I Earn 175k, But I Still Dunno What I Want To Do With My Life

October 21, 2019

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.

The subject is a 28 year old Lady with a lot of uncertainties. All your useful ideas are welcome.


What’s the first thing you ever did for money?

I wrote articles for a teenage magazine during holidays when I was in secondary school. I was 12 or 13. It was like ₦5k a week for three days of work and free lunch.

I don’t think I worked again until university. In uni – that was abroad – I came home every Christmas and summer holiday and during those times, I took internships. I was getting like ₦15k or ₦25k a month, for transport basically. I worked in radio, mostly to gain experience in 2010 and 2011. I didn’t want to sit down in my father’s house for months and just be looking.

But you still got allowances then?

Not really, but at school, during the term, I did. I got $500 a month. $500 a month – this is funny – but I actually had nothing to spend money on for a while. I didn’t have anything to buy. But when I moved schools, I just started spending money because people  always want to go out and chill. 

People are expensive. That’s the only lesson I’ve learned in life. That’s how my allowance started disappearing. 

So basically, throughout Uni, you survived on allowances.

No, I got a job, from my third year. Three hours a day, and it was three days a week. So just 9 hours. It was $12 an hour. Then I was working another job that paid – I can’t remember how much I earned. What I do remember is that my dad cut my allowance down to 250. My dad didn’t even waste time. He was like you’re working now na, what do you want money for again? And he cut it into 250, and I was like okay, cool I guess. But then, I was actually spending money. So I still needed that 500, but he was not having it.

Interesting. After Uni?

I moved back to Nigeria and started Nysc in the Southwest, teaching in a school.

When did you finish NYSC?

2013. But I left the state I was before NYSC ended because my landlord’s son was stalking me – terrifying time. I redeployed to Lagos. When I came to Lagos, I started working in the Local government. I was really just sitting down and staring. I didn’t get any of my salary. I just got the usual ₦19,800.

Once NYSC ended, I did a lot of internships. This is when I was looking for jobs. So I was like doing internships hoping that they would kind of transition into full-time jobs.

So how much did each of them pay?

I was a production assistant one time. It was supposed to be like ₦100k a month. I left immediately after my first two projects; I didn’t do up to a month because they were very shady about the pay. Also, every job I worked, there was always one creepy elderly guy trying to enter my phone, or gaining my number somehow and calling me, harassing me. 

There is no job I can think of in that period that didn’t have a creep. 

Sucks. So, you quit and didn’t get paid?

Yep. 

How old were you?

This was 2013, so 22. Then I got an internship at a media company, which I liked. There was a transport allowance of ₦35k. I did that for 3 months – that’s how long the internship was for. Then I sat at home for a bit.

How long was ‘a bit’?

Another three months – and this is when I got desperate. I wanted to do production at this point but I was just hearing there’s no money in radio, these people are poor. So I took the exams for all of the Accounting and Tax Consulting companies.

Ah, you went back to your degree?

Yeah. I studied hard, took the exams in late 2013 and passed, but I sucked during the interview stage. All of this stretched into early 2014. Most of the time, I was just at home. Maybe someone would be like, “Help me on this job, I’ll pay you small money”. But nothing serious. Or my mum would be like, “Do something for my shop and get small money.”

In late 2014, there was this production gig that lasted a few months, but it paid about 150k in total. 

So, nothing stable.

You know, all my life I haven’t done what I wanted to do. To be honest, I don’t know what I want to do – like something I really enjoy doing. I think I like managing projects though.

Anyway, early December 2014 I went for an interview at a Digital Marketing company, and this time, it went well. 

We agreed that I’d start in January. The CEO was like your salary is ₦100k per month in a “take it or leave it” fashion. Also there was this weird salary structure where I’d take home less than ₦100k monthly, then I’d get a lump sum every quarter. I didn’t even care very much, I just needed a job, let’s sha be going. This was my first full time job since I graduated. 

What were you doing? 

I started off doing Social Media stuff for their brands. And then learning how to create strategy for them. More tasks were coming, and I was picking up new skills, learning new tools. In the end, throwing all the tasks at me meant I was picking up new skills, and the next thing you know, I had a fairly good sense of digital marketing.

Awesome. How much were you getting monthly?

₦44k. Then about ₦157k. Basically, the quarterly lump sum made my average monthly salary about 90-something, minus tax. 

