Nowadays, freelancing is one of the coolest and most comfortable methods of making money online. Ever since the inception, advancement, spread and the use of the internet, many can now make money in their comfort zone. Freelancing presents society with the opportunity of working anywhere and with anyone in the world without having to get a visa and a work permit. That’s nice, isn’t it?
A Look Back into the Past
Before freelancing, it used to be that if you wanted to work abroad, you had a couple of options. You could decide where you were moving to and then do some intensive research. You’d apply for a work visa and field a mind-numbing obstacle course of red tape. If you were lucky, you’d come out the other side with a visa and work permit ready to set up your life as an immigrant. Then, if you were really eager and you still had some energy left, you could even try to become a citizen in your adopted home.
Another option would be – to face the risk of working illegally. Work, get paid in cash and hope that customs won’t find you.
But in our times a new model has emerged. Now you can work as a digital freelancer. With only a laptop, you can set up camp virtually anywhere. What does this mean for the changing state of immigration?
Freelancing and Immigration Obtain New Meanings
A freelancer used to be a skilled and specialized worker available for hire on a project basis. Now the term also encompasses unskilled workers available for easy and outsourceable odd jobs. It also includes single-client workers who basically function as employees, but with a different tax status.
Immigration is steadily giving way to relocation. A digital nomad may or may not settle in any single location. Nor might they work to naturalize themselves into their host culture, as an immigrant in the conventional sense of the term might. This lifestyle allows digital nomads to move as many times as they like, trying out new homes whenever the fancy strikes.
Unlike traditional immigrants, when freelancing, digital nomads are more equipped to take their culture with them. A contact with a new culture is transformative for anyone. But mobile freelancers can stay more in touch with their home culture than ever.
Internet culture, as much as any national identity, is the native culture of a growing percentage of young workers. This transnational culture exists outside of immigration. It transcends conventional national boundaries because it exists in the cloud. There could be a near future in which immigration in the traditional sense no longer exists, where culture is no longer tied to geographical location.
Digital Nomads are Freed
As first world cities continue to gentrify uncontrollably, it is harder and harder to find a place where a local income can cover the cost of living. For some, the best solution is to mix and match markets, taking earnings from one and applying them to housing markets in another.
Digital nomads (or at least those of first world origin) enjoy a mobile economic privilege. They can take their standard of earnings to a place where the cost of living is lower. Many find themselves working a job that, for the first time in their lives, can cover the cost of food and housing.
Time will tell whether this presents the same economic opportunity for third world freelancers. And hopefully, these developments can positively impact third world communities where many first world digital nomads choose to settle down.
Borders and Immigration Laws Seem to Be Less Related
Are you familiar with the concept “the golden age of travel”? Those were the days when you could travel across continents without needing visas. Those days are long gone. But today it feels like slowly the process of traveling and working without limitations is getting easier. To a very reasonable extent, freelancing has cut out all the complexities of taxes, permit and other harsh conditions for working abroad or in a foreign country. The laws built to control borders and immigration may be slipping into obsolescence.
Who will manage the connected?
The anarchic idea of the web represents some baffling problems for worldwide overseeing powers and the financial Goliaths that advise them. Sometimes corporations are powerful enough to establish their own rule of law. Right now, for instance, the main force governing business website operation is Google. It is Google’s systems of rules and penalties that determine how businesses can and cannot operate across the web. Google’s rules are not law, nor are they necessarily tied to ethics. Still, a small business owner dare not break them. If they do, they could find their traffic crippled and their livelihood plummet.
A similar corporate strongman could emerge for digital nomads. But for now, are free to connect person-to-person and trade work for earnings.
Currency Power and Exchange Rate
Now, many people may not consider this well but let’s give it a thought. If a company needs to outsource a job to a foreigner, the currency exchange rate of both individual countries comes into play. In as much as the freelancer has the right skills and is capable of handling the job; the employer can actually spend less and save more provided his country’s currency has the upper hand. The employee, on the other hand, would be highly favored because the currency in which he earns will be much higher in value than his local currency. In this case, there is a balance on both sides as they all benefit from this transaction. This can only happen in freelancing. However, if there is “immigration” to either homeland, standard rate applies.
In freelancing, the employer has the upper hand. Once the job is done to satisfaction, the employer can pay the freelancer for the job; otherwise, he can withdraw the funds unless they both reach an agreement to cancel the transaction. In the real world, an employer can monitor his employee and sue him if it results in fraud or any form of nullification of the terms and conditions between both sides. For this reason, many employers would prefer a physical relationship with their employees than a virtual one especially if the employee is from a foreign land. In this case, there will be a need for either person to migrate physically for the business to be actualized. However, this is not so with freelancing. The identity of both parties is not known hence the risk of losing in the business is high. With proper freelancing practices or with systems such as “pay on project completion,” an employer can be assured his money is safe and secure until the project is completed to satisfaction. This will cut down the need and cost of either party migrating to a significant extent.
Predictions for the Future
Digital freelancing is ushering in a new era of freedom. We can expect major shifts in ethnic distinctions over the years as transplants and nomads move freely around the globe. The world will become a melting pot as cultural boundaries blur.
Cultures with practices preserved from antiquity will become scarcer and more prized as a tourist commodity. A new generation will emerge as the brilliant, multilingual children of digital nomads struggle to affix their own cultural identities.
People will no longer move to places because of economic opportunity. Places offering high standards of living, great urban amenities, or pristine natural environs will shoulder the population booms, for better or for worse.