There are over 1 million expats from a variety of countries living in Mexico and the majority of them are still working. Multinational corporations employ many and Mexican companies hire mainly those with Spanish fluency. Expats with limited Spanish language skills often work for companies in the tourist or real estate industries. But working in Mexico as a digital nomad seems to be quickly gaining ground as a way to make a living and improve your quality of life.
What is a digital nomad? They are workers who are location independent and use technology to perform their jobs. They work remotely using the Internet, mobile phones and other communication technology to perform their jobs. Many have their own businesses and others work remotely for companies in their home country or other countries. Some put down roots in Mexico and others hopscotch around the globe, tasting new cultures on a regular basis.
To shed some light on the trend toward digital nomad employment, we found a husband and wife team in Guanajuato who are working remotely and asked them to tell us about working in Mexico as a digital nomad.
Rachaal Steele, 41, and John Moroney, 47, touched down in Puerto Vallarta from Vancouver, Canada just 10 months ago to “get our feet wet, get a handle on the language and make sure we understood the culture well enough to travel.”
Steele and Moroney, both U.S citizens, moved to Vancouver primarily for Steele’s work as a small craft brewing company consultant. She grew up in New Mexico and received a degree in political science from the University of New Mexico. He was raised in Seattle, where the couple was married.
“We went down to Puerto Vallarta once or twice a year for about six years and loved it,” Moroney said. “I discovered it was possible to actually see the sun in December. The final straw was learning to scuba dive and going to Baja California. That was the end of it. We just went home, put everything in boxes, started selling off our stuff and came back. For us, it really was about making our lives simpler.”
Both had been working at least 60 hours a week for many years. They were looking for a better work/life balance, a nice sunny climate and a lower cost of living. As remote workers, Mexico’s modern telecommunications infrastructure allowed them to easily set up their Internet-based businesses.
“My business for the last 15 years has been helping small breweries get off the ground and then taking them through expansion and development,” Steele said. “I’ve modeled my business so that I’m almost entirely remote.”
All of Steele Craft Consulting’s clients are in Canada or the U.S. She recently completed an assignment for Bomber Brewing in Canada and is working with Naked City in Seattle and Triple Rock brewing in San Francisco. The majority of her work is done over the Internet or telephone, although occasionally her assignment may require an on-site visit.
Moroney has been creating content for automotive media since he graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in vehicle design. His business is called JoMoCo Editorial.
“I basically write articles, do car reviews, guides and photography and then create packages to sell to publications,” Moroney said.
Moroney has written for Edmunds, Cars.com and was an automotive editor at MSN before striking out on his own. His major client, Motoring Research, is located in London and distributes his work. Much of it appears on MSN. He also does the majority of his work online but attends major car shows from time to time.
Both receive their income from companies in other countries so Mexican work permits are not required. They hold temporary residence visas, which they just renewed.
As digital nomads, the couple can easily pick up and move to another city. They recently moved from Puerto Vallarta to Guanajuato, a colonial city that has earned their love.
“It’s beautiful, the food is great and we love it,” Steele said. “We’ve been surprised at how good the Internet and cell service has been. In Vallarta, our Internet was provided by our landlord and was broadband, which is very important to us as remote workers. We depend on it. Since our plan now is to move around the country primarily using Airbnb, any place we look at has to have broadband access included in the contract or we won’t consider it.”
They pay just over US$20 a month for their broadband connection and about US$11 a month for cell phone service. In Canada, their monthly cell phone charges were about $200 CAD.
One of the major appeals of being a digital nomad is a better work/life balance, which both agree has changed their lives.
“It brings simplicity,” Steele said. “It’s being able to live the life I want to lead. In Canada, to live the life I wanted to lead required working 60 hours a week. Here we can meet our lifestyle needs in 20 hours a week. We can actually enjoy scuba diving, going for hikes and just reconnecting with each other. We’re in our 40s and we didn’t want to kill ourselves working all of the time. For us, it’s all about a work/life balance.”
But for Moroney, one of the disadvantages of the digital nomad life is isolation. “I sometimes feel very distant from my work world because everyone is north of the border,” he said. “I feel a little bit remote sometimes.”
Both believe, though, that being digital nomads is the very best way of working in Mexico.
“Our advice to expats, especially those who are thinking about moving here, would be to not bother looking for a job in Mexico,” Steele said. “If you have your own company or the capability of working remotely, do it. The benefits are way better. If you work online and your income comes from another country, you won’t be paying Mexican taxes, for one thing. It also pays better than most jobs you could find in Mexico and doesn’t require fluency in Spanish. We also get paid in U.S. and Canadian dollars, which allows us to keep our money in our home country but easily access it via ATMs for cash when we need it.”
Whether the digital nomad life is right for you or not, you should know what documentation you need to live and work in Mexico. Our expert on these matters and Expats In Mexico legal blogger, attorney Alfonso Roman, has summarized all the latest information for you in his blogs on documentation required to live and work in Mexico and how to get a work permit, if required.
You should also review the Immigration section in our Mexico profile for additional information.