To Have or Not To Have a Rates Page

Whenever I visit a shop or stall and see something I like, I ask the price. Usually, the vendor will bring the item down, hold it in a better light, and extol its superior virtues. It’s a good sales tactic, but it makes me nervous. The more the seller praises the item, the more I’m convinced I can’t afford it. It’s almost like he’s justifying its impossible price – before he’s even told me what it costs.

I feel the same way when I bump into a hotel website and would like to sample the services, but I can’t find any estimates. Instead, I find a phone number, and when I call it, I spend endless minutes (and airtime) being told everything but the cost of a room. I suppose the assumption is that if I could afford it, I wouldn’t need to ask.

When you’re working online, you may wonder about whether or not you should have your prices out in the open. Sage salespeople will tell you never to mention money until the buyer is hooked. Make sure your prospective client is so impressed that they will pay whatever price you quote.

I find that doesn’t really work on the web, because there’s so much scope and variety. Unless they like what they see, your client will be looking at your site for mere seconds. It seems unfair not to lay out your terms right from the start. That way, when a client gets in touch with you, you know you have a serious prospect.

The next challenge becomes what exactly you should charge. There’s no sure-fire way to do it. I once sat down to write a quotation for a client. I had a complex system of per-page billing based on word counts and time-shares that had me charging him 5,000/= for a high-end security website. After my complicated calculations, I decided 5K was too little, so I added a 1 before the 5 and sent off the invoice. The client never called back.

Wondering whether I had made a major gaffe, I called some friends who did similar work. They all felt 15,000/= for a website was massive undercharging, claiming that they billed their clients anything from 50,000/= to 200,000/=. I’m not sure what that prospective client ended up doing. He may have written the content himself, or got his high school nephew to do it.

For me, it was a lesson well learned. It’s not about how much or how little you charge – it’s about being transparent and consistent. When you have your rate card plainly listed on your website, your client knows exactly what he’s getting into. He might still think you’re overcharging him, but at least he won’t feel you hiked the price based on his outfit, office space, or mobile phone model.

I’ll tell you what someone told me about choosing your price range. Think of your ideal salary. Figure out how long it will take you to finish that task. Then divide your ideal salary by 22 to figure out how much you should earn in a day. Divide that figure by 8 to average your hourly earning. Then calculate the cost of the task based on how many hours (or minutes) it will take. Of course the downside of this method is that you have to finish the task within the set time, but at least you’ll be a lot more organised.

You could work it out the other way round, multiplying your ideal salary by 12 to get your annual figure, then dividing that by 40 to see how much you should earn in a week. Then you can base your rates on the volume of work you can get done in a week, assuming the task takes 7 days at the very least. But for math haters like myself, it sounds like an awful lot of work. A handy shortcut is to use an online rates guide like this one. You’ll still need some conversions, and it’s a tad generic, but it’s a good place to start.

Anyway, after months of procrastinating, I finally created a rates page on my website. I’ve used it to bill a few clients, but as clients often do, they think I’m overcharging. Meanwhile I’m tempted to review everything and add a 1 before every figure. Or maybe I could multiply the numbers by 5. Either way, I’ll let you know how that goes once the first client pays…

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through


Invest for 1,000!

I was on leave for three weeks recently, and I realized just how fun it is to do nothing but sleep, watch TV, and get paid. I wondered if it was possible to do this all year round without marrying a rich old man. Today, I’ve discovered a way to do that, and all without leaving my seat!

It started when I was on Google Reader this morning. I bumped into this article explaining how I could start a mutual fund for as little as 1,000/=. I spent the next few hours browsing the Old Mutual site, and a while longer trying to figure out the system.

Here’s how it works. The minimum amount you can invest for a mutual fund is 50,000/=. But Old Mutual has introduced a new service called i-Invest, where you can open a mutual fund with 4,800/=. The best part is you can do it all right on your mobile phone! All you have to do is dial *480# and follow the instructions. The process takes all of two minutes to complete.

Given my issues with technology, signing up was not as simple as it should have been. I spent an hour trying to input my details, but I kept getting an error message. I tweeted Old Mutual for help, and they gave me a number to call. They also offered to call me back, which I thought was really nice of them.

