Looking at Doralin and the work she does as a freelance web and mobile application designer, it is hard to imagine that she started off as an interactive web designer about eight years ago.

A diehard and proud Star Wars fan, Doralin owns her own UX/UI company, Design Ninja; a company that creates products to engage users and “roll in conversion” for businesses. When she isn’t busy travelling around the world to work on projects, Kelly teaches UX workshops and mentors for several incubators/ accelerators.

As a freelancer, she brings a different point of view to the #SavvyUp Together team; sharing how she has to manage expenses in a job without a fixed income but also challenges she faces in such a sphere.

What are the top two financial goals you have in 2018?

I’d like to set up a structure/plan to save more as well as create opportunities to passively grow my income through small investments to start off with.

Why do you want to achieve these goals?

As a freelancer,  I feel like I should learn to manage my finances better.

Over the past few years, I’ve earned and spent without much planning at all. I’d like to maintain my current ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle which involves frequent travel, but also start putting aside savings as well as looking into small investments to grow those savings.

How would you describe your relationship with money and financial management? Has this evolved?

Overall,  I’m fortunate to not have any debt (uni fees) to pay off as I started working 8 years ago after attaining my diploma in design. As far as my relationship with money and financial management goes, I still tend to spend without planning ahead for the future. I realise that this mindset will definitely need a change as I’m nearing my 30s.

Have you received financial advice before? If yes, what did you think of it? If not, why not?

No. To be honest, I never put that much thought into it other than setting aside savings from time to time.  

How would you describe your current financial situation? Are you satisfied with it? If not, how would you describe your ideal financial situation?

Overall, I’m relatively comfortable with my current financial situation. My partner and I stay in River Valley and we split rent as well as expenses 50/50. We also have 3 rescue dogs.

I generally do not have to worry about having enough money to pay monthly bills or expenses. At the same time, my ideal financial situation would be to continue travelling as I have been so far, but also to accumulate more savings with the future in mind. As well as start on small investments to grow those savings.

How do you manage your monthly income?

I just pay bills as they come along. Occasionally, I’ll make a deposit into my Savings account.

What are some of your most pressing financial concerns?

Mainly planning and saving for the future but also being able to maintain my current lifestyle (frequent travel, paying for the dog’s expenses, etc)

Financial freedom means different things to different people. Personally, what does being financially free mean to you?

One of the main reasons I started freelancing was so that I would be able to travel while working. To be financially free, given that, would mean that I could continue travelling while earning enough money to support myself. In other words, continuing to be able to travel frequently and comfortably.

How do you manage your expenses with a job where monthly pay tends to be irregular?

I pay myself a fixed dividend on a monthly basis and this acts as a salary. However, I make sure that I have enough projects to maintain the balance in my business account as well.

How do you ensure that your monthly expenditures are well taken care of?

I just pay bills as they come along. There’s honestly very little planning done on my part, which is an issue 🙁

With no corporate benefits such as health insurance and employer CPF contributions, how do you financially prepare for future potential mishaps (e.g. accidents, illness etc.)?

I have health insurance under my family’s plan and also my own travel insurance given that I travel frequently.

Since I’m not covered by company/group insurance and I don’t have much CPF/Medisave contribution. I’m also starting to look into purchasing a more comprehensive personal insurance with broader coverage.

Can you name 3 financial advantages and disadvantages of working as a freelancer?


  1. Being able to travel without worrying about taking leave
  2. The ability to set a rate for projects for yourself rather than having a fixed salary dictated by a company
  3. The ability to choose your own clients/ who you work with


  1. Not much stability; sometimes you have a million projects and other times very few
  2. No insurance/dental/work visas
  3. No annual bonus/promotions. Without a corporate ladder, it can be tricky to increase your rates even as a seasoned freelancer because increased rates could mean losing appeal to clients VS agencies.

What are some financial struggles you have faced as a freelancer? How did you overcome them?

