A Freelancer Guide for Beginners in Malaysia

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In recent years, the dynamic of work has changed from the traditional rigidly-structured 9-to-5 work routine to the more flexible work-from-anywhere work life. If you find the 9-to-5 routine mundane and value flexibility, the latter job style may be for you. An example of a job that matches the work-from-anywhere lifestyle is freelancing.

The ultimate advantage of freelancing is that you can be your boss and won’t need to report to a higher-up. The communication will solely be limited to yourself and your clients, which is more straightforward.

Besides that, another perk of freelancing is its flexibility in terms of the work environment. With freelancing, you won’t be limited by geographical bounds as you are free to work from anywhere you like—not just from your couch or bed per se, but also from another state or country. All is justified in freelancing with the condition that you get your work done.

With so many benefits, it is no surprise that many have entertained the idea of freelancing. Even then, freelancing is not all bed of roses. It has its cons too, so it is not something you can dive into impulsively. Worry not if you are an aspiring freelancer in Malaysia looking for someone to guide you. We have prepared a freelancer guide for beginners in Malaysia!

Read on to find out more about the basic of freelancing.

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#Know yourself

Know yourself

For starters, the first step to being a freelancer is to know yourself. You have to decide what kind of freelancer you want to be, and whether it will be your full-time or part-time job. There are three types of freelancers, which are as follows:

  • Independent full-time freelancer: This type of freelancing is the most flexible amongst the three. Basically, everything is in your hands and up to you to decide. You look for contacts and jobs, negotiate with your client about the job and deadlines, and get paid directly. Put simply, you set your own schedule for getting things done and don’t have to work around a regular job schedule.
  • Signing up with a freelance management company: This type of freelancing is akin to having a second job. In this case, you are contracting with a freelance management company. The company will negotiate the job and payment terms, and then assign tasks to you as they see fit. With this type of freelancing, you don’t have to go through the trouble of looking for clients yourself. However, you lose some freedom in your work. Besides that, as a trade-off, the company also takes a cut of the earnings as commission, leaving you with less than you would have earned on your own.
  • Moonlighting: Moonlighting is slightly different from the other two types of freelancing. Here, you already have an existing job but want to earn some extra money. In this case, you have to inform your current employer before you start, or you may get into trouble. The acceptance of moonlighting may differ depending on the industry. For instance, almost everyone in the creative sector will have done freelance work to help out a friend at some point. So, it is essential to check with your company beforehand to prevent a breach of contract of any sort.

#Know your skills

Know your skills

After determining the type of freelancer you wish to be, now it’s time to turn your attention to your skillset. By being aware of your skills, you will be able to determine which industry you’re going to be freelancing in. Contrary to common misconception, your skills don’t have to mirror those of your day job and can be something entirely different. For example, you might be a content writer who happens to be very good at art and graphic design. So maybe you want to moonlight as a designer instead. There are various directions you can explore and take with freelancing. Still, an essential factor of being a successful freelancer in Malaysia is to have a clear idea of which direction you want to take so you can guide yourself towards your goal. Besides that, you should have a picture of the industry you want to offer your freelance skills to.

#Getting a Job

Getting a Job

After looking at yourself, it’s time to shift your view from internal factors to external ones. It’s time to look for a job. With freelancing, it is not an understatement to say that the biggest challenge is finding your first paying client. This can be especially difficult if you are not too well-known in your industry. In order to find your first client, there are various methods available for you to reach out. Many start from word of mouth, but in recent years, social media use has become more widespread and these platforms have created a multitude of opportunities. Besides keeping an eye out for opportunities, you should be ever-ready to sell your services.

When starting, it is essential to note that, unfortunately, not every encounter will turn into a paying job. Even so, at times, the experience and connections are what matter most—much more so if you are new in the industry. If you are having trouble looking for a client yourself, there are some freelance websites that can help you get started. For instance, Fiverr and Freelancer.my. If you cast your net as wide as possible, you’re bound to land a job.

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#Know your worth

Know your worth

Once you have landed a client, the next tricky part is setting your payment rate. With how businesses try to cut costs, you are guaranteed to come across clients who will try to underpay you or tell you that the exposure you attain is enough payment. To counter this, it is vital that you know your worth and are aware of the freelancer market rate. If you’re unsure about the standards, it is recommended that you consult with others. Setting a low payment rate may not only result in yourself not being well compensated for your work, but you could also potentially be dragging the entire market down. With that said, be careful not to overcharge your clients either as it will discourage clients from approaching you. The key to setting a reasonable rate is to set one that is congruent with the amount of work you’re doing.

#Manage your workload

Manage your workload

Being in charge of every facet of your job in freelancing can be time and energy-consuming. Thus, it is crucial for you to know how to manage your workload. As you progress into your freelancing career and have a steady inflow of clients, it is easy to get carried away and say “yes” to everything. Since freelancing is entirely self-managed, there is always the risk of overwhelming yourself with work. It is useful to remind yourself from time to time that taking on too much work and too many deadlines will only stress you out. Overwhelming yourself may jeopardise the quality of your work, besides adversely affecting your physical and mental well-being. Having the bigger picture in mind can help as a guide to succeeding as a freelancer in Malaysia in the long run.

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#Make sure you get paid

Make sure you get paid

As mentioned above, there will be times when some clients refuse to pay, especially if you’ve just started freelancing. It may be fine initially, but you should not let this persist. To counter this, you should set your payment terms beforehand. Outline your terms clearly, including your payment rate and when you require the payment. The more information you have regarding your payment, the better. You could specify if 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.

Although many clients will give you their word, you should not rely on this as they can quickly deny or modify their agreement based on their whims and fancies. Therefore, it will help if you have a standard agreement or contract for clients to sign before starting work. Even amongst freelancers, this is not a common act. Nevertheless, doing this is a sure-fire way to avoid potential problems and will be worth the trouble.

#Save up for bad days

Save up for bad days

Although freelancing is becoming an increasingly prominent work style, most freelancers, unfortunately, don’t have any form of social protection. Because of how uncertain and volatile the job market can be, you never know what problems you may encounter. Hence, it would be wise to set aside some money for savings as they may come in handy during emergencies. Even better, you could invest in i-Saraan (previously known as 1Malaysia Retirement Savings Scheme), which will serve as a form of social protection. This scheme under EPF is specially curated for informal workers and is suitable for freelancers.  

With that, you have the complete freelancer guide in Malaysia. Though freelancing does have attractive benefits, it is essential to weigh your pros and cons carefully before jumping into it. If you enjoyed this article, visit LokaPost for more!

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