In most of his videos online, Femi Olaniyan shares personal finance tips — earning him over 40,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. Somehow, he has managed to do all of this while studying for a civil engineering undergraduate degree at the Obafemi Awolowo University. Speaking with PiggyVest, he told us about his saving habits, growing on YouTube and his plans for the future.
What was growing up like for Femi Olaniyan?
It was fun. My parents are middle class with three kids. I grew up in a small town called Ilaro. Secondary school was in Abeokuta. My family was strict; my mum is a teacher and my dad works in customs.
From around the age of 10, I was interested in money. I loved to save money but nobody really knew. I would save money to buy toys for myself. I just liked money and had dreams of being rich.
As a kid. How come? Who influenced you to think that way?
I can’t say it was anybody in particular. I think I just wanted to be on my own. But these days, my parents tell me that I took after my maternal grandmother. She was into business very very early.
Did you ever get into trouble because of this fascination?
Something happened in secondary school that maybe qualifies as trouble.
Tell me about it.
I attended a boarding school, so you couldn’t take money with you while school was in session. If you needed money, you’d have to go to the admin office. Every week, I’d take ₦100 and keep it in my locker. My roommates were aware. By SS3, I had almost ₦50,000.
Wow. That’s a lot of money for a secondary school student.
[Laughs] Yes. One time, the school authorities came to search our things. They were looking for banned items. And then they saw my stash.
[Laughs] They brought me out during assembly and punished me, along with other students who had contraband. But they gave me back after our exams.
That ended nicely. But how did you get that amount of money?
Part of it was from my parents. And then I was fixing the uniforms for my mates with needle and thread. For each outfit, I charged ₦50.
The King of Small Business!
You are studying civil engineering. Did you always know you’d study that?
I knew it was engineering. It was initially electrical engineering, but I did some research in secondary school and fell in love with civil engineering.
Did your parents encourage you to study engineering?
They supported me. I mean, there was a time I got an A in business studies in secondary school, so my mum suggested I study it. I told her I didn’t want to and it was fine. She only said that because of that particular result.
Any business dealing at any point after your secondary school?
While waiting for admission, my parents told me to learn tailoring since I was already into it. I did, but I stopped after sometime. After that, I’d just be online Googling how to make money. That’s how I stumbled on crypto. I spoke to my parents about it but they were sceptical; they thought it might be a scam. So I abandoned it.
What happened next?
I got into school and discovered apps for saving like PiggyVest. I had another friend seeking ways to make money online. Together, we got into the referrer programs. I’ll go to the rooms in the hostels and ask students to use our links; I’ll wait for them to register. We joined many school groups on WhatsApp and shared our links . I made up to ₦200,000 on my PiggyVest. [Laughs]
Funny stuff. We are happy to have helped. This was in your first year?
Yes. Soon enough, I went back to crypto because now I had my own money to use. I’d use ₦5,000 to buy this week and do the same next week. We were still doing referrals. In fact, my friend bought a new phone from referrals.
I was still buying and keeping crypto but, one night, I came across a post informing me and other members of a group I was in that there was a crypto class coming up. They promised to teach us how to trade cryptocurrencies. It was ₦5,000. I joined and started learning on WhatsApp. I realised that there was a lot of money to be made. After that class, I bought courses on Udemy and started learning.
At what stage did you start to see money?
I think I really started learning in 2019. I wouldn’t say I made any money that year. But in 2020, I had time to focus on crypto because of the pandemic restrictions. I remember that one day there was over ₦60,000 in a trade. That single trade made me realise I could make so much more. By the end of the year, I was making an average of ₦40 to ₦50k every month.
Sweet. How did YouTube enter the conversation?
That was still In 2020. A friend and I were still looking for ways to make money and he said we should do a podcast. I suggested football as our topic. We did it for around three months and didn’t make money doing it. We stopped it.
I was still looking for other ways to make money, and that’s how I learned that I could start a YouTube channel. I was already into finance stuff, so I chose that because it was more interesting for everybody, unlike football, which has a highly male audience.
What was wrong with your podcast idea?
We were supposed to get some money from the platform. But we discovered that they don’t pay Nigerians. And we only discovered this three months after!
That’s both funny and sad.
Very sad! We had made around 30 dollars but we couldn’t get it out of the system. We had to stop it.
What was the YouTube dream?
I started it just to keep myself busy at home. Six months after I started, I got 1,000 subscribers. This meant that I needed 4,000 watch hours to monetise on YouTube. That happened after 10 months. The channel became monetisable a month later.
How did you get the requirements?
Just like I did with the PiggyVest referrals, I went to all the major hostels and told people about my YouTube channel. That was when the channel started growing. So that was one lesson: people need to talk about what they are doing and promote themselves.
What was the next big thing to happen to you on YouTube?
Even before I got monetised, I got a sponsorship deal.
Did this happen before you hit 1,000 subscribers?
No. I had the required 1,000 subscribers, but I didn’t have 4,000 hours of watch time.
I was going to class when I saw an email from a crypto platform. They asked for my rate card. I was surprised and didn’t know what to do. I returned from class and sent an invoice. I didn’t have a rate card.
What did you charge?
₦45,000. I was thinking they won’t even respond. They sent me the money in less than 30 minutes. I was just shouting in my room!
I didn’t think anybody would see my content. Since then I have worked with a lot of brands.
What was the next big one that happened that made you think you were on your way?
A popular fintech reached out. I charged double. ₦90k. That was a big one.
Since then, what has been the biggest?
It happened this year. I had worked with the company last year after a friend told the CEO I could promote his company’s app. The CEO reached out to me on Instagram and then we spoke on WhatsApp.
Within a month, they had 500 subscribers. So this year, they returned and wanted to work with me for three months. It was large.
What is large?
[Laughs] Several digits.
And you are still a student?
Applause. How else do you make money?
I created a course on Udemy. I do one-on-one sessions. I have a Signal group and I also have an affiliate marketing arrangement and investments.
What’s a good year for you?
Several digits. [Laughs]
What’s the future like?
I want to get better at content creation. I also have a community where I teach personal finance but it isn’t so big because I don’t have the time while in school.
I saw that YouTube took you abroad…
YouTube takes a few YouTubers and educates them on growing their channel and other things. I didn’t know about it until I got an email and was informed I am qualified to apply for the YouTube Black Creators Celebration.
The only requirement is that you have a monetised channel. I registered and got an email that I had been selected. It meant travelling to South Africa. It was my first time outside of Nigeria. Then, this year, they took us to Kenya.
What are your tips for success?
Save money, be consistent and keep getting better. You have to save money first. Develop that mindset. When what you have saved is fine to an extent, you can think of the next step.
Second thing is consistency. You can’t give up. Then, you must want to get better. As I said, even after learning about trading crypto on WhatsApp, I bought courses on Udemy. Even now, I still find ways to get better at content creation. You must want to get better.