For two years, from 2009 to 2010, I worked as a remote freelancer in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It was a great experience.
I made a nice salary that went far thanks to a favorable exchange rate, I had flexible work hours, and got to do interesting work while exploring a new culture.
When I finally came back to the U.S. lots of friends and acquaintances asked how I did it.
In some ways, I had gotten lucky.
Without knowing it I’d accrued the right skills for the job, and was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t even have any plans of working in Buenos Aires (or staying for longer than a month, for that matter), but managed to find the right job quickly.
Still, now that I look back I can see what put me in the position to find this job, and how someone else might create the same luck I had intended.
How to Get the Right Skills for the Right Time
This is the main area where I got lucky.
Before moving to Buenos Aires I had spent 3 years working as a journalist covering a region outside of the newspaper’s main area. I had my own office, and pretty much worked alone.
Oftentimes this is what an employer hiring a remote freelancer is looking for – someone who knows how to work in a job with little to no direct supervision, but possibly quite a bit of responsibility.
Because it turns out working remotely is its skill. You can be great at your job, but terrible at doing it as a remote worker. Part of the problem is that there’s so much opportunity for distraction. When you’re just sitting in front of the internet for hours each day, with no one else around, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of distraction and finish the day having hardly gotten anything of value done.
Also, some people just don’t like the isolation. They’d naturally rather be around colleagues when they’re working, feel lonely working at a desk by themselves, and so they don’t last long in remote positions.
For those reasons, people experienced hiring remote workers are often partial to hiring people who have had some sort of remote work experience in their past. They know that freelance work isn’t for everyone.
So How Can You Get That Experience If You Don’t Already Have It?
First off, check to see if you can frame any of your current skills this way. For example, I once worked as a night front desk clerk at a small hotel, where I oversaw the entire hotel by myself for hours at a time. While it wasn’t remote work, it required the sort of discipline, focus, and responsibility that remote work does.
Second, if you don’t have the skills, see if you can get them quickly. Websites like Fiverr and Upwork allow freelancers from around the world to post their skills and connect with potential employers.
If you’re just starting, you can set your prices low just to get some experience under your belt – Upwork features new workers looking for their first gigs, so it may be a little easier to get this experience these days.
Third, you can also lend a hand for free to get that experience. A lot of different software platforms have forums where users can ask questions about their service, and anyone can answer.
WordPress is a great example of this, and on their careers page, they mention helping people on their forums as a sign that you might be the right kind of person to work at their completely remote company.
Where to Find the Good Remote Jobs
Beyond Upwork and Fiverr, there are a few other places I’d recommend to use for finding good remote freelance work.
I found my first remote job on Craigslist. A lot of people are wary of remote jobs here because of the potential for them to be a scam, or at a minimum just a way to collect people’s information.
My recommendation is to read the Craigslist job post carefully. If it’s poorly written, vague about what the work consists of or how you’ll be paid, just avoid it.
Also, if the work sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.
Other than Craigslist, there are a couple of great sites that focus on connecting remote workers with employers.
A job board just for remote jobs started by the folks who built Basecamp. Employers pay $250 to post their positions, which seems to act as a filter for keeping out low-quality jobs. This board typically has a variety of jobs available, including marketing, copywriting, sales, customer service, and coding.
Yes, that’s with 3 b’s. This job board is focused on helping designers find work, and typically has several remote jobs. Designers can show off their portfolio to potential employers.
This site is often mostly known as a platform for startups to connect with angel investors, but it also has a busy job board that offers several remote jobs.
Ok, ready to live the dream? The information above should help you get started today looking for a great remote freelancer job that lets you live in your dream location.