Money & Me: 'My work as an influencer is not my main source of income'

Life and fitness coach Nadine du Toit says her business is her 'bread and butter' rather than brand campaigns

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Nadine Du Toit for Money and Me at The Courtyard.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Melanie Swan's story

Nadine Du Toit runs the life and fitness coaching company GloryGirl Fitness. The South African, 38, who lives in Dubai, is the epitome of the UAE’s entrepreneur culture. Moving to the UAE 15 years ago to work as crew for an airline, she later set up her company in 2010 and has since become a popular lifestyle "influencer" under ITP Live, a digital marketing agency and an arm of ITP Publishing. With more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, she has worked with international brands such as flydubai, Samsung and Bose.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

We grew up very poor, so I definitely had a poverty mindset. There wasn’t a good education about finances at all. I’ve learnt all this along the way. My mum had so many things bought on credit. Debt was ingrained in the culture. It was just the way to do things to buy on credit.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

That would be five rand, or Dh1.5 per hour when I was working in a delicatessen at 15. I’ve always had a job my whole life to get out of that mindset I grew up in.

To me, there is a difference between being an 'influencer' and being a 'conscious influencer'. I call myself the latter.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I’d call myself a discerning spender and a wise saver. I’m really conscious of making wise decisions. When I was younger I used to spend money buying gifts for everyone because that was my way of earning love. I am a little more restrained with that now.

What has been your best investment? 

My education, 100 per cent. I got a scholarship to go to university when I moved to the UAE, so I started investing in fitness and nutrition education and life coaching training and courses. A lot of my salary went into that which enabled me to start GloryGirl Fitness in 2010. Because of that fitness background, it’s where everything started in the last 10 years, and I could keep reinventing my coaching platform.

Where do you save?

I actually have an envelope with the money I save on the side and keep it as a separate stash that I don’t touch.

What has been your biggest financial milestone?

This was during the ‘good times’ of property boom in Dubai in 2007 when I bought a whole floor of an apartment building and two brand new cars. With my background, that was like a huge dream. The properties - financed with savvy management and good cash flow - were sold two weeks later and this was definitely a peak for me.

Do you earn most of your income through being an influencer?

Definitely not - that's not my profession. I'm a life coach and fitness coach, which is my bread and butter money. What I earn as an influence depends on the campaign.

So, how has being an influencer helped your finances? 

To me, there is a difference between being an ‘influencer’ and being a ‘conscious influencer’. I call myself the latter. When you have a good community and following large enough for companies to see value in you, it’s definitely possible to create a lifestyle around that and I know people doing it full time. For me, that doesn’t resonate any more, to say 'yes' to every single brand that approaches me because the values have to align with my own brand values and bring value to my audience. If I feel the company is worthy of mine and my audience’s attention, then I will pursue it as long as I can input on artistic direction. For me, I want to create a business that isn’t dependent on influencing, and this is where companies go wrong; because there are so many people out there desperate to take the freebies, the nails, the hair, the free meals, gym memberships, but I would rather hold back and be seen as quality. It’s great to have it as a creative outlet but let’s not get stuck there. Let’s add value to our communities.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

Yes, but it comes down to choices; I was living in a place that cost me Dh7,000 a month because I wanted freedom and space but then clients paid me late, so I sat with a cash-flow problem and couldn’t always make my payments. I could always have taken a full-time job or lived somewhere for less.

Do you use a financial adviser?

No, I learn everything I can through YouTube.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Nadine Du Toit for Money and Me at The Courtyard.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Melanie Swan's story

Do you have any financial regrets?

When I came to the UAE I was really green and lost Dh40,000 to someone who basically stole money from me under the premise I was buying a car, which I wasn’t. So I started my life here with a debt to pay off a car I didn’t have. During induction week for my cabin crew role, this guy suggested I buy a car from a friend of his and I trusted him. I took the loan, gave the money, and then the car never got delivered and he disappeared. I wish I could go back in time. I was so naive.

It was only several years later that a friend of mine helped me take the man to court and I got some of that back. I really didn’t know better at that time. I've also invested money into ventures that didn’t work out, but these are all learnings.

Do you plan for the future?

I am now. I have a pay myself first rule which means putting the salary I earn away for investments for the future.

What luxuries are important to you?

Specialty coffee and travel; once a month I spend Dh120 on a bag of coffee and with travel, it’s not luxury anymore. It’s more about enriching experiences, about Airbnb, and finding places that are more experiential. I don't support big brand names either. I was recently at an eco-resort in Cambodia, which was the most simple place I’ve ever been to but one of the most profound experiences of my life.

How much do you have in your wallet right now?

Nothing, I pay everything with a card because I tend to see cash like candy and just lose control of it.

What car do you drive?

A 12-year-old Toyota Yaris. Just because you’re in Dubai doesn’t mean you have to have the Dubai car.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Take ownership of your own affairs and don’t trust someone else blindly - a loved one or stranger. Educate yourself, invest time and energy into that.

What would you raid your savings account for?

The perfect piece of land between the sea and the mountains. When I find that perfect property I will buy it straightaway. It has to be ocean on one side and mountains the other. I would open a little specialty cafe with vegetarian food at the back.