I save 80% of my income and limit my expenditure greatly – Lex Ash

On this week’s episode of Money Moves With Trove, we caught up with Alexander Ashimole, a multi-talented. He works as a brilliant photographer and a music artiste. He spoke to us about his journey, career aspirations, and lots more! Enjoy!

What growing up was like?

I grew up in Lagos, Ijegun to be precise. I attended a local primary school and then moved to boarding school. I remember exploring the arts because I had the talent, not necessarily because I wanted to earn a living from it. At the time, I didn’t have the knowledge of the opportunities attached to it. I eventually went to the sciences but I found Chemistry really boring. I then applied for Building Technology to study at the University but because my Chemistry result was withheld, I had to change to Estate Management. In my third year, I knew I was not going to practice, and by that time, I had picked up skills in Graphic Design. By my final year, I was doing photography. this was not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. So I started doing graphics design, and then photography in my final year. So far so good, it’s been great. I have worked for Unilever, Andela, Financial Times, and lots more. Going to study Estate Management was a blessing in disguise because it gave me the chance to learn a variety of things that I use till date.

Did you think you were going to be this established as a photographer?

Yes and no. Yes, because I am passionate about my work and it shows. I just do my thing and God blesses it. No, because I am not yet close to the concept of “established” I’d like to be at. So I’m still learning and growing.

So you are not where you want to be as a photographer?

Hmmm…if I’m being honest with you, I don’t think so. At least I’m not as globally influential as I’d love to be. There’s more to learn, see and inspire.

Do you have anyone you look up to on the global photography scene?

There are global opportunities I’d love to be part of. But by career trajectory, I’d say no one.

Tell us about your career as a musician. What motivated you to go into music?

I started music at a time when photography was becoming a chore. I wanted to explore other art forms, so my housemates and I at the time hosted other creatives and that was it. On this journey, I have been able to learn so much, especially because I have to depend on other creatives like music producers, and even my management. When I’m doing photography, I just pack up my equipment and take my pictures. It’s more straightforward than music, so it’s been a learning curve.

Which would you say is more rewarding?

They are rewarding in different ways. Financially, photography is more rewarding at the moment. It even funds my music career. Music feels different, but they are both emotionally and mentally rewarding.

So, which would you focus on long-term?

Asides from steady growth in both photography and music, I really want to help people, especially creatives. I want to get to the pinnacle of both careers and use my success to help people. The creative space in Nigeria can be really tough, so I want to provide a soft landing for a lot of creatives.

We’re guessing because you have multiple streams of income, you have more money?

Haha…not necessarily. These things are seasonal so it’s not like I have money all year round.

Have you ever had a major financial challenge or made a bad financial decision?

It depends on what you call a financial challenge. Something happened to me some years ago that made me spend more than 80% of my entire savings.

Do you want to tell us about it?

Sure! I did a job some years ago, and while waiting for the client to select their pictures, my hard drive stopped working. This hard drive contained most of the work I have done in my career, as well as the pictures from the photoshoot I had concluded. I reached out to a professional service here in Lagos to help fix it. they couldn’t handle it here, so they helped send it to their connections in China to have it fixed. It cost me so much at that time, and I was almost in debt by the time it returned, and I was only able to get a section of the images done.

Oh wow…

Yes, it was really bad. The first thing I did was manage the client’s expectations. I told them what had happened and they understood initially, but about two months later, they were beginning to complain, which I couldn’t blame them for. I even had to shoot some of the pictures again because the technicians in China were only able to restore about 70% of the files.

So have you found a solution in case it happens again?

Absolutely! Dem no dey tell person. I now back up on multiple drives to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I have a 1 Terabyte hard drive I use when I shoot, and I have about twenty other hard drives, so I’m good (laughs)

Do you have a stipulated amount of money you save or invest per month?

Not exactly. With the kind of work I do, there can be a 3-month flow of work or income. When this happens, I save way more than I spend. I save 80% of my income and limit expenditure greatly. That way, I’m never really broke. I have long-term savings and a short-term one, and they both have different functions.

That’s pretty smart. Did anyone teach you to be this good at managing money?

I learned the hard way actually. I realized photography is a seasonal job and I need to save more when there’s more cash inflow.

When was the first time you invested in something and how did that turn out?

When I was younger, my parents bought shares for me but due to the economy, it didn’t turn out well. Right now, I invest in people’s businesses too, even though I consider it more of benevolence than investment. All my equipment and gadgets are also investments. My cameras cost millions of naira; one camera is like 2 million and another for 1.5million. My current major investment is the money market which pays a small stipend. It’s worth it and it works just fine for me. I got into the crypto market late. By the time I put N150,000 in one coin, it was too late because the coin went down.

What do you have lined up for you next?

Just like most young Nigerians, I want to leave this country for a while. I want to be able to build a global network so I can create a bridge between Nigerian creatives and opportunities, as God will help me. I have so many plans that I put on hold because I just want to relocate. I’m thinking of either moving to America or Canada. The creative space in those countries has a greater potential, compared to Nigeria. 

That’s true, we hope you move as quickly as you can…

I hope so too! 

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