How to Land a Remote Job So You Can Become a Digital Nomad
Updated: Jun 25
CONTENTS: INTRODUCTION NEW MEAT TO BE OR NOT TO BE: EXPAT OR EXPAT ENTREPRENEUR? REMOTE EMPLOYEE RUNDOWN: PROS AND CONS REMOTE ENTREPRENEUR RUNDOWN: PROS AND CONS CAREER OPTIONS FOR DIGITAL NOMADS BLOGGER ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHER VIRTUAL ASSISTANT DESIGNER SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER PROGRAMMER/CODER GENERAL EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS YOU’RE ALMOST AT THE END PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM
What’s Your Purpose as an Expat?
Have you ever imagined being free to travel the world without worrying about money? Of experiencing the food, the culture, the people, the entera global enchilada?
Are you the sort who wants the road trip to last forever – despite the advancing state of the gastric reflux curdling your belly from OD-ing on fast food?
Does the idea of selling your worldly goods, flying stand-by to Phuket and slamming your first shot of cobra whiskey appeal?
Or are you the proverbial globetrotting trust fund brat? Out of cash, skint on charm, overextended on favors, and in desperate need of a quick scenery change before you’re tossed into the local hoosegow?
If you said yes to any of those questions…you’re going to need money. We can help. Also, unless you answered yes to the very last question, you’ll need a steady flow of traveling cash to live the digital nomad life. You need the sort of money that’ll cushion your international travels whether they take weeks, months, or even years.
What is a digital nomad?
The Urban Dictionary provides the following convenient, if overly optimistic, definition: One who derives income remotely and online, rather than from commuting to an office. This enables the digital nomad to not need a permanent home base, and she/he can travel anywhere at any time.
Being “fresh off the boat” in a new country has its advantages, but the ease of finding a job without a work visa isn’t one of them. As an American, most countries will happily grant you a tourist visa. Each country has its own laws about who to admit, when, and why. Regardless, if you show up with a remote job in hand or an active business with provable transactions and bank accounts (preferably transferred into a bank in your new temporary home country), the immigration officials will mostly dust off the welcome mat in anticipation of your your arrival. The first thing you will need to decide is: do you want to launch a company from the comfort of your poolside laptop…or do you want to work for a company that allows you the freedom to work from the comfort of your poolside laptop? Certain jobs are more suited to this lifestyle than others. Ideally, you’ll pick one that best fits your skills and interests that allows you the freedom to choose whether to freelance part time, work remotely full time, or start your own business.
To be or not to be: expat or expat entrepreneur?
Assuming you’ve already selected your first port of call, let’s also say that you have your valid US passport, a functioning laptop and a secret stash of cash to cover your flight and initial expenses. All you need is an internet connection. Now, before you remove yourself from American soil, is the ideal time to think through your expat options. Some planning now can spare you headaches down the line. Consider these pros and cons of being a remote employee or entrepreneur before you hit the road:
Flexibility: Remote employees can usually work flexible hours and work from anywhere with an internet connection.
Work-life balance: Remote employees often have more control over their work-life balance than traditional employees.
Cost savings: Forget about rush hour and business casual (unless they’re your thing). Remote employees can save money on commuting and a pricey wardrobe.
Increased productivity: This can go either way depending on your level of self-discipline. Generally speaking, remote employees can be more productive when working from home, as they are often less distracted.
Lack of social interaction: It’s tough getting to know your coworkers without a Friday lunch or afterhours cocktails. Good thing you’re in a foreign country filled with exciting new people to meet!
Technology challenges: Remote employees need to be comfortable with technology and be able to troubleshoot problems independently. Being in a new country with different types of electrical outlets and no immediate tech support can be quick teachers.
Self-discipline: Remote employees need to be self-disciplined and motivated to work independently. If you don’t want el jeffe breathing down your neck, you need to be productive and accountable with your time.
Time management: Balancing your workday with your expat nights will require some organizational and time management skills. Those are easily learned.
