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Being a freelance writer 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, or if you want to become one to make some side income, here are some finance-related information about incomes and expenses that you should know about.
Income – How much can you make as a freelance writer?
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. Check out how much these writers get paid, in USD.
How much should YOU charge?
Two ways to do this:
- Get the client to offer, and negotiate from there, OR
- Give an amount you’re comfortable with (your hourly rates x time it’ll take to complete the work)
I wrote an entire article about this: How to Charge Clients: 5 Methods Freelancers Can Use
Where to find paying clients
Freelancing platforms. Personally, I started with Upwork (other similar websites: Freelancer, Fiverr (note: referral link). These websites connect freelancers with potential clients. 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 (find some 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 (I even made a For Hire page), 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. I’ve had bad experience with Leo Burnett, who, at the time of writing, have delayed my payment for over 6 months.
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 its recommended to invest a bit more in professionalism (see professional expenses below).
- 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
- 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
For company, you can register as sole proprietorship (RM60 registration cost) or even better, Limited Liability Partnership (RM500+ registration cost). This is a GREAT resource for company bookkeeping!
This page has a list of things you can claim as business expenses. Some notable ones include rent (if you work from home), insurance, writing tools, website, and hardware (like printers, etc.). Note: this is not tax advice – please ask a tax professional!
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.
- Network like heck. Networking is just being consistent at telling everyone you meet that you do freelance writing. Obviously don’t be spammy. And keep a good character – no one wants to work with people who are not professional.
- At the same time, optimise everything that can be optimised. I created and automated social media (I have a Facebook page and Twitter). I made tweaks to increase user experience in RoR website, and create blog posts that help me reach more audiences. I read and try to implement marketing hacks. I’ve 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) it can pass on some work to other writers, they might need it more than you; and (3) higher rates imply higher quality (See: 11 things I learned about self-employment in Malaysia).
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!