Setting up a business is not the priority for most people in their early teens. Unlike most kids his age who solely focus on studies, this Abu Dhabi teen is pursuing a different path. At 14 years old, Moosa Hafan, an Indian expat, is already an established photographer and on his way to fulfilling his dream of owning and managing a marketing agency. Hailing from the Kasargod district in Kerala, he is building the foundation for a successful professional journey.
With guidance and support from his parents, Mohammed Haneef and Rahmath Beevi, Hafan started to turn his hobby into a business, soon earning Dh5000 to 8000 per month.
Speaking to Gulf News, he said: "I was very fond of photography since the age of 7. I began taking pictures with my cousin's camera, which brought me immense joy. From that moment on, I knew that photography was my passion and what I wanted to pursue for the long term.
I also had an interest in graphics design and learned how to create logos and designs by watching YouTube channels. However, I realised that I needed to expand my skill set.
"When I began pursuing photography properly, I would visit various shops and inquire about potential job opportunities. I presented my portfolio of pictures to them. When they asked about my payment, I had yet to learn how much I should say. So I randomly would say Dh500, and they agreed to it." This was last year, when he was 13 years old.
“I got my first salary in December 2022. It was a proud moment for me as this was one of my first achievements in this field."
Hafan is a grade 10 student at the Model School Abu Dhabi, where his elder sister Fathima Anah is a grade 12 student.
Though school work and extracurriculars are his priority, his free time is devoted to business tasks: learning new skills, improving photographic and editing skills by watching YouTube, and constantly practising.
“I dedicate 3 to 4 hours every day to sharpening my skills.
"I work during weekends, and my clients are okay with it, as long as I meet my deadline. I take pride in my consistency. I do advertisements for my clients across Facebook, Instagram reels, and other social media channels," says Hafan, who will soon turn 15. Most of his work comes through word of mouth or requests via his Instagram page.
"If you feel like you've made some progress, big or small, this indicates that you've had a productive day," he adds.
In his free time, Hafan likes to experiment with different technologies. He is currently spending his time learning new skills such as using editing software that will support his career.
"I make sure that my work is organised and that I have a lot of energy and passion to do it. I don't force myself to be 'productive' on days that I'm not feeling it," says Haffan, who is particular about having quality time with friends and family.
"In my opinion, everyone should prioritise family and friends. While money is important, valuing relationships is even more valuable. I never compromise my time for them. In fact, I'm here because of them." These words are from a school student who seems to have understood the work-life-school balance.
"At weekends, I go to places to click pictures to have a better knowledge about the work I do. I don't have a schedule. As I mentioned earlier, it depends upon me and my client's spare time.”
Hafan also expressed his pride in purchasing a SONY A7iii camera with his earnings. He remembers how his father was initially hesitant about his decision to pursue photography but ultimately supported him by buying a camera. Hafan began taking pictures, and his passion for photography continues to grow.
One of his favourite photos is of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which made him feel like he has a talent for taking good pictures. He shared the photo and is proud of it.
"I am fortunate to have supportive teachers who encourage me to work for our school by covering special events and days, which has helped build my confidence.
I enjoy taking photos of food and have worked with over 25 clients, he added.
Hafan currently works for a marketing agency under the company’s visa. Next year he plans to take a freelancer visa, which will provide him with more opportunities.
"Since I am only 14 years old, my father signs contracts with clients on my behalf. I am saving my earnings so that I can start my own marketing agency when I turn 18."
When asked how he manages his work, Hafan said: "I schedule meetings with clients and clarify each other's interests on what they want and what I can give to them.”
Hafan used to arrange meetings with clients at cafes. As clients had never seen him, they were often surprised to meet him in person. Initially, Hafan found it amusing.
"It's not impossible to do something like this at my age; there can definitely be obstacles that you have to overcome, but following your dreams is important," said Hafan. “I appreciate my family's support as I pursue my passion independently while maintaining a balance between work and studies.”
When asked about his future plan, Hafan wanted to be a media professional or join as a forensic photographer with a police department.
Hafan advises his generation of budding entrepreneurs: "If you've got a good idea, just do it. It's the perfect time to get started."
(NOTE: The story was first published on May 25, 2023)