How To Start An Online Business In Kenya


Starting an online business in Kenya is pretty easy. The technology available makes everything a no-brainer for the average young man willing to take this route. In fact, countless number of Kenyans make money online every single day. You can read the story of Lucy Atieno, the online tutor who lecture students through a virtual interface.

Or Caroline Mwangi, a social media content manager who helps clients market their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The fact that this young Kenyans did it, means that you too can do it well and become successful.

Fortunately, there is an easy way you can start making money while in Kenya. All that is required is your commitment and determination to succeed. Let’s dive right in and focus on the best online business ideas that you can start today, plus how much you can earn per month.


UpWork Freelancer Website

Majority of Kenyans starts with freelancing because it is the easiest option available to the average man. The services that you can offer as a freelancer include, Copywriting, transcription, social media marketing, academic writing, designing, accounting, and programming.

Whether you did accounting or law, you can always offer freelance services. In fact, I just did a Google search and found out that freelance statisticians exist and are paid more than $100 per hour on Upwork. It will take you 2 years of hard work to understand the freelance landscape and to earn more. Take the first year as a learning experience.

Monthly Earning Potential: An average freelancer takes home more than $500. An A-lister freelancer makes more than $1000 per month.


bikozulu, a very famous Kenyan blog

Are you gifted with words? Do you know how to inspire or motivate people to do something? You don’t need to be a motivational speaker to do this. You can inspire people how to cook certain dishes or share with them stories and lessons that you have learned in life.

For instance, Bikozulu (the most widely visited blogs in Kenya), share everything from politics, gossips, inspiration, and motivation. Looking at the site, you’ll see that lots of Kenya like reading and sharing the article. You need to position yourself and understand the desires, fears, frustration, and goals of your audience.

Monthly Earning Income: Most Kenyans run affiliate sites make around $500 to $1000 per month.

Online Shop

mamamikes, a Kenyan online shop selling cakes, flowers and gifts.

There more than 40 online shops in Kenya and the number keeps growing every single year. To start an online shop, you need to find goods or services that you can sell to people.

For instance, Unimall attracts campus students, Binti is an online shop for women and mamamikes sells solar energy products, cakes, and flowers. You can sell anything starting from shoes, dresses, socks and baby diaper. You need to have a good marketing strategy for your online shop.

Monthly Earning Potential: With a good marketing strategy, you can make more than $5000 in sales per month. (Profit depends on your costs.)

Finding a Niche

The idea of serving a large audience may be tempting because you’ll have more clients or customers to serve. Don’t let that fool you. Niche marketing helps you leverage your expertise in one area and stand out from other companies or individual offering the same services. And to serve more customers, you can expand your line of services or improve on the existing one to create a unique experience for the customers.

With niche marketing, you work with the right people that understand the value that you’re bringing forward. Even the media, tend to feature a business that stands out or they are doing something different from other services. Let me give you an example close to home.

Instead of offering web design services to everybody, you can choose to offer web designs for real estate companies, web designs for accounting firms, web design for manufacturing firms. Then, when you expand your business, you can include or hire other experts to offer marketing services to the same group. If you stand behind the results that you offer clients instead of the services, then you’ll have loyal customers.

Create a Business Plan

Business plans are not for startups or investors alone, business plans are for everybody. You need them so that you can see a clear picture of what you’re doing. The good news is that you only need to create a 10 page or less plan, depending on how big your business will be.

Most people that started an online business without a plan fail within the first 6 months. The idea may be great, but if you don’t have a strategy on how you’ll reach your audience, it becomes impossible to pursue the idea.

A simple business plan needs to answer four things: What, Who, Why and How. You need to understand, what you’re selling, who you’re selling it, why you’re selling and how you will sell. If you’re doing freelance web designing, you need to understand what kind of designs are you selling and to whom, why are you selling those designs and how you’ll find clients to buy these designs. Most importantly, you also need to have a 90-day marketing plan that maps your strategy. If you’ll be sending 50 pitches in a day, you need to put that in writing. What you put in writing, gets measured.

