Kenyans on Freelancer – Part 2

If you’re just stepping in, you can gather the first part of this here. Moving on.

I’m on the site as an editor and writer, so the kinds of jobs I bid on are blog posts, copywriting, product reviews, and research tasks. The coolest jobs are the rewrites, where you’re given a story and told to redo it using your own words. They’re pretty easy, but they usually come on batches of ten, and after doing the same thing four times, your brain becomes jaded. It’s hard not to make the tenth article much worse than the first.

You can improve your chances of winning bids by paying the $20 fee to become a gold member. You pay it once a month, and it increases your shots at getting business. You can also choose your jobs carefully so that your toiling is worth it. For example, some jobs offer $30 to do four reviews, while others pay $30 for 25 articles. the word count and complexity vary, but 4 vs 25 … do the math. I’ve seen jobs for as much as $2500, but these are usually longterm jobs spanning several months, while the $30 jobs are for two or three days.

Some tasks are really hard. Yesterday I did 6 blogs in 3 hours and earned just $6, then did 10 rewrites in 4 hours and was paid $10. It’s hard not to pluck out your hair sometimes. But I have a good strategy, I’m pretty well organised, and I love to write, so I look at the words and think hmm, not bad. It helps that I love this work enough to do it for free.  As a professional writer, it seems dumb to be writing critiques on the coolness of Nokia, just to be paid in pennies, but the pennies add up, and you’d be surprised how much fun you can have poking fun at the torch on a China phone.

I started by saying Kenyans on Freelancer, because I’ve seen lots of  Kenyan flags there. When you register on the site, it uses your IP to figure out where you are, and then every time you bid, a little flag sits next to your name to tell people where you’re from. It helps because some clients like workers from specific countries. It could be primal loyalty, or it could be the ability to bid $30, who knows. But I’ve nosed around the Kenyan profiles, and they’re winning quite a few bids, so I think we’re making a name for ourselves.

Freelancer isn’t just for writers. There are thousands of jobs for IT people, architects, designers, anyone really. And it’s really easy to register. Just get on the site, key in your email, choose a good user name, and start your work. Choosing a user name can be hard because the common ones are taken, but you can go with your initials, your first and last names, your childhood nickname, or a description of what you do. You might want to avoid things like Bigbrotherdownstairs or Sexyxyz unless you’re bidding for jobs as an adult worker. If the name you choose is taken, the page will keep refreshing until you get a free name, in which case you could go with Susan365 or something like that.

Word of warning: some people on the site use it to subcontract. They’ve been on GAF for longer and they have more reviews, so they apply for jobs, win, then pimp the jobs to new workers at a fraction of the price. You won’t realise this is happening unless you’re curious, nosy, or have a lot of time on your hands, and they generally target n00bs who don’t know any better. On one hand, you get jobs that you may not have access to because you lack reviews, but on the other hand, why give someone credit for your skill?

Some workers bid online then subcontract the work offline, which is okay. But when you’re all working on the site, nobody cares if your green, pink or yellow. You know each other by user names, and you can’t even tell one’s sex. So the playing ground is equal. You should try your luck and bid, not piggy back off others.

One way to avoid the ride is to sniff around a little. When someone posts a job, look at their profile to see if they’ve just won a bid on the same job elsewhere. A person may bid $30 then offer you the same job for $15. Also, if you possibly can, avoid getting jobs from people in your industry. For example, as a writer, I try to bid on jobs posted by the IT crowd. If I bid on work from a writer, it’s possible she’s being paid for the same job somewhere else.

Another important thing is don’t do too much work for a client who hasn’t awarded you a bid. They may say they’re trial exercises, but it’s possible they’re using your work for free. Writing one or two sample articles is reasonable as part of a bid, but when you’re doing a few days worth of work, and the employer isn’t proving that they plan to pay, it’s time to get worried.

I haven’t been on the site very long and I’m far from the $100 mark – it takes time to get known. When I lost my first bid, I ignored the site for ten days. I decided I just couldn’t hack it. But then I came back, made a new bid, and landed my first job in minutes! The client said he picked me because he liked my English.

