#SheCreates Series: Amalina Zakaria
Hello! My name is Amalina and I'm the co-founder of Hello Pomelo Creatives, a web and graphic design agency. I started the company with a friend from polytechnic, Denise Koh, after around 7 years of freelancing during my schooling years. Having interned at established web design agencies, we decided that we wanted to do more fulfilling projects and work on our own terms, so shortly after graduation from NTU, we started the company with hopes of providing agency-quality work at (more) affordable prices.
Our clients include startups, small, medium and some established ones as well. We've worked with people from a wide range of industries including medical, manufacturing, education, finance, recruitment, sports, travel and more!
1. What was some challenges you had as a freelancer?
There were numerous challenges I encountered when I first started out. I started out on my own, and didn't have any experience or a mentor to guide me along. I made a lot of rookie mistakes, such as not having a proper working agreement, not collecting deposits, depending on trust and relationships. I had clients who would start avoiding my messages after work was done. In the midst of all these, there were also many challenges in managing difficult clients while staying professional, people who are undervaluing you as a professional, people trying to take advantage of you, people demanding discounts because you are just a freelancer... the list goes on! Those were very hard lessons to learn - but what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And no doubt those bad experiences have definitely moulded me to who I am and what my business is today.
2. Was it any different once you’ve set up a web agency? How?
It has definitely improved, however the same issues do crop up once in a while. After almost 8 years in the business, I now have all these past experiences to help me through the similar situations. With an agency, you also become more credible than a freelancer, and people tend to accept your price easier. We've also rented an office space and that further boosts our credibility as a business and demands a bit more respect. For every project, we have written contracts and paperwork to minimize misunderstandings and disagreements. This was something I wish I had started with right off the bat!
3. There is this common belief that we have more freedom once we become our own boss. What do you think about that?
I believe that is true to a certain extent. There is a common belief that we have all the freedom in the world once we are our own boss, friends always say "You can go on a holiday anytime you want", "You can take a day off whenever you feel like it". Sometimes when they ask if I'm available for holidays or to go out during working days, I say I'll have to check and they'll joke "You have to ask your boss, is it?".
It is quite a misconception that own-bosses have no one to answer to or ask permission from. But it is the same problem, in another form. As the boss, I must think about the work that I am putting off by taking those days off, deadlines, missed opportunities, delayed projects. So essentially, I am bound by the schedule of my projects instead of a Monday - Friday commitment. Having said that, I do feel that I have more freedom compared to my peers. And I am thankful for having a partner working with me in the business - Denise. We takeover and handle each other's projects when the other goes for a holiday!
4. What do you do when you’re having a creative block?
My industry is on the internet, so whenever I have a creative block, I just surf the net. I look at things. I look at other websites. Websites such as Pinterest and Awwwards are amazing resources for creative inspiration.
5. How is your typical day like?
It's not very exciting but my typical day involves grabbing an iced mocha from the cafe near my office, and starting work at around 10am. I spend quite a bit of time answering sales and enquiry emails. Discussions, requests and project updates make up most of the rest of the day. Sometimes we have clients (potential or existing ones) come to the office to discuss about their project as well. Around 6pm, I leave the office and head home!
6. How do you take care of yourself (mentally and physically) to prepare your best self for work and life?
Prior to getting an office space, I found it very difficult to separate my work and home life. The line where you stop work and start to relax for the night was blurred when you're working at home. Right now I (try to) stick by a principal that work stays at the workplace. I think it is important for our mental and physical health to learn to draw the line and have that perfect balance in your life.
7. What is your beauty essential?
Can I pick 2? Definitely eyeliner and lipstick! Brightens up my tired face any day!
8. What’s your go-to outfit to look polished?
I love wearing fit-and-flare dresses with a pair of pumps or heels (if I'm feeling fancy), and my Kate Spade bag!
9. What is your favourite app or tool to help you run your life/biz?
At work, we use Trello to keep track of to-do lists, manage collaborations and to keep a visual look at everything that needs to be done. Google Calendar also does a great job at managing our appointments!
10. Any advice to budding entrepreneurs out there?
No job is without its difficulties and stress. While you may not be under pressure from an unreasonable, demanding boss like other people, there are other types of difficulties that you will encounter. Be true to yourself and never undervalue your services just because you are new or building a portfolio (that's what they will tell you to get a cheap price)!