You’re not Going to Get Rich Teaching English
Okay English teachers abroad, it’s time for some straight-talk. Unless you happen to get a sweet, sweet gig like one of my old friends from Korea working for Aramco in Saudi, you’re not going to get rich teaching English. Sure, salaries for teachers are pretty decent in many parts of the Middle East or in South Korea. However, you’re probably not going to be able to retire early. This is unless you happen to have had a large pool of money to invest right after the stock market crash of 2009.
Related: High Salary Teaching Jobs
Those are stories for another day though. In my opinion, the best thing English teachers abroad can do to improve their financial futures is to get a side-gig going on. In this day and age of the inter-webs, there are a million and one possibilities to make money online. You can do this in the free time you have when you’re not teaching at your main job. Hence the name side-gig!
Related: Don’t Waste your Time in South Korea
Here are a few of my favourite side-gigs for ESL teachers. The good news is that these are just a preview of what is to come. I’m working on a side-gigs for teachers book and it should be out on Amazon in the next couple of months.
Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, check out these ideas for starting a side gig.
Side-Gig #1: Self-Publishing Books
While it is somewhat gruelling to do all the steps required to publish your book (vetting an idea, research, writing, editing, rewriting, editing, rewriting, cover design, uploading, book descriptions, keyword research, marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing), it doesn’t really take any special skills besides perseverance. I certainly am no grammar queen (I’m sure you’ll find a typo or two in this post!), but it’s easy enough to hire people for editing, etc..
The income you earn from books is one of the best kinds. Self publishing is a lot of work up front. However, assuming your idea is a good one, it’s well-written and the content is compelling, it’ll almost sell itself. The good news is that you can keep earning money for years with almost no effort. Passive income magic! Of course, marketing will really kick your operation into high-gear.
Here’s my author page on Amazon if you want to check out the type of stuff I’ve written: Jackie Bolen Author Page on Amazon.
Side-Gig #2: HubPages
Hubpages is fabulous for the technologically challenged. It’s basically a drag and drop platform where you can build niche websites. The pluses are that it’s super-easy to figure out, you don’t have to sign-up for your own Amazon or Ebay affiliate accounts and they also do a bit of promotion for you.
It’s not all too good to be true though and the biggest negative is that they take a cut of your profits, a rather large one (50%). Lately, they’ve been marking many of my English teaching hubs as spam when they’re actually far from it. This has been really frustrating so much so that I’ve stopped building new Hubs even though they have earned me quite a bit of money over the years. If you can figure out how to get past their filters, you’ll be golden.
Side-Gig #3: Building a Website or a YouTube Channel
I think that anyone who has a passion about something should start a website or a YouTube Channel. YouTube and your website can make money through advertisements that are placed on them. These can really add up with enough traffic and views. There are a ton of other ways to monetize these things, especially websites through affiliate marketing. My best advice is to just start something and you’ll figure it out down the road.
I got my start in the self-publishing world through my blog My Life! Teaching in a Korean University which I started more than 10 years ago. It seemed like almost every single day people were asking me how to get a university job in South Korea that I got so weary of answering questions that I decided to write a book about it. It was successful, so I wrote another one. And another one and now it’s changed the course of my life. It can happen to you. But if won’t unless you start. I seriously always tell people to start doing something and they’ll figure out how to make money later.
If you’re going to do the website building thing, it’s best to self-host it so you don’t have any restrictions on what you can or can’t do like you do on HubPages for example. Bluehost is an excellent, cheap option for hosting as well as the domain. Avoid GoDaddy-I tell you this through personal experience and a hard lesson learned.
Related: Jackie Bolen’s Websites
Side-Gig #4: Online Teaching
If you live in a place where private teaching is illegal (Korea!) and/or your place of employment doesn’t have overtime opportunities, you could consider teaching online. I’ve never done it so can’t speak from personal experience, but it seems like there is an increasing number of companies acting as an intermediary to set you up with students. Although the pay might not be as high as it would for an hour of private teaching in say Korea (up to $50), you can do it in your own house while wearing your pyjamas and won’t be burning the midnight oil on the subway, cruising all ’round your city.
Check out this site if you want some advice on how to cut out the middle-man and find your own students: Teaching English Online.
Side-Gig #5: Editing/Graphic Design/Writing
If you have skills in any of these things, it’s really easy to make money. Just go to a site like Fiverr for the low-end, easy kind of stuff or a site like Upwork for more high-end. You can bid on projects-the key in places like this seems to be to price your services pretty low at the start, do a few of them, get great reviews and then move up the food chain so you can command higher prices. A bit of short-term pain for long-term gain.
The Moral of this Side-Gig Story
It really is possible to use your free time as English teachers abroad to get your side-gig on and set yourself up for financial awesome. It just takes time, motivation and perseverance. As they say in Korea, Fighting! Translation = you can do it!
And of course, stay tuned for the upcoming book! This post is only 1% of the awesome that you’ll find there.