Najmah, Web Designer

Najmah Guavabean

Hi, I'm Najmah and I'm from the Philippines.

I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, but I came back to the Philippines to pursue my academic and life goals. I'm a multi-passionate person doing both science and art.

What do you do?

I’m a blogger and the founder of my own freelance business, Webstylogist, where I offer web design and other digital services. I’m also pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor: I'm currently a medical student in Manila.

How did you become a freelancer?

During high school, I enjoyed exploring computers by myself. Internet access wasn't widely spread at that time, so I learned how to use every offline software program out of curiosity. In college, internet became more easily accessible. I took that as an opportunity to explore and I learned how to code websites, design graphics, Photoshop, edit videos, create blogs, etc.

Eventually, I realized I had learned multiple tech skills, and so I started building my own website, which became a platform for me to showcase my skills, impress potential clients, get to know other freelancers, and learn more ways to earn online (such as offering creative/tech services and selling digital products).

Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?

I found my first client on a Facebook group for women bloggers. I was offering quick advice and support for free until my first client approached me to design a simple blog page. That led me to more freelance work from Facebook.

What expectations did you have going into this kind of job? And how has it been the same or different from what you expected?

At first, I didn't look at freelancing as an opportunity to earn. It was just something I enjoyed doing. I just wanted to help. I even offered my services from the cheapest rate or free. I wasn't choosing projects. I just kept saying ‘yes’ to requests and offers. I ended up loaded with too many responsibilities that were not beneficial at all. I had some failures and made some mistakes when I started freelancing but I took those as learning opportunities.

I still enjoy doing the same work but I know my worth now. My rate increased 20x. I only work with a few clients or projects in a month, and I only work on projects I know will help me grow and that are worth investing my time into.

What’s your favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?

I am a medical student who spends 8–9 hours at school so working from home is the only possible way for me to work with amazing clients while building my own business and earning from it.

I also love the fact that most of my clients are 10–12 hours behind because it means we can have a morning talk/work update after I'm already done with my classes and school assignments.

What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?

There are times when I get sick or some emergency situations arise that are beyond my control. In those times, being a freelancer who does everything alone/solo is a disadvantage.  Some days, I need someone to communicate with my clients about a situation or do minor tasks while I'm away. I'm not yet ready to hire a VA but that's probably the direction I'm going to go in soon.

How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer? Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?

Being a medical student is stressful not only mentally and physically, but financially too. But at the age of 24, I’m at the point where I no longer want to be 100% dependent on someone or something else when it comes to my finances.

Although I am still a student, I feel it's time for me to pay my expenses.

I'm glad that freelancing helps me pay my monthly bills, provide allowances for my high school niece, contribute to both our tuition fees, buy stuff we need for school and home, have money for a vacation, and buy the digital products/tools/apps that I need for my freelance work.

There's still more work to do to be 100% financially independent, but I'm already happy with the changes. I'm no longer relying on monthly allowances from my parents, which is huge for me.

How did you price your services when you were just starting out?

I was totally clueless. I didn't know anyone personally who freelanced. When I was approached by my first client, she was expecting a sudden response for a rate. I just said $50 right away, although I read articles saying that they charged hundreds to thousands USD. I didn't feel that my skills were advanced enough to charge that much.

Eventually, I realized I charged too little for the quality of work I was offering at that time. I wish I had known someone I could ask for advice regarding pricing my services correctly. {Note: If you need help pricing your services, just ask in the GUAVABEAN Facebook Group}

What was your biggest struggle when you were just starting out?

Time management. I used to accept all projects and offers, but now I know how to pace myself. I only take 1 complete web design project per month and do 15-20 hours/week of online assistance. My struggle now is finding time to work on my own business goals.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew back then?

I wish I knew that freelancing is a real and professional job that must be taken seriously. Just like any other job, it requires work ethics, skills, continuous learning and experience, contracts, formality, etc.

Although it is not always necessary for beginners, it is good for a freelancer to build an online profile and credibility by building work systems/processes, contracts, forms, a professional website, a LinkedIn profile, other online profiles, and samples of work.

What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?

Currently, I get jobs through recommendations from previous clients and applying to job offers posted on Facebook. {Click here to check out the latest jobs in the Freelancer Group}

What's one BIG lesson you learned the hard way on your freelancer journey?

Saying “no”. It was hard to reject offers and to stop being the “yes” person. I went through burn out several times trying to please everyone and thinking that by working with everyone I'm making progress. I wasn’t. Burnout made me stop freelancing and blogging for almost two years.

I decided to come back to freelancing earlier this year (2018), but I worked under an agency at first. Just recently I launched my own business website where I'm offering my web design and virtual assistance services independently.

How do you stay motivated when work is tough or there aren’t enough jobs coming in?

My business website has a blog section, so when there's no work coming in for me, I create content that I know will benefit my readers. Through blogging, I know I'm reaching out to more potential clients.

When freelancing gets tough, I always make sure that I take a break to watch a movie, listen to my favorite podcasts, read books, or write a blog.

If you met a new freelancer who wanted to get into your line of work, what advice would you give them?

Don't belittle your work, the quality of service you can offer, and the growth you can contribute to your clients' business. You don't have to start out as excellent, you just have to be eager and interested.

You should commit to learning and getting more experience so you can always provide the best, and say YES only to opportunities that will really make you grow.

Accept projects that you can handle. It's better to have fewer projects where you can exert your full effort and excellent work rather than having several projects that will make you gain bad testimonials.

Don't forget the contract!  Include the nature of your work, and your responsibilities as the freelancer and the responsibilities of the client as well. It should be teamwork. Also, writing it all out in a contract will save you from clients that might take advantage of you, stress you out, or ask for tasks that are not part of the deal.

Any tips or tricks for working with difficult clients?

As freelancers, we always have the power to choose the clients and projects we work with. As much as possible, you should thoroughly research the job you are applying to and have a getting-to-know-each-other call or chat so both of you can decide if it’s a great match.

In cases where you don't have any choice but to keep on working with difficult clients, apologize and always keep calm. Let the client talk about the issue while you listen. Apologize and make them feel that you are taking their issues seriously.

If they have a point and you really committed a mistake, be honest with them. Then propose solutions for them to feel better. Always give them options. One client can ruin your image as a freelancer. One bad testimonial can turn your potential clients away from your website or profile.

Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?

I am at med school 8–5 and I know training will keep me at the hospital longer - I'm totally fine with that. There's something special about my medical journey that I can't give up, despite seeing how my freelance business is a lot less stressful compared to the hospital set-up and how it can support me financially (maybe even more than my medical career).

Although it's my goal to expand my freelance business, I don’t want to close any doors on the opportunities that medicine has in store for me. I can't give up one for the other. I know it'll be difficult so I’m open to expanding my freelance team in the near future.

What are your favorite tools for work? Any apps or programs you love?

I use Trello for organizing my personal and freelance projects. I also use Trello in planning my life goals. Google forms, docs, slides, etc. are my go-to online apps. Google Keep is my favorite quick note-taking app! I'm also a fan of google chrome extensions :  LastPass for password management, ColorZilla for color picking, WhatFont for font detecting, and Full Page Screen Capture for instant screen capture.

Connect further with Najmah via:

Her business website
Her personal blog

More Freelancer Stories 💪


Want to share YOUR freelancer story?


👇 #sharingiscaring 👇

Did you love this Freelancer Story? Share it with your friends and leave a comment below (no email required).