How To Start Freelancing Abroad

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Want to try freelancing abroad? Make sure you read this guide first.

Living and travelling abroad is a dream for many, but for those expats who make it a reality, finding work can sometimes be an issue.

So as an expat, how can you make money wherever you are?

One solution is to become an online freelancer.

The benefits are numerous — as long as you have an internet connection and a computer you can work no matter where you are in the world, from the comfort of your own home, or on the road travelling around.

You are your own boss and can pick and choose which projects you want to work on, and when, and there’s no tedious daily commute, which frees up more time in your schedule. You can also work in your native tongue.

All that sounds great, right? But what kind of freelance work is actually available online?

Let’s get right into it.

Types of Freelance Work Available

The range of freelance work available online for expats offers some surprising and varied choices.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular…

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Perhaps one of the most rewarding types of online freelance work for expats is teaching online, and whilst it’s extremely helpful to have a teaching qualification such as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), some online teaching jobs don’t require any teaching experience.

Many freelance English teachers teach students via Skype on a one to one basis, or with larger groups using special online teaching platforms.

You can choose whether to work independently, or with an online ‘school’, but in the latter case it is important to not be exploited.

Virtual Assistant

An office job without the office, freelance virtual assistants and administrators are increasingly in demand from businesses who only require admin services on an adhoc basis and who don’t want the additional expenses of hiring an official additional member of staff.

Admin tasks vary greatly, including writing letters and documentation, creating presentations, diary management, answering phone calls and dealing with emails, and more.


Building up a successful blog takes a lot of dedication and effort, and it can be a long time before it starts to pay off.

Once it does however, you are truly your own boss and your blog can generate income through advertisements placed on the site, affiliate links, or by selling digital or other products.

Blogs can cover any topic, but there is some stiff competition out there, so make sure your blog fills a niche or has a hook that will make it stand out from the rest.

You can also get paid for writing articles on other people’s websites and blogs, but normally you’ll need to get some experience first.


If you’re fluently bilingual there are some good opportunities for freelance online translators.

Companies with offices in multiple countries often need online content translated, or may need assistance translating documents or emails.

Publications (both off and online) such as magazines, newspapers, and blogs often need articles translating too.

These can be one off assignments, or in many cases can be ongoing contracts.


Copywriting is creating any kind of written content for publication online, and may also include editing and / or proofreading of existing texts.

When writing for websites a good knowledge of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) can be a bonus, as this will help your content be more visible online which will appeal to employers.

Web Design

People will always need websites, and creating websites is something that can easily be accomplished online without the need for meeting clients in the real world.

Along with website design, website maintenance can provide a good, ongoing source of income.

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Where to Find Freelance Jobs

So you’ve decided to go for it and become an online freelancer, but how do you go about finding a job?

Many freelance expats use freelancing sites which advertise hundreds of different available online contracts.

Here are a few of the most popular…

People Per Hour

This UK based site is a marketplace for freelancers all over the world who are available to hire by the hour or project.

Each freelancer creates a personalised profile on the PPH website which acts as an advert and portfolio for their services.

Freelancer profiles can be searched by prospective employers, or freelancers can bid for advertised jobs in the hope of winning the contract.

The choice of work available is extremely varied, from marketing and PR, software development and admin through to translation and creative arts.

There is no fee for posting an advert or responding to one, however should you win a contract PPH takes a small percentage of your earnings.

Invoicing is handled via the PPH site, and your earnings are paid into a secure escrow account by your client. These can then be transferred into your personal bank account whenever you want.


This global freelancing platform allows you to create a profile that highlights the skills you have to offer, and allows potential clients to post jobs in the database which you can then search to find your perfect match.

There are hundreds of jobs to choose from which are split into categories including Web, Mobile & Software Development, Design & Creative, Admin Support, IT & Networking, Writing, Translation, Sales & Marketing, Engineering and Architecture, Legal, and Accounting & Consulting.

Joining Upwork as a freelancer is free of charge, but should you gain a work contract via the site you will pay a percentage of your earnings as a fee from 20% to 5% — the more you earn with one client, the smaller the percentage you pay.

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Companies and small businesses all over the globe use Freelancer to employ workers for online projects both large and small.

The site works similarly to Upwork, with freelancers paying a percentage of their earnings as a service fee, for example 10% for hourly or fixed priced projects, and payments are made via a PayPal account.

