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Correspondent’s Week

This week by freelance journalist Rachel Gordon.

I am sent a copy of Correspondent’s Week to show what it is all about. The journalist in question talks of trips abroad, drinking pink champagne and being sent gifts. Time to reveal the other side of journalism.

The week starts from home. It is the usual, calling PR agencies and press offices to sort out interviews, haranguing experts and struggling to at least feign an understanding of a variety of subjects. Some are of these are interesting, some less so.

Features include hotel room buy to let, what new cancer treatments mean for private medical insurers, how to choose a pension consultant, premium finance (a mind-numbingly dull topic about instalment methods for general insurance) and how to meet the cost of nursing home fees.

This is interspersed with writing some nonsense for a company’s newsletter, interviewing a trade body chairman and doing a press release on a new motor showroom.

But I am not bitter. Working from home is great. You can get up late, wear what you like, eat when you want, watch dreadful old rubbish on TV like Columbo and help yourself to the odd minuscule glass of black Sambucca (deliberately the only booze in the house and left over from Christmas 2005). Obviously, I am a professional and do none of these.

You would think being at home would mean you can get on with the job but there are constant interruptions. Take Tuesday, for example. The bell goes and it is a woman in a shellsuit who launches into a “come back to British Gas” tirade and will not stop even though I tell her I am already a customer.

Ten minutes later, two Jehovah’s Witnesses turn up. One asks me: “What is happening with the world?” But before I can reply, I am given a magazine called Awake! and they head off next door.

A further disturbance comes when the cat shoots in with a tail hanging out of his mouth. On inspection, the tail belongs to a surprisingly unharmed mouse. After prising open jaws and using what seems like every household implement in the kitchen, I eventually catch and release it.

Midweek and it is a day shift in an office, in this case, a mortgage title. Most freelancers say no to these. They moan about the travel and/or the low pay. Day rates are generally less than commissioned articles written from home. But it is good discipline. Not that I need that.

Working again from home, it is time for a spot of ghostwriting. This time it is a good gig. A five-minute phone call to a specialist lending marketing manager who is succinct and knows his onions. In less than an hour, I produce a column of 800 words on training initiatives. I am turning into a mortgage sage.

The week ends and I see a play on locally in Brighton. Old Times by Harold Pinter is billed as “dark and erotic”.

The Sambucca and old Columbo episodes seem to have taken their toll because I do not really get the inner meaning and it seems there is no sex and the set is brightly lit. Still, the words sound a bit like poetry. It is lucky that I am in this finance writing game and not a theatre critic as I would be exposed as clueless and sacked on the spot.

If you are self-employed, there is plenty to do and weekends are no exception, especially if you have a tendency to faff around in the week when you should be working.

There are proofs from a company magazine to read, invoices to send out and, as some companies choose to ignore my bills, the unpleasant prospect of having to chase for money looms.

On the plus side, new work has come in – challenges for SMEs, some baffling IFA technology thing and a fraud update are required. You could say it is all glamour.


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