Digital Nomad, it sounds so exciting. Travelling the world, having the freedom to live in perpetual summer and working remotely from a laptop wherever you may be. What a great way to be able live. Some people don’t go anywhere though. They work instead for different companies around the globe from their own home country, taking extended holidays and working from wherever they please. Some work afloat and travel at a slower pace. Others have their own businesses with clients in many different places. Today’s post focuses on how to find freelance work that is not geographically tied.
I spent the last couple of days scouring the Internet with searches like Digital Nomad jobs, Digital Nomad project manager contracts, Remote project manager and Virtual project manager. I have found many links to information, forums and communities (we’ll leave those for a future posts) and a few sites offering jobs and contracts such as Upwork, Elance, Nomad Lists, Nomad Jobs, Freelancer and RemoteOK .
Registering for freelance work
I registered with Upwork which was formerly O’Desk. My understanding is that Upwork have now combined the job opportunities for both O’desk and Elance, so no need to register for both. The registration process takes quite a bit of time to do properly, I’d recommend setting aside half a day. They advise you read the 21 page Upwork Freelancers Manual before you begin.
Creating a profile is quite straight forward if you have an up-to-date CV. It then becomes more of a cut and paste process. After completing the skills and experience section I was asked to take a few skills tests (I did four). Each of the tests takes around 40 minutes and each question is timed, so it’s best to make sure that you have a quite place to complete. I decided to do my main skill first, I thought it would be the easiest and quickest to achieve expert level. I was wrong. It took a bit of time to get comfortable with the US language style, the format and timing of the questions and I also had to take a call during the test. I’d recommend you take your first test in an area you are not that bothered about promoting to get the hang of the process. You can hide any skills tests that you don’t want on your profile, but have to wait a month before retaking any that have not come up to the expected level.
Next I looked at the freelance work available. I found that many of the contracts that suited my profile required the freelancer to work USA hours, evenings for me. I also discovered the job title I was really looking for was not always a Project Manager, it was also referred to as a Virtual Assistant. I thought that a VA was more of a PA type role, secretarial and office work, but I was wrong again. While a VA role can be that, it can also be in marketing, writing, project management, event management and more. I’ll need to fine tune my profile to match the contracts on offer. To be fair, Upwork do recommend that you first check out the profiles of successful freelancers in your line of work, a step I chose to ignore. Lesson learned from the experience – read the manual first and take the advice offered.
I also noticed that the hourly rate of bidders was quite low. From my research I believe this has been driven down by freelancers who live in countries with a low cost of living. The advice given was to just bite the bullet, set your rate to meet the average and get some work and good recommendations under your belt. Once this has been achieved you can put rates up or start your own site marketing directly to your new client base.
Understanding cultural and language differences
I also applied for a freelance job that caught my eye on RemoteOK (no need to register for this one). On clicking through to the company, the application process was quite long and once again it was US based. This company is not worried about the hours that are kept though as long as the work is done. I also applied for a freelance UK VA role and it’s quite interesting to note the difference between the UK and US application process. Though skills were just as important, the approach and requirements were often quite different. Understanding cultural differences and mindsets when applying for freelance work in other countries is going to be important.
Next I’m going to look at running and marketing your own business while travelling. If you have any input to the post above or experience in running a Digital Nomad or Work Afloat business, we’d love to hear from you. Please share your story and blog links in the comments.
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