On the money
FREELANCE journalists can make money by writing
about money, well-established financial writer Richard Willsher
told the London Freelance Branch June meeting. He sees his rôle as a
decoding operation, putting City and financial information into
understandable language so people can make sense of personal
investments, pension plans, insurance policies and savings.
"People have become little capitalists," he said.
Over the seven years he has been freelance, he has
written for some 75 publications, concentrating on maybe half a
dozen clients at any time but making sure he avoids becoming
over-dependent on one.
A running small ad in the Press Gazette has brought
him some good commissions. And there is the the matter of expertise -
before becoming a freelance writer, he had been an investment banker
and had edited the magazine The Investor. "Relatively
few people writing about money know anything about it," he said.
Offering an insight into his working methods, he said he took as
few lunches as possible: "It wastes an hour of my time, plus
an hour there and back."
By contrast, Financial Times staffer Joel Kabazo
emphasised the significance of lunches: "I have to lunch
every single day of my life - it's a heavy price." He also
has to gossip: "I am one of the few people paid to gossip."
How else is he going to find out what is happening in the financial
markets? "You want to know why certain shares are moving - there's
always a reason. It's one's job to find out."
Joel noted the requirement for journalistic financial rectitude.
"The fact that you work for the Financial Times gives
you access," he said, "but also responsibility, because what
you write may have a huge impact. You switch on the Reuters screen
and find them quoting what you wrote. When that happens, I am filled
So more than lunchtime gossip is needed: "There is always
dirt to dig. The problem is proving it, getting the documentary
NUJ NEC member Chris Wheal told the meeting that he
organises a Financial Journalists Group. To find out more, fax him
on 020 7696 8996.