Is the self employed dream dead or is is the more alive than ever? In this article we explore what being self employed really means
Chapter 1: Risks
Now to begin, being self employed is not as glamorous as most gurus would like you to be believe. To be very successful on team self employed, you might end up literally creating what you were running away from when you decided you don’t want to get a job. The promise of free time is not that true as most times you end up investing way more time to make the same amount you could have made at a regular desk job for example gig economy drivers in the beginning may have made slightly more than the average worker but as more drivers came into the picture, competition led to a reduction in profits. With most Uber drivers making N30,000 – N50,000 per month in revenue if they are lucky, yearly they would earn roughly N400,000. Now this seems great but this does not account for issues that can arise like flat tyres, engine repair and other unforeseen issues like theft and vandalism. Now someone who chooses this path even though they had the option of a desk job may end up making the same but they have to take on a lot more risks like getting a car, maintaining the car, getting internet connection etc. Now they may or may not have more time and more but the first thing to decide before embarking on the path of self employment what is your appetite for risk. This does not mean, are you ready to jump off a cliff or out of a plane or swim with sharks, although it does say a-lot about your personality, it means are ready to possibly not be able to provide for yourself or your family. This is the ultimate factor when considering which path is best for you because if you feel that you are ready to make the sacrifice of possibly being known as incapable to be a provider no matter your race or gender then the decision will be easy to make.
Chapter 2: Be prepared
Now you must be thinking “why are we so focused on finding a job when this is supposed to be about to about being self employed?”. The answer is simple self employment in this day and age should be seen as a last resort if we are being candid. Unless you spot a gap in the market through which your new product or process can fill, you have the adequate expertise and resources to properly deliver you are setting yourself up for failure. When trying to set up a business, there are so many variables you need to consider and the honest truth is you can consider them all you want but if it isn’t for you to be a success then it isn’t for you to be a success. To truly have the best chance of succeeding you need to be adequately prepared to at least counter some of the variables that can either hinder or grow your chances of success. This is why when you really need to identify something unique because the world is filled with people who will always have more information and access than you, so whatever little thing that can help you get ahead needs to really be used to your advantage.
Chapter 3: Depression
Now all hope is not lost, this is not just doom and gloom. If you are reading this and you are still confident being self employed is right career path for you then it’s time to get to work. Now to be self employed in Nigeria, no one really cares about your new ideas that will change the world or revolutionise the way we do things. All those pitches and meeting you went for that were organised by either your parents or their friends or your school or your church, you got really good feedback and they told you how brilliant it was but how many of them gave you money for it? Oh not as many as you thought? Ok how many of them actually bought your products? Not many. Now before you take it personal you need to understand it’s not you, literally everyone who moves back goes through the same thing and it’s common and they know after sometime you will get tired of it because as optimistic as you want to be, you are a no longer in the system you know. Whatever statistics, numbers or thoughts you hear or see about Nigeria, you quickly learn are not the reality in the country itself. You had good intentions with your idea, the best even but let’s face it, the next Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg is not coming from Nigeria.
Chapter 4: Go Wayward
Now your dreams of glory and super billions and super yachts by 25 have been quenched it’s time to face reality. The reality is you probably live at home with parents, probably have small allowance here and there or maybe you have some money left over that keeping you going. That’s great but you need to stop spending money stupidly, what does that mean? Start eating every meal at home, pack lunch or dinner with you, avoid clubs and for every Naira you decide to spend you must treat it as something you expect you get a return from. This doesn’t necessarily have to be money but it can be whatever you decide or whatever the person can over. What does this mean? If you go to a restaurant you want to build relationships with the bouncers, wait staff, owner or whoever you can and in Nigeria you do that by giving them or dashing them money. Now the trick is you want to match the money you give them to their position in the hierarchy. The bouncers/wait staff usually can be given lower amounts as long as it isn’t lower than 4 digits (accounting for possible inflation in Nigeria) and should be given every other visit. Be sure to get names and possibly phone numbers for next time. For owners you may not necessarily give him money but be sure to compliment him, his establishment, always pay your little bills and offer him a drink. You will need this relationship because when building your business even if you have no idea what it is yet, a space for official or events use may come in handy.
Chapter 5: Vision
Now a majority of your time has been spent being wayward but if you have any sense you will have been using your team to build connections. This doesn’t mean you should have been telling everybody you need a job or even talking money, no you have started to build new connections maybe through outings or just constantly bumping into people. Whatever it is the people you have bumped into while being wayward will eventually trust you enough to enlighten you on how they make money. Now this is not necessarily guaranteed depending on the people you have built connections with but not to worry you can continue to meet people till they eventually do. The beautiful thing about this country is everyone is ready to make money.