Freelancers are permitted to make 8 work applications per month for free, after which they are required to upgrade to a paid account.

If being paid by the hour, the client may choose to use the time tracking feature of the site to keep track of your work.

The 900+ job categories on the site include Websites, IT & Software, Design, Media & Architecture, Writing & Content, Data Entry & Admin, Sales & Marketing, Translation & Languages, Engineering & Science, Business Services, and more.

Tips for Getting More/Better Paid Freelancing Gigs

While freelancing websites are great for finding work, there’s a lot more to having a truly successful freelancing business.

Here are our top tips to getting more, and better paid freelancing contracts…


Having a professional website that showcases your skills and your work to potential clients gives you an enormous amount of added credibility that keeps you one step ahead of the competition.

A website is your opportunity to show clients what you can do, and create a recognisable brand for yourself which will make you more memorable.

Pack your website with quality examples of your work, a full rundown of your skills, and testimonials from satisfied clients.

Use it to interact with others and answer questions, and establish trust with clients and peers. Link your website with professional social media accounts for added exposure and establish your authority in your field of expertise by sharing your ideas and experiences as articles on your site.

Used correctly, your website can be the best way to promote your business and enhance your reputation.


Networking means making the most of your personal and professional relationships to further your freelance business.

Everywhere you go — whether in real life or in the virtual world — you should be networking.

Giving is one of the most effective ways of networking. Be generous with your help. Be active on forums and online groups relevant to your line of work, always answer queries and respond to comments if you have a personal website or blog, be active on social media in a professional capacity, and use every opportunity to make friends with other freelancers in the same field or complimentary fields.

Propose connections that can help others, which in turn will expand your own network and enhance your reputation.

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There’s no better proof of the quality of your work than testimonials from real life clients, and testimonials have the power to persuade prospective clients.

Many freelancing job sites will ask clients to rate you and your work after completion of a project, and may show information such as how many jobs you have completed, how many jobs were completed on time, and if you have been hired more than once by the same client.

The better your work, the better your testimonials will be, and the more interest your profile will attract from new clients.

Likewise, if you have a personal freelancer website, make sure it features a good handful of glowing testimonials, they can make all the different to someone hiring you or not, and may make you stand out more if a potential client is deciding between you and another freelancer for a project.

The Right Rates

Knowing how much to charge clients can be tricky for freelancers, especially when there’s stiff competition for work.

Aiming too low will lose you money and may even damage your reputation, and aiming too high may price you out of the contract.

The most important thing to remember when setting your rate is that your skills are valuable, and you should set a rate that you are comfortable with and not undersell yourself.

Research what your peers are charging for similar jobs and calculate the amount of money you need cover any overheads.

Consider how much you want to earn but be reasonable and stick with a competitive rate. When discussing rates with clients be flexible, but keep your ultimate minimum rate in mind and never descend below that.


It’s important to know what skills are your strongest and maximise on that, but taking jobs which offer you the chance to learn new things and diversify your skills are also an important way to expand your freelance business and appeal to a wider range of clients.

Alternatively take an online course to learn something new. Choose to learn new skills that are complementary to those you already have, and which will serve to boost the expertise that you already have rather than conflict with them.

Have a look at some more useful tips in this video:

The Legal Side of Freelancing Abroad

As with any kind of business, there is a legal side to freelancing as an British expat.

If you’re planning on moving abroad for a long period of time (for 3 years or more) you will no longer be considered a British resident and will not be required to pay tax in the UK on your earnings.

Occasionally however you may still have to file a tax return (self assessment) with the HMRC, even if you are a if you are no longer a UK resident.

This may apply to you if you are a freelancer living abroad but you do some of your work with companies based in the UK.

It’s crucial to be aware of the visa requirements for your chosen country.

If possible it’s recommended to apply for the appropriate work visas whilst still on UK soil to have everything in place before you relocate.

Typically, to acquire a work visa in a country you need to have a written job offer from a corporation with offices in that country, but many EU countries now offer special freelance visas.

Wherever possible apply for residency in your chosen country and you will be subject to the same taxes and work options as the natives.

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Freelancing can offer incredible freedom for Brits living or travelling abroad, but it takes a bit of forward planning and a lot of dedication to get a successful freelance business off the ground.

Stick at it however, and you can have the benefits of working on your own terms wherever and whenever you want, which for many makes it a dream come true.

Have you started freelancing abroad yet?


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