Remote Workers: Money Matters Overseas

Back in your home country, getting access to your cash is something you rarely need to think about. However, as soon as you go overseas for a long period of time, it becomes a serious matter.

If your money is located in one country, but you live in another, you will need to make sure you can get access to it as and when you need it. However, there are different ways that you can go about this, and some of them are more expensive than others.

So how should you get access to your money in a hassle-free manner without having to worry about expensive fees?

Plastic: Convenience, but at a Cost

Credit and debit cards are the easiest way for you to get access to your cash. If you have your money in a bank account in your home country, a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card is all you need to withdraw that money from ATMs across the world.

However, you often pay a cost for this convenience. Your bank can charge you a currency exchange fee as well as a transaction fee, and you could find that you are being charged heavily each time you take out some cash.

For holidays and short stays abroad, this is often not a serious problem. But when you start living abroad and accessing all of your money in this way, the costs can add up.

One possible solution is to use a prepaid card. These work in a similar way to standard cards, but you load them up with money before withdrawing that cash or spending it. However, these are not always completely free to use, and it depends how and where you use them. Try them out, but don’t expect them to always provide a completely free way to access your cash.

Money Transfers

The other main solution is to transfer money directly from your home country to your current location. The most well-known company offering this service is Western Union, and you are almost certain to find an office near to you.

However, this can be costly. Fees can be high for even relatively minor transfers, and if you transfer money regularly, the costs can quickly add up. It can also be a hassle travelling to your nearest office to pick up the money, and if you transfer large amounts each time you may have security concerns.

The good news is that there are many money transfer services to choose from, and their fees vary. Some companies offer very competitive fees and good exchange rates, so it really pays to compare your options.

Specialist Services

Perhaps the best option in many situations is to use a service that specialises in foreign exchange, like TorFx. These can make it a lot easier to set up regular payments abroad, and the fees are often a lot more competitive than you would get transferring money through your bank.

If you have a bank account in your new country, bank fees can be extortionate to transfer money. However, use a specialist service and you may find that you pay as little as no fees for regular payments, seriously cutting down on your money transfer costs.

Things to Look For

However you choose to transfer your money overseas, there are a few things that you should look for. The first is the fee. There will usually be some kind of fee involved in the service, and this can range significantly. The second is the exchange rate. Even if the fee is low, a poor exchange rate could end up costing you more overall.

Thirdly, check that the company providing the transfer is genuine and reliable. What sort of protection is in place should the money fail to arrive? Can the company be trusted? Check out reviews online to find out if anyone has experienced problems with it.

Choose the Best Way to Get Access to Your Cash

Finally, another thing you should find out about is the ease of receiving money in the country you are living in. Different countries have their own rules about these things, and if you get your money transferred to a bank account, you may find that there is a lot of paperwork to fill out before you can get access to the cash.

It is therefore well worth researching the situation where you are before you make any decisions, and then you can decide upon the best option available for you.

More Remote Working Tools to Try Out

I’m always on the lookout for useful tools to help me get more done when working remotely. I’ve recently been looking into some more tools that I’ve come across –Trello, Redbooth and FreeAgent – and I’ve written my thoughts below.

Trello

This is an interesting way of doing project management, and I was attracted by its visual format. It allows you to create boards, and then create different cards for each board, which can contain tasks and to-do items. You have complete freedom to arrange it as you wish, and you can then move cards between boards, perhaps when a task has been completed or moved to a different stage.

You can create boards with different stages of projects and move cards around as you progress. You can also invite people to your spaces so you can collaborate with greater ease.

It seems to be a good tool for tracking numerous projects at the same time, or you could simply use it as an intuitive organisation tool.

It’s free to use, so there’s no risk in trying it out, and it is also available on Android and iOS. If you’re looking for a more visual way to keep track of tasks and projects from anywhere, you may find it a good option.

Redbooth

This is a free online collaboration tool that is designed around making it easier to create and manage tasks. It wants to be the only tool you need to communicate with your team and collaborate on tasks, and it seems to do quite a good job.

You can communicate via video with your team, share documents, work on them together, convert discussions to tasks, create a calendar of milestones, share screens and more. There is integration with Google Drive, Box and Dropbox, and the mobile apps seem to be very easy to use.