After spending half an hour on the phone getting free financial advice from Isaac, I spent another hour trying to sign up. As it turns out, my mistake had nothing to do with technology. The reason I kept getting error messages is that according to the system, I was spelling my own name wrong. Apparently, it doesn’t recognize apostrophes.

Once I corrected the ‘typo’ it took me less than ten minutes to get everything done. I emailed a scanned copy of my ID to Old Mutual and am now the proud owner of my very own mutual fund, so yay! I’m sure that’s not financially accurate, but the point is I now have a portion of Old Mutual and an opportunity to sit back and let my money work for me.

The beauty of this account is I can do everything online, or rather, on my mobile phone. I can check my balance, withdraw, invest, and top-up my account whenever and wherever there’s battery power and Safaricom network.

Okay, here are the facts. For today only, you can open your account with 1,000/=. After that, you need a minimum of 4,800/= to get started. Once your account is open, you can top-up as little as 480/=. There are no requirements for monthly payments or anything like that, you just top up when you can. Dial *480# anytime to check your balance and monitor the progress of your account.

The day is almost over, so if you have a K lying around and have ever considered owning units in a mutual fund, all you have to do is dial *480#! For further details, call 0711010000 or check out the Old Mutual website.

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

Elance, oDesk, and Making Money Online

The last time you heard from me, I had made almost half a million freelancing, and was hanging up my keyboard in exchange for a little honest work. The work was fulfilling and fun, but I’ve always been bad at marketting, and referrals will only get you so far. When I gave up the online work, I was lucky. I got a job at a digital ad agency, doing pretty much the same stuff as freelancing, except I had to sit in an office, and I get medical benefits. They still let me wear jeans every day, and they have sparkly red floors and attic-style roofing, so it’s a really cool deal.

The past few months have been tricky though. Between the dollar falling and the baby growing, finances just aren’t stretching as far as they should, so I reconsidered finding a side hustle. I didn’t want it to be writing work, since I already write during my 9 to 5 [or whatever time the briefs are complete, which sometimes means 9.00 a.m. three days later.] I toyed with the idea of farming, since we kept commercial chicken when we were little. I bumped into some farming info in the days after, and I figured it must be a sign. But to be a farmer, you need, you know, a farm, and that needs money.

What followed was a few days of daydreaming and restlessness. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I decided to log on to Elance and see what was going on. I wanted to check my password and see if my account was still active. Well … it was … and everything was right the way I left it, so yay! I looked up some of my old Elance clients, and was glad to see they still wanted to work with me. One even recommended me to his wife, who has become one more happy client. She gives me work via oDesk, though it took me a while to remember that password and figure out how it worked. I opened my oDesk account in 2008, but I haven’t used it since.

So what has changed since I last worked freelance? Not much. The dollar went up and down again, and Paypal still doesn’t allow withdrawals in Kenya, except for The Kenya Red Cross Society. There are still a lot of middle-men trying to offer that service, but I prefer to get my payments via Payoneer or have a wire transfer straight to my bank. There’s a charge for it, but it’s also a convenient way to keep track of all the money coming in from side work. The gigs are still pretty small, paying between $1 and $5 per article, and I spend 3 or 4 hours a day working on them, which means I’m retraining my body to function on four hours asleep. Anyone who knows me appreciates what a mammoth task that is, but sometimes you do what you have to.

I was very hesitant about getting into freelancing again. I get home from my day job at 8 or 9 p.m. and after a day that long, it seemed unreasonable to sit at a computer for anything but pleasure. But I’ve been having conversations with my friends, the kind where they want a change in their lives but they’re not willing to make any effort, and I realized I was doing the same thing myself. I am where I am because I’m not pushing myself hard enough, and I needed to change that, so I did.

I get a lot of emails asking how to succeed in online work, how to get jobs, how to get paid. In the two or so years that I’ve worked online, I’ve made $1,400, and I know of Kenyans who have made a lot more using the very same avenues that I do. There’s no secret behind it. You just log on and keep trying till you get it right. It’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s definitely worth it.

