Life As An Expat: Working Through A Move

Life in the self employed or freelance lane can sure be difficult.

Aside from the stress that comes with running your own business (whether it's a personal business or managing work as a freelancer) there's the occasional whole outsider notion that you don't really "do" anything. As someone who has worked from home or on a flexible schedule for the last two years, I relate to this idea hugely. I work just as hard, if not sometimes harder, even if I am occassionally in my pajamas. Not only do I work with clients on writing, copywriting, and marketing work, but I also have a myriad of side projects. 

This blog is one of them. Another I'll be eager to share with you soon. Not to mention anything else that comes up that I can squeeze in on evenings and weekends. The truth is, I probably work more hours than I did at most of my full-time jobs, and sometimes with more stress.

But we already know the "woe is me" self-employment tale. Going it on your own is tough, that's no surprise.

But what about managing financials? That's challenging when you're self employed or employed by many as a contractor, but go through a big life change and it can get even more difficult.

My friend Jess brought this up on Instagram last week, and I was glad to read her post which spoke about financial worries. First of all, hurray for transparent conversations about money! It's not easy navigating the world as a contractor or a freelancer, and much less when actual life gets involved. 

See, Jess has had a difficult pregnancy that forced her to stop working with her freelance design clients earlier than expected. A problem, since she obviously won't have any sort of maternity leave once she has her baby. (This always shocked my friends in the U.K. – the fact that the U.S. lacks mandated maternity leave for women who are employed full time. Own a business? Work as a freelancer? Fuhgettaboutit. There's no safety net except for the one you've built for yourself.)

Jess's transparency inspired me to be honest about some of the stresses we've had surrounding our move, specifically surrounding work and finance. Here's a rundown:

As you likely know, my husband and I just moved from London to North Carolina after a long immigration process. (He's South African, so it's his first time living in the U.S. Cue paperwork.) During this process, he worked his full-time job in London while I worked freelance full time. I can (luckily!) do my job from anywhere, and so I've been able to continue my work with DesignGoodClementine Daily, and others in the process. This is something I'm endlessly thankful for, and it proved to be hugely helpful as we lived in limbo for over a year during the immigration process.

But the downside of flexible, remote work means that there's never any official time away from it. You can work anywhere, so why wouldn't you? What this means is that I've put in a full day's work almost every single day during our move. One day I was working per usual at our second floor flat, then I was working from a couch at an AirBnB, then a North London coffee shop, then my dad's dining room table, and now my mom's kitchen – boxes and suitcases surrounding me in each location.

This is my decision of course, as I could've taken more time off or even a small period of leave to focus on getting everything done that we needed to do. Aside from the fact that I love my work and didn't want to abandon it for a few weeks, we also – quite frankly – needed the money.

Living in London was expensive.

Living in an AirBnB for two weeks was expensive.

Our plane tickets were expensive.

The immigration process was expensive.

Our car insurance after living abroad is going to be expensive.

And now buying all of the things we need to get settled is expensive.

I want to keep working, and D is starting work as soon as possible. We want to maintain and contribute to our savings during this process, even if it means jumping in quickly and potentially losing some sanity in the meantime.

This is just a season in the life of a pricey, expat relationship. It's ours, and there are so many others out there like it. Because we met while living in two different countries and began an international long distance relationship, we've been paying for plane tickets and visa fees from the get-go.

Sometimes I find myself jealous of other expats who are moving for a job or a spouse's job, and therefore most likely have financial assistance from an employer. I know that comes with its downsides and that the grass is always greener, so I'm in no way implying that that is somehow an easier life. I'm just saying that the DIY version of working and moving abroad is expensive as heck.

So, how have we done this? Me, a freelance writer and digital marketing type, and my husband, the IT guy? We've been lucky enough to receive support from family, and otherwise are smart and tight with our money. That's meant slow shopping, cutting corners, and scrimping and saving for several months now. It's worked fine.

I see this changing as we get settled and learn to live in a more affordable place – and that's something that me and the grey hairs on my head are really looking forward to. When it comes to work, I've put passion over profit in many places – including this blog, which I receive no compensation for. I'm open to sponsored content but above all I want this blog to remain as genuine as possible which means that I can't ever see this becoming a place that pays my bills.

I'd like to show off our new home and do a big home tour, design blogger style, but unfortunately that won't happen right now. We're staying with family and are saving everything that we can until we can get a place of our own. No modern sofas or tips on shopping for a new space for this gal just yet. That'll all come in the future, but for now we just don't have the money.

Jess's confession about financial worry was refreshing, and hopefully this post about working through a move will feel the same. It's not easy, and it isn't for any of us regardless of where you live or how you're employed.

If you're a business owner, freelancer, or even work full time, I want to know about your experiences with working through a big life change and managing the financials of it all. How have you done it? Do you have as many grey hairs as I do?  Let me know either here on Instagram. I'd love to hear!