It also boasts multiple language support, and you can create new tasks directly from your email. It will need a bit of playing around with to get the hang of it, but if you are looking for one tool that you and your team of providers or clients can use together, it could be a good option.

FreeAgent

FreeAgent is accounting software that is designed for freelancers and small businesses. It is web based so there is nothing to install, making it perfect for remote workers, and a mobile version is also available.

If you have trouble with your accounting, this could make it easier. It allows you to manage every aspect of your accounts, including expenses, estimates, invoices, profits, cash-flow and more. In addition, it has great customer support from a team of accountants and a 30-day free trial (after which it costs US $20 a month).

The UI is clear and simple, and you can get an overview of your business in one simple screen. It has many features, such as support for multiple tax rates in different countries, and it comes with useful guides and webinars to help you get to grips with it.

Try Them Yourself

New tools are constantly appearing that can help us remote workers to get more done with greater ease. These are just three of the most recent online tools I’ve been tinkering with lately. I’d recommend you do the same, trying out different things you come across and using the free trial versions if they have them. You never know which one will prove to be your next indispensable work-from-anywhere tool.

Get More from Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts has become an incredibly popular tool for remote workers all over the world. If you have a Google+ account, you can create hangouts with ease and speak to multiple people via video feed from wherever you are. But if you use Hangouts, are you sure you’re getting the most out of them? Here are a few features that you might not have used yet.

Share Screens

There is a screen sharing app that you can use from directly within Hangouts that can be a great tool for a whole range of things. It could help with holding presentations and during meetings, and it could also be used to provide better support to clients or team members.

Change Bandwidth

If you are working on the go, you may not have a great internet connection. Perhaps you’re working from a café or other public place. If your call is affected by this, you can easily change the bandwidth. Just click the icon at the top of the window and you can choose a lower setting. You can then get on with other things while still holding your video call.

Collaborate

Google Drive is a great tool for remote workers if you do not use it already. Its collaboration possibilities are fantastic, and you can take advantage of these from directly within a Hangout. Using Drive, you can have a whole team of people all editing a document while speaking, which can be perfect when working with other team members rather than sending documents back and forth via email.

Watch YouTube Together

If you want to watch a video at the same time, you can do this from directly within Hangouts. You may have prepared a video that you want everyone to watch together and then comment on it, and Hangouts makes it easy. It even mutes the microphone automatically when the video starts playing.

Enhance Your Customer Service

You could use Hangouts to provide better customer service to your clients and customers. By inviting them to a Hangout, you can help to solve problems face to face, which will be appreciated by your customers and can be a great trust builder.

Use It On the Go

You are not limited to using Hangouts on your computer. If you are often out and about during the working day, download the app on both iOS and Android and carry on your video chats wherever you are.

Work Better with Hangouts

If you haven’t experimented with these features of Hangouts yet, give them a go. They can help you to get even more out of your remote work whatever you do, so try them out today.

Outsourcing Overseas Grows in Popularity

2,200 small businesses recently took part in a survey by Freelancer.co.uk to answer questions about how much outsourcing to other countries they were currently doing, and the results were revealed this month.

The survey, the results of which were published in Techwatch, found that outsourcing to developing countries has grown dramatically in the last year – by a total of 35%.

Pakistan, the Philippines and India were the most popular places to outsource work to, and the popularity of China was also growing.

The survey also found that businesses are planning to hire even more overseas freelancers in 2015.

Why Is Overseas Outsourcing Increasing in Popularity?

There are many reasons why outsourcing overseas is becoming more popular. According to the survey, businesses outsource more because:

  • They can hire people to do specialised tasks that they cannot do themselves.
  • They are able to increase their capacity by not having to turn down work.
  • They can take advantage of the cheaper price of hiring foreign freelancers.

Why This Is Good News for Remote Workers

The fact that more businesses are prepared to hire people overseas means that the practice is becoming normalised. As it continues to grow in popularity, confidence in the practice will increase, and that means more opportunities for you.

Businesses now have more confidence in hiring someone overseas due to the increase in dedicated outsourcing websites and the simple project management systems they incorporate.

Whether you find clients via a website like Elance or through your own marketing efforts, businesses are less likely to turn you down just because you are overseas than they perhaps would have five years ago.

Must You Charge Reduced Rates?

Although many companies hire overseas freelancers because they are attracted by the lower rates, this does not mean that you will have to charge less if you are based in another country.

