1. How did you first get started teaching English abroad?
Like many people in the world today, I was fed up with life back home and needed a change. I was sick of the 9-5 and being tied to a cubicle. I was making a half-way decent salary, but after taxes and the expenses of owning a car and renting an apartment I had very little left. My savings were in slow motion and I felt like a loser. I worked in a building with no windows and was tied to a desk. I had traveled a bit and thought that I'd love to live overseas, but I had no idea to how to start.
I read a bit about teaching English on the internet, but it seemed that no one was making very much money in ESL and I didn't want to go back to a regular job that might have me living paycheck to paycheck again (the exact situation I wanted to escape). I read a lot of horror stories online and was also very afraid of making a big mistake. I didn't act initially because I was scared I'd make a wrong decision and lock myself into a miserable situation.
After dealing with a few dubious recruiters, I decided I would just pack a carry-on bag and buy a ticket to Asia myself. I bought a one-way ticket from Chicago to Hong Kong and attempted to figure things out on my own. I realized quickly when I first started out that I knew nothing. Hard lessons ended up teaching me everything. It was a lot more difficult doing it this way, but I can now teach anyone with a bachelor's degree and a passport how to make a $100,000+ tax free salary in ESL using my blueprint.
It's rewarding to me to be able to give back. Instead of watching someone flounder and take a $2,000/month contract with awful terms, I'm able to teach people how to make a very high income. My students use the technique and apply what they learn in Get Rich Teaching English instead of just applying to and accepting the first job abroad that drops in their lap. Being able to plot a course and reach a goal using actionable information is paramount. Learning from someone with over a decade of experience making a very high salary in multiple countries is the difference between a smart move and flying blind. Anyone first starting out is bound to make costly mistakes that will ultimately result in pain and tens of thousands of dollars in lost income if they don't have solid information from a reliable and successful mentor. Many fantastic people taught me about teaching ESL along the way, but no one could ever tell me how to get rich doing it.
2. Does making a good living teaching English require long-term relocation to a specific country, or can teachers also do well with seasonal and/or shorter-term teaching engagements?
Mandy, you may have heard about travel nurses/traveling doctors and how much more they can make than regular nurses/doctors. It's like this in ESL/EFL, but even better because we work all over the world. Short-term contracts (3-6 months) in ESL generally do not pay well and you're not taken seriously if you show up with an expiration date. With that said, if you keep your ear to the street and know where to seek out the best jobs, you can make a lot of money by being mobile. The ones who stick to one location year after year and don't move around much generally end up settling for less. These are generally the same people who tell you there's no money to be made. It's just like recent college graduates who refuse to move out of their small town--they're not going to make the same money they could if they're ready to travel and go to places where the demand is high but the supply is low. Markets and political situations change daily. Knowing where the best jobs are at any given time is imperative to knowing where the money is.
Being nimble and decisive in your actions can mean huge payouts in ESL. In my book Get Rich Teaching English I show a real contract that I was able to jump on that ended up paying me $149,400.00 plus benefits over 1 year. I was hired about halfway through the year so I ended up legally paying no income tax either. The tax advantages and ability to compound savings while overseas teaching ESL are subjects I also discuss at length.
One thing that's important for everyone to realize is that if you are living and working back home, your boss has far more leverage over you than you may realize. Not only does he know you have a house or apartment and bills to pay, he knows there's a 75% chance (statistically speaking) that you are someone living paycheck to paycheck and someone with less than six months of wages in savings. This makes you vulnerable and you may feel you really have no room to argue with what he says. After all, you should be thankful to have a job at all, right? This is the mentality that pervades the thinking of so many.
Overseas we are inherently transient. Our jobs have us moving around, seeking out bigger and better opportunities, and we don't tend to stay in one place very long. Bosses know this and they know that it's possible to lose you. This is supply in demand and it's at its finest overseas teaching English. Even if your boss wants to hire someone else, do you know how long it will take him to get someone dependable on the ground and ready to teach? The hiring process for English teachers can be long and drawn out. Every employer knows this is a major headache and it's much easier to just keep the proven, tested teachers already on staff as opposed to the nightmare that is swapping out good employees for unknown ones. Making yourself irreplaceable is another topic that we discuss in the book, and it's key in increasing your salary as an English teacher abroad in a major way.
3. What do you suggest that a prospective teacher do in order to gain experience and confidence in teaching if he/she has yet to do any teaching work?
This is a great question and one that I get a lot. It is a misconception that one needs a major qualification to teach English abroad. You do not need to be a certified teacher in your home state or country and there is a job for anyone holding a passport from the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand that has a bachelor's degree in any discipline. If you hold a degree in Archaeology, it's not a problem. There are many easy ways to create English/ESL resumes that really look great and get you jobs. They all are free or cost very little money.
On my Youtube channel GetRICHTeaching, there is a video testimonial from one of my students who got a job making a $80,000/year tax free base salary plus benefits without any formal training in teaching ESL or English. He simply applied what he learned in the book and made it happen. He was able to parlay experience he had from his past job with what he learned and he created a show-stopping resume. I provide all students lifetime e-mail consultations and guidance.
4. There are lots of ads on craigslist and other sites regarding "teach English abroad" jobs--how can a prospective job-seeker know which opportunities are legitimate (and possibly lucrative)?
I'm really glad you asked me about Craigslist, because I have noticed the same thing. You will recognize that the vast majority of the jobs listed are recruiters in China trying to get teachers to come over and teach for pitiful wages. These are what we would call the "bottom of the barrel" jobs. Many teachers get their start at jobs like these and that is why unfortunately 99% of English teachers abroad never figure out how to become rich teaching. They mistakenly assume that jobs like the one they have are the best that there are. They give up and head back home the following year with their tails between their legs after maybe saving a paltry five or ten thousand dollars.
There is often an appeal to sympathy and an appeal to the greater good in these ads. They want you to come over and “help the children” or “be a volunteer.” I give to charity and am a proponent of volunteering, but if you’ve been to these countries and seen what goes on behind the scenes, you’ll figure out that while YOU may be volunteering or giving from your heart, there is someone making a lot of money off your teaching. Someone is taking your time/effort donation and turning into cash for themselves. If you want to work for charity, I would advise someone to look into UNICEF. They have an English teaching program that is much worthier of your donation.
I would not advise anyone to take a job off Craigslist and would tell a prospective teacher not to work for any less than he/she feels he/she deserves. If you feel you deserve only a couple thousand dollars a month and think that's the best you can do as an English teacher overseas, I'd highly encourage you to read my book. It will open your eyes to a new world of EFL. I don't show readers just a one-off $100,000+ contract; I have worked many. I show three real examples and also clue readers into the top two industries for six-figure ESL jobs, where to find them, and how to land them.
5. With classes being offered using online technologies, are you also seeing opportunities for instructors to teach students in other countries without leaving home?
As we discussed, being inherently mobile and transient nets the most money. There are always great opportunities for businessmen in this industry, (many millionaires have been made with ESL dollars) but I do not see teaching on Skype as a way to get rich. Generally speaking, you will be selling your time hour by hour. There is no way to leverage your time or add value. If your goal is to make a couple hundred bucks a day teaching on Skype, you can do that, but it won't be anything large or of scale. You would be very hard pressed to make $100,000.00 without being in a real classroom.
Mandy, thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. If anyone reading this is in a lot of student loan debt, has been foreclosed on, has a dead-end job, has had a divorce and needs a fresh start, or is someone who just wants to make a lot of cash overseas, I'd encourage them to think seriously about teaching English abroad as a viable means of gaining financial freedom.