The Programmer Coding Away At ₦1.3 million/month


May 13, 2019

If you’ve been reading this every Monday, you know the drill at this point. If you haven’t, now you know that Zikoko talks to anonymous people every week about their relationship with the Naira.

Sometimes, it will be boujee, other times, it will be struggle-ish. But all the time–it’ll be revealing.

What you should know about our guy: He’s 25, and he writes code day and night. Let’s get it going.


So when did the first alert enter?

300-level. I worked on a 400-level student’s Final Year project – ₦20k. So imagine still living with your parents, collecting pocket money, and earning an extra 20. Super chill.

It wasn’t exactly hard work – I research, find as much as I can. Arrange it into chapters. But I did it for like two more people and stopped. I was worried schoolwork would suffer.

Interesting, next?

I made friends with someone, who in all truth, I was always looking up to. He got me into coding. I had some knowledge already, but he had the direction. He knew how to convert that knowledge to money. The sum of my 400-level is that I worked with him, taking on gigs with him, earning a ₦20k here, a ₦30k there. Learning from him.

When was this?

2013. I was in school, and I wasn’t using this money for anything per se – maybe just Internet and fuel. By default, once you’re driving in school, you attract attention. So you spend money on fuel and go to places you’d normally not have gone if you didn’t have a car. And then spending on people too.

I recognise this.

You know that break after exams, before the actual graduation? One of my friends came and said his dad’s company wanted us to build something to help them manage their entire process.

So we had a blank slate to think of something, and what did we land on? An inventory managing system.

Next thing, this guy comes and says, yo, my dad has invited us to come and pitch this product. In two weeks. So now, we had two weeks to build something, a minimum viable product, that could at least do the basic functions. Those two weeks was a blur.

In the end, we got the gig. ₦600k split between three people.

Lit.

Fast forward to NYSC, and I was collecting ₦19,800, plus ₦10k at the place I worked. So ₦29,800 per month. This was the first time I was leaving home. I barely knew how the world worked, so I was spending money the way I’d do when I was at my parents’ house.

By the second month, I was broke.

Ouch.

I had to call my dad to ask for money. And it went like,

Me: Daddy, I need money o.

Dad: How much is your allowee?

Me: ₦19,800

Dad: What of the place you’re working, how much do they give you?

Me: ₦10,000

Dad: So ₦29,800. You better manage, because that’s what families use to sustain themselves.

Me: Oh…okay daddy. But can you just send me money please?

Dad: *sends ₦5k*

It’s the last time he sent me money ever.

Wild.

Not too long after, a friend told me about a startup that was looking for hands. I applied straight up. The first week, no response. The second week, same. Then towards the end of the month, I got a response. It was a Quality Assurance role. I got an offer of ₦50k and started immediately.

First week, I did all my tasks and there was like, nothing else to do. And then the CEO just hit me up:

CEO: Looks like you’ve run out of work to do. And it’s only been a week. I’m wondering if I should keep you for the entire month. What are your other skillsets?

Me: I can code.

CEO: That’s interesting. We’ll move you to being a developer. I know you’re serving, but can you come around tomorrow for a meeting with the rest of the team?

Me, a broke Corper: It’s the middle of the month, I don’t have money.

CEO: *asks for account number and sends ₦5k*

I was already at the office in Lagos first thing the next morning. Then I had to head back out of Lagos and I got my first taste of the Lagos traffic. Anyway, I was wondering, this money thing, do I still get the same QA money, or I should be negotiating for a different pay? Sha, I texted a few days later.

Me: Hi boss, nobody said anything about payments to me.

CEO: Oh, that. How much do you want?

I didn’t even know what to ask for, I just sharply texted my friend.

Me: Guy, how much do you earn?

Guy: ₦100k.

And I’m like, I’m just going to tell this guy 300k, because in my head, that’s what you earn after leaving school as a standard. So, back to me and the CEO,

Me: ₦300k

CEO: LMAO. I can’t pay you that.

Me: So how much will you pay?

CEO: ₦80k

Me: ₦150k

CEO: ₦100k?

Me: Okay.

And that’s how I secured ₦100k in my third month in NYSC. That means ₦130k per month. The day the alert entered, I stared at the alert for a long time, smiling. That was almost $1000 at the time.

I just dey super chilllleeedddd.

I worked for another year, then I asked for a raise. It took a lot of courage to ask for it, but I got a raise to ₦175k. Then I moved to Lagos proper. No time. At this time, I’d gotten really good and improved my craft.

