The Grass to Grace #NairaLife of a Social Media Influencer

November 7, 2022

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.


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This week’s subject on #NairaLife is a 25-year-old social media influencer. He talks about growing up poor and how seeing his mum’s efforts pushed him to start earning at 16. Today, he doesn’t need to leave his house to make his millions.

What’s your earliest memory of money? 

Hustling for ₦3k at 16. I helped nurses carry polio immunisation kits from house to house. I remember being irritated at how the children ran away and cried because of the injections. I thought,  “Oga, just stay and collect this thing. You’re wasting my time.”

How long did you do this?

I did it just once. The ₦3k was for three days of work. The crowd I saw on the day I went to get paid was so much that I couldn’t get my money. I had to come back another day.

When I was told I couldn’t get my money that day, I felt especially terrible I didn’t have a dad. I wouldn’t have to hustle for ₦3k like that if my dad was around. I swore that I’d never be poor in life. The experience was that bad.

Where was your dad?

No idea. He just wasn’t around. I started working at 16 because, as the firstborn, I felt like I had to. It was just my mum, my younger sister and me, and at that point, I was old enough to realise how much my mum was doing for us. 

My mum is a trader, but she made sure we wore good clothes, never skipped meals, and were never sent out for school fees. She put us through private primary school, but when it was time for secondary school, she sat us down and told us she couldn’t afford a private secondary school. 

What was the switch like?

Omo, first it was embarrassing. All my friends from primary school went to private secondary schools.

I won’t lie; going into secondary school, I believed public school students weren’t as intelligent as private school students. It was a stereotype that flew around in my primary school. I soon realised it was a lie. People are smart everywhere. I’m hardworking today because of how hard I had to compete academically in senior secondary school. 

Tell me about it

My set was a bit too serious. The principal had to call an assembly to tell us to loosen up and come out to play sometimes because we were reading too much. We represented the school in competitions, some against private schools, and won. I don’t know what motivated the others, but I knew how hard my mum was working to take care of my sister and me, and I just didn’t want to disappoint her. 

As serious as I was though, maths was a problem. I got an F when I wrote GCE in SS 2, and a D when I wrote WAEC in SS 3. I couldn’t get into university with those grades, so it was that year I stayed at home and did menial jobs like the immunisation one. 

What other jobs did you do?

I worked at a factory that produced hangers for ₦14k a month. I quit after a few months and got another job at a factory that printed past questions. That one paid ₦19k a month, but it was the most hazardous job ever. I inhaled so much smoke because I worked near a generator. There was a time I fell while carrying a load of heavy papers My boss saw me on the ground and said that if I destroyed the papers, the money would be deducted from my salary. My ₦19k salary!

After another few months there, I left and did WAEC and JAMB lessons. I used my money to pay. By 2015, when I was 18, I entered university to study mass communication.

Was that what you wanted?

Yes. I liked listening to the OAPs on Beat FM, so I thought I could do something in entertainment. In fact, because of how much they talked about Twitter, I opened a Twitter account and started being funny and steadily gaining followers in their hundreds and thousands. 

Was it your mum who supported you through university?

For about two years. In 2017, I started making my own money. 

What were you doing?

Freelance writing on Fiverr. I had roommates who made money designing for clients on Fiverr, so when my mum got me a laptop, I signed up and offered writing as a service.

How did you learn to write?

I wrote essays all the time in secondary school, so writing didn’t feel like a skill I had to learn. 

When I started using Fiverr, I had to use a VPN to make it seem like I wasn’t in Nigeria because, for some reason, it was hard for Nigerians to get jobs. Within 24 hours of opening an account, I got an essay-writing job that paid $5. 

In less than two months, I made $100 — the threshold for a first withdrawal. It was about ₦50k when I withdrew it. If you see my mum’s joy when I called her to tell her I made that much from writing online. She even called our pastor and told him. 

That year, I made about $500. 

Was it just through essay writing?

My brother, when poverty holds you, your creativity will come up. I wrote marketing articles, essays, assignments, and even poems for people’s partners. There was also a lady that paid me just to rant to me. 

You were also doing therapist work? God when?

But I wasn’t saving sha. I was spending the money anyhow. Even the next year, when I made almost $4k by levelling up, I didn’t save. I sent my mum some money, but I wasted the rest in school. 

How did you level up?

When your account shows that you’ve completed a lot of work and received encouraging comments, you level up on the platform and get jobs easier. At this point, I wasn’t using a VPN account anymore. I’d created another account and patiently waited to get jobs, but it was worth it in the end.

