As far as I can remember the idea to become internationally location-independent has come to my mind for the first time somewhere in 2015.
There were 3 main reasons for that:
- I want to be independent economically from the local markets. I was living in Russia, and the local currency devaluation has always been a trap.
- I didn't want to be physically tied to any place. I only need a laptop to do my work and I wanted flexibility to do it from anywhere.
- I wanted to utilize a location arbitrage by residing in cheaper locations while working on those with higher wages
While remote work in 2015 was a rare and exotic thing in general, international remote work sounded like a fairytale. Anyway, I was rather optimistic: photos of digital nomads traveling around the world with laptops and backpacks. It looked way too attractive to resist.
Then there was a long way from the initial idea to the final implementation.
It took me a couple of years to obtain more work experience and only in 2017 I firmly decided to make my best to achieve it.
I've made up an extensive preparation boot camp for myself which consisted of three main areas:
- English language boost
- Technical and interview skills
- Job search and application-related hassle
For the English improvements I completely switched my device's UI to English, filtered my content consumption to English, and started to write this blog. I used to have very good English when I was a teenager, and it turned out to be enough to restore my knowledge.
Technical skills improvement required long and incremental daily work. So I’ve made up a set of daily tasks routines consisting of:
- Preps for classical coding interview
- Preps for an iOS-specific interview
- Preps for solving whiteboard coding problems
- Work on my pet project to boost my skills and have a showcase at hand
A significant part of the day was spent screening several job boards and adding interesting job posts to my shortlist. I was also spending some time on CVs tuning and writing cover letters.
This was going to be my daily routine for the next several months.
Job Search Strategy
I didn't have an exact target. The main goal was to get into a remote first company ideally from the US or Europe. The team size didn't matter. Either a big company or a small startup would have worked for me.
I didn't consider positions with relocation seriously, but I also applied because I wanted to obtain additional interview experience.
The general strategy was to be lean: carry out experiments and see what works best.
Remote Work Search Caveats
The remote jobs market turned out to be more competitive than I had ever imagined.
No matter the job board, just a single word "remote" was immediately making the job post 100x more popular and gathered dozens and hundreds of responses.
Hiring is Slow
One of the most annoying things - nobody was in a hurry except me.
Typically it took at least a week for any iteration with a response or decision.
Once I got a response from one of the companies after 1,5 months I managed to find a job.
Remote Is Not Equal to Internationally Remote
Unfortunately, a significant part of “remote” jobs didn't mean internationally remote.
It could be remote in the bounds of the city or country. Sometimes with a hybrid schedule with days onsite.
One of the reasons why many companies don't hire internationally is legal concerns.
International contracts, accounting, and taxing are complicated. Not everyone is ready to deal with it.
I've managed to get through several hiring processes up to the final boss.
But none of them was a good match for me. The only position that I liked involved relocation which I was not ready at the moment.
I've managed to hack around the whole thing by becoming a freelancer.
Freelance clients turned out to be the exact target of what I was looking for.
By definition, freelance is a remote thing. Nobody would even think about bringing you into the office.
The freelance market has a strong predisposition to cost efficiency.
Many parties are ready to act as intermediaries and match clients with freelancers internationally. Getting in touch with the right people happened to be way more productive than sending hundreds of letters.