I was lucky – I lost only three bids before I won my first one. I’ve won a couple more, but I still lose bids daily, and it can get depsyching. But I pick my own hours and choose jobs and clients. I can do some work offline, and still bring in food for my baby. All at the cost of a month’s fee at Zuku. If you ask me, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

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

Kenyans on Freelancer – Part 1

If you’re a regular here, then you know about, or as some members call it, GAF. No, that’s not some secret subscribers code. It’s just the initials of the site’s old name, Get a Freelancer [Dot Com]. I’ve wanted to join the site for a long time, but I was afraid to try. I was eventually bullied into signing up [bless my bully!] and I’ve been working on this site for almost a month, so I thought it’d be good to do a little recap.

GAF is like a modern day sweatshop. We often complain about little kids in Indonesia being forced to sew buttons for 12 hours a day at 20 cents an hour. GAF is like that, except that we’re all grown adults and we use our minds more than our fingers. We write, design, create … and most of us  have more than one degree.

Here’s how it works. You go on the site and you register as a worker. You study the job board and look at the tasks and projects. You choose the jobs you want and decide how much you want to be paid. You approach the employer and say you’d like to do job XYZ in 123 days and that you’d like to be paid Q amount of dollars.

And then a worker from India peeks over your shoulder, looks at your bid, offers to do the same work $30, and gets the job. I’m not making this up.

Well ok, it’s not really that bad, not all the time. I’ve bid as much as $350 dollars for a gig, and sometimes you get paid what you bid. But the average bid on the site is $30, so you might not want to ask to be paid a thousand.

When an employer posts a job, they tell you how much they’re willing to pay. The usual budget is $30 to $250. As a freelancer, you can bid any figure within that range, but usually, the lowest bid wins, and a lot of people bid just $30.  When I tried for my first job, the prospective client was quite impressed with my work and my samples, but asked if I would be willing to lower my bid. I did. He has paid me a lot more since.

Getting a job is not just about price though. Sometimes, a client will willingly pay more money if he feels that your work is deserving. When you apply for a job, you read the project requirements, then click ‘Bid on this project’. You’re taken to a page where you key in your  price, suggest the duration of the task, and write a little note of 5000 characters explaining why you’re right for the job. You have the option to send a private message to the client’s inbox, where you can whisper sweet nothings and offer kickbacks or a bribe.

I’m just saying that. Nobody offers kickbacks or bribes. I think.

Once you’re awarded a task, you do it and deliver, and then you get paid. The client has an option to put up a public review of your work, saying how good you are or how much you suck. The more reviews you get, the more chances you have of winning bids in future.

So far, I’ve worked with two clients on the site and gotten one review. Both clients seem quite happy with my work and have given me repeat business. But I have to keep bidding for new clients because at $30 per assignment, you have to do  hundreds before it adds up. Sometimes when a client likes your work, they pitch you directly, so you’ll look at the job board and see ‘Job for Threeceebee’, meaning no one else is allowed to bid. Other times, the client will send work directly to your inbox and not post it on the job board at all.

…to be continued…

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

How to use Paypal in Kenya – Part 2

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

So, after all the drama and excitement here, things could only go up, right?


I received my card on Tuesday, and Simon, the agent who opened my account, was nice enough to bring it down for me. He’s usually stationed at the  KCB tent opposite GPO. Nice guy. I’d harassed him so much on the phone that he probably knows me by ringtone. So when he texted to tell me my card was ready, I texted back and said I was on my way.

Simon either saw me coming a mile off, or he remembered my habit of keeping time, but by the time I got to his tent, he had my card waiting. I didn’t have to queue or anything. Yay! He also gave me the names and emails of several IT guys who I could call in case of problems with my card. I had him write them on the PIN number envelope, because I was sure I wouldn’t lose it.

And then I lost it. Crap!

I got home late after several errands, so I didn’t try my card until Thursday night. By then, I had confirmed that the card account has a minimum balance of Ksh 300, and a monthly charge of Ksh 100. Not too bad, I can live with that.

On Thursday night, I keyed my card into my Paypal account for verification. It alerted me that my bank had blocked the transaction, and that I should call them for details. It was past 10.00 p.m. so obviously I couldn’t call anyone. I decided to sleep on it.

At 5.00 a.m. on Friday, I tried to key in the card again and got the same result. I was feeling pretty tense because I was expecting a payment through Freelancer, and I didn’t want to explain to my client that my new Paypal account was frozen … already!  After trying the card four more times and failing, I checked the time. It was way too early to call Simon, and I’d lost the number of the IT guy.

