I had the chance to try working remotely before COVID made it compulsory for the rest of the world. It was a wonderful option before I had to adjust to sharing my workspace with my spouse and children. The primary reason was that working as a freelancer helped me stay current in my career, which can be difficult as a trailing spouse. Every country is different when it comes to allowing spouses of visa holders to work. Some may not issue visas that allow spouses to work domestically – hence the term trailing spouse. It often gets a bad rap because so many (mostly) women experience a loss of identity, isolation, and other challenges far from their normal support system. If that sounds like a nightmare walking, GoAbroad.com lists places where it is easier to obtain a visa.
Anyway, back to working remotely. After the experience, I can’t imagine returning to an office. Don’t get me wrong, I can be collegial but it’s hard to get much work done with the types of distractions that are typical in offices. Articles like this show me that I am certainly not alone.
If you’re ready to jump into working remotely as a freelancer, here are some factors to consider before jumping in.
Put some thought into where you will be spending your time. Every once in a while, using your laptop on the couch is fine but far from a permanent solution. Establishing a workspace that is conducive to your tasks can make you more efficient and productive. I use a traditional desk setup as well as a lap desk. I have found this to be a comfortable option when I need a change of scenery. The various tools of your trade could also be tax write-offs depending on where you live.
What are the rules?
The rules for working as a freelancer can vary greatly. Factors you should consider are where you are from, where you are currently residing, and what industry you work in. Americans, for example, are still required to pay taxes even if they are not currently residing in the United States. There are, however, some ways to reduce your tax liability (or eliminate it if you are not an American citizen). Certain countries don’t charge income taxes or tax income earned abroad. The Globalization Guide and Nomad Capitalist are good starting points to obtain information about where might be good places to go if you are planning to spend more than half the year there. Ultimately, it is worthwhile to double (and triple) check what your tax liabilities are with a trained expert if you are planning to settle in a foreign country.
Where to find work
Today, there are so many more companies hiring workers whose roles are fully remote. In addition to contract freelance roles, there are also full time positions available that are location independent. Jobs in communications and marketing, tech, administration, design, and writing have been the most conducive to remote and freelance arrangements but I’m sure that there are others. The challenge is keeping the work flowing, which takes a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit to make freelancing work for you as an alternative to permanent, full-time employment.
Aside from the usual suspects (i.e. LinkedIn and Indeed) there are several sites devoted entirely to remote jobs, freelance work, or to filling positions in certain industries. Here are some that I have come across:
In a future post, I’ll dig into my experience using these sites. In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think of these sites or if there are others that you prefer.
How can it work for you?
There are so many reasons that a person chooses to become a freelance worker – and the pandemic provided many of them. The rigidity and expectations of the corporate world have not proven worth the sacrifice and hard work that many people have put into it. I’m sure you can relate if you are like me and entered the workforce in time to be knocked on your ass during the 2008 recession.
Another reason that crosses generational lines is flexibility. With a family that includes small children, it felt necessary to have a schedule that made one of us more available for their needs. People have written countless stories about the cost of childcare and the amount of time that working parents spend away from their children. I realized pretty fast that I did not want to continue that routine. This feeling greatly influenced our decision to move abroad. The pandemic cemented that idea for me when I found myself with a remote, full-time job that kept me tied to my desk when my family needed me most.
The bottom line
All that said, working as a freelancer still has its challenges. You still need to be able to manage your time and set boundaries. You need to be motivated to go out and get projects to work on. Also, you need to constantly work on improving your skills. It’s also important to cultivate your networking and interpersonal communication skills to engage with a broader group of professionals.
It will never be perfect. I’m slowly learning that nothing ever is. Yet, you might be convinced that it is worthwhile to step out on a ledge to leave the 40 hour work week, office politics, and endless guilt behind. If you find that this way of life doesn’t work, you can always change course!