Put in the same effort in your work, whether you’re working for $1 or $500. That’s how you build a name for yourself, that’s how you get recommended to others, and that’s how every time you walk away, you come back and find work waiting for you. That, and effective marketting, which I’m yet to figure out, but I’ll get there, someday 😉

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

Success is not your friend

It’s been over six months since I wrote anything here, and it’s been a pretty interesting six months. By interesting, I mean I was never bored … because I spent all my time pulling hair off my head. It’s a good thing I have so much of it, or I’d look a lot like Donald Trump.

The reason I’ve been so quiet is I fell into a slump. I had a bad depression, and when I started to recover, my business was failing. I didn’t get any new clients and I sabotaged the ones that I had. I was too depressed to work, so I canceled two clients. A third client used my work without paying for it, which was the last straw. I focused so much on what I’d lost that I lost what I had. It was sh*t scary. My business no longer seemed viable, so after a lot of soul searching and crying, I decided to kill my pride and get a job. It was the second-saddest decision I’ve ever had to make.

As I type, I’ve spent the last three months in a series of interviews with an advertising firm. I had four meetings and even met the MD, so I was pretty sure things were in the bag. I met met some of the staff and even saw the exact spot where my desk would be. I was getting a Mac laptop from the deal and everything! I built my castles in the air, started negotiations to move into a new flat, met with a broker at AAR, talked to some banks about a mortgage, and moved my baby girl to a new school. It was crazy, but I was feeling positive.

On Monday this week, I finally got the call. The job wasn’t going to come through. I spent the next 24 hours veering between torture and panic. I have just under 20 days to raise 50K and get a new job, and I don’t quite know where to start. It’s not the coolest place to be.

But as I dust out my CV and do some job trawling, a strange thing is happening. I’m being pushed back towards my dream gig. See, I had focused so much on the shiny new job that I’d forgotten what I already have. I’ve been freelancing for just over a year, and I have a list of satisfied clients. Every one of them praised my work, and when I sit back and think about it, nothing makes me happier than writing. It makes me wonder why I’m so quick to run away from it.

My logical side says I have a baby to look after and bills to pay. Lots of people that I know are moving back into employment, and others are getting disillusioned with the hustle. They were proud of me for dropping my ‘biashara mentality’ and hitting the tarmac. But I couldn’t help feeling like I was dying a little inside.

There are a million different ways to look at it, but here are the lessons that I’ve taken from this mess.

1. Success is not you friend

When I started freelancing, I did great. I was so scared that I didn’t bid for over a month, but when I finally did, I landed a gig within five minutes of bidding on GAF. I got four jobs the first time I did a bid on Elance. I felt like that was the norm. So when I went a month without a new job on Elance, I lost faith. I bid less and less, which meant my success rate dropped. In the end, I went four months without new work, so I gave up on Elance.

Luckily, my brother referred me to a job on oDesk, and it looked so good that I put all my efforts in it and ignored Elance completely. One month later, I had done 10,000/= worth of work for  client on oDesk. I also did 10,000/= worth of work for a client in Rwanda that I got through my work here on Like Chapaa. They both skipped with the money, and without the safety nets and accountability of Elance, I was screwed and depressed.

I decided I had failed as a freelancer and went job hunting. On the tarmac, my first phone call led to an interview, and that was followed by four more interviews and an average of two follow-up calls every week. Then that fell through. I was left feeling that if I could go this far in the interview process and fail, then there was no point trying at all.

My dad gave me a theory a few weeks ago. He said we had our first failures too late in life, so we hadn’t developed coping skills. I think he might be right. In both cases, if I had started with some minor failures, I might have been steeled enough to not give up. Success spoils you. It thins your skin. To be really good at what you do, you have to fall, fall again, then fall again and again and again. Falling down teaches you what you need to get up.

2. Sometimes, the answer isn’t what you think it is

When I left my job in Tanzania, I thought I was fed up with employment, and that I needed to work for myself. Technically, freelancing isn’t entrepreneurship. But it isn’t quite the rat race either, so it seemed like a decent idea. I freelanced for a year, and then I gave up and decided I need to go get a job. After one failed try, I felt terribly confused. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right.

When I finally got out of my head, got some good advice, and started to look at things critically, I decided it isn’t a black or white thing. It isn’t an either/or. I can work on my freelance and look for a job. Neither is exclusive. This wisdom seemed ridiculous to me. After all, I suck at multitasking, and we all know what happened to the hyena at the crossroads. Tarmacking is a full time job, and hustling is three. Plus, I have a baby to look after. I can’t possibly do it all – there’s just one me!

