I & M Bank Got It Wrong

Yesterday I cam to learn that it is possible to receive money online in Kenya through I & M Bank. Their e-commerce processing solution is indeed impressive – you can have your website or shopping cart fully integrated with your bank account at I & M Bank.

However, I & M Bank’s set up fees start from around Kshs 160,000 (USD 2,000!!) $500 and Kshs 20,000 $50 – $100 a month plus a percentage of your transactions. A Mr. Reddy from I & M Bank confirmed these figures.

Let’s go back in time to the day that the wildly popular PayPal launched its services. On opening day, PayPal:

  1. Allowed any eBay seller to process payments online
  2. Was free to start using
  3. Had very minimal charges

That kind of strategy got PayPal to where it is today, an internet money processing behemoth. And they have made hundreds of millions of dollars to date.

I & M Bank does not get it! You cannot charge such outrageous sums of money and hope to grow your service beyond a handful of customers. I & M Bank’s service was launched early this year. It was launched at a time when their service was one of the only ones that worked. If their pricing was sensible they may have gotten more customers than they could have handled. They would also have entrenched their position and made it harder for any other payment processor to succeed in Kenya. But they did not.

Now PayPal works in Kenya and is rumored to be working with Equity for full integration early next year. What will happen to I & M bank then? Their short foray into e-commerce may come to a brutal end.

Update: E-commerce By I & M Bank.

6 Time Management Tips For The Small Business Owner

These are some Time Management Tips I utilize (most of the time……) to reduce my time commitment in the business, so I can spend time on more valuable activities or just for personal time. I think they can be effective no matter what type of business that you are involved in.

1. Put a Price Tag on Your Time
Take the amount of money that you made last year and divide it by 2000 (40 hours x 50 weeks). This is your hourly rate. Whenever you are doing something of questionable value, ask yourself if you would pay yourself to do that activity? If it’s not, either eliminate that activity because it’s not productive, or outsource it to someone at a lower rate. You can now focus on more valuable work.

2. Meetings are Time Management Killers

  • Don’t schedule meetings if they aren’t really necessary. I used to have a lot of scheduled weekly calls with some suppliers and other partners that we worked with. They would often be valuable at first but after several meetings, everyone felt obligated to join the meetings because they were valuable previously. Unfortunately, we spent the same amount of time in them and got less and less done. Maybe you can block off the time and meet only if someone really needs to that week. Better yet, don’t meet with them unless you have some specific business decision to make.
  • Don’t schedule meetings for an hour if you need 15 minutes. If that is the time needed to cover something, schedule it for that amount of time.
  • Have agendas for your meetings and stick to them. There really should only be 1 or 2 things that you need to talk about
  • Meeting to talk about nothing specific is a waste of your time.
  • Try to limit uncommitted conversations. In the business environment, it is perfectly natural to have small talk amongst people you work with on an every day basis. These are conversations about the weather or television shows you watched the previous night. It is important to have these conversations with others in order to connect with them and show you are a human being. However, too many of these kinds of conversations are wasteful of your valuable time . It takes hard work to know when you are doing it, catch yourself and get focused back on the business item at hand.

3. Limit Hypothesizing
A lot of smart people waste a lot of time hypothesizing an answer to something when they should just stop and go get the facts. Too much time can be spent guessing or speaking with feelings versus speaking with data and facts. It is perfectly acceptable to admit “I don’t know the answer” as long as you follow it up with “but I will find out and get back to you”.

4. Keep Your Workspace Clean and Organized
Keep your desk and computer clean and organized. I don’t have a permanent workspace or office (and never have in my young business career), so I treat every location I go into as a temporary workspace. At the end of the day, I pack everything up I need, put it in my briefcase and leave.

5. Use a “To-Do” list
Yes, one and only one list. I personally like to use Google calendar to keep my To-Do list but I know a lot of people who are proponents of taking it off the computer and away from e-mail so they aren’t tied so closely together. I might do that eventually.

Here are some other real important points around To-Do lists:

  • Do not use your email inbox as a To Do list. Your email is a business tool used to communicate with others.
  • Always make your To-Do list short enough that you can complete it the next day. Don’t have 20 things that you will never realistically be able to accomplish. I like to have 2 or 3 big things that I need to accomplish.
  • Complete your “To Do” list for the next day before you close up shop for the night.
  • Review your list and work to move things off it and always place new things on it.
  • If you have your list in Outlook or Google Calendar, print it out and work off that paper.
  • I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People a couple of years ago and he had a great concept of placing your time in quadrants. He noted that highly effective people prioritized their time around important items and urged the notion that not everything is urgent all the time. So, I prioritize actions around these categories and try to spend most of my time in Quadrant 2 (Important Stuff but Not Urgent). There are enough unforeseen problems that pop-up and consume your attention each day. It is always okay to ask others when they want something back from you to gauge the importance and urgency.

