How Malaysians Can Make Side Income Online

How Malaysians Can Make Side Income Online

Looking for ways to earn extra ringgit?

Recessions can be scary, but having some extra income on the side can help during times when money could be tight. Plus, thanks to the Movement Control Order, you may have found yourself with a lot more free time – if you’ve always wanted to explore online side gigs, this could be a good opportunity.

1. Freelance

Whatever it is you’re good at, there’s probably a way to monetise it. Browse freelancing sites to find out what kind of skills employers are interested in. Examples of skills that are high in demand include web development, graphic design, content writing, virtual assistants and search engine optimisation.

As a Malaysian, freelancing online can be especially lucrative if your clients are based in the US, thank to our exchange rates. For example, if you charge US$10 per hour (which is on the lower end of the payscale on sites like Upwork) and work six hours a week, that would amount to roughly RM1,000 a month.

As you gain experience and improve your skillset, you’ll be able to charge higher prices.

Here are a few ways to get started as a freelancer:

  • Sign up for freelancing platforms like Upwork
  • Sign up for platforms that connect clients and freelancers with specific skillsets (e.g. Proofreading Malaysia for proofreading services)
  • Reach out to businesses to offer your services
  • Don’t want to commit to a freelancing job? Use sites like Fiverr to complete small gigs


  • Easy to get started
  • You have the opportunity to work with different projects and clients


  • Your earning potential is limited by your hours
  • You may need to juggle many clients at once

2. Start an online business

Interested in starting a small business online? Be prepared to do a bit of market research. Your business should offer a product or service that fills a need. You may need to search forums, social media platforms or perform keyword research to figure out what people are looking for. Then, look for competitors who are offering similar products or services in that niche. How can you provide a better product or service?

Service-based businesses and freelancing overlap a little, but there’s a big distinction. As a freelancer, you use your skills and time to provide a service. But as a business-owner, you own the system that provides the service. This could mean outsourcing some of the work to other people. It also means that your income is not necessarily tied to the number of hours you put in.

The word business can sound a bit scary, but it can start really small and scale up from there. For example, here are a few small business ideas:

  • Selling homemade sambal pedas online
  • Selling grow-your-own-vegetables kits
  • A website that offers product photography services
  • A website that offers Malay-to-English translation

To start an online business, you’ll also need to design and build your own website (or get someone else to do it for you), and then drive traffic to the site.


  • Your earning potential is not necessarily limited by your hours


  • Harder to get started than freelancing
  • You may need to be responsible for other people
  • Need some familiarity with digital marketing techniques



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3. Sell digital content

With digital content, you don’t have to deal with physically producing, shipping and storing it, which means that profit margins could be potentially high. Plus, your profits aren’t tied to the number of hours you put in.

And while technical knowledge certainly comes in handy, you don’t necessarily need complex skills to create certain products. Here are some examples of digital products, sorted by technical difficulty:


  • Sell e-books on Amazon Kindle Store
  • Create document templates (resumes, journals, planners, meal-prep plans, workout trackers, invitations and calendars) on craft sites like Etsy
  • Sell stock photography or videography on sites like Shutterstock


  • Create an online course and host it on sites like Udemy, or host it on your own site using a service like Teachable
  • Sell WordPress themes on sites like Themeforest
  • Sell background music, jingles and sound effects on sites like Audiojungle
  • Sell graphic design resources like patterns, Photoshop brushes, textures and vector illustrations on sites like Creative Market


  • Build a mobile/desktop/web app and monetise it

  • No inventory to manage, delivery is automated
  • Requires upfront work, but after that profits are potentially passive income
  • Potentially high profit margins


  • May require specific technical knowledge
  • Some products may need to be continuously updated
  • Susceptible to piracy or copycat competitors

4. Sell someone else’s product or service

Don’t have a product or service to sell? You can sell someone else’s.

One way to do so is through dropshipping. When you run a dropshipping store, you’re sourcing products from other businesses, and selling them to your customers. You don’t keep any inventory – the products are directly shipped from your supplier. For example, let’s say you want to set up an online store selling knitwear for kittens. You need to find a supplier, such as those on AliExpress, who can supply these products. Whenever a customer places an order, you ask your supplier to send the product to the customer. The catch is that you’d need to market your site effectively to gain traffic and sales.

Another way to sell someone else’s product or service is through affiliate marketing. Here’s how this works – you sign up as an affiliate partner with a site, such as Lazada. You set up a blog that reviews the best rice cookers. In every review, you set up affiliate links so that your readers can buy these products on Lazada. Every time they make a purchase, Lazada gives you a commission.

This doesn’t just work with blogs. If you have a big social media following, or if you’re a YouTuber, you could plug in your affiliate links. If you know how to build websites (or can pay someone to do it for you), you can create a coupon site, a hotel comparison website or some other site that provides a service while linking to affiliate products.


  • Your earning potential is not limited by your hours
  • You don’t have to be accountable to clients or customers


  • May need to spend money on advertising to bring in traffic
  • Need some familiarity with digital marketing techniques

Getting started

Feeling a bit stuck? Here are a few tips to get you started.

a) Find your interest

It’s easier to get started if you are interested in what you’re doing. The trick is to match your skills and interests to consumer demand. For example, if you love animals, and you have some basic graphic design skills, you could see if there’s a demand for custom pet socks (it’s a surprisingly huge market).

b) Pick up new skills

Don’t have a marketable skill? Now’s the perfect time to pick up a new skill or hone an existing one. Many sites are offering free or discounted access to learning resources during the coronavirus outbreak. For example, Harvard is offering 67 free online courses, Coursera is offering free certifications for 100 courses until May (you’d usually need to pay for a certification) and even sites like Nikon are allowing you to stream photography classes for free.

c) Use technology

Starting websites or looking for online opportunities is much easier than it was a few years ago, thanks to a multitude of platforms and resources. Opening an online store, for example, is easy with platforms like Shopify or WordPress. Freelancing sites, or online portfolio creators, make it easier to look for clients. Apps like Oberlo can help you start a dropshipping site.

Closer to home, MDEC’s eRezeki helps you find remote jobs or digitally-enabled tasks. With these resources, it’s never been easier to look for online income opportunities, even if you’re a non-techie.

And finally, if you need some inspiration, take a look at our archives:

How To Get Started As A Freelancer In Malaysia

4 Freelancers Share How They Earn An Income Online

3 Malaysians Share Their Unconventional Ways Of Earning Side Income

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