I'm considering looking for UX work abroad (I'm currently living and working in the US and really looking anywhere. Northern/eastern Europe, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand). Has anyone done this? How did you find a position willing to hiring someone internationally? What should I expect? How has the experience been? Any advice?
First of all, do it! Changing the country you live in will challenge you in every way, so unless you have a big responsibility (like taking care of your family), even if you'll fail, you can always go back and continue where you left off. But if you succeed, you'll see it'll be your best decision ever.
One of the best things about what we do is you don't necessarily need to know too much about the local market/customers/laws (imagine you were a copywriter or a lawyer). Assuming you'll have a work permit, if you're good at what you do, anyone would be willing to hire you - and from what I've seen in the UK in three years, even startups are eager to get your permit done.
Obviously, moving to a place where you know the language makes the most significant difference. I moved from Istanbul to London, by far the easiest option I had. I didn't need to learn a new language and people were extremely helpful when they realised I was new in the country.
My visa allows me to work only as a contractor, so I don't have too much experience with fulltime hiring, apart from what I heard from friends. However, what I know best is you'll have lots to discover about the daily and the professional life, so unless you have savings for 6-8 months, it's better to find at least one client to work remotely to stay a little busy, safe and calm. By the time I moved, I had two regular clients from the US, so I spent the first six months by enjoying a new culture, while I was also looking for London based clients without pushing myself too hard. In the beginning, I had interviews that I felt I had less knowledge than I thought, but in reality, it was just because I was in a different country and people do things in different ways. In less than a year, I met and worked with agencies that I always admired since I started designing.
On the other hand, when you'll choose your destination, don't put work-related stuff before your lifestyle. Some people miss their family& friends, some people complain about the cuisine and some can't get used to the weather etc. etc. When you'll enjoy your day, you'll eventually solve anything related to work.
I moved from New Zealand to London. There is an insane amount of work there for designers. You should easily be able to get 250 a day starting, working your way up to about 500+ a day (at the end of each freelance contract, put your day rate up 50 pounds-ish)
Go on linkedin and search for creative recruiters and add them all. They post jobs there all the time and they have extremely helpful networks. I can't speak for working fulltime because it doesnt make sense in london because as a freelancer the pay is so damn good.
After that I moved to Berlin and again I hit up recruiters. As I wanted to stay in Berlin for longer I got a fulltime job and got sponsored. The pay is abysmal compared to london, but it's still decent in the grand scheme of things, and the city is muuuuch cheaper to live in, and in my opinion a bit more fun.
After that I went to vancouver. Did the same thing, just hit up recruiters and I had a job the day I landed.
TL:DR - Recruiters are your friend. Find them in the area you're going to move to and add them all on linkedin
Thanks for sharing! How are you liking Berlin? I've been exploring a move there (from Seattle). Are you seeing a decent amount of demand for UI/UX work?
Also, I really like the idea of connecting on Linkedin to recruiters. I'm going to reach out to a bunch now.
Berlin is hands down my favourite city in the world. Barcelona being a close second. It has a huge tech scene, which is grown by the german government. If you do UI or UX expect to start on around 55-65 euros (depending on your experience). The germans are very chill to work with and from my experience the work life balance there is extremely good. Rent wasn't too bad when I first moved there, but by the time I had left it had gone up a little bit due to the gentrification and whatnot. The city itself is fucking awesome. As long as you're not a dick you can pretty much do whatever you want. It's got the best nightlife in the world and everything is pretty damn cheap. If you get bored of berlin you can fly to a bunch of amazing countries around Germany for like, 40 euros.
Basically, it's the shit. Do it. For recruiters, look up Red Sofa Berlin on linkedin/google. Have fun.
Awesome, thanks for this! I was in Berlin last year and loved it (quirks and all). I definitely expect to take a pay cut, but Seattle has gotten so expensive that a lower cost of living ought to offset. Thanks for the recommendation on Red Sofa. I'll take a look.
Well, here is one topic I can actually speak on for a long time. I'll try to keep it short.
I'm an American and I moved to France in 2016. I'm a UX Designer. I'll skip the long, personal version of this story and only talk about the professional stuff. I arrived in France with no plan or job lined up, just money in a savings account, some clothes, and a friend who let me stay with them. I applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs and did probably around 60-80 interviews before I found a company willing to sponsor my visa and hire me. It took a year. It's very difficult to find (unless you're maybe at senior level and have very in demand skills), and at least here in Paris, knowing French is essential. There are English-speaking jobs, of course, but it's definitely the minority. If you're only willing to work in English, you will be dealing with a limited pool of potential jobs. I've been here nearly two years now and I've only just recently become fluent, so showing the willingness to learn is important.
