Being able to work from wherever and whenever you want is the ideal scenario for a mobile semi-retirement lifestyle. However, achieving this ideal is easier said than done. In this article, I’ll talk about remote work, telecommuting, and fully location-independent work and how you can pursue these types of work.
Working Remotely & Telecommuting
These terms are often used synonymously and typically refer to work situations where you are employed by a company, either part-time or full-time, working a predetermined schedule for a particular number of hours per week. The only difference from a regular job is that instead of driving to a factory or office every day you work from home or some other remote location.
In a Gallup poll conducted in late 2015, 37% of U.S. workers interviewed said they had telecommuted. Of those that telecommuted about 16% worked from home 16-20 days out of 20 working days per month. So about 5.8% of all workers interviewed were working nearly every day from home. That’s a fairly significant number of people and it shows that remote work has become a viable work option for many. Workers who telecommute typically have jobs whose duties can be completely performed by working online using computers or phones. The internet and computer technology to support this kind of work has really only become feasible in the last decade or so, with the advent of high bandwidth internet infrastructure, reliable security protocols, and VOIP and video communication software which make remote supervision and conferencing effective.
Remote jobs aren’t always location independent
Often remote workers or telecommuters who are employed by companies will have restrictions on where they can reside, when and how much they work, and other job requirements which may hinder full mobility. A common example of this kind of work is customer service or sales support. Some companies offer customer service or sales support jobs which are performed mainly through email exchanges or online chats. Obviously this would be more conducive to location independence than working for a company which uses mainly phone-based support. The company may require that you reside in the country or region you are providing support for. They may also require you to maintain a landline broadband internet connection for reliability or security reasons, or to support secure financial transactions or order processing. Depending on the local internet infrastructure in the locations you are considering living, this may be a deal breaker. Support work will usually require you to maintain a fixed schedule of work hours in order to provide coverage when they need it. They may also require that you be available at specific times for video or phone meetings to discuss work matters and you may even be required to make a physical appearance at the central office occasionally. Some of these requirements may not be conducive to random world travel or the lifestyle you envision.
Finding remote jobs with companies
I recently looked at several of the big job websites, like Monster.com and Indeed.com to get an idea how easy it is to locate remote jobs on those sites that would allow a person to be location independent. I have to say it’s not an easy task. Often there isn’t enough information about the job duties to allow you to determine how location independent a particular job could be. Even if a job is described as “remote” or “telecommuting” you still have to look for information in the job descriptions to determine if they require you to work in a particular location or if the job has duties which would prevent it from being done in another country, such as a lot of phone usage.
So is there a better way to find these jobs? Fortunately there is. There are some free job websites which specifically cater to remote or location independent workers. We Work Remotely (weworkremotely.com) has remote jobs listed in Programming, Customer Support, Management, Marketing, Devops and System Admin, Design, Copywriting, and Other categories. Several of the jobs I looked at on this site were totally location independent and even provided health coverage support for people working in other countries. If these job categories sound boring and conventional, I should mention that one of the jobs listed in the Other category was a job as a Matchmaker with Tawkify, screening potential romantic matches. Flex Jobs (flexjobs.com) is another site which has a category for Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere and jobs can by filtered by category, part or full-time, freelance, and so on. There are also paid subscription sites like Nomad List (nomadlist.com) which cater to digital nomads and have jobs boards as well as a lot of other information to help you choose your destinations. Some other sites with remote jobs listings are Jobspresso (jobspresso.co), Working Nomads (workingnomads.co), and Remote OK (remoteok.io). Google “remote job websites” and you’ll find more.
Location Independent Work
Location independent work is work that you can do just about anywhere. I say “just about” because there may still be certain factors, such as availability and quality of internet infrastructure, that limit your location choices to some degree. But the main distinction between telecommuting jobs and location independent jobs is the degree of mobility provided by the latter. Typically, location independent workers are self-employed, creating products or services that they manage or sell over the internet, although there are some jobs which don’t fit this model. For example, a fiction writer, photographer, or artist could conceivably work from anywhere, subject to availability of materials, and may only need occasional access to an internet connection, shipping company, or perhaps an occasional return to their home country in order to deliver the fruits of their labor for sale.