I did some elementary math and decided that two and two makes five – I’ve always been bad at math. I concluded that the bank had rejected the card because the names didn’t match. I had opened my Paypal using my middle name, which in most places appears as an initial.

So I closed my Paypal account and opened a new one, using the exact same details, but this time. I used my last name. Then I added the card to the new account. Paypal instructed me to contact their Card Problems Centre. I sent them an email, then twiddled my thumbs and waited for a reasonable hour to call Simon.

As I sat there worrying, I realised that none of my business contacts know my last name, so they’d never issue a cheque in that name. So I deleted the second Paypal account and opened a third one, this time using my common middle name, and my personal email address.

Paypal says, ‘This email is already registered to an account. If it’s your account, please log in.’ What?! It turns out I’d opened a Paypal account in 2007 and never used it. Oh boy.

I then went through all my Paypal accounts, including the one from my mum, and deleted them. Apparently, it’s s common thing, because when I was asked my reason for closing the account, there were fifteen options including ‘This is a duplicate account.’

Ok. Done. I now have one active Paypal account in the name that everyone knows. Good. Time to add the card. And Paypal says, ‘Contact Card problems’. Good Lord!!

Card problems at this point sent me an email saying I can only add a card to one account at a time. I realised that in their system, my dead accounts still had the card attached, so I emailed and explained this, then waited for an answer. A while later, they replied saying I could now add my card, but it still refused.  reason? I’d mailed them using the address on my dead duplicate account. The gods hate me. really. They do.

So I sent yet another mail, and this time they told me to attach the card, and that if I had a problem, I should mail them using the address on my new account.  I keyed in the card. It refused. I sent yet another email and waited. As I was waiting, Simon called me back, and I asked him for the IT guy’s name and number. We then had a conversation [where I noticed that the name, voice … and other things … of this IT guy seemed very familiar]. He instructed me to load my card account. Apparently, the bank had not rejected the card because of my name. It was because the account was empty.

I explained to the IT guy that I had paid Ksh 1000 to open the account, and he told me 500 was to open the account and 500 was to process my card, so actually, my card was in overdraft. Groan. He then said that if I made an immediate deposit, then attached my card, I could call him and he’d give me the verification codes. I wouldn’t have to wait the standard two-day period for a card statement.

I went to KCB Haile Selassie to deposit some funds in my card account. I walked into the wrong door and a nice lady redirected me before the security guy could find something to throw at me. At the cashier’s, the deposit slip was four numbers short, so I had to put the extra numbers in my account somewhere else. Apparently, the slips are printed for regular accounts, and card account numbers have four extra digits. To make things even better, the teller was new, so he had a trainer over his shoulder.

When the computer started beeping. he thought it was his fault, and asked for help in panic. The trainer taunted him for a while, then took over. Then they tell me my account was invalid and that I had to go to the Card Centre branch to get it sorted. The Card Centre branch is in Sarit. Just shoot me now. Pretty please?

I called the IT guy, who said he’d sort it and get back to me. An hour [and several kilometres] later, he called and told me everything was sorted and I could safely make my deposit. Trouble is I was now at a school function, miles from any KCB branch. So I hung around for a bit, then gave baby girl a kiss and excused myself so I could get to the bank before closing time. Deposit went without a hitch, but now I had to get to a computer before the IT Department closed for the day.

I keyed in my card and … nothing. I called the IT guy, who told me his records did not show any activity after 5.40 a.m. It was now almost 5.40 p.m! He suggested  i try a different ISP, so I got off Zuku, hunted down my trusty Orange modem, loaded it, and keyed in my card. Still nothing!!

The IT guy then suggested I pass by their offices the next day and see if he could fix the problem. He half suspected I was keying in the wrong thing, but it was still pretty nice of him. So the next day found me at Sarit Centre pacing outside locked doors. Eventually, I was let in, went to the computer, keyed in my card and … nothing.

I then explained the saga of my multiple accounts, and he said the only solution was to get a new card at a charge of Ksh 500. Curses and damnations. Which is my way of saying *** I wrote a little letter, got my ID photcopied, and left. IT promised to call me when my card was ready.

