When life throws you lemons, what do you do? Make lemonade. A product designer who works fully remotely had a challenging experience with money, but he didn't let it hold him down. He sought out opportunities to put his skills to work and is now earning a monthly income of £5,000, happily providing for the needs of his mother and sister.
Written by: Michel from Leatherback
Leatherback is an international payment company that provides a single access point for remote workers and freelancers in tech, product, finance, agriculture, ed-tech, and many more sectors to get paid in foreign currencies and send money quickly, with no delays and no transaction fees.
What’s your earliest memory of money?
The first time I started worrying about money was when my only sibling fell seriously ill. Unfortunately, my dad had passed away months before she got sick, so most of the money we had went into his burial. My dad was a hardworking oil contractor at an oil firm during his lifetime, and up until that point, we never lacked anything.
He didn't want my mom to work, so she stayed home to care for us. His death was a big shock to my family. Sadly, his illness came suddenly and wasn't expected, as he was in excellent health the day before. The doctor said he died of a heart attack.
Wow, that must have been tough
Oh yes, it was the most challenging time of our lives, seeing that my mother couldn't do much and there was little to nothing I could do.
I recently gained admission to study accounting at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, when this happened in 2019. When my sister was in the hospital, I stopped receiving the little money my mom was sending to me. She explained she was selling a lot to care for my sister, so I had to step up.
A friend suggested I put my hands to good use and start making more money doing what I love. I didn't know what I could do, but I began trying my hand at various things. I first started taking pictures of people with my phone, charging them N500 for a session and then moved on to designing flyers for people using my smartphone. I realised I was good at designing, so I did my best. Thankfully, mobile apps like Canva and Crello now known as Vista Create were really helpful during that time.
Hmm! So that’s how you started your journey in the design field?
Yes, and funny enough, I got distracted in school because I paid so much attention to design. My friends noticed I kind of went MIA for a bit. I just couldn't tell them that accounting was no longer my passion. However, I didn't let that stop me from graduating with a good 2:1.
Ha-ha! I guess most of us can relate
I know, right?
So, what was your ever real gig?
I was a member of the media unit in my departmental association. One day, an alumnus asked us who designed a particular flyer I had created using my smartphone, and they referred him to me. He was starting a design agency at the time and needed graphic designers for his team, so he offered to buy me a laptop and a monthly salary of NGN 15,000.
Ah! That’s nice!
Omo, I was so excited. I remember calling my mom with excitement to share the good news. She was equally thrilled because everything was finally turning out well for our family.
So, how did you get into product design?
After working as a graphics designer for some time, I grew tired of creating designs. A friend suggested I switch to product design, as startups in different fields are now building products to solve problems, and it would be easy for me to transition. I took his advice.
I invested my time in taking courses and watched numerous YouTube videos to improve my skills. However, I didn't stop designing flyers because I needed an extra source of income to support my sister and mom.
In December 2021, I moved to another company and started earning a monthly salary of NGN 50, 000 as a designer. The turning point came in December 2022 when someone from the UK messaged me on X [Twitter], showing interest in having me work as a product designer for them.
Honestly, this success came because I've always enjoyed showcasing my work and sharing my learning journey. I constantly put myself out there on X [Twitter], participated in design challenges, and proudly tweeted my product screens that I didn't even think were good enough.
Nice! So I assume the work opportunity made you global?
Yes! The best part of the opportunity was when I had a video call with the employer who texted me from the UK and asked me about my salary expectations. I didn't know what to say because it was my first time. So, I took a bold step and asked him what his budget was, and he mentioned that he pays his product designers a starting fee of $5,000 monthly.
I was like ‘eh’. I'm sure if he paid attention to my facial expressions, he might have noticed that I was taken aback, but I tried not to let my guard down. So, I asked for some time to think about it. Ha-ha! You know the drill.
Ha-ha! I know right.
Yeah, I didn't want to come across as desperate. I had seen and heard stories of people earning more on Twitter, so I played it cool. It didn't take even 45 minutes after we ended the call for me to message him and let him know that I was in. From then until now, it's been amazing.
Interesting! So, has getting paid been smooth ever since?
The initial problem I encountered was related to receiving my salary. I tried everything possible, but opening a domiciliary account with traditional banks was tough. So, I begged a friend to allow me to use his GBP account to receive my salary. Of course, he agreed, but he charged 8% of my money each month. Plus, there was a time he gave me several excuses when I needed him to help me withdraw and a lot of stories that severed our friendship. It wasn't a nice feeling, and I felt helpless.
Then, one random day, I asked people how they received money from foreign employers in a tweet, and someone mentioned the Leatherback Mobile App. Another friend said the same and was kind enough to show me how to sign up. I could easily upload the necessary documents and create different foreign accounts to receive payments. From that time till date, collecting money has been easy.
And by the way, working with my boss has been a joyful ride, and he has casually mentioned plans to bring me to the UK.
God when? So, what do you enjoy the most about the work you do?
The money is a major perk. When I began working with my current boss, £5,000 was equivalent to over 2 million Naira. Today, it's worth over 5 million Naira. I don't mean to sound unpatriotic, but I'm really enjoying it here.
Big man. So, what are your monthly expenses like?
Once I receive my monthly salary, I allocate it in a specific way. I save 30%, and allocate 10% to my mom’s ongoing house project, 20% for my mum, 10% for my sister, and 30% for my everyday living expenses and personal projects.
I'm genuinely delighted to be able to take care of my mom and sister, ensuring they no longer have to worry about financial matters. My dad would be proud of me.
On a scale of 1-10, rate your financial happiness.
I'd rate myself a 6. I'm aware that I have the potential to do a lot for my family, but I haven't reached that point just yet.
Can you say you are happy with your life?
Yes, I am. My mom instilled contentment in us, so even though I haven't reached my goals yet, I'm not ungrateful for where I am now. I'm simply hopeful for the future.
The Leatherback mobile app has been built for international students to send and receive money in over 15 currencies. Aside from that, you can also create multiple currency accounts to hold money. Read this article to learn more about Leatherback.