Journo intel: Madeleine Silver, freelance writer on sex toy research and hibernating in a shepherd’s hut
Madeleine Silver is a freelance feature writer for Country Life, The Telegraph, Horse & Hound, CN Traveller, Tatler and Town & Country, as well as obituaries for The Times. Madeleine’s career has taken her to some fascinating places, and we were lucky enough to get some time with her to discuss what life as a top freelance journalist is really like.
How did you first get into journalism?
At age 16, I did work experience at my local newspaper the Bath Chronicle. After a week of following the features editor around restaurants, spas and art exhibitions, the teenage me thought I’d hit the jackpot. A string of work experience followed (some more agonising than others, including being asked to research sex toys while at The Observer…) before I graduated from Durham University and took a diploma in magazine journalism.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
Being a journalist is a free pass to meeting enviably interesting people and being allowed to ask them reams of questions. Being that nosey in a social situation would never be allowed…
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
With a two-year-old and a baby, my Nespresso machine takes a battering for the first few hours of the day. My work seems to go in cycles of working flat out, writing to deadlines and staying up irresponsibly late, and then having luxurious weeks of working 9-5 pitching to editors, researching and taking long lunch breaks to go for walks with my favourite podcasts. The biggest perk of being freelance is the freedom to shut your laptop and say yes to a fun invitation in the middle of the working day.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the profession?
Convincing a generation who have grown-up with the internet and social media that quality journalism should be paid for.
How do you prefer PRs and brands to work with you?
I’m envious of an era when journalists had time for long lunches with PRs, but now an email clearly laying out the pitch is the best way to get the ball rolling. Plenty of warning for a time-sensitive story is also helpful as a freelancer because the process of pitching to editors and waiting for their decision can take time. Plus, monthly magazines tend to work on long lead times.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
I flit between imagining life as a lawyer in a suit with a big paycheque and hibernating in a shepherd’s hut on the Cornish coast writing children’s books and living off tins of baked beans.