Sheila Ndinda had a long-time passion for beauty and hair. Combining this and technology, she decided to start a ‘side-hustle’ for generating additional income last year.
This led to the establishment of her renowned YouTube channel ‘Sheila Ndinda’ that offers tips on the effective management of natural hair.
With thousands of subscribers and close to a million views, she has been able to attract advertising revenue from Google and hair product companies that use her platform for sales promotion.
Ms Ndinda is among the increasing number of enterprising young people who are tapping the Internet to connect to the world and generate revenue.
Ms Ndinda and other ‘Youtubers’ earn an income by partnering with companies to generate sponsored content aimed at promoting certain brands. These opportunities are often given to individuals with a huge online following as they can easily influence their fans to purchase specific products or services.
Owing to the current high unemployment rate of about 40 per cent, experts are calling on jobless Kenyans to leverage on the country’s impressive Internet infrastructure to market their skills online and make money while at it.
The recently launched Akamai’s State of the Internet Report (2016) revealed that Kenya’s Internet speed of 15 megabytes per second (mbps) is the fastest in Africa and the Middle East. Globally, Kenya was ranked at position 23 out of the 108 countries covered by the report.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Internet penetration rate stands at 89.4 per cent based on the Communication Authority of Kenya sector statistics report for January-March 2017.
As the advancements in telecoms sector take root, the government and private sector players are devising ways of harnessing the benefits for job creation to boost economic growth.
For instance, the ICT ministry recently started a training programme on online work targeting the youth. But to effectively take advantage of these existing opportunities and excel in online businesses, Clarice Odando, e-commerce expert at Jumia Kenya, states that a strategy is required.
“Having a phone or laptop and Iinternet connection is not enough; you need to have a clear plan of what exactly you will do to excel in your online job.”
Charles Murito, Google Kenya country director, urges the youth to cease worrying about quick money.
“Concentrate on giving your best to potential customers and the cash will follow.”
Since the Internet is a gateway to the world, he advises people to focus on the global community to widen their market reach and revenue sources.
For instance, the more viewers you have on YouTube, the more money you will make. So you need to appeal to a wider audience.
Ms Ndinda states that while undertaking e-commerce on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, consistency is very important.
“You need to keep generating and posting fresh, creative and interesting content to give you more views, followers and subscribers. If you stop, then you’ll end up losing people.”
She notes that it is important for people to engage their fans online to make them feel valued and appreciated.
This can be achieved by liking, acknowledging or replying to queries made on online posts.
“You can also give people discounted offers, free stuff or treat them to something special once in a while.”
Raphael Ndaiga who runs the popular YouTube channel known as ‘Chef Raphael’ says content produced should be consistent with one’s online brand.
“If you’ve specialised in nutrition, stick to that. Don’t jump from one topic to another you’ll confuse people and miss your target market.”
He adds that social media platforms could also serve as great avenues for sharing testimonials from satisfied customers to boost sales.
“The feedback you get online may be good or bad. Learn to embrace both and don’t let negative comments bring you down.
Mr Ndaiga states that as online business grow and founders become overwhelmed with many duties, seeking the services of an agent is important.
“It allows you to concentrate on your skill and let the experts worry about revenue streams.”
For platforms such as YouTube, Google pays owners (like Mr Ndaiga and Ms Ndinda) some amount of money for every 1,000 views they get on any content they upload online.
This is because the company generates income from posting advertisements on such popular YouTube channels.
As e-commerce is still relatively new in the country, Ms Odando of Jumia says building trust with potential customers is important.
“People are used to physical shops where they can see the seller and touch products they want to buy. This makes most customers uncomfortable with online purchases.”
To curb this challenge, she notes that entrepreneurs need to have a hybrid system where they operate online but at the same time maintain some form of physical presence.
“It can be as simple as letting your customers know you are available for physical meetings should they find it important.”
She adds that customers making orders online could also be allowed to view the product first before making payments during delivery.
“Another way of building trust is assuring people they can return products or get refunds for sales that fail to meet their standards.”
For the youth keen on getting employment rather than creating their own jobs online, the government has set up an electronic portal (Ajira) that links registered members to existing opportunities in the public and private sector.
Aside from just focusing on their own products, people can also generate money online through commissions accrued from selling other people’s or company products on their websites and social media platforms.
The online presence gives people exposure, making it easy for them to be discovered by potential clients whilst enabling them to build a huge fan base that is crucial for attracting advertisements and other cash inflow opportunities.
To get websites and social media platforms going, the content uploaded online is very important. Mr Ndaiga notes that for beginners, a smartphone that can take good videos and photos is enough. “You can graduate to more sophisticated tools once the business grows.”