Freelancing in Kenya – how to start and succeed

Photo by Faizur Rehman on Unsplash

Freelance online jobs are the trend in Kenya. Freelancing is a collective term for various jobs one can work at will without the confines of formal work places. Freelancers are self-employed people who work independently for various clients and projects. This makes the freelancer jobs varied and versatile compared to employees – but often also unpredictable. We’ll show you what to look out for as a freelancer; the best platforms on which you can find jobs as well as practical tips on acquisition and pricing…

More than 500,000 Kenyans are working as online freelancers due to the high unemployment rate in Kenya.

Definition: What are freelancers?

It is not the job that decides who is a freelancer, but the type of employment. Freelancers are independent service providers who work for their clients. They are not integrated into the company or bound by instructions. As a rule, they decide themselves about working hours and place of work. Cooperation is usually limited to a period of time or a project.

Freelancers do not receive a fixed, regular salary. They work on a fee basis : They are paid for the work by the hour or a flat rate. For this, freelancers have to pay trade tax, income tax and sales tax and take care of their own health insurance and old- age provision .

Most freelancers work in the IT and media industry, in advertising and in consulting. Typical freelance jobs are programmers, web designers, graphic artists, designers, marketers, coaches, trainers or consultants.

Under certain conditions , lecturers, educators , midwives , teachers , speech therapists, childminders and social workers can also be freelancers. The decisive criterion is that they independently carry out an activity of a scientific, artistic, literary, teaching or educational nature. Another feature of the liberal professions is an academic degree. Many are also required to register. This means that doctors, architects, lawyers, notaries, tax consultants and consulting engineers must be registered with a professional chamber.

Freelancer platforms in Kenya: Where to find freelance jobs in Kenya?

A permanent challenge for freelancers: finding new clients, projects and jobs. That’s the only way they make money. The goal of most freelancers is to build long-term customer relationships that will result in follow-up orders. This makes income more regular and calculable. There are now several platforms on the Internet that offer and mediate freelancer jobs. We present the most important ones here (in alphabetical order):


The above-mentioned are arguably the best freelancing sites in Kenya. The websites provide you with an avenue to find jobs from different clients around the world. Sometimes finding your first job in this platforms is difficult but once you build a good reputation on the platforms, all becomes a bliss.

Freelancing in Kenya concerns

Do freelancers pay tax in Kenya? Consultants can expect withholding tax to be deducted if their pay is over Sh24,000 per month, but as a freelancer, you are still required to account for your full tax at the end of the year.

Can you be paid via MPesa for working as an online freelancer in Kenya? Yes, some platforms support M-Pesa, a money withdrawal method for freelancers in Kenya. MPesa one to withdraw their earnings to their banks.

Am I suitable to work as a freelancer in Kenya?

Working as a freelancer has a number of advantages. For example, the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. It is precisely this self-determination that appeals to many about the jobs. However, freelance work is not for everyone. After all, free, “ remote ” work also harbors numerous risks and uncertainties.

To find out if you are suitable for a freelance job, you should carefully examine and consider the following points:

  • Drive and motivation

What attracts you to freelance work? Self-employment or do you want to escape from a boring job? In the second case, the motivation will not be enough in the long run. If you want to work independently, you have to be willing to work more, harder and longer than as an employee. Make it clear to yourself that the responsibility for success lies entirely with you.

  • Network and contacts

Can you do marketing? Qualifications and skills are important. Without contacts and a large network, customers will be missing in the long run. These do not come to you at the beginning, but have to be acquired . Means: a lot of door-to-door cleaning. On the phone or on the internet . You have to be able and willing to do that. Anyone who is too shy for this is more likely to fail as a freelancer .

  • Services and Product

What do you offer? You should be able to name your services and products clearly and distinguish them from others. You can only assert yourself on the market with a clear profile, including a unique selling proposition , for which there is relevant demand. If you have to convince your customers that they have a problem that you want to solve, it becomes difficult.

  • Resilience and Organization

What are you willing to give up? As a freelancer, you initially work “yourself” and “constantly”. Instead of free time there is stress, long working days and no holidays. You’re just building a business. This is not possible without the appropriate resilience.

  • Good organization and self-management.

Especially when there are several clients and parallel projects, you have to keep track of things, contain the workload and be able to work efficiently.

Success as a freelancer or self-employed individual: 4 practical tips

Anyone who wants to become self-employed as a freelancer usually goes through 9 classic steps until the first successful order is completed.

In order for the freelance work to remain successful, however, it takes a little more. Most freelance jobs are not scalable. Means: If there are no orders, you get sick or you want to go on vacation, you have no income. Therefore, freelancers should create a stable foundation to secure their independence. How does that work? Here are the tips:

  • Expand customer base

In the financial world, one speaks of diversification: minimizing the risk of loss through diversification. For freelancers this means: Never make yourself dependent on ONE well-funded client. Even if you are busy at the moment, you should invest at least three hours every week in acquiring new customers and systematically expanding the customer base. Anyone who earns more than 5/6 of their income from a client is considered to be bogus self-employed .

  • Mix orders

You should also expand your service portfolio. By cleverly mixing your offer, you get orders and projects from different sources and industries. This is important if an area is showing signs of economic weakness. Then you can compensate for that with other jobs. However, the services should be complementary and complement each other, so that the full spectrum is also interesting for regular customers.

  • Attend continuing education courses

Continuous training is even more important for freelancers than for employees. Your current skills are your livelihood. You can even receive financial support through the education bonus. So invest the money you earn in yourself regularly.

  • Build reserves

Ideally, freelancers calculate with an annual budget, because income can fluctuate greatly from month to month. Tax prepayments and back payments are often overlooked. The Treasury knows no mercy. So form regular reserves from all earnings in different accounts. Anyone who has problems with this can also pay themselves a fictitious salary. That shouldn’t be more than 30 percent of sales initially, until you have an overview of how the business is developing.

The right pricing strategy for freelancers in Kenya

At the beginning, the question arises for many: “What can I charge for my work?” Just don’t sell below value! However, pricing always depends on supply and demand. That means: What you believe, what your work is worth, doesn’t count. More important is what customers are willing to pay and what (international) alternatives they have. Therefore, calculate your costs and prices in such a way that you remain competitive.

Freelancers have two options:

1. Daily or Hourly Rates

Think of yourself like an employee: What would they make in gross salary in the industry and position? Rule of thumb: Multiply your salary by two and count it down to your working hours. Please don’t forget social security contributions and private provision. Another cost factor: advance payments. Many clients expect sketches, drafts or concepts in advance, which are not initially paid for, but do work. These “advertising costs” are part of the entrepreneurial risk.

2. Fixed Prices

Alternatively, you can request fixed prices for a job or project. Most customers like so-called “flat rate lists” because it makes the costs more calculable for them. To ensure that this does not turn into a loss for you, you must describe the project and your services in advance and realistically estimate the time required. If you miscalculate, you pay out of your own pocket. Even in the event that the customer has special requests or suddenly describes the job differently, you should set clear boundaries and agree in advance that these services will also cost extra.