6. Check Voicemail and E-mail Twice a Day
Check your voicemail and e-mail twice a day. Don’t check them first thing in the morning. I recommend checking it at 11 AM and 4 PM.

This means that you absolutely have to remove any new e-mail notifications from your computer so you’re not getting a notification whenever you receive your e-mail. I even turn off Outlook’s automatic Send/Receive so that I can get stuff in e-mail without checking out everything that was sent to me.

Best of Luck with these Time Management Tips
These time management tips are intended to be helpful. They work for me on most occasions. No one is perfect all the time and it takes great discipline to police yourself if you want to achieve higher levels of productivity and effectiveness.

Kenyans on Freelancer – Part 4

Here’s Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

I finally applied for my Freelancer card, which will let me draw my GAF earnings at any Kenyan Mastercard ATM. But it seems to have a lot of hidden charges. You pay $2 per every time you to load your card.  There’s a $3 levy fee monthly that allows you two transactions, with an additional dollar for every transaction after that. ATM withdrawals are $2.15 a piece outside the US, and it came with a fine print that I could barely read and hardly understood. That comes to almost Ksh 200 at a time. There’s even a charge for balance enquiries.

There’s a story I read online about the four types of plane passengers:

  1. Passenger A = All about me
  2. Passenger B = Business class
  3. Passenger C = Casual
  4. Passenger D = Deer in the headlights.

Passenger Ds are apparently the most scary, because they often pull shagzmodo moves that can crash the plane. Three guesses to which type I am.

When I first reached the $30 mark that allowed me to apply for a card, I was so excited that I rushed to fill the form. When it asked me to fill in ‘State’ I ignored it, and when it said P.O.Box is not an acceptable form of address, I stuck my tongue out. My application was rejected for incomplete information.

When I was done tantrumming, I emailed support and asked if I could get a card in Kenya, explaining the whole state and P.O.Box thing. They replied politely, showed me where to change the country from US to Kenya [Duh!!] and explained that I should fill in my physical address but that after my card was approved, I should write them an email requesting them to change my shipping address to P.O.Box. So I did.

Nothing happened for two days, then they sent me an email saying the card was being sent to my physical address, and asking me to give details to confirm my identity if I wanted to change my shipping address. They said it would cost me an extra $9.95 [to replace the card]. *russumfussum*

Meanwhile, my Moneybookers account is activated, and my bank accounts are attached, so I can withdraw using my standard ATM cards … after a $2.32 bank-to-bank transfer which I think takes 4 days. There’s a 1.99% charge for currency conversion, and a levy fee of $1.50 a month if your account is inactive. Active accounts – i.e. if you log in and transact at least once every 18 months – are free. It says there’s $2.32 Visa charge which I won’t even try to figure out, but at least there’s no charge for uploading funds.

Attaching my bank accounts was a lot easier than I thought. All I had to do was key in the bank swift code and my account number, and voila, ATM is ready to withdraw. Finding the swift code took me 2 hours. There are 4 ways to find a bank swift code:

  1. Call the bank. Unless you’re dating a bank employee, good luck with that. You could just walk into the bank … unless you’re a freelancer wearing pyjamas at 2.00 p.m. with no desire to shower and change.
  2. Check the bank’s website. Good idea. Unless your bank website doesn’t have a search box. WTF?!
  3. Check an online swift code directory. But you have to be a registered member.
  4. Check your bank statement. Right. Where is it again?

In the end, I googled and found the code on one of those articles that read:

If you’d like to make a donation to the XYZ medical bill, send your funds to Bank ABC account number 12345 Swift Code …

And just like that, my bank accounts were attached. Yay! I still have a maximum card loading option of $300 if I want to put money directly onto my credit card – for some inexplicable reason. Paypal is better for that. Paypal doesn’t let me receive or withdraw funds here, but I can use my Moneybookers to withdraw up to $5000 every 90 days. I can increase this amount by verifying my physical address [groan] or sending a $30 bank transfer to Germany…

So. I now have an active Freelance profile, a few new tricks to use, a one hundred dollar balance, and a way to access my earnings. Yay!

Oh wait … there’s a 15 day waiting period before GAF can release my first withdrawal. Groan. Sometimes I think security measures are ^%$£&%$£&%$&%£!!! Le big sigh.

