Hear from our guest writer, Gemma Clarke, on her experiences working as a digital nomad in Thailand.
Working remotely abroad has given me the freedom to go with the ebbs and flows of life while keeping a roof over my head. From what was supposedly a 3-month trip, I’ve now been working remotely in Thailand for over two years. I didn’t initially plan to work remotely abroad but instead shifted towards it because of the pandemic. However, on reflection, I see how choosing this lifestyle has allowed me to
increase my income, build my savings, and pursue my passions.
Moving to Thailand
In October 2019, I came to Thailand to study, travel and work in paradise for a few months. I began my trip in Chiang Mai, where I spent a month studying Thai Massage, a valuable component for my yoga teaching. I then travelled to the island of Koh Phangan with my partner, intending to teach yoga at the abundance of retreat centres there. However, little did I know that the entire world would change just a couple of months later. Just as I was getting into the lifestyle of teaching yoga to travellers on the beach, Covid arrived and everything shut down.
An unexpected shift to remote working
Up until that point, I had been doing some remote writing work on the side to substitute for my stay, but my main focus was in-person teaching. So now, with everything shut and the knowledge that I was “stuck” in Thailand indefinitely, I started to look for more online work.
I started teaching private online yoga classes through Zoom and creating yoga content for corporate companies. I also found more writing work, writing for travel blogs to share my experience of Thailand and beyond.
As I found more online work, I began to see how remote working could offer more than just some extra cash. Instead, it could become my primary income source. Of course, finding regular clients, creating a consistent workflow, and settling into a full-time remote working
lifestyle took time. But now, as I look back over the last two years, I can see the enormous benefits of this unexpected lifestyle change.The benefits of remote working differ for everyone.
Here are the four most significant advantages that working remotely in Thailand has brought me.
- A flexible workload
In 2020, I was working on average 10 to 15 hours a week, but it was very inconsistent. In addition, I was working on many temporary projects, so I was constantly on the hunt for new ones to maintain a continuous workflow. Today, I have a handful of regular clients and many occasional ones. Now my workflow is heavier but far more consistent, and I love how I can choose how much work I take on each week and when I carry it out. The freedom to work as much as I want and set my own hours allows me to work around my responsibilities, commitments and passions.
2. Higher income and savings
Working online means you can earn a western wage anywhere in the world, including countries where there is a lower cost of living. There’s a vast difference in how much you can make and save working remotely in London versus Phuket. So, naturally, many remote workers gravitate towards cheaper places. I’ve experienced this advantage for myself, particularly in the last year as I have increased my workload and thus my income. With low living costs, I can put much more into my savings than would be possible in the western world.
Moreover, as I work as a freelancer, I set my rates. When I first started freelance writing and had minimal experience, naturally, I accepted lower rates. However, as I’ve gained more expertise, I’ve been able to charge higher fees and thus, increase my income without working more hours. With experience also comes efficiency. I can complete articles in a much shorter time than I did 2 years ago, which increases my earnings further.
3. A lifestyle upgrade
Although earning USD or GBP while living in a low-cost country allows you to save more, it also brings the opportunity to live a lifestyle not possible elsewhere. For example, the most I could ever afford in England was a studio apartment. In contrast, I can live in a modern 3 or
4 bedroom villa with a private pool and a huge garden in Thailand. Even so, if you’re just getting started, I recommend keeping your living costs low until you have consistent work, regular clients and some savings.
When I first moved to Thailand, I stayed in a tiny hut behind a pub with nothing but a bed and dingy shower. Then, when I began working remotely, I lived in a small jungle house the size of a studio apartment. As I started earning more, I upgraded to a two-bedroom house and then eventually a spacious private pool villa with my own office. I’ve also found that every time I’ve upgraded my living environment, I’ve experienced a productivity boost, especially when I got my own office. Also, knowing that I have to pay more rent motivates me to charge more or seek out higher paying jobs to increase my income further.
4. The time to pursue my passions
There are undoubtedly financial and material advantages to working remotely in Thailand. However, the most significant benefit I’ve experienced is that I now have the time and energy to pursue my passions. Since living in Thailand, I’ve felt an ever-increasing call to help the high stray cat population. Having fewer financial worries combined with the flexibility to determine when and how much I work has allowed me to make a difference to the community by fostering orphaned street kittens. Without a doubt, I know this is something I would never be able to do if I didn’t work remotely. What’s more, because there is now an abundance of remote work available, I can ensure my work projects align with my values. For example, I choose only to write about topics I have experience and expertise in. So, whether I’m writing helpful advice for a pet website or sharing my wisdom on a personal development blog, remote working has allowed me to spend my days living with purpose.