make money online in malaysia
Earning Money

The Exact Steps I Use to Make Money Online in Malaysia

In this article, I’d like to share how I make money online in Malaysia. I started from zero knowledge and experience – in fact at the time I was still sending out my resume and looking for job opportunities. This online work thing was meant to be pocket money *while* I find a suitable salaried position.

But the job offers weren’t good, and I still had a little bit of savings left and no dependents, so I continued my efforts… and somehow it started working. Slowly, then all at once.

And before you know it, as I’m writing this, it’s been 6 years since I entered this world of online income generation, exploring and implementing various ways to make money online. At last count, I have no less than 8 income streams (!!! Sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming..)

So yes, I can confirm. It works. Online money is real.

But all of us start somewhere. So let me share my journey, as someone who once knew nothing. I hope you’ll find this sharing useful.

The Exact Steps I Use to Make Money 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 give you one perspective from someone who tried to navigate this world as a beginner.

Here are my steps:

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

For me, 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 start by monetising your hobby.

Or see Step 2.

Step 2: I joined a few freelancing platforms.

I joined Upwork, Freelancer and a few other freelancing platforms. Also; Fiverr and trade-specific job boards. If you’re still not sure what services exactly you can sell, go ahead and browse around on these platforms for ideas.

From browsing around, you’ll find there are a LOT of ways to make money online in Malaysia. You’ll find out the terminologies professionals use for your skillsets, and how/where they are applied. You’ll also see what types of online jobs are ‘hot’.

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 not getting replies from the majority of them – rejection is normal, get used to it), and
  • performing low-paying jobs.

Personally, I did a lot of lower-paying jobs that were not worth my time, like reviewing 12-hour webinars for USD8 :/ But I did my best and as a result, got myself good reviews from clients.

Little did I know that this step is basically ‘building my online portfolio’ and ‘collecting client testimonial’. More on that in a bit.

Step 4: I decided on a niche.

The more client testimonials I have, the easier it got to get jobs on the platforms. I was making money online – not a lot, but enough to know that it could work out after all!

After doing some low-paying jobs for a while, I decided it got too time-consuming. Plus, I wanted to earn more. After reading around, it was clear that I need to be known for ‘something’ – to have a specialisation or a niche.

It makes sense. There are A LOT of freelancers online. More than you think. And many of them claims to be able to do it all, which is factually impossible. So it’s better to zero in on something you’re good at (and also enjoy) so it sets you apart from the rest.

This is the point where 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.

Niche. They work.

This is the part where I got confident that yes, it is not just possible to make money online in Malaysia, but it’s also profitable and fulfilling. I have fallen for the self-employment life. There is no turning back. For better or for worse, I am my own boss.

Step 5: I paid attention to professionalism

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 of a related professional trade organisation.

Who would you pick, assuming their rates are similar?

Exactly.

Here’s a basic email template that I use to apply for jobs. They have a significantly higher rate of being accepted than a general ‘I can do anything that pays’ applications – The Exact Email Template You Can Use to Get Hired by Clients

Important: Tweak it to your situation, don’t just copy+paste. Make it sound ‘you’.

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

Also – good news for introverts – 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.

Related: How to Get Clients: A Guide for Malaysian Freelancers

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. This also allowed me to explore other ways to earn money online. More info about this in The Exact Steps I Use to Earn Money from Blogging article.

Note: You don’t have to have a website to make money online in Malaysia. But if you’re doing networking well (Step 6), and tired of freelancing platforms taking a cut from your hard-earned money, then having a website is definitely recommended.

So in my case, my website ringgitohringgit.com is where I provide samples of my writing for future clients. And because I genuinely love writing about personal finance and be part of the personal finance community, it’s a hobby that pays itself off (a REALLY nice bonus).

Creating a website is also a great way to learn new skills by doing. I learned skills that I now can offer as part of my writing services (like SEO). Others learned how to code, or do ecommerce stores.

Not good at writing? Do it anyway – no time like the present to start polishing your writing skills.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Good Articles (for Power, Profit and Pleasure)

Step 8: I stopped using freelancing platforms completely

As beneficial as it was, it was time to cut myself loose from freelancing platforms and go my own way, and work 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.

This step is a bit tricky because you’re now doing more admin and accounting work for yourself. Plus, bad clients who don’t pay also exist.

It’s not a perfect solution, but I have some tips that may help: read my How I Get Great Clients Who Pay & Treat Me Well article.

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: 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 explored Canva, and some time later got a logo professionally designed. Instead of publishing something ‘perfect’, I focused on ‘done’ – if it was a little bit better today than yesterday, that’s good enough.

One of the quotes that kept me going here is: Quantity leads to Quality.

