Forget the oil jobs and luxury cars and all the expensive accessories of Abuja-based politicians. Sure, it would be entertaining, but for the most part, we common Nigerians are simpler folks with simpler dreams. We want to know who we are, discover our talent, and use it to solve problems and satisfy needs. We want the joy of seeing what we can create, what we can invent to do the things that can transform lives and change souls.
It’s a simple dream, a good dream, a dream that deserves to come true. Yet a part of you might be wondering…will it?
Do you really have what it takes to be an innovator, or are you just being dumb? Is it realistic to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) from your talent or is that just a joke? Can you really expect people to fall in love with your product, or is that just a daydream?
Sure, it’s good to be hopeful about getting customers to buy your product or service, but sometimes you wonder if it’s just a mere hope. This is a brave new world and in the brave new world, hope alone won’t work. True, right?
Well, let me tell you a story…
How I discovered my talent
In March 2007, I was hit by a car on my way to attend a job interview. I don’t remember much about the accident, but I do remember being taken into my brother-in-law’s car with a broken jaw and fractured arm. I wanted to talk to my brother, Malik, but I couldn’t, because my mouth was full of blood.
For the next nine months, I had nothing to do but endure the pain and think about my life. I thought about my labor market struggles. I thought about my family. I thought about my future.
And I decided to start afresh. After years of trying to secure a job and a livelihood, I decided to embark on a journey to discover my talent. I forgot the labor market. I stopped browsing the Nairaland job section. I resigned my faith in Nigeria’s job opportunities, stopped reading newspapers, and started reading myself.
And one night, I stumbled across my natural talent: writing. With the help of the Internet, I kept browsing to find out whether I could find some online writing opportunities. And I did. I came across freelance writing opportunities.
For the next four months, I didn’t just research what freelance writing was all about, I dedicated myself to it. Within a couple of years, I had registered with two freelance marketplaces – Elance and Freelancer – and had a mentor, friend, and colleague – Spike Wyatt – a British author, editor and blogger. He not only hired me to run some of his sites, but taught me a lot about writing, editing, and using WordPress.
I started making money writing, getting some retainers, and having a constant income stream. And interestingly, that’s just the beginning of my story.
How I created my own job
Have you ever come back from an aptitude test and realized just how awful the whole experience was?
The venue is always crammed. Getting shortlisted is, well, just luck. Your test performance doesn’t count, because the job is always meant for those with long legs, and you’re just a common man. Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I took my last CBN aptitude test in Abuja.
After the stress and frustration, I started thinking of creating my own business. I don’t like the embarrassing experience of Nigeria’s labor market. So, I figured that since I’m a freelance writer, I should launch a start-up. And the first thing that came to my mind was blogging.
Immediately, I talked to my friend and mentor Spike, and within a day, Mansuhaib.com was born. It was a simple WordPress blog about Nigerian society with particular interest in its corrupt politics. But, in less than two months, I felt it wasn’t the niche I should pursue.
I felt the subject wasn’t inspiring, neither was it transforming lives. So I dumped the blog, and decided to focus on freelance writing. I thought, at least with a blog in the writing niche, I could help others build their freelancing career and forget the government jobs.
One day, while reading a piece on Forbes, I came across an article titled, “Three Reasons Why Every Smart Start-up is a Digital Media Company.” That article ignited the fire of my entrepreneurial spirit. I started reading articles and books on business and entrepreneurship, and luckily for me, I stumbled upon the concept of the lean start-up model.
It’s a philosophy that asks whether that which you want to build should be built in the first place. It’s about starting a business – as fast as you can – with little capital. It’s about focusing only on satisfying the customer’s needs. I fell in love with both the Forbes’ article and the lean start-up idea, and without wasting time, I launched Haibtext.com.
Six months later, my earnings skyrocketed. I quit writing on Elance and Freelancer, because I have better-paying gigs now. Companies and clients now chase me to write for them, optimize their content, and communicate for their businesses.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my sofa in my air-conditioned room typing on my Corei3 Dell laptop, and watching, from time-to-time, CNN on my TV. It’s a wintry day, the temperature outside is chilly, and I’m thinking (no kidding) of making an omelet and hot coffee to boost my day.
Lucky me, right?
Well, what might astonish you is I left out a piece of the story. It’s the part where I have a school of almajirai (children between ages 5 and 17 who are sent from villages to study, mostly in Sub-Saharan African cities, but turn into beggars). Let’s talk about that.
How I get paid to help the poor
You know what’s not funny?
The worst part about having beggars in your neighborhood isn’t how they look at you for food. It’s not stomaching their pitiful condition. It’s not accepting the fact that you can’t change their lives. No, the worst part is their incessant wailing and knocking on your door shouting for leftovers.
I hear voices of at least three almijirai every day whose ages are mostly between 6 to 8 years, crying: “Oh! Mother! Oh! Mother! Help me with food, even if it’s some old burned rice.”
For years, I wanted to make money. I wanted to help my family, the needy, and the poor. I wanted to actually help alleviate poverty because, in my opinion, it’s the worst disease ever. The only problem was it’s just wasn’t possible for me without a job or a business that makes enough money.
So I did something remarkable: I stopped blaming rich people. I stopped spending hours chatting on Facebook and BBM. I started thinking, and finally came up with an idea based on a simple premise: to help people hone their writing skills and build their freelancing business, too.
I found poor Nigerians who wanted a mentor, and I trained them. I found start-ups with little income who wanted to cash in on their content marketing strategy, and I developed it for them. I found new and professional writers who wanted to learn and get paid for their work and I created the WriteLearnEarn program both for new and professional writers.
Within months of starting, I was making decent money. Today, not only am I making more than enough to take care of myself and my family, but I’m helping the poor almajirai boys in my neighborhood out of their situation.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want it just for me; I want it for you too. The reason I told you this story wasn’t to boast or impress you with my life but to convince you that you can do it, too.
If you want to know what you’re capable of, and discover your talent, you can do that. If you want to create your own job, and launch your online business, you can do that. If you want to dedicate the money you’re making to help your friends, family, and the poor folks around you, you can do that.
Because listen… I know it’s tough to talk of running an Internet-based business in one of the most corrupt countries on earth; a country where electricity is not stable, the Internet is in short supply, and life is very miserable.
No, it won’t be easy. At some point, I really thought of quitting and leaving. But where would I go? Yes, people around you will think you’re insane. I guarantee you’ll think it’s a waste of time initially, wondering if you’re headed in the wrong direction.
But, hey, never stop believing in yourself. The world is full of negative people, eager to shoot you down at the slightest indication you might rise above an ordinary life, but the greatest evil you can commit is to become one of them yourself. Our task isn’t to join those naysayers, but to overcome their negativity, to achieve things so great and incredible that these people run out of words.
You can do it. Just make your decisions, start right away, and believe in yourself.
Photo Credit: mmsgrouponline.com
Suhaib Mohammed is a professional freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Haibtext. Sign up for his WriteLearnEarn (Basic) – if you’re a newbie – to write and learn as you earn, or WriteLearnEarn (Pro) – if you’re a professional writer – to write and get paid instantly. Connect with him on Twitter – @Haibtext and Facebook – http://facebook.com/haibtext