This month marks the end of my first 8 months as a person who only works remotely, doing only online jobs through Upwork.com. That’s where 100% of my income now comes from. Last year I had lost all my savings and was covered by a few friends and family for a few months and slowly climbed out of the rubble.
So, in no particular order…
The 10 most important things I have learned about working in the online gigs world:
1. Clients (people, businesses or agencies) post their jobs with their budget and you send them a proposal with your rate. Of course there will be many other people bidding a lower rate and most cases these people get the jobs so the client saves money. But stick to your professional expert level and stick to your desired rate. Once the clients find out cheap labour means bad quality rush jobs, they knock on your door. You get paid by the hour (and thanks to a nifty time tracker from Upwork or entered manual hours) or by project (milestone).
2. Get your business profile right. It’s your business card to anybody you send a proposal to. Be in your client shoes. They get the job proposal from you and might click on your profile on Upwork.com. What they read about you is what they get. Be straight to the point, professional and make them want to pick you for the job. You can always add a link to your professional website if you wish to elaborate more on the services you offer. But keep the client impressed: even your website has to be solid professional too.
3. There is no right or wrong answer on the number of hours you need to work. Sometimes it takes 75 hours one week and 30 the next. The following week I work only 4 hours. The most important thing for me was generating income, also for the long run.
4.Burnout happens when you lose control, not when you work hard for long periods of time. Be organised, arrange your time slots, get those bloody yellow post-it notes in your face.
5.Self-care through nutrition, exercise, down-time (doing nothing!), unplugging, etc. is a MUST. You are not a robot and you can’t go on forever. Do something totally different for the same time you “work”. Go to a gym and get a workout done. Turn your favourite song up loud and dance in your living room (nobody seems to do that at an office).
6. If you don’t have a solutions-oriented mentality, you likely won’t enjoy working online through Upwork gigs. “You” are the structure and all resources are available online.
7. Don’t hang around folks who say something like “can’t be done” or “why would you do that stuff?”. Go find people that accomplish difficult things against all odds and who keep on trying and keep going. Find people that inspire you.
8.Toxic clients can destroy your culture, so get rid of them immediately. You are nobody’s slave: end the contract when things take a weird turn or the communication goes off rails while you did your utmost and professional best: take the loss and cut it from your life. And breathe again. That clears up.
9.Stay active online. If you stare at your screen and wonder why nobody wants to hire you, you should quit and get a real job. Like what ordinary people do. But no, we are special people living a special life and doing special jobs. Send in those job proposals – even daily and even when you have ongoing gigs – for anything you could handle. Clients need supermen like us!
10. It’s hard to plan things in advance as jobs come random. I spent plenty of time daily to send in job proposals for any job I could handle and get job contracts offered in return. But suddenly that doesn’t match the planned long weekend out. Make the choice: cancel that weekend or work during that weekend away? Will I miss a solid $800 income or will I enjoy time with family or friends? Decide what you need most at that time.
11.Don’t ever burn bridges. We all make mistakes from time to time. If you do, apologize. Make things right. You might lose an unhappy client. I could tell you about that one time with that loony Fortune500 CEO that was my client and he was a total – but I don’t. Stay humble and friendly. Your personal brand and your network are the most important things you have.
So how is it going for me as a remote worker at the moment? Boy, did things improve! I started rather empty handed, with an empty profile and no reviews, client feedback or recommendations.
Persistence paid off and Upwork gigs became my real life job, which I can schedule whenever I want, wherever I want. And it is finally paying off too.
Soon all my friends can stay at my place for as long as they need.
In Lisbon, Portugal, that is.
With Remote Work I don’t mean you working from your way cheaper Caribbean cabin with approval of your boss in New York City. I mean it more the digital nomad way: you can work wherever you are or wherever you want to be. You only need a laptop and a sturdy internet connection. And a bank account to receive money on.
I have always done freelance jobs for over 15 years. As an independent social media specialist I started with applying offline or with actual office visits. Laying out plans or basically offering my services. With moving to the tropics from 2011 I had to depend fully on the internet.
Thankfully the internet grew along and more and more platforms came up helping me pave a way to work online and get paid for the work I did. Online jobs not only gave me flexibility with my time but also allowed me to make my dream of living wherever I wanted come true.
