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Make money being nosey

Teresa Etheredge 13th Mar 2020 One Comment

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Wouldn’t it be amazing to make money being nosey? Well – you can. So it’s time to put your natural curiosity to use.

To get you started, here’re five funky ways of topping up the piggy bank.


Write to magazines

Woman writer lying on her bed looking thoughtful

Everyone loves a good bit of gossip. Hence the glossy magazines are happy to pay to take your stories.

Heard a scandalous tale from your neighbour about a cousin who got married to their girlfriend of only three days? Perhaps your pet did something to make you chuckle? Similarly, more serious stories are also in demand, be it local injustice or tragedy.

In general, a little bit of nosing around should easily dig up something exciting.

The important thing is to make sure everyone is happy with you going to the papers with the story. Using fake names, for example, might be a way to placate those concerned about their privacy.

How much money can you make?

Typically, magazines have been known to pay up to £1,000. A more common amount is £10-£50. They may also offer other rewards to their contributors, such as cosmetics, spirits or flowers.

Better still, include photos to top up your payment. Pictures prove your story is true and draw readers’ attention. For example, a story about weight loss should include photos of before and after to highlight the change.

Remember to check that those in the photo don’t mind it being published.

Which magazines should you write to?

Some possibilities include:

  • Prima
  • Real People
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Woman
  • Life! Death! Prizes!
  • Reveal
  • That’s Life!
  • Bella
  • Take a Break

Learn more from our article on how to get quick cash and prizes for writing letters to magazines.


Be a journalist


Do you mean journalist or reporter? Seems like the two are often confused. In basic terms, reporters are purely fact-based, reporting events taking place without much additional embellishment.

Likewise, journalism also sits under the umbrella term for all news media. But it involves thorough investigation, analysis or well-considered commentary.

What do I need to become a journalist?

As a journalist, you can make money being nosey. So if you always want to know ‘why’ or ‘what happened next’ you’ll fit in well.

Journalists usually start out small-scale, covering court proceedings or obituaries. But you’ll always need a set of certain skills.


Crucial in every career, but nowhere as important as when your job requires collecting and distributing information. Depending on the specialisation, you’ll need to become practised in:

  • shorthand,
  • actively listening to interviewees,
  • presenting to the public and
  • effectively conveying information through the written word.

Organisational skills

Working as a journalist can be a 24-hour job. For instance, working nights, weekends or holidays may be a necessary sacrifice to get ahead.

Speed is just as important as accuracy. You might be working on several stories simultaneously so the deadlines can get daunting.


When you first find out about the story, you’ll always need extra information to fill in the gaps. The internet might be a good start, but you’ll often need more primary methods of investigation. Perhaps simple observation, knocking on doors or making use of contacts in other industries. Flexibility in your information-gathering is essential.

Having said that, competence with technology is definitely a must-have. Learn how to:

  • Browse online databases
  • Use social media, such as Facebook or SnapChat
  • Shoot and digitally manipulate photographs and video.

How do I become a journalist?

Formal education is often useful. Many experts suggest doing an undergraduate degree in something else that you love, then continuing onto journalism with a postgraduate diploma or MA in a relevant area to learn key skills.

Alternatively, shorter (and cheaper!) courses are available as well. They’d typically take closer to 4 months rather than the 9-12 months of a postgraduate diploma.

Look for courses that teach a wide range of skills, such as digital publishing, data journalism or financial reporting.

When trying to make up your mind, you can also consider factors such as:

  • alumni employment,
  • the teaching staff and
  • overall reputation of the course.

One nifty trick is to follow your potential lecturers on Twitter to see what they’re getting up to and who their contacts are. Would you want to be taught by them?

Another important note to remember is that if you’re planning on getting into print journalism, the course should be NCTJ accredited (National Council for the Training of Journalists). Meanwhile, future radio reporters should look at the BJTC (Broadcast Journalism Training Council).

How do I stand out?

First and foremost, work experience is essential. It demonstrates your passion for journalism more than any fancy degree ever could. Some ideas might include:

  • Go and visit or email your local newspaper, radio station or TV programme. Perhaps try to take a few weeks to get a feel for the environment.
  • Start a blog about any kind of personal interest, so long as it’s not too obscure – think of something like gardening rather than the identification of cigarette ash (ahem, Sherlock!)
  • Teach yourself additional skills not covered by your course, for example how to Photoshop images.
  • Many well-established papers like the Telegraph also offer a variety of pathways into the industry through internships and apprenticeships. You can have a look at one graduate’s experience here.

