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08/11/2019
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How To Get Started As A Freelancer In Malaysia

Not everyone can adhere to the 9-to-5 lifestyle and deal with full-time jobs. Some of us like a bit of flexibility and want to be our own boss.

There are many benefits to being a freelancer. First of all, you don’t have a higher-up to report to, you answer to yourself and your client.

You are also free to work anywhere you like. We’re not just talking bed and couch – even though that’s pretty awesome – you can also work from another state, or another country, so long as you get your work done.

Another great thing about freelancing is that it opens up a whole lot of new opportunities for you all around the world. Freelancing allows you to dabble in different fields and try different things, so you pick up a lot of new skills along the way.

Are you intrigued and excited about the endless opportunities that the world of freelancing has to offer? Let’s see how we can get you started.

What kind of freelancer are you going to be?

First things first, you have to decide what kind of freelancer you want to be. Do you want to do this full-time or is this a side-gig?

Essentially, there are three types of freelancer that you can be.

The first one is an independent full-time freelancer. You look for contacts and jobs, you negotiate with your client about the job and deadlines, and you get the payment. You set your own schedule for getting things done and don’t have to work around having a regular job.

The second type is to sign up with a freelance management company. The owner of the company will negotiate job and payment terms, and then assign the task to you as they see fit. This is more like having a second job, but reduces the stress of having to look for clients on your own.

Unfortunately, this also cuts into the amount you earn off each job. The company takes a cut of the earnings as commission, leaving you with less than you would have earned on your own. It’s up to you if this is worth the tradeoff.

The third type is moonlighting. That means you already have a job, but still want to earn extra money. If you do this, you have to make sure that your current employer is aware of it or else you may get into trouble.

Some industries are more open to moonlighting than others. For instance, almost everyone in the creative industry will have done freelance work to help out a friend at some point. Computer programmers also occasionally consult or provide tech support on the side.

Know your skills

It’s important to know what industry you’re going to be freelancing in. This is generally determined by your skillset; which doesn’t actually have to be the same as your day job.

Sure, you might be a content writer that’s looking to contribute to other publications. That makes sense, as you already have the skills and portfolio to show potential clients.

You might also be a content writer who happens to be very good at artwork and graphic design. So maybe you want to moonlight as a designer instead. There’s nothing wrong with taking this direction. After all, variety is the spice of life.

What is important is that you have a clear picture of the industry you are offering your freelance skills in.

Getting a job

The biggest challenge in becoming a freelancer is managing to find your first paying client. It might be difficult if you’re not well known in your industry, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Most start through word of mouth, and social media has expanded how far this manages to travel. In general, keep an ear out for opportunities. Be willing to sell your services at any moment and anyone you meet.

Not every encounter will turn into a paying job, but you never know when you’ll find a new client.

If you’re having trouble drumming up clients through your friends or business contacts, you can use less personal means. Websites like Fiverr and Freelancer.my can help you get started. There are multiple groups for freelancers on Facebook; each catering to a different industry. You can also list your services on service platforms like Kaodim or ServisHero. Cast your net as wide as possible and you’re bound to land jobs.

Know your worth

One of the very important things when it comes to freelancing is setting a payment rate. You will come across many clients who will try to shortchange you or tell you that they’re giving you exposure.

It’s crucial that you know your worth and also study the market rate for freelancers. If you’re not sure, talk to people about it. Setting a low payment rate can result in you not being well compensated for your work, you could potentially be dragging the market down. Setting a rate too high can discourage clients from approaching you. You want to make sure you’re well paid for the amount of work you’re doing.

Online freelance sites generally have clients set their budgets, which is a good way to get started. If anything, it will give you an idea of how much your work should be worth.

Manage your workload

As the jobs keep coming in, it’s easy to get carried away and say ‘yes’ to everything. As a freelancer, you need to keep in mind that you’re only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. There is always the tendency to overwhelm yourself with work and make as much money as possible. But taking on too much work and dealing with tight deadlines will only stress you out and compromise the quality of your work.

Make sure you get paid

It’s very common to hear freelancers complaining about not getting paid – and it will probably happen to you too.

Before you embark on any freelance job, make sure to lay out your payment terms. Which means defining how much you should get paid and when.

You should specify whether you’re charging by the hour, by the day, or a lump sum for the entire project. Be clear about how you would like to be paid, i.e. bank transfer, cheque, or cash. More importantly, make sure all these terms are in black-and-white. Never rely on someone telling you how much they will pay you – because they can easily change their minds or go back on their word.

It definitely helps if you have a standard agreement or contract for clients to sign before starting work. Not every freelancer does this, but it can avoid potential problems.

Save for the rainy days

At least 1.36 million people were employed in Malaysia’s informal sector in 2017, and the number continues to grow. However, most freelance workers don’t have any form of social protection.

Make sure to put aside some money for savings, they may come in handy in case of any emergencies. Or better yet, invest in i-Saraan (previously known as 1Malaysia Retirement Savings Scheme). This scheme under EPF is especially curated for informal workers so they have some form of social protection.

Aside from all the amazing benefits of freelancing, there are also downsides – so make sure to weigh all the pros and cons before making the jump. Good luck!

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