Ace Dimasuhid

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Pitfalls of an Outside Country Remote Worker

Photo by Tyler B on Unsplash

Deciding to do remote work is an individual dilemma. While a lot of information has been written about the benefits of remote work, there not enough of its pitfalls, especially for workers that are outside of the country they are aiming to work from. If you are on the verge of deciding if remote work is for you, this post can help you.

This is not a boo-hoo to remote working. In fact, remote working can be amazing! This is just a word-of-caution, a stop sign on a busy street, so that you would not get blindsided when you decide to take that turn. That said, here’s what to watch out for as non-citizen remote worker.

From employee to self-employed contractor

This is probably the biggest change as an outside country remote worker: you are no longer a employee, you are now a self-employed contractor. What does that mean? Well, when you start in an in-house role for company, you usually just pass your details and start working. As a self-employed contractor, you have to register as your own entity, either a company or a self-employed setup. You will have to pay your own taxes monthly, quarterly, and yearly (or whichever frequency your country applies). You would have to submit an invoice every end of the month where the money would then be paid within anytime from two weeks to a month.

A positive side to this is that you are getting paid before getting taxed so you can write off some of your expenses before paying the taxman, essentially reducing the tax you have to pay. That would need some amount of accounting knowledge though, so hiring an accountant might make sense if the savings are significant. Otherwise, you can just pay taxes as if you are an employee but that would be foregoing the advantages you have now as a self-employed entity.

Take care of your own setup

Office setups are boring for a reason: it provides the base support for you to function without much thought on your part. It’s one of those things that you don’t give a hoot about until it poofs out of existence when you start remote working.

You’re probably thinking, “I don’t need that much. I have my trusty laptop, maybe a table and a chair and I’m good.” Sure that works for the first 6 months, maybe a year. But after a while, the back pains and the inefficiency of such a space will hit you. Working where you eat is not a fun place to be in logically and emotionally.

You have to invest on a great laptop, good table, a good chair, a good mouse, a great keyboard, a good monitor — all of which will have to be taken care of by no other than you. There are companies that do help with this, which is great, but you are still the one in the driver seat to making this happen.

Job security is a Myth

If you are the kind of person who prefers a high-level of security, at least emotionally, then you may have a hard time adjusting to remote working life.

Being a contractor, you are not entitled to labor laws that are available to in-country workers. This means the contract can be terminated (gasp!) without much repercussions to you or your employer.

Apart from the obvious financial consequences of such a setup (i.e. needing to prepare money in case that happens), the emotional burden of thinking about that scenario in the back of your head could be daunting. Mind you, it’s always there.

While this can also be true for non-remote environments, it’s usually just sitting somewhere in the back of the room whispering, rather than beside you screaming, which it now is.

You have to REALLY, REALLY LIKE what you do

In in-house setups, there often are other extra-curricular tasks such as office parties or office initiatives (yoga anyone?) that can count as “productive” in some workdays. In remote work, a bulk of your time will be dedicated in doing your role and only that.

That means you really, really, REALLY, have to like what you do. You are judged on your results, as that is the only thing available to judge you with.

You are also the one in charge of keeping your skills up to date. A good work environment is a catalyst for updating your skills — the simple banter of more senior people can lead you to absorb stuff you previously don’t know. In the absence of that catalytic environment, you need a certain affinity to your craft to upgrade it consistently.

Perks? What Perks?

Gone are the Silicon Valley type of perks where you have your own chef or a masseuse that moves from table to table. Being a contractor, traditional benefits no longer apply to you.

There are no such things as paid leaves, social security, loans, dental reimbursements, etc. All of those will now be handled by you, outside of your normal responsibilities as a worker.

You will need to think thrice before taking a day off as that will have to be deducted from your monthly invoice or would have to be recovered some other day.

While this seems quite gloomy, remember that remote work is still in its infancy and would definitely improve as the years go by. Autonomy has its cost (sometimes, even monetary) but it will definitely lessen as the industry grows to support autonomous workers.

Conclusion

If you are to remember one thing one this post, it’s this — when you decide to do outside-country remote work, you are no longer an employee, you are self-employed. While you gain responsibility on things you don’t usually need to think about, you also gain the power to make your work life amazing as you see fit. But at the end of the day, you have to decide to make use of it.

Ace is developer for seven years and a remote software developer for the last two. If you’ve enjoyed the article, leave a clap, drop a comment or send a follow. It is greatly appreciated!

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