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Quit your job, become a... tour guide

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

Andy Parsons

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.

Or why not become a sex instructor?

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