It was never my plan to become an influencer, a financial one or any other type. I started I Beat Debt to learn about building websites, and I felt it was going to be easier to learn by doing. I chose a topic I was familiar about in order to create content, and once I started writing, I realised there was an audience. Debt is a very taboo subject in the UK in particular. We just don’t talk about money enough, and there is a stigma and shame about debt. I’m still embarrassed about the mistakes I made which got me in to debt, but if talking about them, and how I got out of debt after helps other people, then I will talk about it all the time!
The thing about being an influencer (whatever you blog or influence about) is that the opportunities are endless. I’ve written for CAP (the debt charity who helped me get out of debt), I’ve worked with the Money Advice Service (the government’s free and impartial money service), and I’ve worked with loads of other amazing bloggers and writers.
If being an influencer is done right, PR companies are realising that having a face and a name, as well as someone that their prospective customers and clients can connect with via social media, means that the advertising is more believable and relateable. We now have people who are finding fame via social media alone. People like Saffron Barker and Joe Sugg are even famous enough to go on shows like Strictly Come Dancing, and they started online, being an influencer.
Their fans feel closer to them than the majority of fans of “celebrities” feel to their idols. They buy products they recommend, subscribe to their content, and that relationship is something that can really be marketed.
There have however been a few people who appear to be ruining the name influencer for the majority of others. Whether they have a large following or a tiny one, dishonest behaviour, promoting goods and products which they have never used let alone would recommend, and hawking affiliate links to any old thing just to make a quick buck or two.
Particularly in the finance niche, and with my story and journey being so personal, I always try and stay true to myself and my experience. If I am promoting something which I don’t have experience of I will always say. I try to keep that to an absolute minimum though, and where possible, I promote only companies and products which I have actively used and would highly recommend. There are certain products and companies I won’t work with as their stance or approach doesn’t sit well with me, these include but are not limited to payday loan companies and paid-for debt advice. I cannot in good conscience recommend either to a reader who might be struggling with their finances, and whilst I am not a financial advisor, and so I cannot give financial advice, I can share my story and sign post people to resources and companies, like Christians Against Poverty who I worked with, or to agencies like Step Change or Citizens Advice Bureau.
I still don’t see myself as an inflencer, and fame is not something I am after (you will not see me on Strictly, Dancing on Ice or in the Jungle so don’t worry) but I am passionate about getting the conversations about money and debt de-stigmatised. I think if influencers stay true to themselves and the mission they set out with in the first place, then people can trust them and the opportunities will continue to explode. We have to show the world that the majority of us are in it for the good and for the long haul and so they keep opening those doors for us and the influencers who will follow us.