How much money can you make?

Entry-level salaries often start at around the £18-20,000 mark and may climb to around £32,000 once you have become more experienced. Generally, the national average wage for journalists sits at around £23,000. However, although this is the average, it’s quite dependent on seniority, location and experience. The upper end of the journalists’ salary leans toward £40,000 a year, for example.

Columnists and correspondents on those big-time national newspapers can gaze proudly at £100,000 being added yearly to their bank balances. And successful financial journalists can do even better.


Be a private eye

Woman looking through magnifying glass

Are you always itching to pull out a deerstalker and magnifying glass? This may be the job for you.

Who do you work for?

All kinds of issues, from dodgy insurance claims to suspicions of adultery, are in the realms of private investigation. Although some matters may involve entanglements with the law, for the most part they’ll be civil problems. As such, they’re outside the responsibility of the police. All considered, it’s the ultimate way to make money being nosey.

Most assignments come from law firms, followed by:

  • Insurance companies
  • Corporate clients
  • Members of the public

And you could specialise in:

  • Background checks
  • Surveillance
  • Fraud investigation
  • Employee monitoring
  • Matrimonial services
  • Tracing debtors
  • Locating missing persons
  • Theft or stolen property investigation
  • Protection and security.

How do you do it?

Private eyes spend their working life trying to uncover information that others want to stay hidden. It’s most certainly not a regular 9–5 job. In fact, it can easily involve weekends, nights and unsociable hours.

While your time may be spent in more mundane tasks, being a private investigator can involve some very varied duties, such as:

  • Working through databases and documentation to discover legal, financial and personal information about individuals of interest
  • Conducting covert surveillance or observations
  • Interview, interrogate or confront people on behalf of your client
  • Be familiar with modern technology in order to recover hidden or deleted files or communications
  • Escorting valuable possessions from one location to another
  • For those at a higher level in the corporate world, you may conduct background checks of potential employees, track assets and investigate suspicions of fraud.

All activities must be carefully documented to provide a thorough report for the client. Therefore you need to demonstrate you have an eye for detail. You’ll also find it helpful to have:

  • Assertiveness and boldness – you can’t chicken out halfway through solving the mystery.
  • Effective communication skills to wheedle out information from people.
  • Quick decision-making.
  • Constant vigilance, as Mad-Eye Moody would say. You need to be always watching. You can’t allow yourself to get distracted, no matter how cute the person across the road or how boring your current task is. Focus is essential so you don’t miss something important, like your client’s husband walking into a lady friend’s house with a bunch of flowers.
  • An understanding of the law. Not only so that you can catch criminals, but also so that you don’t break the law yourself by accident. If you’re on the tail of an outlaw, knowing what constitutes good evidence that’ll hold up in court is also essential to tuck them safely behind bars.
  • And of course – you’ve got to be nosey.

How do I become a private eye?

First of all, you’ll need a licence. One from the Security Industries Authority (SIA) will cost £210 and last 3 years.

To apply for a licence, you’ll need to:

  • Demonstrate your identity
  • Have a clean criminal record in areas related to data protection
  • Successfully complete the IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators

Some of the criminal convictions that’d ban you from being able to gain a license include:

  • Unlawful interception of communications, e.g. phone hacking
  • Accessing data on computers without permission
  • Gathering personal details by posing as someone else.

Various training providers will educate potential private eyes in the practical, theoretical and legal aspects of this profession. But, as usual, there’re many not-so-legitimate companies to watch out for.

The Association of British Investigators, for example, is endorsed by the Law Society. It offers the Level 3 Award. Once you have your license, of course, you will need to actually get into the industry.

A large proportion of private eyes are former police officers. As a result, their previous experience in law enforcement is certain to come in handy. However, for those without a similar background, other avenues are also open to gain helpful skills.

Alternatively, try to find entry-level jobs in established private investigator organisations. That way, you can be trained on the job by experienced professionals.

How much money can you make?

Private detectives in training would start at a salary of around £16,000 a year, which increases to £25,000 as you become more experienced. Meanwhile, those at the very top of their game can enjoy between £50,000 and £100,000 per annum.


