The growth of the internet and the rise of computer literacy among Kenyan youth has resulted in the growth of online writing jobs. Young Kenyans have particularly embraced this new way of writing and are reputed globally for their services. The most notable has been academic writing which, unfortunately, has often attracted negative publicity as many policymakers in the west question the ethics of academic assistance jobs.
Some Kenyan academic writers have sought to find other related services that they feel are more promising. For other Kenyans, academic writing is not their exact fit even if they would want to work in the online writing industry. This article is the second of a three-part series exploring the opportunities and challenges of freelance online writing. The first part highlighted the dwindling fortunes of the academic writing industry. In this second part of a three-part series on writing jobs, Money254 explores the expansion of online writing jobs beyond academic writing.
Article writing has been around for almost as long as academic writing has existed. The major distinction is that the writing is a lot more conversational and interactive as opposed to academic papers which are quite formal with a majorly third-person perspective. Article writers use a professional tone but are required to write content that is relatable and clear - in a way that makes the reader find a personal connection with the reader.
For example, a company that produces headphones may want an article that describes the superiority of its headphones. They will then ask an article writer to come up with a descriptive text - mostly paid per the number of words. The majority of article writing jobs are business-related and are meant to market or push awareness about a product.
Article writers will often require training in writing Search Engine Optimised (SEO) content - which refers to articles that are friendly to web search engines such as Google. Article writing includes writing content for businesses including such as weblogs, content for email marketing, and newsletters, among others. Some clients also source for article writers who are contracted to write ebooks.
Most of the work is sourced from freelance writing websites such as Upwork, Freelancer, Nerdy Turtlez, Fiverr, and Verblio, among others. Linkedin has also recently emerged as a popular meeting place between clients and writers. Opening an account is free and largely a straightforward process. However, your profile may affect the pay and the quality of jobs accessible to you.
Writers who have a long track record are paid a premium fee - some earn hourly. New writers, however, need to build their profile including taking certifications that build their credibility. In the Kenyan market, some freelancers build up websites and sell them to new writers for a fee. The amount ranges from lows of Ksh5,000 to highs of over Ksh50,000 depending on the specific account.
According to Xavier Mwangi, a local freelancer engaging in article writing, a beginner can write an average of 2,000 words per day - earning an average of Ksh400 per 250 words (Ksh3,200 in total). Experienced writers can fetch up to Ksh1200 per 300 words while editors who earn per hour get as much as Ksh4,000 ($35) per hour.
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US insurance companies are outsourcing some of the routine jobs to countries such as Kenya and India where the cost of labour is relatively low. Some of the most laborious insurance jobs, such as data entry and review of prices, require no technical training.
Online support representatives take up this job for a relatively lower salary than a US-based employee would take. The online representative provides quality data entries, reviews items that the insurance company needs to purchase, and researches insurance-related losses. They also source quotations from vendors and research on claim-related.
The industry is relatively young and there are few established websites that offer these services. However, the jobs are often advertised on freelance writing websites such as Upwork and Freelancer. The average pay is Ksh2,300 ($20) per job - which could take you roughly three hours to complete. The quality checks are stringent given the sensitivity of the information required. Some employers withhold pay in instances where wrong data entries or poor research led to their clients (the insurance company) losing money.
Transcription is perhaps the simplest form of online freelance writing. The basic role of transcribers is to transform speech into written context. You listen to a speaker gave a speech and you transform it into a written speech.
In its basic form, the job is pretty straightforward with little effort on the part of the writer. Indeed, there is already Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has automated such services. However, transcription has its own complications because most of the work that requires a transcriber involves audio or video that is not clear.
In some other instances, the speaker may have a heavy accent that is different from yours - making it hard to understand them. The pay is primarily calculated per word. Cate Njoroge, an online transcriber based in Juja county, notes that the jobs are also seasonal meaning that sometimes there will be an overflow of orders while in other instances, there may be prolonged periods where there are no jobs.”
The main skill in transcription is concentration and typing speed. Experienced transcribers often get promotions to work as editors and reviewers which is a management position.
“A junior level transcriber working eight hours a day earns about Ksh1,000 a day. The more experienced writers who are able to type faster earn about Ksh3,000-Ksh5,000 a day. Reviewers and editors have the best compensation which can hit Ksh8,000 a day,” Njoroge explained.
Read Also: I Quit Law Career to Become A Freelance Writer - Money and Me
Independent blogging has also emerged as a popular source of income in the online writing industry. The writing is closely related to the type of article that the majority of article writers engage in. However, the major difference is that bloggers own both the website and the content. The blogger then builds a niche audience and uses the space to sell advertising or marketing space to third parties - at a fee.
For example, a writer who is passionate about travel opens a website that produces written content related to travel. Once they have a sizeable audience, they then approach advertisers who wish to reach people interested in travel - say a hotel in Mombasa. The advert could be in the form of a graphic - paid per the number of people who see it. It could also be a link, say to the booking site, where the payment is mainly based on the number of people who click the link- calculated as Click Through Rate (CTR).
“You can either write for the local audience or go international, affiliate marketing is particularly big with a global audience, but it means you have to work extra hard to get such readers,” one blogger, Viola Wafula, said of the trade.
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The business world is increasingly becoming competitive. Modern companies are adapting to the best practices that give them a competitive edge. One way they do this is to invest in market research to understand how consumers understand their products or services.
The scramble for the best market intelligence data has led to the emergence of an entire industry that pays writers to answer surveys and give candid feedback through reviews of various products. The reviews include actual physical products that you have to purchase, watching online videos, playing videos, games, and surveys.
A number of websites offer these services with the intention being collecting business information which they then sell to other businesses. One of the biggest companies in this sector is InboxDollars.com which has so far paid Ksh6.7 billion ($56 million) to those who have undertaken these reviews and surveys.
The growth of the internet has created numerous income opportunities. If you have access to the internet and you have a smartphone or a computer, there are numerous income opportunities locally and internationally. The decision on the type of writing activity that best suits you is personal. However, experts advise that it is prudent to consider the income dynamics of each form of online job - profit to be made, sustainability, and flexibility, among others. It is also critical that you follow your passion since your happiness and productivity are optimal when you undertake jobs that align with your individual passion.
In the third and last article in this series, we will look at the challenges of online freelance work and the best expert-recommended tips for overcoming them.