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Working as a Freelancer Expat in Italy

One of the questions that follows "come mai Calabria?" (why in the heck did you move to Calabria?), I get asked what I do for work. It's a reasonable question, given the unemployment rate in Calabria (15.9%) is more than double the national average (7.2%). Jobs are hard to come by here, so if you're looking to move here and find a job easily, think again.

Being a Freelancer Expat in Italy

I'm super fortunate that I make American dollars in a country and region where my money goes so far. I'm fortunate that I have American clients and don't have the struggle of finding work that so many people here do.

So what's it like, working as a freelancer or a digital nomad in Italy? Here are a few things I'm sure you're curious about.

How's the Wifi?

I certainly can't speak for all of Italy, but the wifi in Soverato is great. I now have a fiber line and pay less than €30 a month for fast service. Before that, I had a little modem that had a SIM card inserted into it. I paid a little more, but the service was slower.

I will say, you don't find a ton of bars and restaurants that offer wifi, so the whole coffee-shop-workday thing isn't that common.

What Tech Do You Use?

Great question. First, I just started using a VPN (virtual private network) which makes it look like my computer is in the U.S. I do this because I conduct a lot of research online and I need the search results to be American sites I can access. Occasionally, when I try to visit a site, it blocks me because it sees I'm in Italy. With my VPN, I can access these sites.

I have a Google Voice number to call and receive phone calls from the U.S. It's a free service, and you can select an American area code. I also find it helpful for when I have to enter a phone number to verify an account I have in the U.S., since you can't use a foreign number (i.e. a bank).

I work on my laptop at home. That's about it for technology!

When Do You Work?

Because I'm a writer, I can work when I like because I rarely have client meetings. So late morning and early afternoon are my most productive hours. But I'm always game to delay starting work if the beach is calling!

When I have expat coaching sessions, I schedule those for late afternoon/early evening to accommodate my American clients. I use Calendly to schedule appointments and just block off the time I don't work. (Ok, add Calendly to the tech section!)

Does Living in Italy Impede You in Any Way?

Surprisingly, it has. When looking for new clients, I've found a few companies that don't want to work with anyone who lives outside of the U.S. Given how global we are, it shocked me. Where I live has no bearing on my ability to deliver!

And it can be a pain to line up schedules for a call, given I'm six hours ahead of the east coast, and nine ahead of Pacific time.

What About Taxes?

I need to write an entire post on taxes after I file mine here, but here's a bit of info. As a freelancer expat in Italy, I have to file and pay taxes in both the U.S. and Italy.

There's an agreement between the two countries that says whatever you pay in one country will be deducted from what you pay in the other, so you're not double-taxed.

I used TurboTax this year and filed my own American taxes. There's an option to select for not living in the U.S., and the software calculates the self-employment taxes (Social Security and Medicaid) that you have to pay.

Final Thoughts

I have long loved working alone at home. I do not crave being around other people when I work. But if you do, you might be lonely, especially in more rural areas like Calabria. There's not much of a freelance culture. In bigger cities, you might be able to find workshare offices where you can rent office space and mingle with others.

If you're planning to move to Italy, please have a plan for how you'll earn money. It's not as simple as showing up and looking for a job.

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