Are you tired of being underpaid as a developer in a developing country? I understand your concerns and would like to share my story and provide some tips on how to improve your earning potential.
A little about me, I am a 39-year-old Brazilian developer with experience dating back to the late 90s. I have worked for various types of companies including small startups and large corporations. While I reside in Brazil, my last job with a Brazilian company was in my early 20s. I adopted remote work early on and discovered that working for national companies often resulted in lower pay. The highest-paying job offer I received from a Brazilian company was R$20,000 a month, which is roughly US$3,800 at today's conversion rate. I declined this offer.
I have recently discussed how recent layoffs in the technology industry are affecting developers in places like Brazil and other developing countries. I also shared on social media how I helped a friend increase their salary by 10 times by following certain tips.
Due to the positive response to these posts, I have decided to share my experience and advice in this post.
But first, let's address the elephant in the room.
There is no need to speak great English
Most worry that their English isn't good enough to land an international role. Perfect English is overrated. Most of the people I've worked with had rough English and we managed just fine.
As a remote developer, most of your communication will be in writing, probably over Slack. Sure, there may be the occasional video call, but it's not like you're giving a TED talk. As long as you can communicate clearly and understand what's being said, a hard accent won't hurt anyone.
So don't let your fear of not speaking great English hold you back from pursuing international opportunities and potentially higher-paying jobs.
You're a developer, not a linguist.
How agencies are scamming developing country developers
Developers from developing countries are often targeted by recruiters from the US, Canada, and Europe with job offers that appear too good to be true. These offers often come with high salaries and benefits, but they are often scams, because they ONLY look good if compared to the reality in your country. These recruiters take advantage of the fact that many developers from developing countries are not aware of their true worth and are willing to accept lower pay than they deserve.
Brazilian agencies are also getting in on the scam game. They charge their international clients top dollar, but when it comes to paying you they're not exactly breaking the bank. For example, they might charge a client $100 an hour for your work, but only pay you a measly $5 an hour (which, in case you're wondering, is below the salary of a McDonald's cashier in the US). That is equivalent to around R$5600 a month, a pretty common salary for mid to senior-level developers in Brazil.
This is not only unfair, but it also means that the agency is taking 95% of the value generated by the developer's work. Additionally, the base salary for a fresh developer in the US is around $36 an hour, so in this example, the developer is being paid seven times less than a new developer in the US.
Job searching principles you should keep in mind
Have a simple, short and clear CV
I won’t go into details on how to build a good CV. Try to make it concise and highlight your most relevant qualifications. As recruiters often review hundreds or even thousands of resumes, it's important to make a strong first impression by keeping your CV short and easy to read.
Emphasize your key skills and experience, and consider truncating older job listings to focus on more recent experiences. People don’t care about what you were doing 20 years ago. Remember, your CV is your opportunity to showcase your qualifications and catch the attention of potential employers.
You can check mine to have an idea of what to do. Feel free to copy the structure.
Volume of applications is key
Why limit yourself to just a handful of job opportunities when you can cast a wider net? Instead of cherry-picking a select few positions to apply for, you can invert the logic and let the companies and recruiters do the selection for you. By applying to a large volume of jobs, you increase your chances of finding the perfect position, and give recruiters the opportunity to sift through your qualifications and find the best fit for you.
Think of fishing - you're more likely to catch a fish if you drop more lines in the water. The same goes for job hunting - the more applications you send out, the more bites you're likely to get. Once you start getting positive responses, you can then research the companies and the details of the job to see if it's the right fit for you. That way you will avoid losing time doing the proper research for the hundreds of companies that are for sure going to reject you.
But it's not just about increasing your chances of getting hired - by applying to a large volume of jobs your CV will find its way into recruitment banks, which can become an infinite source of passive job offers for you in the future.
It’s been years since I last applied to a job, but to this day I receive about 10 job offers a week.
Keep your applications to rich countries
This might sound jerky, but unless you have a social reason to work for a company in a contry where the market pays badly, don't waste your time applying for positions outside of the US, Canada, and Western Europe. These are the markets where the real money is at.
Let's take Brazil for example. You might love living here, but the economic and political situation is very unstable right now. The pay for tech workers is just not up to par if compared to the aforementioned regions. With inflation, you'll be barely scraping by on a local salary.
And let's not forget about the exchange rate. A middle-class salary in the UK or the US will feel like a class A salary in Brazil. So, why not aim for the best?
Aim for companies in those regions when you apply.
Linkedin is your best friend
LinkedIn is currently one of the best platforms to search for tech jobs. Before you begin your job search, make sure your profile is filled in, in English, and includes all of your job experience, languages, and technical skills. It's also valuable to add a brief description of the technologies you used and achievements in each of your previous roles.
