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Azleen Abdul Rahim

The Journey Of A Digital Marketing Hitman, 6 Real-Life Lessons To Be Learned

Today, marked my 7th year being one of the real warrior of modern days. There are thousands of modern warriors out there like me who believe in living life to its fullest. I want to live a meaningful life so that I don’t regret on things later in life.

I have been in the Marketing industry like almost forever. I graduated from a local university up north called Universiti Utara Malaysia back in 1997 majoring in Marketing and I straight-away jumped into the industry after that. It’s always within the vertical of Marketing from that day till now. I sold my soul to the evil of employment for close to 13 years until one day I found out that this method wasn’t for me. My final employment was with one of the subsidiaries of Siemens Malaysia back in 2010. Since then I was on my own. Despite having a small team behind me and a registered company, I considered myself as a freelancer still.

Today, marked my 7th year being one of the real warriors of modern days. There are thousands of modern warriors out there like me who believe in living life to its fullest. I want to live a meaningful life so that I don’t regret on it later in life. That is why the precious time spent for my loved ones and myself must be well balanced with time allocated to acquire financial resources. I need to be sure that I earn enough for sustainability. This is the reason why I opt to become ‘just’ a freelancer. 

Before you decide to submit that resignation letter, proceed to clear your cubicle and officially announce to your friends that you’re now an entrepreneur, please read these lessons carefully. I learned it the hard way, and you will too. I must admit, yes, the journey is rewarding. In my case it is far better than the employment world definitely, but to reach that point it will consume you physically, emotionally and spiritually too. Here’s my story.

Money = Family

Some people say that we are living in the greatest time ever. Evolutions after evolutions being surfaced, with new modern terms pop-up every single day until even dictionary is struggling to keep up. Being a GenX, I see how things are developing. Yet, I find one thing disturbing.

We are living in the era whereby family relationship is pretty much equivalent to the amount of money we have. This can be really challenging. Perhaps the challenging word is a bit of understatement. Perhaps tough is a better word. Yes, you heard me right. We are living in the hypocritical era that the amount of money will dictate the size of your family. The more money you have, the bigger your ‘family’ size you will have. Vice versa, if we have no money you can see that the same ‘family’ members will stay away from you. They don’t even invite you to their daughter’s wedding reception. If you don’t believe me, be my guest to test the theory.

When I began my journey as a freelancer, I went through hell. The reality seem different than the plan drawn. Things weren’t as colourful as I initially thought. In a matter of months, everything went black only and no other colours. The situation worsen on the day I really drained everything. Along the way, I slowly lost my membership to the family members ecosystem. This went on for years. I was on my own in a true sense of word.

Life, no matter how bad it went, is always like a wheel. I survived. On the final week of November 2015, I finally tasted success. Real one. In a matter of weeks, I can see, my family membership is automatically renewed. Yet it never felt the same anymore. There is a scar. To this very day, I personally don’t believe the word family is for blood-related only. Being bonded by blood doesn’t necessary mean they are supportive, not especially when it involves money. A real family can come from real friends too who want to be with you thick and thin. Now I have thousands of them.

I have friends who were separated from their beloved spouse and children in the name of entrepreneurship and dreams. Can you actually endure this risk before tasting success?


I admit that I am blessed with creative ideas, resourceful in terms of knowledge and vision to see things beyond the reach of other people. Both my mom dan late dad were  primary school teachers. I remember our family lived very modestly, with the paychecks of primary school teachers. Many of luxury things my friends owned at their home weren’t available at ours. Despite living moderately, my parents were respectable within the teaching community in the state where we stayed, Perlis. Until today, 17 years after my late dad retired back in the year 2000 many younger generations of teachers know who my father was. When he passed on in 2002, thousands came to pay their last respect. I was taught by them that the ultimate purpose of life is not about acquiring wealth or becoming someone important. It’s beyond that.

It is to share knowledge to others.Once we moved on from this world, we shall leave a legacy to the people, to the next generation that will lead to the evolvement of humanity. If you noticed, we are living today because of somebody left us their legacy behind. We are enjoying the trees planted by those great people generations ago, years ago. Since that day, I never look at things the same way again. I see them from the bigger picture, always, and that includes Marketing too. If you can see things from the bigger picture, you will learn and understand them better.

Similar to Elon Musk, I also learned how to grasp information I observed or read and break them down into smaller conceptual pieces. Then I reconstruct those pieces into a new, workable formula to suit the current scenario in hand. In other words, it is called common sense –  the Why. In Marketing, regardless whether it is a traditional or digital, once you understand the underlying common sense or the why, you will be able to construct a formula. And this formula you can use it no matter how frequent the trend is fluctuating. Therefore, to be successful I must be resourceful. And to be resourceful I need to read, observe, practice and share it out. Yeah, creativity counts too.

Do you read? If you don’t then your upcoming hurdles could be tougher than mine.

Walk Away From The Noise, With Style.

There are a lot of noises out there. From people who wants to sell you something you don’t need to people who wants to befriend you because they think you can be taken advantage of and people who keep on asking for your ideas for their own success only. You will also come across ungrateful clients who stop your contracts for no reason in the middle of the way and don’t bother to pay you, clients who are emotional in making decisions and cheapskate clients who want to want to pay you peanuts hoping to get their 20-year-old problems in generating revenues solved in a month or two.

