23 Things I’ve Done to Make Money in Malaysia (From Kid to Adult)

When I typed in ‘make money in Malaysia’, Google presented me with 570 million results.

570 million! In contrast, ‘invest money in Malaysia’ showed ‘only’ 37 million results!

So it’s obvious that many of you are interested in this topic. The articles presented gave pretty good suggestions on how to make money, too. Some gave part-time ideas, some gave side income ideas (what you can try), some gave ways to make money online, etcetera.

But none of them tells you what one person has tried in their personal capacity.

Here’s my attempt to do just that. Here’s everything I’ve ever done to make money in Malaysia (and beyond), from my childhood to now adulthood.

Section 1 – Childhood

1. Plucked my parents’ white hairs. Hahahha classic small kids job right? They offered 10 sen per hair, what’s the rate you got? Sometimes they paid up, sometimes they kept quiet hahaha MOM I REMEMBER.

2. Fasted during Ramadan. During primary school age. I don’t know about you, but my siblings and I got RM1 per day per parent for every day we completed. If we complete the full term, we get RM50 per parent!

3. Sold candies in school. I was 7 or 8 years old. My dad gave me this bag of tiny candies and I sold them to my classmates. They loved them – my baju kurung pocket filled up pretty quick! I made a few ringgits, which is a huge sum at that age!

Section 2 – Teenage/College-age

4. Sold CD and DVD boxsets. During high school and college time. Remember when CD and DVD boxsets were a thing back in early 2000s? There were shops specialising in them, ranging from American tv shows to anime to Japanese dramas to everything else. I’d save up my Raya money to buy them, then sold off the ones I no longer want on Lowyat forum.

5. Sold books, mangas and comics. Also during high school and college time. Kinda regret selling off my whole Archies collection tbh. I had over 100 of them.

6. Sold gaming consoles. During college. My proudest moment was when I managed to buy a secondhand Wii for a great price, played the heck out of it, then sold it off for a higher price. My least proudest moment was when I mailed my PSP to a scammer. Learned a great lesson when the money never arrived. That’s why, until now, I refuse to deliver anything UNTIL I get the money.

7. Worked odd jobs. During college. Did a few things, all from part-time job platforms and sometimes referred from friends. I remember working as a booth attendant for a herbal soap brand from Taiwan, gave away free Salonpas samples at Guardian pharmacy in Pavilion KL, and stood around as one of the ‘door girls’ during some company’s annual dinner. Payment ranged from RM80-RM120+ per day – great for pocket money during college time.

8. Worked as a telemarketer. Before uni started. I was looking for short-term job to make money while waiting for college, and was hired to work at this outsourcing company in KL for 3 months. My job was to sell insurance policies over the phone. The more I sell, the more commissions I’d get.

It was hard in the beginning – I didn’t close any sales until a couple of weeks in. But as soon as I got the hang of it, I consistently sold at least one policy per day. I made around RM10k during the time. Related: Telemarketer sales tactics you should know (by an ex-telemarketer)

9. Sold sushi. Well, technically my teammates and I did this to fund our club activities (I was in Japan Club). We made some homemade sushi, set up our booth and sold them to other students.

10. Attended focus groups. They’re hard to get (you have to fit their requirements AND adjust your schedule to their sessions), but they pay very well. I’ve done a couple and received minimum RM200 after a few hours of answering questions.

Section 3 – Uni/Masters

11. Worked as a waitress. During uni. I’m glad I had this experience, because it taught me to be respectful to the service staff. I also learned how to pop open a champagne bottle and how to hold three dinner plates in one hand.

12. Did house sitting. I was in Australia, doing some HelpX (that work-in-exchange-for-food-and-accommodation-thing), and coincidentally my hosts had to leave for a couple of nights so would I kindly take care of the house while they’re away? They were kind, and I really didn’t mind, but they ended up paying me anyway.

13. Worked two jobs WHILE studying. During Masters. I worked at an international school during the day, then as a student DJ at Putra.fm a couple of times a week. Tough? Yeah. Made it? Hell yeah.

14. Tried to sell baked goods on Mudah. During Masters. I wrote one ad, offering baked goods catering services but didn’t get any customers. Then I got that job at the international school so kind of abandoned the idea. The funny thing is months later I got a few inquiries from potential customers. But by that point I was already crazy busy so I had to tell them I was no longer offering the service

15. Printed a bunch of posters to sell an MLM-structured education product. A classmate of mine during Masters invited me to a ‘business talk’, and told me all about this educational product which would ‘practically sell itself’. I admit I was interested (because they dangled the income potential part real low), and intended to try it out.

