It was a pleasure to be interviewed & featured in Jass Goodman’s project: Interviewing the coffee industry for The Coffee Life blog. Read the full interview below:
Jess Palmer: Neon Content & Copy
Today on Interviewing The Coffee Industry, we introduce Jess Palmer, who unfortunately due to Covid, lost her job in the industry, but since then has bounced back by amazingly becoming a freelancer.
How are you?
Right now I’m really good. Throughout the year I’ve been really up & down so my answer could literally be a complete 180 flip from day to day. I think that’s fairly normal for a lot of people this year so I’m just rolling with the punches; being productive on the good days & not beating myself up too much if I’m having a bad one.
Where do you work and what is your role?
At the beginning of the year I was an account manager for a coffee company. We supplied wholesale coffee & equipment to hotels, cafes, leisure centres – all the places that had to close due to Covid! I had been there for a few years & worked my way through various roles, including customer service, maintenance co-ordinator, barista trainer, in-house PR….. I wore a lot of hats over my time there but was really enjoying my role as account manager which I started in January. Sadly in March I was furloughed & subsequently made redundant.
So I have used the enforced down-time to set myself up as a full-time freelance writer. I launched my company Neon Content & Copy in September. I offer writing of blogs, articles, website copy, product descriptions etc as well as social media management, courses & content creation. At the moment a lot of businesses are limited to what they can achieve through online sales and communications so I’m helping them to up their game & up their sales too!
How has coronavirus affected your job
I started working from home in March & then was furloughed pretty rapidly after that. It was a time of really high anxiety for me as I knew my Account Manager role was not ‘essential’ to a company facing drastically reduced turnover, as pretty much all hospitality ceased trading. I really struggled at first as I am enormously work-focused and take a lot of pride & affirmation in productivity. Adjusting from working full-time + having my freelance side-hustle to having almost nothing to do was such a shock to the system. I literally didn’t know what to do with myself!
Once the (redundancy) hammer finally fell it was almost a relief as it meant I had something to focus on again – either finding a new job or following my freelance dream.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in the coffee industry through 2020?
Keeping my job & paying the bills! 😀
How have you felt about the Coffee Industry this year?
So proud of all my colleagues, peers and fellow coffee-professionals. It’s been such a difficult time & our industry has been battered by blow after blow of restrictions, uncertainty, trade drop-off and challenges to our livelihoods & the ‘usual’ way of doing things. I’ve been in awe watching companies come out fighting each time, the resilience, adaptability & ingenuity shown is such a huge positive to acknowledge. I have LOVED seeing the support we all have for each other, how people are reaching out, offering whatever they can to keep others’ spirits up & nurture a genuine camaraderie amongst people who are all experiencing the same storm.
What is something you’ve missed in the coffee industry in 2020?
Café culture! I love idling away time in a coffee shop, watching the world go by & feeling the buzz of a busy café. Especially now, when I’m working from home full time; I find myself desperate to take my laptop out to a café, sit in the corner & tap away, absorbing the atmosphere.
How has coronavirus/being out of work/lockdown affected your mental health?
Oh man, it’s been a ride! At the start of lockdown I was super-anxious. I struggled enormously with a sense of futility in terms of the bigger, worldwide picture but also how my own little sphere of existence was affected.
Whenever I’m going through something emotional my fall-back is to make myself busier – it’s how I usually cope! During the first few months I remodelled my garden, I walked, did DIY, took up embroidery, yoga, jigsaw puzzles, started learning guitar, baked, joined a volunteering group, wrote blogs & developed recipes, read books (including actual War & Peace). I did everything I could to keep busy. These bursts of activity were interspersed with some days where I was so lethargic I just couldn’t get out of bed. It wasn’t a fool-proof coping strategy clearly!
Once I was made redundant the nervous energy gave way to sadness, understandably, but also a kind of release, my worst-case scenario had come true so at least I didn’t need to worry about that anymore. I gave myself ‘permission’ to be sad for a week, but in reality I probably had about 3 or 4 weeks where I was really very down. But I needed time to process and re-group.
Now I am trying to be a bit more balanced & set a routine where I have both activity & self care planned in every day, rather than just trying to outrun my feelings & inevitably crashing. I love having my new business to focus on, and using my skills to support independent companies through this challenging time is great to give me a sense of achievement & efficacy again.
Keeping in touch with friends and family every day has been the most useful thing for keeping my spirits up. Some days it’s hard not having the support of colleagues, trying to forge my way as a freelancer. But having a little group of whatsapp cheerleaders who are invested in my success & wellbeing is so empowering!
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I’m looking forward to growing my business and bringing on board more hospitality & coffee-related clients. At the moment I write about everything & anything which is a brilliant challenge in terms of developing my subject knowledge. However, I’m looking forward to networking a bit more (probably remotely, let’s be honest) and focusing more on what I know best. I have a few coffee-industry clients I’m currently working with and it’s dreamy! To sit down & tap out articles and content that I feel so passionately about – more of this please!
In terms of the coffee-industry in general: I’m looking forward to seeing more of how we adapt to the longer-term reality of Covid. My home espresso machine seemed like an extravagant purchase a year ago but the routine & comforting ‘normality’ of starting my day with an oat flat white, like I did when I was working, has been vital for me this year. As such I’ve been buying most of my coffee online. But now I miss the conversations that spring up when you’re out in cafés, I miss going out for brunch at the weekend and planning dog-walks based on where we can stop for a decent coffee afterwards. I’m looking forward to the coffee industry becoming more about joy again, and less about survival.
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