Online freelancing as a career

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Freelancing is not only for freelancers. Employers and small businesses can also benefit from the availability of freelancers from a global market, balancing their needs against skillset and cost.Freelancing is not only for freelancers. Employers and small businesses can also benefit from the availability of freelancers from a global market, balancing their needs against skillset and cost.

For Malaysians interested in finding alternative methods of earning a living, online freelancing may prove to be a viable and highly satisfying option. Many types of jobs can now be done at home over an Internet connection, and given the global nature of the outsourcing/freelancing marketplace, this means that Malaysians can source for jobs from more developed parts of the world, where average fees are higher.

The Malaysian government is highly aware of this emerging economy and is encouraging participation in it. In 2013, the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) had partnered with Freelancer Limited (Freelancer), the world’s largest freelancing online marketplace. MDeC is Malaysia’s government-sponsored ICT advisory team spearheading the Digital Malaysia initiative, which aims to advance ICT development in Malaysia.

The partnership programme’s vision was to uplift the lives and boost the incomes of the nation’s underprivileged communities through IT skills training.  Freelancer has managed to educate several such communities in Malaysia as a result of this partnership.

Freelancer is renewing the partnership for 2015, in conjunction with the implementation of the eRezeki programme, which was officially launched by the Malaysian PM on 17th June this year, and which will introduce community centres (Pusat eRezeki, or eRezeki Centres) in specific areas throughout the country (initially rolling out in Kedah, K.L., Pahang and Terengganu) and where professionals can work in. Freelancer anticipates that this will improve the lives of more people from the bottom 40% of the income pyramid (B40) communities.

But freelancing is not simply for the B40. Skilled Malaysians who have a good command of English and internationally-recognised accreditations for writing, for instance, may well earn an average of USD24 (nearly RM90 as of 19th June) an hour. Of course, the competition is stiff, as freelancers now provide their services in a global marketplace.

So what are the prospects for Malaysians when looking for freelancing opportunities online? Evan Tan, Regional Director for Southeast Asia at Freelancer, believes that there is tremendous potential for Malaysians.

evantan_office“As of May (2015), Malaysia has over 157,000 users. While there are more freelancers than employers registered in the country (138,525 freelancers versus 18,942 Malaysian employers), employers are more active on Freelancer as based on deposits made on the platform within the last 12 months,” Evan (pic) said.

The number of new Malaysian users who register on Freelancer every year has been growing explosively over the last 5 years, according to Evan. In 2010, Freelancer had only 8,818 annual sign-ups from Malaysia; in 2014, this figure grew by approximately 337% with over 38,497 new Malaysian users signing up.

Malaysian freelancer numbers compare favourably regionally and globally

Malaysian freelancer numbers also compare favourably within the SEA region & globally. “In Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur is the top 9th city in terms of user growth on Freelancer in the region. In the last 12 months, Kuala Lumpur’s users grew by 27.3%. Malaysia ranks a respectable top 17th globally, with over 36,900 Malaysian users acquired in the last 12 months,” Evan highlights.

For Malaysian online freelancers, then, what kind of jobs can they expect to come their way? According to Evan, the top job categories awarded to Malaysian freelancers are in Web development/IT (particularly involving the PHP, HTML, and Java programming languages); data entry; design (mainly involving graphic design and website design projects); and writing and content (mostly writing blog articles). The top countries hiring Malaysian freelancers are the United States, India, Malaysia itself, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Freelancing is not only for freelancers. Employers and small businesses can also benefit from the availability of freelancers from a global market, balancing their needs against skillset and cost. As Evan pointed out, Malaysian employers predominantly hire freelancers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and the United States.

“The top job categories awarded by Malaysian employers are in Web development/IT (mostly PHP and HTML projects, with mobile app development for Android moving up rapidly); design; writing and content (mostly in the academic field); and data entry,” he added.

Evan2When asked what advice he could give to prospective Malaysian online freelancers, Evan had this to say: “One of the best pieces of advice I could give is to treat online freelancing as a career. A common misconception about freelancing is that it’s mostly something you do on your spare time.

“While it is possible, online freelancing has so much potential more than just an avenue for extra side income earned during your free time; it also allows millions of people to work on their passion. Not only that, freelancers have an opportunity to make a difference in society as they work with businesses and entrepreneurs in start-up companies. It is only when you see it as a career (or as a means rather than an end) that you fully reap the benefits.”

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