The story of Abby and how she turned her passion into a business while on her one-month leave from her 9-5 job
A young engineer from the Philippines, Abegail Suwansri comes from a family of engineers. Although she always dreamed of being a digital nomad, she had to study engineering and began working in construction. Because she was not satisfied with her job, she suffered from panic attacks and anxiety even when she was working from home due to the Covid lockdown. When she talked to her manager to resign, she was offered a one month leave.
Rather than feeling sorry for herself, she enrolled in a graphic design course and used this month to learn, discover what she really truly enjoys and plan her next steps. At the end of the year, she resigned and became a full-time designer, creating the Bryght Creatives. Currently, she is working with people from all over the world to create memorable brands.
1- Can you tell our readers about your background?
I have always dreamed of being an artist ever since I was a kid. Coming from a family of engineers, I was always told that art wouldn’t pay the bills. As a result, I became an electrical engineer.
Despite studying engineering, I’ve always dreamed of being a digital nomad and working online. However, at the time I had no idea what it was called. Despite my best efforts, there was no substantial information on how to become one on the internet. Therefore, I put it aside. However, I never stopped dreaming about it.
I have worked in the construction industry for five years. Along with my full-time job, I worked all kinds of jobs related to the arts during those five years. For a while, I was a photographer and a videographer for a small studio. It was my way of coping with the stress of my day job.
My job has never been enjoyable for me. In the beginning, it was okay. It was something new that I had to learn, but as I got deeper into my job, it just seemed pointless. I was part of this amazing project that’s known around the world, but to me, it was just a building. It didn’t give me any pride or satisfaction.
In meetings and online seminars, I used to be amazed at how people were so enthusiastic about the latest trends in their field while I barely listened to the rest. That’s when I said to myself, “I guess this is really not for me.”
2- What Made You Take the Action to start your business?
The lockdown hasn’t been easy. Because most construction sites overseas were on hold due to an increase in covid cases, we thought the workload would decrease, but it wasn’t the case at our company. We were on a work from home setup since covid started in March.
For some, it could be a dream to be working your 8-5 job in the comfort of your own home but to me, it was a nightmare. Workload kept piling up, most days we’d have to work overtime and there were just never-ending deadlines.
I began to lose a lot of hair due to stress and I would cry in front of the computer every day or sing so loudly to relieve my anxiety. I was unable to sleep. Throughout the day, I would have sudden panic attacks. Seeing this, my mother was really concerned and said it was best to quit if I wasn’t happy or it didn’t work any longer.
It was around mid-July when I realized I couldn’t go on like this. I told my manager I was considering resigning. Since they didn’t want me to leave, they offered me a one-month leave instead. On the day I took my one month leave, a Facebook ad about freelancing popped up out of nowhere. I felt like the world was sending me a sign, so I enrolled on the course.
I took it easy for the first two weeks. My goal was to get more sleep, and to live without panic attacks and anxiety in the mornings. In addition to improving, I was also learning more about graphic design. I was happy again. It was something I enjoyed and something I actually wanted to learn. For me, it was more of a journey of discovering what else I was capable of in my life.
There was a point when I felt like I was doing something mischievous behind my employer’s back, and it was at that moment that I also decided that I would still quit even after taking that month off.
I started my own creative business and took on small projects at a time. With a firm plan to quit later in the year, I returned to my 8-5. November was when I finally sent in my resignation letter. My December was spent developing my portfolio, signing up for online work, and joining Facebook groups to look for work. In January 2021, I became a full-time designer.
I mentioned earlier that I worked as a photographer and videographer. As a videographer, I loved the fact that when a wedding was about to end and the same-day-edit video started playing, everyone turned to look at the screen and relived the day. Being a part of that was an amazing experience. It was like creating memories that people would be able to hold onto for the rest of their lives. My passion for art and desire to be able to be a part of creating something that would be remembered by my clients for the rest of their lives inspired me to start my business. In the beginning, of course, it was just about me taking a step out of my comfort zone, but I realized later that this isn’t just for me but for everyone who wanted to dream and create too. This is what inspired my businesses.
3- Where is your business based?
My business is based in the Philippines.
4- How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I took an online mentorship program while doing my daytime job while also taking online courses on graphic design.
5- What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
The most effective way I’ve found to raise awareness about my business was by posting on Facebook groups and sharing my work. I would sometimes get messages on inquiries about seeing my work in various groups.