The fact that you are a native English speaker will often encourage them to pay a premium for your services. If you are of the same nationality, there are no cultural barriers in the way, and your clients can enjoy the same flexibility of working with a freelancer overseas but without any language or cultural differences.

Of course, if you live in a country where the cost of living is lower, you may be able to charge lower fees as well, making you yet more competitive.

Now Is the Perfect Time to Work Remotely from Overseas

The results of the survey suggest that the practice of hiring people overseas is changing. It is likely that the number of businesses prepared to hire workers from other countries is only going to increase over the coming years, making this an ideal time to work remotely.

Latest Working Abroad Figures: Heading Overseas Becoming More Popular?

Many people decide that a life of working overseas is for them. It can be a great way to travel the world and earn money at the same time, or to settle down somewhere new and experience a different culture.

But how many people actually share this dream? Two new pieces of research – both focusing on Brits – have come out recently that shed a bit more light on the desire to work overseas.

A Quarter of Graduates Want to Work Overseas

The first research comes from the UK Graduate Barometer survey from trendence. This is an annual survey of graduates, and this time 27,000 were interviewed. The latest results suggest that as many as a quarter of all graduates are planning to work overseas.

It does not state whether they will be working remotely or finding employment, but there is a good chance many of them will be taking their laptops with them and working on the go.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results mark a big increase from the last time the survey was carried out. Asked the same question at the beginning of 2013, only 20.6% of the graduates intended to go overseas. The year before that, the number was 18.3%.

Why is this? The recession and the perception that better opportunities lie elsewhere?

Or the growing awareness of remote working? Either way, this could be a trend that continues for a while yet.

1-in-10 Job Hunters Are Looking Abroad

Some separate research from Indeed Hiring Lab, and reported at CityAM.com, looked at where people are actively looking for work and found that in the UK, 10% of job seekers are looking for work abroad. This is interesting because it uses actual search results to compile the data.

France was the top destination for job hunters, with the USA, South Africa, Italy and Canada also proving popular. As for the type of work they were looking for, accounting, marketing and hotel work were some of the most popular.

Could Working Abroad Be for You?

This latest research suggests that moving abroad to work is a dream of many, and that it could be becoming even more popular as the years go on. If you decide to work overseas, don’t just look for job opportunities with employers – remember that remote working can provide you with greater freedom, which could be exactly what you want.

How to Maintain the Home/Work Divide When Working Remotely

Working remotely provides you with a great amount of freedom, but it can also bring problems. One of these is the fact that it can sometimes be difficult to separate home and work life. This was the subject of a recent interview in Techradar, where Paul Thomas, the Vice President of Aspect Software, answered questions relating to working remotely.

Smart Devices Put Workers Under More Pressure

He suggested in the interview that although smart devices can increase productivity, they can also put remote workers under increased pressure to be productive, and he said that these devices need to be managed very carefully to enjoy the best results.

More workers are connected to their work at all times thanks to smartphones and tablets, but he claims it is essential to create a divide between work and home life otherwise it can lead to increased stress.

How to Separate Work Life from Home Life

Do you feel that you never really leave work behind? It’s alright for people who work in offices; they can turn off from work as soon as they leave the office. But leaving work behind can be a lot harder when your home is your place of work.

So how to do it?

Firstly, make sure you have a dedicated work space. Whether you work from your home or from a base in another country, try to have a space that you can call your office.  A separate room is ideal, but even an area in a room devoted to work is better than nothing. You may also want to work from other locations like cafes to help you get outside the home.

Be careful about when you check your emails and other work correspondence. It can be so easy to take your phone to bed with you and check your emails just before you go to sleep, or perhaps when you are out enjoying yourself, but this only prevents you from breaking away from your work.

Try to stick to regular working hours. Everyone works differently, but routine is important. Whether you work 9 to 5 or 12 to 8, try to have a clearly defined work time during which you can check your emails as much as you like. Then when the day comes to an end, leave your work behind. This could involve turning off the notifications on your smartphone so you don’t receive an alert when you receive new emails.

You may even be able to separate your phone into two different accounts: one for work and one for personal. Many phones come with two SIM card slots, so that could also be an option. If that doesn’t work, consider getting two smartphones and using one exclusively for work.

