The #NairaLife Of An Internet Influencer

April 6, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing. This is Naira Life. All subjects in this series have chosen to remain anonymous. We’d like you to respect that.

In a little over five years, he’s made a decent living off having ideas and making them travel with people, or for having a depending stream of Instagram comments. Over and over. People like him are called influencers, and this #NairaLife is exploring how the engine works.

Let’s start from when someone first offered to pay you as an influencer.

There are layers to this, layers because I think the first time I actually made money was when I realised that someone was willing to pay to reach my followers. The first time was when someone offered me ₦20k a month just to talk about his brand.

But the real possibilities unlocked for me when someone reached out via email – he’d been trying to reach me apparently – and he said he had a campaign for me at a telco. That gig was ₦200k, and this was 2014. 

What did they want you to do? 

Just tweet for a couple of days and attend an event. That was the highest money I’d ever made at one at the time, and it just opened my mind to the possibilities proper. 

Let’s pretend I have no clue. How does this even work? 

I think it has evolved over the years. In the beginning, you were supposed to be just like a billboard, sharing content and all. But to be honest, I realised early that it wasn’t for me. I’m a creator and I wanted my voice to shine too. I started being selective with gigs and being careful about the kind of content I put out. 

I started rejecting more, and choosing only things that seemed immersive – I worked at a 9-5 at the time. For example, if you want me to talk about a product, I must use it that product. If you can afford to pay me, then you can afford to give me the product. 

So generally, the brand needs the audience and platform, you have the audience. The brand wants to reach them. The brand pays you, and you get the job done for them. Everybody is happy. 

Talking about money, tell me about your best gig. 

Omo, it depends o. A branch reached out – a pretty big FMCG – and asked me to be on a campaign. So I brought in some of the biggest influencers in Nigeria. I was one of them too, and when you combine how much I was paid, and how much I got as a commission over a cumulative 3 months, I made about ₦6.5 million. 

Another one, they asked me to attend an event, posted two tweets, and got ₦200k. Very light work. I consider this one my most lucrative deal, based on the scale of work. 

Then a third one was for a program I got invited to. I got sponsored to attend a training outside Nigeria. When you do the math, plus the ₦1.5 million in cash I got, I’d say it cost them about ₦8-₦10 million to engage me. So while the course wasn’t necessarily about influencing, I know I was invited because I’m an influencer. 

This is by far my biggest experience and exposure. 

Salary earners mostly think of income on a monthlly basis. Wage earners on a weekly basis. How do you and your colleagues think about income? 

Because of how frequently campaigns come, I really can’t think too much about structured income on a weekly or monthly basis. For example, I know someone that’s automated ₦20k daily deductions to his savings app. Another person does up to ₦30k.

So yeah, for some people, it’s easy to plan. For me, not so easy. Sometimes, I could get only one campaign in a month or even none. Sometimes, nothing. Sometimes I have a flood, that pays me enough to not look elsewhere for a while. 

Also, there are other things I do, so influencing won’t always be my primary source of income. 

What else are you doing?

I work with a Digital agency too. That means that I’m working with some of these brands on their campaigns. Helping with Branding and design, and some development work. Also, besides influencing work, I’m also a coordinator of influencers. There’s a thin line, but every now and then, I get to be in the campaign. So you could call that Talent management. I also have a couple of retainers here and there. 

How much does this fetch you in a month these days? 

Again, because it’s not stable, in a normal month I’d get between ₦500k and ₦1 million, but if I really really try to even out how much I make in a year to a monthly average, it’d be about 1 million a month. 

Let’s travel back to your days of fewer zeros and bills. What’s your oldest memory of money? 

Ah, it was one time, when we used to live in a “face me, I face you.” One of my neighbours was a bodybuilder, so much so that he actually travelled abroad for a competition once. When he came back, he shared money amongst all of us. I got ₦20 – this was in the early nineties and I was at most 5 years old.

Shout out to that bros. What about the first thing you did for money?

Oh, this one was for an important fee in school, and we didn’t have money to pay. So I had to do some selling petty things to raise money for it. That money was less than ₦2k.

How does this type of leap change affect how you think about money? 

Man, it’s a lot of things. First of all, it’s empathy. I understand struggle. I understand poverty. I never look down on people. I’m always trying to put myself in people’s shoes. I’m quite prudent now. I don’t know how to splurge. Like, I stay in a small place, compared to what I earn. It’s only recently I started spending more. 