And yes, when I lived in the Netherlands I needed to make at least €3,000 per month to pay the mortgage, insurance premiums and pay a ridiculous amount of tax on everything I earned. Moving to a country where the monthly costs are not even exceeding €1,000 took away a lot of hassles!
It’s not for everybody, of course. But if you seriously crave (and actually can) leave your current rat race life behind and Just Go, go for it. The world has enough people that are totally happy with the security of a huge fixed salary, their house with rent or mortgage, marriage, kids and being home in time for dinner. They really won’t miss you either.
While building a freelance career from zero can be tough, finding remote work (where you can work for a company location independently) doesn’t have to be hard. There are plenty of remote job sites offering fully remote full-time or contract-based positions.
With that said, the internet can be an intimidating place. When I signed up with some platforms, I thought I would never survive this way. Look at all these people already going for these job offers! And they might be so much better than me! And look, their rating on their profile is going through the roof and I have nothing yet! That’s where I kept going. Everybody had to start at that same beginning. I scored jobs, I earned money, people rated me 5 stars and that earned me more jobs!
Below I have collected the 26 best job sites I have ever come across, with some additional information on each so you can find the best one for your needs. Some I use myself, others I have ran away from quickly.
I either got work from these sites, helped or referred others, or have colleagues who got long-term work from trusted companies through these job boards. Did I miss anything new and not listed here? Send it in the comments at the bottom of this blog.
Your remote income is only an app away.
For remote working freelancers: Upwork.com.
Upwork is an American platform, used to be known as Elance in the past. Upwork connects businesses (the clients) with independent professionals (us freelancers) around the globe. It is the world’s largest freelance talent marketplace and that’s why I put it on number one. You can send a proposal to any job you see available. You get paid by Upwork once the job is finished and the client is happy.
Everybody starts at the beginning. And when I signed up I was a novice with no experience or rating on that site. I still proposed to job offers and slowly raised my rates. It took me six months to make a four-figure income per month through jobs I scored through Upwork. www.upwork.com
For Startups, Mostly US-Based: AngelList.
AngelList is basically like Match.com for startups, helping them get connected to both investors and employees. You’ll find 1000s of jobs here at some of the BEST startups around the world. It is very user-friendly and allows you to browse jobs by location, role, technology, and salary. Try this if you want to work at a start-up. www.angel.co/remote
For Creatives: Authentic Jobs.
This site is best for creatives. Enter ‘remote’ in the location box and you’ll get a list of full-time and contract-based (freelance) job opportunities for writers, designers, and other creative professionals. https://authenticjobs.com/
Blockchain Jobs: Cryptocurrency Jobs.
This site is the hotspot for finding blockchain jobs, cryptocurrency jobs, Bitcoin jobs, Ethereum jobs or, DeFi jobs. Absolutely not my niche, but worth a mention on this list. Filter for ‘remote’ in the location search block and get a whole list of blockchain jobs with startups for engineers, designers, customers support, sales, and marketing. www.cryptocurrencyjobs.co
Europe Based: F6S Jobs.
This site is focused on startups in Europe. It’s a home for founders and startup programs with thousands of jobs. www.f6s.com
For Contract-Based Jobs: Freelancer.
Freelancer is one of the world’s largest marketplace for freelancing and crowdsourcing. On this site, you can find work in software dev, writing, data entry, design, engineering, sales/marketing, accounting, and legal. www.freelancer.com
For Designers and Developers: Gun.io.
A site for full-time freelancers in software development, UI/UX, design, project management, etc. Based on your skills, the Gun.io team hand-matches you with clients. www.gun.io
For Freelancers: Guru.
Guru is a marketplace for employers and freelancers to connect, collaborate and get work done on a contract or one-off basis. www.guru.com
For Freelancers: Hubstaff Talent.
This site is a hub for remote startups, software companies, agencies, and e-commerce businesses looking to hire freelancers. Great place to find one-off projects and contract-based work. https://talent.hubstaff.com
A HUGE Job Board For Just About Anything: Indeed.
One of the biggest sites for job seekers where you can find pretty much millions of jobs online. Enter ‘Remote’ in the Where search box to access the list of remote job offers. Tip: You can set up job alerts to be notified by email whenever new jobs match your criteria. www.indeed.com
Diverse Job Board For Everyone: Jobicy.