I started getting other projects from my friend who got me my 9-5. So I was earning 9-5 money, and I was doing side jobs. What it meant was that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, so I was shutting down on some days. It was hard juggling them, but I made sure not to drop the ball.

What were the numbers looking like?

My side hustle was giving me an extra 100 to ₦150k every month. Then I got a part-time job at a startup where I could work remotely. That one was paying ₦70k, and I did this for 3 months. It also came around the time of a side gig drought.

When the 3 months passed, I was back to ₦175k, but only briefly. Got a gig right after that that paid ₦100k. Then another one that was going to give ₦300k. This was November 2016.

It was a really huge project, and it meant I had a whole lot of stuff to do.

My main job had become mundane at this point, and since freelancing was already giving me good money, I took another step – I resigned. At this time, I was stressed, tired and wanted to leave Lagos, because it was killing me.

So I went to Ibadan, found a place with a friend. A badass three-bedroom. ₦350k per year. Then I ran into a friend;

Friend: Guy, we need a coder in my company

Me: Eh ehn? Me I’m leaving Lagos. I’ve already seen an apartment to pay for sef.

Friend: Why are you leaving? Lagos is where all the action is at! We’re up to big things!

Me: How much?

Friend: ₦300k, for the probation period.

I stayed. But the hard part? I had to start coming to work – my former jobs allowed me to be remote most of the time. So I thought about it, and decided to give it a shot.

You know what’s crazy?

What?

I met my new boss, and there was an opportunity to negotiate for a raise. But it didn’t feel like a lot more work.

I played myself, because the workload was the equivalent of three jobs from the past, put together.

My problem is, I couldn’t get anything done at the office. Open office plans don’t work for me. The constant noise and talking. So I had to work at home at night till like 4am. Then drag muself to work at 8am. Then crash on the weekend. Did that till the end of the year, and I got tired, I wanted to quit.

Then things happened at the end of my first December at the company;

Alert: *Salary enters, ₦300k.*

Me: Oh okay

Alert: *13th-month salary enters, ₦300k*

Me: WOLLOP NIGGA

This was my first time ever seeing the 13th-month salary. I didn’t even know the concept. Anyway, January came, and it was time for a salary review. My salary got increased to ₦400k net. I wasn’t happy with the raise.

Why?

My workload. I didn’t even have time to take up side work. So I went to renegotiate and got an extra ₦50k. So ₦450k.

All this time, I’d been staying with some family in Lagos and I moved out around this time.

How much was rent?

₦1 million at the time. It was a 2-bed I was splitting with my friend. We were paying a million each. I had to borrow, plus all the money I’d saved up.

Mad.

I got another raise at the end of Q1, ₦25k. It was small, but it was extra money, so nothing spoil. But you know what’s even better, I had to go work for the company abroad for a few months. In the US. It was my first time leaving Nigeria, ever. I was getting allowances per diem.

That is super lit. You didn’t touch your salary?

Plis dear. I touched it. I was eating out. But the first thing that struck me about living in Oyinbo country is that they actually wait for you to cross at a Zebra crossing. My first time at a traffic light;

Me: *waits for car to pass at Zebra crossing*

Car: *waits for me to cross*

Me: *waiting for car to pass*

Car: *horns so I can cross on time*

This happened to me like thrice, because I was like, “is this how you people used to do?” That was when it dawned on me properly that we’re living Jungle life in Lagos.

So I had to start unlearning many things. But as I was unlearning, I was buying new clothes and changing my wardrobe. I packed all the clothes I had, every single one from Nigeria, and I gave it to a charity –

–For them to send back to Nigeria for people to sell in Yaba?

LMAO. It was for a local charity for homeless people. Sha, I started buying gadgets I wanted. Like, I even bought Google Home. And every month, I’d laugh at myself like, “we’ll save next month.”

Then I came back to Nigeria, and that was one of my saddest days ever.

It didn’t properly dawn on me until the connecting flight I took was filled with Nigerians, and the air hostesses were shouting at Nigerians to stop being rowdy.

And I was like, oh fuck.

The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the hot air. Come and see my load. I’d spent all my money in the Abroad. It was like I was importing things.
But most importantly, I was broke. So I did what everyone else would do – hide at home till the next salary.

But the whole trip made me sad about how far off we are in Nigeria. Once you see the difference between where they are, and where we are, you lose all hope that we might ever catch up. At least once in my lifetime.

Anyway, back to work. End of the year. 13th month again. January, salary increased to ₦610k. Major raise.

