Chris Osborne

Hiring Remote Talent in South East Asia

One of the best things about traveling is being exposed to opportunities that can help your business.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve spent a lot of time in South East Asia. It’s an amazing region, and more than ever before, I’m seeing heaps of talented individuals moving here for lifestyle reasons – not money reasons.

The great weather, food, fast internet, low cost of living (compared to the west) and the huge surge of great co-working spaces in the region are all big draws.

But there’s a problem for talented outsiders: finding work – outside of teaching – is really difficult here.

Companies often face restrictions on how many foreigners they can employ. Getting employees work permits and visas is often a hassle. And many countries in the region have minimum salary requirements that are vastly different for a foreign worker versus a local worker.

But this represents a huge opportunity.

With so much talent moving to South East Asia for lifestyle reasons, many are turning to tech startups to find work they can do remotely.

And while this is somewhat of a gray area right now, some countries in the region have started to understand how big this market will become. For example, it wasn’t long ago there were reports of Thailand introducing a “Digital Nomad” visa.

So how can you take advantage of this opportunity?

Simply put, get comfortable hiring remote workers. And if you want to stretch your runway further, get good at finding and retaining skilled workers who want to live in South East Asia.

Some Tips

I’ve not only hired talent in South East Asia myself, but I’ve also helped friends hire many talented folks here and what follows is some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Understand the cost of living a great lifestyle varies vastly depending on what city/country you live in. For example in South East Asia, you can have a 2 bedroom apartment with a part-time maid and eat out 3 times per day from $1,000 per month. I’ve never been to San Fran, but I’m guessing you’d need to 10x this cost in order to live the same lifestyle.

2. Teaching here is the only reliable source of employment for foreigners who want to live in the region (there are obviously exceptions). But here’s the kicker – most schools are horrible to work at. I’ve never met a teacher here who loves their teaching job – and most are just doing it for the $$$ (which presents a worrying topic I’ll save for another day).

3. Most teaching gigs in the region pay between $1,000-$2,000 per month. And it’s safe to say most expats here would jump at the chance of working remotely from home or at coffee shops for the same salary, or less.

4. The best places to find talent in the region are the local CraigsList boards and specific Facebook Groups. Here are a few to get you started:

5. When you’re in the interviewing stage, ask candidates to complete a simple task when applying for the position. For example, you could request candidates to use a specific subject line and introduce themselves in exactly 3 paragraphs. You’ll find 90% of applicants won’t follow these simple instructions – which are not only red flags – but also give you the opportunity to focus on the 10% who can.

6. Read this guide on how Automattic (the team who run WordPress) hires remotely. I’ve shared this guide more than any other over the past few years as it’s so good.

7. Once you’ve narrowed your potential hires down to a small list, give each of them a paid project to work on. For example, if you’re hiring a copywriter to update your blog, pay them to write a 1,000-word article. Not only will you be able to evaluate their writing skills, but you’ll also be able to see if they can keep to deadlines and access their ability to communicate.

8. Understand becoming successful at hiring remote team members is 99% communication. If there’s a failure somewhere, there’s a good chance it’s your fault for not communicating properly.

I hope the above helps. If there’s something I missed, please let me know on Twitter.