I figured, you know, before I commit a few hundred RM to buy the products from my upline to re-sell them at a massive profit (that’s how MLMs work yo), let’s try and get some potential customers first. So I designed this simple poster and printed a few hundred copies. I planned to spend a few evenings just inserting the flyers into peoples’ homes or distribute them near schools kot. In the end, my senses came back and I abandoned the idea (thank goodness).

Section 4 – Post-graduation

16. *Only* picked jobs paying over a certain amount. When I was job-hunting, I’d make it a point to (1) find out how much the job pays (although sometimes they never list them), and (2) only accept the job if they pay over a certain amount. I admit this was only possible because (1) I already had savings, mostly from the telemarketing job, and (2) it’s okay to wait for the right-paying job to come along, because I could still depend on my family for financial support.

17. Worked in the NGO industry. In order, I worked at an intercultural students exchange organisation (technically I was still in uni here but hey), then at a sexuality rights organisation, then at an organisation which offered resettlement for refugees, then at a women’s human rights organisation. 

18. Job-hopped a lot. If I wasn’t particularly happy at work, or felt stagnant, I would send out my resumes and try to find higher-paying jobs. I love all of my employers, but… I will put myself first, sorry.

19. Became a self-employed writer and communications consultant (See my Hire Me page). Disclaimer: I originally started doing this just to earn some money while still looking for a stable, full-time job, because that’s what I’m used to.  It was tough in the beginning, super tough, but thank goodness it worked out as a career path omg. Related: 11 things I learned about self-employment in Malaysia

20. Worked in a cryptocurrency startup. Remote work too. It was fun until it wasn’t. If you’re curious, I covered it in my A 2-Year Review on My Bitcoin Investment article.

21. Created a blog and monetised it. Here’s the exact steps how I earn money from blogging. I love exploring multiple income streams that I could generate via blogging. For example, I earn via Google Adsense (RM1k~ per month), sponsored posts (a few thousand RM per post per client), affiliate and referral income (a few hundred RM per month on average), and more.

22. Produced a theatre show. Did you know I produced a show in 2018? I’m hella proud that I managed to turn a profit despite being a first-time theatre producer ^_^ Here’s a pic during the time!

23. Produce a book series. In the works is Money Stories from Malaysians: Volume 2, while Money Stories from Malaysians: Volume 1  is now available at bookstores nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak! Limited copies are in stock at Popular Bookstores, MPH Bookstores, Times Bookstores, Borders Books and Kinokuniya KLCC. Take and send me pics when you get a copy – that would me super happy!

What next?

The above may seem like a lot of ways to make money in Malaysia, but honestly I think I missed a few, especially the ones which I kinda sorta dabbled in but didn’t really put any effort into (at one point, I applied but didn’t proceed with a Work and Travel programme to the US). Regardless, writing this article has been a fun journey back into memory lane. I’ve forgotten a few of the jobs until now!

It was also interesting to note what I used to do at different stages of my life. I’ve lost money for some of them, but gained heck of an experience.

What kinds of jobs have you done? Any of them similar to mine? How did you make money at different stages of your life? Share with us in the comments 🙂

Author

17 comments

  1. Uni time.
    – trade and breed exotic pets. Joining and contributing to the exotic pet community was a joy. Earned some money, bought new bass guitar and some gear.

    – me and my band mates played some paying gigs. Money earned reinvested into producing our single, which we sold to friends and fans.

    Now, I’m just a rat in the never ending rat race.
    😰

  2. Stage 1: Childhood
    -I did pluck hair for mom like what u did! 5 cents for each strand! I was surprised to come across with an article on such a real job in Japan!
    Here is the article! https://www.worldofbuzz.com/this-store-in-japan-charges-rm126-to-pluck-out-your-white-hairs-in-30-mins/

    – Household chores and earned money for that(I will not do the same thing to my kids in the future😑😑😑)

    Stage 2: Primary-Secondary

    – Never earned as i did not think that making money was as important as saving. I often got disappointed that I could never be able to save. I neither saved nor earned.

    Stage 3: High School
    – Tutored children at neighbourhood for low fees, earned good respect from parents for effective teaching.🤗
    -helped a cousin to run her tuition business after school. Earned RM300-400 every month.

