The Exact Steps I Use to Earn Online in Malaysia

Earn Online in Malaysia

In this blog, I shared a lot about what I do for a living: self-employed freelance writer. It’s been about a year, and I’m happy to say that it’s been a pretty good year. I work 100% online, and yes, it’s possible for other Malaysians to do the same.

It can be lucrative, too. If you’re a new reader, you can check how much I earn every month in my monthly budget update posts. In November 2016, I hit 5 digits.

In this blogpost, I’d like to share the exact steps I use in my journey. I started from zero knowledge and experience – in fact when I first started, I was still looking for local job opportunities (because that’s what I am used to). I hope you’ll find this sharing useful.

The Exact Steps I Use to Earn Online in Malaysia

The steps below are not linear. I did them in this order, but you don’t have to – tweak it to your unique situation. You might even skip a few steps, or add your own. It’s just to show how my journey looked like. Even if writing is not what you want to do, read on, because you get to read at least one perspective from someone who tried to navigate this world as a beginner.

Related: Incomes and Expenses of a Freelance Writer in Malaysia

If this is not what you’re looking for, there are many other ways to earn online in Malaysia. One of them is via the #YouCanDuit programme by MDEC – see success stories from this programme from this VulcanPost article. This Lifehacker article lists 200 ways to make money online!

Here are my steps:

naobim / Pixabay

Step 1: I identified a skill that I can sell.

Writing came naturally. For you, this might be: photography, graphic design, translation, coding, marketing or other skills.

No skills? I don’t think so. From experience, everyone has something to offer. The fact that you’re reading this in English means that you have an advantage. If you’re not sure, get a friend/family to tell you what you’re good at. Or see Step 2.

Step 2: I joined a few freelancing platforms.

I joined Upwork, Freelancer and a few other freelancing platforms. Also; Fiverr (Bantu.my is the Malaysian equivalent) and trade-specific job boards. If you’re still not sure what services exactly you can sell, go ahead and browse around in these platforms for ideas.

To use these platforms to earn money online, make sure you have your tools in order, especially to receive payment. Read my tools for Malaysian freelancers guide to get started.

busy as a… designerpoint / Pixabay

Step 3: I applied for a lot of jobs.

I spent a few months:

  • just polishing my profiles/resumes,
  • tweaking my services,
  • submitting articles to online media (to provide as samples to potential clients),
  • applying to job offers (and getting no replies from the majority of them), and
  • performing low-paying jobs.

If I could do it again, I’d skip the lower-paying jobs that were not worth my time. For example, reviewing 12-hour webinars for USD8 :/

Step 4: I decided on a niche.

After doing some low-paying jobs for a while, I decided it got too time-consuming. Plus, I wanted to earn more. If you want to make actual money online, too, take this advice: have a specialisation or a niche. There are A LOT of freelancers online. So you need something to set you apart from the rest.

I started to market myself as a personal finance writer. At this time I was into bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as well, and I was recruited by at least 2 editors because not many people can write about these topics.

Here’s a basic email template that I use to apply for jobs. They have significantly higher rate of being accepted than a general ‘I can do anything that pays’ applications.

Dear [Client],

Referring to the subjectline, I would like to offer my writing services to [Company name]. I have written extensively about bitcoin, personal finance and fintech. Please see some of my samples below:

My rates are flexible and available upon your kind reply. More samples can be provided upon request. You can also check out testimonials of my previous work from my clients in this [link].
Thank you and best regards,
Suraya
FirmBee / Pixabay

Step 5: I invested for professionalism

Being professional is also appearing professional, especially online. Say you have two applicants for the same role.

Applicant A gave you a PM stating her/his interest in the work.

Applicant B gave you her/his name card (with business registration number), a professional website, samples of previous work, testimonials of previous clients, and a quotation for the work. Additionally, Applicant B is also a member in a related professional trade organisation.

Who would you pick, assuming their rates are similar?

Exactly.

Read my tools for Malaysian freelancers guide – it includes some tools that make you look more professional.

Step 6: I started networking and showing people what I do

It doesn’t have to be physical attendance – online presence works as well. Join groups related to your trade and subject of expertise. I have been recruited from Telegram, Whatsapp and Facebook simply by maintaining an active presence and showing people what I can do.

An important point here is ‘show, don’t tell’. A lot of people are used to ads and ads-language, so we automatically tune that out. So something like ‘Contact me for x work’-type ads don’t generally work.

Instead, share the work you’ve done with the group. Being a useful contributor can significantly increase your likability and job offers. Give information freely, help others, and celebrate other people’s successes.

FirmBee / Pixabay

Step 7: I created a website.

This is where Ringgit Oh Ringgit comes in 🙂 I like writing, and I offer writing services, so it really made sense to create a blog. It also allows me to explore other ways to earn money online.

