Raymond Tan started Madebettr in 2015 after feeling jaded from climbing the corporate ladder and the constant need to justify his worth to the company. So far, it has been a great decision for him. Today, amongst his clients include Soup Restaurant and NTUC Membership. So what’s his story? We asked him.
What does your CV look like before you became an entrepreneur?
I started off as an in-house graphic designer at Challenger with no design education besides fiddling with photoshop during my poly days. A lot of stuff was self-taught from theory to technical skills. Then I realised that the job was stagnant, so I switched to a marketing role in another company, changed again to a marketing/design role, then went back to being a designer, then finally switched to the position of marketing communications.
Having a stable job is the default rule to earning a living in a structured society not just in Singapore but all over the world. What made you take the plunge to start your own business?
I think I told myself when I was young that I want to be a boss. I realised the possibility of starting my own business is real after I got my first freelance gig, which was designing a simple catalogue. I told myself, “Hey, I can bring in more income from this!”. Eventually, I started freelancing for about five years, before finally taking the plunge. Another reason why I did it is that I was quite tired of climbing the corporate ladder, where good work and performance are just a small part of the equation. So yes, it tipped me over to starting out on my own.
What were the initial considerations you thought through before deciding to quit your job?
Lol. Money, for sure. With commitments from phone bills to insurance to saving up for marriage and future home. I also considered the worst case scenario if I had no income, how much money would I need to set aside so I can maintain my lifestyle and necessities.
Did you start your business before or after you got married? What were your wife and your family’s reactions to your decision as it also means goodbye to job stability?
I started Madebettr before I got married. My parents and my wife were supportive. My parents told me as long as I know what I’m doing, by all means, go for it. My fiancée then (wife now) was also supportive, because I shared with her my plans such as my contingency plans, and also I have set aside an amount which I think would be enough for us to get married even if my business did not work out in the end. Without her full support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
How did you start Madebettr, your thought process? Was there prior research done on a need for design services or it was driven by the passion that you want to pursue? Why?
It was purely driven by a long-burning passion. I didn’t do any prior research as my previous work experiences and industry knowledge have already told me that there are plenty of agencies around, both big and small, and those who produce high-quality work that is price-driven. So I asked myself how I can position Madebettr to make myself unique?
Everyone’s creative ideas are unique to themselves. So what I can provide is to fuse design and my experience in marketing from the client’s perspective, together with the brand’s positioning and philosophy. On top of that, I believe my quality of work is better than the agencies who are price-driven, and my charges are more affordable as compared to the bigger and more established agencies.
What were your initial struggles and how did you manage them?
My initial struggles were self-discipline and complacency. There were days when there was no work to be done or rushed, and it’s often a struggle to utilise that time to grow the business. I depended heavily on the regular clients for work and forgot to court new clients for new projects. I came to a realisation when revenue dipped in my second half of the year since I established Madebettr.
I began to worry and started to think about how I could get more clients. I did up my website, polished my portfolio, drafted cold emails and did cold calls, and got myself out there to link up with some old contacts. Thankfully, I managed to get some referrals through that.
How long did it take for you to stabilise your finances?
Depends on how you define “stable”. When you’re in a business which is paid on project basis there won’t be a moment when it’s considered stable I guess? For me, I am blessed not to have encountered any problematic moments so far, because I don’t have much overhead or operating cost, and I did plan my finances properly before I started everything.
Have you ever regretted and thought of going back to the 8 – 5 jobs? What made you shake that mindset off?
A big “NO!” Haha! I have not regretted my decision so far, and the thought of going back never cross my mind. On the contrary, it is one of the many factors that pushes me to want to succeed. I have never liked the corporate environment, or climbing the corporate ladder, as my experiences have not been enjoyable. I cannot fathom the idea of boasting about your achievement each year during appraisal to fight for that bonus and promotion, and the routine life of an 8 to 5 job. And there’s no real 8 to 5. More than often you have to go the extra mile, so if I have to go the extra mile anyway for a fixed salary, why don’t I put in the effort for my business where the profit I earn is based on how much effort I put into it?
What’s next for you?
I would like to be more active in getting my brand out there, through social media and the digital space, improve my quality of work and the ideas behind it. I would also love to expand my network through events, but I’m not an extrovert at such events, so maybe the next thing for me is also to improve my self-confidence.