The most common question I hear from people interested in teaching English abroad is pretty simple: How much money will I make!?
But it can be a tough question to answer. How much money you make really does depend on the country you teach in, your experience, the job market, and a whole host of other factors that you may or may not be able to control.
However, the good news is -- if you’re crafty and willing to hustle a little bit -- living abroad provides ample opportunity to make some extra cash on the side. So if you find that your teaching salary isn’t quite enough for you to fund your ideal lifestyle, here are some tips to supplement your income while teaching English abroad.
1. Tutoring/Private Lessons
The most common way that ESL teachers supplement their salary while living abroad is by teaching private English lessons on the side. Parents of your students can be a great resource to find private lessons, as can bulletin boards, Craigslist, and word of mouth. Put up some fliers or ask around at the local bar; you might be surprised by how many people are interested in learning English, and how much they might be willing to pay you.
And it can be a rewarding experience too! While in Cambodia, one friend of mine earned some extra money by teaching private English lessons to a local monk. They wound up developing a great friendship, and my friend was able to spend a week in a Buddhist temple, living amongst and learning from the community of monks. It was an incredible experience for him, and it started with some simple English lessons.
2. Write and Take Pictures
Many people living abroad enjoy documenting their experiences by writing, blogging, and taking photographs. Not only is it a fun way to remember your travels, satisfy your creative side, and share stories with friends and family, but it can also be a great way to make a little bit (or if you’re really good, quite a bit) of extra money.
Write and/or take pictures as often as you can. Spend some time developing your craft, ask some friends or colleagues to edit your work, and then try pitching it to some media outlets (online or print). Many travel websites host writing/photography contests with some pretty cool prizes, and many magazines, websites, and blogs will pay a per article/photo/video fee for interesting content. It’s really a win-win. Even if you don’t wind up making any money, you’ll have a body of work to look back upon with pride.
3. Remote Work
In the digital age, there are more and more jobs that can be done just as effectively irrespective of your current location. If you left a job back home and have a laptop, they might still have some tasks that you can accomplish remotely. It might be a long shot, but it rarely hurts to ask!
Additionally, if you started your adventure abroad through one of the many certification/job placement/adventure travel services out there, there’s a good chance that they’ll offer you a fee to refer a friend to the same program. For example, LanguageCorps offers a $100 fee every time a teacher refers a friend. Get in touch with the staff of your program and see what you can do to help. You might find opportunity to earn a little extra cash by advocating on their behalf from abroad.
4. A Good Old Fashioned Side Job
If you think about it in the right light, a side job while teaching English abroad can be a very valuable opportunity. If you can learn the local language, or at least the basics, try asking around at restaurants and bars to see if they could use any help. Bartending or serving on the weekends can be a great way to make some spending money, but more importantly, can help you meet some new friends and develop new social circles. Even if you don’t speak the local language, perhaps you can find a travelers bar or hostel that will hire you.
A friend in Italy found a side job doing promotions for a local bar. He would show up a few nights a week (as his schedule allowed) and hand out fliers for a couple hours; in return, the bar staff would let him drink for free whenever he wanted and toss him a few Euros at the end of the night.
More important than the extra spending money were the connections he formed and the friendships he made by working at a local establishment. Ask around; you might be able to find an opportunity that suits your lifestyle, whatever that may be!
5. Use That Entrepreneurial Spirit!
If you have access to a computer and the internet, you have everything you need to start a business! Feel like you’ve acquired some knowledge that would be useful to others? Write an e-book on the subject and sell it online. Start a travel website or blog. Maybe eventually you can charge people to advertise on your site.
Give bicycle or motto tours of your city to vacationers. Know how to play guitar? Scuba dive? Surf? Cook? Dance? Knit? Advertise lessons! If you have a skill, there likely is someone out there who will pay you to learn it.
A little creativity and industrial spirit can go a long way while living abroad. Not only can it be a great way to supplement your income, but who knows? Your little side business could turn into your next great passion!
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