These tips for getting started with remote work anywhere in the world are for aspiring nomads who plan to work for existing companies at first.
Yes, you can design a life of travel without needing to launch your own blog, course, channel, freelancing business, or whatever. In fact, statistically, location-independent workers who build their own businesses simultaneously while working for a remote company are more likely to succeed.
Today, we’re going to examine how to get started with remote work and get your gears turning about how to escape your corporate cubicle or office.
Step 1: Ask Your Current Employer About Remote Work
A lot of people believe they have to quit their current job to properly escape the Rat Race and begin a life of travel. While that’s true for some (like myself), it’s certainly not the case for everyone. A lucky few get to enjoy an easier transition when getting started with remote work. The decision rests in the hands of your manager and the company’s sentiment about remote workers.
If you’re planning to quit your job anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose by asking your current employer about going remote. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised!
If leadership values your contribution and sees you as an asset for the organization that needs to be retained, they may agree to switching your role into a remote-work position. This is the best-case scenario, and I would say it happens in 20 percent or fewer cases. Still, why not take a chance.
The Hybrid-Remote Work Conundrum
Realistically, your manager is likely to suggest a compromise such as a hybrid-remote work role (you get to work remotely but still have to be available for occasional, on-site meetings). Hybrid-remote work obviously isn’t going to be compatible with a life of travel and location independence.
If you’re serious about the ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world as a digital nomad, you’ll have to take a hard line and decline the offer, or …
Offer Something in Return
Although many people don’t like the idea for obvious reasons, you can also offer to take a pay reduction in exchange for a fully location-independent role. As with any negotiation, “saving face” and preserving ego apply here, too. Perhaps management would feel less like they were being pushed around if you gave up something in return.
By traveling and basing yourself in inexpensive places, you may still enjoy a higher quality of life after a pay reduction in exchange for location independence. You’ll also still have the time to work on creating your own hustle.
If your manager counters with an offer that allows you total geographic autonomy, congratulations, they really want to keep you! If that doesn’t happen, you’ll have to go to the next step.
Step 2: Get a Remote Work Edge
Assuming you already have a sought-after remote work skill, you should get an edge to be competitive.
You’re going to need it. Companies don’t switch to hiring remote workers just to pay less for office space—that’s a myth. One of the primary motivations for their going remote is to deepen the pool of hiring prospects. That means you’ll be competing against far more people dreaming of getting started with remote work
Examples of How to Get an Edge
- Learn another language: This is a brilliant skill to boast that differentiates you from all the other people competing for remote jobs.
- Get certified: Industry certifications are good, but having one obscure, sought-after cert may make the difference when a potential employer is scanning your resume.
- Get resume help: Sure, you can find all kinds of resume templates and examples online, but for remote work, you really need stand out. Before the interview phase, your resume is the equivalent of your human “book cover.” One tiny mistake or formatting error could blow everything. Paying a resume professional $100 – 300 to make yourself look good will help you stand out from scores of other applicants.
Figuring out how to get an edge requires getting yourself into a competitive mindset.
Step 3: Find a Remote Job
We already covered the best ways to find remote work anywhere in the world along with some of the top remote work job boards on this page.
Before making the move to remote work, you’ll need some reliable long-term digital nomad travel insurance that covers COVID-19 quarantine, driving scooters, and the such.
Step 4: Over Deliver at the Beginning
Building up some trust and remote-work “karma” early will allow for a little leeway later when you’ve got deadlines slipping because a monkey grabbed your laptop off your balcony in Sri Lanka.
Forget the stock photos you’ve seen of digital nomads happily working on the beach. I cringe when I see them.
First, even if you could still see your screen on a sunny day, you probably wouldn’t want to risk your primary money-making tool (your laptop) to threats that range from sand and sunscreen to saltwater and seagulls. Second, assuming your laptop survives, your quality of work is likely to be pitifully bad as UV rays cook you from above.
