Ifeoma Okoli is an Audit Analyst with a degree in Economics and Statistics. She has a Diploma with the Association of Charted Accountants.
Ifeoma is also known to be a driven and enthusiastic Financial Analyst. In this article, she provides her tips on how women can effectively manage their money.
The finance world is typically a male-dominated industry. What led you on to the path?
I think the notion of the finance industry is typically a male-dominated industry was all in retrospect. Nowadays, especially in Nigeria, more women have begun to demand a seat at the table in this industry.
On what led me to this path, I think one of my first inspiration career-wise was my dad. He too worked in this industry and I loved number crunching.
However, one of the things that helped me was that my father insisted I do a lot of unpaid internships during my secondary school holidays. That gave me an early start to understanding the nitty-gritty of the industry.
How would you describe your day-to-day responsibilities as an Audit Analyst for your company?
I look at my role as more of control and compliance (Risk Mitigation), working constructively with finance and other departments to improve internal control across the organization.
How would you advise more women to become more financially literate?
First of all, to be financially literate does not mean you have to study finance in school.
In fact, studies have shown that most people whose job is to manage other peoples finance are actually very bad at managing their own personal finances.
With that being said, some of my advice to women is below:
You don’t need a glucose guardian to be rich. Get a job and work towards increasing your net worth.
There is dignity in labour and financial independence is one of the best gifts you as a woman can give yourself.
This may sound very cliche but create a budget tracker. This would help you to know how much you should spend, how much you have spent in a month, variances and mechanical ways to save up from bargains.
Whenever you are free, listen to financial podcasts. It will help improve your financial knowledge, plus if you have a side hustle, the podcast will teach you how to scale your business faster while learning from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs.
To check out some of my favorite podcasts, click this link .
How can the modern young working women budget and save effectively to cater to all her needs?
Most career women who are salary earners oftentimes earn way less than their male counterparts at the same level. Yet most times are the ones doing more of the smart work.
So as a young lady, be diligent and find out if you are long overdue for a salary increase. Arm yourself with facts and go forward to renegotiate your salary.
To be able to cater to all your needs means you have to increase your income and to increase income means you have to increase the money coming from your revenue-generating unit(s)
Like I said before, use a budget tracker it would save you a lot of headaches.
Have at least three bank accounts. One should be your expense account, one your revenue accounts and the last should be your savings account.
Do not spend directly from your revenue account. Separating your account would also help you track your inflow and outflows.
Try as much as possible to save up 40% of your monthly income especially if you are still single and have fewer responsibilities. Saving for rainy days cannot be overemphasized.
20% of your six months income should be able to take you on a holiday trip. If not, it simply means the trip is a way too much above your budget and you are balling above your budget. Find a cheaper option. Trust me, you can have an amazing holiday on a budget.
Apps like Piggy vest are there to help you cater to your personal savings and investment.
Finally, one which most of us ignore. Always negotiate for your pension and health insurance in all your places of employment. Your pension may seem minuscule right now but it compounds and would eventually help to reduce the financial burden when you are old and frail.
Are there useful tools or apps that can support women in dealing with their finances?
Yes, there are. Apps like Expensify, Fudget even Google sheet can help you with planning and managing your finance
What is one thing that you want more women to be aware of when it comes to managing money?
With the fact that there are tons of wrong advice out there ranging from excuses like the need for formal training to owning a website or blog, I thought to share my experience and sales strategies on this platform!
Here’s one thing though! If you think that you can’t begin a career in freelance writing as a result of no experience; well, it’s about damn time someone told you that: IT IS POSSIBLE!
It’s been almost four years since I became a freelance writer.
When I first learned how to become a freelance writer, I made the mistake of thinking that I needed a blog or website. I also thought that the only way to get gigs was to sign up on freelancing sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, etc.
Content mills provide cheap content jobs and they usually batch orders. Their goal is to get a lot of content for cheap. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to sign up on these platforms, I gave up.
Then, I switched to scouting for gigs on Nairaland. Most of them paid peanuts. Three years down the line earning little to nothing, I realized that this wasn’t for me!
I was worth more than that! I felt like giving up!
But, I didn’t. I re-grouped and started afresh. I signed up for training, pitched for freelance writing jobs; and gradually began to land high-paying clients. The rest, they say, is history!
