If you’re excited about landing some remote work to become a digital nomad. There’s a pretty good chance that sooner or later, you’re going to want to work abroad.
With that in mind, we’ve worked out what you need to know about remote work abroad before you pack your bags: your boss might not let you, you’ll be breaking the law, you need to think about money, you want to ensure connectivity, you need to learn the remote working toolset, you have to get better at planning and you might need to consider going freelance.
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8 Tips For Remote Work Abroad
These are the key issues that face most remote workers who want to live and work abroad.
Your Employer May Not Allow It
You need to check with your employer before you book your flights. Many remote work positions are oddly specific about where they let their employees work. We can’t work out why this is but many will only hire from the countries they are based in and expect employees to stay in the country.
There are various reasons for this from a vague belief of a more secure computing network to the reasonable consideration that if you’re working remotely in another country, you probably aren’t working legally.
You’re Probably Going To Be Breaking The Law
You will hear an amazing amount of bullshit from twenty-something digital nomads regarding a “grey area” when it comes to working abroad. This is, however, nothing but bullshit and there is no grey area.
If you have no work permit and no right of abode in a country, then you are not legally allowed to work there (there are a few exceptions such as Svalbard off the coast of Norway where it’s legal for anyone to work as long as they’re willing to pay $4,000 a month to live in a cabin in one of the coldest places on earth but they are very few and far apart).
This doesn’t normally matter. Nobody will grass you up to immigration for working quietly on your own at home, but it may matter to your employer. Find out before you move abroad.
You Want To Think About The Total Costs
It is cheaper to live in Chiang Mai than in New York. This is fairly obvious given that you can rent an apartment in Chiang Mai for just over $100 a month if you really want to.
However, if you want to use a co-working space too, you need to pay for the privilege.
Then there’s the cost of visas, travel insurance, equipment insurance (get your employer’s computer stolen and you better be able to replace it), etc. that you don’t face when you work at home or in the office. For non-US citizens, you can add health insurance to this list too.
Tracking your expenses is fine but forecasting them is equally as important. That way you can stop situations from turning into emergencies.
You Want To Consider The Cost Of Money
When you leave your own country, you find yourself being charged every time you take money out of an ATM and you’re at the mercy of an exchange rate.
Sometimes this can be good (when I arrived in the Philippines, for example, a dollar bought 46 pesos, fast forward a year and it bought 54 pesos!) and sometimes bad (in Thailand, I watched a slide from 34 Baht to 28 Baht– ouch).
You can arrange for banking that eliminates much the cost of withdrawals as long as you do so before you leave home. There’s nothing you can do about currency market fluctuations though and that means the smart remote worker leaves a fairly healthy safety margin in their budget to cope with these changes.
You Need To Think About Connectivity
Your job will dictate how often you need to be online. As a writer, I don’t need to be “always-on” but I do need to do research which requires an internet connection and I do have certain client deadlines each day that I have to make.
When I was in the Philippines, I’d have loved to have traveled more than I did but the shoddy Internet made me think twice. I took the best part of a year to get reliable Internet at home in Cebu with a co-working space within walking distance as an additional backup.
That meant no moving to Baguio or other smaller cities because if you can’t work, you’re no longer a digital nomad. You’re an unemployed analog bum.
Talk to people where you’re going about Internet issues and power outages. Sometimes, you can prepare for them (I lived in a place with a generator in Siem Reap where the internet never dies but the power frequently does) but sometimes you can’t. Don’t gamble your job on the hopes of good internet – make sure before you go.
You Need To Plan Better
Sometimes, remote workers need to be in meetings with folks at the office. If that meeting as a 2 p.m. their time and 2 a.m. your time, you may come off as somebody who is not at their best.
Time zones are the biggest problem, though, because deadlines are, generally speaking, issued in the time zone of the company you work for. This means Friday at 5 p.m. could be 5 a.m. your time or Saturday at 5 a.m. this can make a huge difference to managing your workload around a crunch.
The better you plan your routine, the easier it is to accommodate stuff like this. That is, in theory, it’s easier, in truth, I tried working for a couple of months on America-time while I was in China. It nearly killed me, I never managed to get my sleep cycle in synch, and I was shattered all the time.
I chose to quit the work, but I was fortunate enough to have had options not everyone is as lucky as I was.
Set up calendar reminders. Schedule your e-mails (you can even get a plugin for Gmail to do this) so that they land when they’re needed by your colleagues. Use technology (a digital nomad strength, surely?) to offset the issues of working in different countries.
You Need Remote Working Tools
Actually, I am not sure this is true. I work with tons of clients who use Slack. To date, they all use Slack in the same way that they would have used Skype, which we used before.
I am sure there are operations out there that “really need Slack” but I am yet to find one. Many like to add additional layers of complexity by adding Trello and other tools to the pile too.
Yet, while these tools are absolutely not essential to me or to the work that I do. They are considered to be essential by the people who pay me money and thus, it is essential to learn the tools that support your ability to work remotely.
You Might Want To Consider Freelancing
I “work remotely”, I just don’t have a “remote job”. Freelancers still need to consider most of the points above, but no client gets to dictate where I work. In fact, I rarely discuss my location with my clients.
This is not because I have any embarrassment over where I am, it’s just not relevant to my working relationships.
One of the key tests that the taxation services (in all countries) use to determine if you’re really freelance (as opposed to employed) is that you can choose where you work.
Remote workers who are stuck in jobs that frustrate their desire to travel overseas might find that freelancing “frees” them up to go.
It’s not that hard to work remotely overseas. It can, however, be a bit more challenging to make a success of things than it appears at first glance. You have to pay attention to the details if choose to do remote work abroad or you may have to come home sooner than you wanted to.