It's almost the perfect storm for working remotely from Ecuador. COVID 19 has forced a re-think of how we work and the growing gig economy means there have never been as many opportunities to work remotely.
There were already 7 million people (or 3.4% of the population) working remotely in the US before COVID19 hit in early 2020.
Once COVID 19 hit, 88% of global organizations encouraged some type of remote working from home arrangement.
This rapid uptake in companies offering work from home positions means the supply of remote jobs has increased. COVID has effectively forced companies to re-think how they can better accommodate remote employees.
This trend is expected to continue, which will further increase the number of jobs available to remote workers.
The following graph shows the trend of people googling 'remote jobs' in the US over the past 5 years.
You can see the peaks that correlate to Coronavirus news events of January and March 2020. But, what really interests me are the peaks between July and August, particularly the highest peak of August 16, 2020.
Why you ask? Because I'd expect to see the peaks of January and March as they would be largely driven by media events relating to the Coronavirus. But, the extended, much higher peaks of July and August indicate a stronger long-term trend of a growing market of employees and employers all interested in the phrase 'remote jobs'.
This indicates the overall environment for working remotely is growing significantly.
The gig economy is simply a name given to contract-based jobs that are performed by freelancers as opposed to full or part-time workers. You probably think of Uber drivers and Amazon delivery personnel. These are certainly included, but the range of jobs is much wider and can include roles from digital marketing, writing, editing, transcription, teaching English online and Amazon Mechanical Turk etc.
Now, the gig economy is growing at 3x the pace of regular jobs and 36% of US based workers were already in the gig economy in 2018.
This presents opportunities for you to participate in the gig economy from Ecuador. Sure, you won't be able to land a role as an Amazon delivery driver, but you don't have to. There's plenty of other digital-based opportunities that we touch on below!
This is exciting as it points towards a growing ecosystem for remote or work from home positions. Quite simply, there has never been a better time to start working remotely.
But, before you pop open the champagne and start flinging your CV around, you should also know that:
The case for working remotely in Ecuador is very strong. Ecuador is a small country with:
I honestly think there is something in Ecuador to suit most people's tastes in addition to the popular rhetoric revolving well-preserved city centers, the Galapagos, and volcanoes.
However, Ecuador is yet to achieve the same level of notoriety as other 'digital nomad hotspots' such as Medellin (Colombia), Chiang Mai (Thailand) & Bali (Indonesia). I suspect this is because Ecuador is not as strong in the following areas:
If your main priority is making the Benjamins, then hands down it will generally be more attractive to work for a US (or Canadian, European, Australian, etc) company.
The minimum wage in Ecuador is $400 and the average monthly wage ranges depending on the source. It ranges from $460 to $500 to over $1,300. Given the large percentage of informal workers in Ecuador, it's quite difficult to pin down the actual average monthly salary.
Whatever the source, you'll likely find it difficult to land a local job that pays more than $1,000 per month.
You will considerably increase your chances of landing a good local job if you speak Spanish fluently. Without it, you're going to really limit the opportunities available to you.
If you only speak English, then sticking to English-friendly jobs is a no-brainer until you've become fluent in Spanish.
Some Ecuadorians find success working remotely for companies based in Spain. If you're Spanish is good enough, this could be a viable option for you too.
This is a super expansive question because remote jobs by their nature can be performed just about anywhere. But, I'm going to focus on the more popular options I've come across digital nomads or settled expats (like myself) working remotely in Ecuador.
Many industries are moving towards accommodating remote workers. Some traditional service-based industries such as lawyers, engineers and even medical professionals have even been willing to adopt some degree of remoteness.
So, you'd be surprised at the types of jobs that can be at least partially completed remotely. I'd suggest it's absolutely worthwhile going through your previous jobs/careers to see if there is any chance you can perform a similar role remotely. If there is, don't be afraid to reach out to old colleagues and bosses with some potential options on how you can be a valuable remote contributor.
There has been a boon in recent times teaching English to students via the internet. This charge has been led by the burgeoning Chinese middle-class that has a seemingly endless appetite for ensuring their kids receive the highest level of education from an early age.
Average earnings vary greatly but expect to earn between $10-$25 per hour. This is generally paid as a contractor, so don't expect health insurance or other benefits.
