SPF15 – Kumon Assistant Instructor To A Digital Marketing Agency Owner – Herlene Somook

Watch another interesting and inspiring story on #JasSuccess as, WAHM, Herlene Somook shares her freelancing journey.

Herlene started out as a Kumon Assistant Instructor before she became a call center rep.

For five years, she has shifted from sales to tech, and finally outbound marketing before she transitioned to freelancing.

Tune in and find out how Herlene

✅ Pursued writing after learning about content marketing
✅ Started to run a content agency along with her client
✅ Started her own content agency where she handles a team of writers and social media managers.

and a lot more…

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Notable Quotes:

  • If people believe in you, who are you to take it for granted?
  • Every step of the way I’m scared. Siyempre kasi kumbaga I’m scared of losing what I already have. I’m scared of making mistakes. I’m scared of making a fool out of myself. And then sometimes when you say things na hindi mo naman kayang i-deliver pala. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to getting the little things done. Kasi yung mga maliliit na bagay na yan that’s how it’s going to prepare you for the bigger things.
  • But yung mga pinagdaanan ko na yun, it helped me become a better manager. It helped me become a better writer, a better person. Kasi, I was able to just take it a step at a time. So it’s just the little things that really count.
  • It’s hanging out with the right crowd. It’s picking out the right friends to hang out with. Kasi marami na rin akong naging ups and downs dito sa freelancing tapos every step of the way I have people who will help me or who would just remind me na “Oh, you’ve gone so far. You’ve done a lot.” So I think it matters to have the right people to hold your hand if you’re going through the difficult part and then raise your hands when you’re going through the victories.
  • Last year I handled a team of writers and social media managers tapos ako yung nag-train sa kanila. Hindi mo pala mare-realize na kung ano na yung narating mo unless you have people who are going to do your job.
  • Ang sinasabi nung ibang tao, it’s the years na nagka-count kapag freelancer ka. Honestly, I’ve been freelancing for 3 years but I feel like I’ve only been freelancing today. Parang ngayon pa lang talaga ako lumalabas sa shell. Na parang natututo akong maghanap ng clients. Natututo akong gumawa ng proposals. Natututo akong to know kung ano yung ibenta sa skills ko and the pricing and everything. Kasi before that, everything was just given to me.
  • Kasi minsan medyo mahirap intindihin pag newbie ka or nagsisimula ka pa lang kasi ang mindset natin lagi is parang kikitain mo na eh okay na yan. But if you think about it, there’s this currency that we all have pero hindi lahat vina-value which is time. Yung time na iti-take mo to create an
  • Lalo na kapag when you’re writing, when you’re creating articles, the articles that you create are not only articles, but it’s a testament to how good you are at what you do.
  •  The point is we as freelancers need to understand that what we’re producing is not merely the product. We are giving value and money is just the equivalent to the value of the time that we gave.
  •  If you are a newbie, the best thing that you can do is know the skills that you want to get paid for. And then improve that skill set by enrolling in workshops. Yun talaga yung, if you want to be successful at anything, that’s the best thing that you can do.


Herlene Somook’s Journey to Freelancing

  • Started as a part-time assistant instructor for pre-school teachers at Kumon back when she was in college. Then became a Kumon instructor for reading.
  • Her first course in college was Social Sciences but had to transfer schools. She then took B.S. Education major in English where she became an editor-in-chief of their college newspaper.
  • Eventually graduated in A.B. Psychology but worked in Convergys as a sales representative which she didn’t like.
  • Transferred to another company as a technical support for Wi-Fi.
  • Got married and had to move to Novaliches and she worked with her husband.
  • She then had to quit because she felt like she was not happy with her job and she was looking for something worthwhile.
  • A total of 5 years working in a call center and 4 years in Kumon.
  • After giving birth in 2012, she had a quarter-life crisis and wanted to do something that would change people’s lives. She wanted to do something that she would find meaning in her work.
  • Went back to Kumon and sold food and
  • Had the opportunity to start working from home for a Kickstarter company as a customer service representative and was transferred to logistics where she did invoices and coordinated to manufacturers. Their shoe product went out to be the top-selling shoes on Kickstarter.
  • But since logistics was not her forte she failed at that. She took a day off to think about what she wanted to do and decided to pursue writing. Her client made her focus on content marketing where she started doing research and she liked it.
  • With the other projects her client gave her, she learned how to design a newsletter, use MailChimp and more.
  • With the increasing inquiries about their services, they created their own content agency in September 2016.
  • Having gone beyond writing, she is now transitioning to become a content strategist.


Q&A Highlights

How did you get into writing?

 So nag-fail ako doon sa logistics tapos kinausap ako nung client ko. Tapos nag-prepare na ako ng resignation letter. Sabi ko I’m so sorry. I fail. I’m going to resign. Tapos sabi sa akin ng client ko “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay. We can figure it out. Just, I want you to think of what you are going to do. Even if we don’t work together anymore, I can refer you to other people.”

So I took a day off tapos pinag-isipan ko talaga. Sabi ko “Ano ba yung gusto kong gawin? Ano ba yung gusto kong ma-achieve sa buhay ko? Tapos I decided to write. Kasi sabi ko I’m good with people. Tapos I can write naman although hindi pa naman formally.

Ang nangyari meron kaming panibagong project. Kasi that time yung client ko was already taking up other Kickstarter projects tapos she asked us to do a P.R. tapos pinagsulat niya kaming dalawa. Kasi dalawa kaming V.A. So sabi niya mas magaling daw akong magsulat. So magmula noon sabi niya “I want you to focus on content marketing” tapos doon na ako mag-start mag-research and I liked it. That’s how I started writing.