But here’s the thing. Suppose I don’t try to do it all. Suppose I try to give each bit 80%. I can be an 80% mum by getting my Little One to polish her own shoes, pack her own break, and clean up when she’s done playing. I can be an 80% tarmacker by doing one interview or application a day instead of spending the whole day working my CV. I can be an 80% hustler by spending 6 hours  day on freelance tasks. That way I don’t really have to multitask, and have my eggs in different baskets. When it comes to a point where I have to choose – like if I land a really good job – then I’ll deal with it.

3. Pat yourself on the back

You have to take time out to congratulate yourself. Last week, I saw a tweet by Harry Karanja aka @startupkenya that I really liked. It said:

If you wake up every morning, to hustle, day in day out without at least once grossly rewarding yourself, yours is a sad existence.

Yesterday, I was sitting around moping. Half the year is gone and I feel like I haven’t done anything. My project for the year was to get a 9 to 5, and six months later, I still don’t have one. But then my friend and mentor gave me this quote:

‘She who plants weeds cannot expect to harvest flowers.’

If I focus on all the stuff I haven’t done, there’s no way I’ll end up feeling fulfilled. If I was to look at it objectively, I would see that I’ve actually done a lot this year. I’ve made peace with myself emotionally. I’ve moved my baby to a better school which is much closer to home, so she can sleep more and is less grumpy. I’ve made connections that have opened lots of doors and continue to do so. I’ve discovered skills and abilities I didn’t know I had. I’ve dealt with Zuku and Safaricom Customer Care without killing anyone. They’re actually getting quite good by the way. I’ve become better friends with my mother. So while I may not have the job card that I wanted, in some ways, I’ve done a lot more.

4. Self enterprise is not fun

We all have this idea that when we quit our jobs and work for ourselves, it’s going to be an endless party. So when we end up feeling stressed and miserable, we feel we must be doing something wrong. We feel like we’ve made a mistake and wonder if it’s too late to go crawling back to the boss. At least, that’s how I felt late last year. Here’s an excerpt form an article I read last week It lists 100 Rules For Being An Entrepreneur.

Rule No. 1: It’s not fun.

I’m not going to explain why it’s not fun. These are rules. Not theories. I don’t need to prove them. But there’s a strong chance you can hate yourself throughout the process of being an entrepreneur. Keep sharp objects and pills away during your worst moments. If you are an entrepreneur and agree with me, please note this in the comments below.

Here’s another excerpt from an article I found yesterday, courtesy of Twitter. It’s from Epic Living, and it tells you when you should give up on your self-starting dream … and when you shouldn’t.

Picture this, you’re moving through life wondering where you fit in.  You’ve played many roles.  You’ve tried finding happiness in what everyone says you should be happy with.  But, alas, you’re still looking.  Every day you’re looking.

This is tough and lonely work.

If we’re honest, we’d admit that the purpose/mission has at one time or another whispered to us.  Trouble is we’re not a very honest culture.  The art of lying to oneself is very much the norm.  And so it goes, the whisper.  The proverbial, “this is what makes me come alive” or “I belong in this space.”  Do you listen or try to ignore?  So now you know.  It’s calling you and maybe you’re one of the few that listens.  Your first step out into the great unknown is a dip (thank you Seth Godin).  Maybe it’s skepticism, maybe it’s envy or maybe it’s flat out fear on your part.  Before long you begin to wonder what you’ve done and is it too late to turn back.  Turning back always has your number on speed-dial.

There is a reason Cortez burned the ships in the harbour.

Let me be clear, sometimes you should give up.  I think we know when that is.  The time to give up is not when you’re being refined by the crucible of exhaustion and doubt.  And believe me, that’s when many do give up.  I’ve always believed that no one can truly play a part in changing the world until they have felt pain and loss.  By the way, that’s what everyone else has experienced.  And is experiencing in some way.  The audience is looking for someone who is unwavering in integrity and has a passion to solve the problems.

At this point, I’ve decided to distribute my eggs. I’m looking for new baskets, and I’m also putting some in the fridge, in the shelf, on the cupboard … and I’m even putting a few in the frying pan. Sometime soon, I may have to decide on one location for my basket, but in the meantime, I’m keeping my options open.