Whilst requirements vary by company, the following are pretty standard requirements.
The timezone requirement here can be a challenge when teaching from Ecuador. For example, if you're teaching kids in China, the majority of parents book for 6:00-10:00pm (Beijing time). This is 5:00 - 9:00am in Ecuador.
Whilst you're generally awarded flexibility when booking your class times, you may be required to teach a certain number of 'peak hours' for your contract to be renewed. Or if you don't open up to peak times you may just not get many students booking you. This is especially true for new teachers.
Some companies also require a US accent. These are generally the bigger, more established companies like VIP Kid. I've always found this requirement a little bit weird - as these companies are happy to take on teachers with say, a strong southern drawl, but reject applicants that have neutral accents that are not from the US.
Whilst I've never taught English online, I've spent far too much time around others while they are conducting their lessons.
Full disclosure: my biggest learning from this is that I know I am not equipped for teaching kids online. Why you ask? The amount of enthusiasm required to keep their attention, the monotony of teaching the same classes over and over again and the sheer patience required are too much for me.
But, I know many people that really enjoy teaching online and thrive in that environment. Horses for courses.
The following companies are popular starting points:
Some of these companies also offer their current teachers referral bonuses if they bring on new teachers. As the incentive is only generally paid for successful applicants once they teach a certain number of classes, it's in the best interests of the original teacher to coach their recruits to ensure they get paid.
As a new teacher, it might be worthwhile seeking these people out on various forums or Facebook groups. Some initial coaching on what each company truly looks for can be invaluable. On the flip side, I've seen some incredibly intelligent, hard-working teachers with years of experience get knocked back for seemingly trivial oversights.
Digital marketing is a broad industry that covers everything from social media, content marketing, search engine optimization, paid ads, email, automation and more. Now, I'm clearly biased because this is what I do, but I still see so much potential for new entrants into this field.
I've worked as a digital marketer for agencies, startups and large corporations. There is a lot of opportunity in this area because it's constantly evolving and digital channels continue to eat into the budgets of traditional mediums like print, TV and radio.
Offering a specialized service is key. The types of niche services I'm talking about include:
Once you've had some success for clients with your niche offering, then you can either use this experience to either broaden into other areas or use the experience to apply for marketing jobs either in-house or at an agency.
Do you enjoy writing? And do you have detailed knowledge about particular industries? If so, then producing content could be a good option for you.
Many people are surprised to learn how important content is for any digital marketing strategy. And whilst the competition is high because there is a low barrier to entry, the demand for good, dependable writers continues to increase.
For example, I know writers that produce content in certain niches such as legal, medical and engineering that make a very comfortable living ($4K+ monthly).
Think this could be for you? Great. Start writing about a topic that you:
This 3rd point is key; enjoyment is critical to your long-term success. You don't want to be in a position where you're staring at the computer, digging deep for words that just don't come because you aren't passionate about the industry.
My last tip is that you don't want to fall into the trap of offering cheap writing services because you don't understand your worth. There are loads of cheap general writers out there that are just terrible. Positioning yourself as a niche specialist will earn your more money and allow you to provide better quality to your clients as you know one subject intimately.
Virtual assistants for all types of industries are in demand. It's true that there is more demand at the lower end of the price spectrum (ie $5/hour), but this is not where you should position yourself. Again, specializing in a particular industry or skill will set you apart and allow you to command a higher rate ($15-$25 / hr).
This can be a great option for those that maybe don't see themselves learning a new technology-based skill and can focus on their organizing, communication, and planning skills instead.
There's plenty of virtual assistant jobs in the freelancer platforms listed below.
One of the most remote-friendly industries is web development. But, this is not for the faint-hearted as web development takes a lot of learning and practice before you can start applying for your 1st job. Thankfully, there's plenty of great free or cheap resources out there if you want to pursue this angle.
Have an eye for clean lines and attention to detail with a creative flair? Pursuing web or graphic design might be worthwhile pursuing. It's very remote-friendly with lots of designers working from home or wherever they choose.
It's one of the few jobs I've seen Ecuadorians perform remotely for locally based companies.
