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 lady in this story has worked in digital media (creative industry) for almost a decade. But she’s convinced that she’s just getting started. This is her story.
When was the first time you knew what money was?
It has to be that time I wanted to travel to the UK. Now I was living with a cousin who travelled frequently – and everyone had money to travel. My cousin was like, ah ahn, don’t you want to go?
Somehow, I ended up going with her – but only after asking uncles and aunties to chip in. And even when I went, I didn’t really enjoy myself. I shopped from charity shops, and nobody had my time. My richest uncle there gave me £20, which is ridiculous when it’s 2011 and you’re 26.
Immediately I got back, the first question I started asking myself was, how can I have my own money? I was pampered but also broke. How can you be broke and pampered? And that’s how the ajebo part dropped o.
So I took this strange job, where all I had to do was slot in sim cards into phone packs – it was one of those promos where phones came with sim cards. That was the first time I felt like I was hustling.
Also, because of how I was feeling broke in the UK, I hardly bought anything for myself – most of what I bought, I brought back to sell. At good margins too.
Unfortunately, I still sucked at managing money, so all the money I made, I blew anyhow – not like it was a lot though.
What came after that?
I went away for a year-long course, then went for NYSC, and it was during service I made up my mind that I was never going to ask my parents for money again.
I grew up in a small town outside Lagos – a dead place. So, I knew that if I didn’t have a plan before the end of NYSC, I would have had to go back to that place, and it would have killed me. Weaning myself off their wallets was motivation.
Small town girl with big dreams.
Yeah, so I started hustling for work in Lagos during NYSC, so I wouldn’t go back to live with my parents. I took my savings, my cousin chipped in, and I bought a camera and started learning photography.
Then I got a part-time radio gig. Basically, I was going ham, anything to not send me back to my parents’ house. I worried that if I went back there, I’d have to struggle to get back out. In all this time, I was still at my actual place of primary assignment – they didn’t care much anyway, so I didn’t have to go every time.
Halfway through NYSC, I started trying out for gigs in digital agencies. The first one didn’t pay and would be shouting where is your work. Dumped that after a month. With the second one, I spent only a month – some drama – then I got a third. That third one came toward the end of my NYSC – about three months toward the end.
Wow, so I was making this much during NYSC. Right after NYSC, I started at the agency. I was working in Content, and that’s what I’ve done for the most part since then.
And you put your small town behind you
Hahaha. Yep. So I started full time at the ₦40k agency. But this time, I was earning less.
They started removing tax – nobody told me about net or gross – so now I was netting ₦36k. I would have just been doing my part-time for ₦40k. I got a raise to ₦40k a few months after, net.
About one year later, I left – got another gig that was offering me ₦80k.
Ah, nice. What was that like?
First of all, I made a mistake. Someone told me after I got the job that I should have asked for 150k because I was poached. That meant I was in a good position to leverage a better deal. But the moment I heard 80k from the ₦40k, I was like hayyy double salary!
Bad bad call. At my old place, there was a staff bus for the to and fro commute. Also, food was cheaper around my old place. At the new place though, food was way more expensive – it was on the Island.
I think I realise now that your first salary might go on to affect your salary for the rest of your life.
If I was earning ₦150k at that next gig, I would have had a better starting number to negotiate the next salary.
I did get a raise though, a little over 6 months later. To ₦150k. I actually had to pull an “I’m getting poached” move.
Were you getting poached though?
Yes. I had an offer from one of the agency’s rivals, but I knew I wasn’t going to take the job – I didn’t even like the company. I just used them to get a raise. This was early 2015 though.
You know when I got my next raise? 32. Months. Later. What raise did I get? ₦30k.
Anyway, by November 2017, I was out. I joined another company that offered me ₦300k. Got a raise months later to ₦360k.
But then I resigned by the end of June 2019. With immediate effect.
No notice period?
There was something with the workplace culture I could no longer deal with. My workplace was beginning to feel like a battlefield, so I quit. It didn’t make sense to many people, but I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be long term anyway.
I had plans of starting an agency, but that took the backburner. Thing is, I tend to put in everything wherever it is I’m working. That means barely having time for side projects. And because I feel like I haven’t been rewarded properly for the work I put in, I have become disillusioned by 9-5’s. The job before my last didn’t end on good terms too.
So you’re at a place now where you don’t exactly know what’s next?
Yeah. I’m just trying to figure out a bunch of things. I wanted to start work on my agency, but I couldn’t do that while still at my job – conflict of interest. Now, I want to focus on getting this running. It’s going to be a bunch of services, including Social Media Management and O.R.M.
Online Reputation Management?
Yes. Basically, a lot of it involves managing the images of public people online and sometimes cleaning up after their mess.
But then, it’d be nice if I was starting this and wasn’t worried about where my next income would be coming from – no safety nets.
In the time being, I’m looking at freelance gigs, preferably forex-paying, so I can do stuff that will earn money on the side, while I focus on building my agency.
Okay, I hope you get something. But let’s talk about your perspective about this money thing.
I think that if you don’t position yourself to make money, nobody is going to give it to you. There’s hardly anybody who’s earning good money that hasn’t been deliberate about it. It’s not an accident. You have to position yourself with your skills or your confidence.
It’s illegal for me to have been earning ₦360k with all the experience I have, in the places I worked at. There really is no reason why I should be earning less than 1 million a month.
1 million is quite the number. Any rationale for choosing that number?