When I got home, I found a n email from Paypal saying they had corrected their data and that I could now add my card to my account. They explained that this was an exception, and that in future, even if I  closed an account, I could not attach the same card to another account. I replied explaining that my card had already been cancelled. They sent me a link to a survey on customer care, and I was not very polite in my responses. It was a very frustrating weekend.

Come Monday, on a whim, I decided to try attaching my card to the account. It worked! My hands must have shaken for a full five minutes. When I recovered my wits – and the use of my fingers – I called the IT guy and asked him if he could cancel the cancelling of my card. He said he’d call me back.

A while later, he gave me the verification codes and stopped the cancellation. Yay! I then wrote to Paypal explaining that I had now attached my card. I browsed my account looking for the ‘receive money’ or ‘withdraw money’ tabs, but I couldn’t find them. How now?

I received an email from Paypal saying that my withdrawal limit had been lifted, and that I could now receive any amount of money that I wanted. It gave me a link to regulations for receiving countries. the link had a list of countries where I could make Paypal withdrawals. Kenya wasn’t on the list.

So when they sent me another survey, I ranted about them not allowing withdrawals in my country. I was even more angry because a new client had been skeptical when I explained that we couldn’t use Paypal in Kenya. He’s American, and in his mind, Paypal is like Starbucks and McDonalds – it’s everywhere. So my claim made me a con. Not cool.

To their benefit, Paypal did write me a nice long reply explaining that condititons were not ripe here for Paypal, and that it was not a personal slight against me or my country blah blah blah. It was actually a really nice letter, but I still can’t withdraw from Paypal 🙁

So. Solutions. Well, I can apply for a Payoneer card for my Freelancer jobs, and I can use my Moneybookers account for other payments. But Moneybookers is kind of like Zain. Their service is great, but nobody uses them, and fewer people have heard of them.

The way I see it, I have two options. I can either spam Paypal until they give Kenya a break and let us receive through them, or I can do a major ad campaign for Moneybookers. Which one do you think would work?

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

How to use Paypal in Kenya – Part 1

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

I’ve always been sceptical about online trading. I’m slightly spooked by the idea of giving my bank account and details to some random guy behind some computer somewhere. I blame it on The Net, a  movie from the early 90s. It starred Sandra Bullock [LOVE her] and it was awesome, but very, very scary. Of course it was based on those old DOS computers with the green text and the black screens, but it’s still pretty scary.

Plus, of course, I don’t own a credit card.

But as I build my business, I find that I do more work online. Most of my clients prefer Paypal, because it’s safe and reliable, even though they charge a small commission on transactions. I got myself a Paypal account some years ago using my mother’s credit card [thanks mum!] and I’ve been using it to buy stuff related to my business.

Recently, I got a client who insisted I open a Paypal account in my own name, because it was easier for him to pay me that way. And no, I didn’t tell him to ask my mother. I opened the account, but I couldn’t receive money through it, because the service isn’t offered in Kenya. lets me buy, not sell.

I tried to attach my debit card onto the account, and as part of the verification process, the Paypal people charged $2 to my bank. It’s a safety measure to prove that it’s my card. The transaction would appear on my card statement with a secret four-digit code. I would take the code and enter it into my Paypal account to prove the card was mine. The $2 would then be refunded.

Oddly, when my statement came, what I got was a six-digit code, and when I tried to enter it into my Paypal, the card was blocked. I first tried to type in all six figures, but of course, it only took the first four, and pulled an ‘access denied’. I then tried the last four digits with the same result, and by the time I tried a random combination, I could almost hear the buzzers ringing and the metal gate clanging shut. After that incident, any time I try to use the card to pay for anything, even if it’s on a totally separate site, Paypal politely refuses.

Kelvin suggested I try Moneybookers, and it looked promising. I went through the same process, opened an account, attached my debit card, allowed them to charge my account for verification purposes. This time, the process was slightly different. Moneybookers was to charge my account with between $1 and $3. I would check my card statement, find out the exact amount, and fill in that information to prove myself. Unfortunately, Moneybookers can’t refund.

The trouble is … the amount on my statement was in Kenya Shillings. And with the exchange rate moving constantly, I couldn’t verify the amount to specific cents. Le sigh.

