A Survival Guide to Freelancing Overseas

Have you heard the news?

Apparently, you could be working from a beach in Fiji, lying back on your hammock, sipping piña coladas, working no more than 12-minutes a week while tens of thousands roll into your bank account each month.

We heard all about it on a YouTube ad. Supposedly, there’s this whole new way of living – you too can trade in the daily grind for true freelance enlightenment.

But we’re no fools. We’ve seen that movie, The Beach. We won’t be heading off to some remote island without a proper freelance survival guide. To truly figure out if this digital nomad-ing malarkey is all it’s cracked up to be, Integra Global have picked the brains of creative freelancers who are out there doing it.

Mercedes’s freelance travel advice

📒Digital Content Creator: Mercedes

🏡Born in Quito, Ecuador, Raised in Salamanca, Spain ✈ Egypt

With an American father and Spanish mother, Mercedes became accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle from a young age. At three years old, she moved from Ecuador to Spain, lived in China in her early teens and went to university in the UK. After a work placement in Germany, Mercedes finally came to realise that she was unable to stay still and so headed off to Egypt for her next adventure. 

Make a Plan

“I think it’s very important to do in-depth research before moving abroad. Save up and have a place to stay for at least the first couple of weeks. Make sure that whichever currency you are getting paid in will be able to sustain you in the country that you’re based. I’ve found that it’s always worth having some savings at first. Payments can get delayed, or worse, cancelled. Surprises can happen along the way, and you may need to pay some unexpected expenses, leaving you with a smaller budget than you originally accounted for.”

💡Saving isn’t always easy, but modern banking providers allow you to easily round up day-to-day transactions and schedule monthly savings. 

Lisa’s freelance travel advice

📢Confidence Coach: Lisa

🏡Northamptonshire, UK Singapore & Australia 

After working as an Internal Auditor in both Singapore and Australia for two years, Lisa decided that it was time to re-train. She now runs her own confidence and self-esteem coaching business, holding workshops on cruise ships and skyping clients from all over the world. 

Get good financial advice 

Terms and Conditions are so important, so you need to be upfront about what you will and won’t accept from a client – I also insist on payment upfront. At first, working out how to receive payment in lots of different currencies can be challenging, but with digital payment companies, it does become easier. I’d advise getting good financial advice if you are working with multiple currencies.” 

💡Digital wallets are doing wonders for digital nomads. It’s one of the best ways to receive deposits worldwide. 

Joe’s freelance travel advice

Graphic Designer: Joe

🏡Manchester, UK (& London for 7 years) Sydney, Australia

Joe moved to Australia 6-months ago. He spent his first few days doing 3D chicken illustrations for a restaurant (wondering what on earth he’d gotten himself into,) but soon started to pick up regular work with an agency.  

Understand Visas

“The main issue with my current situation is the joy of visas. I can only work for certain periods of time for the same company. That will soon change once I apply for my next visa. If you manage to get to work with an agency, there are plenty of people in the same situation and so can offer advice. At first, I was dubious about working with an agency because I knew that they’d take a cut of my money. I don’t regret that at all now – agencies have great links with companies here. They sort out my work, pay, tax and I don’t have to keep searching for work and extra contracts.”

💡The visa application process varies, depending on which country you’re travelling to. Check the local consulate of the country you are moving to and give yourself plenty of time to apply.

Fern’s freelance travel advice

🎭Drama Teacher & Events Organiser: Fern

🏡Liverpool, UK Hong Kong 

While studying at university, Fern did a TEFL course so that she could teach English as a foreign language. Fern wasted no time moving to Hong Kong – even skipping her graduation ceremony to fly straight over! Six years on, Fern is running her own successful events company as well as teaching, dog walking and writing.

Seek Opportunities 

“As a native English speaker, it was easy enough to find work within education but more challenging to get a visa sponsor for events and marketing jobs. You have to prove that you are more suitable for the role than someone else who is from Hong Kong. I managed to get a great teaching job on a freelance basis, which gave me the freedom and flexibility to set up my own events company. I noticed a gap in the market and so set up ‘Got Balls’ and we get 400 guests attending each Bingo event!  I always like to have projects on the go and so write online articles for ‘Sassy’ and do dog walking as well. There are plenty of opportunities for expats to become freelance tutors out here and if you have a specific skill, such as photography or videography, you have a good chance of finding work. It’s all about looking around in the right places and asking people.”

💡If you’re considering teaching English as a foreign language, a teaching course can be a great way to get tutoring jobs overseas.

Sam’s freelance travel advice

🎶Musician: Sam

🏡Southern Wisconsin, USA All Over 

Sam planned on taking a gap year between high school and university but soon ran out of funds after travelling to Edinburgh, Scotland. He noticed that street performers were making decent cash in Scotland and so decided to give it a go, quickly falling in love with his new nomadic lifestyle. During the summer months, Sam travels around Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, touring music venues and festivals. In the winter, he travels internationally as a busker.

