Last week I wrote about the power of salary arbitrage in Remote Work, and how it impacted my life. Earning a US salary while living in Portugal created a life changing acceleration towards financial freedom.
Earlier I had described step by step how I found my first remote job. However, I realise in both those editions I missed an important "panic attack" moment I had during that process.
I had this life changing $125k/year job offer on the table, and my future employer asks me:
• "How can I hire you?"
It was 2016, and this employer had never hired anyone remotely outside the USA. They were clueless about visas, contracts, invoices, payments, etc. It was as new to them as it was to me. But somehow they thought I should know this stuff better than them.
My head was spinning... "Wait, what do you mean? You're the employer, you're supposed to know this stuff!!" - I didn't say that, of course, but but I was anxiously thinking of a way forward.
• "Let me do some research. I'll come back to you until the end of this week" - I said.
I said that confidently, but I was clueless inside. I couldn't afford to lose this opportunity because of legal bureaucracies. So I searched for replies to each of my questions.
These were my steps to handle the situation and get the job. You should do the same if you find yourself in such a deadlock, so you don't lose your life changing job:
1) Contact someone who went through it
This was the first thing I could think off. Search for people in Portugal who were working remotely for US companies. There weren't many, back in 2016, but I found a few.
You should search for someone who:
• Lives in your country
• Works for a company in the same country of the company offering you the job
This was the first thing I could think off. I searched for people in Portugal who were working remotely for US companies. There weren't many, back in 2016, but I found a few and reached out to all of them.
I used Linkedin, and asked people in my network if they knew such people. Just use the filters and you should find these people. Everyone was so open to share their learnings with me, I felt supported.
But most importantly, I found some answers. As everyone's case is different there were 3 main remote contract types:
• Some people were contractors
• Others had US visas
• Others were hired via some local subsidiary company
2) Contact an accountant and a lawyer
I seeked professional help to make sense of these inputs. I want to understand the possibilities and risks of each of those options. And ultimately see which one was best for my situation.
In most this means 2 separate professionals:
• A lawyer: Who tells you about the legal possibilities and risks
• An accountant: Who tells you the compliance and tax implications
Quickly I understood what would NOT work for me:
• Having a Visa wasn't a requirement for me, given I wouldn't be working "in the US". Plus, it was a lengthy, indeterministic and costly process. I discarded this.
• Using some local subsidiary company was even worse. Huge costs and legal implications for the employer. They wouldn't do such heavy lifting just to hire me.
So, the option that worked for me was being a contractor. And that meant opening my own personal company in Portugal, and using it to sign contract and invoice the employer in the US.
3) Come back to your future employer with this information
In a few days I went from clueless and anxious about losing my life changing offer, to having:
• A clear engagement framework to propose.
• A lawyer and an accountant I could bring to the conversation.
• Several people who were doing the same engagement type that I could introduce.
I had a follow up call with my future employer, and it was a very collaborative session. We went from clueless to having a path forward. And we left the call confident that it was just a matter of getting the paperwork ready and signing it.
I offered introductions to all people I spoke with. My future employer used some of those to confirm my proposition. After it was just a matter of the company lawyers creating a contract for me to review and sign. Simple, right? Right??
4) Ask for contract templates
If you've gone through contract revision loops with lawyers you certainly know two things:
• It's never fast
• It has lots of back and forth
For me it took a few weeks, and it spiked my anxiety a few times. I had my offer on the table, and the company wanted me to join ASAP. Still, we were holding for legal stuff we didn't know much about. Lawyers were doing their work. And boy, did it take time...
There's one thing I would have done differently, if I knew this at that moment. I would have brought my own contract templates to the table. This means:
• Asking those other people for their contracts (obviously without their name, salary, etc so you can use as a template)
• Asking your lawyer to create a contract template for the terms agreed (they'll charge you for it, though)
This way, the company lawyers just need to review the contract, which is much much faster than creating a contract from scratch.
I learned my lesson and now I've had my own contract templates ready for any new contract. When clients ask "How can I hire you?", I simply send them my contract, they review, and that's it.
This legal aspect is a novelty for most remote workers. It seems daunting at first, but then it's just another part of our professional life that we get used to. Being a remote contractor is actually a great "problem" to have, I can tell you!
In September, I'm launching my first ever cohort based course and private community, where I'll be breaking down my knowledge into modules, and will help a batch of remote job seekers find a remote job. The launch will be private, join the waitlist and stay tuned.
In the meantime you should check this list of 1000+ companies hiring remote roles right now. I built this free resource just about 3 months ago, and since then 18000 remote job seekers have visited the page and applied to roles listed there. Have a look!
Thanks for reading this newsletter until the end. You can read all past editions here. Make sure to share the link with your friends and colleagues so they can read it too.
See you next Friday,
Startup CTO & Remote Work Lover