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If you want that for yourself, here are the steps on how to become a freelance writer you need to get started.
1. Research About Freelance Writing
When I first started, I did a lot of research. I found other freelance writers, read their blogs and learning as much as I could about this business.
While I had some clues about how to write blog posts, I didn’t know the kinds of jobs for freelance writers.
2. Become Familiar With the Writing Skills and Tools Required
While I’ve mentioned that you can start a career in freelance writing with absolutely no experience, you can increase the odds of success by learning a few skills and tools.
Some skills you should definitely have for freelance writing include:
> Organizational Skills
Having a system in place for your projects is key to growing your business. You don’t want to make a mistake or forget to do something.
I use my calendar to keep track of events, Evernote or my phone’s memo to jot down ideas and a list of things I want to do.
> Writing Skills
Writing for an online audience is different than writing in your diary or texting a friend. Know how to captivate readers with your blog topic and introduction.
You need to be able to create insightful, entertaining and educating posts.
Putting yourself out there and trying to land writing gigs is tough. You’ll get rejected, turned down or you may have a client walk all over you.
To become a successful freelance writer, you need to be confident and overcome your fear of pitching (I can’t begin to count how many clients I’ve landed via cold-pitching!)
> Graphics & Design skills
There is no excuse for ugly photos, therefore this skill is very important to have. My favorite image editing app is Canva.
While I offer proofreading services as well, it doesn’t hurt to use Grammarly or Hemingway app to give that document a final polish before it gets sent to your client.
3. Practice Writing
While you don’t have to be the best writer to become successful, you need to be able to write sentences and get your message across.
Improving your writing will not only help you become a better writer, but it will also help you market your freelance writing business because it makes you more credible as a professional writer.
4. Create a Portfolio of Your Work
Most job ads you’ll apply for will ask to see your work. They want to see samples of published work. If you’re new, you won’t have any published work – unless you already have a blog.
So, how do you show prospects you can actually write? Besides starting a blog, you can create samples.
Draft up a few pieces and either upload them as a Google Doc or publish them on Medium, LinkedIn or Quora.
Another alternative is to guest post. Search for blogs or websites in the niche you’d like to write about and pitch your blog idea to them.
Don’t think it’s possible? What do you think I’m doing here? Guest posting on She Leads Africa, of course!
5. Start Pitching to clients
Now it’s time to actively search for freelance writing jobs. But where do you go and how do you do it?
Go check out job sites like NG Careers, Jobberman, MyJobMag, etc for content writing positions.
When you find a job you are interested in the important thing to remember is to be one of the first few to apply and make sure your pitch stands out.
Are there other ways to find freelance writing jobs? Yes, there are tons of ways!
6. Hustle Queen!
Being a freelancer means you gotta hustle for work. But, this doesn’t mean you ALWAYS have to hustle. The goal is for clients to come to you.
However, when you’re new in the business, you have to get your name out there.
Get on social media and network. Guest posting not only to builds your portfolio but attracts potential clients as well.
7. Stay Learning!
The best thing you can do as a new freelance writer is to continue to learn. Whether it’s writing tips, business tips or pitching tips, hone your skills by learning from those who have done it before.
Are you interested in freelance writing? Connect with me on Instagram via my business page TheCopyWritingChick.
Ujunwa Ojemeni is a financing, business development and clean energy expert with experience in the areas of opportunity maturation, project financing and impact investing.
She has been in the energy sector for over five years now. She was in project development for a while before transiting to impact investment.
While in energy project development, she coordinated several gases and power development opportunities valued at approximately $300 Million.
In energy impact investing, her work has involved working with partners to catalyze funding to the clean energy sector such as the $100Million Off-Grid Energy Access Fund (OGEF) along with the African Development Bank and others, as well as driving investments in and managing investments in various clean energy companies.
She is currently working with project developers by structuring and arranging appropriate financing for their businesses, working with partners to deploy innovative energy solutions and providing long term strategic support to key energy enterprises.
Tell us about some of your projects
Earlier this year, I was selected as one of the 60 young African Clean Energy Leaders for the Open Power Africa 2019 program by Enel Foundation in collaboration with top African and Italian academic institutions.
I was one of the 16 finalists of the program who proceeded to complete the final module of the fellowship based on the quality of our capstone projects. I also emerged as a finalist in the IFC Sustainability Exchange Ideas Contest for Youth Innovations 2019.