Make New Friends

“Working around the globe has taught me so much about the world around me and about myself. Being from a small town in the Midwest part of America, I wasn’t brought up with a lot of opportunity for cultural stimulation. When I landed in Edinburgh, I fell madly in love with learning about these foreign cultures from the inside looking out. Living a nomadic life and navigating social maps with new friends as guides taught me so much about kindness, generosity and the beauty of the human condition. 

While travelling through Northern England, I had a bit of bad luck and ended up without a place to sleep or money for a hotel. I found a relatively dry place to sleep in an alleyway and decided to cosy up for the night. I saw a light around the corner and went in for a pint before bed. When speaking with the bar staff about what I was up to, they asked where I was staying. I told them the truth, and without a moment of doubt, they walked back with the keys to one of the rooms in the hotel that I didn’t know was upstairs. They filled my belly with food and drink. I jammed with a few incredible folks and made lifelong friends. People are good at their core.” 

💡Coachsurfing is an alternative way to travel. It connects travellers with locals – and there’s no money involved!

Anastasia’s freelance travel advice

Anastasia: Journalist 

🏡Blackpool, UK (lived in London 8 years)  Germany, Athens

Anastasia is half Greek and used to freelance from Corfu each summer, for a couple of months at a time. With the combination of Brexit and the financial pressures of living in London, she decided that it was finally time to quit the rat race and move to Athens. 

Keep Networking

“Make sure that you get yourself out there and keep meeting people. Be creative with your own projects and stay active in your freelance community. I’m working for the same magazines that I was in London – just from a different country. Living in Athens has actually been good for my career as a journalist – it’s opened up so many new opportunities.” 

💡Even before moving abroad, you can start to network with other freelancers. There are plenty of groups on Facebook that you can join, including ‘Digital Nomads Around the World’.

Andre’s freelance travel advice

💻Motion Designer: Andre

🏡Nashville, USA Taiwan, Asia

The motion design industry isn’t huge in Taiwan, and so it took plenty of planning and preparation before Andre decided to make the move. Despite the language barrier and visa considerations, he’s been successfully working in Taiwan for the past year as a Motion Designer. 

Manage your Time

“I’ve found that the time zone differences can be hard to make work. If I’m back in the states, it’s easy to be on the same schedule or hop on calls when needed. Internationally, I have to do time calculations and carefully plan meetings. If things come up, then I might be having a meeting at 2 am!”

💡When converting times for various locations around the world, tools such as Timeanddate.com can really come in handy.

Ana’s freelance travel advice

💼Digital Account Supervisor: Ana 

🏡Caracas, Venezuela  Buenos Aires, Argentina

Always keen to immerse herself in different cultures and meet new people, Ana decided to move to Argentina. It took three months to land her first job and now, seven years on, she’s still busy freelancing as a Digital Account Supervisor.

Protect Your Health & Wellbeing 

“I think there’s a lot of mixed expectations about how wonderful it is living as an international freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, it is, but there are also some things that are not as easy for everyone. For instance, you are alone and a lot of days and have no one to talk to. You rely 100% on self-discipline. In my experience, having your own routine is key to maintaining a productive and balanced freelancing journey. It’s also important to have emergencies covered.  Get health insurance because if something happens to you abroad, the financial risk can be huge.”  

💡Health insurance protects freelancers so that they don’t have to face catastrophic consequences to medical situations. Providers such as Integra Global, offer tailored international private medical insurance, specially designed for expats living abroad.  

Andrew and Devin’s freelance travel advice

🖊KRK – Creative Branding: Andrew & Devin

🏡Toronto, Canada Leipzig, Germany & Over Europe

When the high-cost of living in Toronto finally took its toll on Andrew and Devin, the pair decided to live out their dream and move to Germany. Together, they formed KRK, offering marketing, branding, animation and design services, while travelling the world.

Enjoy it

No day is ever the same but a good day for us may go something like this: wake up and enjoy coffee on the deck, read a bit, scroll through NYT … then get a second cup for emails and general admin. We’ll get a beach basket together and bike to the beach where we may get a client email. It’s on when it’s on, and you play the  game! Get some experience under your belt and make some good contacts at home. That will give you the confidence and courage to make new working relationships abroad. And enjoy!”

So, freelancing overseas might not mean cocktails on the beach all day, every day. But with 4.8 million American independent workers now describing themselves as digital nomads, there’s no denying that opportunities are on the rise. With the right skills and work ethic, a bit of planning and a few guts – freelancing from around the world may not be as crazy as it seems.

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