People know me as a digital marketing freelancer, therefore they thought I deserve this kind of treatment. Well, they are wrong. If I could smell these early, I’d just walk away. I don’t need to serve these sort of people. They don’t deserve me at all.

That is why if you are seriously considering to become a freelancer or an entrepreneur of this sort, the value proposition is extremely critical. This is how you build your authority and generate leads without having to sell. You can make them buy without selling. And this is called Inbound Marketing. If you can master this skill, you can filter all these noises almost instantly. Only genuine set of opportunities will come your way. And the benefit doesn’t stop here.

You can dictate everything too, even the price. You see, if I sell my services, the client won’t look at me at the eye level. They will see me as a freelancer who badly want their business, hence the situation will allow them to dictate the entire situation. I can’t allow this to happen. But if you make them come to you, then you are in a better position to dictate.

And to make them come, you need authority. You need your value proposition to be well understood. You need to make it rare and special. A brand that is so rare and special that every single customer wants a piece of you.

Patience is the name of the game here. Are you game for this?

Win The Heart Of All Followers, Connections, CommunityAnd Friends In The Name Of Authority

To become an authority of a certain subject or industry, it has to start now. And it starts with numbers. Understand this, the first impression people will see in my brand would be the number of followers I have on my social channels. These people just want to see the ultimate number and they don’t care whether the followers are human or just bots. That’s it. If they see a huge number there, they’ll say Wow, this guy is really something. On the other had, if the number is low, they’ll just ignore you.

I decided not to play the same game like what others are playing. They went short cut, they bought fake followers. They ramped up their followers to five or six digits followers to impress people. If I were to follow this method, my online presence will suffer as the engagement on all my social postings engagements will be low. I decided the opposite. I work harder to become a guy with substance.

Once they see those substance, they will understand why I must be followed. Why they must trust me. You too can enjoy the same level of engagements if you have the real followers. So whilst others are  building followers, you build engaging followers. Be very close to them, be on their side. This how you build trust, and this is how you build your authority.

My theory, people will always buy a product from an authoritative brand. Just look at Apple, IKEA, Victoria Secret, AirAsia, Hard Rock and a few others. They make people queuing up to pay them. They created a cult, a movement out of their brand. And I am going that path and the work is in progress now.

This will involve some minor investments, especially on establishing websites and getting your name discovered. Are you willing to spend despite the fact that your pocket is drying out of funds?

Play It Safe, Play Something That You Can Control.

My team is small. I just have two of them, the GenYs. They aren’t perfect, a number of flaws but the attitude is very positive. They are just like me. I am also a human with too many flaws built-in. To me, as long as these youngsters are willing to learn I am more than happy to support them all the way.

Some customers we had were perfectionists. Quite a number of them we no longer work with and some we are about to lose due to us making mistakes but it is okay. These brands boast well on their social media talking about how great they are when it comes to the topic of Leadership and how they are okay and receptive to making mistakes kind of bullsh*t but again as usual, everything is just a freaking lip service. Nothing more.

My team, together with me are okay with this nevertheless, we are learning from it and we learned it together internally as a team. Things will definitely get better as we go along. Now we just sustain customers who are willing to be with us long-term. Opportunities will come, sooner or later. We will continue to strive what we know best, managing customers’ social media channels. From posting to copywriting great captions, engagements and adding up followers, we do all. This is what we know best. 

I believe opportunity is like a bus stop. It will come again, and again. And I also believe that this weird philosophy will only work if I continue to build our brands and share beneficial content multiple times a day with our community across our channels. I feel that as long as we continue to be part of their life and career, developing our community members to be better, I should be okay.

Why Me?

This is the ultimate question many brands failed to answer. Being a freelancer, I need to compete with hundreds of thousands of other digital marketing freelancers too. I need to stand out and be seen by the market. To get noticed, I need to give, give and give. That’s why you are seeing me do nothing but sharing good stuff with you online. Give doesn’t mean I have to spill over everything, there is always a line to it. When there is a requirement to personalise in the knowledge-sharing, this is when I impose a small fee. It is a fraction of the market rate. I don’t intend to make a lot in a short period of time, but just enough. Just enough to pay for my bills, my children’s school fees and household expenses. That’s all.

No matter how strong my value is, there are customers just don’t quite appreciate it. Again, money rules and usually becomes the ultimate decision criteria. In the Marketing industry, you must know that the digital marketers are separated by men and boys. Real men of the industry don’t play the same game as the boys. I noticed the market are inclining towards giving businesses to the boys because they can offer their services at a price that is almost free. When things gone bad, the same customer who first rejected the proposal from the men finally came back for help to neutralise the situation, hoping to acquire a real expertise at the same rate they’re paying those boys. Normally the attempt will fail. These men have value that are well reflected by the pricing structure. Those came out of the tears, sweat and blood.

So, have you figure out why must your customer choose you and not the other guy?

I am a Digital Marketing Hitman, one of the real men in the industry and these are the reality you are about to face if you opt to become a modern warrior like me. What are you prepared to do?

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Written By

Azleen Abdul Rahim is the Co-Founder of Marketing In Asia. He also runs NSE, a social media management company. Follow him on LinkedIn.




    3rd December 2018 at 8:38 am

    Now I understand why my gut feel makes me follow you. Oh Guru.. teach me more


    13th December 2018 at 1:27 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’m the similiar journey with you now and can totally relate. Keep up the good work Azleen

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