Having an online business can give you many benefits. The first and most important benefit is the freedom of location. With an online business, you can make money from home, in a cafe, and even when you are not in the same country as your customer!
So even if you want to travel the world, with an online business, you'll still be making money on the go.
If you are introverted, online businesses can offer an additional benefit: not having to show up for work and interact with too many people every day.
You can focus on your business from the comforts of your own home while making a decent income.
Secondly, online businesses often cost less to start compared to a conventional brick and mortar business. While you'll usually need at least RM100,000 to start a brick and mortar business, you can usually get started with an online business for under RM10,000.
And finally, online businesses are usually easier and cheaper to grow compared to brick and mortar businesses. For conventional businesses, growing means investing another six figures into a new store, or business premise. But for an online business, it might mean just registering a new domain name.
If you've been exploring online business opportunities in Malaysia but aren't sure which one is best to get started with, you've come to the right place.
In this post, we will explore six of the most common online businesses Malaysians are making money from. Hopefully, these will give you some ideas on what kinds of online business opportunities are available and which to try for yourself.
Let’s get right into it!
The Six Ways to Start an Online Business in Malaysia
Although there are many ways to start an online business, we will be looking at six of the most popular ones in Malaysia:
- Physical products
- Selling services
- Affiliate marketing
- Informational products
- Software (SaaS)
For each method, I will show you:
- How you can make money from the online business
- Examples of businesses making money using the method and
- How you can get started
Click on any of the links below to jump to the method:
Make Money Selling Physical Products Online
How you make money
You buy a product from a supplier at a cheaper price and then sell it online at a higher price. You keep the price difference as your rough profit.
For this method, you need to have some amount of capital to buy the products and depending on where you decide to sell, some money for marketing (Facebook marketing, IG marketing or search marketing).
If you don't have that much money to stock up on inventory, you can still sell physical products using a method known as drop shipping. Read my guide to learn more about how drop shipping works:
Examples of E-commerce Websites in Malaysia
Here are some examples of e-commerce websites in Malaysia to get you inspired:
Oxwhite specialises in the sale of high-quality white shirts for men and women for less than retail prices.
Malaysia Clay Art
Malaysia Clay Art specialises in DIY craft materials for polymer clay enthusiasts:
How You Can Get Started
There are three ways to get started selling physical products online:
- Create your own e-commerce website to sell your products
- Sell on online marketplaces like Shopee or Lazada
- Create a social media account on Instagram or Facebook to sell your products
Let’s look into each of these options:
1. Creating your own e-commerce website
A popular option for selling online is to create your own e-commerce website. With an e-commerce website, you will be able to create your own brand and design your site to create the online shopping experience you desire for your visitors.
The biggest drawback of creating your own e-commerce website it that you need to spend some money creating the website as well as doing your own marketing.
Though, the investment can be well worth it since you get more control over your website than online marketplaces. You also won't need to pay any commissions.
If you are keen to create your own e-commerce website, I recommend either Shopify or EasyStore. EasyStore is a local e-commerce website builder whereas Shopify is a non-Malaysian one. Which to pick depends largely on what you are trying to achieve with your site.
Here are my reviews on these e-commerce platforms to help you compare and decide which is best for you.
2. Selling on online marketplaces
The biggest benefit of online marketplaces is that you do not need to create your own e-commerce website. Or marketing. Instead, it is done for you.
Online marketplaces are the best place to start for people with limited budgets.
If you are keen about selling on online marketplaces, read my guides on how to start selling on Lazada, 11Street and Shopee Malaysia:
3. Sell on Social Media
If you are low on budget and can’t build an e-commerce website or not interested in selling on marketplaces, you can look into the option of selling on social media.
The good news is that 33% of Malaysians buy on social media. This means that even if you do not have an e-commerce website, you can still make money by selling on Facebook or Instagram.
This process of selling through social media is known as social commerce. Learn more about selling through social commerce here:
Make Money Selling Your Services
How You Make Money
You sell services to people willing to buy those services online. This works just like a conventional service business: you provide a service and people pay for it.
Examples of on-demand online skills include translation, copywriting, programming and more. Explore more skills you can learn to sell services online here.
Examples of Online Service Providers in Malaysia
Suraya from RinggitOhRinggit makes 5 - 6 figures a year selling her writing services through her blog.
How You Can Get Started
If you already have a skill you think you can sell online, the next thing you need to do is to learn how to market yourself.
(If you don't yet know what skills are in-demand online, check out this article to explore these top skills here)
Personally, I've found the best results selling services online through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to grow my brand online.
Make Money Online Using Affiliate marketing
How You Make Money
Affiliate marketing is where you advertise for a business and earn a commission every time you make a sale using your own referral link.
You can place your referral links in your own website or your social media account.
As not everyone who sees the link will buy, you will need to have a large number of visitors to your website or a large following on your social media account for you to create a sustainable income using affiliate marketing.The best way to earn money using affiliate marketing is to have a website or a social media account.
Examples of Sites using Affiliate Marketing to Make Money in Malaysia
Product Nation is one of the biggest site in Malaysia that relies heavily on affiliate marketing and ads to make money. Each time a visitor uses Product Nation's unique link to make a purchase on their partner sites, they will make a commission.
How You Can Get Started
There are two ways to get started making money using affiliate advertising:
These websites have some the best affiliate deals if your website visitors are coming mostly from the US or UK. Most of the merchants are based in the US and UK.
However, Clickbank and Commission Junction may not be as useful if your visitors are mostly from countries in Southeast Asia like Malaysia and Singapore.
For that, you will need to sign up with Involve Asia.
The main criteria for you to sign up with any of these affiliate networks is that you already have a website which you update regularly.
Other than affiliate networks like Clickbank, Commission Junction and Involve Asia, you can also sign up for affiliate deals directly with businesses.