    Stage 4: Post-High school and Pre-Uni
    (I decided to save up some money and confidence for my further studies, being not so sure of where to step next)

    -wrote 2 company profiles to be printed for small firms. I was shocked that I could earn money in that way too! Earned RM250 for each company.
    -taught in Enopi( now, know as Eye Level) earned rm400-500 every month
    -Secured a flexible full time admin cum tutor job at Kumon at Bandar Kinrara 5. Thanks to such an understanding boss(worked there for 5 years while studying in Uni) earned RM1100 per month that I managed to buy a Myvi at the age of 22 years, that was my proudest moment!
    -Worked in PanPages, doing data entry, earned approx rm500 every month)

    Stage 4: Now

    – working in a private school for a good pay and abundance of satisfaction in teaching(it’s been 6 years here, thus no job-jumping yet!)
    – home-tutoring my own nieces and nephews around Puchong and Putra Heights
    (earning rm500-600 per head)
    – trying and testing on how to run e-commerce business, selling Indian outfits at Jarigai Contemporary Collections
    (it’s my sister’s business) With good promotions, we r earning good sum occasionally) Still exploring the market!

    Future:
    – Planning to run an interactive online speaking classes for affordable fees that can help boost students’ confidence in speaking. (I just can’t see myslf not thinking about teaching to improve learning)

    – Helping my sister to try on wholesaling Indian apparels with digital marketing consultancy.

  3. Hi Suraya, I wasn’t hustling as much as you did during your younger days (I wished I had!), that is why you are a lot more successful right now =)

    My previous side-hustles in chronological sequence.

    Primary school

    1. Walked to the bookstore across the street from my school to buy marbles in bulk of 100’s, took them back and resell them to those marble players. Earned about 3 sens per marble.

    2. I mastered the art of playing “rubber” with my friends, so whenever I win over their eraser, they would have to buy back the eraser from me at 20 sens each (alternatively they can choose for the flag they like from the myriad of erasers I have collected).

    3. Went to Makro to buy tissue packs in bulk (and I mean really huge packs) with my parents during our grocery trip. I would then sell those individual packs to female students on their way to the washroom at 15 sens each (my classroom was conveniently situated right next to the washroom). The other option was to purchase the tissue from the school canteen which was a fair bit of a walk.

    Secondary school

    1. This was when I started to dabble in the stock market at 14 with all the money I earned from my primary school period and started trading using my mom’s trading account, and have not stopped since then.

    2. Washing cars for my parents and relatives at RM5 each. This was just a weekly chore. Small earnings as I could only wash 1-2 cars a week.

    3. RM10 for each A I scored for my tests and exams. It is a fact that money motivates results.

    College/Uni

    1. Dropped out of my 2nd college to start a small cybercafe after gaining 3 years of experience working in several cybercafes. Did not end well as parents in the neighborhood was pressuring me to close down my shop, which I complied to avoid getting into trouble with the authorities.

    2. Having lost all my hard earned savings from the first failed business, I went on to join MLM to pick up the one best skill in life, which is the art of selling. Did the stint for a year.

    Went back to college for a Diploma course:

    3. With the improved selling skills, I went on to set up my own sales team to sell goods sourced from China (offline dropshipping) and at the same time I joined unit trust consultancy and did it for 1.5 years, gaining enough money along the way for me to move on to my next venture.

    4. Traded more in the stock market with the money I have earned from my previous hustles.

    Businesses I have started after graduating from college:

    1. Setting up an online job site (which failed to take off)
    2. Ran an advertising company for 3 years
    3. Operated a printing business for 4 years
    4. Ecommerce online sales since 2014 til now

  4. Reading this just made me realise that I have also been selling stuff/making money from a very young age. I was in primary school and there was this selling trend I got into: we were selling things made out of paper (I think it was bracelets or something really stupid). That was until our Principal found out and during the assembly banned the act of selling among one another within school compounds. Funny thing is my next gig was actually selling handmade jewellery in secondary school!

    Anyways, great post to read as always!

    1. If it makes money, it wasn’t stupid, it was identifying demand!

      That principal is a buzzkill lol.

      Thanks for sharing your experience Daphnee!

  5. I used to sell ‘agar-agar kering’ / a traditional malay delicacy that my mom made during my primary school. But the teachers said it was too pricey hahha and no one bought it. But I am very anticipate when it comes to business. And now I bake to earn a side income while working full time as analyst. I believe nothing comes easy and when you have passion, you just gonna go for it. Keep up the good work Suraya! Love your feed! ❤️

  6. Heys, sorry for the grammar Nazism but the ‘Did any of…’ in the last paragraph should be a ‘Were’, right?

    Anyways, really like your sharing. Keep it up.

    Cheers

    1. Hi Lars,

      The phrasing sounded conversational initially but now after re-reading it, I decided to reword the whole thing! No worries, I welcome grammar-related feedback. Helps me grow 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  7. I’m surprised there isn’t any PTX like “Paid to Surf” or “Paid to Click” in the list; I wasted so much time in those programs. Sadly some of them didn’t even pay me. 🙁

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words and sharing your article here, Josephine! Comments like yours motivate me to continue what I do <3

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