Moonlighting in response to pandemic pain

New Content Item (1)
New Content Item (1)

What you need to know:

  • Professionals are increasingly turning to moonlighting as a way of cushioning themselves in the event of sudden job loss.
  • Four young professionals talk about how important their side jobs are to them and how they got those side gigs in this shrinking job market.

What else, besides your main job, do you do? Do you have an alternative source of income? What’s your greatest fear about losing your job?

Due to the economic effects of Covid-19, many employers around the world have had to issue redundancy notices and lay off their workers. In the process, millions have lost their livelihoods, and are inching slowly towards a life of poverty as the future looks even more uncertain.

Meanwhile, professionals are increasingly turning to moonlighting as a way of cushioning themselves in the event of sudden job loss.

Four young professionals talk about how important their side jobs are to them and how they got those side gigs in this shrinking job market. Do they feel financially secure? More accomplished?


New Content Item (1)
New Content Item (1)

I am a fashion designer and the founder of Go, a startup delivery company. I am trained in communication. Before I resigned last year, I was heading the marketing department of a local company.

I felt really insecure in my job. There was minimal growth and the compensation was poor. Attaining financial freedom was never guaranteed. This forced me to quit. No sooner had I resigned and started my own business than I realised that you don’t actually have to be employed if you can run a profitable business.

I’ve had a side hustle for as long as I’ve been working. The biggest challenge has always been employers who expect my complete loyalty. As a result, I’d have to attend to my clients only after office hours. Sometimes I have to work for long hours. Luckily, I can run most of my gigs from my smartphone.

There have, however, been difficulties in balancing my side jobs and my day job.

In many ways, this pandemic has created the need for innovation in most companies, and this is positive development.

When transitioning into the field of logistics, I hadn’t foreseen the current crisis. I only hoped to enable businesses meet their clients’ needs easily and affordably by offering courier services. Now, goods delivery is a thriving business!

Besides the quest for profits and the clamour for more clients, I now have an additional responsibility of paying salaries to my employees, which has been the most profound experience for me.

I’ve been jobless for months, having to survive by sheer luck. I’ve also been grossly underpaid while holding various positions. After several unsatisfactory employment experiences, I decided to set up my own venture, driven by the desire to get the satisfaction that comes from building an enterprise from the ground up.

From moguls such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, I have learnt that resilience, innovation and foresight are crucial in entrepreneurship. As a businessman, I have come to realise that time is the most valuable asset anyone has. If you compared your payslip against the amount of time you spend working for your employer, you’d realise just how much time you’re giving away for free.

That said, some people are better as employees while others thrive as business men and women. After all, professions such as medicine, law, finance and engineering will always require personnel with specialised skills.

New Content Item (2)
New Content Item (2)


I play for the national women’s hockey team and I double up as the captain of my school team. I also run a teenage girls’ empowerment initiative called Girls’ Boardroom.

As a fulltime student and a sportswoman with schoolwork and tight training schedules, my hands are often full. Still, I have bills to pay, and this pushed me to source for side jobs to supplement the pocket money I get from my parents.

I am an intern at a Nairobi-based law firm where I draft legal documents for pay. I also run a make-up outfit called Jars of Clay. This involves applying make-up to professionals or individuals for an income. I also help my parents do farming and during weekends, I assist my mother - a teacher - to record and post her online life skills tutorials.

During this period of economic turmoil and limited opportunities, I have been closely watching my spending and investing habits. I’ve had to strike the unnecessary items from my list of expenses.

As a final year student, I get so worried whenever I see or hear companies downsize or shut down completely because it means that they will not be able to take new employees. The biggest casualty of these job losses will be young people, and this is discouraging.

For this, I have become more open-minded. I am now willing to take on different internship opportunities even as I look forward to a more rewarding position. I also volunteer at my local church to create awareness on mental health among young people. This has allowed me to impact the lives of other people and to learn new skills.


New Content Item (2)
New Content Item (2)

I have a company that imports various goods such as furniture, clothing, footwear and accessories for sale. I’ve been in this business for two years now.

I am also an accounting expert. Through the knowledge I acquired while studying finance at the University of Nairobi, I can assist SMEs with bookkeeping and earn extra income while at it. I also help to source for capital for them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected traders. Consumer spending has declined as many people have either been sent on unpaid leave or lost jobs. Our sales have dropped by about 50 per cent. When many countries closed their borders in an attempt to flatten the curve, the flow of goods was interrupted. We haven’t had any new products coming in for several months. We are striving to remain afloat while clearing old stock in the hope that that normalcy will resume soon so that we can place fresh orders.

I studied in Nairobi where I witnessed firsthand how hard getting a job is. To get through college and meet my financial needs, I had to make money. I started off by managing a client’s social media account for pay.

While doing this, I would source for goods that are on sale online, then resell them at a profit. Upon graduation, I decided to expand my business by reinvesting the profits and injecting some money from my personal savings. It was a huge gamble that has since paid off.

Juggling my different roles isn’t easy. As the founder of a start-up, I wear many hats – accountant, credit officer, marketer and communication manager.

To do this effectively, planning is key. I create and schedule social media posts at night and on weekends, for instance. This gives me enough time to attend to client needs such as deliveries without any difficulties.

It is dreadful to imagine how things would be if I had only one source of income especially during this pandemic. A pay cut would be even more difficult to endure. I’d probably be facing retrenchment too. I am scared of being unable to pay my bills and to meet other financial obligations.

With my business, I feel more secure. My only concern right now is to grow my business.


New Content Item (2)
New Content Item (2)

I work in a government parastatal. After graduating from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), I couldn’t secure a stable job in the field of information and communication technology as fast as I’d expected. As I was searching, I decided to try several money making activities. That’s when I started selling mitumba bales. Shortly afterwards, I got a job as the ICT manager for two different corporate clients.

My motivation for moonlighting was to achieve financial independence. I hated having to wait for pay day to settle my bills. I was also insecure because my main job was based on short-term contracts.

Some employers require total loyalty and commitment. Being able to do something on the side, therefore, comes down to how effectively you divide your time within the week. As a marketer in a government institution, I am expected to work between 8am and 5pm. During this time, I put my best foot forward. Besides, there’s no conflict whatsoever between the government job, my ICT roles, and sale of secondhand clothes.

I get to focus on my side gigs on weekends when I’m off duty, but I also carve out a few hours on weekdays after work to attend to these side hustles.

At this point in my life, I feel that I’m yet to attain financial security. Would I consider taking on more jobs? Certainly. We’re going through very challenging times where a monthly salary isn’t enough to cater for all your needs anymore. To thrive, you must push your limits.

If I had enough money, I wouldn’t take on multiple jobs. Instead, I’d concentrate on becoming better at what I’m passionate about.

Working multiple jobs has come with a myriad lessons for me. I didn’t realise how much free time I had until I took up these extra gigs. I now use my time wisely. Having clear priorities has made me more decisive, which helps juggle my different roles with ease.

This has also been an opportunity for me to learn negotiation skills that are important in entrepreneurship. I am a better person now.

In terms of fulfillment at work, I’m yet to attain that. Currently, I’m working only for money. I would be happier to get a job that is in line with what I studied in university rather than to take on short term freelance gigs.