Freelance Journalist Interview with Andrea Childs
Today, get closer to Andrea Childs – former assistant editor at Red turned women's lifestyle freelancer. Writing for her own peer group is a plus for Andrea, as well as "good news hooks" and "brilliant case studies". Read on to find out what she can do with them…
About your journalism
What do you write about?
I tend to categorise my writing as ‘women’s lifestyle’ as I cover health, homes, case studies, women’s issues and wellbeing for monthly consumer magazines, plus newspaper supplements and weekly titles such as Stylist.
Where are we likely to see your work?
Before I went freelance I was assistant editor on Red, so you’ll still see my name cropping up there. I also contribute regularly to Livingetc and I have a monthly 'Homes Notebook' column in Sainsbury’s magazine. I write for Marie Claire, Stylist, YOU, Psychologies, Top Santé, Zest, Good Housekeeping and Mother & Baby, among other publications. Over the past three years, I’ve also begun to do a fair amount of content for websites, plus consultancy, copywriting and social media management for brands. I like the creative challenge of using my editorial know-how in a new way.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
The memorable pieces are the ones where I get a real insight into people’s lives – it can be incredibly humbling and inspiring to see how some women cope with illness or hardship. On a more prosaic note, like every other journalist I wrote about the 5:2 diet last year, in a big research piece for Red. It’s memorable because I instinctively ate biscuits every time I sat down to write, but now I’m on my fifth month of intermittent fasting. The message got through eventually!
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’m often asked to write the 'Life Stories' for Marie Claire – biographies of inspiring women such as Martha Gellhorn, Patti Smith, Nine Simone and Deborah Harry. I’ve never wanted to be a celebrity writer, but I wouldn’t mind the chance of meeting icons like those in a kind of fantasy dinner party scenario, then writing about it.
About you and PRs
Where do you source ideas for articles?
It’s a mix of what’s going on in my life and those of friends (I’m fortunate that my target audience is also my peer group), plus news reports, new research, book publications, etc. A story needs a good news hook or a brilliant case study to get on a magazine’s features list, so that’s what I look for.
How can PRs be useful to you?
It can be really helpful when a PR thinks around the story, so they can tell me about the person or science or story behind the product, not just the product itself. For example, I often write about homes. If you know a client has an amazing property, it can be an indirect way to get coverage for them. Or perhaps their business was inspired by their own ill health/redundancy/divorce.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email is always best for first contact as I do read them all and I keep relevant info in folders to refer to.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I live in Brighton and have school age children, so that means press events can be tricky for me to get to. I do aim to get up to London for meetings at least once or twice a month as it does make a real difference to see and touch the products and to meet and talk to people.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
It would be fantastic if PRs asked if I have time to talk before launching into a pitch. I’m often on a deadline but I’m happy to arrange another time to talk so you get my full attention.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d open an art gallery/florist/art school/coffee shop with my husband. Or I’d write a book – I’m working on a proposal for an interiors title now.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
A family holiday somewhere sunny would be wonderful.
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
Professionally, I tweet every day for a social media client. Personally, I’m a bit ad hoc! I’m trying to find that balance between telling people what I’ve done and posting something people will actually want to read/look at. I’m about to start working on a blog so I can make my website a bit more interactive, so I’ll start tweeting in earnest when that’s up and running.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m a huge fan of Vanity Fair and I also subscribe to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I get Red and Livingetc sent to me, which is fab. I’m reading Christopher Hitchens’s biography at the moment and I can’t wait to read the new Curtis Sittenfeld novel – I loved her last, 'American Wife'. Blogs wise, it’s all about design – Apartment Therapy is a favourite.