What a year 2019 has been! I could never have predicted the outcomes, opportunities and success that I have had this year and it goes without saying that I appreciate the support, reviews, recommendations and help from so many of my followers. I made it my New Year’s resolution to make it my year for my writing and it was certainly one to remember. This is my year in review.
The year began with creating blogs for my consumer website www.thegrumpygit.com and my website www.awriterinedinburgh.com which showcases my writing and publishing services. I am a resident writer for a travel guide who hosts bespoke private tours in Edinburgh and I create content based on their tours in their voice to chime and engage with their audience. You can see for yourself at www.totallytailored.com.
I asked an acquaintance in February for an honest review of my consumer book which I originally published in September 2016, which he kindly did and noted that it needed updating for GDPR Data Protection. I had to treat this as an urgent priority as there were other aspects that also needed updating and refining. That was a job in itself and took me in to March.
I decided to give the book a fresh cover, new title and a new Facebook page and released it on St Patrick’s Day. Quite prophetic, given the luck I have had since.
BBC Radio Scotland found my Facebook page within 2 weeks and downloaded and read my book prior to contacting me mid-April asking if I would be interested in taking part in their consumer programme ‘Clever With Cash’. I was interviewed later that month to discuss pothole claims, top tips on how to complain effectively and GDPR breaches on the streets of Edinburgh.
In the midst of all this, I was attending Google Digital Garage courses to learn as much as possible to try and raise awareness of my consumer book and what I know. One course that was pivotal in getting me on the right track was held by a PR expert called Claire Gamble from www.prunlocked.com who is based in Manchester and travelled to Edinburgh to host a PR and media course. This course was incredible and inspired me to explore opportunities to capitalise on the BBC Radio Scotland feature. I spoke to Claire afterwards and said that I was struggling to get some traction up to now, not realising that I was on the cusp of being noticed in a big way in literally a matter of weeks.
The planets were clearly aligned shortly afterwards as one Amazon review came in at the beginning of May for £23,000 against Evans Halshaw. BBC Rip Off Britain aired a programme about accident damaged cars being sold by Evans Halshaw to consumers that were unaware about the checkered history due to loopholes in HPI and insurance databases.
I contacted a freelance journalist at the same time who worked for the Daily Mail for many years and has a popular Facebook page titled Feature Me UK with over 12,500 members. My pitch revolved around my book noting that my own personal experience with Evans Halshaw inspired me to write a book to help others seek redress with one review coming in at £23,000 and that I have saved consumers fortunes ever since.
Jill interviewed days later by phone and arranged for me to fly to London the following Sunday afternoon from Edinburgh for a photoshoot in Kensington at the Daily Mail’s offices. That really was an unforgettable experience and the highlight of my life and journey so far as a consumer champion.
I also secured another client to write content for their own travel guide business here in Edinburgh based on a recommendation.
I had set up a Twitter account days before the Daily Mail feature was published and my first follower Lady Janey found me by chance by guessing that I was a part of the same feature from my handle.
Jane suggested that I take part in her ‘Breakfast With…’ series as soon as possible as we knew that our feature was going to be published any day now. We were gearing up for it knowing that it was going to be pivotal to what we do. Jane featured me on her blog 2 days before the Daily Mail feature was published.
I was featured in the Daily Mail with some of the best consumer champions in the UK and the article was published and shared 468 times online. My profile had shot through the roof overnight and I was getting emails from all over the world within 20 minutes of it going online.
Jane kindly introduced me to various bloggers in different groups and everyone was wondering who I was as the others were well-known to each other.
We quickly became good friends and I made her an author within 4 weeks and published a book based on her speciality as a Mystery Shopper. I have since published a poetry book for Jane as well and she has helped me on many aspects of what I do professionally insofar as aligning my social media accounts, refining my books, writing a foreword for my latest book on parking tickets and pothole claims and much more.
Jane has featured me on a few occasions on her website www.ladyjaney.co.uk and has introduced me to other bloggers groups. You quickly realise that you can’t do everything by yourself no matter how hard you try, and it’s power in numbers. I was getting to grips with Twitter and building up my contacts and using Hootsuite to schedule automated posts to keep the momentum going as well as writing content for travel guides.
I met up with Jane in Carlisle in September for lunch (quite a trek for both of us given that she is based in Cheltenham!). It was great to finally meet up and swap signed books, have a blether and share a photo with the journalist who featured us. We would have never met without Jill featuring us – it was clearly meant to be and is the icing on the cake for me.
I have had to invest in my consumer website and have it professionally designed and rebuilt on to self-hosting because I have a much higher profile now and you are judged by the standard of your website and products. That has also meant that I have had to revamp, review and update about 140 blogs for Google Search Engine Optimisation and readability.
This was rolled out and the feedback I have had has been fantastic. It’s fair to say that I am delighted with it, yet the hard work still needed to be done behind the scenes.
October began with me submitting Freedom of Information requests to Edinburgh City Council on potholes to drill in to the statistics to link in with the Edinburgh Evening News pothole campaign. The results have come through and I was featured discussing how motorists are being fobbed off by the Council’s claims handlers and how motorists can reinforce their claims.
The Hexham Courant also featured my new book in October titled How to Complain: The Consumer Guide to Cancelling Parking Tickets and Winning Pothole Claims. The journalist actually contacted me afterwards to ask for my advice on a parking ticket he got outside his home.
I have happily helped other journalists and consumers with similar problems as well based on my knowledge of various technicalities that can be legitimately used to fight back against rogue operators and greedy local authorities who are abusing their powers.
I have also spent more time updating the blogs behind my website (it’s like painting the Forth Road Bridge and is never-ending).
The Edinburgh Evening News ran a follow up feature on potholes as one of my Freedom of Information requests revealed that you have a 29% chance of succeeding with a claim. The year has rounded off with another interview with BBC Radio Scotland for an upcoming programme and that is creating other opportunities as well.
As for 2020, I can’t say too much at this stage but I have other media coverage in the pipeline as well as other projects and plans to capitalise on what I have achieved this year.
I remain grateful for the help, kindness and support from so many people and knowing that I have made a significant difference to society in my own way is something that I am proud of. I have only just begun really and whilst I have learnt so much, I know that I still have a lot to learn and do to get to where I want to be.
Let’s see what 2020 brings!