How to Freelance While Working Abroad Full-time

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Mary Clark Rardin is a maverick living life on her own terms. She managed to run a successful freelance business alongside working full-time while living in Costa Rica.

How does she juggle it all? Mary stopped by to share her success strategies with us today on the blog.

Time for a tell-all, Mary!

Fancy traveling abroad and working from your laptop?

You’re not alone.

Being able to support yourself online while discovering the world is one of the most alluring aspects of freelancing.

But how can you freelance while working abroad full-time? How do you balance your desire to soak up your new surroundings and build a freelance business?

Striking that balance is challenging but more than do-able and rewarding. I did this for two years in Costa Rica while teaching full-time at bilingual schools. I built a freelance writing business with a safety net beneath me and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches at my reach.

There were some ups and downs along the way, but they left me with plenty of insider’s knowledge that I’d like to share with you today.

Communicate First and Foremost

If you haven’t left yet, let any current clients know about the transition and knock out some work ahead of time. That way you’ll have time to adjust to your new country and full-time position.

Next, pick up a Skype or Google Voice number to stay in contact, and figure out your internet situation as soon as possible.

Know your time zones. Your work may need to come in much sooner to meet your client’s deadlines or perhaps you’ll find some grace periods you can make the most of.

Finally, be prepared to address any concerns. You can squash a lot of client anxiety by staying as professional, competent and punctual as you’ve always been.

Check the Legality of It All

Yea, this one is a bit of a snoozer.

Who wants to talk legal matters when you could be nomading around foreign lands? Getting your freelance business off to a solid, legal start is pretty darn important.

Before you head out, check the legal working requirements for your newly adopted home. Just because you have legal status with your employer doesn’t mean you have legal status to run a small business.

Connect with other freelancers who have worked in your new country. They should be able to give you a heads up and put you in contact with advisors if needed. Keep in mind the regulations may be different depending on the location of your clients and the nature of your work.

This step is especially important if you think you might want to freelance full-time and long-term abroad.

Strategize Payment

PayPal’s a good standby. You can have the money set up to transfer into your work bank account back home.

Look into services like FreshBooks and Harvest to reduce those pesky PayPal fees. I love Harvest for invoicing and pay a flat $0.50 fee for PayPal Business Payments. While I still have a few clients who make PayPal payments with a credit card, it’s nice to be able to eliminate the 2.9 percent charge whenever possible.

Be sure to stay up-to-date on the exchange rate if you plan on receiving payments in different currencies.

Prepare to Compartmentalize

Usually we think of compartmentalizing as a bad thing. Who doesn’t want harmony in life?

However, when you’re working two jobs, you’ll need to create separate systems and processes for your peace of mind and organizational skills.

This was one of the hardest things for me to nail down and took a lot of trial and error. However, I eventually figured out the following:

  • You must define your hours for freelancing whenever possible.
  • If you’re at work from 9 to 5, be there physically and mentally.
  • Use different notebooks, folders and materials for each job.
  • Don’t work on different projects for your full-time job and freelance business in the same place at home if you can help it.
  • Let your lunch time be a time to refresh. Working on your freelance business can not only get you in trouble, but it’ll also likely lead to burn out.
  • Program in a cut-off time for evening work. Mine was and still is 8 p.m. (ideally 7:30). This gives me enough time to recharge, chat with my family and do something I enjoy (besides writing) each day.

Get Support and Stay Connected

You’re putting in more hours than before. It’s easy to feel tethered to your computer 24/7. But never experiencing anything new won’t improve your work.

Join a Mastermind group, browse forums, look for a mentor and partake in local freelance groups. Head out on weekends or afternoons to different locales even if you have to bring your work with you. New experiences were at least partly your inspiration for working abroad, right?

Grow Sustainably

You don’t want your freelance business to be a flash in the pan. You’re still working your full-time job, so obviously you’re looking for some time to grow and make your freelance side hustle the best it can be before jumping in all the way. For sustainability, focus on clients who provide regular work in your target niches.

Ask yourself– Is this work that will bring me quality leads, a juicy byline or enhance my expertise? Make marketing to your ideal clients a priority to avoid long dry spells.

Learn to Leverage Your New Skills

Don’t forget to leverage your experience. Learning about a new culture and taking on fresh challenges put you at an advantage.

The insight you gain can be transferred into new markets, niches, blog topics and more. No matter how long your stint abroad is, it’s bound to be a fruitful, enriching journey with these tried and tested tips on your side.

Where would you most want to travel and work abroad?

Freelance while working full time abroadMary Clark Rardin is a freelance content creator and copywriter based in Memphis, Tennessee. She’s a wizard at writing about niche topics like marketing, SaaS, education, law and productivity. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her drinking copious amounts of coffee, updating her professional site and cuddling with her pups. Mary Clark lived abroad in Costa Rica for 4 years, so if you’re a fan of all things Pura Vida, be sure to drop her a line.

Photo credits: Steven Lewis via Unsplash

7 thoughts on “How to Freelance While Working Abroad Full-time”

  1. Thanks for the recommendations for reducing PayPal fees, I’ll have to check those out!

    Great tips! Though I’m not abroad, I found some I could use, especially setting boundaries with work hours!

  2. Hi Mary,
    Good to see you here and thanks for the exciting material.
    Though I’m blogger and freelance developer, writing is something I enjoy doing. I look forward to getting fully into it so it’s always exciting to learn something new about the industry.

    freshbooks.com looks interesting so I’m taking a closer look.

    I hope you are having a wonderful week and Gina, it’s good to be here today. Thanks for bringing Mary on board

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