EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is a part of our Money254 Partner Series and is produced in partnership with Mogo Kenya. For more on Money254’s editorial policy, read here.
Imagine the freedom of running your own side hustles from the comfort of your day job. And all you need to own is a smartphone.
Side hustles are at the heart of the Kenyan spirit and identity. Traditionally, side hustles were carried out during the weekends or past work hours. However, the rapid advancement in technology has introduced more flexible working schedules and side hustles have greatly transformed.
It is now possible to run a full side hustle without having to be physically present. It is also quite possible to run some side hustles without leaving your desk or affecting concentration at your main job.
This is the case with some of the businesses that we will be discussing in this article. If you are looking for a profitable business idea that only requires you to have a smartphone, you are in the right place.
E-commerce, or electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services through online platforms. It could be a website, a WhatsApp catalogue, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
An e-commerce platform works a lot like the traditional kiosk, only that it is online. You could either be selling a traditional service or a physical product or both depending on your strengths.
For example, there is a great demand for genuine honey in most parts of the country. If you are able to access it, all you would need to do is market it using your smartphone. This can be done on WhatsApp, Facebook groups, Instagram, TikTok or any other social media site.
Once you get orders, you can deliver them in bulk during your off-work hours, during weekends, send a rider or use a parcel service provider and pass the delivery fee to the customer. The opportunities available in e-commerce are limitless and can include clothes, electronics, art and drawings, kitchenware, household items etc without ever needing you to have a physical shop.
The service industry is particularly ideal as a side hustle since there is no physical stock involved. Picture this, you are an accountant at a local firm and looking to cash in on the boom that comes with the tax-filing season.
All you need is your smartphone to advertise your services which can take very little time, say when commuting to or from work. Once you start getting clients, you can receive their details on WhatsApp and receive your money on mobile money platforms.
Content creation is a relatively new concept in Kenya but is quickly picking up as the internet grows. The basic concept of content creation is to share interesting bits about your life or work online.
Social media has significantly democratised content creation such that today an individual can have a bigger audience than a TV station or newspaper - and this person can be as ordinary as the person walking next to you as you go to the bus stop. And with an audience, comes opportunities to monetise.
For example, one Kenyan content creator has amassed millions of views just by narrating his experiences as a Kenyan working in the US. Another mechanic has gone viral on Twitter for his content describing basic mechanics in ways that the average person can understand.
You could be a boda boda rider experiencing interesting things in the course of your rides - or even showing us your dancing moves.
It does not matter if you are a nurse, a rider, a cleaner, carpenter, lawyer or engineer. If you have an eye for content, you could well start making good money on Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media channels.
The good thing is that you only need a smartphone and a social media account which only takes a few minutes to open.
We are living in the era of social media. Nearly every person and organisation wants an online presence, and the first step is to have some social media presence.
Many small and medium enterprises want to have great social media presence, but lack the budget to hire a full time social media manager. If you are skilled or passionate about social media you can offer this service to small businesses as a side hustle.
It could be a restaurant, a school, a hospital, hardware etc. Managing social media accounts is a pretty straightforward task, if you already understand how to engage audiences.
Of course, you can also learn these skills pretty quickly and start charging clients. There are online tools that can help you sharpen your skills and start earning - by just using your smartphone.
The beauty is that you can manage multiple pages at a time, while still going about your day job - making this one of the top side hustles for young Kenyans today.
Digital marketing closely resembles social media management as some of the functions may overlap. Digital marketing is a broader professional field that involves combining a range of marketing tactics across digital channels to reach customers.
The channels could be social media - which may be some form of social media management. For example, running a hardware’s social media account may include advertising some of the products, say cement.
Digital marketing, on the other hand, goes beyond social media and may include strategic use of emails, content marketing (such as working with content producers to market your products). This is all possible through a functioning smartphone device and can be done while still working on your day job.
Are you passionate about real estate? You could well start making good money through online real estate work. The real estate market in Kenya has been growing - but there is relatively less competition online.
Most vacancies are announced through temporary posters at the gate or the apartment door. These posters only serve walk-in clients or passers-by - at a time when more and more people are spending most of their time online.
If you are already passionate about real estate, you probably already spend your free time going for house hunting tours - even when you have no plans of moving. The many houses you encounter could earn you a great profit if you were to formalise this into a side hustle.
You would only need your smartphone to take photos and videos, and place the content on social media. Those who are interested in having a physical visit can then pay you to give them a tour when you are off-duty.
You could also make an arrangement to get a commission from the landlord for every client you bring on board.
This could take a more formal approach where you have signed agreements with real estate companies and letting agencies to offer you e.g. a percentage of the first month’s rent for any new tenant you offer and a bigger fee for customers who buy houses/apartments from a realtor.
As of 2022, the Kenyan boda boda industry was estimated to net in Ksh1 billion per day. This is, in part, through informal ride-hailing services in major towns and estates.
If you are already employed as a boda boda rider, there is still room to expand your revenues by utilising online marketing and ride-hailing apps to attract more clients. This only requires a smartphone and can greatly increase your revenues.
It could also be that you already have a fulltime job, but have extra hours after work. You could consider partnering with a car owner, say a colleague who does not use their vehicle after work, and leverage on the fact that you can bring in more revenues by using online ride-hailing services.
This income option is only possible for you if you have a smartphone.
For years, nearly every office had a messenger. In fact, nearly all mid and senior level management positions came with a dedicated messenger. However, the changing dynamics in the workplace have rendered many of these jobs redundant.
Nevertheless, organisations still need to run multiple errands and existing parcel and delivery service companies do not fully meet this gap - for example, when a personalised delivery is needed.
If you are already in the logistics industry, you could earn money running errands for clients who are too busy to spare time for these tasks.
One of the fast rising errand services is the personal shopper - as the disposable income of many Kenyans entering the middle class continue to grow so has the need for services of convenience such as this one.
Your smartphone can work double duty for you - one as a tool to market your services and reach more potential clients and two, to actually receive customer requests, communicate and negotiate with them.
Online referrals work a lot like traditional sales jobs and can involve a physical product or service.
You are given a special link or code that you can share with your friends, family, and importantly, social media fans.
If anyone uses this code or link to make a purchase or take the prescribed action, you receive a commission typically in cash or at the very least a discount.
The client may be a bank, an ecommerce site, a realtor, and so on.
The opportunities in this field include taking stock images and selling them on websites and companies that would then pay to use them.
This is a solid passive income stream since you take the pictures or videos once, but they can be purchased multiple times for the rest of your life.
You could also take photos and videos for SMEs and help them in marketing their products, say creating product catalogues.
The only requirement is to have a highly functional camera on your smartphone - and of course have some great photography or editing skills.
Access to capital is often one of the most-quoted challenges in starting a new business. However, this article has highlighted that many side hustle opportunities do not need much capital beyond having a smartphone.
If you are not able to purchase a smartphone that allows you to carry any of these side hustles, you could consider Mogo’s Smartphone Financing service. The Mogo Smartphone Loan allows you the opportunity to own a phone without making the full upfront payment.
For a small down payment of as low as Ksh3,000, you can own a smartphone and only be paying a weekly instalment of as low as Ksh550 - which you can be deducting directly from the proceeds of your smartphone-led side hustle.
You can get a Mogo Smartphone Loan amount ranging from Ksh15,000 to Ksh60,000. This represents smartphone options within a range wide enough to meet the needs of most smartphone users in Kenya.
Learn more about Mogo Smartphone Loans, all the devices that are available, how to qualify and the application process here.