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

How To Make Money Online In Kenya, 2010

Facebook.com is currently valued at $15 BILLION! That makes the young founder, mark Zuckerberg an extremely wealthy man at such a young age. What about you? How are your finances doing? You could seethe with envy at Mark, or you could try your own hand at making money online!

Last year, we wrote one of the most popular articles on this website: How to make money online in Kenya. The gist of that article was that advertising as a source of online income may not be the best way to go….that was way back in 2009, though. This is 2010! How does one make money online in Kenya?

This time, we’re going to do it a little different: since last year, we’ve come across countless numbers of Kenyan who are already making money online! So this article will talk about how those people are doing it in hopes of inspiring you to start making money online in Kenya!

1.How we make money online in Kenya

We run www.likechapaa.com and a number of other websites. Of course one of the main goals of running all these sites is for us to make money online. How do we do it?

  • Advertisements – Like Chapaa has these adverts on the side (you see them?). They make us peanuts. Honestly.
  • Consulting – as it happens, a lot of the people who read Like Chapaa tend to email us asking for help in setting up online. We make a tidy some from this. How can you do this? It is not a hard concept: just pick out a topic that you are interested in and know a lot about then start a website to talk about that topic and set yourself up as a “consultant”. It works, trust us.
  • E-commerce – this is unbelievable even to us. DESPITE not having an online shop yet, we do sell a few books from our site Jua More. The lesson here seems to be if you have a website talking about a certain product that people want, then you can probably sell this product to those people. Jua More is a book review site which is still very small yet it already makes some money. Can you replicate this with a site of your own and another product? I bet you can! Just pick out something you have passion talking about (and marketing). I’m thinking things like movies and music, clothing and other such stuff can do pretty well! We even built DukaPress for you so this is super easy to do with no technical skills whatsoever!
  • Web Design – Wambere, one of the founders of Like Chapaa, also runs Nickel Pro which is a web design and development company. Like Chapaa drives a whole lot of customers her way. How can you do this? This is all about marketing, if you offer a service and want to make money online from it, you need to find somewhere (online) where the people who would buy your service hang out and then talk to these people and subtly showcase your skills and experience. They’ll buy.
  • Referrals (Affiliate income) – incidentally, most of the things we recommend you use – akina Freelancer.com, AlertPay, etc – have affiliate programs. This means that if you sign up to those sites after reading about it on Like Chapaa, we get paid. How to do this: this is pretty easy, in my view. You shouldn’t start the process by looking for companies that offer affiliate programs. Instead, look for what interests you. If you love shoes and want to start a website about shoes, you will come to find there are tons of sites out there that will pay you good money to drive people to them. Affiliate programs exist for almost everything under the sun – just find something you love, start a blog/site around it, and voila!

Also see: How to make Money With A Blog.

2. How Other People make Money Online

We realise that we aren’t the only Kenyans making money online (hehe) and so this section is dedicated to everyone else that we have come across this past year.

A. Advertising
Like Chapaa sucks at making money from advertising but these sites do it amazingly well:

  1. Career Point Kenya – this is one of the most visited sites in Kenya and, rightly so, they make a lot of money from Google’s Adsense program. This means that whenever any of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Career Point Kenya every day click on the Google Ads, the guys running that site get paid. Sweet! To replicate this you just need to build a website that gets huge, HUGE, numbers of visitors and you’ll get paid like you won’t believe. This is not as easy as it sounds, though, and I would caution against betting on advertising as your sole means of earning online.
  2. Bankelele – the ever popular Kenyan blog. I think this is one of the oldest blogs in Kenya. It has only survived this long because the guy who runs it is a master at what he does. Unlike Career Point Kenya, Bankele makes advertising money by selling his own ads at his own price (you get this luxury when you have a site as good as his). Here’s how to do this on your own site!

B. Selling Stuff
Jua More, mentioned above, is just a lucky occurrence. If you want to really make money by selling something tangible (or digital), then you need to look at, and learn from, the guys below:

  • Mama Mikes – Mama Mikes is one of the first e-commerce sites to serve Kenyans. It is a site that excels at selling Kenyan stuff to Kenyans who do not live in Kenya. For example, you can pay power bills for your family in Kenya while living in Spain – or buy them gifts and groceries. Brilliant idea, eh? I think so too. Mama Mikes found a niche market very early on in the game and took it over.
  • Fab Guru – a fascinating business run by a lady off her Nairobi apartment. This is the face of “make money from home”. Fab Guru sells ladies shoes, bags and other items. She particularly excels at marketing her wares on Facebook where she has a large following of “fans”. Fab Guru makes quite a lot and the ingredients seem to be: a)find something to sell (preferably something that you love) and b)find a group of people who love what you have to offer (in this case, Fab Guru didn’t find those people, she built a place for them to come to).
  • Career Point Kenya – these guys have written a book that resonates well with the people who visit their site. I’m not sure of the sales figures, but I’d bet they do very well.

