George Emsden is an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) based in north London, England. I met him at a networking event and we connected online. After noticing how prolific he is on social media and how well he has branded himself in a very competitive market I thought it would be interesting to share his tips on personal branding here on the blog.

Tell us what do you do George?

I give “financial guidance to people with cancer & terminal illness”. It is a vocation that found me, after I helped a client with terminal cancer in 2006 and had cancer myself in 2007.

You are in a very competitive field, how does your personal brand stand out?

Yes there are lots of IFAs out there but numbers set to drop soon with higher qualifications coming in. Have met one or two IFAs that have had cancer but still feel that the career found me.

What are your 3 biggest benefits to your target market and why?

Huge need, with over 800 people a day being diagnosed with some form of cancer in UK. Lots of support and statistics around but very little help for people with cancer from IFAs. My target market doesn’t have much time to waste either. People need answers to the questions: What can I do with my pension? Are there any alternatives? Who do you know? Sometimes where can they make a will?

Tell us about your blogging?

I remember doing an A level essay, and the English teacher was grinning from ear to ear when she gave it back to me. What did I do? Nothing really as I only saw it as an A level essay.

Eventually, inside my thick skull I realised that I wanted to write. But where to start? Never wanted to write the great novel (such a cliché) but did want to write screenplays as I was tired of seeing really good stories turn out as rubbish films e.g. The Odessa File. Problem with screenwriting though is that the writer is low down in the pecking order after the producer, director, temperamental film stars and studio executives. TV is better here as the writer keeps much more control.

So what was the final spur – a singing coach! Met Gena when I first started networking with BNI. Mentioned to her that I wanted to write a book on swimming for nervous people and months later she called me to say she had done her book thanks to a writing coach called Anthony Parry and I really must call him! Eight months of coaching after a face to face meeting got me started and here I am. The longer version of this story is on my blog as Gena is sadly no longer with us.

I finally started my blog back in 2005 and never looked back.

What do you write about on your blog?

People like reading what you feel about things. Write about what you know or what gets you going. Best blogs are written straight after a good meeting, good book, good film etc when they get you excited and can almost write themselves. This one springs to mind here after a very enjoyable meeting.

What are your top 5 blogging tips?

1. You may look back on your first efforts and feel they could have been better. Don’t feel bad, this shows you are learning.

2. Each blog takes 3-4 hours a week. People ask me how I get the time? Well, I just do it and maybe watch a bit less TV.

3. If you use a template, don’t forget to copy and paste to Word and do a spellcheck. Your own spelling mistakes are really annoying.

4. Used to write 1,000 words per blog. Perceived wisdom is 400 – 800 words. Typically write 600-700 these days. Sometimes want to put more stuff in but if it is too long, people won’t read it.

5. As a result of my blogging have been on Radio and TV. On Friday I recorded a webcast for BrightTalk about my niche work – giving financial advice to People with Cancer.

What are the hard-to-spot pitfalls that are critical to avoid?

Writing style. I did this etc too much I & me. Not being consistent – get into routine of publishing at same time of week or month. Don’t write about what you don’t know. If you must do this, do your research.

If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ you’d recommend, which would you include and why?

Secrets? Definitely my writing coach Anthony Parry. I would recommend attending the London Blog Club every month as the people there are really helpful. You can start writing comments on other people’s blogs. Then you can get a WordPress template. Ecademy is good for blogging too as it links well with Google.

Looking ahead, what’s the next big change in your industry?

Twitter very much on the up now. What is its replacement/nemesis? I read other people like Louis Gray for this info.

In the IFA business, higher fees as commissions are banned. Division of IFAs into highly qualified ones and lesser ones selling to mass market where competition is strong.

What are 3 things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?

1) Faith in myself (the still small voice) 2) Leadership from parents and family when they have faced cancer and other adversities. 3) Forgiveness and avoiding envy. Jealousy is a very destructive emotion.

What are 3 life memories you recall most frequently and why?

Really good glider flights – some of which really scared me – beautiful way to see this country. Overland trip to Thailand when I was young – chance of a lifetime which I am glad I took – too dangerous now. Holidays in Germany as a kid – they were fantastic.

Your favourite quote?

“Ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and ye shall find.” From the Sermon on the Mount.

What’s the one thing people can do to help you?

Just keep me in mind if people you know get really bad news. Lots of links on my blog and will shortly be adding more, featuring other people who have coped in an inspiring way. Introductions to other IFAs would be useful too.

See more of George Emsden at his blog and follow him on Twitter @CancerIFA.