5. Dreams whisper, but they whisper loud

Quitting my job to follow my dream was probably the dumbest thing I ever did. But in many ways, it was also the smartest. I was happier last year than I’ve been in a while, and it was all going great until sh*t hit. When things got heavy, I assumed I was lost. But just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. It could just mean you were near a puddle and some overlapper splashed you. Maybe you bought the wrong shoes for the journey, or you were plying Rhino Charge in a Vitz. Maybe you simply got distracted by a chicken trying to cross your road.

As I trawl the net looking for jobs to take me away from my dream, I keep finding neon signs that yell ‘Go Back’. I’m veering away from freelancing, but all indicators are pushing me home. So as much as I’m pounding the tarmac, I’m also taking a fresh look at my ‘side gig’. I’m keeping an open mind, looking for ways to develop, thickening my skin for rejection, and gathering champagne for success. I think that’s the biggest thing my failure has taught me, and it’s a pretty useful lesson. So don’t be so desperate to succeed. Sometimes, you learn more from falling to the ground than you do from staying on your feet.

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

Getting a mortgage as a freelancer

When I first started writing for money, I had big dreams. I figured if I could earn Ksh 300,000 a month, I could easily get a mortgage. I’d pay Ksh 100,000 a month and own my dream house in under 10 years. It seemed really viable. But everyone I told about my plans either raised an eye-brow or pulled a face-palm. One guy actually laughed out loud – and no, I’m not referring to text abbreviations.

I didn’t know why people reacted that way until I walked into a bank and read a mortgage leaflet. They have an awful lot of requirements, and they’re tailored more to salaried workers. I figured it’s easier to save up ten million and buy the house in cash. But by the time I save ten million, my house will cost much more than that.

I was talking to a business mentor, and he gave me a three-step plan on how to buy my dream house in five years. It might even work too.

  1. Identify the house you want to buy, and find out how much it costs. I found this awesome penthouse in my neighbourhood for 7.5 million. I’m sure it’s gone by now, but I’m setting the bar at 10, which seems okay.
  2. Find a bank that has good mortgage rates and open an account there. I have accounts in three different banks. One account is just for my credit card, and the other is a non-ATM junior account, so I guess I just have one option. Their rates are rather scary.
  3. Create a relationship with the bank. When he said that, I freaked out. I can’t imagine a bank manager taking me seriously while I’m in jeans and purple hair. But he explained that I need to be known by the databank, not the management. My records need to show that I’m a good loan prospect. For that to happen, I need to deposit money in the bank regularly. A client who puts in Ksh 20,000 every month is more reliable than one who banks a million once a year. The 20K guy is more likely to get credit, and therefore, a mortgage.

As a freelancer, you get some payments in cash, or cheque, or even Mpesa. Organize your finances so that you bank a set amount every month, on roughly the same date. To the bank, this is almost a salary, and will go a long way in deciding if they’ll give you a loan or not. Does this theory work? Ask me in five years…

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

My last word on Paypal in Kenya … for now

Update: PayPal now works in Kenya! You can also now withdraw from PayPal through Babawatoto or LibertyReserve.

If someone had a dollar [or a sock] for every time I use this word, they could buy me a pizza. Actually, they could buy me a lot of pizzas. We mention Paypal a lot on this site, but Like Chapaa has specifically dealt with Paypal here, here, here, and here. And since most people don’t like to click on word links, I’ll break down a little. As you read the posts, look at the comments as well, they add a lot to the discussion. Sometimes, they give more information than the article itself.

  1. How to use Paypal in Kenya – getting a KCB card
  2. How to use Paypal in Kenya – drama with my KCB card
  3. We can now receive Paypal funds in Kenya – but we still can’t withdraw
  4. Paypal Kenya is advertising – which is a good sign, yes?

This morning, I received a GAF refund on Paypal, and to gain access to this money, I’m transferring it to a friend’s account in UK. Basically, I will move the funds from my Paypal account to his Paypal account. He will then withdraw the money and send it to me via Mpesa or Western Union, which is ridiculous really, but it’s the only way I can get the money.