Whoop whoop.

Oh wait, I skipped something. I got a gig when I was out of the country. ₦800k. I got 50% while I was in the U.S., then I collected the balance when the job was done.

In January, I decided I need to get back to my side hustle ways. I needed more money and more ginger in my blood. The more you earn, the more you have ideas about how to put money to use and secure your future, the more you need more money. I needed to get back to hustle mode.

So I started applying for jobs outside Nigeria.

How many applications did you send out?

32 in 3 months. I got rejected by all of them. Some didn’t get replied. Some replied, then rejected me. One went through. I did an interview, and I got selected. Did everything – met with the teams. The pay? $4,000.

The day I was supposed to resume, everything got called off.

What…the fuck?

They said something about them not being able to come through at this time yen yen yen. I was just happy I didn’t resign from my current job to start this because that would have been bad.

Ah shit.

Good thing is, I went for training abroad, and I ran into a CEO who offered me a job to work on a product with them. He offered me a job paying $500 every week. It’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but that’s ₦1.3 million from two jobs.

That’s…that’s not a lot at all.

It’s not. Like 3,500-ish.

Have you ever thought about all of this – from that first 20k to ₦1.3 million in 6 years?

Yep. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I realise that there was always a connection. Always a friend offering me the job. Or the next job. Even this dollar gig, if I hadn’t struck up that conversation, I’ll probably still be earning ₦610k. The key has always been people, offering genuine value, and never dropping the ball.

Okay let’s break down the ₦1.3 million and where it goes.

I used to have a spreadsheet, but I don’t track that much anymore.

What? The spreadsheet couldn’t fit?

LMAO. I got tired of tracking my spending. Still, I became money conscious when I discovered I was earning a lot and still getting broke.

But the recurring stuff:

I keep running costs less than ₦200k. But a lot of my money goes into gadgets. I want the latest of everything. So that’s where a lot of my money goes.

What’s your current gadget stash looking like?

Okay, so where’s the rest of the money?

Minus recurrent stuff, and occasionally buying gadgets, I tend to give a lot of money out. If I feel like someone needs money, I just send it to them. We always know someone who needs it. You can file this under lau-lau.


But I’m also trying to save, and on my saving end, that will be $1k per month. Saving it in dollars, because we can’t be saving in naira, please.

Have you considered investing?

Yeah, but to be honest, I’d rather invest in dollars. The naira is a mess. The inflation rate is a mess. So a good investment that does not give you significantly more than what the current inflation rate is, is like a waste to me.

How much do you really feel like you should be earning though?

I’ve never really thought about it, but I can really use some $10,000 a month. That’s just about $120k and it’s not a lot.

What’s something you want but can’t afford?

That I want? Bro. Technically, I can afford it. I wanted a car, but I paused it for a bigger plan.

Bigger plan?

Leaving the country – Canada. You know something I actually want but can’t afford? A second citizenship. There are faster ways to do this citizenship thing – faster than the usual ‘live there for four years etc’. You can buy property or invest in some countries and you get citizenship.

Do you ever think about retirement?

Yep. The goal is to retire at 40 – I mean I’m 25 now – but that still is the goal. Then I’m going to be teaching and mentoring people. And helping out in whatever way I can. I really don’t see myself working beyond 40.

The goal is to stack up like $200k, then put it in some financial instruments that can fetch me maybe like 5-10 million naira quarterly (based on today’s values).

Looks like you have active retirement plans.

There’s my pension. I track that. It’s currently at ₦1.5 million or so. I have no other plans at the moment tbh. There’s also the part where I still want to travel the world, but then I need a different passport to do that.

Back to the moment.

Okay, back to the moment.

I feel like I’ve been able to reach the perfect amount to unlock balling in Lagos. You have enough money for all your needs, and then a decent amount left for lau-lau. What I need to hack now is how to find ways to do way less work, for the same amount.

When was the last time you felt genuinely broke, and how much did you have?

Definitely. When I came back from the U.S, I had ₦30k in my account. At the beginning of the month.

What’s your happiness metre saying?

A 7. That’s because I feel like I need to get to a point where I don’t bother about money. Currently, I’m juggling two jobs. I’m always occupied. Relationships suffer. You have less time to chill and even enjoy the things you’re working for.

So that’s it. All of it.


Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.

But, if you want to get the next story before everyone else, with extra sauce and ‘deleted scenes’ just subscribe here. It only takes a minute.

Also, you can find every story in this series here.



Find Zikoko
wherever you are

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.