I am writing this in a flat, with food in my belly and water on tap, instead of a cave with a month long beard and nothing but a rattlesnake for company, so I guess in essence I have survived. And in doing so, I guess I am qualified enough to give some advice if you are thinking of moving to another country to work.
I decided to up sticks and move to Australia in October last year. I always wanted to work abroad and I felt with the job we do it was a perfect opportunity. Sometimes I feel we don’t appreciate how good our industry is in this sense; not many people can work remotely, or work in an industry as flexible as ours and it took moving abroad for me to realise how fortunate we are.
There are certain questions that need to be answered before and after you move. In fact, depending on your initial choices there are questions and challenges at every stage, but instead of looking at them as a hardship the right mindset should see them as opportunities.
Leave on good terms
The 6 degrees of separation rule has never been more apt for any industry. We are a very close knit community so any bad press that you receive will be sure to follow you around. If and when you decide to leave make sure you give plenty of notice and be completely transparent with your agency / freelance clients. Successfully moving abroad relies heavily on good relationships so instead of cutting ties, strengthen them.
If you don’t ask you don’t get
This is true in all walks of life. If you work in an agency don’t be scared to ask your line manager if you can keep working on a contract basis. They know what you are capable of and sometimes it can be quite hard to find suitable candidates so if they already trust your knowledge and ability then it could be a good opportunity to have some work lined up already for your new home. A lot of small agencies will often save money by not paying the employer tax / NI contribution that they would have to pay if you were a full time member of staff so make sure you have a sit down and talk about your options.
Money vs. Freedom
This is a question that you should think about before you go but don’t be surprised if this is an ongoing battle with your heart and conscience. Oh and a tug of war with your bank balance. You need to decide what you want out of your trip abroad. Are you going to experience a new way of life with trips at the drop of a hat or are you going to work? Either way, it is a balance that takes time to get right so don’t worry if after a few weeks you feel dejected that you haven’t got anything sorted. It is on natural that you get excited and overcome with the desire to kick back for a little bit.
Try to set yourself some realistic targets that you hope to achieve. The amount of money you travel over with will affect your flexibility in regards to targets so adjust according to your budget.
Just remember that if you aim to get a job after a month then don’t start looking and sending over your CV during the 3rd week. It takes time so prepare. I recommend sourcing some recruiters even before you leave the country. It doesn’t take long to have a quick Skype chat with them and for them to set the ball in motion. Alternatively, as I mentioned before, the 6 degrees of separation rule can be of a massive help. Get your industry friends to tweet, email, Google +, or Facebook to see if anyone is looking to fill positions in your destination. You will be surprised by the responses.
Challenges of Remote Working
You may decide to start life as a freelancer / contractor and if you do then you need to be aware of challenges of remote working, particularly if you have worked in an agency for your whole career. Being your own boss is great but there are pitfalls that you could fall into if you do not have the self-discipline to stick to a time schedule. If you feel this applies to you then read my earlier post about the pomodoro time technique
One of the biggest challenges of remote working is dealing with the loss of social aspects of office work. Being around colleagues and having the opportunity to discuss your workload or brainstorming ideas for link building can be sorely missed. One way you can get around this is to become active in the local community; I will discuss one method later, or find out whether you have an existing community within your Twitter followers.
Twocation and TweetsMap are two Twitter apps that you can use to identify where your followers are from. I can see nearly 4% of my followers are from Australia so the first thing I did was tweet that I was moving location and it would be great to talk to a few of my Australian followers.
Another option is to rent shared office space. You might not find people within your industry but it is a great way to meet new people and potentially a way to gain new business.
*Anyone reading this get in touch with me here
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is the time difference. Having clients in a different time zone really tests your organisation and communication skills. In order to keep your clients happy you need to reassure them that although you are in different countries the level of service and attention to detail will not change. Skype and iMeet are great for accountability meetings and it is recommended that you plan in a couple of meetings every 2 weeks dependent on the size of the project. This will allow you to discuss the timeline and to highlight what tasks are being processed and what is still outstanding.
If you have a whole day of work planned with a client then I have found that the best strategy is to work 80% of your allocated time in the morning / afternoon and then completing the remaining 20% when your client is in their office. Otherwise emails and communication can really slow down and it can take almost 48 hours for simple decisions to be made.
Not only can the time difference impact your client relations but it can also impact your learning. Twitter was a major resource for me for finding new articles and valuable / actionable conversations between industry peers. If you are not careful you can completely fall out of touch with what is going on and is something that I initially struggled with.
One great tool for preventing this is Twinbox As explained by the people themselves:
“Twinbox is an Outlook plugin which lets you receive your friends’ updates directly in your Outlook inbox. With this plugin activated, you can search, archive, and group your tweets the same way you manage your email”
When you are in a new country take some time to familiarise yourself with the local community and resources. This is your opportunity to find the active members of the community and to begin starting new relationships with local people. This helps massively when you are a contractor working from home and want to bounce ideas off people during the day.
One great tool is MeetUp This allows you to specify what type of MeetUp you are looking for and then register your interest in attending. One great trick is to look at peoples BIO’s; this will help you discover twitter details which you can follow and then begin a friendly discussion with.
I know this post might not apply to everyone but I have had a few people ask me advice on moving over to Australia so hopefully this acts as some sort of guide. We are a close community so my main piece of advice is to reach out to people. Even if you don’t know them that well, most people are friendly and approachable so make the first move and you could not only make a good contact for when you arrive but you will be better prepared to start your journey.