How working from home charted a new career for me
FRIDA MWANGI set up Kazi Remote as a way of spending her free time at home, and it turned into a fully-fledged business enterprise.
Harriet James @harriet86jim
When her children began going to school, Frida Mwangi, a stay-at-home mum, found herself in a crisis: she didn’t know what to do with the free time in her hands.
Though she really wanted to work, one thing she was sure of was she didn’t want an eight-to-five job.
“I wanted to be able to manage my house as usual. I had heard about online work and I started researching on what it was and how I too could do it from home,” she narrates
The research took about a month, and during this time, she connected with a Facebook community in Kenya comprising people who worked online.
It is by following the conversations that she discovered what she wanted to try out: transcribing.
“I was in the house for so long and lacked technical skills. I realised the easiest work I would have done there is transcription because all I needed was to understand English, which would assist me in following guidelines clients were looking for,” she says.
Determined to learn more about transcribing, Frida reached out to one of the ladies doing transcription training for tutorials and that’s how she learnt the craft.
In 2015, she began working as a transcriber in one of the leading global freelancing market spaces, where she became top rated after only four months in the job.
In 2017, she built a website, and registered her own online company dubbed, Kazi Remote.
“When I was still working as a transcriber, I thought transcription was a western thing and Kenyans did not need them.
After creating the website, I began getting calls from academics doing their thesis, market research companies in Kenya and law firms in need of transcription services. This expanded the base of my customers,” she explains.
Her website has also attracted clients from Europe, Canada and American clients, some of whom have come to the country for research and are looking for a person who understands and can write Kiswahili.
“I got Sh1,000 from my first client, but after PayPal charges I received Sh800.
For the first six months I worked alone and after that, I got a big client who had over 200 hours of work, which would last up to six months. He was a Stanford university student,” she says.
Frida soon realised she needed other trained transcribers to assist her with the workload.
Due to the nature of the work, Frida doesn’t have a permanent workforce, but works with freelancers who can work from home, provided they have a laptop and reliable Internet. She began with five freelancers, but is currently working with 20.
She says one hour recording can take four hours of writing and two hours for going through the work if one is a very experienced transcriber.
The standard time given in transcription is 24 hours hence one can plan on the amount of time they can spend on work.
“When I started, I charged clients Sh1,000 an hour of recorded work. Currently there are clients paying Sh6,000 or even Sh10,000 an hour, especially if you are working with business companies,” she says.
But working indoors came with the challenge of people dropping in her house all the time thinking that she was free with nothing to do.
“I would receive visitors and I didn’t know how to tell them that I am working.
It got to the point where I would lock the house after taking my kids to school so that people would think am not around.
Or if they managed to come in, I would leave them in the living room on their own,” she narrates.
Slowly by slowly, Frida managed to resolve this issue as family and friends began taking her work seriously.
But even while others understood she was working, there were those who branded her a mzungu, because of this strict way of living. Another challenge was the consistency of work.
“When it comes to bidding, this is online and it’s not about where you went to school or how many degrees you have, but whether you are able to solve the client’s problem,” she says.
Frida notes the reason most people fail in online work is because they treat it as a side hustle instead of a main gig and also don’t conduct enough research while at it.
“Online work is something you can do as a career. For instance, right now, the highest paid job is intellectual property something that a lawyer from Kenya can do if they acquire the relevant skills.
There is a lot of demand for them in that they can actually earn Sh15,000 per hour online,” she explains.
People interested in this field should ensure they learn new skills on top of the ones they have and be intentional on their career path.
Her customer base increased after she created her website as people were able to find her on Google.
Frida notes one reason transcribing is not established in Kenya is because unlike in the West, it is not included in the laws.
In countries such as the US, there are laws which ensure that videos, audios are also texted so people who can’t read or write can access the information.
“In America, there are companies who have earning calls (teleconference, or webcast in which a public company discusses financial results of a reporting period), which must be transcribed.
These calls need to be transcribed within six hours and uploaded to the company’s websites. These are the ones who pay up to Sh10,000.
There are also universities, which require students doing research projects must have their interviews transcribed when it’s qualitative.
Some colleges there go as far as having budgets for transcription,” she adds.
Her effort was rewarded in 2018 when she was listed among the Business Daily 40 under 40 Women.
“When you look at that whole list, there was no single person in the online industry so I am happy that through me, they were represented.
One of my aunties saw that and asked how the media found me when I’ve always been in the house,” she recalls.