Being a freelance writer in Malaysia was not something I planned. Yet, somehow, here I am, making ends meet with nothing more than my laptop, internet access, and some brain power.
I won’t bore you with pros and cons of being a freelancer (yes, I do get to work in my pyjamas), but I do want to talk about the income and expenses side of it. After searching online, I realised there aren’t many resources for Malaysian freelance writers. So I’m making one to share with you.
So if you are a freelance writer in Malaysia, either doing it as full-time work or as a side income, here are some finance-related information about incomes and expenses that you should know about.
Is this guide only for freelance writers in Malaysia?
In my experience, most people start off being a freelance writer, then later ‘niche down’ and select a specialisation.
- Freelance translator
- Freelance editor
- Freelance copywriter
- Freelance proofreader
- Freelance resume-writer
- Freelance academic writer
- Freelance article writer
- Freelance social media
- Freelance script writer
- Freelance grant writer
- Freelance ghostwriter
- Freelance ebook writer
- Freelance whitepaper writer
- And more
You can further specialise in specific industries, like beauty, health, legal and so on. This guide is a good start for all/most types of freelance writers in Malaysia.
Income – How much can you make as a freelance writer in Malaysia?
Honestly, your income will be somewhat tied to how financially strapped you are when you first start out. If you are in need of fast cash, you will tend to accept lower-paying jobs. I’ve seen content mills paying as low as $1 per article!
If you can afford to wait it out while you look and apply for other jobs, chances are you’ll come across better-paying clients.
How much do Malaysian freelance writers charge for an article?
I asked around in the Malaysian Writers Facebook page to get an idea of typical payment. They said that they earn:
- Person A – RM250-RM850 per article (between 600-1700 words)
- Person B – USD5 per 400 words via Fiverr
- Person C – RM50 upwards
- Person D – RM1000 per magazine article
- Person E – RM1 per word for magazine article (looking for 2000 words)
As you can see, the range is quite wide. This is why I said your income is somewhat tied to your financial situation. As you get more established, you might increase your rates.
The good thing about freelance writing as a career is that you’re not limited to Malaysian employers. I’ve completed jobs just via emails before – the clients didn’t care about my nationality or timezone, just my ability to complete the work well and on time. I get paid in USD, too.
How much should YOU charge?
I wrote an entire article about this: check out the 5 Methods to Figure Out How Much to Charge Clients article
Where freelance writer in Malaysia can find paying clients
You can find jobs from these three places
Note: It’s very easy to get discouraged by the competition – an article-writing job might attract hundreds of USD1 bids from freelancers (many from India, Philippines). Apply with your usual rates anyway, and make sure you focus on the quality of work you can deliver. One writer earns USD100+ per hour from Upwork – find her tips here.
Writing job boards
They’re easy enough to google, so go ahead and find one (like the freelance writer resources in this page). Companies pay a fee to post an advert, give details about the work, and invite writers to apply. Send them an email containing an introduction about yourself, samples of your work, and how you can help them.
For the love of God DO NOT send them emails like ‘Hi I’m interested in this job’ with no examples or introduction – that’s amateurish and will probably get you zero replies!
Networking and Outreach
This is how I get most of my clients. Some of them found me on this website, some found me on chatting groups, some by word of mouth. Network around and keep telling people you do freelance writing. A pleasant personality helps. You don’t have to be an extroverted social butterfly – networking online counts, too.
For more tips and tricks, read Make A Living Writing. It’s a great resource for everything related to making money as a freelance writer. Read also my guide – How to Get Clients: A Guide for Malaysian Freelancers.
Note: Some clients may bully you into late, or even no payment. Here are my tips to get great clients who pay & treat me well
Expenses – What do freelance writers need to start?
You can be a freelance writer in Malaysia with just the basics (see basic expenses below), although it’s recommended to invest a bit more in professionalism (see professional expenses below). In addition, you need to know the business and accounting side of it, because you ARE running a business.