This needs a little background. I get writing projects through GAF and Elance. Elance allows me to wire funds directly into my bank account, which takes five days, and costs about Ksh 200. GAF allows me to access money either through my Payoneer card or my Moneybookers account. Moneybookers wires the money directly to my bank, which also takes 5 days, and costs about the same as Elance transfers. Moneybookers accounts can be opened instantly by simply going to their website. There’s no charge to run the account, as long as you transact at least once in 18 months. Idle accounts cost $1.50 per month.

To get a Payoneer card you need to be registered with an affiliate site like GAF, and fit the affiliates requirements. For GAF, you must have earned at leats $30 to apply. GAF has jobs for writers, artists, IT people, architects – pretty much anyone can join, and it’s free unless you want a premium account at $24.95 per month. Totally worth it by the way.

Payoneer applications don’t recognize P.O.Box addresses, so you need to apply using your physical address, then as soon as your card is approved, you email them and ask them to change the shipping address to your P.O.Box number. There’s a charge of $9.95 to change the shipping address, and I received my card within a month. I can now use it at any local ATM that accepts Mastercard, and so far, I have made a withdrawal at a Barclays ATM. The ATM charge is about $2.

GAF only issues money on Mondays/Tuesdays, depending on your time zone, and to get money on Tuesday, you have to make a request by Sunday. Once GAF issues me the money, I can load my Payoneer card and withdraw it at any Mastercard ATM in Kenya or elsewhere.

Some clients prefer to pay through Paypal. I attached my Payoneer card to my Paypal account, thinking I could access Paypal funds that way, but it’s not allowed. I then transferred my Paypal funds to my GAF account, thinking I could withdraw from there, but GAF blocked the transaction. It’s against their policy to perform money exchanges, and they showed me where to find that on their FAQ. The back-and-forth process took two weeks.

So now, finally, I’ve decided not to load funds onto my Paypal. If a client insists on paying me that way, I’ll just put it down as spending money. I can use it on Paypal-compliant sites to buy stuff, but there’s still shipping costs to consider. Sadly, I can’t use it on Amazon, because it doesn’t give me  Paypal option. It prefers to go straight to my credit card. *groan*

James mentioned in the comments that it’s possible to get a virtual US account using my Payoneer card, so I asked Support about that. They said it’s a service dished out to selected customers on an invite-only basis, and reiterated that I need to fulfill some requirements, like having three loads on my card. So far, I have one load and one refund. Still, I wrote to for details, and I’m still waiting on a  response.

According to James, the virtual account would allow me to withdraw Paypal funds to the virtual US. These funds would then revert to my Payoneer card automaticaly, ready for withdrawal in Kenya. We have also heard rumours in the comments section that Equity is working with Paypal. I already have two bank accounts and a KCB credit card. I’m not sure I need more banks, but Paypal access is a pretty good reason to be a member.

Until that happens, my Paypal account is purely for decoration. I suppose I could use it as a savings account, since I technically can’t spend anything that’s in there – unless I spend it online. Hellooooo Kalahari! It accepts Paypal, right?

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

The best business advice I’ve received is …

I’ve been having a particularly rough month, both in business and my personal life. The ones close to me are in need of therapy – mainly because they are responsible for my therapy. They have seen me rant and scream and whine so much that I honestly think they should seek professional help … and detox. I am eternally grateful for having them in my life.

My dear ones have told me the same thing in many different ways. I’ve been told to stop beating myself up, to be patient, to focus on my successes. They’ve told me how well I’m doing and how proud they are of me. They are surprised I’m not as satisfied with myself . But yesterday I heard words from a mentor that expressed the thought more clearly than ever before. He said four words:

Be kind to yourself.

I’d never thought of that before. The world is full of talk about kharma and being good to others, and even Dr Phil says you should treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. But for me, the lesson I need to learn is to treat myself the way I treat my friends. I’m constantly worried about keeping them happy, making them smile, trying not to offend anyone. I’ve been described as ruthlessly blunt, but even then, my words are measured. The people who think I’m brutally honest … well … they’d probably die if they heard my thoughts unfiltered.

