Dollar-earning in Colombia: Freelance or Work remotely

in Finding work/How-to guides/Investing

I’ve gotten a lot of response to the article on how to earn dollars while living in Colombia. For that reason, I’ve decided to elaborate a little bit on the subject for those who are lost about how to get started.

Here is what I wrote in bullet point 1 and 2 in the original article:

  1. Selling freelance services on Fiverr, Upwork or Toptal. Any hardcore coding or engineering skill can be sold. But don’t worry, softer skills like building simple websites, copywriting, online marketing, logo design, portrait drawing, proofreading, translating, songwriting, jingle composing, video editing, business plan writing, etc. are also in demand.
  2. Get a remote job, especially in tech, but also customer service and editorial jobs are listed. Check out WeWorkRemotely, StackOverflow, RemoteOK and WorkingNomads.

Before you start thinking, “That’s impossible, I’m no software engineer!”, I’d like for you to consider the following:

Many of the most productive and successful people in the world are college drop-outs. Don’t trust me, start reading the CVs of the richest people on the Forbes’ List of Billionaires. I know there are many ways to define success but for our purpose, which is income-generating, it makes sense to focus on financial success.

Just because you’re a college drop-out, or never went to university at all, doesn’t mean that you have had to stop learning. I guarantee you that many of the most successful people, whether in sports, business, love, the spiritual world, etc., have committed themselves to being lifelong learners and so can you. In fact, access to learning has never been easier.

A note about learning

Look at the plethora of online courses available on Lynda, TeamTreeHouse, CreativeLive, Udacity, CourseraCode and CodeAcademy. Many of them are free to attend or offer free 30-day trials. Some of the world’s most respected universities also offer free courses online. Harvard University, Stanford University, edX and OpenCulture are great places to find an interesting course. Heck, even the iTunes U app has more options than you could ever hope to need.

If you don’t get a tiny bit excited about any of the courses offered, then it’s time to revisit your priorities in life and decide what’s really important to you. I read somewhere that if something is not interesting to you, it’s because you haven’t investigated it enough. Think about that for a moment.

Reading is another way to keep learning. I love reading, so naturally I read a lot. For me, there is nothing better than sitting in my hammock with a good book. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to read. The real answer is probably that you haven’t found a book that really interests you enough. I have two small kids, a girlfriend, a dog, a workout, a house, friends, hobbies, etc. It’s all about prioritizing and managing your time. Every time you watch an episode of a telenovela you are frying you brain. I love watching an episode of Vikings on Netflix, but if it happens twice a week for me, then that’s a max. The key is to consume quality information.
I prefer reading paper books, but if you live in Colombia, I suggest that you buy a Kindle and save yourself $100’s of dollars in shipping and weeks spent waiting for your delivery. Not only that, your selection of books will be greater and buying them this way is also a lot cheaper, saving you up to 90% or more on each book without having to worry about cutting down the rainforest. You don’t like batteries? Neither do I, but a full charge is usually enough for me to get through two books. I bring it with me on vacations leaving the charger at home.

Here’s a few of the books that I’m currently enjoying on my Kindle:

Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. Mostly for entertainment but also as a history lesson on WW2 submarine warfare and the pirates of the Golden Age in the Caribbean.
Born to run by Christopher McDougall. Taught me a lot about the evolution of running and helped improve my own speed while avoiding injuries.
Influence by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. For anybody interested in selling and the power of persuasion.
Abundance by Peter H. Diamandis. The future is better than you think and here is why and what we can expect.
Learn to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber. Because sometimes I feel like I get outsmarted by a two-year old.

The last learning method that I will be covering today, is podcasting. I easily spend two hours a day in Cali’s traffic jam, but instead of dreading the ride and wasting my time listening to salsa, I always listen to a podcast. Consider it radio on steroids. My favorite is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – especially his episodes on Mongolian ruler, Djengis Khans, called the Wrath of the Khans, is just outstanding.
If I’m not listening Dan Carlin, I usually listen to The Tim Ferriss Show or The James Altucher Show, who both do interviews of some of the world’s top performers and most interesting people. I learn something new every time and always get a ton of new ideas about books to read. My Amazon wish list currently includes 97 book titles or enough to keep me busy for the next 2 years.