Chapter 6: Never Fear
By this point you should have realised that everyone in Nigeria is some form of middle man. What does that mean? The simple reason development in Nigeria is sluggish is because everyone wants to be a middle man. What does this mean? No one wants to really produce anything, most people are trying to make money by taking a piece of whatever transaction they can find. It doesn’t matter if they add or reduce value to the country, as long as they are fed everything can go fine. People blame politicians but almost everyone does it. From your local supermarket, to your local tissue distributor most people are in the business of being middle men. Now you understand this you can finally decide, do I want to be a middle man? And if you do what can I be a middle man in? My suggestion is looking into real estate(sales), finance(agent or platform), farming(B2B sales) or any middleman business you can get your hands on. Now once you have found a possible opportunity to be a middle man, the unfortunate thing is you probably will have zero to little experience doing that thing but don’t worry there’s an answer. Lie. Now I don’t mean go and over do, I mean lie and say whatever you can to get the opportunity because the honest truth is you can’t do what you say you can do for the first possible client then that is possibly not the business you were born to do. Never fear however repeat this process until you finally get the opportunity and most importantly show up and give the client absolutely nothing to complain so you can with certainty say, yes I think I can do this on my own.
Chapter 7: Understanding Value
To begin what is money? To some this a simple question, because they have the answer. The answer will simply be it is what we use to buy and sell goods and services. That’s after all what most people see money as but what we have forgotten in this day and age is money is actually something made out of thin air. This we think is obvious if you have a basic understanding of the banking system but why is it is really important? With the rise of cryptocurrencies it has become more evident people are looking for new types of “money” and finding new ways to supply it but again why is this so prevalent now? Why do people need new forms of payment and ways to make more money? The answers aren’t as simple as we may believe because it requires us to revisit how we ascertain value, a key component in creating a new system of value. To begin with when looking at the value of a product, it is important to remember that as humans first of all we have a will to live. This simply means from the day we are born, we begin a fight to not only live but survive in a new unknown world. This means when looking at creating a product we must first ascertain what is most valuable to us or our customer with at survival at the apex. This means when conceptualizing value or analyzing pricing mechanisms we should always start off with how well will a product let me or my intended audience survive. For example without water for a prolonged period of time we would get dehydrated and die. This means water is key for survival. Other key factors for survival in the 21st century are food, shelter, clothing, energy, security and human connection. This means when analysing value these key components must be present as they assure the survival and continuation of the human race. The industrial revolution/rise of technology/machines has seen us include and almost value the expertise/labour necessary to extract value from this raw materials as more than the raw materials themselves. Unfortunately when looking at the fundamental economic problem which states “We have unlimited wants but limited resources” the issues facing certain countries/corporations begin to show. Now you may be wondering what am I getting at? Well I believe that fundamentally our current way of valuing expertise in Nigeria has to be challenged. What does this mean? It means we need to reduce the emphasis we give on rewarding ourselves for doing absolutely nothing. In certain countries people are in position collecting resources worth a lot more than they are actually contributing to the organisation thanks to made up valueless titles/roles. Now this is not to bash billionaires or call anyone criminals but it is to fundamentally let people understand if we want to genuinely grow as a nation we must do our very best to remember as middlemen you are adding to the inefficiencies in the system. This means although you are now seeing success from being a middleman you must also be able to be as efficient as possible. Now this is very easy in theory because yeah you can decide to be better but will everyone else? A question you may ask along with what are the consequences of my inefficiencies and how far will I be willing to go to remain a middleman. The simple answer in practice will probably be once there is bloodshed depending on your business that’s how far people are willing to go so if you are prepared to go that far then your inefficiencies can continue.
Chapter 8 The efficient Middleman
By now you’ve probably realised you have to try and be more efficient as a middleman. Well to truly grow and be more efficient we need begin to understand what is really valuable and what isn’t. What does that mean? The population of earth is growing everyday, as unfortunate as it for us to accept we are not that valuable in comparison to most people in the population. You might get a degree that says you are or some nice trinkets or you might even find a way to get something done but until you realise you are not as valuable as you think you will continue to hinder yours and the growth of the human race. What does this mean? This means that as a middleman to truly grow you will need to be more efficient than any one else. What does this mean? Take Amazon or to the peer to peer industries popping up everyday. They are nothing more than glorified middlemen but guess what? People do not care because they are focused on being the most efficient middlemen just like you should.