I got an offer which was basically everything I’d been doing for years, and they were going to pay me ₦1 million a month. I didn’t get the job – I feel like I didn’t interview well – but it opened my eyes to what is possible. Someone somewhere is willing to pay a million for my skills. I should be earning that.
To be honest, I have gotten offers – those ₦200k offers – but I’m not doing again. My friend is like, “just take it in the time being”, but that’s what happened with my last job. I ‘managed’ it.’ Before my last job, I was convinced that I wanted nothing less than ₦500k. Then I met my previous employer, and he sold me a vision. And I managed it.
So, what’s the plan to get by between now and when you can get steady income?
First of all, I have some savings, then I’ll be getting by on freelance gigs, which should get me a decent amount of money.
Also, I’m working to secure a client for O.R.M. The goal is to help High Networth Individuals manage their image online. There’s also the crisis management part. I have a mentor who’s already operating on that level.
She’s working to set me up with a client or two – probably start with the small clients – the ₦500k people. Then we’ll go up from there.
Okay, just so I get a sense. What do you think you’d charge for ORM of a Nigerian Senator?
At the very least, ₦5 million for three months of work. Depending on the profile of the Senator. That should cover a lot of the costs.
Senator’s costs aside. What’s your current survival mode running cost?
I live pretty leanly. I buy in bulk. I don’t go out very much. So that means I can be frugal.
How much runway do you think you have before you absolutely need to get a steady means of income?
First of all, I need to pay rent in October. Rent is ₦350k for a single room. Also, I want to move to a new place. So yes, I need to be earning properly before September.
How much do you imagine you’d be earning in 5 years?
10 million. The goal is to scale up to three hustles properly: luxury goods, real estate, and agric.
What’s something you really want but can’t afford right now?
My own house. In Banana Island. 7-bedroom duplex. So it can become a family home. And so that my friends can come and chill. And then a Range Rover Evoque – I’ve always wanted an Evoque. I think that’s one of the reasons I haven’t considered a car yet, because I don’t have Evoque money.
So, do you have a house plan?
A house plan…? To be honest, I plan to buy my own house… but –
You weren’t thinking of how?
I was thinking of how… To be honest, I’m just looking for who to dash me house in Banana Island abeg.
Hahahahahaha. Any house I buy now, it will be in my village. See, right now, it’s to just become an Influencer, and then one politician will like me, and then dash me house in Banana Island.
When do you think you’ll retire?
I think when I’m 60. I would have started easing my workload then. At that time, I just want to be travelling and speaking to people.
What’s the last thing you paid for that required serious planning?
Definitely the Dubai trip last year. That cost me about ₦700k in total. I paid in bits, but that’s the total cost. I chose Dubai because I didn’t have to struggle to get a visa. I could go there on short notice.
See, I want a life of luxury, and being stuck in Nigeria can make you think the whole world likes suffer-head.
Dubai for me is the height of luxury. It opened my head, a lot. These people just thought, what does everyone else do? How can we make our own extra? Everyone has Fountain? Make our own dance.
I watched the Dubai Dancing Fountain. And people just gathered to watch water dancing. And it shows you how simplistic the human mind is. People just want pleasure. People are driving three hours into the desert, to go and pose with a bird.
Dubai is packaged sand. And this business, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. People will pay for enjoyment.
So yes, I think this one was of the most powerful things about Dubai for me.
Also, I learned that if you want to make money, you have to break out of the mould of culture. Conservative country yen yen yen that people are always shouting, but we went to a nightclub in Dubai, and people were just wilding. They were even playing Burna Boy sef.
This money thing is a mindset.
When was the last time you felt really broke?
Thing is, when I came back from Dubai, I was sad because there were some things that I needed money for, and couldn’t get. Then one of my friends told me to focus on being grateful.
And so I realised that it made me not feel broke. I know it’s weird, but being grateful for things I’ve gotten done makes me feel less broke.
But then again, broke is also relative. I’m living in a house I don’t like. I don’t have a car.
What am I saying? I guess I do feel broke hahahaha.
Hahaha. In fact, I still felt broke yesterday. Imagine I was trying to break a journey to cut cost. Taking Keke then taking a cab. Only for me to realise that the whole thing is not even up to ₦1k sef.
I’m even scared to open my other app, because it’s like I’m owing them money from my last trip. Hahaha.
So yes, I guess the last time I felt broke was today. I speak to you broke.
Do you have any insurance these days?
None. Only thing I own is my investments in stock and gold a long time ago. I can’t even remember them sef.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your financial happiness?
2. I deserve better. I’m not even going to blame it on anybody. I think my awareness came too late. I somehow assumed that if I worked hard, the universe would reward me for it. I hustled so hard – and it’s why I resist that word ‘hustle’ now. It’s a stupid word because it’s not a guarantee of anything.
It’s being smart, and positioning well. Anybody can do the grunt work. In fact, I feel like, being the person known for the grunt work is dangerous. Because suddenly everyone thinks that’s where you flourish best, doing the heavy lifting. No managerial anything.
I feel like I should be doing better than I’m currently doing, considering how much I’ve invested in other people’s businesses.
I find myself having conversations about starting my own business now, and I feel like I’m behind.
I’ve always seen myself as a simple girl. But now I’ve come to realise something; simple girls don’t make money. They don’t get the opportunities. They don’t win.
This story was edited for clarity. Some details have been changed to protect the identity of the subject.
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