Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Working Remotely

I was recently contacted by someone who wrote the following:

> I've been reading your blog for awhile now and I've got
> the moving bug as well. I own an independent website
> content writing service that I could do just about
> anywhere as long as I had an internet connection and a
> phone.

> I wanted to inquire as to how difficult it is to find
> a place of residence and if you think the time difference
> would affect my business. Also, thought it would make
> for an interesting blog post.

Montemarte: Nighttime Stroll
Having to work in a different timezone
might mean skipping this nightime
stroll in Montmartre, Paris
Photo by edlimphoto
I responded with the following:

I've been trying to put together a short article about this and yes, it would be a fantastic post because I know you're not the only one thinking about this.

The timezone issues are difficult. I know many large companies who wind up having staffing halfway across the globe to deal with timezone issues. If you're moving from New York to Venezuela, you probably won't have too much of a problem. If you're moving from New York to Singapore, things could change.

  • How often are you on the phone?
  • Do your customers really want to pay for an international call?
  • Do you want to pay for that call? (Less of an issue with Skype)
  • Do customers expect email to be answered in a timely fashion?
  • What are they going to think when email is answered at 2AM, their time?
  • If they find out you're living in Slovakia, will this cause issues?
  • Could you legally find local customers?
  • How reliable is the local phone/internet?

One way you could potentially test some of the time issues is to start "living" in a new timezone now. Pick one or two small clients (or whatever you think is appropriate), figure out a likely timezone for yourself, and start dealing with those clients like you're in the new timezone. Is there a reaction? You can back out quickly if there is, but if you've damaged your reputation, you may have lost a client or two.

Being able to work remotely is clearly one of the best options for living abroad. Even if you can't legally accept a job in Germany, you could go there for a couple of months, still earn money, and then move on to another country. If my wife and I ever had to move to a country where I couldn't find work locally, I can always get remote work.

Even if you don't yet have a remote job, they are available. The problem is that most of the "I made €2,000 a month working from home" jobs are scams. Dig for reputable positions and you can make something happen. Three sites for helping you find working from home jobs are Rat Race Rebellion (they authored the book at left), Work at Home Moms and Work Place Like Home. You probably can't afford to live in Monte Carlo or London with these jobs, but you could probably afford to live in Nottingham, the first UK city I lived in. Many flats in Nottingham are only £250 to £450 a month!


  1. If you cannot legally accept a job in Germany, being there and earning money may not be legal. You are, after all, in Germany, doing a job. You may have to pay taxes. You may not allowed to work at all if you're there on a tourist visa.

  2. What if the work you're doing is all online and you're simply contracting with an overseas vendor? If that vendor happens to be traveling around, what's the legal status on that?

  3. @Anonymous #1: that's a good point. I know many countries won't care if you're on a short-stay tourist visa and working remotely for a company in a different country. It's not really different from taking a "working" vacation abroad, or calling into the office from time to time.

    @Anonymous #2: that I could not tell you. It's different from country to country and you need to know the laws before you enter any particular country because (with a few exceptions) your home country requires you to respect the laws of the country you've entered. Beyond that I can't say as I'm not a lawyer and can't give legal advice.

  4. Yeah, you're not working for a German company so there is no legal issue whatsoever - you're just working remotely for American clients. It's not simply the act of "working" on German soil that the government cares about - it's whether you're paying your taxes and have a visa if you're working for a German company. Also, there's no tourist visa for Americans in Germany, you can stay up to 90 days without a visa.

    The vendor can travel anywhere they want, they all have to be based somewhere to file their taxes. If they're based outside the US then you need a visa to do the work, simple as that. Virtual work can be physically performed anywhere, it just matters who the work is for, not where it's being done. It's not like the country your in gets any output from your production - you and send it to your client.

    Cool blog. For me, the issues that have come up from working abroad via VPN are dealing with the time differences, security concerns with using public or hotel wifi, and the high cost of roaming internationally. Skype is a reasonable alternative, however it's not convenient to have clients make incoming calls and the sound quality is still pretty bad. Unfortunately I can't have my number listed as a foreign number for business reasons, otherwise I would just get a local SIM card. Maybe one day Skype will be integrated with smart phones and it will make this problem easier to deal with!

  5. @Remote Guy - I have skype on my smart phone...

  6. @Remote Guy - Governments do care if you're working remotely in their countries. Technically any work performed on their soil would require some sort of work authorized visa. Your point makes logical sense, it just doesn't reflect the legal nature of the situation.

  7. who programs perl in this day and age

    1. Lots of people. Don't believe the various language fanboiz on the Web who rely more on impassioned arguments than data.

  8. I stumbled here looking for info about working remotely. I am a freelance we developer and seo consultant, and want to go live in another country, preferably somewhere cheap to live so I can really stack some chips while experiencing a new city/country.

    Interesting comments about the legality of working remotely/ taxes in the residing country.

  9. Great blog -- thanks to the organizers.

    I work for a US company based in Silicon Valley, I'd like to continue working for them in Hungary. Connectivity is not a problem, VPN and VoIP work just fine. But my company is balking because of "immigration and tax issues". Does anyone know of online resources for discovering what these might be? Any insights welcome -- thanks!