Freedom: There’s no freedom like the freedom of being your own boss while traveling the world on your own terms.
Flexibility: See above.
Potential for high earnings: You get out of your business what you put into it. Nevertheless, start a business with both eyes open: 20% of small businesses fail within their first two years.[ii] Remote entrepreneurs are, by nature, risk takers. Make sure you balance risks with rewards.
Impact: Remote entrepreneurs can have a positive impact on the world by creating jobs and businesses that are not tied to a specific location.
Lack of structure: Remote entrepreneurs need to be self-motivated and disciplined to be successful.
Isolation: Remote entrepreneurs can feel isolated and alone. Luckily, the internet has a way of bringing people together. If you’re abroad and feeling lonely, visit Facebook and find groups of people with common interests in your new city.
Time management: Remote entrepreneurs need to be good at time management to balance work and personal life. Especially, if you find yourself working with customers in multiple time zones.
Technology challenges: Remote entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with technology and be able to troubleshoot problems independently. There’s no home office to call for tech help – if anything breaks, it’s you who picks up the tab.
Risk: Remote entrepreneurship is a risky venture. But so is brick and mortar entrepreneurship. There is never a guarantee of success and there is always the potential to lose your shirt. It’s important to recognize these as facts of entrepreneurship, not a barrier to entry.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to become a remote employee or an expat entrepreneur comes down to knowing yourself well enough to make the responsible choice. The best option for you will depend on your individual circumstances, preferences, skills, and connections.
Choice Careers for Digital Nomads
According to the internet (and Google’s Bard!), there are a bajillion great remote jobs out there for people willing to work. Hopefully, one of these will fall job ideas will match your skill set and enable you to live the nomad lifestyle…in style.
Bloggers are not a dime a dozen. We’re at least a fiver per baker’s dozen. ROFLOL. You can make decent coin as a blogger if you develop a sizeable and passionate following, blogging can be quite lucrative. Incidentally, you don’t have to be as prolific as Hemingway or as lyrical as Rushdie to write a blog. In fact, you don’t even have to write – make a video blog (vlog) instead! As long as you can connect people with your monetized content, you’re on the right path.
The benefits of being a blogger include the ability to work from anywhere – from the hubs of financial commerce to the heart of the wilderness (thank you satellite internet!) the world is your office. Whether you blog or vlog, pick a subject that makes you passionate – that’s what people want. Share your world with the world whenever you feel like it. The key to landing a blogger or vlogger gig or job is a grand portfolio brimming with samples of your very finest, well-crafted prose – all of which has recently gone viral. Or you could be realistic and take the time to write three to six thoughtful articles (alternatively: shoot video of yourself reading the article to the audience) on three of your favorite subjects. When those are ready, create a portfolio website (or use a social media page), and start pitching the help wanted ads on these sites:
Online Language Teacher
Before the Chinese crackdown on foreign teachers, this category couldn’t get enough certified English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors. Many of the companies that provided instructors have been shuttered or gone incommunicado. Nevertheless, China was never the only game in town and there are always people who want to practice their English. The best way to get a job teaching English as a second language – whether virtually or in person while overseas – is to get certified before applying anywhere. You can get an ESL certificate online in as little as a month. Some organizations are even free. Like TOFL.org. There are also more comprehensive classes and certificates available through different universities at Coursera.org.
Warning: Teaching is hard. You must love your subject matter as much as your pupils. You don’t need to speak the language of your students, but it helps. Thick skin is always an asset. Who’s Hiring ESL Teachers:
Who in the world needs a little extra time in their day? Let’s just say everyone raised their hands. Because that is also the answer to the question: why are so many people choosing a career as a virtual assistant? Like other careers discussed, this type of job can be done remotely from anywhere in the world and you can usually set your own hours. Virtual assistants perform a wide variety of tasks for business of all types. Must haves in this gig include strong organizational skills, excellent communication skills, and a love of learning new things.