Do you see a trend here? If you want to make money online by selling things, then you need to first find a good product (or products) – something you love working with and which is likely to have a market large enough to support you. Then you need to find, or build, a place where people who would be willing to buy your product(s) can be found. If you manage to do that, you’ll be home free!

C. Freelancing
Of all the ways people make money online, this is the one way used by most of the people we have come across. Quite simply, this is nothing but being a hired hand. That is, being paid to do something for someone because of your expertise, experience or both. Here are examples of Kenyans who are already doing this: Wuogard, Linda Cherotich, Maria Maina and our very own Crystal.

How do you do this? Well, first off you need to be able to do something better than most people can do it. It can be anything, from writing to art, to web design.

Next, you need to build out your portfolio and then try your hand at finding jobs/gigs at some of the more popular freelancer sites such as Freelancer.com.

To put it in a way that it is more easy to relate to, I’ll give the example of Kenyan Freelancer. She’s a brilliant writer. She set up to do business online the smart way: she set up Smurt Notes which is her ‘business profile’ used to ‘seal the deal’ – but that’s not all – she also has a somewhat less formal site, Kenyan Freelancer, which I would say does more of the ‘marketing’. A nice little one-two punch to get her clients.

Seems very do-able, eh? Good luck!

See also: Interviews with Maria Maina, Kenyan Freelancer, and Crystal.

In my personal experience, and as seen and proven above, you can make money online in Kenya by:

  1. Selling adverts on your site
  2. Consulting
  3. Selling other people’s stuff (affiliate marketing)
  4. E-commerce (selling your own things)
  5. Freelancing

I am sure there are more ways through which people are actually making money in Kenya, but the above are what I have actually seen proven. What about you? Are you making money online? No? Need help?

Good luck, and God bless you!

Photo by timbrauhn.

Ship Early, Ship Often

You know what you do so that your projects are always on time and within your budget? When you run out of time, or out of money, you ship it. What does this mean? It means you present it as it is instead of wasting time making it ‘perfect’.

What does this mean (again)? Action speaks louder. Don’t just think about it, or even just talk about it. Do it!

A video worth watching, yes?

How To Turn Your Skills Into A Real Online Business

Open for businessA lot of the people reading Like Chapaa have a skill set. They are strong in web design, writing, marketing, Web development, or some other different skills.

People with such skills who want to be entrepreneurs often end up selling their skills as services. That usually entails trading money for their time, expertise and experience. It’s the path of least resistance (and risk) and a way to form a source of income. The problem is that while the business might be moderately successful, there is a limit to how successful the business can be. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much that you can charge for these services (no matter how good you are). Since freelancing is not a real business model and does not scale, you should focus these skills on building a system-based business.

Here are some ideas to create a new business based on the skills that you already have.

Scale Your Skills
Instead of doing the work yourself, have 1, 2, 5, 10, or even 50 people do the work for you. Once you have other people doing the work, there is no limit to how big you can grow the business. Start by creating a manual detailing everything that you do and make it a repeatable process that someone else can follow. You will still have to find some people with some ability as you don’t want someone with zero creativity to design high-end websites for your clients. But if you create an efficient process in getting new clients and delivering their service at a reasonable, known cost, you can start scaling the business.

In order to reduce your risk, I would start out with contractors. Pay them on a “per project” basis so you are only obligated to pay when you get paid. Your profits won’t be as high and it can be tough to find reliable contractors with good prices and quality products but once you do, it becomes very easy to scale up your business. Start out with determining your profit margin and you can estimate projects based off of the quote you receive.

Create a “Product”
If your skills are in web design, pick a market and create your best web design that you can sell over and over again. If you create a really great web site with a lot of cool features for restaurants (newsletters, birthday club, email-a-friend), sell it to restaurants operating in different markets. You might charge a lower price for each site but it will require less effort to set up. It’s even something that you could hire a contractor to set up on a per-site basis.

If you are a writer, you can also create a ‘product’ around your writing skills. You just have, for example, to look for something that would benefit by having a well written guide/manual. For instance, many writers make money by writing How-To ebooks for platforms such as Joomla and Drupal. I know others who have created a complete and re-usable business plan which they sell to anyone looking to write a business plan quickly.

If you are an Adsense expert, you could sell a program to similar businesses of keywords and ads that are pre-built and tested to be very effective. Just make sure you don’t sell it to competing clients.