Categorized remote job board with a diverse range of roles from sales and marketing to finance to programming and design. www.jobicy.com
A Curated Collection Of Job Boards: Jobkit.
A collection of job boards that you can filter by category (creative, freelance, remote, startup etc). Click on ‘Remote’ to view remote job boards. www.jobkit.co
I suppose you already heard about LinkedIn unless you’re hiding under a rock. But did you know it’s not only for finding 9 to 5 office jobs? LinkedIn offers several remote and freelance positions as well. www.linkedin.com
For Freelancers: PeoplePerHour.
Online marketplace for freelance work and services. It’s like Fiverr, where you can set up your skills for anybody who needs to book them from you. www.peopleperhour.com
For Interpretation, Transcription and Translation Professionals: ProZ.com.
This site is the leading source for finding freelance translation, transcription and interpretation jobs. It took me over one hour from registering to get everything set up an once it did not accept my US bank account for payments while living in the European Union, I gave up the idea of ever working with ProZ. www.proz.com
For Latin Americans: RemoteCo
This site is dedicated to connecting SMEs to remote workers in Latin America. www.remoteco.com
For All Things Remote Work: Remote Co.
Remote companies, remote workers, remote work articles, online courses, remote jobs, career coaching and so much more for remote workers. www.remote.co
Diverse Job Board For Remote Work: Remote Ok.
Categorized high-quality remote job board with a diverse range of roles. Roles range from sales and marketing to finance and legal to programming and design. www.remoteok.com
Diverse Job Board For Remote Work: Remote Work.
Categorized high-quality remote job board with a diverse range of roles. Roles range from sales and marketing to finance and legal to programming and design. www.remote.work
Diverse Job Board For Remote Work: Remotive.
A robust job board for roles in about every industry. You can find work for every niche, including sales, finance, design, and tech. www.remotive.com
For Developers: TechMeAbroad.
TechMeAbroad only lists jobs from tech startups and companies offering visa sponsorship. Find the job of your dreams, in the country of your dreams. www.techmeabroad.com
For Anyone: The Muse.
Enter ‘Remote’ in the Location search box and select ‘Flexible/Remote’ to access a wide range of remote and location-free jobs in any field. www.themuse.com
For Developers, Designers and Finance Professionals: Toptal.
Exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, and finance experts in the world. And when I say The Top, they mean the top 3% best of them. They provide access to top companies, a community of experts, and resources that can help accelerate your career. www.toptal.com
For Interpretation, Transcription and Translation Professionals: TranslatorsCafé.com.
My bilingual friends love using this site to find remote translation and one-off projects. Interpretation, transcription, and translation freelance jobs. The site’s design will bring you back to 1995, so don’t be afraid to slowly take it all in. This ain’t 2022 anymore, Toto. www.translatorscafe.com
Huge Remote Database For Anyone: We Work Remotely.
One of my go-to favorites. On this awesome site, you can find remote (fulltime) jobs in marketing, design, programming, customer support, DevOps and sysadmin, copyrighting, business/exec, and management. Companies pay already $299 to post one job on it, so that seriously raises the bar for everybody. www.weworkremotely.com
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So this is the GOODBYE CAMBODIA post as I left the country on August 13, 2021. I thank everybody who has ever supported me on this almost 12-year journey. An utmost colorful chapter in the book of my life.
Thank you for your connection here, your dedication in Phnom Penh, your time to escape to the most comfortable movie theater South-East Asia has ever had, and your desire to see it grow into what it became.
Kolyan Keth now runs the Foodoo – The $5 Gourmet Dinner Box project, which I founded when I saw the need for dinner box deliveries three years ago. My pride and joy for better bread baking in Cambodia, Sandwich Heaven, is passed onto the hands of the highly professional Khmer managers. I keep the secret recipes for my vegetarian nut cheeses by The Nutcracker with me (I can always restart such production elsewhere again). The Phnom Penh’s English Book Exchange with a collection over over +1250 English fiction books has moved to Botanico Wine & Beer Garden.
My latest project, the literary magazine The Quiet Reader, will always stay an online project with the world’s most beautiful short stories by new and emerging authors. But imagine a Best Of-book, one day. To be continued…
The Flicks Community Movie House is closed forever and the venue has been stripped bare. What an enormous joy and connection with the community that job gave me. I don’t think I will ever meet that many people as through an operation like that.
