The #NairaLife Of The Sales Rep Avoiding Debt And Prison At ₦100K A Month

January 11, 2021

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 of this NairaLife is a medical sales rep who works at a job where everything can go wrong and derail the trajectory of her life. But you see how to make money and build wealth? She kinda has it on lock.

What was your first memory of money?

When I was eight years old, I decided that I didn’t want to share a sponge and soap with my siblings anymore. So I saved up to buy my own from my ₦50 allowance. I don’t remember how much it cost but I saved for a week before I could afford it.

Haha. Do you remember anything else from that time?

I grew up in a three-bedroom apartment with my parents, five siblings, and three aunts. I remember thinking that we were rich until I transferred schools and went from paying ₦6,000 to ₦24,000. My parents made it work, but it was clear I was one of the poorest students in that school. Most of my classmates had drivers. 

And you felt left out. 

My parents actually got me a driver to bridge the gap, but it was still there. There was a day someone’s money went missing in class and my classmates assumed I took it because I’d bought something I didn’t always buy earlier that day. Rich people are mean!

That’s messed up. When was the first time you made a money move?

I always saved a lot from whatever I got. At 16, I wanted a bank account, but I didn’t want a kiddies account because I needed my parents for it. I increased my age by two years and got a cybercafe to issue me an employee ID with a false date of birth. I had ₦12k when the account was ready and put everything in it. 

Not long after, my sister, who just had a baby, needed to return to her job, so she asked me to babysit him while she was at work. I did that for two months and she paid me ₦15K for it. I know she’s my sister, but I don’t do free labour. 

Hook it in my veins.

The ₦15K also went into my account. Then right before I went to uni in 2010, I took this INEC job to register people who wanted a Permanent Voters’ Card. 

How does a 16-year-old get that kind of job?

I covered for a relative who had to go back to school to get her documents. I thought I could do it, and the lady in charge agreed. They paid ₦15k per week and I did it for three weeks. But I made more than ₦45k.

How?

Tips from people. Also there was a time we had to stop printing registration slips because we ran out of ink. Someone volunteered to pay for the ink, which sold for ₦20K. Before we got back to the office, they’d supplied us with a fresh batch of ink. We didn’t return the money.

At the end of the job, I made about ₦60k in total. Again, everything went into my account. 

So, what came after?

I got into university in 2011 with ₦111k in my bank account. I could pay my school fees if I wanted to, but why would I do that?

Dead.

The only thing on my mind was how to manage my money. I wasn’t on an allowance — my parents sent money when I called. But everything couldn’t be more than ₦7k per month. Thankfully, the cost of living in the town wasn’t high. I cut back on a lot of things. I mean, I stopped eating fish and meat except on Sundays.

This is boarding school energy.

It felt like a waste of money. I even brought my roommate into that life.

Huhuhu. 

In my second year, I started going for ushering jobs on weekends. The standard price was ₦5k per job. Sometimes, I covered for people who got a job but couldn’t do it, and we would split the money. 

The highest I made from a job was ₦25k. 

Interesting.

In my third year, I opened my first fixed deposit account with ₦100k and the bank assigned an account manager to me. In my final year, I increased it to ₦150k.

Lit. You stuck with ushering until you left uni?

Yes, pretty much. In my final year, I did a brand projector job — it’s like ushering, but the pay was better. You know those girls you see at the mall trying to get you to sample a product? That kind of job. I got ₦40k every month, and I did it for two months. It wasn’t hard; I only had to work four hours a day.

I really want to know how much you had in your account when you were leaving uni.

About ₦300k.  I had no plans for it. It was just sitting there.

Mad oh. NYSC next?

Yes, in 2015. My dad gave me the ₦20k I took to camp, but I didn’t spend a lot there. It wasn’t until after camp ended that I blew the money and what the federal government paid us on fast food. But I didn’t have a choice. I was staying with a friend of my sister and wasn’t cooking. I think I spent about ₦37k in three weeks on food. I was so sad. 

Lmao. How did you move money in and out during NYSC?

I was going to redeploy until I heard that the state government paid corps members ₦18k, which I never got. I wasn’t working either, so I didn’t make a lot. The constant money was the ₦19,800 allawee, which I wasn’t spending. I was living on the money I had saved up before service year. 

One day, my sister called me and asked if I was interested in a piece of land going for ₦300k. It was a good deal, and I could pay in installments. I had ₦150k left in my savings, and I sent it to her. 

It didn’t take long before I finished paying. I made sure I paid before I finished service. I’m not even sure how it happened. Sha, at the end of NYSC, I returned home with ₦49k and a piece of land. 

Energy.

I stayed home for the following six months because I couldn’t get a job. During that time, I helped my sister sell a few properties and made ₦300k in commission, which I put in my fixed deposit account. I finally got a job as a medical sales rep at a pharmaceutical company in June 2017.My starting salary was  ₦62k. I also got an additional ₦34k as “float” — my running expenses. I’ve been at this job since 2017. 

By the way, I raised ₦700k and bought another land during my first year on the job. The ₦300k commission I made from land sales, an additional ₦200k I saved from my salary, and some money I borrowed from a friend paid for it.

Flex. How has your job evolved over the years?

It hasn’t, really. My salary was increased to ₦100k after my first year and I got a car from them, and that was the last time I got a promotion or a raise. Yet the job got significantly harder. 2018 was a tough year for me. 

Why?

Monthly targets. I had to sell ₦5.5M worth of drugs every month. But I was averaging between ₦2 – ₦3m. So I was giving them my salary to keep the job. It made me feel better. 

Sorry? 

I was also entitled to 2% commission of whatever I sold every 3 months. But I didn’t get that — they used that to offset whatever I owed them. I was pretty much rolling in debt. I was always borrowing money from my sister to pay into the company’s account every week, because my clients didn’t always pay on time. 

