Contrary to popular opinion, there is a lot of money to be made from writing in Kenya. The trick is to not do most of the writing yourself. Like any industry in this capitalist economy, you have to position yourself a little higher in the food chain to reap maximum profits from the efforts of the working masses.
Follow these steps carefully and you may just find yourself rolling in a shitload of money while other writers live up to the stereotype of always being broke, constantly complaining that it’s almost impossible to make a living from writing in Kenya.
Own an attractive platform.
This is the hardest part, but it’s the most important. You need to be the owner of a popular platform that attracts talented writers to submit their work. Some of the most successful models are entertainment and lifestyle magazines targeting the ever growing expatriate community. If you can’t raise the capital to go into print publishing, a website will do.
It may be hard work to get this up and running, especially with the costs of paying contributors for words you could have just as easily written yourself; but once the advertising money starts rolling in, this is where you stop working hard and start working smart.
Promises are worth more than gold.
Writers are often optimistic people, and they can live off of promises for a long time. To succeed here, you must cultivate trust. Start off by paying them their dues promptly when they first come on board, but only for a month or two. Any longer and you will be veering away from your target, which is to be filthy rich. Don’t let them get used to money, it jeopardizes your plan.
After this trust building period, start promising to pay ‘next week’ or ‘next month’ every time they ask for their dues. If they pressure you too much, pay them half of what is owed and promise that the rest will come along with the next paycheck. NEVER pay the full amount. Just make sure that they’re still working for you while waiting for their big pay day. If Christians are still waiting for the rapture, trust me, a writer will wait a few months for payday.
If you have been paying attention, you know that the rapture will happen before your writers get their payday. The only way to keep your gravy train on track is to lie. There is no wealth in ethical behavior. Lie about how much money you still haven’t received from advertisers, fabricate something called a late-pay system in which yours is the only company in Nairobi that’s not getting funds on time and complain about how you can’t access any of your money since your bank collapsed. Most importantly, never let any of them know when your business receives any money – nobody, not even the accountant; that is none of their concern.
Some of your writers may get tired and quit at this point, but don’t let that stop you from hiring new ones and taking them through the whole routine. In fact, fire the ones who have toughed it for more than a year, you don’t want to give them any sort of job security. They must be on tenterhooks all the time!
Lies are easy to recycle and you are running a green business. Be creative and add new lies where necessary, like promising a pay rise that will never come. Use the carrot and stick analogy as often as possible. If they even attempt to tell people outside the company the truth, make up lies about them and turn them into party anecdotes. Remember, the truth only sets you free to slide back into poverty.
Leave no paper trail.
Everyone knows the best way to do dirty business is to keep no records. Do not sign anything, this way you avoid all liability. Postpone the signing of contracts for as long as you can, if possible, avoid signing them altogether. Unfortunately you may get some pesky sticklers who are actually aware of their rights – don’t worry about these. Keep a generic contract in your archives that can be pulled up when the natives get too restless. If this still does not placate them, label them insubordinate and use any means necessary to get them out of the company lest they lead an uprising.
But remember, you shouldn’t ever implicate yourself. Get one of your minions – as you so lovingly refer to them – to do the dirty work for you. Remind them that no contracts were signed therefore no decorum should be followed. However when anyone dares to leave your company without any notice, kindly remind them of their obligations under the Employment Act that you never bothered to follow.
Take a long holiday.
By the time you get to this part, you are probably rich, at least richer than the writers you’ve manipulated and exploited to get to the position you’re in right now. It’s now time to make yourself scarce because the lies may be getting too worn out. You can afford a holiday to some place where these nagging writers can’t find you, and this is the time to take it. Go away and do rich people things like playing golf or windsurfing. Relax, nobody will find you in Latin America.
Do not attempt to ignore this part. Kenyans can be very irrational when it comes to money and your life may be at risk. If you choose to stay in town and frequent your usual clubs and massage spas, don’t be surprised when you find yourself watching an angry fist fly towards your face as you try to remember where you put your pants.
If any of them attempt to call you out on your careless expenditure, do not even attempt to lie, but use many meandering excuses to cover your tracks. Kenya was a British colony, so use as much American English as possible. If this fails, take another holiday immediately after that, because you need a tranquil getaway from all their incredulous demands of rent, healthcare and other nonsensical obligations. The nerve.
Play the victim.
Even despite this step by step guide, you may slip up and could eventually be exposed for your ways. But this is Kenya and accountability is just another word. When they come out baying for your blood, deny all accusations, counter-accuse and play the victim as fast you can. Say that they’re attacking you because of your race, or that they’re jealous of your success, whichever is more believable. Threaten to shut down your company; nothing puts the fear of the Lord in workers than having to go hungry because of someone else’s mistakes. This way, you can deter the other employees from daring to speak up.
Always remember, you have money, they can’t touch you. All will soon be forgotten and you can start over from the top if you want. Or can you?