personally, too, it’s been a rollercoaster of a journey. Anyone will tell you that running your own business isn’t easy and the work itself is only a tiny fraction of what you do. And since that’s the bit you’re really passionate about, it’s probably the easiest. I always want to be better at what I do, but 2018 has been all about getting better at all the other stuff.

Working with clients, working with colleagues (of which you have tonnes really when you’re working with lots of different companies), working with all your various bosses (which technically you also have lots of as every client is your boss – someone you want to respect you, to value your work and to produce results for). Being the admin assistant, IT support, salesperson and finance officer. It can be interesting, fulfilling and wonderful, and it can be difficult, emotionally taxing and tough. For me, 2019 is about continuing to work to be better at this, more professional, and to somehow separate work from ‘me’ which, let’s face it, is pretty difficult when the ‘product’ you’re selling is actually yourself. I’ve had some tough moments in 2018 but I’d like to think I’ve learned from each and every one of them and will go into similar situations better ‘armed’, so to speak.

In essence, 2019 will be about trying to be better. A better writer, providing better services for my clients, a better businesswoman, and a better person. But in the meantime, here are a few of the highlights of 2018! A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, who has been there for me and taken the trouble to notice when things aren’t great, and who have been honest and patient with me. And, of course, to all the editors and clients who have chosen to work with me.

Happy New Year – see you all on the other side. Here’s to a 2019 of being better!

Journalism

If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing about food for national newspapers and magazines, I would have told you that that was but a dream. This year I’ve been lucky enough to continue to write about something I’m truly passionate about and to learn even more.

I’ve written features for The i, Speciality Food Magazine, bar reviews and a feature for Class Magazine and been invited to be a judge in its awards, as well as the Great Taste Awards. I travelled to Belfast with some wonderful food writers to help judge at the Balmoral Show and visited some wonderful places.

Away from food, I’ve continued to write about small business, mainly for Guardian B2B, and find it such a huge topic. From producers to IT experts, there’s so much going on and so many changes, it’s hard not to find it interesting and enthralling.

I still love a bit of breaking news and it was a thrill to cover the Royal Wedding for Yahoo News UK, who I write for regularly, as well as getting a few other news stories in places like the Express and elsewhere. Of course, any journalist always wants to write more and for more publications, so that’s the big aim for 2019!

PR

As I said, PR has become a much bigger part of my working life than I’d ever anticipated. I approach it from the point of view of an experienced journalist who has been on the receiving end of very good – and very bad – PR for a decade and a half.

My PR clients span various different sectors and for me, understanding their business and what they’re trying to communicate is paramount – as well as being honest with them about exactly how newsworthy that is.

I’m delighted to have built relationships with businesses I worked with last year but also to expand my client list this year to add several organisations in various areas. Together, we’ve achieved coverage ranging from lengthy features in national glossy magazines, to items on BBC regional news, stories in national newspapers, radio items, and local media coverage.

Each organisation varies and so do their needs, the way they work, and the stories they produce. I look forward to us building our relationships further in 2019.

Copywriting

Much like PR, I have a few ongoing copywriting clients but 2018 has also seen me undertake project work for other major agencies, from awards entries to overhauling all of their website copy and writing blog posts.

It’s great when clients come back because they were pleased with previous projects, or come to me because I’ve been recommended, and always throws up interesting work to boot.

Blogging

My little food blog Eat with Ellen continues to be my hobby, though it’s so closely intertwined with my work that it would be silly not to include it. This year I’ve felt the blog has slightly suffered because of the volume of work I’ve had away from it, but it actually received a rather surprising bit of recognition this year, winning Best Food/Drink Blogger at the Midlands Food Drink & Hospitality Awards.

It was all rather a surprise, and I think if I’ve learned anything, it’s that no matter what external recognition you get for something, the main thing is whether you’re fulfilling your own ambitions and dreams. Because if you’re not, even the nicest and most humbling of experiences don’t trump feeling like you’ve done good in your own head.

Charity

The area I had no plans to pursue when I went freelance and one that has perhaps become bigger than any other individual part of my working life. What started as a news story about a group of builders turned into one of my biggest PR efforts – Band of Builders.

Over the past few years, we’ve got these guys featured across the national press, regional TV, trade publications and more. It’s probably some of my proudest work and something that I’ll confess I’ve tried to walk away from but have struggled. They’ve got plenty more coming up and I think I’m along for the ride.

And there we have it – a year of graft, albeit some sitting in a camper van or in the sunshine, all condensed into one blog post. It’s been a busy year. It’s had highs. It’s had lows. But it’s the journey that counts with this stuff, isn’t it. Let’s see where 2019 takes us!

Happy New Year!