My name is Zeenat Anjum. My story begins with a purpose. Ever since I was a child, I liked reading and writing. It was like a safe space for me where I could be creative or whoever I wanted to be. I wanted to create influence through my words and it was not until the age of 8 that my teachers realized that I had talent because I was pretty much winning every writing competition locally. I had set my aim to go to a private college and polish my skills but as they say, “everything that glitters is not gold”.
By the time I turned 13, my father had a cardiac arrest and that was the time that I made up my mind to use my words as a way to earn and share the financial burden in any capacity. Things took time, it wasn’t easy since I started exploring freelancing at the age of 15. In the meantime, I handled the magazine of my school and looked after the monthly newsletter. That experience was one of the first professional services that I had offered in exchange for an extended time to read in the library. The experience was fun and I had some of the best teachers who were dedicated to helping me get a direction.
The initial journey:
My first few years as a freelancer were not that great. I started off working for a bit low rates but since I wanted to build a portfolio and explore more niches, I delivered the work with good quality and close deadlines. I found it the hard way that some of the local clients tend to exploit new freelancers by taking all the work credit and paying peanuts in return. I learned and explored the local and international markets and soon shifted my earning resource to international platforms like Upwork and Freelancer.
The freelance market had started to gain popularity in the late 2000s and I was among a few people who had already started earning through the platforms.
I continued full-time freelancing in college and that was also the time that the digitalization boom took place. My expertise and experience in content soon started diversifying to social media platforms and I had a few good-paying local clients who would take me on board as a blogger.
I gave personal blogging a try for good 3 years when it was not very popular in Pakistan. I had the privilege to work with some of the most credible brands but could not continue further because of my studies and freelancing hustle.
In the mid-2000s, I had a lot of work as a freelance writer, strategist, and marketer owing to my exposure to dozens of brands that I have had the chance to work with, through platforms and onsite. I even finished college and got enrolled in NED University of Engineering and Technology (one of the best engineering universities in Pakistan). My freelancing work continued and I had a good clientele under my name, after the struggle and learning experience of 6 years. I was proud of myself that during the 4-year journey of my B.E, not a semester had passed that I had asked my parents to look after my academic expenses. But you wonder what the cost was?
I was finishing off my university assignments till 6 in the evening inside the library and rushing home to continue my freelancing projects from 8 till midnight. This had started becoming a routine for me, and took a toll on my health greatly.
As a result, I started outsourcing my work to classmates because the amount of work that I had back then, was more than I could handle and I was having a hard time juggling my studies and work. My friends were also eager to have a side hustle and earn to bear their fee expenses, like me.
The success footprint:
With so much work and good reviews in the marketplaces, I had clients approaching me and that was one of the striking moments that made me realize that this could be done full-time even after I graduate. Hence, I formed a digital agency by the name of “The Masters” with my friends that would offer content, graphics, and basic web services. All of this was happening even before I had turned 20 and while being a second-year university student.
Work had been great since then. I discontinued my work from freelancing platforms since I had developed a pool of international clientele that would approach me directly via email. Plus, I had a couple of regular clients that were enough to run the agency successfully.
I have realized that the thing with growth, it’s not always constant. A person has to evolve and accelerate their pace to learn and adapt to new technology. My content expertise diversified to data analytics, digital marketing, project management, business intelligence, and much more after formal certifications from useful portals like Coursera. This not only helped myself and our agency gather a competitive edge but also gain leverage as a market leader at the same time.
In 2017, I formed a community for freelancers where people willing to learn more about the digital space can join in. Also, credible freelancers can share their experiences to help them excel through the community. The community got shortlisted for Facebook program #SheMeansBusiness and that was the moment I started Digiwrite as a registered organization. Amidst COVID-19, the services of Digiwrite have been extended to job creation and formal training services to create an ecosystem for freelancers to sustain themselves in the market financially.
The vision further extended to Digiwrite facilitating women who want to enter the freelancing market and do not have the direction to earn active or passive income.
The mentorship forte:
From 2017 to 2019, I have mentored dozens of startups and counseled students from my wide experience as a freelancer and a STEM advocate. I am always amazed by the ideas that young people have in their minds and with the aspirations they carry. Also, Digiwrite got shortlisted as a disruptive startup in “Get in the ring-Germany”.
We didn’t win but it is still a pride that as an organization, our work was getting noticed. Also, we have active collaborations with the agencies to hire freelancers from our enrolled batches.
In 2019, I also represented Pakistan in the Silicon Valley under Techwomen Fellowship Program. With STEM services as an add-on in the freelancing space, I wanted to implement and disrupt the local market through my experience there.
At present, I have a beautiful family with a toddler that I get to spend time with, along with my professional engagements in an efficient manner. With The Masters and Digiwrite as my ventures, I don’t just want to outreach but create a sustainable ecosystem for content creators and freelancers of Pakistan (with 60% majority of women to date).
I also run WLC-STEM (Women Leaders Circle-STEM) focused on bridging the gap and helping women and girls connect with mentors from the industries working in the national and the international markets. Freelancing gave me the freedom to utilize my expertise and have a good income out of it but the journey is still on a continuum with new skills evolving day by day.
Here are 5 of my most amazing tips that can help you in your journey, as they did in mine:
• Stay focused and resilient. Don’t get distracted and master one skill at a time. You can diversify yourself with the tools but the core skills should be the same.
• Explore yourself. Be it a skillset or some tool to accompany that skill, the sky is the limit. Make Youtube your teacher and develop yourself from scratch. Ask for guidance from senior freelancers or mentors (that we did not have back then). Have firm faith and always seek ALLAH’s help when you are in doubt.
• Always be humble and down to earth. Share what you know and have a healthy exchange of values. Maintain a good social circle that aims to create a positive impact in society and aligns with your purpose, passion, and profession.
• Start from the basics when you want to learn or understand something new. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
• Engage in regular charity. The amount donated doesn’t matter but it is the intent that is rewarded in many ways.