Is Flexpat a good way for freelancers to travel the world for money?
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No one dreams of sitting in a cubicle behind a desk for (at least) 40 hours a week. One of the draws of being a freelancer is the ability to choose when you work and where you work. Even better? Being able to travel the world while you work on your own schedule.
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s exactly the experience that Flexpat says they offer: "Combine the freedom of a freelancer with the income security of an employee," the company boasts on ints homepage.
But just because they claim it doesn’t mean it still isn’t too good to be true.
Here’s how Flexpat posits that their system works: Applicants go through a screening process "to quickly assess your personality, technical and problem-solving skills, as well as language and communication abilities." You then sign a freelance contract "guaranteeing market conform compensation" and you can work from one of the company’s "international hubs" or, if you’d rather, from wherever you’d like.
If this sounds like an international staffing agency...well, that seems to be the case. There are a few unique wrinkles, though. First, Flexpat touts "job security" and "guaranteed income" where you’ll be paid even when they’re still matching you with a position. They also provide accommodation with other "flexpats," community events, and training.
There are some restrictions – the company notes that "mainly we are looking for talents in the areas of IT, design, online marketing, finance and legal," and they require enough of a grasp of the English language to get by in a professional setting – but what should be more likely to make potential workers wary are the vague details of Flexpat’s provisions.
I reached out to the company to get some clarification on what they offer, and they weren’t able to shed much light. Most of their answers were some variation of "it depends," which is fair but not very helpful for someone trying to decide if Flexpat is the right choice for their career path.
Considering Flexpat positions itself as a work opportunity, my biggest concern was around their job and income claims. Namely, what is their guaranteed minimum income? How does it work in regards to the income received from a job?
Flexpat describes their income security as "a minimum number of hours of work that we guarantee" so if the work you get through them doesn’t meet their guaranteed work hours, Flexpat will make up the difference. It’s a way to offer consistent payment each month, as opposed to the variable income normally received by a freelancer. Unfortunately, "the specifics depend on your preferences, qualifications, area of expertise and your ability and availability to work remotely" so it’s impossible to know what you might be earning until you go through the application and placement process.
I also wanted to know how they described "job security." This was equally as vague as their income guarantee:
We provide qualified professionals who want to work remotely with contracts ranging from full- to part-time, depending on their availability and preference. We don’t offer one-time-hit assignments, but rather a continuous stream of work projects, where the key difference with "normal work" is that we encourage people to be 100% location-independent.
Flexpat will work to place freelancers in appropriate jobs, but those jobs are still subject to varying contract lengths, just like a typical freelance or part time job. Where they tout value is with their income guarantee: job lengths may vary, but workers will always have a consistent income stream.
But how are workers placed within jobs? According to the company, they "use a sophisticated matching system and depending on your skills, preferences, and availability will assign you to projects which will be tailored toward your exact qualifications...once you have finished a project, you will change to a new project/job." Flexpat will also negotiate the conditions of offers.
Since the other main draw to Flexpat, besides providing jobs, is providing those jobs all over the world, I also wanted to find out where the company’s hubs are located. After all, they may let freelancers work from wherever they like, but that’s just a standard freelancing arrangement. "Work from anywhere" is even more appealing when the "anywhere" is, like, an island instead of your living room.
Unfortunately, their answer was wasn’t particularly helpful. They suggested to me that workers "drop us a line and share where in the world you might be heading" and they’ll "let you know if we have anything available." They’re working on expanding their partnerships, but where they’re currently established is still a mystery.
And that’s the main concern with this arrangement as a whole: it’s all a bit of a at this point. In any sort of job placement program, there will be individual considerations made, and no "one size fits all" for any worker or job. But when a company is hinging on workers uprooting themselves, some more insight would be welcome. Do you use Flexpat to simply work from home, go somewhere they have a hub, or choose another destination and hope their network can support you there? It’s hard to say without more answers.
Workers also have to be very trusting of Flexpat’s job and income security promises. "Freelancing" rarely relates to "guaranteed," so a prospective worker can’t be blamed if they see these claims – guaranteed income, guaranteed job security – and take pause. There’s also also complications when it comes to getting paid; compensation may depend on the individual company a worker gets paired with, but for now Flexpat only pays in Euros, and your tax status depends on where you’re working, for how long, and your native country. Flexpat goes through the legal details with workers once an offer is made.
A final concern is a pretty big one: Is Flexpat actually legal? In a comment on The Billfold, a reader claimed that she knew someone who used the company and worked on a tourist visa, which is a big red flag. However, a co-founder of Flexpat says that the company "works closely with legal advisers, and we wouldn’t let our flexpats be in illegal situations while working with us." Flexpat also told me that they help potential workers "by sharing general visa best practices" and providing "a chance to speak to flexpats around the world who could share their own experiences" but ultimately "these cannot be treated as legal advice" and "the process of obtaining a visa will be the responsibility of the applicant."
There’s a chance that Flexpat will work out for people who want to earn money while not being tied down to one job or geography. Maybe it’s so hard to understand because it’s so revolutionary: globetrotting workers can live the life they want with an income they may not have ever expected, and it takes some time to iron out some wrinkles.
But if it is as gamechanging as it can potentially be, Flexpat needs to shed some light on some of the underexplained aspects of its service. Workers have a lot riding on something that has so many unknowns, and they deserve to know how secure they can be.
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