But in my 400 level, I lost my account because the PayPal account linked with it was connected to another Fiverr account. 

How?

Nigerian PayPal accounts can’t receive money, so I had to use the services of a guy who had foreign PayPal accounts to receive my payments. He mistakenly used the account he was using for me for another person. 

Damn. Did you lose money?

I got the money in the Fiverr account after 90 days of suspension, but I couldn’t get the account back. I’d have to start from scratch again. I was in my final year doing projects, so I decided not to bother. It would be too much work. 

Also, I realise, in retrospect, that I did a terrible job at networking. When I google the names and companies I worked with as a freelancer, I scream. If I’d kept those relationships, I wouldn’t have been stranded and broke like I was after that account loss. 

It was bad?

I met sapa. I couldn’t ask my mum for money because I’d stopped for a while, so I was just suffering. I even started selling the middle pages of my foolscap notes for ₦20 whenever we had class tests. Right before I graduated, I got my first social media campaign job. A brand reached out because they saw I had engaged followers. The job paid ₦10k. This happened a couple more times in 2019.

After I graduated in 2019, I helped my classmates write CVs for ₦2k per CV. Then on one of those days when I had nothing to do, I had a bright idea. Since I’d already studied mass communication, it’d be smart for me to learn a foreign language too. I went and made inquiries, and the language I wanted to learn cost ₦63k for six weeks. 

Did you do it?

I didn’t have the money, so I tweeted about my situation, and a Twitter friend reached out, asked me how much the classes cost, sent the money and asked me to return it whenever I could. I’d never met this person physically.

A few months later, I found out she died. I was heartbroken. 

Sorry about that. Did you learn the language?

Yes. But I’ve not used it for anything. 

How did you get back on your feet? 

In 2020, more brands started reaching out to me to push their products and services. I was getting ₦100k and ₦200k gigs. That’s when I also started getting writing gigs. I started doing CVs, website articles, assignments, and statements of purpose. But I was charging much higher than my freelance days. It was just knowing my worth and not being afraid to charge people. 

I also had my only 9-5 in 2020. It was a digital marketing job that I quit after two months. 

Why?

My boss told me to shut up over the phone. On top ₦66k salary. Ah. 

LMAO

2021 was the beginning of proper financial stability. I was making at least ₦300k a month from writing and influencing, but more from influencing. That’s when I bought an iPhone and MacBook and put my mum on a ₦40k monthly allowance. 

Omo mummy

She didn’t care much about the amount I was giving her. As long as I gave her money, she called and prayed for me like I’d just blessed her with millions. At some point, I realised giving her money was an investment in my mental health. The fact that she was happy with me was proof that I was doing something right.

I even did my first investment in 2021.

What kind?

I put ₦1.5m in a friend’s business and got ₦300k every month for four months, then I got my ₦1.5m back. 

Mad. How’s 2022 been?

I do the same things I’ve been doing for money, but I make more money because my brand is bigger. I run multiple campaigns concurrently. On an average month this year, I’ve made at least ₦700k, all from the comfort of my apartment. Oh yeah, I finally moved out this year too. I paid ₦500k for rent and have spent about ₦400k buying home appliances. 

Do you save now?

Haha, I save almost all my money now.

Break down how much money you spend in a month

How much do you have invested? 

I put ₦2m in a crypto company, and they give me ₦100k a month. 

And how much do you have in savings?

Maybe about ₦4m. 

Can I see your rates?

What’s the hardest part about being an influencer? 

The fact that I have to put my life out there. It’s a bit tough. I don’t like it, but I have to do it. 

At 25, do you think you’ve done well for yourself? 

Yeah. I live alone in my flat. I’ve placed my mum on salary, and I sponsor my sister’s education. I have two people I pay salaries; one who manages one of my accounts (₦50k) and my assistant (₦80k). There are others I pay for writing for me. In my own capacity, I’ve also helped followers who DM with genuine stories. So yeah, I feel like I’m in a good place. 

Is there any levelling up to do?

Of course. I want to reach a point where ₦20m is nothing to me. Do I have any specific plans? No. I just know it’ll be through business and maybe getting a high-paying job. 

What’s a high-paying job?

₦2m a month. 

Is there something you want now but can’t afford?

A house. I don’t need a house, but it’s the only thing I want but can’t afford. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the level of your financial happiness? 

I would say 7. Because everything I need now, I can afford. Until I get to the point where ₦20m is nothing, it cannot be a 10. 


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