I am totally stunned but also chuffed to be shortlisted for IPSE’s Freelancer of the Year Award alongside some seriously impressive individuals. I am pictured at the top with some of the other finalists at the recent judging day in East London and here is my individual headshot – as my school friends in Edinburgh say, PURE CHEEZIN!
I’ve been quietly chugging away at the Young Money Blog for seven years.
I established YMB purely to learn more about money and maybe help a few people along the way. I also hoped that I could showcase my writing so I could get a full-time job in journalism.
How times change! I am loving the self-employed life – it’ll take an awful lot to get me back in an office with the coat on the back of my chair and a chemical Pret sandwich languishing next to me, begging to be wolfed down Al Desko.
When I started this bad boy in 2011, I never could have imagined the vital public service and exciting opportunities it would later provide. In the last month, I have been made a governor of the Pensions Policy Institute and have just been invited to sit on the Next Gen Pensions Committee to promote younger voices in the pensions sector. I will tell you more about those developments on the blog soon…
I have not set out to snag lucrative commercial deals, nor have I embarked on any fancy SEO & digital marketing campaigns to artificially bump up my readership. I don’t cram my copy with unsufferable, soul-destroying “keywords” nor do I write bad guides on “Things To Do While Waiting For Your Kettle to Boil” because Google says it will make me a God(dess) among (wo)men.
I don’t know if it has become apparent to you reader, but this blog is what I like to call “charmingly amateur”. I employ guest writers occasionally, but I have designed the site myself (from the logo to the fonts), picked all the images and chosen what to write. I don’t use a fancy content manager or calendar telling me I must write about guinea pigs because it’s Insure Your Small Pets day and it’ll be trending on Tw*tter.
Often, writing and publishing a blog will take a whole morning or afternoon, such is the level of care I take to ensure the blogs are readable, entertaining, eye-catching and…proof-read!
I do this as well as manage a growing freelance, speaking and consultancy arm, albeit with some help from Bain Senior through my recently-established Young Money Agency.
But while I have obviously got more professional in some respects, I try to keep it real (ala Ali G). I am literally writing this from my bedroom. Yes, I know the conventional wisdom is to banish all tech from your sleeping area but what can I say? I rolled out of bed and was instantly inspired to write this homily to the joys of freelance life and the blog’s grand ambitions (this blog being published early afternoon probably gives you an idea of the, erm, unconventional waking hours I enjoy as a freelancer too…)
Over the years, I have never “strategised”. I’m not a hard-bitten businessman but a (reasonably) normal young woman who tries to take and enjoy life as it comes. And I’ve tried to reflect that in how I approach the blog.
I’ve just read, thought and written. I’ve done hard yards on the big millennial money issues of our time and poured what I know into these web pages.
I’ve tried to create a blog that’s thought-provoking, fun, useful and hopefully inspirational (at least occasionally). Yes, I now also have an avenue of media commentary, speaking and consultancy as a result of the blog. But here’s the truth…being the go-to voice for young money issues is not a reflection of how uh-mazing I am.
It’s actually testament to how difficult and scary this subject can be, especially for young women.
In my case, the wonder is not that it’s being done well, but that it’s being done at all.
I often attend events aimed at financial journalists featuring experts such as fund managers or financial advisers, and I always make a point of asking a question. Sometimes, I’m the only woman who asks a question. Why? Is it because we’re afraid we’ll ask a “dumb” question? Is it because we’re applying impossibly high standards to our behaviour and professional conduct? Is it because we don’t want to be seen as pushy or we fear being noticed?
I don’t know. I suspect all these factors bubble away in our subconscious, and it’s time that we fought those tendencies. Hard. I think this scenario is a microcosm of the reluctance, even among young women working in financial media, to stand up, be counted and be part of the big money conversation.
I’m very glad the BBC now has a remit to have a 50/50 split between female and male on-air experts. But it will be no good if there aren’t enough young women coming forward to discuss things like personal finance.
There are enough female journalists talking about the merits of armpit hair, or whether Paris Hilton was a feminist, or whether 20-something blokes who rave about David Foster Wallace are irritating (the answer is yes – next.)
It’s time to meaningfully expand young female journalism, move it beyond the abstract, the academic, the ephemeral, the middle-class navel-gazing ghetto and the cultural fringes towards something much more concrete and fundamental – how can we improve the gender prosperity gap in the here and now? Why will women end up with less money in retirement than men? Why do women invest less than men?
Understanding savings, pensions and investments isn’t easy. This ain’t material for a quick hit to make you feel more woke on a gloomy Monday afternoon. But I think being financially savvy is as woke as it gets – understanding the power of money to transform prospects, giving you more time, energy, peace of mind and resources to concentrate on helping others and being socially useful. We have to reclaim good money management as a vitally important female pursuit, central to the realisation of our goals, autonomy and happiness.
So that’s why I’ll be running this blog for some time to come, hopefully with some exciting new developments to help boost its profile a little bit more. But I never want to alter its independent and unbiddable ethos.
And most importantly, I won’t be shutting up any time soon.
Iona and the other finalists will be attending National Freelancers Day, including the Freelancer of the Year Awards ceremony, on June 28. The day includes workshops, free head-shot photography and other goodies for freelancers – if you want to give your self-employed career a bit of a kick-start, click here to register.