Carlie: Hey there it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast. What does it take to become truly location independent? Do you have the qualities needed to thrive working remotely? And what boring-but-important admin elements do you need to think about if you intend to work from anywhere?
Find out the top countries hiring remotely today, and the various ways you could go about sustaining a location independent life in my chat with Lucy Jeon. She’s an International Career Expert, founder of HeyGlobally, AND she hosts the podcast ‘Self-Made Expats’ where expat entrepreneurs share their stories.
Lucy, it’s lovely to have another podcaster on the show. Thanks for joining me.
Lucy Jeon: Thanks so much for having me, Carlie. I’m super happy to be here. I’m such a huge fan of your podcast, so thrilled to be here.
Carlie: That’s lovely to hear. And your own podcast is called Self-Made Expats. Is that what you consider yourself to be?
Lucy Jeon: That’s a great question. Well, I aspire to be, absolutely. Well, just to share a brief background of myself, so I am originally from South Korea. I was born and raised there. So I mean since I was young I dreamed of living abroad and working abroad and growing my career internationally, working for global companies and stuff like that. So that has been always my dreams. I kind of always had this dream of an expat life. So my first experience living abroad was as an expat was Sweden. So when I was in uni, I got a chance to study in Sweden for a year as an exchange student. So that really opened my eyes. I was like, oh my gosh, I really have to go abroad and find a job abroad.
After university, I got a job in Singapore. That’s the first ever experience of working as an expat in a different country. Started from Singapore, then I moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, then I moved to Canada in Toronto in 2018. So it’s been about five plus years since I moved to Canada. So yeah, on my pockets I interview expats from all around the world to share their stories, to inspire aspiring expats and also the current expats as well.
Carlie: I’m curious, when you made that first move to Singapore, did you see it as a bit of a baby step because geographically it was kind of close by?
Lucy Jeon: Oh, yes. It was actually a very strategic move for me. I knew that my ultimate goal was to move to North America, either United States or Canada or Australia maybe. So those are the three countries that I had in mind. I’m a adventurous person. I like taking risks, but at the same time I want to calculate the risk that I’m taking. So oh my gosh, I can’t move to completely different culture just like right now. Let me just do a baby step. So Singapore was obviously the first step for me to just expose myself in a different culture. Singapore is really good because I’m Asian, so Singapore is still Asian culture. However, it’s super westernized and super diverse. So many people from different countries come there to work. It’s a great expat community. So it was a good experience for me to really experience what expat life is.
Carlie: My only experience of Singapore so far has been their famous airport and I must have been in the wrong terminal because everyone I spoke to was like, “Oh my god, you’re going to love Singapore airport. It’s amazing. It’s so beautiful.” I had three or four hours there. I did not see anything amazing or beautiful, and I’m like, did I just get the wrong terminal? Is this what the problem is? So I have to give Singapore another try and maybe actually leave the airport this time. But it has been three years since essentially remote working went mainstream, all because of that little C word.
Lucy Jeon: Yes.
Carlie: I’m curious and you know like yes, remote working remains a thing, but what job sectors are really thriving?
Lucy Jeon: In terms of sectors, a lot of people tend to think that to be able to really fully remotely from anywhere in the world, we have to work in tech. That’s a kind of the perception that all of us has. Even I had it as well before 2020. But obviously IT sector is the number one sector. Obviously engineers and developers and those sectors are definitely the most popular in-demand job sector. However, there are so many marketing jobs as well. Marketing again is huge umbrella, digital marketing and also even SEO and customer success, product marketing and all the sales job as well.
And a lot of people don’t really know about is accounting, is accounting and finance people are so hugely in demand remotely. So there are, in terms of sectors, I would say whatever work and job function you’re in is highly, highly possible to find a remote job. It really depends on the country. Certain countries are more willing to offer this remote work policy. Yeah, so I would say that that would be my answer.
Carlie: It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go back to school or completely change your career to change your working life.
Lucy Jeon: No, absolutely not. Actually yeah, a lot of people tend to think that way as well. But let’s say for example, just to give you a just simple example, I know that during pandemic, a lot of teachers want to transition into from teaching to a remote job and healthcare workers as well, and also some retail workers. Remember 2021, all retail shops were closed, shut down. So what should I do now? I don’t have a job. So all this thing happened. Actually, it was kind of good for them as well now because they had now have to pause and have time to look back and reflect on their career. So is this career that’s really for me.
