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 today’s “A Week In The Life” is a social media influencer with over 100k followers on social media. They talk to us about remaining anonymous despite their fame, undercharging for their services and the anxiety that comes with the job.
The first thought on my mind when I wake up today is that if I didn’t have to work to earn a living, I’d probably not be doing my day job. I only show up because of the money.
Left to me, I’d spend my time living out my imaginations. Instead, I have to pretend like I’m normal and resume every day at a 9-5. During the day I’m the team lead at a digital media startup. At night, I’m a wildling on my personal account with over 100k followers on Twitter, [a little] less than 100k on Instagram and a newsletter with almost 10k subscribers.
My day job stresses me because of how professional it is. As someone with a wild imagination, I don’t find it fun. At work, I want to replicate ideas from the playbook of my personal account but every idea is met with “consider the brand image.”
Even on my personal account, when brands reach out, they like what they see but still always decide to play it safe.
Over time, this pushback has made my personal account the only place I can write the things I enjoy. I love the fact that my thoughts have a home and a receptive audience. What I don’t like is that it doesn’t generate enough money to survive and hence the need for a double life.
This afternoon I got a message that triggered me. Someone came to my DM telling me to always run my content by a team so I can know whether it’s good or bad. For someone who spends all day running content by people at my day job, I was like nope. I thought, “my personal account works because it’s 100% out of pocket and unfiltered me.”
Once I start running content by people, it’s no longer me. And if an idea doesn’t work, I’m going to blame myself for running it by another person. However, as a solo creator, I’m free to experiment as I like.
One of my biggest fears is getting to the point where I no longer recognize my work. With that resolve, I replied to the message: “thank you very much for the advice. I’ll look into it.”
No one knows what I look like. At least not the bulk of my followers; my day ones have seen my face. Initially, I decided to be anonymous because the more content I put out, the bigger my personal account got. And I was tired of people saying my face didn’t match my writing whenever they landed on my page, so I removed all my photos. However, over time, anonymity became a necessity for me.
At first, I realised I was insecure about my looks so I decided to grow into them without external influence. I didn’t want to post a picture and have people validate my looks. Next, I thought it was cool to be in the shadows on social media where everyone is constantly putting their face or business out there.
The upside? On good days, like today, I have at least 20 people in my DM begging to know what I look like. People pleading and swearing, earnestly, on their parents’ lives that they won’t share my photos. My answer? “No, I’m not sending.” Although, listening to people beg is like doing drugs because of how intoxicating and powerful it feels. It also helps that I’m aware of the power I hold so I tease and draw out people’s curiosity as much as I can. Some days I’ll post a picture of just my hand or my legs. Other days, I’ll post a full photo of me but covered with a smiley or with my face blurred out. It’s so much fun!
The only downside of enjoying anonymity is that I don’t cash out. If someone with my level of influence who shows their face goes out, they’d receive favours I wouldn’t receive, mostly because they’re famous. But no one knows me. Even if I told them I was the person behind my account, they wouldn’t believe it. Therefore, I’d beg for things I ordinarily wouldn’t have to beg for if I showed my face.
However, the peace of mind from being anonymous is sufficient for me. There’s no pressure for me to keep up appearances or put on a show — and I love that for me.
Today makes it three days since I last posted on my Twitter account. My mental health is shit, my anxiety is at an all-time high and my self-esteem is at the lowest. Yay.
As a creator with a large following, sooner or later the pressure gets to you. You’re always thinking about numbers: how many retweets did this post get, how many likes, how many quotes? Who shared it? Was it reposted on Instagram and WhatsApp statuses? This obsession puts pressure on you to create fun stuff for the audience so you rush your process. Then it doesn’t bang. Now the numbers are bad and you feel like shit because low numbers are bad for your brand’s business. It’s twice as bad because you can see how other creator’s content are banging in real-time. After a while, doubt starts to creep in.
But when your content bangs —my God! You feel unstoppable. God now help you that you’re on a roll. The type where you tweet the most random thing and it bangs. You quote a tweet and you get 4k retweets. Your reply to a tweet gets 2k likes. That kind of constant real-time validation and gratification is a drug you become addicted to.
As someone who has recently come down from that high, the lows are dealing with me. I’m thinking about how my retweets gradually started reducing from 4,000 to 2,000 to 1,000 and then 500 on a good day. I think reality fully hit me when I got to 500. At that point, it was as if I was relocating from Banana Island to Ikorodu and that affected me badly.
It has taken some affirmations to slowly climb out of it. Every day I remind myself that my worth as a human being is not tied to whether or not my tweets bang. Regardless of what happens, I’m still the same person. I’m still that talented person with room for growth.
In the long term, I know this will pull me out of my mental and emotional chokehold. However, short term, my strategy is to keep avoiding my stressors — most especially Twitter.
People always ask me if being an influencer is profitable. The answer is both yes and no. If you’re like me that charged two thousand naira for my first advert, you’re already doing it wrong. Mind you, I had 5,000 followers then. When I got to almost 10k followers I increased my rate to ₦10,000 for adverts.
Every time someone paid me I’d promise to deliver the best work of their life. Looking back, I realise that at every follower milestone I’d increase my rates but still did not make bank.
It wasn’t until today that I realised the reason for my weird relationship with money. The pay at the first company I worked for was shitty so I thought I deserved shit. I was being paid around ₦50,000 to make 90 content items in a month. In my head, ₦10,000 per content item promotion was a good deal for me. And this is how I approached my rates as my follower count grew.
With money, I’m just reaching a point where I can charge the least I deserve, especially for someone at my level of influence. It has taken me months of talking with many people to see that I don’t deserve to earn shit.
Later today, I’ll test out my new resolution on a client I’m talking to. I’m going to multiply my current rate by two. If I die, I die, but I’m no longer accepting rubbish. Thank you very much!
Influencing can be mad profitable if you maximise the opportunities you get. But it’s also short-lived. If you don’t reinvent yourself, another person will come up, do what you’re doing and take your spot.
I finally posted on Twitter today. It wasn’t my best work but I’ll take it like that. I’m trying to show up regardless of how I feel. The more work I put out, the more I increase the probability of something clicking.
It’s just difficult shaking off the feeling that it’s been a while since my content surprised people and that’s messing with me. This weekend, I plan to explore new content formats, think up possible collaborations with fellow creatives, and maybe even consider publishing a book.
I hate how creativity can be so hard yet so simple, but I won’t give up. I’ll cry when I need to cry and laugh when it comes.
I know that there’s potential in the business and I’m going to tap into it. One thing I know is that the first step to blowing is knowing your worth. A lot of people think I have money but I don’t because it has taken so long to realise my worth. If you see yourself as trash, this industry is not kind and will treat you accordingly.
Thankfully, things are changing for me. My goal right now is to earn enough from influencing gigs so I can quit my day job. If I play my cards right that day could come sooner than expected. Until then, my plan for today is to open Slack and dance to the tunes of my capitalist employer.
I can’t wait for today to end.