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Beyond the Byline with Coryanne Hicks

Alexis Ganz

Have a question about your 401(k), IRA or 529 plan? From Investing 101 to more complex money management strategies for all ages, when it come to financial health and wellness, Coryanne Hicks has written about it. In this edition of Behind the Byline, we take a deep dive with our favorite personal finance journalist.

You can follow her on Twitter at: @coryanne_hicks

Tell us about your journey to journalism.

If you’d told me in college I was going to become a journalist, I’d have laughed and told you to get your Magic 8 ball checked. After a failed internship at a PR firm and trying my hand at becoming a financial advisor with Fidelity, I decided I simply had to be a writer. It wasn’t until all the freelance gigs coming my way were for finance that I realized maybe there was something to this financial journalism thing. Since then, I’ve found I’m far better at writing about finance than I am at selling it. 

What are the pros and cons of staff writing vs. freelancing?

One of the biggest pros of staff writing beyond the benefits (oh, 401(k) and health insurance, how I do miss you), is actually the extra-curriculars. As a staff writer, you get to go to conferences and work on projects outside of your usual wheelhouse. For instance, I got to do several videos for our social media pages and infographics to beautify my articles. (I always said my mission when I joined U.S. News as a staff writer was to make investing pretty.)

Staff writers also get to be involved in the brainstorming and idea generation side of things. You have more liberty to explore and ability to impact the company’s content direction.

That’s not to say freelancing doesn’t have its perks too. I love the autonomy and control that comes with freelancing. I get to choose when I work, how I work and what I work on. I’m not responsible to anyone other than myself and can manage my daily schedule to my Type-A precision. No one is going to schedule a 5 pm meeting or make me sit through a nonsense presentation.

The downside to freelancing is that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. You must be constantly pitching stories. Once you get a stable of regular publications who want your work, this gets easier. But, there will always be a degree of feast-and-famine to freelancing because contractors can be dropped at anytime.

Also, did I mention freelancers don’t get access to company 401(k) or health insurance? *Sigh.*

 What’s your favorite, and least favorite, part of your job?

My favorite part must be connecting with amazing PR people, obviously! No really. That truly is one of my favorite parts. I’ve met so many great people through this job; people I never would have known had I not gone into journalism.

Of course, the writing is also fun (most of the time). When it’s a topic I care about, I love it. When it’s not a topic I care about… I love it less.

My least favorite part of my job is probably pitching editors and coming up with story ideas. Originality is hard, especially when the topics I like to write about are decades old.

What do you look for in a pitch? How do the “ingredients” of a good pitch differ as a freelancer than they did when you were a staff writer?

Relevancy and creativity. A pitch must be relevant to my niche and ideally something I haven’t heard before. It doesn’t necessarily need to be timely or news related; in fact, I prefer non-newsy topics because I focus on evergreen content and like to plan my writing schedule a month in advance. 

When I was a staff writer, relevancy was even more important because we had such siloed verticals. As a freelancer, if a pitch doesn’t quite fit the section I write for at U.S. News, say, I may be able to pitch the story to another publication.

What topics are you most passionate writing about?

I’m all about Investing 101 and the basics of financial literacy - the topics that put you to sleep faster than turkey at Thanksgiving. But in my defense, they’re so important! Everyone should be saving and investing for their futures. I want to lower the barriers between people and investing so we can all achieve financial independence and retire early.

What makes a good source/a good interview?

Since most of my topics are evergreen and educational as opposed to timely and news-oriented, I love sources who have a unique way of explaining a common topic. And someone who can speak about complex subjects in simple terms. Analogies and metaphors make my heart sing.

Time for some quick ones – what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Favorite story? It’s definitely “Women Can Close the Gender Wealth Gap by Investing.”

Most memorable interview? The time I interviewed a professor who, when I asked how he was doing, replied, “I’m ducky!” I just knew it was going to be good with an intro like that.

Favorite TV show? Great British Baking Show

East or West Coast? No fair! You’re calling out my disloyal loyalist leanings. I suppose I’d say West Coast now. Does that make me a traitor or a loyalist? A Born-Again Californian, perhaps? A Reformed West Coaster?

Cats or dogs? That’s easy: Cats. Hands, feet, and paws down.

Finish the sentence: In my next life, I want to come back as a… Ninja. I have no idea where that came from but it was literally the first thing that came to mind.

If I were to think a bit longer, I’d say I want to come back as a filthy rich person who doesn’t have to work and can spend all her time writing novels on various beaches, traveling and doing charitable works. 

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