Does anyone have any experience in telecommuting (working at home) for a company based in some foreign country? By this I don't mean working on some contracted job, but more or less permanent job. Is this even possible, what are options for payment, and can you expect to be paid by usual rates for that country or significantly less? Is there any working hours control, or as long as you deliver on time it's all good.
Employment, payment and rate options
If they are registered as a legal entity in your country, you can expect standard employment with all the benefits secured by your countries laws. In such cases employers usually pay by the local averages, due to legal expenses. You can expect to get good stimulants and better treatment from your remote employer, because they will make sure to outperform local employers. They may also legally employ you through a local partner of theirs near you, if they have established means of compensation between them, in which case I would believe the above would apply the same, although I have no real experience in the particular case.
If they're not registered as a legal entity, I'm presuming you will not have legal employment, i.e. they will likely not sign a formal contract with you to avoid additional taxes. Usually you'll engage your employer through one of the freelance employment sites (see this P-SE question). This is pretty much the norm as they can add your salary to their outgoing expenses and, although you have no employment benefits, you can expect a lot better payment rates (+ you get to avoid income taxes if you choose to do so), in which case I'd strongly suggest that you start putting a certain portion of your salary to a savings account and start looking into options for ensuring yourself a pension plan. The rates will vary in such cases. Usually, employers first attempt to establish a rate depending on where you come from. They will weigh your rates against providers from other popular outsourcing destinations (East, South-East Europe and Asia) if your from an undeveloped/transitioning country, which will be way more than you would get locally, but far from the employers local rates of course; it's partially an attempt to cut rates, but also to protect you from becoming unpredictable from a sudden, overnight income jump. On the other hand, if your from a developed country you can expect to start closer to actual, standard rates. Of course, if your close to being considered an expert by your employer already, then keeping you dependent and willing on the salary is the only rate limit ;)!
If your going to go through one of the freelance sites, you'll have to use the payment option provided by the site itself. This usually includes opening a non-residential banking account on your behalf in the background through the accepted TOS and their partnering bank. How you draw the funds depends. In most cases you get issued a credit card, but they can also allow you to transfer the money to another payment service of your choice or allow you to do international bank transfers.
Employers that will not legally employ you can also forgo freelance sites, if they have other means of ensuring the funds for your salaries or other more cost effective means for money transfers. It will likely include opening a non-residential banking account on your behalf, in which case you draw funds depending on the options provided by the bank (international transfers, issued credit cards, etc.) or they can wire the money directly through their off-shore bank account if they have one, again to avoid taxes. In any case, it will most likely not include direct money transfers through other financial services as these charge high rates, due to the fact the money circumvents standard banking transfers which take weeks until the actual money is made available to you.
Another option is to get legally employed as a foreign citizen. Ranging from country to country, this means that the employer will sign a formal employment contract with you that binds them to local governing laws, but these types of employment contracts do not get taxed as much as your formally not protected by the full extent of the local employment laws since you lack lack citizenship, hence the employer has less legal expenses, but they still are considerable so expect a dent in your rates. The benefits of this employment option is that you get a contract that is in most cases internationally recognizable by court laws and other, future public employers. The flipside is that mutual disputes are always going to be handled by the employers governing court, which means they may lock you into a court fight on their home turf or make it impossible for you to manage legal and travel expenses should they decide to breach the contract terms and you decide to sue them.
There is another option I've heard of but am not completely familiar with, since the laws vary from country to country. It involves providing you with a working permit, in which case you can become a company employee, but there are certain conditions and limitations to the extent of the benefits you receive as you do not actually posses citizenship. I would believe this should include fully employment benefits (health insurance, pension, etc.) but you'll need to check up on local laws and how those may apply back to your country.
Please note that in whichever case you do not get actual employment in your country, if you decide to hide your additional income whilst you are employed, or have been employed/contracted, but somehow benefited from your country's social policies for the unemployed at the same time, you run the risk of getting caught, in which case you will rightfully get stripped of your money's worth and possibly even worse. We'll be seeing some examples of witch hunts once WikiLeaks releases bank statements in the public domain.
Remote employers will usually work with several remote employees and have established telecommuting practices, so they will be in control of how the work is managed, with regards to communication, collaboration tools and tracking work. @Alex really gives a good perspective on that.
I've always had pleasant experiences with remote employers as building a good mutual relationship is the principal work platform and they understand it best. I would suggest that you exclusively focus on strengthening yourself:
- Show that you are able to manage yourself
- Always reply promptly to correspondences that have been sent to you within established working hours
- Never allow your employer to suspect that you've been slacking off
- Always be punctual with regards to agreed online meetings
- Never miss on an estimate you've made yourself
I wouldn't really get into talking about employers because, frankly, I respect that the customer is always right. If you don't feel that way with your employer, you should bring it up. If it doesn't help, then start looking into other employment possibilities.
One thing I can tell you for sure is that the more you prove your worth the more they'll rely on your competence. That works towards more freedom and better rates. The best thing is that, due to the stakes involved for the employer, for everything you do good, you earn double the kudo points with them than what you'd usually earn with local employers. That's possibly the best respect you can get if your one of those that like to devote themselves to their work.
I've been working as a full time contractor for a company for the past 5 years and I will tell you: it definitely can be done!
It's a great way to make a living. Eventually I ended up building my own company because the pace of my work allowed me to, so that answer your question about how 'committed' you have to be. From my experience, as long as you deliver on time and as long as you're available (meaning you answer any email in <2h) you should be fine getting yourself involved in different projects or activities not related to you main job (although I recognize I have the tendency of working extra hours).
Regarding payment, in my case I earn a little more than I would do in my country (I don't live in India) and a little less than if I'd live next door to my client. Basically you have to make the hour rate interesting for your client so it's worth the trouble of outsourcing and interesting enough for you so you don't keep looking for a new job.
The hour control depends pretty much on you. Like I said, you have to be available and answer quickly to any call (Skype makes everything trivial) and specially emails. Your client must feel you're very close to him and you can't let him unanswered when fire hits the ceiling.
Overall I'd say it's an excellent experience and you do have to prove yourself in every project. It's also a good advice to plan visiting your client once a year so you can meet him face to face and try befriend with him. You must have a good relationship and always be in a good mood. The fact that you're in a different country is always an issue and you have to make up for it every single day. But once you get comfortable about your position it's all natural.
You can work remotely, yet all terms and conditions are specific to your country and the country of your employee, as well as employee's intentions. In our company most developers work offsite because we have experience with managing teams remotely. Other companies prefer having developers in the office or even don't allow remote work at all.