A Week in the Life of a Brand Designer Who No Longer Accepts “Exposure” as Payment

October 11, 2022

“A Week in the Life is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.


The subject of this Week in the Life is Joboson Chisa, a brand designer. He designs across a broad spectrum: brand identity, perception, sales, marketing, communications etc. He tells about his design process, how he made his first million as a brand designer, his frustrations negotiating with clients and why he’s no longer choosing “vawulence” on design Twitter.

Graphic photo of a designer Joboson China

MONDAY

I always wake up at 6 a.m. thinking we should scrap Mondays. So I don’t get out of bed until 9 a.m. During those three hours, I browse Twitter and think up ideas, to start the week. Sometimes, I tweet motivational stuff, the occasional “we gonna make it #Wagmi” — as if I have energy to start the week — right from my bed. The lies we tell…

Anyway, by nine o’clock, I finally get out of bed and open my laptop. Mondays are for stand-up meetings and admin work — sending and responding to emails, receiving and analysing feedback, etc. I get the most rejection mails from organisations about my pitches on Mondays, and I don’t eat breakfast until 12. 

After work, I catch up on all the “vawulence” on Twitter. There’s always someone being ratioed for a bad design opinion at the start of the week. If you’re looking for hot takes on +234 design Twitter, you’ll find them on Monday. It’s like designers had too much time on their hands during the weekend and the gist spilt into the new week. 

TUESDAY

I know it’s just Tuesday, but please, the week has been crazy already. As a freelancer working from home, Tuesdays are usually my busiest days, when I actually open my design software and get to work. When I have deadlines, I beg MTN to have mercy on me.

I’m very busy these days, juggling several client projects. And as if that wasn’t enough, I carried myself to take on community work. That’s the curse of being a freelance designer — taking on more projects than you should. But I’m a bad guy, so I’ll just wait until those deadlines are due then the panic monster will pressure me into slaying them. 

After seven gruelling hours at my work desk, I have new designs. They’re so beautiful — even though I know I’m going to hate them tomorrow. But it’s been a hard day’s work, and I’m satisfied. Work hasn’t ended though, only client work. 

Around 6 p.m., I turn my focus to a personal project. I’m trying to build 234 Brand Street, an online community of designers like myself, and even though I don’t have a clear roadmap, this thing has me doing things out of my comfort zone. I’m editing videos, learning new software, making templates for a live event — mehn, it’s been crazy motivating and crazy stressful. Who send me work?

WEDNESDAY

Someone reached out to me on LinkedIn, and I was so excited because that would be my first client from the platform — I’m mostly active on Twitter. This person told me they needed a designer and promised so many high sounding jargon — except payment. What would I use a “founding designer” title to do when it’s not coming with money? Is that how they say they’ll pay in “exposure” these days?

Once I told him I wasn’t comfortable with the offer, he stopped responding. I was really disappointed because I felt like LinkedIn had better to offer.

People like this stress me out. But I’ve made my peace that money conversations will often be weird. Just as I was rounding up work for today, someone emailed me from Behance to ask for my rates. When I asked for their budget, he asked what I wanted. He now said it was out of his budget. But didn’t he say he didn’t have a budget?

I finished the first iteration of a brand identity I’d been working on for the past week for a US-based client and sent the files over. I expect to get their feedback by next Monday. So it wasn’t an unproductive day.

After all the stress, I called my boys out to hang in the evening. As a remote freelancer, I try to invest as much time as I can in my social life. I felt like having cocktails, so we went for drinks until 11 p.m.

THURSDAY

The weekend is almost here so bored designers usually start dropping hot takes and fighting on Twitter today. I didn’t have urgent projects immediately pressing my neck, so I decided to indulge a bit by spending a little too much time on the app, calling out designers for their problematic takes. Thursdays are usually my freest days anyway.

The thing is I’m a very outspoken person, and I feel very privileged to be in the design industry. But in +234 design Twitter, some people want to feel more important than they really are. There’s this worrying trend of people trying to position themselves as better than others rather than solving problems for people who can pay for their services. 

The design community on Twitter used to be very different from what it is now. It was once a melting point of shared ideas and innovation, but these days, you’ll just see someone who hasn’t done any notable work, but because they got into tech from a random gig and bought fancy gadgets, nobody will hear word again. 

One thing about me is I’ll always call out bullshit when I see it. Sometimes, I keep quiet, expecting people to know better — don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the good things design money can get one, but it’s becoming a pattern to detect those who breed on vibes, controversy and empty show off — I’ve saved some of their lit workspace pictures, though.

After today sha, I’ll be keeping quiet. I don’t want to build a brand on “vawulence”. I just hope younger, less experienced designers won’t fall for the empty hype of people who don’t really care about them as much as they see newbies as stepping stones to their own goals. 

FRIDAY

I’m always excited about the weekend. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, and I also get to do fun stuff. Earlier today, I completed a major design project, handed it over and got paid. The money was up there with the highest I’ve charged this year, so I’m in high spirits.

I’ve had a weird money journey, especially with charging clients. When I started out, I charged ₦5k for logos — and sometimes, I didn’t even get paid. But I’ve come a long way. In December [2021], a friend asked me how much I charged for designs. At the time, I was charging ₦500k – 700k for a full brand package, which included logos, social media and marketing templates, merch and many more. When they told me I was too good to be charging that amount, I didn’t believe them

But later, I did research and saw designers charging $2k for brand identities I didn’t think were all that, so I decided to raise my rates. When a client reached out to me shortly after, I decided to ask for more money than I normally would. I pitched an idea, held my breath and asked for ₦1.7m. I didn’t know where I got the audacity from. The company accepted, and I wanted to run mad with excitement. That was my first million. Since then, I’ve not looked back.

When I received my credit alert this evening, I knew it was time to have fun. I’m going to hit up my squad so we can decide if we’re going to a concert, bar or any fun event in Lagos. I try to go out every weekend, but this one will be special.


Check back for new A Week in the Life stories every first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. If you’d like to be featured on the series, or you know anyone interesting who fits the profile, fill out this form.

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