Regardless of whether you converted your old job into a location-independent position or if you scored a new remote-work job, you should do your best to “over deliver” by being more squared away for the first few weeks.
As everyone knows, the start of any new endeavor often sets the tone. Plus, repairing a first impression gone wrong is extremely difficult.
Although many progressive companies have turned to a “remote first’ model, many still have some concerns and hesitations. This is your chance to dispel the myths by kicking serious butt your first month or so. Make sure your employer knows you aren’t working in your pajamas or doing some day drinking between Zoom calls. Give a little extra effort to come across as squared away.
Ways to Make a Good Remote Work First Impression
- Be on time or early for any meetings
- Have a fast, reliable internet connection
- Reduce background noise for calls and meetings
- Have a decent backdrop for video calls
- Be presentable and dressed nicely on video calls
Your first month of remote work for a traditional company may include a probationary period, formal or otherwise. Whether we call it a probation, trial period, or first impression, employers are really paying attention at the onset.
Sure, professionals know there’s always a learning curve for beginning a new position, but your being squared away will really give them the impression they made the right choice of allowing you to work remotely from anywhere in the world.
Build Remote Work Karma
Building up some trust and remote-work “karma” early will allow for a little leeway later when you’ve got deadlines slipping because a monkey grabbed your laptop off your balcony in Sri Lanka. It happens.
I personally recommend setting up a stable base for at least the first month of your new remote-work job. Get a comfortable Airbnb. You’ll want to be somewhere with a quiet, reliable environment and extra fast internet connection—both for your own sanity and to make a good first impression.
The road can be a chaotic environment, and despite best intentions, isn’t always conducive for doing good work.
As all digital nomads know, exchanging noise for quiet often means going somewhere more rural or remote, which in turn means a less-reliable internet connection. Anyone who’s tried to find quiet in popular places such as Canggu in Bali knows the struggle. About the time your Zoom call begins, so does the construction team hammering and sawing to build yet another new villa.
Even if you have to pay more for the first month, plan to stay stationary in a comfortable work environment. You can always switch to traveling around on a budget and working from cafes, guesthouses, and co-working spaces later.
Note: Although you should over deliver at the onset, always be mindfully controlling expectations to keep them sustainable for the long haul.
Step 5: Watch Out for Burnout
Sure, that sounds like generic advice, but there’s a reason you’ve heard it so many times before: it’s a real threat!
Independent travel is indeed a thrill, and in my opinion, the fastest path to self-growth. I’ve made a life of travel. That said, the stresses of the road are many, especially when traveling in unfamiliar countries.
Planing your next move, packing up, getting there, then establishing a new temporary base all take time and energy. Meanwhile, you’ll still be expected to perform your remote work duties and meet deadlines. Your company will still expect results regardless of whether or not you successfully found a cafe with a good internet connection.
By combining travel with work as us location-independent professionals do, we’ve mixed two stressful-but-rewarding undertakings. People with conventional jobs usually only do one at a time.
How to Beat Remote Work Burnout
Fortunately, since you’ll be living and working somewhere (hopefully) beautiful and interesting, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for blowing off stress. Don’t just spend your days off killing brain cells by the pool, or worse, working. Instead, consider taking up new pursuits that have nothing to do with your remote job—bonus if they involve exercise or raise your self-efficacy.
I use sunsets as my remote-work burnout barometer. If you find yourself skipping sunsets because you’re just too busy or you’ve seen plenty and will just catch it tomorrow, take action!
To counter remote work burnout, you could try scuba diving, cycling, climbing, or some other activity that involves mindfulness and exercise. You can also take language classes and dive deeper into the local culture. I’ve found that doing these two things makes me feel less like a visitor and more competent.
Most importantly, remember that social bonding (i.e., forming friendships with local residents and fellow digital nomads) isn’t just for recreation—it’s critical for mental health and happiness.
Shut the laptop and live life.
Greg Rodgers is a former soldier, corporate escapee, and location-independent writer. He created Science of Escape to help others build a thrilling life of travel.