📒 Download Swarm's free starter guide to fractional work!

Back to Swarm Blog

What you Need to Know if Fractional Work is for you

Amera Ibrahim
Web Designer and Webflow Developer

How I started freelancing with Swarm

Starting my freelance journey with Swarm back in 2022 was the best decision I made. Being part of a community where we get to learn with each other inspires me to do my best work. I also met my mentor on how to get started and how to pitch my services to potential clients.

After working as a fractional designer on a remote island for a year, I’ve learned quite a few hard truths and learned to embrace a slower pace of life. I got full control over how I spend my time and what projects I choose. Before I went into fractional work, I joined a fintech startup that gave me the experience and leverage to get into this full-time.

Here are some lessons from my journey that you may incorporate into your freelance journey:

My remote island work adventure

So, what is it like working on a remote island? While working amidst a peaceful environment with a view of lush green hills, slow Wi-Fi connections, and frequent power interruptions, I discovered the true essence of simplicity and found solace in the beauty of the present moment.

As time went on, I learned to appreciate the opportunity to slow down and let go of things that were out of my control. I scheduled tasks strategically, focusing on offline work during periods of sluggish connectivity. Living on an island forced me to prioritize and become more efficient in my work habits.

Nature and my pets became my comfort, fueling my creativity and providing a respite from the challenges I faced.

Design with heart

Design for remembrance, not distraction.
Illustrated by Amera Ibrahim

One of the things I wanted to re-evaluate this year was my values in line with my work and thankfully I came across a program by Peter Gould called The Heart of Design, where we explored how to use design as a spiritual practice that aligns with my professional goals and interest in Islamic Art.

Here are some of the core principles of Heart-Centered Design and where I got to reflect on how I could apply these to my line of work and spiritual aspirations:

  • Service (Amanah • امانة) - Understand that our skills and capabilities are entrusted to us to empower others. Act of service is a way to foster like-hearted movement and strive for a better-shared future.
  • Blessings (Barakah • بركه) - Embrace a co-opetition mindset (not competition), where we work together and have a bigger impact. We need to believe in ourselves and build opportunities to design for positive change.
  • Intentionality (Niyyah • نية) - Seek inner clarity of purpose for each project and how we can reframe project outcome to be inclusive of financial impact and personal, and spiritual well-being.

He taught us that as designers we should always remember to “Design for remembrance, not distraction”.

Behind the scenes of aspiring Bhutanese students learning about my fractional journey

After taking the program, Diego Menchaca from Product Alchemy gave me an opportunity to give a talk on my fractional journey to aspiring Bhutanese students who wanted to be designers. Through that experience, I was able to embody The Heart of Design, where I highlighted that we should do our best to be of service to people and create transformative work rather than it being transactional.

Snippets of GCIA website launch on April 2023

Islamic Art is a deep spiritual practice that goes beyond aesthetics and is interconnected with my experiences especially when it comes to design. I've started to appreciate this art form more deeply recently this year as I've advocated the preservation of Islamic Art by volunteering at the Global Centre of Islamic Art (GCIA), where we make it accessible around the world.

Visited the Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia for the first time

Islamic Art is a means of spiritual connection, a journey of self-discovery, and a celebration of the divine beauty that permeates our world and this led me to see design as a spiritual practice. While design is spiritual, we can’t ignore the minutiae of working fractionally.

Things that I struggle with that even working fractional can't solve

  • Scaling a business - It has been challenging to think long-term about how I can scale my fractional work and what are the things I have to consider when starting a business.
  • Picking a route - Niching down can be tricky. You’ll need to figure out what works best for you and what possible routes should take a couple of years from now. Fractionals who do this type of work usually go the agency route or continue to sharpen their skills to seal big client deals.
  • No linear career ladder - Lack of clear career progression can create a sense of uncertainty and may hold you back due to discomfort.
  • Accountability - The temptation to procrastinate and the lack of external team structures make having accountability hard especially when you work in a remote environment. It also becomes easy to get distracted and delay your work.

Here’s why fractional work might be for you

Ultimately, whether fractional work is the right fit for you depends on your individual preferences, skills, and circumstances. It's important to consider these factors and evaluate how they align with your career goals, spiritual aspirations, and lifestyle choices to do meaningful work.

  • Entrepreneurial Spirit - You have the opportunity to manage your career, market your services, and in line with your spiritual values. You’re in the driver’s seat of your career!
  • Generalist - Fractional work is often ideal for individuals with a broad range of skills and expertise rather than those who specialize in one specific area. If you enjoy working on diverse projects and have a versatile skill set, fractional work can be a good fit.
  • Flexibility - Fractional work typically offers a more flexible schedule than traditional full-time employment. If you value the ability to set your hours, work from various locations, and have control over your time, fractional work can be advantageous.
  • Personal Development - Fractional work offers opportunities for continuous personal and professional development. Wearing multiple hats across different projects, clients, and industries teaches you the ropes of running a business.
  • Diverse Projects - If you thrive on variety and enjoy taking on different projects, fractional work can provide opportunities to work on a range of assignments for various clients or employers.

I hope you found these lessons valuable, and if you are on the same journey as me, I urge you to celebrate your small wins and enjoy the process of self-discovery. I believe that fractional work allows me to not only design websites but also design my life where I redefine success to consider spiritual & life goals beyond commercial outcomes.

Lastly, I’d like to end with a quote from a book called “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett.

"A well-designed life is a life that is generative - it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving and there is always the possibility of surprise. You get out of it more than you put in. Living coherently doesn't mean everything is in perfect order all the time. It means you are living in alignment with your values and have not sacrificed your integrity along the way.”

If you want to read more from me, feel free to check out my newsletter on Substack!


Amera Ibrahim
Web Designer and Webflow Developer
Amera is a full-time freelance Web Designer and Webflow Developer, specializing in designing for early-stage startups and established businesses. Previously, Amera designed product at NextPay (YC W21).
Web Design

Start your fractional journey