To promote the participation of more women in the energy sector, I recently launched “The African Women in Energy Development Initiative – AWEDI Network”.
It is the pioneer African organization focused on women across the entire energy value chain to offer mentorship, career sponsorship (acceleration), capacity building, and leadership training for women at all stages of their energy careers and for female students at the secondary and tertiary levels.
I have always been passionate about helping SMEs to be successful and founded the “SME Transformation Project” through which I provide business advisory and funding to women-owned SMEs in low-income communities.
I help them navigate through basic business challenges such as marketing and distributing channels, product line expansion, and most importantly, funding, which they have difficulties accessing from traditional financiers.
In addition, I am a mentor at the Cherie Blaire Foundation where I provide support to women entrepreneurs to help them grow as they build their businesses in different parts of the world.
Before all of these, I worked in the management consulting unit of KPMG where I focused on startup advisory and process improvement for such enterprises.
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Share your experience with female inclusion in the energy sector?
In 2014, when I started my professional involvement in the energy sector, there were only 2 women on the team, and I was unclear how to navigate or how to find suitable mentors within or even outside the organization.
Although the numbers are gradually improving as more attention is being given to the subject – more women are coming into the sector.
However, if you look at the management of most companies, it is mostly dominated by men. In fact, although female representation is improving globally, it remains considerately low.
In fortune 500 companies, only 6.6% of CEOs are female and 25.5% of board seats are held by women. This was one of my motivations to launch the African Women in Energy Development Initiative (AWEDI Network).
Being a woman in any sector let alone a male-dominated sector is generally tough and there is still significant room for improvement to make it more conducive for women to thrive.
As I always say, we are equal but different. Women are saddled with the responsibility of childbearing and a lot of times childbearing and home keeping.
Issues such as not employing pregnant women or newly married women are really sad and worrying. Organizations are typically worried about the gaps caused by maternity leave but the evidence is clear that a diverse workforce is good for the bottom line.
Furthermore, returning to work after maternity leave is not always smooth especially when you have been sidelined and not promoted along with your peers who may not even have performed as well as you.
In some other organizations, there is no provision for things such as nursing rooms for nursing mothers.
Another issue is the ‘flexible working myth’. Some organizations do not make any provisions for this, while others allow it in principle but in reality, it is difficult to utilize it as you might be considered unserious and penalized for it.
As a society and as corporate bodies we must institute policies and implement the same to enable both men and women to perform optimally – paternity leave is still not taken seriously by many.
What were your major challenges in the industry and how can African women manage it?
One challenge is being undermined maybe because one is young. It is an interesting combination to be young as well as an African female committed to achieving big goals.
Nevertheless, I believe that being an expert in your craft is most important and clearly demonstrating this expertise by being visible. At meetings, there is always something you can contribute – most times we know more than we realize.
So I always encourage women to be bold and speak out more. In addition, we have to network sensibly; unfortunately, we usually do not have the luxury of time to attend all networking events due to other responsibilities but we should pick the most relevant events to attend.
We should also network horizontally and vertically i.e. with our peers and with those in higher cadres.
Another tricky challenge is finding the balance between being confident and people thinking you are self-promoting.
I have learned to ignore any naysayers and self-promote because if you don’t talk about what you have done and what you are doing and keep waiting for someone else to notice you, you will be waiting a long time.
So tell your managers what you have accomplished; share with your network your key accomplishments. We live in a social media age, so accept and embrace it.
Finally, it is easy for people to get threatened by your brilliance and even try to bring you down. But you must rise above that and focus on how you intend to bless the world.
Make your bosses look good but don’t dim your light because others are mediocre. Shine, shine, shine!
How can young businesswomen position themselves in order to benefit impact investment?
Simply put, impact investments are investments that are made with the intention to cause positive, measurable, economic, social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.
The major criteria generally agreed for an investment to qualify as impact investing is that it is intentional i.e. it has a positive impact on social or environmental impact, it is profit-oriented i.e. a clear expected return and although metrics are still being debated, that the impact is measurable.
There is a growing impact investment market globally and particularly focused on developing countries to provide capital to address the world’s most pressing challenges in sectors such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, healthcare, education and many more.
