Freelancing Abroad Pt. I: The How-To Guide

By Elizabeth Wellington, Contributor, on September 28, 2017

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If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted to try freelancing abroad. As wonderful as it is to have the flexibility at home, it feels even cooler to take that work on the road and set up shop in a different country. Since there’s such a diversity of places to work, you can have radically different experiences wherever you go. Just imagine: What would it be like freelancing in Bali compared to Germany?

If you’re dreaming about taking the leap, there are a few key things to consider. You need to pinpoint your ideal location while navigating the practical implications of this new choice. It can be a daunting process, but these suggestions and resources will help guide your way forward.

Think About Your Destination

When you think of living abroad, do you envision yourself in a particular place? Your first step is to assess your motivation for the move and all the potential destinations you can travel to. Is there a particular place calling to you, or is it general wanderlust?

Like any project you take on, it’s important to brainstorm. While it may seem a little corny, creating a vision board can help you identify your hopes. Buy yourself some travel magazines and create a simple collage. You may find that some unexpected details pop out to you. For example, if I make the move abroad, I want to be able to go to a traditional European market when I grocery shop. Another friend of mine knows she has to be on the beach, and the country matters less than her proximity to the ocean. These characteristics are at the heart of a positive experience. If you can identify them from the get-go, you’re in a much better position to find the best place for you.

Assess the Practical Implications

After you’ve assessed your “dream” abroad experience, you need to turn your attention to the practical implications of working abroad. As a freelancer, you can work from anywhere, but it can be tricky to schedule meetings when there’s a 10-hour time difference. When you’re thinking about where to move, take some time to consider the logistics. Is there a market you can tap into within your time zone, or one close to it?

Next, you’ll want to consider the ease of getting a freelancer visa. With a simple Google search, you can to tell how simple and affordable it can be to request one. Berlin, for example, offers a straightforward freelancer visa, but its neighboring cities could be a bit more challenging to get into. I’ll dive into other easy-to-move places for freelancers in the next part of this series.

When you go abroad, there are always going to be tax and financial implications. You’ll want to research the tax rate in your new place of residence, and compare it to your current payments. But what if you choose to live and work as a nomad? With a business based in the U.S., you can travel on basic visitor’s visas, leaving each destination before your time is up. If you’re an explorer (and willing to pack light), this is an easy and legal way to sidestep a lot of the red tape that usually accompanies a move. And then there are even more places you can go on the road.

Explore Resources for Freelancers Abroad

Before you make any decisions, put your research skills to good use. Dig into resources made especially for freelancers who are plotting a move abroad. From there, you can narrow down your list of potential places and reach out to freelancers who live in the area — they’re the best people to give you the scoop.

  • Expatica — This comprehensive website covers everything from visas to taxes across Europe. It’s a must-use resource if you’re hoping to relocate to a European country.
  • NomadList — If you’re deciding on the best place to work as a freelancer, this community rates cities based on their affordability, safety, enjoyment and the reliability of the internet.
  • DigitalNomad Reddit Group — Reddit’s sub-group on working abroad crowdsources global wisdom on freelancing. You can ask any question you want — no topic is off limits.
  • Creative Mornings — This worldwide meetup can help you crack into a freelancer community wherever you land. If there’s not a monthly meetup in your new destination, you can start one.

Freelancing abroad is an enriching experience that exposes you to different cultures and working communities and can deepen your work, too. It’s worth taking the time to figure out your game plan and find the place that’s right for you. You may fall in love with one destination, but it could be hard to work there legally. Be thorough in your planning process and you’ll catch those red flags and tweak your plans to find the perfect getaway.

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