When I first started out, I didn’t have a pool of clients/inbound leads. in fact, work was scarce and I was pretty broke for the first year. My partner and I stayed in an affordable HDB flat with 3 roommates and I even had to barter trade my design work for a seat at a coworking space. Thankfully, the coworking space provided networking opportunities that allowed me to build the network I rely on today.

Designing has always been a core passion of mine and I couldn’t ever imagine doing anything else. That undying love for design kept me going, and I always knew that hard work and grit would pay off.

Over time, a handful of projects that I started out with snowballed into referrals and more and more projects. I’m grateful on a daily basis that I’ve been able to do what I love and make a living from that

A lot of people have the idea that freelance work is not as financially rewarding as a corporate job. What are your thoughts on this? Have those closest to you expressed concern?

I’ve always felt uneasy at the thought of being stuck behind a desk at an office job that only allowed me 14/365 days of leave in a year.

Travel has always been a big part of my life as a third culture kid and I realised that having a corporate job wouldn’t give me sufficient freedom to travel. I had to find a way to balance doing what I love in both my career (design) and personal life (travel)

Travel and having the freedom to do what I want when I want is far more important to me than any financial reward. Being a freelancer can definitely be challenging but it’s worth it because I love what I do and I get to choose the people I work with which makes it even more rewarding. My family, friends, and partner have been nothing but supportive.

What financial advice do you have for individuals who are looking to transition to a more freelance based job?

Try to start with side projects on the weekend and build up a client base as much as possible before transitioning from your full-time job. That way, you’ll have a softer landing when you no longer have a fixed monthly income.

If that’s not an option, save as much as possible while you’re working. By doing that, you can support yourself for a few months after you quit even if freelance work is scarce in the beginning. Last, don’t give up hope! I’m a firm believer that if you love what you do, good things will happen.

What is one piece of financial advice you wish you knew before you went into freelancing?

I wish I saved more and spent less frivolously whenever I landed a big project.

Doralin’s carefree nature and financial goals match that of Lionel’s. Therefore, The New Savvy team hopes that this duo would benefit each other personally and financially!

Lionel Yeo is a self-proclaimed ramen-slurper, bathroom dancer and financial hacker behind www.cheerfulegg.com, a personal finance blog for young executives. He also secretly dances in his room.  He likes to pride himself on the fact that he used to be really good at the arcade game, Dance Dance Revolution.

He decided to learn more about financial management when he realised he had to grow his wealth to support his ageing parents and sister. Even with a Masters in Finance, Lionel was blown away by the world of investing.

He realised it was complicated and rather hard to navigate through, therefore, he started the blog to share his journey with others and hopefully make investing easier for everyone else.

Lionel believes that investing is like fitness, “just focus on the big wins, don’t worry about the minutia, and move on with the rest of your life”. Lionel also blogs about productivity, travel, career and any other random musings he might have.

Lionel hopes to help Doralin spend on things that she loves but also invest for the future.


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Founder @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is the Advisor (former CEO) of The New Savvy. She is currently the COO of ABZD Capital and the CMO of Gourmet Food Holdings, an investment firm focusing on opportunities in the global F&B industry. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna invests and sits on the board of a few startups. Anna is also part of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Career Women’s Group executive committee. Anna’s story is featured on Millionaire Minds on Channel NewsAsia. She hosts TV shows and events, namely for Channel NewsAsia’s “The Millennial Investor” and “Challenge Tomorrow”, a FinTech documentary. Anna was awarded “Her Times Youth Award” at the Rising50 Women Empowerment Gala, organised by the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore. The award was presented by His Excellency Ngurah Swajaya. She was also awarded Founder of the Year for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. She was also awarded the Women Empowerment Award by the Asian Business & Social Forum. Anna has been awarded LinkedIn Power Profiles for founders (2018, 2017), Tatler Gen T, The Peak’s Trailblazers under 40 and a nominee for the Women of The Future award by Aviva


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