Unemployed youth in Kenya: Is online freelance work the answer?

What can the unemployed youth in Kenya do to make some money so they can be able to take care of themselves and their families?

Depending on who you ask, you will get varied responses, from some saying that:

  • they should go out there and look even for jobs that require mostly manual labour (mjengo)
  • they should start their own small business (with even a capital of Kenya Shillings 5000) buying and reselling things offline and on classifieds websites like Jiji
  • they should send out there CVs to more companies

But what about online freelance jobs? Can working online help many more youths rise from unemployment and start making an income?

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It can.

And in this article, if you are interested in getting and doing online jobs, I am going to share some tips you can use to get started.

Things you will need to start doing online freelance work

A skill that can be easily turned into a freelance service

For example if you want to work as a freelance writer, you need to be able to turn your writing skills into something that a client would want. So, even if you were good at writing in high school, you will still have to take that skill and package it in a way that would pique the interest of potential clients.

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And the way you do this is by creating a portfolio that proves to them that you can deliver to their expectations. So if you are looking for article writing jobs later on, you will have to make sure that you can show potential clients that:

  • at least you have a general understanding of search engine optimization (SEO)
  • at least you can format an article the right way (using H2 and H3 headlines)
  • you know how to come up with article headlines that satisfy both the search engines and readers
  • you can write with searchers intent in mind (so, writing informational posts a certain way and tackling commercial keywords a different way)

To do this, to demonstrate your expertise, you can use some of the resources readily available on the internet for free to help you come up with creative ways to turn a skill into a service.

So, in any area where you want to make money in, make sure you create a robust portfolio – one that both showcases your experience as well as your expertise.

Access to the equipment and tools you will need to do your work.

Before you are able to start working online selling your freelance services to clients you will have to get access to:

A laptop or desktop computer. If you are going to work online, having access to a computer is a must. There are tasks that can be done even on a tablet or smartphone but given how small their screens are, you will be forced to get a laptop or desktop computer:

  • For comfort (you don’t want to strain when typing long articles, designing a web page, coding, updating, downloading or uploading things using various tools online
  • To organize your folders and files in a way that makes finding the things you are looking for easy
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Internet access. So, a device that helps you to connect to the web. It could be a USB modem, a MiFi router or even your own smartphone (using the Wifi / Mobile Hotspot option) which you can connect to a laptop.

Data plans / data bundles. You will purchase these from your postpaid or prepaid line on the Safaricom, Airtel Kenya, Equitel or Telkom Kenya network.

If you don’t already own a laptop / computer, a smartphone, router or modem, you can:

  • Borrow what you need from friends or family.
  • Buy the devices (new or used – as long it works well)
  • Rent (by the hour / day)

Or just go to a cyber cafe. Go with a flash drive (or external drive) to store things you can carry back home.

A way to find freelance clients

Once you are confident that your skill is at a level where someone can pay you to perform a task for them you will want to decide on the approach you are going to take to:

  • find clients (on and off freelance marketplaces)
  • make it easy for people seeking the solution you offer to find you

You can decide to look for work by:

  • cold pitching (usually sending emails to businesses telling them how you can help them – to find out if they’d be interested bin hiring you)
  • bidding for jobs on freelance job sites (so creating profiles on sites like Freelancer / Upwork and letting the clients know that you would be willing to help them with their project)
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These are the top ways freelancers in Kenya use to find work online. Some just rely on one method to get work. Others use both.

So, decide how you want to go about finding the people hiring and start testing your strategy, making changes where necessary as the days go by.

Other things you should know about online jobs / freelance work

Just because you get to work from home, on a laptop or a desktop computer, does not mean that it is easy finding and doing online jobs. The doing part especially scares many people away.

It may take you awhile to start getting jobs but once you get the hang of things, getting jobs will become easier and easier.

If you procrastinate a lot, you might want to take some time to figure out what you are going to do to become good at time management. Because it is a big deal online. Clients like it when you submit work on time. If you are going to be late and full of excuses, most are not going to be impressed. And might stop giving you repeat work.

Being a website connecting freelancers and freelance clients, take the opportunity of the free ad listing feature offered on Niabusiness.com.

Go to the Niabusiness Classifieds page to find a relevant category where you can place your ad. Write it then upload it to the site.

Once it is approved, you will get an email with a link to your ad. Click the link to see your ad – and use the sharing buttons to let your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter know about your service.

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