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.
When this ghostwriter started writing in 2014, her rate was ₦1 per word. 8 years later, she’s making 7 figures per project. Maybe one day she’ll release a book with her name but right now, she doesn’t care — as long as the pay is good. This is #AWeekInTheLife of Ebimoboere Ibinabo Dan-Asisah.
I work from home and I’m my own boss, so my day can start anytime, and waking up for me is vibes and inshallah. But when I’m feeling responsible, I wake up around 10 a.m. It takes an hour for my brain to boot completely, and then, I find something random to read for the next hour — could be an article or story online.
By around 11-ish, I make coffee, shower, dress up, open my laptop and get to writing. For the next four hours, I’ll grind out about 7,000 words. I average about 1,000 words every thirty-or-so minutes, a writing muscle I’ve built over the past ten years. It helps when I’m on a deadline; I write even faster. But there are some jobs that are so complex I simply cannot rush because doing so would be trying to kill myself.
By 5 p.m., I take a two-hour break to cook or read something casual. Around 7, I’m back to work, but this time, I make corrections and review what I’ve written — basically become my own editor. By 9 p.m., I take another break to watch a movie or hang out with my partner, who’s also my roommate.
Depending on how much work I have to do, after this break, I could either prepare for bed or go back to writing till 4 a.m.
I ghostwrite anything from articles to research papers to full-length books. My writing process is simple. Usually, a client approaches me with a brief. This brief contains the project requirements and guidelines or plotlines to follow. Once we agree on terms and conditions, I get to work. If it’s a biography, I conduct interviews. Then, I mimic what I think would be the client’s writing style. Once I finish writing, and the client is satisfied, they buy the work from me. What that means is I have no ownership of the work. I have no copyright, no royalties, no cuts from sales or merchandising or movie rights.
I have nothing to do with the work once I’m done writing. I’ve written a few things that became big, but I can’t take credit. It doesn’t bother me, maybe because when I started writing, my main motivation was money. I didn’t go into it because I wanted my name on the New York Times Best Seller list. I didn’t have those dreams when I first started. All I wanted was to get paid. It’s only now that it’s beginning to occur to me that I may need to put my name on something and let people know how good I am, because I’m good.
But even then, it’s still just a back-burner desire. I’m working on a novel, but I’ll complete it in my own time. There’s no rush. Right now, I’m good with earning six figures consistently.
When I woke up today, it hit me that I’ve been ghostwriting for so long, I now feel like a robot. But I love it because it’s given me an opportunity to be whoever I want to be, do whatever I want to, write and earn a living from it.
Ten years ago (in 2014), if you’d told me that I’d have a career as a ghostwriter, I wouldn’t even have known what that meant.
I stumbled into ghostwriting because I was poor and needed money. I wasn’t just in the trenches — If there was a rung below the trenches, that’s where I was. During the holidays before I started 300 level, I went home and there was no money. I had to do some introspection to figure out how to earn and help with the upkeep at home. I didn’t have any fantastic artistic or technical skills. The only thing I could do was write.
I didn’t even consider myself a writer because the only time I’d ever done any writing was in secondary school — English essays in classwork and exams. But at that point, my only options were writing or sex work. I decided to try writing first.
I reached out to friends and told them I was looking for writing jobs. Luckily, someone introduced me to a guy who was paying ₦1 per word; he asked me to send samples of my work. I didn’t have any samples, so I quickly wrote an article of 750 words and sent it over. He gave me an assignment to write 3,000 words in two days and paid me ₦3k for it — the first money I ever made. I was so excited.
Today, after coffee, I worked on my current project, a sci-fi novella in a dystopian future. Taking a break, I let my mind wander.
Being a ghostwriter is interesting because I get to write on a diverse range of topics. There’s literally no genre I’ve not written about, from the most niche topics to the most technical and even batshit crazy stuff.
Like the time I started, in those dark days when I was earning ₦1 per word, there was this guy who had a fetish for eating boiled eggs and farting. I got him through a middle man. When I looked at the brief: a 3,000-word erotica about swallowing boiled eggs whole and farting. I was mortified, but I needed to eat. So I accepted it.
During that period, I wrote the most unhinged and twisted stories. There was a time when PornHub was the default page in my phone’s browser. Think of anything. There’s porn for it. I had to do tons of research because these clients needed the most specific descriptions. There’s even a subgenre of porn called vore, where people get sexually aroused from seeing people get swallowed or imagining being swallowed whole. I remember writing one about Godzilla flinging people into its mouth. I’ve come across people who get off from the wildest things.
But I’m thankful I no longer have to write things like that. I started writing around 2014 and wrote at ₦1 for about six years, until I graduated from university, fell out with parents, got heartbroken by my boyfriend at the time. So I took on a writing job. My boss was toxic and kept devaluing my work. She’d broke-shame me because she knew I was earning peanuts from ghostwriting, which was ironic because she only paid me ₦50k a month.
In my personal life, shit got real for me. I had a law degree, but I wasn’t ready to go to law school only to come back and work for ₦25k while running errands for whatever law firm.
In 2019, I got duped. I got a gig to write a dark erotic romance novel, which is a genre of fucked-up love stories. I was excited for the project because it’s a genre I really liked, and also the most money I would’ve made at the time. The 50,000-word project would earn me ₦150k at ₦3 per word. The client paid me ₦50k up front and was supposed to complete the payment when I was done.
Turbocharged, I finished the book in record time. But in excitement, I made a huge mistake — I sent the entire manuscript before receiving payment. He ghosted me. It broke my heart. I initially wanted to publish it, but I didn’t even know the first thing about publishing.
In 2020, I was depressed and my writing wasn’t giving. When I tried to kill myself, I knew I had to leave my parent’s house in Port Harcourt. I moved to Lagos and squatted with a male friend for some time. Not a great time because his girlfriend wasn’t okay with the arrangement. I was stranded, and it was then I realised I could no longer write at ₦1 for a word.
When I got fired from the writing job I hated, I increased my rates to ₦5 per word. Clients resisted. Many of them ran away, but two clients liked my work too much to let me go. After a couple of months, I raised my rates yet again to ₦10 per word and got even less patronage. But I didn’t budge.
In 2021, I realised I was shortchanging myself because I’m too fucking good to be counting words. So I decided to start charging per project. While I endured the wilderness for a while, eventually, an acquaintance recommended me to a client who agreed to pay me what I asked for — six figures! He told me his projects earned him as much as ₦10m per job.
Everything changed for me. In the past year, the least money I’ve earned from a project is ₦780k. And I don’t intend to ever go lower. If it’s not paying me six zeroes, I don’t want. One of the projects I’m currently working on will earn me ₦10m when completed.
But it isn’t all roses. I’m a freelancer, so jobs don’t come consistently. Sometimes, it rains; sometimes, it’s a drought.
It’s been a hectic week. Today, I’m just going to unwind. I’ll resist the temptation to open my laptop. I may work tomorrow, but today, I’ll go to Landmark Beach. On my way back, I’ll stop by my favourite spot on the Island to drink craft beer.
When I come back home, I’ll cook seafood pasta and drink merlot. Problem no dey finish. Tomorrow, we go again.