Start an online business in Australia or Asia?

This is something I’m really torn about. I really love the lifestyle in Australia, but the high living costs means that I have to work hard at my day job to pay the bills while I get things off the ground. I won’t be able to save much either.

In Malaysia, I’ll have a stable day job, free accommodation and lower costs of living, but am unsure if it’ll be more difficult to get my online biz off the ground because I’m not sure about the business contacts I can get in Malaysia.

What do you think? Start a biz in Australia or Asia?

My vote is on Malaysia.

In my experience, working a day job leaves little energy or enthusiasm for side projects, so it’s only worth it if the day job pays well enough that you can afford whatever luxuries you need to rejuvenate your mental and physical energies. You need to take yourself to the spa, get a massage, eat well and exercise.

If you can’t afford to take care of and rejuvenate yourself, you won’t be able to give of yourself to your business. And a business takes nearly everything you have to give! I started a business a few years ago, and we weren’t able to get off the ground because we simply exhausted ourselves and the team burned out.

I notice that you are from Malaysia, but have the feeling that your family might not support you starting an online business? Can you explain why you are unsure about making business contacts in Malaysia?

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Depends on the business contacts you actually need. I wouldn’t have thought either that Malaysia was that bad or Australia that good for business contacts unless your primary objective is to serve the Australian market.

Hi there livvyjeffs thanks for responding!
I Am rather new to digital nomadism so am not sure if I can get international clients from Malaysia. Most Malaysian companies don’t pay freelancers very well.

My family is pretty conservative and have the “employee for life” mindset. They would probably talk me out of it than support me.

You have a point about the luxuries bit. The two years I have been here in Oz I have struggled mightily to finish my product. It was damn exhausting. I finished my ebook after a year!! During the time I wondered if it would have been far easier in Malaysia as I would be in a more relaxed frame of mind.

I plan to have several income streams: freelance Seo writing, ebooks and maybe copywriting. I hope to get international clients as Malaysian clients don’t pay enough for me to move to Chiang Mai or travel (or so I believe).

But I have read of digital nomads who built their business from Bali or Thailand and wonder how they do it…

Also, and I may be wrong, the web writing market in Malaysia is still very young and a friend recently remarked that he is paid $7 a day to maintain a website!! At least with Aussie clients I can get better rates. I hope.

I see. Since you’re in Australia now, start looking for customers while you’re on the ground. Once you have just a few customers with an established relationship, you’re probably safe to head over to Bali or Chiang Mai. You should get a nice portfolio online before you leave, and set things up so that it’s easy for your clients to refer you out. Cost of living is about $30-$40 a day (very very comfortably) and all you need is the Internet. This way you can charge low Australian prices, and are likely to get referred if your products are good and your price is competitive, but make more than enough to live comfortably while traveling.

You should do some research on “how to be a freelancer”. Some basic things like setting up payment expectations up front and how to structure deliverables are important. There are so many ways to do this, some people charge per day, if you’re a writer, you might charge per word or per article. And it’s good to let people know up front about how much your time will cost, because it filters out the serious clients from the clients who are going to give you problems down the line.

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Don’t forget, the internet is location agnostic.

If you focus on getting clients in your location, you’ll be tied to that location. Instead, open yourself up to clients from anywhere by marketing yourself online (a good test of your skills anyway!), and if their location doesn’t matter neither does yours. Then you can do your work from Australia or Malaysia.

Also, I meant to say, there are places in Australia that have a lower cost of living than others.

Living in Sydney is more expensive than living in Hobart, for example.

Malaysia is a territorial tax country which means income derived from other countries isn’t taxed there. That’s a huge advantage for an online business. If I were you I’d move to a condo by the sea in Penang and try running your business from there for at least a few months. Create a product and sell it online to businesses from other countries then start outsourcing most of the work. Once the ball is rolling you can move anywhere you want in the world with little personal risk.

Here’s a link you might find useful:

That’s a relief to hear though I do wonder if clients will trust you enough to take you on. Yes I am not too keen to tie myself to a spot. What’s the point then, right?

Hello Freedomsurfer,
Thanks for your reply. Penang is a gorgeous place to live :slight_smile: I am fortunate, however, that I can live in Malaysia relatively rent free which was why I was seriously considering the move. In Australia I live quite frugally but in Malaysia I will save tonnes in living expenses.

Out of curiosity were you based in Penang? I hear lots of location nomads recommending Penang and I wonder if there is a location independent scene there.

I live in Adelaide which is considered one of the cheaper places to live in Oz but its still one of the highest in the world …

I’ve only been there a couple of times as a tourist, spent 2-3 months cumulatively. There is definitely an expat scene in Penang but not that much of a digital nomad scene.

My only experience living long term in Malaysia was in Kuching and I loved it there. I was probably the only expat in the city but everyone spoke English so I had no problem making local friends. It’s not the best city to live in if you are into nightlife but if you love nature, a good laksa and a relax vibe I definitely recommend it to you. Maxis has a fast LTE network there so the internet isn’t a problem and centrally located apartments are very affordable.

Thanks for your response, freedomsurfer. Just to clarify, I was born in Penang; it’s my hometown so I have very fond memories of it :wink:

I’ve never been to Kuching though.

Next time you’re in Malaysia (specifically, Kuala Lumpur), drop me a line! Would love to meet you and have a cuppa.

I agree with notanomad.

Who is your target market or What is your Niche
What is your USP ?

I am staying in Malaysia, and find Malaysia is a good place to START your online business, if you earn in USD, Malaysia is lot cheaper than Australia and you can get good internet connection and good community

If you have SPECIFIC question you can ASK me

Hello Taj,
Nice to meet you. Where in Malaysia are you based? It’s nice to meet a nomad based in Malaysia!

To be honest I am still at pupae stage when it comes to my online business. My talent is copywriting and editing so the plan is to specialise in content strategy, seo writing and writing and producing ebooks.

Thank you for your offer to answer questions for I certainly have lots! Will Pm you a question or two soon.

Hello Liztai

Nice to meet you too. I am based in KL and I am like you, trying to start my online business too :smile:

If everyone can do it, you can do it too :smile: I find it a little bit challenging as starting is the challenging part, after that, it will be okay

If you can add some marketing skill ( I can share with you later ) then you can sell MARKETING PACKAGE or MARKETING IN A BOX to Business Owners, that include Automated Wordpress Website + Copy Writing + Content Marketing+ Ebook + SEO

You can offer THREE package USD 1000 , 2500 and $ 5000 for example, so that they can choose as per their need and budget

We can discuss further and see your passion and aspiration

Wish you all the best on your journey

Hey Taj,
Gotta meet you when I’m in KL. Are you Malaysian, btw?