But, building up the skills and portfolio also takes time. There are loads of cheap tutorials to teach you the theory (such as Udemy) and tools (ie Photoshop & Illustrator), but some companies still only take on candidates with formal design related degrees.
This one can be a real gem in the rough. The prevalence of digital platforms and SAAS products has created many roles for virtual customer support agents. These are the types of roles that were once handled by call center support operators, just repurposed for the online format.
As many customer support roles rely on set hours, being in the same timezone as the US can make these roles ideal for Ecuadorian-based applicants.
You also don't generally need a lot of experience, so the barrier to entry is low but competition can be high.
One perk for this type of work is that some very forward-thinking, remote-friendly companies employ a lot of customer support agents. This potentially allows you to work your way up into other roles within a world-class company.
These roles can be found on remote job boards and directly with the company.
Yes, I know the tourism industry is having a hard time since COVID, but I think it's safe to say that we all love traveling and will be wandering the globe again shortly. Michelle works in tourism and can't wait for the tourists to come back!
When they do (and they will) there will be demand for sales and travel advisors that speak English. You may even be able to find an Ecuadorian based job if you're primarily dealing with English speaking clients.
But, if you're thinking of becoming a tour guide in Ecuador, then I'm sorry, that is much more difficult. It involves a 4-year degree within Ecuador (or possibly transferring some credits from a related degree back home to shorten the period of study).
Some tour companies do send tour leaders to accompany their guests whilst in Ecuador. But, these are generally associated with the company and not a separate service you could just provide from Ecuador.
Can you type, are a fantastic listener, and are just crazy about details? Then transcribing could be the side gig for you.
The proliferation of the ability to record audio (ie mobile phones) has meant that everyone has easy access to record business meetings and other commercially important events. But, going through these audio notes is a real pain, so companies can opt to cheaply outsource the transcribing of audio to written notes.
There's also the specialized fields of legal and medical transcription that tend to pay more.
One of the more beginner-friendly companies to try is TranscribeMe. They basically accept anyone so long as you pass the tests. The pay starts at $15 per audio hour. This means that you need to transcribe one hour's worth of conversation (not work for one hour). As a beginner, it's realistically going to take you 3 hours to transcribe one hours worth of audio. So, your hourly rate shifts to $5/hr.
In the spirit of trying anything once, I did previously give transcribing a shot. I figured I'm a fast typer, so transcribing would be a walk in the park. I was wrong.
You see, AI voice to text technology has come a long way. So, recordings that can easily be converted from audio to text are done by computers with some light human intervention. This costs much less than having a person transcribe, so it remains the obvious choice for transcription where possible.
So what audio is left for you to transcribe? Difficult audio. Think of someone recording a meeting on their phone (no special microphone or anything) and trying to type out notes at the same time. What you end up hearing is a mess of sounds that can be very difficult to decipher what words are said. And this is assuming there is no accent to deal with.
I don't want to turn you off giving transcribing a shot too, but you should go in with your eyes wide open.
This isn't so much a 'job' or 'role' exactly. It's more of a long-term opportunity to increase your income. There's plenty of niches that are still far from reaching market saturation. Creating your own site around one of these niches can really pay off long-term.
But, it's going to take you at least 6 months of consistent effort to start seeing any sort of results. It's common to see people start their own sites, then give up after a few weeks worth of effort. And I get it. It can be super frustrating if you don't see results and have no real way of knowing if the results are going to eventuate (they may not if you've chosen a niche that is too competitive).
If you happen to be fluent in Spanish too, then you've now got two very different markets to pursue - and twice the amount of work! But, given the low competition in Ecuador, you should be able to see results in just about any industry.
I'm constantly coming up with ideas for Ecuadorian based websites that I know will work, but I just don't have the time to pursue. I know you'll have some good ideas of your own.
If you want to try your hand at building your first website, I recommend grabbing a cheap theme from Themeforest and either updating the content/images yourself, or paying someone to mock it together for you.
I've had a few people approach me to build their sites, but it's not something I currently offer as a once-off service. Why? Because a website without marketing is a waste of time and won't get results. If you're potentially interested in ongoing marketing services + website build, then feel free to get in contact.
