Ed Richardson is a copyeditor, proof-reader and trainer. He specialises in Business, Finance, Environmental, Science and Technology and other fields of technical writing. As the managing director and brain behind Siyathetha Communications, he has been described as one of the most effective weapons of mass communication in the Eastern Cape.
Describe yourself in two sentences.
A student of life who has been blessed as a journalist to have the opportunity to meet fascinating people and ask them stupid questions – and then write about it. My journey has taken me through print, radio, television and online media to doing what journalists do best – research and the packaging of the results for a select audience.
Please tell us more about what you do and how long you’ve been a freelancer.
Technically, I have been a freelancer since 1975 – my first year studying journalism at Rhodes University. I worked for the Herald and Dispatch and later other publications as the university and (then) Grahamstown Correspondent. After that, even when in formal employment, I always had a freelance gig or two on the side. There was an unspoken agreement that management would pay poorly on the understanding that you would make up the difference freelancing.
I started Siyathetha Communications in Gqeberha (PE) 22 years ago after a stint as business editor of the Herald. Since then, we have morphed in tune with the market from a classic PR agency to a research-based communications agency. In short, we do the research and then package the findings as business plans, socio-economic research reports, media releases, scripts, speeches and whatever else someone is willing to pay for.
What does a day in your life look like?
Fortunately, not like yesterday or tomorrow. It starts at five with a quiet time, followed by catching up on the news and then a five kilometre walk around Richmond Hill Gqeberha and neighbouring suburbs. The working day starts around eight and is a mix of researching and writing about everything from quail farming to the security situation in northern Mozambique. The move towards online meetings has helped in many ways – in a fortnight I interviewed people “face-to-face” in Somerset (England) and Connecticut (USA). But it does mean that I miss out on annual visits to Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique. It is only after a cup of coffee and idle discussion about the weather and the state of the roads that you find out what is really happening.
Where/how do you find inspiration?
Strength comes from my faith and inspiration from the people I meet and interact with – most importantly fellow Safreans. Also, great writing – be it about the pygmy three toed sloth or how America can get away with being the world’s biggest debtor. If I can understand the piece and it keeps me engaged from beginning to end, then I want to learn how to write like that.
What advice do you have for other freelancers?
What I learned from Martin Bailie (the little Irish devil of Springbok Radio for those old enough to remember) – you are a business. Treat yourself like a business where you are the product. Understand that products have a certain shelf life and need to be constantly updated and reinvented. Kit Kat and Crunchy excluded, it seems.
How long have you been a Safrean, and why are you a member of Safrea?
More than 10 years. I joined at the behest of Mike Loewe and have stuck around for the company, the fights and invaluable and generous sharing of expertise, contacts and life.
What is your work/life motto?