Getting a Job Abroad vs. Bringing a Job With You

virtual job working abroad

If you read many travel message boards, or talk to many traveler types who are sick of their job, the fantasy of working overseas somewhere is high on the wish list.Whether they’re looking to escape something or just have a cheaper cost of living, one of the biggest considerations is how to earn a living after moving abroad.

This doesn’t have to be a major obstacle, of course. Millions of people manage to make it work as corporate expats, English as a second language (ESL) teachers, diving instructors, rafting guides, or hotel workers. For a start.

But it’s not a matter of looking up an ad on, snagging a sweet job, then packing up the suitcases. It takes some initiative and a willingness to make a big leap into the unknown. It’s a whole lot easier in this always-connected age to do a job or run a business online and take that with you. If you all you need is a laptop and an internet connection, you don’t need permission from anyone.

Getting a Physical Job Abroad

Before the internet came along, people were still moving abroad and becoming gainfully employed. In some cases this was under the table as a bartender, laborer, or hostel worker. At the other end of the scale were corporate managers who got transferred abroad and kept their same salary and lifestyle—or better.

These options still exist, plus people are still lining up jobs ahead of time as ESL teachers, dive instructors, or real estate agents. More often, however, it’s easier once you have feet on the pavement in that location.

teaching English abroad

Many countries are a decade behind when it comes to doing things online and in some cultures it’s unheard of to hire someone you haven’t met face to face. If you’re not physically there, you’re not even in the running.

Here’s an article of mine that I wrote more than 10 years ago, with examples, and it’s just as relevant today. To Work Abroad Successfully, Put Down Roots.

This takes a little longer, and you need to bring enough money to get you started, but over time things will fall in your lap if you’re getting the word out. The main problem is, unless you’re selling real estate or working for Oracle, you’re probably earning local wages. If it’s a cheaper country, one reason is that wages are lower. So your expenses go down, but so do your earnings.

Bringing a Virtual Job Abroad

There are tens of thousands of digital nomads roaming the planet these days, many of them armed with just a laptop, an ATM card, and a carry-on bag. You’ve probably seen a hundred photos like this on Facebook and Instagram meant to make you envious:

living working abroad

Not a bad “office” eh?

If you can start a business online or work as a freelancer remotely, you’re a terrific candidate for finding a better life for half the price. You could live in Lisbon, Lagos, or Lucknow and do the same job you’re doing now. You just need a decent internet connection and a way to get paid.

I won’t say the possibilities are endless, but they’re certainly more widespread than most people think. Right now in Chiang Mai there are thousands of expats running drop ship companies, web design companies, consulting services, e-commerce companies, and yes, blogs. There are exponentially more ways to make a buck online than there were even five years ago, so figure out what you could spend 30-50 hours a week building and you can probably find a way to earn some money out of it. If your cost of living is only $1,000 a month, you don’t have to stumble upon a blockbuster business to pay the bills.

If you need some help, there’s surely a course out there that will show you the ropes, whether that’s travel writing success, working as a transcript proofreader, or running an Amazon affiliate program. The time to start is now though. It takes six months to two years to really get a business off the ground, even when you do everything right, so if you wait until the month you move, that’s more time you need to depend on savings to stay solvent.

See more info and resources here: Why a Virtual Job is the Best  Job for Working Abroad.

Want to get a monthly update on how and where to live abroad for less? Get on the cheap living abroad list now.

  1. Adonis Villanueva

    I think bringing a virtual job abroad is the way to go. I can take a 50% pay cut from my current salary in the United States and still make almost 3 times as much as I would make in places like Romania or Bulgaria.

  2. Laura

    Interesting article and certainly makes moving abroad to a cheaper cost of living, whilst maintaining an online business very appealing. It feels like an exciting (and slightly crazy) internet era to be living in. Now is the time to capitalise on internet ‘real estate’ for the future!

  3. ram Kirar

    Nice Article….

  4. Staci Blunt

    Hi Tim,

    I would like to more easily share your awesome articles, but your links to the side are not complete. Could you add a Facebook share button (instead of just a Like)?


    • Tim Leffel

      Staci – I used to have one, but nobody used it. I get a ton of shares though, so I guess they’re doing it from the Cheapest Destinations Facebook page, where you can follow:

      I will do a redesign later this year and will look at whether it makes sense to add one again.

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