Enjoy the Freedom of Remote Working

The very reason many people work remotely is to enjoy greater freedom, so make sure you can separate your home and work life effectively. The prevalence of smart devices means many people feel like they have to stay connected to work 24/7, but try to create a divide and enjoy the freedom of remote working.

Remote Work: A Perfect Part-Time Retirement Option

Like millions of other people all over the world, I work remotely on a full-time basis. But remote work can also be the perfect option for part-time work when you retire.

Do you want to see the world when you end your full-time working life? Many people do. But if your pension doesn’t quite cover your travel expenses, doing some work on the side could be the perfect option.

More Options for Part-Time Work

If you want to work remotely part-time rather than full-time, you will have many more options. Whereas earning money by doing odd jobs like filling out surveys may not be your idea of a rewarding full-time career, it could be just what you need to get a bit of money coming in on the side.

And there are plenty of relatively unskilled jobs available if you know where to look. Just head over to a freelancing site like Elance.com and scan the available jobs. Many of these can be done with just a little bit of time and research to learn the basics, and these can be ideal part-time work options.

Use the Skills You Already Have

Another option is to carry on doing what you have been doing over your working life. If you had a job that you could potentially do from home, you may be able to make the switch. You could start by carrying out some freelance assignments for your old employer and then start looking for work from other sources.

Learn Something New

Retirement can be the perfect time to learn a new skill, so why not learn something new with the aim of making some money from it? For example, you could learn some web design skills or become a web content writer. Or you could attend a course on marketing and spend a few years working on your skills until you can start earning an income from them.

Only Do the Work You Want To

The great thing about working part-time is that you can be far more selective about the type of work you take on. After all, you are officially retired and you don’t want to be spending your best years slaving away over projects you don’t enjoy.

You can also plan your work to give yourself plenty of time to get out and see your new surroundings, making time for day trips and meals out. Remote work can provide you with something to do in your free time and help pay for your travels, making it the perfect way to see the world.

Plan for Your Retirement

If retirement is not too far away for you and you like the idea of remote working, it may be a good idea to start planning now. Think about the things that you could do to provide you with a part-time income from anywhere, then you can enjoy the retirement you have always wanted.

Is It Time to Hire a VA?

Whether you are a self-employed freelancer, entrepreneur or running a business with numerous employees, anyone can make use of a virtual assistant (VA).

The ability to call on someone whenever you need odd jobs carried out – often small jobs that are not highly skilled such as admin, phone calls, emails, typing, etc – can help you to focus on other more important aspects of your business.

All those time-consuming jobs are essential, but sometimes it is easy to feel like you could be spending your time so much more productively, and this is where a VA can help. Here are a few things to consider when you hire one.

Look Far and Wide

If you are working abroad, you may have clients in different countries so you already know all about working across borders. Take a global perspective when you look for a VA. You may be able to get a better rate by searching further afield, so it is always worth looking.

If you hire someone who does not have English as their first language, for many tasks this will be fine. However, be careful about the type of work you need. If you require writing, a native English speaker is nearly always better. You should also be able to communicate clearly whatever the language so that nothing gets lost in translation.

One thing you must think carefully about is the time difference. A few hours is fine, but 12 hours may not be, so it may be best to find someone who works similar hours to you.

Having said that, it could be useful to have someone you can call on at the end of your working day to carry out tasks that will be ready when you wake up, so this is something else to consider.

Interview Candidates

Even if you are only hiring a VA on a casual basis for a few hours here and there, you should still make the effort to hire someone who will hopefully turn into a long-term partner.

You do not need a formal interview, but you should seriously consider holding a video chat because you can often tell a lot more about someone this way.

In the end, it is the service they provide that will help you decide whether to keep them or not, but an interview can be a good way to narrow down your options.

Start with Basic Tasks

Before you hire a VA for complex tasks, start with the basics. This gives you an opportunity to see how well they work before you give them more important tasks to work on. After a while, you may even want to train them up in specific tasks that they may not have experience with, such as jobs that are unique to your business.

Hire More than One

There is no rule that says you must only hire one. You may find one VA who is great at one task, and another who specialises in others. It can also be useful to have more than one in case one is not available for whatever reason.

Take Your VA Wherever You Go

Travelling abroad and setting up an office in a new country can be hard work. By hiring a VA, you have an assistant wherever you are in the world so you can move about as you please and always have someone ready to do the little tasks you don’t have time for. Is it time you hired one yourself?