Registering Your Business

The Kenyan ecitizen portal

The #1 reason why most Kenyan freelancers don’t have access to loans is that they have not registered their business yet. Some of them don’t want to register a business in the fear of paying taxes.

Registering a new business is a smart move because it can help you raise capital for your business and you can use that capital to expand. For how long will you continue to be small. In 2016, I was denied a loan by the bank because I hadn’t registered my business. Fortunately, Kenya makes it easier for anyone to register a business online. Here are the steps that you can take to register your business:

  1. Login to the ecitizen portal
  2. Start a search for your business name
  3. Register your business name for $2
  4. You can register your business either as a sole proprietorship for $10 or company for $110

These are the 4 main legal steps that you need to register your business in Kenya. Registering your business will help you avoid being sued or paying for liabilities that your company did.

Handling the Technical Stuff

You now have your business in writing and it has a legal identity. Congratulations on that. Now you need to get your business up and running. Most importantly, put all the technical stuff together for better customer experience. Setup your website or your online shop, so your audience will find you on the web.

Fortunately, you can do all things on your own or you can hire a web developer to assist you in the setup process. Let me walk you through the technical aspects of setting your online business up.

Excellent internet connection

You will need a strong internet connection to manage your work and handle video calls. Fortunately, Safaricom, Jamii Telcom, Airtel, and Zuku, have made it possible for anyone to have an internet connection in their home. With as little as $25 per month, you have unlimited internet using either Safaricom or Zuku home fiber.

Get a domain name

A domain name is the window display of your online shop or service. A domain name will cost you around $10 per year.

Hosting account

Hosting enables your business to run 24/7 on the internet. Your website cannot exist without a hosting account. Hosting is a like an office building where your business exists and you pay monthly rent. Costs will be a few $ per month.

WordPress Theme

If you don’t want to spend money hiring a developer, you can install WordPress yourself on your hosting account and buy premium WordPress theme for less than $100. There are good themes out there that will make your website look professional.

Get an eCommerce theme

You can try a Shopify theme. Thousands of people have used Shopify to start an online shop. It has everything that you’ll ever need.

Low Budget Marketing Activities

To get your business up and running, you need to reach out to clients or readers online. Most importantly, you need to focus your energy on low-cost marketing activities that can bring you customers and clients much faster. The more you focus on this marketing activities, the more you build and expand your business presence online. Here is what you should be doing:

Publish great content

Great content educates the reader or your clients about what your website or online shop is about. The more you give away free content, the more people start to build trust in you.

Create an online contest

If you’re running an eCommerce store, contests should be part of your marketing strategy to lure people to buy your product. Take an example of Safaricom, how many contests do they do in a year? Safaricom on average runs three contests in a year. And they make billions of shillings every year.

Create a strong referral program

I didn’t say that you offer discounts to customers. I meant you can create referral programs. For instance, you can offer shopping vouchers to customers like the mamamikes store. There are a dozen ways you can be creative with these.

Facebook advertising

Yes, you can start promoting your online store on Facebook. To know if your ads are paying off, please spend at least $30 on Facebook, that is $10 per day. With $10, you can reach 1000 people in Kenya. What you want to keep in mind when promoting is the number of sales that you can get within that budget range. If you’re not having a good conversion, it means that you e.g. need to change the wording of your ads, specify your target audience or optimize your offers.

Start Today

Let me let you in on a secret about online businesses. Like anything in life, the journey is going to be hard, especially within the first year. And you don’t need to give up the first year, because this is a learning experience, the moment you adapt and learn new skills, year two will be easier to manage.

In fact, you’ll begin earning an excellent amount of income in year two. The time you go into the third year, you’ll be blazing with new ideas that you can implement immediately to boost the income potential for your business.

In Kenya, the people that have stayed in the online business for three years earn more than $1000 (yes, that is Ksh 100,000) every single month. And the best part is most of these people have different sources of income. The fact that it is difficult in the beginning doesn’t mean that it will be like that forever. I know you want to start an online business, please tell me the ideas that you have in mind in the comment below.

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