But at ₦44k, I ran out of money every month. Then I’d borrow from my mum or my sibling and when I get paid, refund. It was a terrible cycle of spend, borrow, repay, be broke again. My daily commute was also crazy. It wasn’t just 4 hours a day, it was also costing me a ton of money – I had a car to fuel. So I started squatting close to work and going home on weekends. 

After one year, I went to ask for a raise. 

How did that go? 

I got a promotion, but only with name, because my money didn’t get promoted. By March 2016, I still hadn’t gotten a raise. The whole HR vibe didn’t look like anything was going to change. A few key people even left to go set up shop elsewhere, including my line manager. So I started looking for new opportunities elsewhere. 

Then I got a message from my old line manager, one of the people who left:

“We need you.”

By the end of April, I was already there, for ₦166k/month, net.

I was hyped because this was more than I was getting for my quarterly lump sum, and now I was going to get monthly. 

A proper jump. 

Yesss. Anyway, I worked there for a while, and in 2018, I was just really tired. I wanted to give something else a shot, so I quit. 

What did you want to do?

I wanted to work on a kind of service – it involved domestic staff and placements, and I realised how difficult it was to make things like that work. In the end, every step, from registration, finding and verifying people, and quality control was hectic. 

Meanwhile, I got a freelance Project Management gig in Q4 of 2018. I was getting paid ₦250k at the beginning and another ₦250k at the end a few months later. This project was mostly a relief, because since I quit, I’d been getting constant cornering from family members with the “What are you doing with your life now?” questions.

I’m just like, a girl wants peace – don’t talk to me because I’m trying to figure it out.  

About figuring this whole life thing out, how do you see money’s place in it for you?

Mental health over financial health. I can’t feel like I’m in bondage because of money, but then if I didn’t have my privilege, I know I’d be saying something different. 

Ok so let’s talk about what you’re up to these days.  

I have a friend who runs a food business. She’s hired me to get things in order, like managing her orders and all her processes. She’d been dealing with problems like orders getting mixed up, customers not being followed up on. That pays ₦75k – also, it’s a new gig. Another business hired me to do their marketing. That pays ₦100k. And I’m going to work remotely. 

So that’s ₦175k, for now. 

Looks like you found your gig.

My whole thing has been; let me just find like 3 gigs until I sort out my life, which I’m not ready to do yet.

How much do you honestly feel like you should be earning? 

Probably ₦400k, but also, realistically I’m in Nigeria. I also think if I get another job, it would start at ₦300k. People use this “I have been out of the game too long” thing to pay less, which is why I’m settling for a ₦300k job. I mean my last 2018 salary was ₦216k, so it’s only natural the next is ₦300k. 

Also I’m over this life of living on your own, paying rent and service charges. I want to go back to my parents’ house.

About that; what did your expenses look like last month?

I have a flatmate, so we kind of split money most times. I pay 30k for cleaning, and all the house work, my flatmate pays our 30k for service charge.

Phone Credit: 10k

Hair care: 5k

Catching coo fun: 25k

Phone fix: 20k 

Transportation, even though I hardly go out: 15k 

Do you save? 

I was saving when I was in constant money. I just realised house hold stuff continues to take money and so does my car, it just makes all kinds of sounds.

So saving is not a lot. I think it used to be like 5k a week which would be like 20k but it is not a significant amount. Lagos just takes the rest of it from me. 

I know you are trying not to think about it too much but five years from now, what does it look like you’ll be earning? 

I just feel the world will end before then, but I guess I should be set or hoping that I can save enough and then be set eventually.

Do you have any plans to get there? 

No. I’m like in autopilot. There is no plan. When I get really tired, I will now start thinking about my life. 

But for this, five years should be over a million for sure. But if it’s my own business, I’m probably not going to pay myself a million until we have made serious money, so I will just be managing ₦500k. 

So what is something you really want but you cant afford? 

I always want to eat out; I have cravings everyday, but I can’t afford that.

I wanted to ask you about the last time you felt truly broke, but it looks like that is like every time… 

You know, I just look at my account balance on my phone, and I’m really sad. 

On a scale of 1 to 10 happiness 

More like a 5. It has always been a 5. My last few weeks or months at work, it was like 2 or 3 but life is just a consistent middle ground of… I don’t know. 

Fu'ad Lawal

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