Who’s hiring virtual assistants?[iii]
Fancy Hands: Best for quick requests
Time etc: Best for entrepreneurs
Uassist.ME: Best for bilingual
Prialto: Best for large teams
WoodBows: Best for customer satisfaction
The world would be such a colorless, two-dimensional blah scape without the creative stylings of the designers who dress up ideas for a living! This is one specialty that requires some education and slash or actual work experience. Graphic designers (and their cousin the art directors; from the Latin artis versatilius) can specialize in print, television, experiential installations, websites, user experience and user interface work. Beyond owning some wicked creative chops, expat designers need to have the ability to show and share their work. Normally, this is accomplished through the creation of a portfolio website as well as a ZIP portfolio you can email to creative directors.
Where to find work: check the sites listed under the blogger heading. Also:
WayUp (entry level)
Social Media Manager
If you’re like most American’s, you spend an average of 20 hours per month on Facebook – to say nothing of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Telegram and the rabble. Contrary to popular Redditt opinion, these are not the four horsemen of the globalized apocalypse but an excellent way to drive traffic to your website. (Bonus points if you already know how to corral that herd and cowboy it to your employer’s website!) Do you ever think about the people who spend their days making memes, trolling for leads, and occasionally sharing a non-offensive post from your legion of followers. You could be one of those people! More than any other profession, the social media manager has a finger on the pulse of the world. If this is you, plan to spend your days online.
A good social media manager wears multiple hats (none of them black). You should have at least one creative bone in your body and laudable communication skills to match. You recognize engaging content when you see it and know when and when not to add it to your swipe file. Writing skills cannot be underestimated here. Especially as we enter the age of artificial intelligence and content is generated with prompts rather than syllables. Finally, analytical skills would do you right in the role of social media manager. You’ll need to read the metrics for each post to know what works and what’s 💩. It helps to be handy with an emoji too!
Where to look for Social Media Manager jobs:
Programmer / Coder
This is one job where people can find security, where there is a future demand. Whether they’re working on encrypting important financial information, coloring a character in a video game, or enabling people like me to come up with ideas they can’t pull off on their own – coders will never be replaced by artificial intelligence. At least until the AI learns to laugh at the boss’s jokes.
Then, we worry.
Until that day, the most sought-after skills in a programmer include proficiency in SQL, Java, C++, or Python. Employers generally look for programmers who know a minimum of two coding languages. If you’re a designer, knowing how HTML and CSS work couldn’t hurt either. You should be a problem solver and posses the ability to resolve said problems on the fly while explaining slash justifying your actions to someone with half your IQ and thrice your paycheck.
Who’s hiring programmers?
Who’s hiring female programmers?
PathForward (for women returning to work after absence)
You’re Almost at the End So it’s come to this. You’ve scrolled all the way down here grooving on the idea of being an expat seeing the world while you work and none of the careers listed match your skill set. No worries! Not only is the world a big place well worth exploring, but it’s also a grand sphere of constant innovation. New jobs are being created every day. Look for them here:
Parting Words of Wisdom Last but miles away from least, a word from our sponsor – a company with more than 80,000 expat clients served to date – US Global Mail. We specialize in virtual mailbox and scanning for expats. You might say that we’re experts at the expat experience. We launched when a neighbor went on an extended vacation and asked us to pick up his mail. From that one customer we grew into an international corporation with three mail processing facilities and customers around the world who sing our praises.
A virtual mailbox from US Global Mail empowers you to receive your US mail at any of their available physical US addresses. When your mail comes to us, we scan the exterior and upload it to our app where you can choose to save, delete, scan, or forward each piece of mail. We’ll even save you 80% off shipping costs when we bundle your packages. US Global Mail. Think of us as your virtual mail concierge- with efficient, friendly representatives available to guarantee your positive, share-worthy experience.
[i] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Digital%20Nomad [ii] https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/top-6-reasons-new-businesses-fail.aspx#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20BLS%20shows,to%2015%20years%20or%20more. [iii] https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/best-virtual-assistant-services/