For countless people around the world, remote work is a dream. Being a remote worker or a digital nomad, working from home or from a cafe, or even having the freedom to travel and work from a laptop. All of this is possible and achievable.
We’ve already talked here about how to find remote work and become a digital nomad. Now, we’re going to talk about how to work remotely without paying rent.
The Problem With Remote Work
Before we get into how you can work remotely without spending a penny on rent or accommodation, let’s talk about some of the issues with remote work. The biggest one being money.
When you change jobs, money is always an issue. You’re leaving the familiarity and the security of steady pay to become a freelancer or a self-employed worker. Income in these fields can be sporadic and unreliable at first. That’s the biggest problem with remote work. You need to pitch, search for work, hope that it’s well-paid or long-term.
All of these money issues are, ultimately, what put so many people off going freelance or becoming self-employed. The final nail being: I can’t afford to do it.
And that’s true. To free yourself from the shackles of monotonous (but reliable) work is to throw yourself into financial uncertainty. It’s a scary place to be when you need to, at least, buy food and pay your bills and rent.
But there is a way to work from home, work remotely, or become a digital nomad without having rent (the biggest money issue of all) hanging over your head. And don’t worry; the answer is not to move back in with your parents.
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How to Work Remotely for Free
If you can eliminate the worry of rent from your life, you can live off next to nothing at all, only paying for food and occasional travel costs. You can go from needing £1500 ($2000) per month to live, all the way down to needing £200 ($300) at most. And almost any freelancer or self-employed person can start earning that much right off the bat.
One of the first solutions to eliminating rent from your life completely is to become a nomadic long-term house sitter.
Everything you’re about to learn is being taught to you by a pair of freelance and self-employed writers who have spent 2+ years working remotely and living rent-free by house-sitting all around Europe and North America. We know plenty of others who’ve been successfully living this life for years long past doing it to set up a business or freelance life and actually saving for their futures.
Becoming a house sitter means that you are selected by a homeowner to visit their house and look after it while they are away on vacation or a trip. This almost always includes looking after at least one pet.
A house sit can last anywhere between a weekend to a year. As an example, we recently left a month-long house sit in The Netherlands, spent a week in London’s Notting Hill, and then moved to a small village outside Cambridge where we are settled for at least the next six months. All of this is rent-free.
We pay for our food and the train to get between these homes. That is all. And for each of these sits, we have been looking after 1-3 cats.
Learning how to do full-time house-sitting unlocks a whole new world of financial freedom for nomads, remote workers, and freelancers. The only other thing you have to do, in order to make your new lifestyle work for you, is learning how to be good at budgeting.
If you can budget well, your outgoings all but disappear and the housesitting takes care of the rent and the bills.
There’s that rule of thumb you often hear, about how your rent should be a third of your monthly income. Well, that’s not always possible, especially in big cities. So, how about eliminating rent and bills altogether and keeping your entire income for yourself?
The two best things about full-time house sitting:
- When you’re starting out, you don’t need to worry about outgoings. You can just focus on building your portfolio, workload, website, whatever it may be, because your rent worries are gone.
- When your work is finally doing well and you’re earning good money from freelancing or being self-employed, you can just keep housesitting and keep saving money or enjoying your full income. You never have to return to that renter’s life ever again.
How to Become a Full-time House Sitter
So, what does house sitting mean? At the risk of over-romanticising it, full-time house-sitting means emptying your apartment, saying goodbye to rental obligations, reducing your life to the size of one suitcase and one backpack, and living as a nomad as you travel between homes, making your way slowly around the country, the continent, the world.
The responsibilities of a house sitter include:
- Making your own way to the house (which means paying for all transport)
- Meeting the owner, getting a tour of the property, and learning your responsibilities
- Meeting all responsibilities at all times. The will include the obvious: feed the pets, keep the house clean, water the plants, take out the trash, take in the mail etc.
- Follow any unique rules the homeowner might add. These could include, for example: do not invite guests to stay, do not make use of certain rooms, do not drive their care.
- Conversely, homeowners are typically very kind and they may permit you to use their car. They might have left the fridge fully stocked for you to enjoy. They may allow you to have guests over for a weekend.
The role of a house sitter is a simple one, but each sit does come with its own unique rules and obligations, which you must fulfil. Your life is now dependent on the positive reviews of homeowners whose houses and pets you look after. Getting a negative review can mean an end to your new lifestyle.
So, how do you become a full-time housesitter? How do you work remotely without paying rent?
The best place to start is by signing up to the website Trusted Housesitters. There are a bunch of housesitter websites, several of which specifically focus on the United States. But this one is, by far, the largest platform. It spans the whole world, and has the largest user base.
Signing up to Trusted Housesitters involved making a profile, with a photo of yourself. It also costs £99 per year to become a member of Trusted Housesitters. Once you’ve paid the membership fee and set up a profile, you can start applying for sits.
To apply, simply browse the site as you would browse Booking.com or any house rental site, and pick a property that appeals to you. It might appeal for any number of reasons:
- It’s in a country you want to visit and explore
- It’s close to where you currently are
- It has an easy-to-manage pet or two (like a cat)
- It’s a long-term sit that lasts for six months
- It’s a beautiful house
- You like the sound of the owners and you want to get to know them (we’ve made genuine friends with the people we’ve sat for, and repeated several housesits because of those friendships)
That last point brings me to an important note. Some of you are undoubtedly afraid of the unpredictable nature of housesitting. You’re thinking: What if I can’t find another sit? I’ll be homeless. What if I have nowhere to go after my first one?
We’ve all had these fears, but the truth is that this site offers new sits every single day (especially in the UK and the US). There’s never a shortage of sits available. And homeowners who sign up have to pay that same £99 membership fee so you know they’re reliable people.
Another reason not to worry is, as I’ve said, the increasing option for repeat sits. We have repeated sits in London and The Netherlands thanks to the friendships we’ve formed in this exciting nomadic life.
We even once heard a story about a guy who works as an opera singer. He moved to London five years ago and has never paid a penny in rent. He has a handful of reliable housesits and he just circulates between them year after year. He never leaves London! He just moves from sit to sit, never paying rent and raking it in as an opera singer.
The Pros and Cons of Being a House Sitter
What’s great about being a housesitter?
- You have financial freedom. No more rent; no more bills.
- You have the freedom to travel and see the world. Our first sit was in the English Cotswolds. From there, we flew to New York for two months. Next was Oslo. Then a long summer in Copenhagen. The world is your oyster.
- You save enough money to start building savings. Then, if you have a small gap between sits, you can afford a hotel or a short stay at an AirBnB.
- You can learn to budget and see what’s really important where money is concerned.
- You meet fascinating people, make new friends, enjoy their homes, and fall in love with their pets.
- Your network of friends now spans the entire globe. We have Canadian friends in The Netherlands, friends in New York and Portland, and friends we can rely on to help us in London and Copenhagen.
What are the downsides of being a housesitter?
- Living out of a suitcase can get tiresome and, sometimes, saddening. Here are some tips for minimalist packing.
- Some homeowners can be a bit intense (but 99% are wonderful)
- Some pets can be a handful and give you some stress
- Travel costs between sits can add up, especially if you have a string of short sits
If you’re tempted by housesitting but are not sure if it’s right for you, just try a local sit and see how it goes. It could be life-changing or just not for you.
Read More: Southeast Asia is a popular area for housesitting opportunities, here are the best cities in Southeast Asia for remote workers.