As for what you should expect, it's different for everyone as it depends on where you're from and what you're used to. The office politics are very different here. But I wouldn't go back to the US if you paid me. I love it here. 6 weeks of holiday per year, three times more than you get in the US even if you're lucky. Healthcare that is actually affordable and mostly paid for by the government and your company. Public transport and infrastructure that works. Work/life balance was my number one priority in coming here, and I can say that it is definitely better here. People know how to take a break, take weeks off work at a time, and understand that work =/= life.
Advice: Learn as much as possible about your desired country beforehand, travel there beforehand and spend more than just a few days in the city you think you'd live in so you can see what it's really like to live there. Dedicate yourself to integration into the society. Don't be afraid to fuck up if you're speaking another language, just dive in and make mistakes, it's the fastest way to learn. Research the salaries of your profession/experience level, because in general the salaries are lower in Europe compared to places like London, New York, SF, etc. Be careful with your money, but don't be an uptight frugal bastard. You do need to spend money to properly explore a new country. Don't sit in your apartment all day and vegetate. Get out there.
TL;DR - Give it a try. It doesn't work out for everyone, but it might for you, and if it does, it can change your life.
Yes, I've done this. (moved from Amsterdam to London to Berlin).
Perhaps the trick is to reframe it from hiring internationally to hiring you locally, after which you move.
Unless you are exceptionally good, it's going to hard to have someone provide you with a full-time contract and visa after a few skype-calls. Meeting people face to face, even just for an hour, can make things happen a lot easier and faster.
A first easy step could be to find an English speaking recruiter in the cities you're interested in and see if they are up for a Skype call. A bit more costly could be to go to a city for a short time and try to meet up with some local designers (meetup.com can be a good source to find events to meet people). Even more expensive (but it works the best) is to put everything you have now in storage , rent a local Airbnb for a month and start looking for a job.
In most capital cities (like Berlin or Amsterdam) it should be possible to find an English speaking job (although UX jobs are a bit harder than UI jobs from my experience).
I would also recommend to think in cities instead of countries (in most countries, smaller cities can be hard to get started if you only speak English).
What were some of the ways you found recruiters? I'm trying Todd's suggestion of going through Linkedin.
Also, curious to hear your thoughts on Amsterdam vs Berlin? I'm exploring a move to either one.
Have a look for Cogs Berlin on Linkedin: http://cogsagency.com/offices/berlin/ should be easy to find someone who works with companies in your area of expertise.
It's already a while back I worked in Amsterdam, I think what they've in common is that both have a lot of companies and you can get away with English. Amsterdam is also a wealthy, modern (and a bit touristy city). Berlin is something else altogether, it's great, but there's still a lot of work to be done to get the whole city in the 21st century (which also comes with the opportunity to do things differently).
I'll take a look at Cogs. Of the two, Berlin is definitely the one I am really excited about, so it is good to hear there are some interesting opportunities. Thanks!
Yeah, there's quite a large english speaking UX community here. Another large employer is Zalando. Feel free to drop me a note, when you're seriously considering moving.
Do you have any citizenship, or resident status in any of these countries? If not the first thing to look at is what you would need to do to work in any of these places. Some have much more selective requirements than others, but typically you will need at least an undergraduate degree and some years of experience to qualify for a work permit. More advanced degrees, and things like publications will always help.
When I moved to the UK I had to get a company to apply for a work permit for me and the first time took more than 6 months. The company lost interest. I kept looking for another opportunity, but it was a difficult process.
There are shortcuts, which if they are available to you, you should look into. If you are serious it would probably be worth approaching either an immigration lawyer or a business guild in the locale you are interested in and finding out all the details you can.
When I moved to the UK from NZ I found it very expensive, and was lucky to have friends and family to stay with. But it has been really worth it. Even moving to another English speaking country will still carry a decent amount of culture shock and you will get to experience some new things.
When you do get around to moving be prepared for the strangest of things to trip you up. That has been one of the most fun things about living in the UK. Tiny cultural differences always pop up and amuse me, or sometimes confound me.
If you're looking for a job in New Zealand, hit me up :) I moved from Switzerland to Christchurch a bit less than three months ago on a work visa as a UX designer. The company is still looking for (and is in desperate need of) more talent.