7 Struggles That Are Way Too Real For Creative Freelancers In Nairobi

Any creative freelancer will tell you that while completing and delivering the job is incredibly satisfying, every day is a blend of stress, unreasonable deadlines, delayed checks, needless negotiations and you are somehow expected to take the high road, almost always.

If you are new to the game, prepare thyself, no one has a degree in ‘Creative Freelancing‘ and no one really cares. You’ve got the talent?  Sawa. You’ve got the credentials? Fiti. You got the equipment? Ah, you are just the guy!

Can you create ‘The Martian’ into a wedding video, make sure I can see my two aunts and all their kids. Also, I want this in a week. I have 30k, we’re good?


Now while there is a lot of honourable people that will respect what you do and treat you so, there is another crowd that these team of creatives is all too familiar with.

1. I am an artist, not a labourer

One serious struggle is having to convince your client, or everyone really that being a creative is a SKILL, not a hobby you do sometimes for fun.

Nicholas Wambugu – Film Director, Actor

“Most clients think that art is kind of a side job that you can do it for free or without pay. They also don’t see the effort it takes to develop a skill. To some people, this is as easy as slashing grass for the government”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Nick (@nickwambugu) on


2. Feedback is taken into consideration, impositions are not welcome

No one like to be told how to do their job, it is demoralising as much as it is demeaning. I personally have had my own piece of that cake.

Cherie Lindiwe – Writer, Filmmaker 

“No one likes a micromanager. I have had clients that would call you at any time of day or night, and expect you to send them the product even when it is not ready just so they can have a look. I end up taking twice the amount of time that I otherwise would have.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cherie Lindiwe (@cherielindiwe) on

3. I get it way cheaper than this other guy, he’s just out of town or dead

This is the worst. Everyone is trying to be cheap, they don’t care about you or your costs, or your feelings.

Onyango Ayany – Still and Motion Photographer

“Well that’s good, you should just go ahead and go with that guy then if you feel the only difference between me and him is the price. Either you see the value and quality in my work, or you don’t. It’s clear cut.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Onyango Ayany (@pikchaguy) on


4. If your concept is bad, sorry all the magic in the world won’t cut it for you 

When you are expected to turn Cinderella’s raggy clothes into a fine evening ball gown.

Mutana Gakuru – Filmmaker, Photographer,Rapper 


“Funny thing is, they never seem to come up with anything better. I just attended a meeting with a high level professional in an international NGO. I was surprised to find that this guy wasn’t even paying attention to our concept pitch yet at the end of it all said “Sorry, we don’t fund such projects. Please refer to our website on the kind of projects we fund” Something we had done, making sure our mission is relevant to them. It’s a daily struggle”

5.  Just do it for us free, we’ll give you plenty of exposure

Don’t we all just love exposure? Yeah, that’s great, expose me to the money.

Jessica Mittei – Visual Creative, Writer 

“The most common proposal I get is “I’ll give you exposure” which sounds all nice but I also have bills to pay, and whatever I create for you costs me money to make. So unless the exposure is a direct introduction to a paying client, it doesn’t really help me.”

Marcus Maina – Filmmaker 

“I’ve had absurd promises from clients. One even promised to pay my flight and upkeep in USA for a TV series production work. It was only later that I found out it was not possible as he didn’t have anything to offer than cheap talk.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mark Maina (@marcusmaina) on

6. You’re a freelancer, is it OKAY to call you at 2 am for this one thing?

After all, what would you rather be doing at 2 am?

Lisa Mugera – Afro Soul Musician 

“This comes in the fine line spectrum between business and making things personal, especially since music is very emotional, and so creates room for discrepancies of boundaries. I think I always try to keep things very professional. No calls past 10pm. I think that’s fair enough. Unless of course, it’s Jill Scott’s manager.  That would be an exception.”

And fiiiinally …

7. You didn’t get the cheque, hmm weird, maybe I dreamed of it

Singing to self * Why are you lying, why you always lying, mmm Oh my God.

Eric Mwaura – Filmmaker 

“I have gone to the cops and used a lawyer just to get my other half of a deal from a client that was being stubborn. When you are working alone, it is so easy to get taken advantage of. It is quite sickening”

What has your experience been in the creative industry? Share them in the comments.


Related Stories