GUEST BLOG: Jasmine Birtles on the inspiration behind MoneyMagpie.com

It was when I was working at the BBC Business Unit near the end of the 90's that I had my lightbulb moment. I was working as a radio reporter there while labouring under a £10,000 debt from doing up my flat and a stint as an actress (bad financial move).

It was doing research for money features that helped me see the light. I remember reading something about investment and the joy and wonder of compound interest when light dawned. I thought "this stuff is really straightforward. How come I never knew this before? How come I'm in debt?" I realised it was because no one had taught me about money. I had had an excellent education and yet I was clueless about basic finances. No one had thought it important to give us money lessons at school and my parents only told me the basics (they didn't know much themselves anyway).

Not only that but, like most Brits, I wasn't that interested in numbers. The idea of percentages, tables and calculations bored me. Pensions, insurance, bonds and the rest made my eyes glaze over. In other words, I was normal.

I decided then and there that I would make it my business to explain money in a normal and even funny way. I have a comedy background as well as journalism so I decided that I would put as much humour as possible into whatever I wrote or said (not so easy when you're talking mortgage-backed securities and macro-economic principles).

From that moment I learnt as much as I could about personal finance (I'm still learning), wrote for newspapers and magazines, wrote books about money (so far five of my books are personal finance titles) and did a lot of personal finance reporting for TV and radio.

It was when I was working on my third money book that I decided the next step was to set up a website. I had spent so much time stuffing the book with web addresses that it seemed silly. Money matters move so fast that I knew much of the specific information in the book would be out of date by the time it was published. Only websites and broadcast media have the flexibility to update information in moments.

The other reason I did it was because by that stage I already had something of a media profile and I knew instinctively that that was a big help to the start-up. It certainly was, and has been, and one of the many things I have learned since launching the site in 2007 is that for web businesses particularly, building awareness and driving traffic, is the lifeblood of the operation.

I was already very familiar with the money sites on the net by that stage and although some were good at what they did, they were all pretty serious and certainly masculine in tone. They didn't mean to be masculine but, like the comedy scene, they kind of couldn't help themselves. Finance has been men's preserve for so long it has just adopted a masculine vocabulary and attitude that has largely stuck.

I realised there was room for a more down-to-earth, witty, lifestyle-based money site that would be attractive to women too. I think it's daft to talk about money on its own. Money is part of life and has to be seen in that context. That's why we cover all aspects of living on Moneymagpie from savings and investments to finding the best value clothes, food and travel.

We're also big on ideas for making money because I think that everyone needs to make some cash on the side at some point in their lives and I'm surprised more money sites don't look at that side of life as well as the money-saving. I spent years subsidising myself with various little money-earners as I've always been freelance, and now I'm constantly on the look-out for a new and interesting way that people can make a few bob in their spare time. I think this is going to get even more important in coming years as people cut back their spending to the bone.

We've only just started to make a profit (I've only just found a good sales guy to make money from the site) and I'm sure I could have done it earlier if I had known what I was doing. However, my sales guy tells me that we did it the right way round. We (and by 'we' I mean my team and I) have always concentrated on providing quality information in the best way we knew how; we just kept forgetting to make money out of it. However, that is what has built our reputation and that is what he can now sell.

So, who knew? It looks like we did it right after all... Well, some of it anyway, which is a comfort when I go through the 101 mistakes I have made since even conceiving the idea. If my team and I can get to this stage after all that there's hope for anyone!

Check out Jasmine's latest money-saving tips on MoneyMagpie.com

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