So I actually worked with a teacher as well. She was wanting to transition from 100% onsite teaching job to something different. And then, yeah, to answer your question, you don’t necessarily need to change, study something new. If you want, yes, absolutely, go ahead. But just transition into other industries and getting a remote job, absolutely not. There are many positions out there that you can leverage your transferable skill sets from your previous and current job.
Carlie: Now, I read news stories every few months about how the era of remote working is over employers, the big ones want employees back in the office. What’s the reality with the people you’re working with and the companies you’re working with? Is that actually the case?
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, another brilliant question. I mean, honestly, you asked so many great questions and actually thought provoking questions. I’m thinking, okay, wow. Yes. So I’ll answer this way. So there’s no right or wrong way in my opinion, to run business. Some companies, it makes more sense to them to kind of force their employees to go back to the office and 100% just work onsite. Maybe for some business models it works best for them. But others, for example, tech companies or more digitalized companies, they tried this remote work during pandemic and now they see that, oh, it is possible. We can totally do that. Then for those types of businesses, it makes sense for them to continue offering this remote work policy to their employees.
So there’s no right or wrong way of running business, but it just really depends on the product and their operating models so to speak. But I saw the statistics actually, so in 2023, I think it was Forbes article, about 40% employees are working either fully remotely or hybrid, which means that 40% employees are at least working from home at least one or two days a week. But then when you think about it, it’s almost 60% of employees are actually working 100% onsite at the office.
But in my opinion, remote work is going to drive and it’s going to be the future. Mainly because if it’s a traditional legacy company, like super huge, big organization, if they say to the employees that, “Hey, you worked remotely before, during pandemic, now you have to go back to the office.” Then employees really love this company so much like, “Oh, this is a big organization. There are so many benefits. Okay, let me just sacrifice this. It’s okay.” But when you think about it, mid-size organizations or small organizations to attract high quality talent, giving them the freedom to work remotely is a huge important factor. So for employers to retain high quality talent and also attract the high quality talent, they sort of will be put in a situation where they kind of have to adapt to this kind of new era, in my opinion.
Carlie: It really is something that’s become standard in a employee kind of benefits package now, isn’t it? It’s like, how many days do you expect me in the office and how many days can I remote work? And I think employees are more empowered these days and workers are more empowered to be like, well, if you’re not going to give me the conditions that I want for my life, I’ll look out somewhere else.
Lucy Jeon: Exactly, exactly. I saw that again, about 60% of employees, like 57% workers, they actually hope to look for another job if their current employers don’t give them remote work, this freedom. So it is true. Yeah, it is true.
Carlie: I saw this very funny opinion piece in an Australian publication recently that was like workers need to remember their place and employers need to enforce their authority more, and workers need to stop getting too big and think they have more rights than they do. And I’m like, that’s completely the wrong take man. I really want to speak about this notion of location independence because I think sometimes it can be used a little bit generally, and people don’t really think about the realities and the reality is that not everyone in the world has the ability to achieve location independence. What are some factors that contribute to that?
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, so my take is anyone who’s looking to be location independent, there are so many different ways. Number one would be finding a remote work as a full-time employee at a company that offers a fully remote policy to you. That would be the number one way. And number two is finding, actually I have experience with this, which is finding a contractor job or freelancer job at a company, but that company doesn’t have to be fully remote company. But then by just leveraging your skills. For example, for myself, I’ve been in sales for the past 10 years, so I can use my business development sales skills. I can kind of pitch companies with my skillset, so they are not necessarily looking for a full-time employee, but hey, let’s give it a shot. Hiring someone as a contractor, hiring someone as a freelancer.
Then I can be a location independent person, so I can work from Bali, I can work from, I don’t know, Spain while earning some income. I think income is a huge factor as well. How can I be location independent while earning enough amount of income so I can sustain my life as well? And then number three is starting your own business as well, obviously. That could be another route for anybody to be location independent as well. But location independence is really cool, but at the same time in my opinion, we really need to really ask ourselves why do I want to be location independent? What’s the reason? Is it because of the glamorized this beach life? Or as I said earlier, there should be a concrete reason why you want to be location independent and then you can strategize your route from there.
Carlie: I think part of that strategizing is realizing the limitations. For example, not everyone in the world can get a visa for anywhere in the world. There are tax rules. You actually need a tax residency and need to establish where that is that affects, how long you can stay in certain countries. And payroll rules, some companies won’t insure you to work for them from certain countries. They’ll say, well actually, if you go and work from China and I employ you in the USA, you are not covered if something happens to you, so therefore we won’t allow you to do that. So this is what I mean about I think there’s a romanticization about-
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, romanticize.
Carlie: I think we romanticize the idea of literally working from anywhere without really thinking of the boring but essential administrative elements that go with it.