Three months ago, I had no idea about how to build a website. Now I’ve built three, including the one you’re looking at right now. I actually get kind of proud of myself. There’s nothing like patting your own shoulder once in a while.

I think you get the point. The key is to spend your time wisely and NEVER stop learning. Consider this: All living things on this planet are either growing or decomposing. Don’t let your brain decompose.

How to freelance

Enough about the learning, here’s what I would do, if I wanted to sell either freelance services or work remotely:

Toptal is mostly for people will real coding skills. Don’t have them? Get started with one of the courses from the providers listed above. I’d estimate that with a few months of dedication to different courses, you can amass enough skills to start selling your services online – even on places like Toptal.

Upwork has merged with Elance. Combined, the two places offer one of the best platforms for freelancers available.  Take a look at the following categories, which by the way do not even include all the sub-categories that belong under each skill.

Hint: Click to enlarge
Hint: Click to enlarge

Again, if you don’t possess any of the skills listed above, it’s back to learning again.

99Designs is another online platform for all things graphically related, that connects freelancers with customers. I’ve never used it personally, but Tim Ferriss raves about it in his podcast.

Fiverr is the place where ANYONE can sell something, no matter how incompetent you might think you are with a computer. There’s a guy that will proofread 1000 words in 24 hours for $5. He has 4285 five-star reviews. There are people writing press releases, translators, banner designers, logo designers, people doing voice-overs, songwriters, language classes via Skype, Tarot card readers, and Kabbalah spell casters. I could go on… The list is EXTENSIVE. I even saw a guy offering to do a standing backflip with any sign of your choice. I thought it was a joke, but he has 242 five-star reviews. Prices start at $5, but you can really charge anything you want. The key is to sell small gigs, using whatever skills you have. Be creative. Odds are that your skills are actually in demand.

If using any of the platforms above, I suggest that you start out by asking a lower price than you would really like to earn. The key is to sell a few gigs and over-deliver, get some good reviews on your services and then slowly raise your price.

How to work remotely

Working remotely is very much linked to many of the skills listed above. The main difference is that you have an employer that pays you on a monthly basis. You’re not chasing the next gig on Fiverr or Upwork. The downside is that you have someone else dictate what you will be doing and instead of choosing for yourself.

Even though you can do writing, advertising, costumer service or work as a virtual assistant, many of the very well-paid remote jobs are in tech. I honestly believe that doing 6-12 months of intensive computer programming courses, earning a few nano-degrees from Udacity, and you could land yourself a $50-100.000 dollar a year remote job. That would equal a very attractive lifestyle in Colombia by most people’s standards. Check out the links mentioned in bullet point 2 and match the job descriptions with the courses available from the providers of online learning. Figure out what’s in demand by employers. As a rule of thumb: the higher the demand, the better the pay. Bingo.

If none of the above is for you, then luckily there are 7 more ideas that I will be covering in the coming days.

Passed through Cali for the first time in 2011, on his way from the US to Brazil on a motorcycle. Ended up kissing a caleña on his last night and the rest is history. Has been a resident of Cali, Colombia since 2013 and currently living in Barrio Bellavista with his girlfriend and 2 daughters.


    • Thank you Alex!
      I would choose the course that looks the most interesting to you! Don’t worry about level of difficulty, don’t worry about the highest earning potential. Follow your curiosity. That would be my best advice!

      Tell me how it goes – and remember that you get half your money back with Udacity upon graduation. You could learn some kick-ass skills with as little as $300. This is the new future of learning – learning by doing!

  1. Great blog and article!

    Does working remotely in Colombia (e.g. for a US company) require a VISA as well?
    Consider doing that too but i’m a little afraid about all these VISA requirements…


    • If working remotely, you can do so with your tourist visa for up to 180 days per year. If you wanna stay longer than that, then you’ll need a different type of visa.

  2. Hey patrick , have tonsay that I really enjoy reading your article, I’m from Cali Colombia but I’ve been living here since I was 17 years old , It’s been 10 years since then, and I currently looking forward to go back to my home city where my family is. to be honest with you the only thing that is holding me to take that big step is the job opportunities over there, and I have aleays been interested in freelance but all the openings I’ve seen are US based , I always wonder if I could do it from Colombia earning Dollars, how does that work ? How do you do it ? Do they know you are located in another country ?

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