You were working but weren’t earning a salary. What was that like?

I was living with my parents and had a car, and these made things easier. The ₦34k I got monthly as my running expenses was all I was living on. I was at a really low point in 2018. I had no liquid cash, and whatever I had was the company’s money.

It wasn’t until the end of 2018 I started to hack this sales thing. 

How did that happen?

Price markup. We’re allowed to set the price of products we supply to the clients. Sales people add whatever they think is fair to the units of products they get from the company. However, it’s an open market, and there are competitors within and outside the company. So, nobody can increase the markup by a lot. 

Ah, I see. 

By 2019, I had more clients, and they were paying. That meant I stopped giving the company my salary. I was doing between ₦4m and ₦4.5m. In fact, I think I did ₦5m in a month. 

What about commission?

I was getting about ₦215k in commissions every three months. But I was also making more money from the markup. The company knows about this — it’s why they pay as low as they do. At the beginning of 2020, I had ₦1.5m in my account. With the lands and other investments, my net worth was about ₦4.5m. Then I set a ₦10m target. 

Bruh! So about 2020?

The pandemic was the major highlight, and it actually worked out well for me. During lockdown, the demand for drugs and other pharmaceutical products increased. Clients were calling me to deliver products to them and paying immediately. Also, the products were scarce, so they had to buy at whatever price I gave them. 

I should mention this: my company had stopped distribution, but some of us still had some stock with us. This is what I did: I took ₦500k out of my money and brought the products I didn’t have from some of my colleagues. Now, I wasn’t selling them for the company but for myself. 

Because people wanted to buy and hoard the products, clients who usually ordered for 100 units upped their orders to 1000 units. Now, adding ₦500 or ₦1000 to the markup price of each unit made all the difference. 

This happened for two months, and at the end of it, I made close to ₦2 million. It was really good business. 

You made 20x your salary in two months. The way you make money on the job is really interesting.

When you work as a salesperson in pharmaceuticals, you can’t work with your salary. Thinking about how much they pay me is actually depressing. I don’t even have an alert for my salary account, I just know they pay something there at the end of the month. 

You handle a lot of money and most of it isn’t yours. What does this mean for you?

It’s very easy to run into debt. I have a colleague who had a deficit of ₦5m and couldn’t account for it. He had to pay them back out of his pocket. Another colleague was remanded in prison for losing ₦40m. It’s pretty dicey. Everyday is a struggle to ensure that I have their money and can track where their products are and which client is owing me money. 

Let’s talk about job satisfaction.

It’s close to 0. I took the job because I was home for 6 months. The only exciting thing about the job is how I’ve been able to save and invest what I’ve earned in the last two years. 

Bruh! So how much do you typically make in a month asides your salary?

My salary is ₦100,000. On average, I make ₦300k extra from commissions and markup. 

Let’s break down your monthly expenses.

What about your savings and investments?

Remember I said I had a target of ₦10M at the beginning of 2020? I hit that in October. 

And to think you started with ₦12k some 10 years ago.

See, I like money. And I like having a lot of it. Also, I don’t spend more than I earn. One interesting thing I always do if I want to buy something for myself is that I take money out of my savings and use it for something that will fetch me the money I need.  Let’s say I’d like to own a new phone, and it costs ₦500k. I’ll take ₦2M out of my savings and invest in something. 

And although, I may get the amount I need the first time, I’ll hold off on it for a while and reinvest everything two or three additional times. Now, I can take out the ₦500k I need and put the rest back in my savings. 

How do you decide what to invest in?

My investment manager handles that for the most part. But I do some myself too. For example, every time I see an investment opportunity on Piggyvest, I go in. 

Very interesting. What’s your 5-year financial plan?

I’m not sure at the moment. But I’ll be out of this country. I’m actually leaving this year . This job is too risky. It’s always one thing or the other. I’m always on the road and I carry a lot of cash around, and that’s very dangerous. I could also run into debt and go to prison. I’m going back to school for my master’s. Ask me what made me decide to leave. 

I’m listening. 

One day, I went to a client’s place to collect the money he owed me. This man made me wait for him for hours, and when he eventually decided to see me, he asked his security guys to throw me out. It wasn’t the first time a client embarrassed me, but that one hit deeply. I got to my car and broke down in tears, thinking about everything I’ve faced on the job. There is no chance that they will promote me or increase my salary. So, I’m not even growing in my career. Like how many more years can I actually give them? I made up my mind to go back to school that afternoon.

I’m so sorry. How much do you need to do this?

£22,800 for a start. That’s more than ₦10,000,000, which I’m paying myself. I don’t even have it all yet, but I’ll get it. So, all my savings is going into this. I’m starting afresh. It’s a huge risk, but it is what it is. I’m going to restart there like I did in uni here — spend the minimum, save and invest. 

What’s something you wish you could have done better?

I wish I’d worked harder this past three years. I would definitely have made more money. I didn’t realise it until I started going out with men who had money — that was when I understood how to make money. 

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

I don’t think there’s anything I want that I can’t — oh wait, maybe a vacation. I’ve never been out of the country. I was supposed to do that in 2020, but Covid happened. I have two tickets I didn’t use. 

The last thing you bought that significantly improved the quality of your life?

I gave my room a new look. Bought a new bed and frame, and installed a wine bar. And plants. I’m a plant mum now. I parted with ₦215k but it was totally worth it. 

Haha. On a scale of 1-10, how financially happy are you?

8. I can afford most of the things I want, and I’m in a better place than I was 2 years ago. But I still feel like I didn’t make enough. 

Editor’s note: This conversation was had in November 2020. I checked in on the subject over the weekend and she confirmed that she will be leaving the country later this month. 


If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.


Toheeb Lanlehin

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