Some ways I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success:

  • Influencer marketing/Sponsored posts – Direct negotiation, Catjira, Blogr.my
  • Affiliate marketing – Involve Asia, referral programmes from products I already use
  • Blog advertisement – Direct negotiation
  • Adsense and Infolinks

You don’t have to have a website, but the benefits are pretty good. Not only you get more income sources this way, you also get to attract potential clients and leverage on your readership. I provide samples of my writing here (as well as a dedicated ‘For Hire‘ page) and because I genuinely love writing about personal finance, it’s a hobby that pays itself off.

Additionally, I learned skills that I now can offer as part of my writing services (like SEO). Not good in writing? Do it anyway – no time like the present to start polishing your writing skills.

Step 8: I stopped using freelancing platforms completely

And started working directly with clients. This is great, because 1) generally speaking, direct clients pay more; and 2) freelancing platforms charge fees on your earnings, which eats into your income.

This is roughly 6 months in, if I remember correctly. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll also get word-of-mouth referrals, so work is constant (provided you keep up the quality).

From browsing online, a lot of other freelancers worldwide have this tactic, too. They’d use freelancing platforms to get started, then use the experience and contacts to work on their own.

Step 9: I became obsessed with optimisation, self-improvement and productivity

By this point, I have gotten myself a few regular and semi-regular clients. I mean, if you cast a big net early on (over 50 applications in a week), something’s bound to catch, right? Doing work consumes time (of course), and my focus is to add more high-paying clients to replace my lower-paying clients. This is one type of optimisation – more value in exchange for my time.

There are a lot of tips, tricks and hacks online about how to do things more effectively. My optimisation strategy is: what do I spend a lot of time on → how do I do that in less time? For example: blog marketing. I got myself an IFTTT account – it helps me to automate social media postings (thank you Bobby Ong for sharing this tip!). Another example: making images for my blog. I am not good in graphic design, and even my best efforts only result in ‘meh’. So I got help.

Seriously, this was my previous blog header. So ugly right.

So I guess it helps to have a constant desire to be better today than yesterday. This took me to where I am today, in a span of a year.

Last words

What’s next? Are there additional stages?  Maybe, I’ve yet to reach that stage. At just one year in, I know I have so much more room to grow. Experienced freelancers reading this, what can you share from your own experience?

For new or aspiring freelancers, I hope you find the above steps helpful. I don’t want you to think earning online is easy – work is still work. But the good thing is that it should get easier as you go along. I shared this in my article about how it’s actually like to be self-employed.

Specific questions not answered here? Comment below. I’ll answer if I can. Know friends and families looking for ways to earn money online in Malaysia? Share this with them. All the best to you, and go earn that  money 🙂

 

Author

15 comments

    1. Browse around the freelancing platforms – you should be able to get ideas. There are also odd jobs like reviewing stuff or data gathering – those have lower entry barriers (high competition, though!) All the best 🙂

  1. I loveeee reading your blog like seriously the words are so genuine, clear and precise. You sound so natural and humble. And lotsa useful tricks and tips that I discovered here ! Thank youu XOXO

    1. Thank you, but sometimes I still have to keep my ego in check. Comments like these make me happy but it also swells my head a bit haha

  2. Very nice info, but just a question comes to mind, how do a newcomer convince a client about a particular job they are interested when they have no samples to show, cheers….

    1. The only way is to MAKE samples to show! Writing work – submit articles online. Graphic design – show online portfolio. Coding – show app/website you coded. Like that

      1. Hey simply loved this article..its just what what I needed to know and get that push in the right direction..
        I love how you make the impossible seem so easy and doable:)

  3. Another eye-opening and informative write-up, thank you Suraya! Goes to show that if you stay focus and willing to put boots on the ground (well, it’s more like fingers to keyboard here), good things will come, regardless where you are. Reminds me of Seth Godin’s – The Dip. Anyway, Merry Christmas and here’s wishing you the best!

  4. Hello Suraya, I was exactly in your position at the beginning. Full time job was not that appealing to me, I went to Upwork and other freelance sites to look for side income, I was rejected every time so I gave up. Recently it just struck my mind to start my own blog. Like yourself, I have zero experience in this. Still trying to work on getting readership, SEO and template stuff etc. Another similarities that you and I share is that I also like finance and I have a finance background. Your article gave me a lot of insights, thank you!

    1. Hi, fellow finance enthusiast! I checked out your blog, it looks good! I would actually suggest you to use WordPress instead of Blogger, especially if you want nice looking website templates and better SEO functionality. I use WordPress myself 🙂

      Looking forward to hear more from you and your blog! If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me anytime 🙂

  5. Hi Suraya,
    Thank you for sharing this. Your sharing seem to prove that surviving on freelance writing is absolutely doable. I have been struggling for quite some time believing I’m going nowhere. Clearly, you’ve proved me wrong. May I humbly ask if I could reach out to you should I need help? Thank you and once again, great article.

  6. Congrats Suraya. I come across your blog while searching for partners and platforms to added up to my current project. All the best and hope u will be able to coach future generation on this new career.

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