Try a lot of things. Attend the workshops. Try the hacks. Some of them are bound to work. The effort compounds, like magic.

Last words

What’s next? Are there additional stages?  Maybe, I’ve yet to reach that stage. Even after 6 years, 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.

Specific questions not answered here? Comment below. I’ll answer if I can. Know friends and families looking for ways to make money online in Malaysia? Share this with them.

More reading: Side Income Malaysia: 4 Ways To Earn Extra Income In 2021

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33 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

      1. Hi Suraya, how you actually create a writing profile other than write for media. I am new and i don’t actually know how to start yet

        1. Hi Wahida,

          Do you mean writer profile or writer portfolio? A profile can be either cv or that ‘about the writer’ section at the end of some articles (depending on website).

          If you mean a portfolio, well then the easiest would be to write about what you’re already passionate about. It doesnt have to be published to be samples of your work

  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.

  7. I don’t usually comment on blogs but for you I’ll give an exception. came across your blog whilst searching for info on bitcoins in Malaysia. I like your plain English Malaysia style writing. good to know you are earning on what you loves to do. cheers.

  8. as salam wbt

    how can I contact you if I want to know more on how to earn an honest living with online jobs? please advice.

    thank you in advance.

  9. Hi Suraya, loved your article. You probably get these messages a lot, so I’ll keep it brief. I’m currently writing up a few articles (I have three so far) and I was wondering which Malaysian websites I approach to maybe get them published. My niche is popular culture and entertainment. I’m just starting out as a freelance writer (maybe, we’ll see how it goes), but from all the advice I’ve been getting, it all seems a bit daunting, especially the part where I have to establish myself in a competitive market. I don’t know where to start networking and I’m afraid of getting swindled. Should I just start out with a blog and go from there? I don’t have much in the way of a portfolio. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Hi Zack,

      Thanks for your kind words 🙂

      Understand your concerns. It’s hard in the beginning, and will continue to be hard until it’s easy.

      What I did was submitting my articles to websites that accept my niche (personal finance), then use those links as samples of work to give to clients. However I’ve also heard other writers who published their articles themselves, either via their own websites/blogs or via medium or clippings.me, and use those as samples.

      On getting paid for your work, I’ll share what people have shared:
      – They pitch ideas to editors. If they like it, they might commission you to write the article for their websites. You can find out email templates for this – google ‘how to pitch to editors’
      – They submit their (full) articles to websites where people can buy the content. Websites like Constant Content allow this. I heard mixed results on this – some people say the income is dependable, some say not. I guess it depends on the niche. I’d imagine finance-related articles would sell better

      Consistent work comes only after you gain some reputation, either via word of mouth and/or the quality of your portfolio

      I hope the above helps. Let me know if you want to know anything specific!

      1. Hi Suraya, thanks for the reply!! I was just wondering, how much should i charge for one article if a publication is interested in buying it? What are the acceptable rates? Some writers charge RM0.50 per word, but i assume thats for specific writing assignments, not readymade articles. Is RM100.00 too much for one article?

  10. Hi Suraya!

    Great piece of work there! I find your words are original and suits the Malaysian tone very well, I had fun reading your content!

    In fact, I’m also looking to start my freelance writing but I’ve no exact idea on how can I establish a decent portfolio to provide enough confidence to my clients. How does one set up the portfolio? I’d written some niche articles regarding a hobby (card gaming) of mine, would I be able to use that to support my portfolio?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your kind words!

      Regarding your question, a portfolio can be as basic as a Google Drive containing samples of your writing work, a link you can pass to potential clients.

      One level above that is your writing samples on an online platform, either Medium, clippings.me, etc

      One level above that is your own website, listing all the services you offer

      Hope this helps and all the best!

  11. Hi Suraya, thanks for such an insightful article. I am just starting out on freelance copywriting and I would like to seek your opinion on what niche would be profitable to go into.
    Thanks
    Junnie

  12. Hi Suraya,

    I accidentally stumbled upon your blog while researching freelance writing and I truly believe it is a blessing.

    I recently quit my monotonous 9-5 job wanting to venture into freelance writing. I have previous experience in writing for a local online news portal and have a basic idea of how SEO works.

    I have decided that my niche shall be Finance, just like yours, as I have a degree in Economics and it has always been a passion of mine. Honestly,
    I am so stoked to have discovered your page. I had been scouring the net for guidelines on how to get started but couldn’t quite find info that was catered to Asians. I am so thankful that you created Ringgit oh Ringgit; I feel like I hit jackpot, to be honest.

    I am unclear on a few things about starting out. Could I email you to ask some questions? I would really appreciate it if you could take a liiiitle bit of time out of your schedule to layan this noob.

    Kind regards,
    Aish.

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