Young women can definitely benefit from this growing market either as impact investors themselves or by adequately positioning their enterprises to benefit from those funds.
The key is ensuring that the enterprise meets the criteria mentioned above, as investors are clearly keen on supporting such innovative enterprises.
A quick way to assess how impactful an enterprise is could be assessing its impact of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and considering broader metrics such as how many jobs are created through the enterprise.
Therefore when wondering if your enterprise would be attractive to impact investors, ensure it has economic, social and/or environmental impact accompanied by a financial return. So, impact investments are regarded by some as “doing well by doing good”.
Are there any career opportunities in energy and financial inclusion for women you can share with us?
There are numerous career opportunities in this sector depending on one’s interests, skills, readiness to take on these opportunities amongst others.
On the AWEDI Network platform, we share numerous opportunities daily and weekly. The real decision is for women to decide that they are qualified to take on these roles, apply for them, get the skills required and soar.
The statistics are that women mostly only apply for opportunities when they meet 100% of the hiring criteria while their male peers apply when they meet 60%. So I always encourage women to look beyond their shortcomings and believe in themselves.
In the energy sector whatever your interests are, it could be in legal, governance, finance, investments, technical, etc. there are opportunities for everyone.
Finally, personal development is crucial – I am a proponent for acquiring crucial skills for my next level it could be leadership skills or a new segment of the sector I believe is the future.
Before I joined the clean energy sector, I was in the gas and power sector. This had no form of renewable energy solutions. Over the years even before I switched, I started reading extensively on the future of energy, attending seminars and training to prepare myself for my next steps.
To improve my finance skills I did various financial modeling and investment courses some more structured while others at my pace.
So, I suggest women identify where they want to go and acquire the skills needed for their next level and put themselves out there when the opportunity arises or better still seek out suitable opportunities and read widely.
One thing I learned a few years ago was about ‘pain letters’ from Liz Ryan – she is the founder of Human Workplace and is very vocal on LinkedIn. She proposes that the job seekers identify the pain they are solving for their hiring manager, and write directly to them explaining how they will solve the key challenges.
That is definitely the next level of being proactive and has yielded fruits for many.
What is next for you?
I am currently working on a broader program to better support green enterprises – super excited about this project and the impact these businesses will have in achieving the SDGs.
I will definitely share more details with your network soon.
But, what exactly is infrastructure? The simple answer is that it’s your design and blueprint.
It is made of the basic facilities and structures of the business and includes everything from software and services, to operational procedures. It is the work you do on the business that allows you to work in your business.
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Imagine taking a one-week vacation. What happens to your operations? Would your team know what to do in your absence?
Would your customers panic? If the answer to the last two questions is yes, then you’re currently lacking a sustainable infrastructure.
I get it: most of us do not like creating systems. They can be boring, tedious, and may appear unnecessary.
If you’re a clothing designer, you went into business to bring your designs and creativity to life.
However, if you’re a life coach, you want to help others improve their quality of life, not to work on systems.
Again, I get it but imagine not being able to do the thing you love because most of your time is spent putting out fires, experiencing burnout, or making up procedures on a whim.
For example, think about the transportation and tax systems in our country.
While we may not like it, we have to pay parking meters, tolls, and vehicle taxes to commute within our communities. The expectation is that the money is used to build and maintain our streets and neighborhoods.
Similarly in your business, developing an intricate infrastructure creates sustainability through interdependent processes.
There is a common adage that is not wise to put your cart before your horse. That has never been more relevant than in this context.
Your cart is your thriving business—in a state that allows you to do what you love to do. Your horse is your infrastructure. The more robust it is, the more likely your business can go the distance.
I have had the pleasure of consulting with hundreds of entrepreneurs. The concern I hear most often is that people feel like they are reactively going through the motions, rather than positioning themselves for proactive oversight.
My advice is always the same: build your business from within. The time and resources spent on this approach will determine the health and success of everything else.
And, if you’re new to our community, starting tomorrow you’ll get more information on what She Leads Africa is and how you can boost your personal and professional development as a part of our community! Otherwise, it’s business as usual. 😏
Can’t wait to see how financially stable you become this season, so ensure to share your progress/ journey to getting the bag with us, every day on our social media @SheLeadsAfrica.
See you on Instagram! Lola Naija
Share this with your friends and family, let’s get the bag this September.