Toyosi Godwin, founder of The Writing Colony, has managed to build a business from his Twitter account [which, impressively, has over 92k followers]. In this interview, he takes us through how he turned a troll account into one that earns him millions and attracts brands and individuals seeking to get some writing done.
What did you study?
I studied Mass Communication at the University of Benin. While there, I was freelancing on Fiverr, but I was reckless with the money I made.
That’s super familiar. We have all sinned.
At some point, I stopped using Fiverr, so my finances were affected. Thankfully, one of my classmates hired me to create content for her blog — I was to produce 6000 words per week at ₦60,000/month. This was in 2018, and I did that for a while after school.
Then one of my seniors recommended me for a social media role at a company in Ikeja. I ended up not fitting into the company’s culture and there was this pressure I wasn’t used to. I was paid about ₦66,000/month, but after the second month, I had to leave.
Who were you living with? It had to have been scary leaving a paying job.
Yes. It was scary, but I had to do it. I wasn’t happy there. At the time, I was living with my mum, who is a major factor in this story. She tried to convince me to stay, but she understood when I explained why I had to leave.
I also knew I couldn’t go back to Fiverr and start all over again. Freelancing works with visibility, and I hadn’t been there in a long time.
So you had to dream up another thing?
Yes. I had clout on Twitter, so I decided to offer resume writing and cover letter writing. Soon enough I realised it was a very hot niche. I was choked with work!
That seems like a good problem to have.
I guess. People were reaching out almost every day. I was charging about ₦4,000 at the time.
This was your first entrepreneurial adventure, right?
Yes, consciously. I already became a millionaire while in school, but I was hardly conscious of it. I just spent recklessly. This time was different. So, in December 2019, I hired an assistant. I made a light-hearted post and got a response.
I travelled to Benin, we met and then later, we started work. Months later, I started writing statements of purpose. Many people know what they want to say, but they can’t craft it in writing well. That’s where I come in.
Over time, I went into LinkedIn optimisation, company profiles and portfolio creation. I was constantly developing myself.
That seems like a lot.
It was and I was outsourcing stuff, but because I didn’t want to mess things up, I thought about registering a company. That’s how I came up with The Writing Colony in February last year.
Let’s rewind. What were you guys making at the time you hired an assistant?
I was doing around ₦300,000/month. And after I hired an assistant, we grew even more and I increased my fees. Now we do about a million naira. And our staff strength is about six. We have people doing editing, social media and writing.
Now that you have staff, what do you get up to?
I have been invited to speak about digital skills at a number of events. I have given speeches at UNIBEN, OAU and other universities. I also have some speaking engagements lined up.
On our core business side, I look at everything that we produce. Everything. Even social media posts. Then I also decided to start monetising my account on Twitter by doing promotions.
Wait. How do you come up with these ideas?
I am an ideas guy, and I have been lucky to be surrounded by people who love to execute well.
How did you make that pivot from a regular account to one that’s monetised? Did you put up a post or something?
Funnily enough, I started my account as a troll account.
[Laughs] Over time, I became the funny guy. This was around 2017; I was always waking up to Twitter. Then one day, a popular influencer added me to a campaign. That was my very first campaign. I think I received ₦50,000. I was very happy.
Finally, I could make something off my Twitter account. We worked for many brands, some quite major. Over time, I started thinking about a more sustainable niche because I didn’t think humour was sustainable for me.
I started tweeting about freelancing and because of my knowledge in that field, it was easy for me to host a workshop. The first one attracted about 200 people.
Thanks, but it wasn’t just me. I got some other people involved because of my visibility. We charged ₦3,000 per participant.
Thanks. And we had testimonials. It was a lot.
You tweeted a bit about your NYSC posting to Nasaraw. Did that affect your work?
Nope. I even made more money there than in Lagos because the expenses were less. I got things for free because I was a corps member and I stayed in the lodge. I think I only spent on fuel and data. I was still doing Twitter campaigns, leading my company and hosting workshops.
What’s your secret?
I have avoided being boxed into one niche. I created a niche in writing, I created a niche in freelancing and I created a niche in something called CT.
Ha. Okay. Interesting.
Because of my visibility, a lot of people started to show up in my DM, asking if I charge for this or that. I didn’t take it seriously at first. But then I remembered I was told to get the rate card for a few influencers. I figured I could do it, too, so I created a rate card for myself.
I just fixed prices and to my shock people were paying!
You still sound surprised.
[Laughs] I guess when you have clout on Twitter, people will come to you automatically. I just try to not work with brands that will destroy my reputation. I remember making a mistake and getting lots of DMs. People were saying I recommended the product and it didn’t work.
I learned my lesson. To think all of this started from being a troll.
That’s a remarkable character arc. Tell me: I want five tweets from Toyosi. How much?
Depends. But the cheapest would be around ₦20,000 per tweet.
Do you come up with the tweets yourself?
Yes. I built the account from scratch, so I know what works. And I’ve worked with brands in education, banks and cryptocurrency, even small businesses.
And all this happens without you going in search of them?
Just chilling and along comes a DM. Greatest business model ever!
[Laughs] I guess.
At what stage did you think you were on the path to making it?
It was when someone offered to pay me ₦700,000 for 20 tweets over three months. It was quite an eye opener. And they paid in dollars.
Sweet! What advice would you have for newbie writers looking to pull a Toyosi?
You need to have a niche that nobody can really beat you at. Look at the area you have great visibility at and then market that area yourself. Two, if you are a writer, try and develop yourself and have a good reputation. Three, be good in your niche. Be extremely good in your niche.
The third point is also the first?
Yes. For fiction writers, your money will come later. But if you want money now, you need to figure out a niche. I have people writing finance articles, articles on cannabis, stuff on health. For me, I read, watch and listen to everything. Quora, YouTube, podcasts. There is almost nothing I don’t know about corporate writing.
So what happens from here for Toyosi?
I’m working on extending my social capital beyond Twitter. Twitter capital has been good for me but it’s time to extend that. I am doing a workshop in September and looking to write an ebook on freelancing.
Along with that, I am looking forward to collaborating with more brands on writing, social media promotions and speaking gigs.