6- What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge would probably be difficult clients and when a client says they think maybe I’m not a right fit for the job. And it happens. There isn’t one size fits all and this is most definitely true with people.
In the beginning, I would get upset, I’d have self-limiting beliefs that maybe I’m just not cut out for it. Maybe I’m not good enough but then I realize of course not. Not everyone is gonna like me. There will always be people who will say they don’t like the work I do and there will most definitely be people who do love my work.
I think it’s a matter of practice and getting the experience of working with all types of people. I do have a mentor who has taught me a lot on how to manage expectations as well as the clients. In this industry, you just have to realize that there will always be someone who is better than you, but no one is exactly like you. You just have to realize that and realize that our value as a person isn’t defined by the output of our work.
We are humans. We feel we breathe, we get sad, and sometimes we don’t get to put out our best work but that’s fine. The best way to address this is to say it out loud. Let yourself process it first and accept it. It gets easier with time and experience.
7- What personal sacrifices have you made throughout your career?
Sleep I guess, but not all the time. So far since I started my business, I feel like I’m able to do so much more than when I used to work at a corporation.
8- How do you stay focused?
I stick to a routine. Although I can work at any time of the day, I like sticking to a schedule. It gives me the energy to know that I can be done at a certain time and do other things after.
I also like keeping sticky notes with tick boxes with the tasks for the day. I like when I am able to check them all at the end of the day. This keeps me on track.
9- How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Aside from the services I offer, I really take the time to understand my clients’ needs and do my work with my best intentions and honesty. I mentioned earlier, I started this business because I wanted to help people create memories that would last a lifetime.
I always want my clients to have a great experience working with me not just as a service but as a person too
10- What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
The most effective would be posting on Facebook groups and Instagram.
“Your value as a person isn’t determined by the work output you create.”
11- What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Start. Believe in yourself because you are capable of so much more than you think.
Change your mindset. As opposed to asking, “What if I quit my job and don’t earn anything?” think, “I’m quitting my job, so I must make it work so that I never return to it again”. I had exactly these thoughts when I resigned. I felt ready to go.
If I lose anything, I am confident that I can regain it, since I wouldn’t let myself starve. I would definitely find a way. Perhaps you would think it would be better if I started earlier. The same thought crossed my mind as well. Perhaps if I had started sooner, I would have achieved more by now. But I realized that the me I am now is the one that was ready. Perhaps when I was still considering quitting, I wasn’t ready. I did not yet have the experience or mindset to really step up. Now is the perfect time for me to do it.
12- What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
Your value as a person isn’t determined by the work output you create.
13- How do you manage self-doubt?
Through the work I do, I try to remember and recall all the people I’ve helped and the lives I’ve changed. I focus on the positive. Whenever I feel I am lacking, I study. I rest and give myself the time to process things.
14- What’s your favourite app, blog, and book? Why?
I would recommend Duolingo for the app, even though it isn’t business-related. My Portuguese has really improved because of it. I’ve been learning it in order to expand my business.
My favourite book is Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. The book is surreal and enigmatic in nature. The majority of people would probably mention self-help and self-development books here, but I can’t think of any that I would absolutely call my favourite. I like to read manga and watch anime. My art style and work are greatly influenced by these things.
15- What’s your favourite business tool or resource? Why?
Calendly. It has been really helpful in scheduling meetings without having to talk back and forth with clients about what time they are available, especially since I work with clients all over the world.
It is also a good way to filter in clients. Those who can’t even take the time to schedule a quick call are probably not serious about their inquiry or aren’t interested in working with you.
16- Could you name a woman who’s inspired you the most?
My mom. She’s a single mother. It’s amazing to think how she was able to raise me and my brother on her own when we didn’t really have much.
17- How do you balance work and life?
I stick to a schedule and make sure that the things I do for myself like exercise and breaks are an actual part of my schedule and not just something to add in when I don’t have much to do.
18- How do you unplug from work?
My phone is always in do not disturb mode. So I don’t have to keep turning to look at my phone every time it rings. I think we’ve come into an age where we are all so dependent on our phones and without realizing it we actually look at our phones more often than we are supposed to like an addiction to just hold it. So keeping my phone on do not disturb helps me disconnect and lets me look at notifications to keep me updated later on in the day.
19- What do you have planned for the next six months?
As for the next six months, I don’t have a very grand plan but my first goal is to be able to consistently get clients every month, surpass my income goals, then finally focus on business growth and expansion.
20- How can our readers connect with you?