Become a competitive-intelligence researcher

Someone doing research on laptop

How great would it be to be able to introduce yourself as a competitive intelligence researcher? Your audience will be surprised to find you without a three-piece suit and monocle. Also – it’s a great way to make money being nosy.

What do you do?

Competitive intelligence is all about trying to help businesses make good decisions by providing them with as much information as possible.

Information about:

  • Revenue (income),
  • Gross margin (profit before paying tax, overheads etc.)
  • Units of product sold,
  • Customer counts

…and so on can be incredibly useful to a competitor’s business.

For example, if you find out the revenue a company is expecting to earn, this will allow some savvy business people to predict how profitable each store will be. Therefore, they’ll know the likelihood of a store remaining in its current location or moving elsewhere. A few key pieces of information could be all that you need to guess at much of a competitor’s current or future game plan.

How do you do it?

First of all, let’s look at competitive intelligence as something made up of three phases.

Let’s invent a company – a fruit juice supplier, for instance. It’s called JustPeachy. They have a competitor called OlymPicnics. And JustPeachy are thinking of turning to you, a competitive-intelligence researcher.

First up, you need to know what you’re looking for. If JustPeachy asks you to find out everything you can about every competitor in the world, this won’t be very helpful for either of you. For instance, your client might want to know:

  • How much fruit does OlymPicnics’ distribute and how much do they sell it for?
  • What’s the public’s honest opinion about JustPeachy’s own product?
  • Who are the top five employees at OlymPicnics, what are they like and how much are they paid?
  • Which of OlymPicnics’ executives are most likely to upset the apple cart and come to work for you instead?

Certainly, your next step is to conduct secondary intelligence. This involves everything about your target that’s accessible to the public. For example:

  • On-lime business reports,
  • court records,
  • old advertisements,
  • job postings,
  • keyword analytics,
  • blog entries, etc.

Finally, you have primary intelligence, which means chatting with actual peel-ple. This might be on the phone, over email or orange-ing to talk in person, for instance, to find out the target information.

Sometimes, the goal of secondary research, at its core, is simply identifying the right pear-son to talk to.

However, a common misconception is that competitive intelligence involves James Bond-style missions with covert threats and sly bribery. All this is illegal, as is any kind of lying or misrepresentation, which we’re sure you will be grape-ful to hear. The Economic Espionage Act is jam-packed with all the legalities you need to be aware of.

By the end of this process, JustPeachy will hopefully have a tactical advantage over OlymPicnics. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

After all, an apple a day keeps the bankruptcy away. You can stop groaning at all these puns now – we don’t want you to start thinking that we’re a few grapes short of a fruit salad!

How much money can you make?

It depends as you may find that competitive-intelligence is often part of other jobs. Typically, it’s only a separate role in larger companies. For most, it’s an additional task market researchers worry about.

Similarly, competitive intelligence can be a way for journalists, private investigators and those in the financial services to earn extra cash alongside their main employment.

On the other hand, some go into business as independent competitive-intelligence researchers. You can then be hired out whenever a company feels particularly threatened by a rival to suss out the lay of the land, or for help promoting a new product, for example. You can read about life on the job with a look at the confessions of a corporate spy here.

A definite advantage to acting as a go-between means that when asking suspicious questions in stores, although you’ll be required to reveal your own name and business, your clients can remain confidential.

In general, annual pay ranges from around £20,000 to over £65,000. Want to make money being nosey? Maybe you should consider competitive intelligence.


Ask others how they make their money

Two friends conversing

This is the most obvious, and also – for all you know – potentially the most lucrative. There’re actually hundreds of little jobs that can be done alongside your main employment.

So, chat with friends, family, neighbours, random strangers you meet on the bus. Anyone could have a pearl of an idea tucked behind an unassuming façade.

  • Do they do a paper round in their spare time?
  • Sell handmade birthday cards?
  • Set up a stall for fudge and hot chocolate in the town centre?
  • Send feedback into supermarkets or other companies and stock up on money-off coupons?

You never know when you might bump into some truly amazing ideas.

Let us know what you find out in the comments below. We love to hear your thoughts – we’re nosey like that…

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5 years ago

Some good tips for some interesting jobs.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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