- Laptop + internet access
- Phone + phone plan
- A comfortable space where you can write without interruptions
- Notebook and stationary
- Dining, transportation and meeting cost for face-to-face interviews or events
- Website hosting for your online writer portfolio
- Website template + extra paid plugins
- Proofreading software
- Writing and SEO tools
- Access to further literature
- Online graphic design services
- Stock photography (if you can’t find royalty-free ones)
- Registered company
- Paid help, if any
Business setup, accounting and freelance invoice template
For simple, uncomplicated businesses, I recommend BlogJunkie’s Simple Accounting System for Freelancing Business guide, which includes freelance invoice templates and bookkeeping tips.
For company, you can register as sole proprietorship (RM60 registration cost) or even better, Limited Liability Partnership (RM500+ registration cost). The beauty of setting up a company, aside from looking professional is you can claim some expenses as business expense, thus reducing your payable tax amount.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a tax agent. I have engaged the services of an accountant and gotten advice from tax professionals, but this is based on my specific situation which may not be relevant to yours. Please engage the services of an accountant your own tax payment.
Some of the things you can claim are:
- Office expense (hardware, software, furniture, ect for work)
- Telecommunications for work purposes
- Toll/parking/petrol for work purposes
- Vehicle maintenance
- Gifts to clients, meals & entertainment for clients (max 50%, apparently)
- Utilities (also max 50%, as far as I know)
This page has a list of other things you may be able to claim as business expenses, as a freelance writer in Malaysia.
How did I personally start freelance writing in Malaysia?
I’m not saying this is the correct way, and it’s probably not the most efficient way either, but this was how I established myself as a freelance writer in the span of roughly a year. They are in chronological order.
I joined freelancing platforms. Was on Upwork for a few months. Cashed out ~USD500 for various work.
At the same time, I submitted articles to websites (non-paid). Submitted to Vulcan Post and The Financial Diet. I just wanted some work published online on high-authority sites, so I can use them as samples.
Created Ringgit Oh Ringgit. I didn’t expect RoR to help my freelance writing career, but it did. If you have time (and money) to spare, I suggest you make a website because an online portfolio shows professionalism. For info, see my The Exact Steps I Use to Earn Money from Blogging guide.
Applied for as many writing jobs as I can from the freelancing platforms and job boards I mentioned. I learn how to sell myself better from this step.
Accepted full-time remote work which allows for extra time to freelance. I like stability, so I like having a steady income stream. It helps to counter the times of the year when work is scarce.
If I were to do it again, I would take the How to Become a Freelance Writer (in 60 Days) course by Aisha of OutandBeyond.com; $45 (~RM200). The course includes:
- 110+ page ebook
- Pitching templates (I spent years learning this)
- SEO training (this is the moneymaker guys. Everyone can write but not everyone can optimise for search engine)
- writing opportunities,
- and more
Network like heck. Networking is just being consistent at telling everyone you meet that you do freelance writing (but obviously don’t be spammy). And keep a good character – no one wants to work with people who are not professional.
Optimise everything that can be optimised. I created and automated social media (I have a Facebook page and Twitter), made tweaks to increase user experience on RoR website, and created blog posts that help me reach more audiences. In addition, I paid for advertising, virtual assistance and a better website theme, among others.
Increase rates regularly. At one point, I had way too much work and did not manage to deliver the same quality. Instead of getting less work (and earning less), I simply raised my rates.
This is good for 3 reasons:
- (1) it helps you to keep a reasonable workload without overworking yourself (burnout is a thing),
- (2) you can pass on some work to other writers, which helps them make money too, and
- (3) higher rates imply higher quality
Again, I’m not saying you should follow or expect these steps. These were just my personal experience when I first started out. Be efficient; learn from my mistakes 🙂
Shoutout to Zoe (professional article writer) and Jasveena (professional academic editor), two Malaysian freelance writers for providing helpful information on this page! Click their links to engage their services.
Are there any more useful information about being a freelance writer in Malaysia that we should know about? Comment, FB, or tweet me at @surayaror!
As always, please share if you find this useful!