Today is the first day for nearly two years that I have not had to get up at 6am to write early morning web news for Insurance Times. I woke up at 6 anyway (but I lay there until 6.20). My ambition is to be woken with a cup of tea in bed at 7am. For now at least, that is just a dream.
Since 10 November 2008 I have missed six working days in 100 weeks – once in hospital after my knee operation and one week off travelling this year. I have written about 3,000 stories, sometimes writing nine a day. Insurance Times paid about £12.50 per story.
I have worked from holiday homes and hotels. I have stayed in B&B’s with broadband purely to be able me to fulfil my contract. I have even worked from my laptop and dongle on campsites.
Supermarket giant Tesco announced to the stock market at 7am in September last year that Fortis (now Ageas) was to be its insurance provider.
I called Fortis and got a quote for my story while sitting outside my tent just metres from the sea at Ullapool in Scotland on the xrv.org.uk national meet motorcycling weekend. Fortis told me that morning that Insurance Times was the first to run the story, with it live before 8am.
A lot of what I wrote was news from that morning’s papers and other sources – often one or two pars and pointers to where readers could get the story. But I had plenty of other exclusives too, either given to me because my contacts knew I was up at that time or through my industry knowledge.
New Year honours
When Simon Bolam was given an MBE for services to the Insurance Industry in the New Year honours 2008 even the Scottish papers missed him because they did not know who he was. I remembered him as the former leader of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).
I knew the name of the broker he ran and tracked him down, first speaking to his daughter, who by then ran the firm, and eventually – at about 9am – Bolam himself.
I was in the Lake District, booted and waterproofed, about to leave for a hike, when he called and I added his quote to my story. The rival Post Magazine ran that story six days later when they got back to work.
Insurance Times has taken the work in-house. Two new reporters will take turns to get up early and get into the office to start work at 6am. I have worked for Insurance Times for so long – I am a former editor – I was trusted with remote access. One will be getting up at 4am to travel in.
The early morning news made a huge different to the site’s traffic. When CEO’s get in at 8am, if the site is the same as it was the night before they won’t look again. If a CEO tells the next level of management to look at a story, traffic really picks up. That is what happened.
I think I offered great value for money. I did a good job. I wrote more stories than I was asked to write and more than most thought possible – I had to process them all to the website, including links, photos and categories, not just write the words.
I think I gave Insurance Times more as a freelance than they will get from staff.