8 Essential Soft Skills Freelancers in Malaysia Should Have To Be Successful

Being a freelancer in Malaysia can be challenging. To make sure you survive, these 8 soft skills should be acquired to make you a shoulder above the rest.

An image of a male freelance graphic designer creating an illustration using a Wacom pad connected to an Apple iMac

There are so many misconceptions about the gig economy, freelancing, or self-employment in Malaysia.

While many like to glorify the concept of “freedom”, “flexibility” or “work-life balance” in freelancing, fellow freelancers also give hot takes on how unstable or unsustainable being a freelancer is if they lack skills to help them build a successful career.

Believe it or not, freelancing - no matter in which part of the world you are – is surrounded by myths.

From the point of view of a full-time office worker, a day in the life of a freelancer and self-employed person in Malaysia could be perceived as checking emails while sipping coffee at a hipster café in the morning, quick check-ins with clients in the afternoon, and taking a power nap before starting any work.

If you are a freelancer, you would already know that your success wholly depends on you. Unlike full-time employees who are provided with upskilling and personal development courses by their employers, freelance workers need to take the initiative to develop a range of skills to increase their marketability and presence in their industry.

a female freelancer smiling while looking at her computer while working in a cafe.

What is a soft skill and why is it important for freelance workers?

From meeting clients to pitching new proposals to managing day-to-day tasks of balancing the books for payments, these skills do not necessarily require certification and qualification.

These critical skills are called soft skills and they are learned through experience and developed through training and exposure. Soft skills for a freelance worker will allow you to interact with other people effectively.

Simply put, soft skills are a set of skills that reflects you personally and in the economic climate personally and are desirable for all professions. These skills also help boost your productivity and personality when interacting within your network including clients and fellow freelancers.

What are the essential soft skills that freelancers and self-employed in Malaysia should master?

There are many important soft skills freelancers need to survive in the current e. To help you start, here are 8 essential soft skills that any freelance worker should master:

1. Effective communication skills

Being effective in communication is one of the most important soft skills. Freelancers need to be able to communicate effectively with clients, team members, and even vendors. Not only do you need to learn to speak clearly and concisely, but you should also learn the art of presenting and pitching to potential clients.

Besides verbal communication, freelance workers in Malaysia could also benefit from developing and polishing their writing skills. In the long run, being outstanding at both speaking and writing skills can help you become an all-around communicator in this challenging gig economy.

A flat lay visualization of innovation elements represented by an outline of a bulb surrounded by crumpled yellow papers and yellow paperclips to create a "lightbulb moment"


2. Problem-solving skills

If you work as a solo freelancer, then problem-solving skills should be considered the second most important soft skill to learn. This skill requires you to be a critical thinker and able to question yourself and others about the situation you're facing.

To develop problem-solving skills, you should start by answering the “what ifs” and the “whys” and developing the best workable solutions to those questions. Brownie points if you can approach the problems with a cool and clear head in addition to preparing a Plan B.

3. Good work ethic

Let’s cut to the chase – “good work ethic” trumps “people pleaser that overpromises” any time of the day. Going above and beyond your normal standard to please the clients and receive praise usually will not work in the long term.

The rule of thumb is simple. Do what you say you are going to do instead of promising the star and the moon but then delivering half-cooked output. Having a good work ethic will also develop your sense of responsibility in the work that you are delivering.

4. Time management and organization skills

Having good time management and organization skills for a self-employed person who does not report any line manager can help you generate more money from getting more gig work freelance jobs.

When you are well organized in your work and you can manage your time well even with tight datelines, clients would not have to worry about you missing datelines and you do not need to worry about misplacing important files and documents.

5. Proactivity

Being proactive is not something that has been highlighted as much as it should be especially for freelance workers in Malaysia who usually work on jobs that have been set for them by clients. The best type of freelancer is those who are initiative in adding value to their work.

This positive trait is what can set you apart from other freelance workers and get you recommended to others by the clients you serve. It is easy to brush away proactivity if you have an “it’s not in my job description” mentality. Even though it is 100% okay, know that by being proactive, you can set yourself higher than your competitors.


6. Flexibility

Contrary to popular belief, being strict is not the only way to go for freelancers. Arguments about being strict when it comes to getting paid for the work you have done. However, being a flexible freelancer is equally important since it demonstrates your ability and willingness to adapt quickly to a changing goalpost set by your client.

For example, when a client had to bring forward or push back datelines due to unforeseen issues at their end, or a client dropped a new urgent project at short notice, being a flexible freelancer will show your mettle and preparedness, which is a highly beneficial soft skill to master.


7. Accountability

Most would agree that accountability is one of the most powerful soft skills one could have in his or her pocket, whether he or she is working as a freelancer or a permanent office worker.

As a freelancer, being accountable not only means taking ownership of the tasks given but also being accountable to your clients, yourself, your business, and more, including your finances. If you always keep accountability in mind, your commitment to our trade will not waiver.


8. Stress management

Stress management is one of the core soft skills that freelancers in Malaysia should learn to take charge o. It gives you a range of tools, allowing you to adapt your body and mind to relax and channel the negative energy elsewhere and not always be on high alert.

Stressors such as the inability to meet datelines, being in a state of the creative drain, or being unable to solve a task-related issue could result in stress. This in turn could potentially lead to poor health and serious burnout. Hence, learning to manage your stress is key to a productive and successful career as a self-employed person.


Of course, this is an optional soft skill that you may want to pick up as a freelancer. It never hurts to be a little bit more thoughtful towards your clients and strengthen your business relationship with them.

Surprise them with a simple gift on their birthdays, wish them Happy New Year each turn of the year, celebrate a business milestone, and many more. You can bet they will appreciate the extra effort you put in by just being thoughtful.

There we have it, the breakdown of essential soft skills that freelancers or self-employed persons should have to survive in the gig economy in Malaysia. You are not required to learn and develop all of them at the same time, but some can be acquired with more experience and exposure.

Which soft skills do you think are most important to become a successful freelancer? Share them on your social media to create more awareness among your freelancer circles!

Get doses of wanderlust & wisdom sent to your inbox. Subscribe to our newsletter.

* indicates required

Related Articles


Sign in
Or sign in with
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Thank you for your purchase

You're just one step away from being the Awesome One.

Sign UP
Or sign up with
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Forgot password
Enter the e-mail you use for AXA Rewards, and we'll send you a link to reset your password.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Retrieve Username
Enter the e-mail you use for AXA Rewards, and we'll send it to your e-mail.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.