With all the opportunities that came to you, how did you stop yourself from being scared or overwhelmed? How did you face the fear?

Actually tinanong ko yung client ko nung time na yun kung bakit hindi niya ako finire sa dami ng mistakes ko. Sabi niya “What’s good about you is you try.”

Kasi fear is always present. Hindi naman talaga siya mawawala. But what I do is I just stop and then breathe and then think of what to do next. Yun lang. And then just do it. Kasi madaming pwedeng maging mali. Ang mahalaga doon kasi is you figure out how to solve those concerns.

I’d like to try writing. Can you share what is the best way to start?

The best way to start is to read. Yun yung unang una. Kasi, you can’t write if you don’t read anything. Kailangan meron ka munang treasury, meron kang baul na pagkukuhanan ng ideas. Kailangan meron kang vocabulary to describe, to use when you’re describing the right words. At the same time, you have to have grammar, the syntax and all that. Hindi pwedeng sasabihin mo na “Tamad akong magbasa”. Writers are the best readers. So if you want to start writing, get a book, go browse a magazine, go online and read stuff. Kasi hindi ka pwedeng magsulat ng nakabase lang sa iyo.

You’re still running the digital agency, right? What can you share about what you really focus on right now?

Right now, I’m transitioning to becoming a content strategist. Kasi I’ve gone beyond writing.

What content strategists do is that’s thinking about the topics that are going to be discussed. Thinking about the topics, thinking about the keywords and the content, kung anong klaseng content. How are you going to present it? Then how are you going to have the writer write it down? And how are you going to optimize for SEO? Then how you are going to spread the content on social media. So currently that’s what my focus is.

Paano mo na-discover yung niche mo?

Na-discover ko yung niche ko kasi ang niche ko talaga when it comes to writing is entrepreneurship tapos digital marketing, management saka food writing. Kasi nagustuhan ko na rin siya. Parang at first yung topics kasi na dinidiscuss ng client ko is about entrepreneurship so natuwa na rin ako kasi I was learning a lot.

Kasi first and foremost, yung entrepreneurship, it deals with the mindset so that’s what I wanted to learn first. Yung mindset of an entrepreneur. Yung optimism na meron sila. Yung parang kahit napakaimposible, they can think it through. So I got attracted to that.

So that’s how I developed the niche din kasi I learned a lot about it tapos yung sa food naman ako, I really love food. Kasi I cook din so parang interesado ako sa food na pag kinakain mo, dini-determine mo kung ano yung nilagay, kung papaano yung process tapos kung papaano siya mai-improve.

You said that you are learning something new in freelancing, especially finding clients. Now that you’re learning this, how do you see this affecting you in the future? Like moving forward, like going through this experience.

First of all, you learn to value yourself. Kasi ngayon I’ve had offers sa Upwork na trabaho na pero hindi ko tinatanggap kasi I know that my skills are way above the price that you’re offering.

The people I talk to, they always tell me na “You know what? You should ask for the price that is according to the value that you’d give.”

Kasi yun yung hindi nare-realize nung iba eh. Kung ganoon ka din naman kagaling, eh oras yung labanan eh. Kapag nag-spend ka ng oras sa ganito, hindi mo naman na mababawi yun. Ang question na lang doon is what your services will bring to your customer. Anong klaseng return on investment yung maibibigay mo sa customer? And it’s not only limited to the numbers and to the amount.

Regarding content strategist, did you learn or reach that position through experience by writing content based on the guidelines needed or by writing many articles?

It is through writing articles. Kasi when you write articles, you are writing for an audience. So you get a feel of what is required of an article to convert.

I learned content strategy through writing a lot. And at the same time, yung learning about analytics. Kung ano yung mga articles. Kasi kapag meron kang website, meron din siyang kasamang Google analytics. Tapos you kind of see the behavior kung ano yung mga content na mas nagko-convert. At the same time, it’s also learning about yung feel nung audience.

Kasi ang ginagawa ko kasi tumatambay ako sa mga groups, kunyare mga entrepreneurship groups tapos makikita mo kasi kung ano yung mga pin points nila. Tapos doon ka rin matututo kung ano yung dapat mong isulat to answer the questions doon sa group na yon.

But it is still a work in progress. Kumbaga I’m not claiming that I’m an expert. I’m still learning a lot about it.

I’ve read from your recent post about ending contracts with long-term clients. How do you deal with the setbacks? Paano ka naka-move on?

Actually masakit talaga siya. Kasi alam mo yon, parang binigay mo na lahat. You just have to accept it. Yun yung first process. Kailangan mo talagang tanggapin na walang forever. And how did I deal? Nagmukmok. Tumigil ako ng ilang saglit tapos I talked to friends about it. Tapos I started applying for new contracts. I started applying the things I learned from the groups, the masterminds I joined. Tapos thankfully I landed a few jobs na nag-end din.

The first thing that you need to do is accept and then you move forward and do what you have to do. Yun lang. Pwedeng umiyak. Actually pwede siyang umiyak. Pero hindi ka pwedeng mag-linger kasi nga sayang ang oras, sayang ang panahon. Dadating din naman talaga yung para sa iyo.

We have a lot of people who are newer in freelancing, who haven’t been through your ups and downs. What advice can you give?

My best advice would be to enroll and learn as much as you can. Enroll in online courses, attend workshops, attend mixers kasi there are a lot of things that people can teach you. Take advantage of all of that kasi these people have gone through everything.

Ako dati, hindi ako masiyadong believer kasi parang feeling ko kaya ko yan kasi napagdaanan ko ng wala akong tinake na online course. But last year, we decided to invest our earnings in courses and workshops and masterminds and we’re getting the benefit of it.

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