Virtual careers are a reality these days, thanks to amazing technology, a global marketplace, and increases in outsourcing. In fact, there are plenty of online jobs you could do to earn a living while traveling or living in Costa Rica - or anywhere.
However, I’ve seen a ton of websites that go that far and then stop, not giving you the nuts and bolts of WHERE you can find these jobs and HOW to get them.
It’s hard to even do research because most links bring you to other links, paid sites, people selling you stuff - or downright scams. To be honest, it’s incredibly frustrating!
There are virtual job sites, like FlexJobs.com, Upwork, and more that prescreen employers for you, and their small fee might be well worth it in wasted time.
So I did a little research for you (because I care) to offer some good resources to actually find a legit virtual job and get hired.
Please note that I do not have any affiliation or get paid by any of these sites (I wish). I’ve clicked on all of the links to see if they were live and looked like credible job services, but I can’t vouch for their validity.
So feel free to email me with any updates or experiences you have when you go to these sites and start your job search.
Warning: There are a lot of scams out there in the world of virtual work because the bad guys prey on the anonymity of being online and the dream of “quick money from home” that many job seekers buy into.
Here are 5 ways to make sure your virtual job is not a scam:
1. Make sure the employer is a reputable company. Check their feedback and reviews on LinkedIn, Elance, and Google them. Look up their Better Business Bureau rating.
2. Confirm they have a home office with a real address, not just a PO Box.
3. Ask for references from current employees and staff.
4. Get a phone number and surprise them with a call to make sure they are there, working, and professional. If you are suspicious, ask if you can swing by and say hi.
5. NEVER send money to them for ANYTHING.
How will virtual work be different from a regular job?
Instead of face-to-face contact with your coworkers and clients, you will have to do everything online. That means it’s so important to have a quiet place to work with a great Internet connection (which can be more difficult than it sounds in foreign countries.)
Since you won’t have managers looking over your shoulder, you’ll be tempted to take a siesta instead of working. But to be successful at virtual work, you’ll need to be organized, self-motivated, and have a great work ethic.
People often mistakenly assume virtual work is easy just because you can do it from home, but most virtual professionals I know work even harder, for longer hours, and sometimes for less money. But if you factor in that they don’t have to sit in traffic, get dressed up, or pay for parking and lunch, and the flexibility to take care of the kids – or travel abroad and sit by the beach – it’s well worth it.
Tools for virtual work:
Your laptop will be your best friend as you travel and work abroad. But these days, some people can get by just with a smart phone or mobile device. Also, a great Internet connection is a must. Most restaurants, bars, and cafes have free Wi-Fi abroad, but you will also want to get a home connection.
A Wi-Fi extender and a pocket Wi-Fi hotspot will be invaluable as a backup.
Your new job might require a printer, and get an external hard drive to backup all of your important documents and work.
A good quality headset with a microphone will be needed if you are making frequent calls.
Skype, Facetime, and teleconferencing software will replace personal meetings, and there might also be work-specific software or applications.
You can get paid via PayPal, which is convenient, but remember that they’ll take about 2.9% out of every transaction – which really adds up. You should also be aware that some payment platforms your U.S. employer may want to use, like Venmo, won't work internationally (they can pay to Venmo but you can't transfer or withdraw the money if you're abroad!) or may charge much higher fees.
Instead, just give your employer your bank account number and routing number from the start so they can make transfers or direct deposits.
You might want to keep a Post Office Box or use someone’s home address in the U.S. or your home country. This will serve two purposes: to collect any essential mail, and also to display a normal U.S. address on your marketing materials/website, etc. so you don’t advertise to potential clients that you’re living abroad.
And of course, you'll still pay U.S. taxes on any money you earn from a U.S. employer while you're abroad. *But always check with your CPA or tax preparer first.
How do you get the job?
You will need an organized resume, just like any other job, but a digital version. Since you won’t interview with your boss or Human Resource folks in person, the way you present yourself on paper (or computer screen) is extremely important. Take full advantage of testimonials, references from past clients, or employer recommendations. Highlight any education, certifications, professional awards, or projects you worked on.
A web page with a service page also makes for a great online resume center, or some sites like ELance or LinkedIn let you to set up your own profile.
Take advantage of every tool they allow – professional photos, work samples, uploaded videos, testimonials, etc.
A short video of you in professional attire, introducing yourself and talking about your job skills, experience, and goals for work is a wonderful tool, and the link can be emailed to any potential employer.
Expect a Skype interview, possibly more screening, writing samples, or even a skills test with a virtual job.
Note: Because of the lack of personal contact, expect your employers to do a Google search for your name and probably also look you up on Facebook. Take down those half-naked pictures of you doing tequila shots and stop talking about how you hate your past employer and can't wait to quit and move down to Costa Rica!
Best practices for virtual workers:
If you are traveling or living abroad, do you have to tell your employer where you are? Is it okay to work in your pajamas? At midnight with the television on? The fine line between professionalism and sloppiness often gets blurred with virtual work, but here is the unwavering truth: do the job well; exceed expectations, and you’ll make your employer happy.
It’s all about results, and if you need a babysitter to do your work, then you shouldn’t have a virtual job. Communication will key – there’s nothing that freaks your boss out more than if they email you for something important and you don’t get back to them for a long time.
If the job is 100% virtual, you don’t have to disclose your whereabouts (they don’t know if you are sitting home in the next town, the next state, or halfway around the world,) BUT you should ask to review their specific workforce policies before you start.
If something is going to create a conflict or become an issue in the future, then honestly address it with your manager ahead of time. Remember that there will also be a time change if you are out of the country, so you may have to work some strange hours!
Be organized, professional, and expect to put as much time into your virtual job-hunt as any other employment search. I promise you that it will be worth it to live the dream of spending time in a foreign country, while still earning a paycheck!
P.S. I have a ton more resources, links, and actual companies hiring for you in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook: Special Report on Working and Earning an Income From Costa Rica.
Email me any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.
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