I am so happy the ceiling plates did not fall down in the last weeks, the projector lamp didn’t die, the AC only needed one final re-gas, nobody fell through the termite infested floor planks below the carpet — so it can all nicely collapse on its own, in peace.
Living in Cambodia allowed me to travel and experience the different cultures in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia (where the earthquake tremors gave me some serious PTSD for months), Singapore, Malaysia, but also further away in Japan (which is “the most beautiful woman I have ever met, but I have no clue what she’s saying”), South Korea and China.
Thanks for all the memories, drinks, the foods, foreign friends visiting, the laughs, the journeys, pub quizzes, bike rides, brunches, beaches, sports, islands, and the many celebrations that made it all too unforgettable for the rest of my life.
Cambodia surely has its ups and downs and I have had my share (and enough) of all tropical diseases you can throw at me (I will tell you about that unforgettable typhoid experience for a few beers), but they are experiences nobody can ever take away from me.
There is a expression going around that if you can’t handle yourself (or a business) in Cambodia, you can’t handle yourself anywhere else and I see a good sense of truth in there.
Cambodia is a weird, sometimes baffling, but other times a true magical kingdom of wonder – that will always keep you wondering (and bribing the relevant ministries).
I am moving on, pursuing my dreams and passions. It’s time for a new life elsewhere.
To cite a recent fan mail: Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.
I escaped my home in Amsterdam for a week off and bought myself a night train ride to Italy. And after a few days in the metropolis city of Milan, I continued on to Rome in a 3-hour train ride through the green country side. I was able to couchsurf with a young Italian couple living in the outer suburbs of Rome.
They basically took my hand and dragged me along in their Italian life. When they were working, I managed to explore Vatican City, I saw the Pantheon, ate pizzas and saw the impressive Colosseum. And I probably visited all 19 basilicas, because I am a nerd. And I did what the Romans do: eat all that delicious gelato ice cream. All day long. It was a hot summer day.
In the early evenings I would meet up with my hosts again and life was very pleasant. We played music, they invited friends over or we went out for drinks.
I was very lucky when one of my hosts had to work in the security department of a big stadium concert. If I wanted to join her. Yes, of course. It was a concert by Tiziano Ferro. “He is the Michael Jackson of Italy. Our biggest pop star!”, she said. I remembered that name. Tiziano had a little summer hit in The Netherlands earlier (youtube). Thanks to my hostess I was able to get into the stadium if I only could just help out the people in their wheelchair area in front of the stage and make sure they are all happy there. What a blast that was. And the crowd sung along. I learned some more Italian and the concert was an absolute joy to attend.
It was just after the show, when I was taken backstage in the catacombs of the stadium and waiting for my hostess to be finished with her job, when the mood changed by a full180 degrees.
I had a received a text message on my phone from a good friend in The Netherlands. Everybody around me seemed to have received such a message. People were on their phone sending more messages. This wasn’t the time yet when we all had data and could surf to the BBC website for a news update. It went by phone and texts. People were in disbelief. Some people cried.
The night ended in mourning. Playing the music. Sharing stories. Have more wine or beer. Staring out of the windows.
It is 2009. It all started with a suspicious email.
“Hello Ramon, we are inviting you to come to the World Blogging Forum in Bucharest in two weeks. Let us know your details and we arrange the flights.”
Me: “This is a scam, right?”
“Not at all. Have a look at our website. We have a full program with many bloggers from all over the world and are backed up by the Romanian government and all. Oh, and it will all take place at The Palace of the Parliament [only the second biggest building in the world]. We need you to be there too.”
We were not “bloggers” like how they are known nowadays. All participants were mostly the first ever people publishing on the internet. Some participants had no rights or freedom of expression in their own country. Some could not come because they were afraid. Others were arrested and detained when they returned to their home country after this event.
It was one of the highest honors to be present and discuss along with people with such caliber.
This was in times when we were still figuring out what this Twitter thing could mean. The world was modernizing really fast and phones lost buttons and became smarter. Don’t even think about uploading a video from your phone onto Youtube yet, though. Instagram did not even exist for another 3 years.
This ended up to be one my most dearest experiences ever. The people. The ideas. The care by all the English University students. Tours. The parks. The enthusiasm. (The after parties). Bucharest.