Deciding on Your Destination? Here are Some of the Best Countries for Flexible Working

Deciding on a destination is one of the hardest things about going abroad to work remotely. Many factors will come into play, including the ease of getting online, the cost of living and the amount of sunshine you can expect to enjoy.

One factor that you may be concerned with is which countries are the best when it comes to providing greater flexibility in the workplace. Now, the results of a new survey are out that provide some more details on the top countries for flexible working.

NatWest International Personal Banking Survey

The results of the NatWest International Personal Banking Survey show that the top countries when it comes to flexible working are:

  1. Australia (85% of expats say the country is good for flexible working)
  2. New Zealand (79%)
  3. United States (78%)
  4. Canada (76%)
  5. France (74%)

What about at the other end of the list? China did badly with just 53%, followed by the United Arab Emirates (48%) and Singapore (47%). Clearly, there were only a certain number of countries on the list, however, these tend to be the main destinations for British expats so you now have at least some idea of which countries will be best if you are looking for flexible work.

Dave Isley, the head of NatWest International Personal Banking, said that flexible working is making lives easier for expats. He said that a good work-life balance is a key decision for expats when choosing a country, and that more employers are now providing this option around the world. He also suggested that it is a good option for employers because they will attract the best employees as a result.

Technology Improving Lives of Expats

The survey also revealed the effect that technology is having on British expats’ lives. Some of the results include:

  • 94% said it improves efficiency
  • 93% enjoyed a better working life because of technology
  • 92% said it means they don’t have to travel as much
  • 86% said it saves time
  • 82% said it creates better mobility
  • 79% said technology was essential to their productivity
  • 67% said they can work flexibly because of it

The survey also revealed that technology skills are becoming increasingly important for employers abroad. Although speaking English is still a key requirement, more employers are now asking for good IT skills.

Expats in Singapore claimed to be the most proficient in IT skills, followed by expats in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong.

Keep this in Mind when Choosing Your Destination

If you want to enjoy flexible hours when working for an employer in another country, the results of this survey should be of interest. The survey is a reminder that it is always important to research your destination before leaving home because these factors can be crucial when you arrive.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Work Remotely?

One of the great things about remote working is the smug feeling that comes when you hear about or see commuters battling their way into work each morning, putting up with bad weather, late trains and terrible traffic.

A recent article in The Guardian looked at the problems suffered by commuters during the strike action by the London Underground, and asked the question – why are more people are not working remotely?

Among some of the stats it highlights are that remote workers take fewer sick days and are 13% more productive (according to Stanford University research). It also highlighted a Virgin Media Business survey that predicted as many as 60% of employees based in the office will work from their homes within eight years.

So What is Stopping More People from Working Remotely?

The article then went on to highlight some of the reasons why more bosses are less likely to let their employees work away from the office. These included:

  • They don’t trust their employees to work outside the office.
  • They are not prepared to invest in technology for activities such as video conferencing.

The second of these highlights a lack of knowledge among businesses as to what they really need to make remote working successful. As many posts on this blog have highlighted before, you really do not need to make large investments to equip employees with what they need to work remotely.

In fact, remote working can lead to some large savings. Desks can be shared, office space can be reduced and energy bills can be cut, more than making up for any expenses to equip the team with the tools needed for remote working.

The article also highlighted some of the reasons why employees themselves are less likely to want to work remotely. These included:

  • They fear being less likely to get a promotion because many believe their performance directly relates to the time they spend in the office.
  • Many do not want to work on their own all the time and that they need the social contact of a ‘community’.

There are some excellent tools available today that can make social contact easier for remote workers. Although it is not the same as working with other people, remote workers can combat this by not only using video conferencing tools regularly, but by finding places where they can work with other people.

Practices like hot-desking are becoming increasingly popular. These allow remote workers to work for an hour or longer in an office environment with other remote workers, and this can go some way to preventing any feelings of isolation.

Is Remote Working for Everyone?

It’s probably fair to say that remote working is not for everyone, and that there will always be some people taking on the tube strikes to battle into the office. However, as it becomes ever easier to work remotely, the nightmare of getting into the office when the tube is on strike will, for many at least, one day be a thing of the past.

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