Rachel Kolsky 58, Blue Badge guide and founder of Go London Tours
How do you spend your days?
‘Well, there could be a tour in the morning and another afterwards, but the tours are only one tiny part of being a guide. You come home and you’ve got your emails, your website, your planning. During the day you’ve also got to research your walks and talks. I’m working more hours a week than I ever did in my old nine-to-five.’
So say bye-bye to a social life...
‘You get to see strangers more than your family. Often you miss out on things because you’ve made a commitment to your clients. But friends and relatives come on tours sometimes and get to have a day out.’
What led you to the life of guiding?
‘I’ve always loved London. I’ve always loved talking, too, and have an amazing amount of energy, so I can walk for ever. A few of my friends suggested that I train as a guide, so I did, as a City of London guide at the weekends and fell in love with it. I eventually got my Blue Badge in 2004 and soon after that I resigned from my job as a librarian and started up my own company.’
What do you need if you want to become a tour guide?
‘You have to be incredibly well organised, but at the same time be flexible and able to improvise. You never know what’s going to happen – there could be a road closed or the group could be late. Other things you need are good lungs, shoes and insurance. Keep smiling as well!’
Do you have a favourite nugget of London history?
‘I love walking around Bow in the footsteps of Sylvia Pankhurst. I never ever tire of talking about her and the stories of the votes-for-women campaign and the suffragettes.’
What are the downsides?
‘You’re never going to get rich! But no, there isn’t really a downside because you’re indulging your own passions. Even the weather doesn’t bother you!’
Hours: 50-60 hrs p/w
Starting salary: £10-£15 per person/per tour
Qualifications: Not necessary.