Working remotely in Spain

Working Remotely in Spain: My Experiences

I’ve been based in Spain since the beginning of 2018. I moved not long after I’d properly got my freelance translation and copywriting business off the ground.

I vaguely talked about staying for six months to a year, but here I still am nearly six years later, so Spain must be doing something right! Nowhere’s perfect, of course, but there are so many wonderful things about it.

Last year I was quoted in a Lonely Planet article about this very topic that made me realise I had an awful lot to say about it.

So, here’s an overview of how I’ve found being location-independent and based in Spain, with a few tips for anyone else who’s thinking it might be right for them.

Why Spain?

I chose Spain as a base because I speak the language. As is true anywhere, speaking the language is definitely the key to having the best experience here.

But also because:

  • I had friends ready and waiting for me in my first Spanish home, Granada.
  • The cost of living was far more accessible to a newbie freelance translator and copywriter.
  • The quality of life in Spain, and of course the prospect of sunshine and being able to be in the great outdoors more.
  • I wanted to be somewhere relatively close to family and friends in the UK. With the possibility of making it back and forth in more eco-friendly (if also much more expensive, sadly) ways than flying (ferries and trains).

The technicalities

I moved to Spain back at the beginning of 2018, partly to make sure I got in well before the looming prospect of Brexit became a reality.

I became self-employed (autónoma) here in 2019, meaning I’m a taxpayer and have temporary residency. In early 2024 (not long now!) I’ll be able to get permanent residency, and maybe even citizenship further down the line if it makes sense – who knows! 

The downside of that is that I’m currently paying €300 in social security every month, and am set to pay more. Up until the end of 2022, everyone was paying the same amount, but they made changes to make that “fairer” based on what you earn, and it’s now a pretty hefty percentage of your income.

And the income tax payments every quarter are no joke either.

I also pay €50/month for an accountant to take care of my taxes for me, because there’s no way I could do battle with the system every three months!

Basically, Spain’s tax system is decidedly not self-employed/entrepreneur-friendly, so that’s something to take into account when deciding to become a tax resident here.

On the other hand, though, the shiny new digital nomad visa seems to be a good option for freelancers looking to move here, and from what I understand is kinder in terms of tax to make it a more appealing option.

For me, at the moment I feel the benefits of living in Spain outweigh the hefty tax bill, but if I’m perfectly honest, it remains to be seen whether that’ll be the case further down the line.   

Location-independent life

I was based down in Granada for 3.5 years, living and working in a tiny cave house.

We moved up to Zaragoza in 2021 for my partner’s job, but he’s often able to work remotely so we were able to escape the crazy heat here in the height of summer and head for cooler climes.

We packed up the van this summer and headed off for six weeks in the north of Spain, France and the UK, and we’re very glad we did, as we missed the 40 + degree weather.

  • Where to work

When I need a change of scene from working from home I head for a café, as I prefer the buzz to the quiet of a coworking space. But if it’s coworking spaces you’re looking for, there’s no shortage in most big cities, and you’ll even find them in smaller towns these days. 

That being said, I’d always recommend looking into whether there’s a good library nearby before paying for a coworking space, unless you need a second monitor or think a coworking space could be a good opportunity to meet people.

  • Wifi

In terms of wifi, now we’re in the city centre it’s all smooth sailing. But when we were in the cave on the outskirts of Granada it wasn’t great. No matter what our landlord did, the wifi often refused to play ball. 

Luckily as a copywriter and translator, I don’t need particularly fast internet, but it was still frustrating and we went through a lot of extra phone data with all the hotspotting we did, so bear that in mind if you’re thinking of embracing cave life (which will naturally keep you cool in summer and toasty in winter).

  • Cost of living

The cost of living is one of the very best things about Spain. It’s going up, as things are everywhere, but it’s still great compared to anywhere else in Western Europe, especially if you’re not on a Spanish wage.

Spain is the country with the most bars per capita in the world, and that seems to keep the prices down. Most people can afford to go out for a few tapas or a drink or two far more regularly than they can elsewhere.

Just be careful, because in cities like Granada (where you get a free tapa with your drink), it feels so cheap to go out that you can easily end up on the town every night. And even at those prices it soon adds up! 

Going out to eat or for drinks is of course more expensive in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and parts of the north, and inevitably it’s the same story with rent. But if you opt for smaller cities or rural areas, you’ll be surprised at how reasonable day-to-day expenses and rent can be. So rather than being drawn in by the incredibly expensive digital nomad mecca that is Barcelona, try something a little different.

Because when your rent isn’t extortionate it’s far easier to justify establishing a base somewhere but still travelling a lot.

I spend long periods back in the UK with my family or on other adventures, within Spain and elsewhere in the world, without having to worry too much about throwing huge amounts away on paying for a home base.

Inspiration for the perfect remote working base

We’re currently in landlocked Zaragoza. It’s a very livable city, with everything you need. The landscape immediately surrounding it isn’t anything to write home about, but there’s an awful lot to explore in every direction.

We wouldn’t be without our van here, as it means France, the Pyrenees, La Rioja, the Basque Country the east coast and the mountains to the south are all easily within our reach for spontaneous weekend adventures.

But if you prefer the coast (I don’t blame you!) and like the more relaxed vibe of the south of Spain, Almería, Malaga (somewhere else that’s getting very pricey) or Cadíz should all be on your radar. 

Then there’s Granada, only 45 minutes from the beach and from skiing in the Sierra Nevada, so it really is an amazing place to live.   

And if you don’t mind the rain and, as a rule, higher prices, the vast north coast is beautiful and there’s so much to be explored. 

Everywhere has its pros and cons, but the beauty of working remotely in Spain is that you can switch up your location depending on the time of year. If you live somewhere that’s unbearably hot or touristy in summer you can up and head somewhere cooler or quieter.

And if you want to escape the cold in winter, the balmy east or south coasts will be calling your name.

If Spain is on your radar and you’ve got any questions for me, I’d be more than happy to answer them to the very best of my abilities.

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