Here’s How You Can Earn An Income As A Freelancer in Malaysia

With the on-going pandemic since 2020, freelancing has been the go-to option for those who have lost their jobs or income. Freelancing is also a common side income option over the years, in almost any field such as writing, designing, website developing and so on.

What is freelancing?

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In layman’s terms, freelancing simply means you are not an employee of a company or organization. You are offering your own services and expertise to multiple clients without having a commitment to one employer only. The idea of freelancing is that you are self-employed. But first, what are the ways you could freelance? 

There are generally three common types of freelancers in Malaysia: 

  1. Independent Full-Time Freelancer: As an independent freelancer, you are in charge of looking for contracts and jobs yourself. Even when it comes to payments, you decide how much to charge your clients and make sure you get paid on time. 
  2. Moonlighting: Moonlighters are basically those who already have a stable job, but they are looking for other ways to earn income. Freelancing would be their side income. However, if you would like to go this path, be sure your employer knows you are working on side jobs on the side to avoid any conflict of interest. 
  3. A Freelancer Managed By A Freelance Management Company: This is when you are engaged with a third party where they assign you tasks from companies that require freelance services. In terms of payment and such, the company is the one that decides that as well with the clients. For each successful task delivered, the company takes a certain amount from the total payment. 

Freelancing Market in Malaysia 

There are many types of freelancing jobs in Malaysia. But which are the ones that are in high demand? Based on an article from Business Today, the most hired skills among Malaysian freelancers are developers, designers, and online marketers, as shown in the infographic below: 

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Freelancing Platforms in Malaysia

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If you’re new to freelancing, you might wonder where to look for freelance gigs. Here are some of the more popular platforms that you could start off with: 

Pros and Cons of Freelancing 

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All career opportunities come with various advantages and disadvantages. I approached a few freelancers to get their opinions of the pros and cons of freelancing based on their own experiences as well. Before you decide on pursuing freelancing full-time or as a side income, here is what you should know:  

Pros of Freelancing 

1) Wide variety 

When you’re freelancing, you get to learn more about the different industries instead of just sticking to one industry if you were to work full-time. You will never get bored because as a freelancer you get to choose what projects to work on.

2) Flexibility 

Without a doubt, this is the best part about being a freelancer. When you’re working a full-time job, you are limited by time and place. Your hours are fixed and can’t be changed. As a freelancer, as mentioned by most of them, the freedom of being able to work at your own time without having a fixed schedule is probably the best advantage. As long as you deliver the work as requested, you are good to go.

3) No office politics, attire or having to go through rush hour 

Freelancing also offers you a chance to avoid anything that involves a full-time job – you could simply just jump right out of bed in your pajamas and start working right away. 

4) Self-improvement 

As a freelancer, you will be able to learn new self-development skills and work on your current ones. For instance, one freelancer mentioned that they learned to be much more independent and learned to manage their time well with multiple tasks going on. You will also feel a sense of achievement as you are doing things all on your own. 

Cons of Freelancing

1) Extremely risky 

Your income varies every month, compared to a stable job where you get the same consistent amount of income. In the freelance world, it can be a risk, as mentioned by a freelance web developer. You are diving into a career that doesn’t offer a stable income each month. One month you could earn a certain amount whereas in other months there might be zero income coming in. 

2) Physically and mentally tiring 

Since you are working alone, you can’t really work with others to brainstorm ideas together. Everything is handled by you, so it really is up to you to get things done, no matter how much writer’s block you have or when you can’t think of any ideas. There will also be times where you might take on too much workload at one go, plus you have to handle all the other tasks such as producing an invoice and following up with client payments. 

3) Feeling lonely 

Being a freelancer means you are working by yourself. You won’t necessarily feel like part of a team, as shared by a freelance writer. Unlike having a full-time job where you have to work with others in order to get things done, a freelancer usually just delivers the work as requested and only liaise with one person. 

Tips On How To Earn An Income As A Freelancer

1) Identify your skills 

Since freelancing is all about offering a service, you have to know what you are good at. Whether it is your language skills, computing skills or designing skills, take note of the things that you are able to sell. Hence, it is advisable to pick a highly profitable skill that people are willing to pay for. If you can’t find a profitable skill, take the time to learn the skills and eventually start selling them as services! 

2) Be clear on your payment terms 

Many freelancers encounter moments when clients don’t pay them on time. Heck, some clients don’t even pay them at all! This is a common problem freelancers face. So you definitely need to lay out your payment terms straightforwardly to your client such as when should it be paid by and if there should be any refunds, and so on. 

3) Know how much you’re worth 

It’s common to downgrade yourself, especially when clients ask for a cheaper rate simply because you are merely just a freelancer. Always know your worth and charge accordingly. Check out how much other freelancers are charging to know the market rate for your industry. 

4) You have to be hardworking and disciplined

You might think life is easy as a freelancer, but contrary to popular belief, freelancing requires a lot of hard work, dedication and patience while having proper discipline. Most freelancers attest to this fact, especially the ones that I talked to who are freelance writers, web developers and digital marketers. You have to go out there and make it happen by looking for opportunities. You also have to put your time to earn any income at all as all the responsibility falls on no one else but yourself. 

5) Network, network, network! 

Don’t underestimate the power of networking as a freelancer. Why? Because many job opportunities usually happen because you know somebody in the industry, be it your friends, family or relatives. Though there are plenty of freelance platforms available, the chances of getting them are slightly lower compared to the people you know, based on one freelancer’s experience. 

My Personal Experience With Freelancing

If you would like more personal advice on freelancing, I started my freelancing career full-time a little over 6 months ago. I would say that the journey as a freelancer is not for the faint-hearted, especially if you intend to make it a full-time thing. However, I also managed to earn way more than what I did in my 9-5 job. 

It’s not easy in the sense where I would constantly worry about whether I will be getting income every month or not. With this anxiety, I would accept every single job or task that falls onto my lap, which is bad because sometimes when you have too much on your plate, your work quality drops. Not only that, but your mental health deteriorates as well. 

My Personal Tips On Earning An Income With Freelancing

You have to really sell yourself well. Clients need to believe that you are able to help them. Through the interviews you have with the potential clients, show how you are able to help them, or to be more precise, how you can help grow their business. 

Other than that, you have to constantly look out for jobs and approach companies, and see whether they are interested in hiring a freelancer. The best places for me personally would be LinkedIn and Facebook Jobs. 

Always try to negotiate with clients and get them on a retainer basis. This means you are engaged with them for several months and are committed to delivering tasks within a time frame. That way, you are able to receive some stable income for a few months.