Expat Life

E-ployment allows expats to work anywhere in the world but it comes with social costs

By Samantha North

Annual leave is a foreign concept for branding strategist Julian Stubbs.

Alisson Ellis at work in Cuenca.

He can travel whenever he feels like it and manage his business uninterrupted from anywhere in the world, including beaches, airports and parks. Originally from Cheltenham, England, Julian now lives in Sweden where he runs his own internet-based agency working with a global network of consultants.

Explaining why he took the plunge into ‘e-ployment’ Stubbs said: “I was sick of sitting in traffic for up to two hours a day going to and from an office. That adds up to around 18 days a year. I’d sooner live wherever I eant and to take holidays with my family at my discretion. It was also non-productive time and a real waste. Nowadays we have all the tools to work really well in the cloud – so doing that was the obvious answer.”

Working in the internet cloud means that a company or individual uses internet-based software to accomplish its tasks and store its data. People using this method of working are free to live and work anywhere on the planet.

E-ployment may seem like a new concept, but Celeste Ganderson was an early adopter and started in 2003 while living in Bali. Despite encountering skepticism from family and friends about her plans to make money through the internet, Ganderson has been working successfully as a market research consultant ever since.

She said: “In late 2005, friends in New York contacted me. They were partners in a boutique headhunting agency and they knew I could add value, even from afar, and at rates that were more competitive than those in New York.”

Since then, she has transported her job from Bali to Cappadocia in Turkey and now to Istanbul.

Achieving the perfect work/life balance and breaking free from the office may sound like the ultimate dream. But e-ployment has its drawbacks. Ms Ganderson said: “This is not a lifestyle for everyone because not everyone loves working solo.”

She added: “Without the generous ‘expat package’ you figure out much more quickly how to get things done. Job security is of course an issue for me, but it simply isn’t a given for anyone these days. There’s a certain security in insecurity, because then you learn how to live with it. I’ve always managed somehow, even in tough times. As for health insurance, that’s a major expense, but it’s a non-negotiable one for me.”

On top of the practical challenges, having such freedom requires exercising greater responsibility – especially without a boss physically there to hold you accountable. Stubbs believes the biggest challenge in e-ployment is self-discipline and motivation. He said: “My boss is me, and I love that, but I have to manage all aspects of my business – so it’s really down to me. The danger is you can work all the time, so you need to set clear boundaries.”

Alisson Ellis, who left her job as a museum director in Bergen, Norway, to move to Cuenca, Ecuador, agrees. “I have to be very strict with my work schedule since there’s so much to do and see in Cuenca and all over South America,” she says. “It helps that I work under strict deadlines and have a clear view of the demands,” she says, referring to the exhibition catalogs she writes for various European art galleries and museums.

Meanwhile, geographical differences between the e-ployee and their clients or colleagues can produce useful opportunities to jump ahead with projects while the others are still having their leisure time.

Istanbul-based editor and content consultant Eleanor Ross leverages the 10-hour time difference between Turkey and New Zealand to work on projects while her colleagues sleep, and vice versa. Ms Ross said this is one of the biggest advantages of her working set-up, but admitted she misses people contact, especially the “buzz of sparky, creative team brainstorming”.

The flexibility of working remotely also offers e-ployees the chance to earn money from more than one source. Mr Stubbs explained: “I work on identity and strategy projects, but I also write and lecture.”

One thing all these e-ployees share is their international and cosmopolitan outlook. Thinking and working globally opens up opportunities across the world – making working life broader and perhaps more fun.

  • EdGar Toepel

    Many of us also enjoy not working from home in Ecuador.

  • Sueetta Joyce

    Where to I sign up??? Love to do this….retired and my time is my own! No need for benefits but like to keep busy.