But how do you find out if a company offers affiliate deals?
The easiest way to do this is by typing in, "[name of company] affiliate program" or [name of company] affiliates" into Google.
For example, if I am looking for Wix's affiliate program, I can type "wix affiliate program" into the search bar.
You can do this search for any affiliate program you are interested in participating in. Sign up for all the affiliate programs that are relevant to your website and start promoting them to make money.
Other than that, feel free to explore some of Malaysia's most popular affiliate programs here.
Make Money Online Selling Ads
How You Make Money
There are many ways to make money through advertising. The most common ways you can make money through advertising are:
CPC (Cost Per Click): You get paid when someone clicks on an ad on your site.
CPA (Cost Per Action): You get paid when someone clicks on an ad on your site and performs an action. For example, sign up for a free trial.
Direct advertising: You sell ad spaces on your website for a fixed monthly fee. For example RM300 for a sidebar ad.
Examples of Malaysian Websites Making Money with Ads
Let's look at an example of a website that makes money using ads.
Hongkiat is a design blog that receives almost 4 million visitors every month. One of the ways HongKiat.com makes money is by displaying advertising on prominent locations on the website:
The display ad in this case is displayed at the very top where most people will see it.
HongKiat.com makes money when someone views or clicks on the ad.
WorldofBuzz (WOB) is one of Malaysia's top viral news sites and receives over 6 million visitors a month. WOB makes a good portion of its income through ads.
How to Get Started
To make money selling ads, you must first have a website with some amount of traffic.
This means you need to first invest in learning how to build a website that will bring in a lot of visitors.
Once you have achieved that, then you can consider placing ads on your site. Here is a guide on how you can decide when to start placing ads on your site:
Here are some more resources to get you started on selling ads on your website:
Make Money Selling Informational Products (e-books, online courses etc)
How You Make Money
You make money by selling digital materials like e-books and online courses. People buy these materials from you because they want to learn a new skill.
The biggest benefit of selling informational products online is that you only have to create the material once. Then, you can re-sell the material over and over again.
Although you do not need to buy inventory, selling informational products online isn’t free.
You need to invest in creating good graphics that attract students. And if you are selling the materials on your own site, you will need to invest in marketing.
This method of making money is most suitable for people who enjoy teaching.
Examples of Informational Product Sellers in Malaysia
KC Lau, Personal Finance
Selling online courses is one of the ways personal finance blogger KC Lau makes money:
How You Can Get Started
There are two ways to sell informational products online:
- Sell it on a course marketplace like Udemy or Skillshare
- Sell it on your own website
The benefit of selling on a marketplace is that you can focus on creating the course. The marketplace will take care of the rest.
The drawback of course marketplaces is that they usually take a high commission from instructors. Other than that, you will not be able to create your own designs on the website.
For some people, course marketplaces can be too limiting. For that, they can choose to instead sell on their courses on their own website.
The challenge of selling on your own website is that you need to set up the website, do the marketing and manage sales yourself.
The benefit of selling on your own website is that you can gain higher profits and gain a loyal following of fans who may buy from you again and again.
If you are someone who has thought about selling courses online, here are some guides to get you started:
You can also use Shopify to set up an e-commerce website to sell your informational products:
Make Money Selling Software as a Service (SaaS)
How You Make Money
Out of all the methods of making money online, SaaS has one of highest potential to generate a high monthly income. When you create a software that people need every day, you can convince them to pay you a monthly fee for it.
When you have enough customers paying you a monthly fee for your services, your would have created a sustainable business.
Though there are many benefits of creating a SaaS business, SaaS businesses are often difficult and expensive to create.
However, if you manage to create a SaaS that customers love and recommend to their friends, your may be able to generate profits for many years.
Examples of Popular SaaS businesses in Malaysia
Let’s look at some examples of how some Malaysian SaaS companies are making money:
Niagawan, Accounting Software
Niagawan is one of the most popular SaaS accounting softwares in Malaysia. It's best known for its simple pricing and practical features.
Piktochart, Infographic Creator
Piktochart is a Penang-based SaaS company that provides an infographic builder.
Piktochart allows anyone to create beautiful infographics and presentations. There are many templates and graphics to choose from for you to put together a professional and attractive looking infographic or presentation.
The Big Question: Which Method Should You Pick?
Those are five popular ways you can make money online in Malaysia.
Now, the big question is: with so many options, which method should you pick?
There is no right or wrong answer. You need to ask yourself:
- Physical Products: Do I have the capital to buy inventory? Am I willing to learn online marketing to reach a wide audience for my products?
- Selling a service: Do I have the skills that are in-demand online now? If not, am I willing to take the time to learn?
- Affiliate marketing: Am I willing to invest time in building a successful website? Will I be willing to spend time learning how to generate high traffic to my website? Am I willing to learn how to be successful with display affiliate marketing?
- Advertising: Am I willing to invest time in building a successful website? Will I be willing to spend time learning how to generate high traffic to my website? Am I willing to learn how to be successful with display advertising?
- Informational Products: Do I have skills I can teach other people? Do I enjoy teaching? Am I willing to invest time and/or money into marketing my materials?
- SaaS: Do I have the budget or skills to build and market software? Do I know an existing problem I can solve using software?
As you might have already found out by now, none of these online businesses are passive. Instead, to create a successful online business that generates sustainable income for you, you will need to work hard.
If you keep learning and trying, one day you will be able to create an online business you can run any way you like.
Starting an online business can be useful. Even if you live in Malaysia, you can sell anywhere in the world. With the internet, you can reach a large audience with a small budget.
This means that your income can be high if you learn how to create a successful online business.
Though so, online businesses are not passive. You must be prepared to work hard to create a sustainable online business that gives you a substantial income every month.