An associate told me about a system KCB has with Paypal, so I checked it out. Apparently, KCB has a debit card specifically for use online! How cool is that?

What happens is you open a prepaid card account with KCB. You don’t have to be a member – I personally bank with Barclays and NBK, and I was worried about joining a third bank. So I was relieved to hear I didn’t need a regular KCB account.

The card account takes Ksh 1000 to open, and all you need is a copy of your ID and a passport photo. The guys have a digital camera on the ready, just in case.

As far as I know, the account has no minimum balance and no service levies. You can receive money online once you attach the KCB card to your Paypal account, and you can withdraw the funds from any ATM at a charge of Ksh 20. You can top up the card at any KCB branch; you simply deposit the money at the counter using the 16 digit number on your card. It’s kind of like M-Pesa, with shorter banking hours.

Of course, you still need to have a Paypal account in the first place. You can get one at, which redirects you to It’s a pretty straightforward process, and I’ll be writing more on how succecsful the KCB card actually is. Specifically, I’m curious to see about verification.

I opened my card account a few days ago and haven’t received or used it yet, but it seems like a good deal. I don’t know if you can use it with agents other than Paypal, but you probably won’t need to; Paypal is already the Safaricom of the online world. Hopefully, its service is better.

The second step in working online [where Step 1 is deciding to work online] is probably getting a KCB-Paypal debit card. How else will you get paid?

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

Keeping up with business rivals

It’s much, much harder than keeping up with the Kardashians.

No matter how gifted you are at your craft, someone somewhere is better. And it’s immensely depressing when you meet that someone.

I’ve just spent four days at one of the prettiest places on earth, thanks to a generous client. We were having what is called a moderation workshop. The author of a book, as well as a team of teachers, editors, and sometimes potential clients, sit together with the manuscript and point out the pros and cons.

It’s a very intensive process, and often, participants don’t sleep – which is ironic because you’re put up in the prettiest places, with the prettiest beds. My room, for example, was right at the beach, so I could hear the waves  and smell the fishermen. The resort also had a disco, seven pools, 25 water slides, go karting, and a gym … none of which I used.

Anyway, the people at the workshop were very, very good. They pointed out things that I’d never have thought of. They’re not quite rivals, since they don’t work freelance, but they had me reconsidering my vocation. It was like jogging with Usain Bolt.

Fortunately for me, these team members live far, far away, and we’re unlikely to fight over clients. But it did make me wonder about other freelancers within the same work pool.

In any field, you’ll have thousands of competitors. A lot of them will be better than you. But that doesn’t mean they have to earn more than you do. You just have to stand out. Find what Kelvin calls your Unique Selling Point.

When I first read that article, I got slightly depressed, because I couldn’t really think of one. But the thing is you don’t have to spot one. You just need to make one.

Case in point. My ‘rivals’ are brilliant editors. Yet the client included me in the team. Why? Well, for one thing, I’ve handled previous projects in the series, so I have some experience with it. Also, I’m a writer as well as an editor, so I can bring in some flair and creative license.

It might also help that I’m assertive, cheeky, and have purple hair. I admired the put-together look of a fellow editor – she’s so beautiful and stylish. She’s a total MILF, and you can’t tell she has teenage children. Although she’s a lot of fun, she’s quiet and reserved, and it takes some coaxing to bring her bubbly side out. Conversely, it’s easy to get some pep out of me, and when you’re working 12 hours straight for days in a row, it helps to have pep[si] in the room.

There’s someone else I look up. She’s efficient, professional, and very grown up. We recently got pitched for different parts of the same project. She won quality control, because she’s got that no-nonsense thing going. I got creative … mostly because I have purple hair. The client saw each of our selling points and used them to build a cohesive team.

As a business person, be sure to floss your USP. It could be speaking politely, finding out the kids’ names, getting some nail art, wearing a power suit, walking in rollerblades, or riding a bicycle to work. Find the one thing that makes you different from other people in your filed.

Me, I like nice people. I’ve often bought a basic product from a nice salesman instead of a perfect one from some guy with ATT.  So build that thing that makes you seem different. It could be what wins that tender.

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

Fundi wa maneno

I picked this line off some song by Jua Cali … I think … it sounds like something he would say. And it’s a fairly good description of what I do. However, being a fundi is rarely a compliment.