The last option on the list is my favorite for building long-term wealth. Trading and investing. Many expats are familiar with the attractive rates offered for fixed term deposits (or CDs) by cooperativa's such as JEP in Ecuador. Some choose to invest in these as a requirement for their Investor Visa, whilst others actively choose them because of the high interest rates between 8-10%.
This is most definitely NOT investment advice as there are reasons why such high interests rates are offered. I'm just leaving it here as an option for you to know that there are expats in Ecuador that live entirely off the interest from their CDs.
Trading stocks, bonds, crypto (ie Bitcoin) and other assets is also a viable option as you can do it from anywhere. I believe there are small trading groups setup in the major cities, but don't be surprised if your Ecuadorian friends don't actively invest or know a lot about the financial markets.
We've established there is a lot of opportunity across many different fields for remote workers, but where the hell do you find these jobs?
Here are my recommendations for starting your search:
My path to working online was through a previous employer that already valued my work. We'd already built trust, making it a lot easier for them to embrace the other unknowns that come with remote work relationships.
So, before you go off and try and learn another skill that you can utilize to work from home, I suggest reaching out to your current network. Perhaps offering to work for a lesser amount during a probation period to further de-risk it for your potential employer.
These sites all work on the basic principle that you sign up by creating a profile of your work history and skills. You can then start applying for different jobs.
Outsourcely aims to connect “remote workers” with clients around the world. It's a good place to find long term client relationships.
The biggest freelancer site out there. But, they also take a large cut. 20% of your first $500 goes to Upwork, then a sliding scale from there.
Note, if applying for US based jobs, it really helps to ensure you have a valid US ID. This unlocks a lot of the better US based jobs as clients have the option of only selecting US based candidates.
You get some credits called "connects" initially, but then you need to pay for more in order to apply for jobs. You need to invest in the platform (both time and money) before you're going to get to most out of it.
Biggest genuine competitor to Upwork. They also operate on a paywall model where you need to invest in some of their premium features in order to get the most from your job search.
Focus is more geared towards on entry-level jobs. This can be great for newer remote workers, but experienced workers may have a tough time as they are more likely to be under-bid by less qualified professionals.
A great place for new remote workers to get some experience before moving onto higher paying gigs. Reputation for being the cheapest place to get work done - and more often than not you get what you pay for...
I've focused on job boards that cater towards remote positions below. You can of course use general job boards too, but you may end up spending a lot of time searching for remote-friendly roles.
This list is far from exhaustive as job boards catering for remote workers seem to pop up every week.
Great starting place because there are lots of jobs. But, also lots of competition.
One of the oldest remote job boards still as popular as ever.
Human curated job board. All posted jobs checked to ensure valid and paid.
Focus on software development, but good mix of other jobs too.
Also offer an email of curated jobs if you sign up (free).
There are numerous Facebook Groups setup that can also help you in your job search. Here's some you should start with:
Large community that focuses on digital nomad issues and job postings. Not specific to any geography.
Largest Facebook group for Ecuadorian based expat info. Some good insights on general Ecuadorian matters.
Smaller group for digital nomads and remote workers based in Ecuador to connect and share. Disclaimer: I'm a moderator of this group so you'll get more tips from me if you join.
Once you find a job worth applying for, I suggest trying to apply directly on the company's website. Why? Because it shows you went just the extra yard to do some research about the company and that you care. You can also try to find the person responsible for hiring so you can address your CV to them. These smaller details are needed to get noticed in the competitive job market.
I also suggest setting up Google Alerts for your 5 dream companies. For example, assume you really wanted to work for Slack in their customer support team. Then you'd setup an alert to track the phrase: slack "customer success". You'll then be emailed as soon as new jobs come up and can apply right away to be ahead of your competition.
The future looks great for remote workers that choose to work from Ecuador. It's such a great destination for those that love to mix work with weekend trips to the jungle, beach, mountains or even the Galapagos.
The long-term trend clearly indicates there will be more opportunities for remote workers. So basing yourself in Ecuador to capitalize on this trend makes so much sense that it's kinda shocking there aren't more nomads and expats choosing to do the same.
Lastly - if you're currently (or thinking of) working remotely from Ecuador, you should Join our Ecuador Digital Nomads group to connect with others.