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, I agree with you on that 100% because I think partly it’s because of social media because one thing that I want to also chime in here is that last year I worked remotely in Bali. I traveled to Bali a couple times before as well.
Carlie: Did you do the swing? Did you do the Bali swing with the beautiful florally dressed in?
Lucy Jeon: No, I did not.
Carlie: I’ve seen that all over social media.
Lucy Jeon: I know, I know. But I didn’t. But I traveled to Bali before, but not went to Bali just working remotely. But last year I went there to working remotely and stuff like that. But actually it was good, but at the same time, working remotely doesn’t mean that you’re not working. Sometimes you have to go out to the beach, you just enjoy this sun. But sometimes, a lot of days, I’m not going to lie, a lot of days you’re stuck in the room and just working.
And I was surrounded with so many people who are just working so hard. I was like, wow, actually the remote workers actually work harder. Yeah, I agree with you, we tend to romanticize the idea of this working from anywhere. And everyone’s situation is very different depending on where you’re from. We’d really need to understand visa, tax, insurance, all those kind of things as well. Yeah.
Carlie: Lucy, in your opinion, do you need to be a certain type of personality to successfully remote work and remote work from anywhere? I mean, you spoke about being in Bali and no one’s outside enjoying the sunshine. They’re all working really hard in their cafes, drinking their chai lattes.
Lucy Jeon: I mean, yeah, it would be so nice just hanging out in the beach and enjoy my chai latte. Well, the money’s just coming into my bank.
Carlie: I’ve heard that actually working on your laptop from the beach is the worst thing and the sun glare, and it’s completely impractical. And where are you getting your wifi?
Lucy Jeon: Hey, I tried it. Okay. So as you said, the photo of swing thing before I go to Bali, you know what? I’m going to bring my laptop to this beach. I’m just going to enjoy my margarita while working, I couldn’t work because of the sun. I couldn’t even see my laptop. So holy moly, this is not true. So I just enjoy my margarita and just came back to the villa.
Carlie: Retreat to the villa. Yeah.
Lucy Jeon: Sorry, what was your question? I totally forgot about that. Sorry.
Carlie: What sort of personality do you need to be? I know I really like a bit of structure. I like to be able to go away into my little office cave and work and I would easily be distracted if I was working from my kitchen or from a cafe. I’d think of a bazillion other things to do instead of what’s in front of me. So some people probably thrive more in a traditional office environment. How do you ensure that you are going to be able to thrive in a remote routine?
Lucy Jeon: Yes. It depends on whether you’re working for yourself and I guess working for an employer, I guess. So if anyone who’s working for an employer looking for remote work and now you’re questioning that, oh, am I suitable for this kind of location independent life as a employee, then the first skill sets that I see from including myself and other people as well is number one skill would be adaptability. And being really realistic about that. And then whether you can really adapt to this new environment and new culture. Because what I’ve seen a lot is that some people are really eager to go this Bali or whatever, this kind of place without ever visiting to this place. But every place has pros and cons and every place where we go, there are problems. We have challenges.
So whether you’re willing to adapt to this new environment, new way of living. For example, when you live in Canada, when you live in the UK or France, there are certain things are very easy, right? Easy access. But when you live in a place where there are beaches where you don’t speak their local language, there are a lot of challenges and obstacles that you’re going to face as well. So whether are you willing to adapt to this new environment and new culture as well? So adaptability is the number one skill that I would say.
And also, especially if you’re working for an employer, I’ve hearing that a lot as well, but like communication, whether you’re able to communicate really well with your team members and stuff like that. So yeah, and self-motivating obviously, because to speak for myself when I work remotely, I feel like, oh, I’m going to be in Bali for a couple months. I’m going to be in Thailand for a couple months. I need to experience this place, but then I have this work to do. What should I do? I’m juggling with time management. There’s no structure if we don’t set the structure and we are not disciplined. So I think being disciplined is highly important to work remotely successfully.
Carlie: A few years ago, my boyfriend and I went to Portugal for a week to work, working holiday situation, and we really just had to time it and it’s okay, let’s start working a bit earlier in the morning. We’ll go out for one, two hours on our lunch break and do something touristy, and then as soon as say 3, 4 o’clock hits, we’re out the door, we’re walking the city. We’re just soaking up the fact that we’re in another place because otherwise you’re just spending your working day in the apartment. You couldn’t-
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. We got to experience this new life.
Carlie: Yeah. In your experience, are there countries that are more conducive to working remotely from than others?
