Every young man's dream is to be location independent. To be his own boss and work from anywhere in the world. It's a feeling of true boundlessness when all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to support yourself. Complete projects by day, party with locals by night, learn a new language and watch the money roll in week after week as you take full-advantage of the latest form of arbitrage.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
It did to me before I actually tried it. That's when reality unzipped its fly and delivered a cold, slithery spank across my jaw.
Basically, there are two ways to become a location independent worker: there's the right way, and there's the wrong way.
The right way is to work for a company in-house for at least a year, building contacts, developing skills and producing top-quality work for your employer. This can be done in any industry so long as computers serve as the main platform for production. The first areas that come to my mind are programming, writing, graphic design, marketing or photography, but there are many, many more.
After a year of cultivating good relationships with both your company and clients (as well as working on procuring some clients of your own in your spare time) announce that you'll be leaving because of __________ (make sure you lie and say __________ has nothing to do with workplace dissatisfaction). If you're a good worker, the boss will try to convince you to stay.
You'll say no, but out of appreciation offer to be available for contract work should they ever need your services (they may).
Finally, make sure word gets out to your former clients about your new work situation. Be careful about contacting them directly. This could backfire if your former company thinks you're trying to cut them out as the middleman and stops sending you assignments because of it. When enough work starts trickling in, shift your focus to getting new customers.
After developing a sufficient and consistent stream of income, book a plane ticket and start living the dream.
That's the right way to do it.
The wrong way?
1) Try to leverage your in-house post into a telecommunication position after a short tenure.
2) Fail to convince your boss.
3) Say fuck it, quit, and book a plane ticket to an impoverished Latin American country.
4) Try to scratch out a living through obscure and dodgy postings on internet job boards while perpetually drunk and hungry.
Can you guess which way I did it?
The funny thing is that I actually managed to support myself for awhile, but life was nowhere near as rosy as I'd imagined. I worked online editing university papers, proofreading how-to ebooks that I'm pretty sure were written in India, writing occasional articles for an online men's magazine in Canada and doing general transcription. I did anything I could to make it until tomorrow. I had no time or money to see the country. I was paid late or not paid at all. I was promised work that never came and once even denied payment because they claimed the quality of my work was too low (although they used it anyway). I was living off no more than $500 a month.
And the worst part about it?
I couldn't complain.
Certainly not to the people in a place where the minimum wage is $5 a day, and certainly not to the people back home, living in a country that I was free to return to at any point and where it's easy to make a decent wage.
Eventually, a mix of White man's guilt, tumultuous relationships and a general feeling of needing to get my shit together drove me back home.
You can become location independent if you really want to, but before putting yourself on the path, define your motivations. Why do you want to telecommute? Where do you want to call home? What is the cost of living there? What quality of life do you want/need. Do you have marketable skills?
Working for yourself is hard. You never feel that you're truly employed because you're always looking for new clients. You're never sure when you'll be paid for your efforts or if you'll be paid at all. Working in an office is easier. The work comes to you, you have benefits, you (usually) get paid more and you go home at the same time every night.
A freelancer never stop hustling because he can't - his livelihood depends on new contracts.
The challenge is steep but the payoff is freedom.
But before you start thinking about how to become a location independent worker ask yourself one question:
How bad do I want it?
What Do You Think? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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