I was talking to friend once, and he asked me what I think of his writing. I tried to be gentle and diplomatic … without lying of course … but he asked me to stop protecting him and be frank about it. I refused the first and second time, but when he insisted, I spoke softly for maybe 20 seconds. He stood frozen for a minute. Then he walked away and didn’t talk to me for four days, after which he called to say I was right, and didn’t write again for a month. Never mind that everyone else loves his work and begged him to resume. He did, eventually, and I still read his stuff, but he knows not to ask for my opinion.

As harsh as I am on others, I’m ten times harsher on myself, which is why I’m bored and depressed. I expect a whole lot more than I’m doing, and it’s almost impossible to measure up.

This morning, I read this beautiful article by Steve Errey. He says the reason people are unsuccessful is because they start a business for the wrong reasons, and have the wrong measures of success. That’s why when they achieve the results they wanted, they feel hollow and empty. This surprises them, a lot. They got what they were working for, so they don’t understand why they’re upset. And that’s how I feel right now. I have everything I wanted, but I still feel unfulfilled.

In the article, Steve lists the main reasons why people start freelancing, and he explains why they’re the wrong reasons:

  • To blow other people away with what you’ve built
  • To earn yourself some great money
  • To impress your peers
  • To bring about a better lifestyle
  • To be your own boss
  • To work on your own terms
  • To feel successful; to feel like you’ve “made it”
  • To finish it, because you already decided to build it
  • To take vacation time when you want
  • To be respected by your peers, mentors, family and friends

Steve says these reasons are wrong. That’s why after you succeed and tick every one of them off, you still feel things aren’t okay, and you wonder why. I sometimes look at successful people, and I wonder whether deep down, they feel as hollow as I do. I haven’t heard anyone complain, so either they hide it really well, or no one else feels like this, so there must be something wrong with me.

Steve says the only reason to start a business is that you love it. That way, every day you do it, you’re a success. I know that I love writing, so perhaps the easiest way to start feeling whole is to focus on that. I should stop thinking about how much more I want to earn, or how trying my daily grind is. I should instead focus on knowing that I’m writing, and loving it, and that oh, somebody’s actually paying me to do it.

By the end of October, I will have made Ksh 486,705 freelancing. My expenses were Ksh 30,255, and that’s not counting rent and electricity, because I mostly work from home. None of that sits in my bank.

Some of that money comes directly from Elance and GAF, some comes from offline clients who give and receive instruction [and completed projects] via email, some comes from people who see my pro-bono blogs and hire me for paid work. 2% comes from clients referred by friends and family, but the bulk of my income has been generated by the online profile I unconsciously started building in October 2007. It was on blogger, had a green banner, and its url was Don’t bother clicking, I deleted all evidence online. Well, almost all *cheeky grin*

I keep detailed records of how much I earn, when, where, and how, but this is the first time I’ve totalled everything up, and I’m blown away. But I realise the warm feeling I have inside is not because of the amount I’ve made. Well … okay … maybe it is a little because of the amount I’ve made.

I haven’t felt the imapct of these earnings, because I haven’t mastered the art of cash flow management. Some of those clients took as much as 3 months to pay up, so I ended up accruing debts and by the time the cheque came through, it went straight into other people’s pockets – and it still does. The only treats I’ve given myself are a vacuum cleaner, an almost orange two-seater sofa, a yellow carpet, a three-month gym subscription, and a perm for my baby girl. Oh, I also went to Pizza Inn at 9.00 a.m. one Tuesday. I was the first customer, and I bought two Hawaiian King Size pizzas, came home, locked myself in my house, and ate them all by myself. *Happy sigh* The rest of the money went on food, fees, bills, and debts. So no, I don’t feel wealthy.

My friend’s advice is to be kind to myself, to look at myself as others do, and to feel my jaw drop as I realise that I’ve made close to half a mill, and that I’ve mostly done it while sitting in my house wearing pyjamas. Steve Errey wrote another article on LIfehacker, listing 63 ways to gain self confidence. Number 7 stood out for me. It says:

Look at a great win or success you’ve experienced and give yourself credit for your part in it.  Recognising your achievements is not egotistical, it’s healthy.

Half a million in 10 months is not bad for a girl who discovered email in December 2000 and is still the reigning queen of technobofia. If I can do it, you can do it too. Just remember the words of Steve Errey – do it for the right reasons, or at the end of the day, you won’t feel good at all.

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through