Probably the most common scenario for location independent work is to be a freelancer and sell your skills in writing, photography, video production, website design, website creation, optimization, troubleshooting, or management, etc. Usually this is done on a contracted short-term basis, but longer-term arrangements are also possible. Depending on the job, you may be able to do this kind of work from any location where you have a decent internet connection. People who travel and support themselves by doing location-independent work over the internet refer to themselves as “digital nomads.” High bandwidth internet access has continued to spread from first world countries to developing countries, making more low-cost-of-living countries feasible as places where you can live cheaply and work fewer hours to support yourself. As penetration of internet coverage increases in these countries the situation will only keep improving.
If you don’t have technical skills but you have reasonably good writing skills you may consider working as a copywriter, one who is paid to write for various websites or other uses. There are many online sites that list job opportunities for freelance writers. Many of them are low paying “content mills” where website developers go to find cheap writers to provide web content to flesh out their websites. The pay for some of these jobs can be ridiculously low, but if you know a lot about a particular subject you can use your expertise to land better paying writing jobs by targeting websites that seek writers in your expertise area. I have another post here which talks about becoming a content provider as a location independent job.
The Blogging Dream
We’ve seen a number of sites telling people how they can blog their way to good incomes, with endless opportunities for travel and relatively little work involved. Often these same sites are selling e-books or courses or consultation sessions to teach you how to do it. It’s a bit like the old joke about how to make a million dollars…just write a book on how to make a million dollars. The truth is the success rate for making money blogging is pretty low. If you look at surveys taken by people who consider themselves professional bloggers the number who are making a living wage is typically 10% or less and the number who are making less than $100 per month is in the 70% range. I would venture that many of those who are making a decent wage are actually working as full-time paid bloggers for a company, or working as contracted bloggers for a variety of websites.
As mentioned above, working as a freelance contracted blogger or a blogging for a company is one option which may offer you the ability to write from anywhere and make a regular income quicker, depending on the requirements of the company and how much contact they require. The downside is that since you are writing for someone else you may not be writing about anything that interests you personally, which kind of defeats the attraction of blogging in the first place.
The more difficult route to an established income is to build your own blog site from scratch and gradually develop your readership over time. Be prepared for lean times until you can generate enough activity on your site to make it pay off. Typical estimates are that it takes at least a couple years to show much real income from a blog. Most people drastically underestimate the amount of time required to create and monetize a website to the point where you can make a decent income from it. Every day the number of blogs competing for readers is increasing and it’s getting harder to carve out a piece of the readership pie. Bloggers who are doing well understand their market niche and how to promote and increase readership in this niche. They provide good quality content on a regular basis, and they work hard to monetize their sites in a variety of ways. Most successful bloggers spend a LOT of time producing content and marketing their efforts. If you are envisioning blogging as a lifestyle where you can work ten hours per week and expect to make thousands per month, you have unrealistic expectations. All that aside, if you are able to turn a blog, or other website, into a money-maker you can truly create a location independent lifestyle from it. Probably the best thing about blogging is the blogger is usually really interested in the topics he or she is blogging about, so in some aspects it’s like making money from a hobby.
Everything I said about blogging sites above applies to content-based websites as well. A content-based website is a site that provides informational content on one or more topics. It may also include a blog, but much of the information is in the form of articles, tutorials, reviews, ranking lists, buying guides, forums, etc. From a monetization standpoint, a content-based website may be more attractive to advertisers because it is focused on providing topical information to people who are interested in particular types of products or activities that advertisers may be targeting. This isn’t to say that a blog can’t also include product recommendations and reviews and other features attractive to advertisers, but it may not be as obvious to advertisers what the market demographic for a blog is.
With content-based websites (and blogs also), having good content is key. Without high informational or entertainment value, readers will not keep revisiting your website, and you want th