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?
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.
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