‘Fundi’ is a generic Kenyan term for anything from a tailor to a plumber. They usually work off the street, in little stalls, sheet-metal shacks, or low rent premises. They generally have a specialist trade, but they will fix anything. That’s why the furniture fundi owns a sewing machine, just like the tailor fundi and the shoemaker fundi. Similarly, the electronics fundi will claim to fix anything from your short circuited TV to your overflowing sewer system.

Being a yuppie fundi – like me – means I will willingly handle anything from transcriptions to instruction labels on a VCR. This can be good thing, because I’m versatile. But it can also go terribly wrong. Allow me to demonstrate.

My daughter is at an age where her shoes [and bags, and socks, and white stockings] need repair every day. So two days after I bought her Bata Prefects, I was at a fundi asking him to reinforce the stitchery.

He was drunk, did a shoddy job, and overcharged me. So even though I was unusually polite, and I chat with him every day, I’ve never taken him anything else to fix.

A few weeks back, the shoes were spoilt again so I went to a second shoe fundi. This one has a sewing machine. He made me wait a while as he conversed in vernacular. I understand the language quite well, but I didn’t join in.

Slight digression: when dealing with fundis, it helps to speak their language. They will claim you as one of their own and give you a better deal. Ignore this at your peril. Sadly, I am sometimes arrogant among ‘my own’. Mostly because I’ve seen the negative side of ethnicity, so I prefer to ignore it. I didn’t identify myself as ‘theirs’.

Despite the long wait, he did a good job, so I gladly went again.

On the second visit, I took a school bag to have the zipper fixed. Again, I ignored the language factor, and again I was kept waiting. This time, he charged me for a job he didn’t do – he struggled to fix the zip for ten minutes, concluded that it was impossible, suggested I buy a new zip, then didn’t refund my money. Hmph.

So yesterday I went armed with the new zip, the shoes, a jacket, and two more damaged bags. I budgeted 200. He quoted 250. I offered to sit and wait, he stubbornly declined. We compromised – I could sit and wait for half the work, then I’d come get the rest later. Fair enough.

Lesson two in Fundi Mangement is to sit there until your work is done. Firstly because everybody else does, so the moment you leave, the fundi will serve another sit-in client. Secondly because it’s extremely annoying, and will therefore get the job done faster. Nobody likes you watching while they work. Except maybe footballers. And porn stars.

I came back promptly at 3, and in true fundi fashion, the fundi told me that he was ‘almost done’ and that I should sit for just a few minutes. Luckily for him, I was in major PMS, so I lowered my head and grumbled on the inside, but I didn’t say anything out loud. Yet.

After maybe ten minutes, I asked him what was going on. He said his sewing machine was broken, so he had given my jacket to the fundi next door to mend. Fair enough. At least the shoes were done.

I waited ten more minutes before telling him to give me my jacket and I’d get it done elsewhere. He spoke through the wall – in the secret language that I fully comprehend – and asked his fellow fundi to hurry up. Then he went next door to see what was going on. I followed him.

The work hadn’t even started.

I calmly asked the man to give me back my jacket. He started to protest, but was instructed – in the hidden language – to comply, so he did. I then asked for the shoes, only to see my fundi pick them up and begin to stitch frantically.


He tried to calm me down, but I stood over him until he was done, yelling a few choice words in a voice far calmer than I thought I was capable of. The man was afraid, I could see that. I wonder how he’d react to my standard temper tantrum.

Actually, I wonder why I didn’t throw my standard temper tantrum. I must be getting old.

In the end, I took my barely finished shoes and my barely started jacket to a second fundi – who, again, spoke the secret language – and sat while she stitched it. She was all smiles at first, but hiked the agreed price halfway through because ‘the fabric was messing her machine’. I was too tired to argue.

A simple two-minute collection run ended up in an hour that was so frustrating, I ended up needing a drink.

When you run your own business, do not be mistaken for a fundi – ever. Be versatile, have affordable premises, provide many services, learn many trades.

But when it comes to delivering on time, having endless excuses and doing shoddy work, do not be the quick-fix guy.

We often go to fundis because we have no choice. I used three neighbourhood people and got equally disappointed. But I’ll keep going back to them because living with an almost-tween, I will constantly need stuff fixed on the cheap. That means I either buy new items all the time, or I go to the fundi since ‘I have no otherwise’.

