By NICKY WILTON
Maya is friendly and down-to-earth when I call her for the interview. Which makes her the perfect person to be giving advice on something many of us are a little nervous about – money.
Maya Fisher French is a successful and well-known personal financial journalist with a background in the financial industry. Her website, Maya on Money, is a comprehensive collection of articles on personal finance. She is also editor of the personal finance section of the Sunday City Press newspaper.
I spoke to Maya about her career in media and what advice she has for aspiring writers.
Q: What motivated your transition from the financial industry to writing?
While expecting my first child, I realised I couldn’t work those long hours any more. I had studied English and Economics at university, and when I saw a recruitment advert for This Day, a newspaper starting up in South Africa, I pursued it. No expense was spared in their hiring process, and I was extremely fortunate to be employed to work alongside some of the cream of South Africa’s journalism crop.
Although the magazine closed after a year, I came away with some great experience and some incredibly valuable connections.
Q: What steps did you take to become a writer?
Without formal training I haven’t been bound by rules. This left me uninhibited to explore my own writing style. I have a very direct approach.
In practice, it was about rewriting, rewriting and rewriting, so that every piece was perfect before submitting.
Q: What is your greatest writing achievement?
Becoming a journalist . . . !
Although there is one piece of work that still stands out for me. I wrote an article about the founders of Firstrand for which I won a Sanlam award. In my research for the article, these three exceptional men gave me complete and unrestricted access. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I am fundamentally interested in the subject of finance and have industry knowledge, and this alone is invaluable inspiration.
I also get a lot of inspiration from the people I deal with on a daily basis, from questions raised on my website, and from my own experiences with personal finance.
Q: How easy is it to make a living as a writer?
As a freelance journalist, success depends on commitment and discipline. Stay on the same beat, become a specialist in your field, and success will come more easily.
Q: In what way has digital media enhanced your approach to writing?
Digital media builds a brand, it doesn’t always make money. A successful writer must have a digital presence to grow their brand. Although I don’t necessarily make money from my website, I get more new work requests via this platform than through my print work.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Become a specialist in your field. Write about what interests you and what you are passionate about.
Q: What tips would you give to writers about getting published?
Start writing, and keep writing. The more you write, the better you become. Send finished pieces on spec. Ensure you send clean copy – never submit articles with careless spelling, punctuation or grammar. And never miss a deadline. Ever.
Q: What is the most important writing tip you have received?
A former editor gave me a piece of advice which has guided my writing style: Have someone in mind, and write for that person. I still do that every time I write.
About the Author
Nicky Wilton is a freelance journalist. As part of her work at a wine laboratory, she publishes a regular technical winemaking blog and has also written a manual for winemakers and oenologists. She is interested in current affairs, the environment and sustainability.