The Road to Location Independence: How to Find Remote Jobs

Fred Perrotta

For those of us running our own online businesses, like Tortuga Backpacks, location independence is (relatively) easy.

With my laptop and a WiFi connection, I’ve worked from London for a month, taken a workcation to Mexico, and am now headed back in Guangzhou, China for two weeks.

Even if you wouldn’t use your freedom to travel constantly, having the option to travel when and for how long you want to is empowering.

What if you don’t own a business? What if your employer doesn’t allow for remote work? We’re here to help.

You can find plenty of information online about finding work at your destination. You can work at a hostel, teach English, or be a tour guide.

Not everyone wants to do this kind of work. Some travelers want to start a business or have more control over their schedule. Some travelers want to advance in their current field while working remotely. If you want something more than the typical low-paid, local job, this post is for you.

Want to stay in your current job? Negotiate a remote work assignment with your current employer by using the scripts in The 4-Hour Workweek.

Ready to go freelance or to find a job with a company that values working remotely? Keep reading.

Working Remotely as a Freelancer

Freelancing is hard. Getting started with freelancing is even harder. I know. I’ve done it.

Your success will depend on your skills, experience, and network. The happier you make your clients, the more referrals you will get, and the easier your life will be.

The most popular freelancing job sites have a bad reputation with workers. The companies hiring on sites like Upwork, Elance, and Fiverr are looking for the cheapest option while demanding top-quality work. Spec-work sites like 99 Designs may pay more but only to the winner of each “contest.” These sites require you to do work without any guarantee of payment.

You won’t find consistent, high-paying work on any of these sites.

The trick is to know what these sites are good for and to use that to your advantage. You won’t get rich on a freelancing site, but you may be able to earn enough to live in a low-cost city like Chiang Mai.

Use the freelancing sites when you’re starting your freelancing career. First, talk to your existing network, former colleagues, and any one else who can refer clients to you. Work with those clients first.

Supplement that work (if you have the time) with short-term jobs from freelancing sites. No, you won’t make much money. You will quickly build your portfolio and get reviews. If you’re starting from scratch, work history and reviews are valuable.

Do a few jobs. Collect a portfolio or case studies depending on your type of work. Ask for reviews and testimonials. Then take this validation offsite. Don’t use it to get more low-paying jobs. Use it to build a website or LinkedIn profile to attract higher-paying clients.

Occasionally, you’ll find clients on freelancing sites that you want to continue working with on an ongoing basis. If you need to raise your rates, do it. Be honest and upfront with your clients. Tell them why this is necessary and how they will benefit.

We’ve found several freelancers on freelancer sites that we’ve continued to work with both through the site and independently. Upwork has been the best source of workers for us.

Finding Remote Jobs

Freelancing and entrepreneurship are not your only options.

More companies are building distributed teams where some or all of their employees work remotely. Tech companies like Automattic and Buffer are using remote work as a selling point and a way to recruit the best people, regardless of where they live.

Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals) was an early pioneer of remote work and has been a long-time advocate of the practice. They literally wrote the book on working remotely.

To reinforce what they talk about in the book Remote, 37 Signals runs the remote work job board We Work Remotely.

The site is “the best place to find and list jobs that aren’t restricted by commutes or a particular geographic area.” On We Work Remotely, you can find jobs ranging from programming to copywriting to design to customer service.

We’re big fans of NomadList, the data-rich rankings of the best cities to live and work remotely. The site was such a hit that Pieter, the creator, also built a job board to help people find remote work to support their location independent lifestyles.

RemoteOK will help you “find jobs at 100% remote startups.” The current listings are mostly technical but also include marketing and customer support roles.

Escape the City lists a variety of jobs. Its mission is to “connect people with exciting non-corporate opportunities.” Each role must include an “escape factor.” One of the factors is that the job is in an exotic location. If you’re looking for in-person work in a specific location, search Escape the City. The jobs listed there aren’t the usual tour guide and dive instructor ones.

Finally, Remote Year is an interesting new idea that will connect remote workers with employers. The twist is the Remote Year is not a job board. It is a one-year program where 100 people will travel together while working remotely.

Through the program, workers can find “technical roles in design and programming or business / operations roles in sales, consulting, account management or customer service.”

Join the wait list on the Remote Year website. Applications for the program will open this winter.

Remote Job Boards by Profession

Remote job boards skew technical, even the general-interest ones listed above. Other sites focus on specific jobs or industries.

Programmers

Programming is the most common role. Stack Overflow, Toptal, and Remotus all help developers find remote work.

Designers

Designers can go to the Jobs page on Dribbble. In the search box, under location, check “Remote / Anywhere” to filter for remote work.

Know any other role-specific job boards? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them to the list.

TL;DR

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t the only way to achieve location independence. You can live and work anywhere as a freelancer or even as an employee. For the latter, find distributed companies hiring remote workers using the remote job sites mentioned in this post.

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