Become a ‘Digital Landlord’
This is very similar to creating a product, the difference being that you do not sell it outright but rent it out and collect a subscription fee. Please have a look at this: Landlord 2.0

The basic idea is to utilise your expertise to create a service. If you are an accountant, you could create an accounting system which you charge a monthly fee for people to use it either online or offline. When most people think of this, they think that it has to be a large undertaking. That is not the case, you do not have to recreate Quickbooks, the secret is to niche – create a simple accounting system specifically for freelance web designers (incidentally, such a system is badly needed).

If you are a marketing guru, you could create a marketing system for very small businesses and freelancers (guys earning 10,000 to 500,000 a month) – a system whereby the businesses completely outsource marketing to you. Again, such a system is badly needed in today’s Kenya (most of these business owners are too busy to market properly and would appreciate some help, as long as it actually generates more business).

Web Site Flipping
basically, this is the selling of websites. It might require a little more investment but you could also bootstrap and start with a small portfolio that you constantly turn over and make more money off of them. But the idea is that you should buy websites, improve them, and then sell them. Maybe it’s a website that just needs a few tweaks to convert better, or a site that needs some basic search engine optimization, one that hasn’t utilized Pay-Per-Click yet, or one that could use all of these changes.

Create systems to effectively find, value, purchase, and improve sites. Most people who flip websites might do it on a “one off” basis. They don’t create systems to repeat the process over and over again. I liken it to real estate flipping companies who have scaled their business so they buy multiple properties, have a select group of vendors they use to improve the properties, and then sell it. They have great systems in place. From the very beginning, they have a set budget and they know what changes they can make and how much value it should add to the price.

Create Software
Ok, nothing too original here but I think this is a case which people think too big. They think the only software worth creating and selling is something that nobody else has created. There are a lot of niche markets for which you can build useful software. You don’t have to create Microsoft Windows, just something that is useful to your targeted niche market.

For example – you could create an online scheduling service for businesses that take appointments like doctors, salons or beauty parlors. There is a lot of scheduling software out there but if you create a product specific for an industry, you have created a successful product.

And the best part about software is that once it’s created, there is very little effort to maintain it. Unlike trading hours for dollars, you can create a mostly passive form of income.

What Do All the Ideas Have in Common?
It probably wasn’t apparently obvious with each of these ideas but they all involve targeting a niche market. You’re not going to be able to create something that works for everyone but if you create something that has utility for a niche market, your system based business can grow quite successfully.

Image courtesy of Pheezy.

Landlord 2.0

I want to be the “Digital Landlord”. I want to own website real estate that I can “rent” to small businesses.

This isn’t about owning domain names since that would not work. People would just buy different domain names – they aren’t that important for local businesses.

No, this is about owning the building, or the website in this case, that is set up such that it is like a goldmine for people, renters. Renters would be willing to pay landlords money if the property is on a prime piece of real estate that practically guarantees a certain level of business, right?

It is Better to Rent than Sell

One of the first rules of real estate is never sell properties (or something like that). What it means is that you don’t usually want to sell a great piece of real estate if you can make money hand-over-fist from it.

We’re marketers with web development skills. We could build websites and sell them to our clients, but what’s the value in that? We would rather make mostly passive income by renting out an extremely high value service month after month.

Websites are worth the amount of time that the designer puts into the website plus a premium based on the designer’s/company’s reputation and ability.

But let’s change the perception on that product from a website to a marketing system. If it can generate Kshs 30,000 consistently, the business owners aren’t going to pay for the amount of effort it takes to create, they’re going to pay for that high value that it generates for them. I don’t know too many business owners who wouldn’t pay you Kshs 5,000 to generate Kshs 30,000 in new revenue.

Let’s say that you can do this just 2 or 3 times a month consistently. Don’t you think the business owner would be more than willing to pay you Kshs 5,000 a month for a LONG TIME than Kshs 25,000 just once?

Build a Ton of Buildings
If this works one time, why not do it over and over again? I can build a bunch of different buildings, or “client generating systems”. And I rent out a part of those buildings to a ton of different clients.

Let’s put some numbers on it:

  • I can rent out my system to 100 different clients in the same industry across the country at Kshs 5,000 per month (I won’t get too greedy)
  • That’s Ksh 500,000 per month for just one “building”
  • Once that works, I can build 20 different “buildings”.

What’s better than being a digital landlord? And I’m sure you can figure out the math for the monthly income….

Interesting in investing in websites? If you want to get into this but have no idea how to search for, value, evaluate and manage a website, give us a call. We’ll work something out.