But to thrive in your business, don’t be your customer’s otherwise – be their preference.

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

Doing it like Fareed

I’m not a big fan of X-Fm Djs – I find them annoying. But I love my rock, so I’m glued to the station all day.

Fareed Khimani I have massive issues with. He has a nice voice, and he’s kind of cute, but he has this thing: nag-nag-nag-whine. Also, he can be a little rude – which I guess is the whole point of the show.

I like him for one thing though: he got me to like Alice in Chains. Let me explain.

Some weeks ago, I was in a matatu on my way to work. Almost all matatus like to play The Maina and King’ang’i show, or as I prefer to call it, Matatu FM. Matatu FM has great music, but the presenters annoy me. Their call-ins are even worse. So my morning routine is get into a mat, plug in my earphones, tune in to X-Fm, and crank it loud enough to drown the matatu.

Yes, I expect to be deaf soon.

Anyway, I was listening to Fareed, and he started talking about how he was going to play the coolest song ever, and how it would get us all jumping, and how if we didn’t like the song, we were boring.

He hyped the song five more times before he finally played it – twice. It was just a regular rock song, and I didn’t get what the hype was about. But because he’s said it so many times, the name stuck in my head.

The name of the song in Man in the box, by the rock band Alice in Chains.

Later, he picked out his favourite part of the song, which is the riff-and-chant in the beginning. He played that bit over and over again, explaining how cool it was and why.

Then, he declared it the ‘May Traffic Song’, and for the next one month, he  played it two or three times a show, usually after the traffic update. I learnt to expect the song, and within a few days, I’d learnt some of the words.

I still have no clue what the song is about, but when I eventually found myself singing along and enjoying – even loving  it, I was amused. The song in itself didn’t impact me, but hearing Fareed get so excited about it, and having it played so often, I guess it grew on me.

So here are some business lessons we can learn from this cute, annoying man.

1. It’s all about hype

Create awareness of your product, service, or business. Make it a big deal. It can be word of mouth, hot air balloons, luminous rollerblades, a regular twitter account, glow-in-the-dark vuvuzela, anything really.

Your product doesn’t have to match the hype, but it will get noticed. And once prospective clients notice, you’ll have a foot in the door. That’s always a good place to start.

2. Be persistent

Fareed’s song didn’t impact me the first time I heard it – or even the second or third. But on day 2, I noticed it’s great walking music, and by day 3, I liked the words to the song. They are so fun to yell to.

Keep yourself in the client’s mind. Make follow-up calls, get sponsored in prominent places, remain visible.

3. Be consistent

The thing with this song is it doesn’t change. You’ll hear it a million times and it sounds exactly the same. You might pick a word or note that you hadn’t heard before, but the content is the same.

Once your client notices you and starts to like you, be sure that the thing they like is always there. Going herbal can sometimes be a bad thing.

4. Tap into mnemonics

People make links in their heads, often without knowing it. Baby girls get pink, little boys get blue, metro kids wear orange, valentines means chocolates, roses mean passion and love. There isn’t any specific reason for this. They’re all just trends that caught on.

Fareed go me to associate man in the box with traffic. So every time I’m in a jam, I wait to hear the song play, even when I’m tuned to a different station.

Associate your product with something popular, or trendy, or common, something with staying power, something that clients see every day. They’ll become conditioned to your work. That’s why in Kenya, all detergents are ‘Omo’ and all margarine is ‘Blue band’.

5. Stand out

This song has a great riff, rebellious lyrics, and an interesting beat. But more than that, the band has an amazing name. It’s hard to forget anyone called Alice in Chains. Why is Alice in Chains? What did she do? What kind of chains are they? And more to the point, who the- is Alice?

Have your product stand out. It can be as simple as giving it a catchy name or colour, or as complex as making it actually good. You could also pull a saf-com and make it really, really ugly.  After all, cute fades – just look how quickly we get bored of babies.

Either way, pull a Krest with it and stand out from the crowd. Make it memorable.

Speaking of sodas and pop music, there’s a Sprite advert on TV that has teenagers ramming each other and making bubbles. At some point, a really prettylady makes a stage dive.

I have no clue what the advert means, but I love the music behind it. Does anyone know what it is?

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