To give it an extra boost, consider investing in LinkedIn Premium, it'll give your profile a little more visibility and provide some fancy tools to help you on your job search journey. And don't forget to make it clear on your profile that you're open to work.
Now, it's time to start your job search. Head to the JOBS tab on LinkedIn and get specific in your search. Instead of searching for generic job titles, search for the technologies you're interested in, like "Laravel". Make sure you select "Worldwide" for location and "Remote" for job type. Don't waste your time by specifying experience level, let the recruiters decide if you're a fit for the job. Though handy, avoid the "Easy Apply" feature, you might miss out on some hidden gems that require a little extra effort to apply.
Finally, it's time to cast your net wide. Apply to as many jobs as possible, we're talking 50-100 jobs a day. Once you start seeing repeat listings, come back to the job search every week, and make sure to limit your search to jobs posted within the last week. Apply to everything.
Other good sources to find jobs
LinkedIn is a great platform to optimize your job search and you should make it your priority, but there are other options available as well. One of my personal favorites is the "Who wants to be hired" thread on Hacker News, which is posted on the first day of every month. This thread allows you to post your basic information and CV, and I've found it to be a surprisingly effective resource. In fact, I landed my three-year position at a Belgian company as a result of posting on this thread.
In addition to LinkedIn and Hacker News, I recommend looking into niche job search sites or newsletters that cater to your specific qualifications. For example, if you work with Laravel, resources like Larajobs and the #work channel on Larachat can be very helpful.
You got an offer! What to do next
Make sure the salary is fair
Most recruiters will contact you wanting to schedule an initial call to “talk about it”. Unless you have plenty of free time, my advice would be to ask about the salary range first. That way, if it’s an outrageous low offer you can save your time by declining straight away.
A good way to know if it’s a good offer is by researching salaries in the tech industry in the United States. There are a few key resources that can help you compare salaries in the US to those in your home country.
One place to start is with online salary calculators such as Glassdoor and Payscale. These tools allow you to input your job title, location, and other relevant information to get an estimate of the average salary for that role in a specific area. It's important to note that these estimates are based on self-reported data, so the accuracy may vary, but it gives you a good idea to work if.
Another resource to consider is industry-specific job boards and websites. For example, if you're in the tech industry, websites like Dice and Indeed provide salary data for specific roles in the tech industry, and you can filter the results by location to compare salaries in different cities.
So, let’s say you are a junior front end developer. Simply “junior front end developer salary in the US”, you’ll be taken to some pages showing some estimates. On Glassdoor, you’ll see the average salary is US$83,000, meaning R$35,000 a month. Much better than the usual R$6000 that is usually offered to Senior Developers in Brazil, right?
You won’t be protected by any labor law, cover your bases
Working remotely for foreign companies has its downsides, one of which is the lack of labor rights (you will miss that sweet CLT, Brazilian friends). Many companies will hire remote workers as contractors, which means that they may not be entitled to benefits such as paid vacation days, sick leave, or insurance.
Unless you ask for it.
It is important to advocate for yourself and negotiate for these benefits. Before signing a long-term contract with a company, make sure that it includes at least vacation days, sick leave, and a reasonable notice period. It may be more difficult to negotiate for insurance coverage, so keep in mind the added responsibility of securing your own medical insurance and planning for retirement through a Private Pension Plan.
Edit: This article goes through clauses you should never agree with when signing a contract.
It’s not all dreams (it’s capitalism, after all), but it will pay off
Searching for remote work as a developer can be a challenging and frustrating process, but it is also an opportunity to break free from the low wages and limited job opportunities in the domestic industry.
It's important to acknowledge that finding remote work is not a bullet proof solution, and the job search process can be long and arduous. It may require a lot of patience, persistence, and a willingness to hear many nos. Your applications WILL be declined. A LOT.
It's important to remember that the job search process is a journey, and that setbacks and rejections are a normal part of the process. But with patience, the rewards can be significant, and it can lead to a better life and career for developers.
As a developer from a developing country, it can be difficult to find a job that pays well and offers opportunities for growth. But with the right strategy, you can get a better job and get the salary you deserve.
Do your research and make sure you're applying to the right jobs. Use Linkedin and Hacker News to find job postings, and make sure to apply to as many jobs as possible. Don't be afraid to negotiate your salary and make sure you're getting a fair wage for your skills and experience.
Finally, remember that you don't have to speak perfect English to get a job. What matters more is being able to demonstrate your skills and show that you can do the job.
By following these tips, you can get a better job as a developing country developer and start earning the salary you deserve.
I'd love to hear back from those of you who have found a new job by following these tips.
Tell me all about it!