Rather than spend on myself or take things I can afford, I’d rather send money to people or family, instead of myself. You know, I have to marry someone who knows how to enjoy money, because I don’t know how to. Because of my background. 

What’s something you want right now, but can’t afford? 

I want to buy a house. But the type of house I want, I can’t afford it. 

Do you ever wonder what the future looks like financially? 

No idea. I kid you not. I just hope I have some stability. While I’m comfortable, I’ll sleep better if I can answer this questions with numbers, not hope. I’m at a crossroads in life right now. And each path has its own possibilities.

But potential outcomes are that; I relocate to my real country or marry someone with a better passport. It could be public service in Nigeria or expanding my business portfolio to include marketing, film production. 

This is interesting. 

Are you trolling? 5 possible paths when I’m near 30? 

Hmm, so you worry about age. Tell me about it. 

There are a lot of things. Considering my ‘brand’, there are a lot of things I can’t do anymore. The competition is stiffer now. Younger creators are doing amazing stuff. For me to play in that space, I have to do something different. I worry that as I’m growing older, the opportunities become scarce. So I need to figure out the path. 

It’s interesting that you mentioned creators. They clearly play a key role in how we consume entertainment. How much will you say a Taooma would charge for a skit? 

Okay, let’s say I’m sending an email to my boss after this story goes live to tell him I’m not doing again. I want to become an influencer. What are my chances of making it?

One thing Social Media has taught me is that nobody knows the next big thing or person. Mr Macaroni started making skits late last year, look at him today.

I don’t know what your chances are, but for anyone who wants to be an influencer, the important questions are; what do you want to influence, how and who is your audience?

Fair enough. Since influencers are mostly driven by what brands pay, and brands aren’t generally in a good place right now because of coronavirus, what’s the scene like the days? 

It’s affecting everyone, but some influencers are not as hard hit as others. Brands still want to connect with an audience, so yeah. It’s slow, but it’s not dead-dead. Take for example, I already ‘lost’ four campaigns worth a cumulative ₦1.2 million.

Can’t say why, but everywhere suddenly feels hot around me. Anyway, what was stocking up for the lockdown like for you? 

I really don’t know for sure, but I spent less than ₦50k. Wht I currently have should last roughly three weeks if I don’t leave the house, and if I have light. I usually always have food sha, so stocking up was just to make sure all bases are covered. 

Many things have stopped, but what expenses haven’t stopped for you? 

Rent, of course. Although that is paid annually; ₦500k. I’m moving soon though, so that might climb. Black tax costs me from ₦100k-₦150k monthly. I think all my subscriptions – internet, cable, streaming, and co – cost about ₦50k monthly. 

What’s a purchase you made recently that significantly improved the quality of your life?

My old car was giving me too much mechanic trouble, so I bought a car. It cost about ₦5.5 million. 

What’s a bad financial decision you made recently?

I invested in someone’s business, but a bunch of forces, like the market and the management, screwed it over. I’m trying to salvage it though, even though it cost me about ₦3.5 million. 

Talking about investments, what’s your portfolio looking like? 

Online farms. Small business. More farms. In the past year, I’ll say I’ve invested between ₦5 million and ₦6 million. 

Let’s talk about financial happiness. On a scale of 1-10. 

I’m a 4. I can afford basic things, I’m doing well for myself. I’m ‘comfortable’ – I can have many middle class things like travel. But I’m not comfortable enough to do it sustainably, and at scale.

I feel like – in fact I know that I should be earning way more than I’m currently earning, considering my experience and skillset. But a lot of factors are slowing me down. I’m not happy at the fact that I can’t project. I don’t have a steady source of income where, whatever happens, I know X is earned per month or quarter. 

I need to get to the place of financial stability because I can predict. I can start to do things like get a mortgage. 

That’s why it’s a 4 because really, I’m doing fine – I haven’t even been broke since 2014. I can do a lot of things that requires money, but the money is limited. 

Have you ever imagined what life would look like if things turned out differently?

I sometimes wonder what I’d be doing if I had gotten a job with my Sciences degree. If I wasn’t an influencer. If I had decided to work in public service. I wonder and shake my head at the futility of wondering. You never know these things. 

A Poet. Is there something you think I should have asked you but didn’t? 

How much I’m worth. 

Okay. Tell me. How liquid are you right now? 

Probably ₦10 million. That’s it – wait, I have a domiciliary account with $2,000 in it. So let’s just say I probably have ₦11 million all over the place. 

Alright alright. That’s enough. I need to go make my skit now. Don’t get in the way of my success. 

Hahaha. When you’re done, send it so we can share.

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