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, Definitely. Especially if anyone’s looking for a fully remote job. United States, Canada are the number one countries, they hire, literally they’re very open to hiring regardless of the industry, regardless of job functions. They’re very open to hiring remote workers from anywhere in the world. There must be some restrictions on time zone differences, and especially in the United States, because of the legal issues, if they want to hire full-time employee, then they of course prioritize people from the US because the visa issues. But there are many companies in many positions where they hire someone as a contractor. And also there are companies that provide services as well. There are many different ways for companies hire remote workers.
So USA and Canada, I would say the number one. And the next one in Europe, Netherlands and Germany and also Sweden. All those countries, especially Sweden, Netherlands, those countries really highly value the work-life balance. And they realize that people are more productive by working from home and working wherever they want and especially working at a time when they feel the most productive, right? Because I believe there are some people who are morning person, there are people who are night owl. So giving that kind of flexibility and freedom to employees, they realize that, oh, this is actually more efficient and more productive. So those are the countries that I see that hire remote workers the highest.
Carlie: And where do you find these remote jobs? Where are these companies listing these remote jobs and what particular country’s workers are they targeting for them?
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, I mean there are many job boards out there that… but one thing that when anyone’s looking for at remote job, one thing that need to be really look at very carefully is that whether they are looking for… there are many like, hey, this is a fully remote job, but you need to be based in the US or you need to be based in the UK, or something like that. So we need to make sure to find companies and jobs that actually really allows you to work from anywhere, meaning they’re actually looking for candidates across the globe and without the time zone and stuff like that.
So there are many job boards, but obviously I have my company, so HeyGlobally.com. So anyone who’s looking for a remote job or international job, jobs abroad, definitely go HeyGlobally.com and you can register for free and just send me your profile. And our team is going to potentially get matched your profile with the companies overseas that provide this international jobs or remote jobs. And also obviously there are many job boards, like we work remotely and flexa.com. And then there are many list. I do have a free resource as well. So you can download the free resource where I list 10 most popular website that you can find remote job as well.
Carlie: Lucy, you’ve worked with talents globally. What are some of the coolest places that you’ve known candidates to be working from?
Lucy Jeon: So working remotely from, yeah?
Lucy Jeon: So one of my clients, she’s working in Chiang Mai. I love Chiang Mai in Thailand. Especially, I think it’s very good for women and especially if anyone who’s very interested in wellness.
Carlie: This is a really famous remote working blogger town.
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, Chiang Mai. Nowadays, Bali is very crowded, but Chiang Mai is more zen. And I visited Chiang Mai, but I heard one of my clients, she’s working Chiang Mai, very happy because as a woman, everyone’s very friendly. You can go to yoga and the wellness center and it’s super chill. And then another important thing is that whether that place you’re working from has a digital nomad community, right? Because you’re working there alone or maybe with your colleagues or friends, but you want to be surrounded yourself with similar people who are also working remotely.
So Chiang Mai, definitely I heard that. And then one of my clients was working in Portugal. Portugal, Lisbon is very popular place. So that place also has a lot of huge digital alumni community as well. So as long as the place has community, it seems like they adapt to this new kind of place easier.
Carlie: Just finally, Lucy, I’d like to know what your top piece of advice would be for someone who’s really keen to pursue a location independent career?
Lucy Jeon: Yeah, that’s a good question. So as I said earlier, I briefly mentioned earlier that there are many routes to be location independent. So you can find a job at a company as a fully remote worker, and also you can find a contract job or you can start a new business if that’s one of the paths that you want to take in as well.
And then one thing that I want to definitely look into is that, we talked about it briefly before, but in terms of visa and then everything, how are you going to go about it? Are you going to apply for a digital nomad visa? For example, if you want to live in Portugal for a year as a digital nomad, how are you going to go about it? Right? If you are getting a remote work from a company in the US, as a contractor, usually not sponsoring your visa. Then how are you planning to live in Portugal legally for a year or so? So really knowing what direction you’re going to and then reverse engineer from there, right? So make a really good strategy and plan accordingly.
Carlie: Lucy, thank you for the conversation. It’s been lovely to have you on the Expat Focus podcast.
Lucy Jeon: Oh, thank you so much, Carlie. I mean, you made me feel so comfortable while chatting, so I really enjoy talking to you. Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
Carlie: That’s it for this episode. For a deeper dive into some of the boring-but-important bits that come with working from anywhere, check out my conversation with Oliver Heslop, where we talk Tax Tips for Digital Nomads. Simply scroll back on your favourite podcast app to find the episode. Head to expatfocus.com for loads of free resources to help you move abroad easily, and I’ll catch you next time.