By all accounts, Will Gadea had made it. After starting out working in graphic design and theater, he found a niche in digital animation and built a thriving business in New York City, where his studio won jobs from clients such as Ford, Verizon, and Bank of America.
His competitors began outsourcing labor overseas to undercut his costs. Instead of following their lead, he followed the talent more than 5,000 miles away.
In 2019, Gadea and his wife became expatriates and moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina—a hotbed of animation and design talent that also boasts a warm climate, low cost of living, and breathtaking architecture. Getting out of the New York bustle boosted his quality of life and spending power, but he didn't necessarily want prospective customers to think they were hiring an overseas company without a U.S. connection.
Gadea keeps his business, Idea Rocket animation studio, based in New York, even though they no longer lease the 34th Street office space. Instead, they use an office address on Park Avenue, but it's a virtual business address from Earth Class Mail, a LegalZoom company.
“For us, living in Argentina literally triples our spending power," he said. "Earth Class Mail has been a big part of what makes that possible. I still need an address to receive checks. I need an address to seem like a legitimate U.S. business to potential clients."
Keeping a U.S. address as an expat
Using a virtual address has made it so that Gadea can receive U.S. mail as an expat. Even while on prolonged trips back to the United States, he can also keep up with the parts of his business and mail back in Argentina since he can access his mail from anywhere.
Maintaining a New York City mailing address has done more than just help ease any customers' concerns that he's still an American business. It makes it easier to keep his business registered in the United States, keep his sales and marketing teams based here, and receive payments from companies that don't involve international transfers. They just mail a check to him at his virtual address.
The perks of digitizing your mail
When Gadea signed up for the address, he didn't think about the benefits that digitizing his mail would bring him.
“I didn't realize it would be such a big benefit," he said.
Before using a virtual address from Earth Class Mail, he did what many people do when checking their mail: opened it, and stacked what letters he thought he might need later in a pile.
“Those piles got bigger and bigger, and you keep dreading the day you have to put it where it needs to be," he said. “If you get rid of anything, you're kind of wondering, 'Am I throwing away something that is important?' Now you don't have to make that choice."
Receiving mail digitally at a virtual mailbox means that all mail gets scanned into a text-searchable PDF and stored in the cloud, so you can find old pieces of mail by searching for keywords.
When you want a physical copy of his mail, we can ship it anywhere. Otherwise, we can securely shred your mail and recycle it.
What to do before you become an expat
Gadea grew up in a globe-trotting family, so the move didn't send him into culture shock. He said expat life enriched his experiences in new ways. “A lot of people think it's impossible to do, but (becoming an expat) has been a relatively easy process," he said.
He had this advice for those considering moving to a foreign country:
- Visit and form relationships: Many people dream of moving to another country. Visit the country frequently first, Gadea said. “It's really hard to set up relationships and have frank discussions with people remotely," he said. “It's completely different once you're there."
- Understand your tax liability: Before moving, you need to understand what tax credits might apply to you, your tax liability in your home country, and understand how to complete a foreign bank account report. Gadea met with an accountant to understand his tax liabilities if he relocated to Argentina. American expat taxes depend on what kind of work one does in the other country and who their clients become. Gadea knew he'd have to pay U.S. taxes, but because he wasn't technically doing business in Argentina, he didn't run into any tax liability there. “Oftentimes, it's easier than you would imagine," he said. Gadea said he personally only has to worry about tax filing in the United States because of how Argentina's tax laws work.
- Learn about immigration visas: Like many countries, Argentina now offers remote worker services, so people who want to work remotely can do so and remain in the same time zone as their business clients in the United States.
- Plan for any language barriers: Gadea spent his early childhood in Peru and spoke Spanish fluently before living in Argentina, so he didn't have a learning curve when it came to adjusting to the language barrier. He noted that his wife had to brush up on her Spanish skills when they moved.
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