upwork - find work online puerto rico

another reason to find work online before moving to puerto rico

I see you are living near Rincon or in Rincon, not quite sure…  So I’m a waitress in the states right now, would you suggest working at the beach for the summer then moving to PR when it’s dead in [here in] Delaware?

I receive questions like this from time to time and although it makes me uncomfortable to provide personal advice to someone I don’t know, I always suggest the same thing to those that need a job: try to find work online BEFORE moving to Puerto Rico.  The official unemployment rate in Puerto Rico, at 11.5%, is more than twice the national average.  Per capita income here also ranks dead last, estimated at less than $12,000 annually.  If you line up some work for yourself online, none of this matters.

How to Find Work Online

The easiest place to get started is Upwork.  It is the worlds largest online freelancing platform with millions of jobs posted annually.  Here are the steps I recommend taking if this is something you are interested in pursuing:

  1. Look around the site to figure out what skills are in demand and of interest to you.  If you have prior on-the-job experience, look for postings related to your field of expertise to identify a niche you can specialize in.
  2. Go to Udemy and take some courses to get a jump start on the skills you identified in step 1.
  3. Do some free work for a friend or “hire” yourself to do something related to your niche so that you have some work examples you can use in your portfolio.
  4. Start applying with the primary goal of securing a 5 star rating and maintaining a 100% job success score.
  5. As soon as you get your first ongoing job, start applying for other jobs at a meaningfully higher rate.
  6. Rinse and repeat, trading lower paying jobs for higher paying ones until you are making the money you want to make.

Keep in mind that Upwork is a global marketplace so you will be competing with lowball bids from all over the world and unreasonable clients who expect the world for $10 an hour.  It’s easy to get discouraged but stay persistent.  There are quality clients on Upwork that are happy to pay a fair rate.  Most of these clients are looking for native English speakers who reside in the United States, so they don’t have to deal with language or time-zone issues.

Is Puerto Rico “in the U.S.”?

Unfortunately, Upwork recently added a “feature” which significantly handicaps the ability of Puerto Ricans to connect with these prime clients.  This new feature, innocuously called “Freelancer Location”, essentially allows clients to block non-U.S. freelancers from applying to or even seeing their job postings.

freelancer location on upwork - another reason to find work online before moving to puerto ricoDistressingly, Upwork considers those of us who live in Puerto Rico as non-US.  I asked them about this and the reason I was given was that Puerto Rico “is an unincorporated territory, and it has not yet been incorporated into the U.S. Therefore, it is not a part of the United States.“…!?

Because of it’s unique status, individual companies have some discretion on how they decide to treat Puerto Rico (either domestic or international).  For example, mobile phone carriers, the postal service, and most retailers consider Puerto Rico domestic U.S. (Amazon ships to us for free with prime).  Further, we fall under the jurisdiction of the US Federal government and US district court system.  On the other hand, UPS and Fedex treat shipments here as international (which does make some sense)
I’m not sure if Upwork was legally obligated to exclude Puerto Rico from “the U.S”. (doubtful) or if it was a business decision.  If it’s a business decision, I would hope that they reconsider.  The language of the feature would certainly accommodate allowing Puerto Rican freelancers to see and apply to these job postings.
freelancer location on upwork - another reason to find work online before moving to puerto rico

What Puerto Ricans see if they click on a “U.S. only” job.


In general, I find that Puerto Rican residents enjoy the same services and opportunities afforded to those residing in the states.  This situation with Upwork is one of the few I’ve encountered where it feels like Puerto Rican’s are being treated like second-class citizens.  If nothing else, this is yet another reason for those needing a job, to find work online before making the move to Puerto Rico.

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