So you’re wondering how to work abroad in 2020 and the foreseeable future? Great news, I’ve tried a lot of different things to travel and make money so you’ve come to the right place. Some gigs went well and some were rarely sustainable. This is my complete guide to help you figure out how to work abroad in 2020. As someone whose moved abroad 3 times, this guide is meant to show you everything I know so you know how to work abroad in 2020. There are a lot of things I read on the internet that isn’t great advice nor is it true so I want to clear the air of how people can learn how to work abroad in 2020.
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What are you looking to do ?
First things first, figure out what type of job you want to do and are looking for.
- Work Remotely
- Visa sponsorship to work for a foreign company/job transfer
- TEFL – Teach English to Foreign Language
To learn how to work abroad in 2020 and to successfully do it can mean 100 different things. First things first, specify! Get clear on your mission. What do you want to do? If you want to work remotely you will most likely be considered a freelancer or a digital nomad. Label yourself whatever you want. My biggest thing to recommend to focus on how to work abroad in 2020 is to be physically independent. In my opinion, it is jackpot to not be anywhere specifically – better yet remove the stressful commute and avoid distractions. Go anywhere you want as long as you have wifi to work.
How to work abroad in 2020 remotely
Working remotely is one of the most efficient ways of how you can work abroad in 2020. It can go a few ways. You can have a full-time remote job, or you can be a contractor. What’s the difference? When you work remotely full time you are an employee. If you work project-based, you are a contractor. It has been an ongoing trend for companies to outsource work outside of their organization for people to do a specific service. It is an entry point for how to work abroad in 2020.
For example, maybe you own a business and only need social media help on certain days. You would outsource that because you don’t need an employee to do that every day, there isn’t a demand. What’s outsourcing? Outsource defined by Merriam Webster is when you contract for work, jobs, etc., to be done by outside or foreign workers. You hire out contractors and contract them to do certain things. Outsourcing is one of the reasons people can work remotely because you don’t need contractors in the office versus a full-time employee.
Employee vs. Contractor
So which type of work is better? There’s no real answer. It depends on what you like and what you are looking for. I really like being a contractor. The perks include: don’t have to participate in pointless meetings, I’m hired to do certain things and that’s that. However, I don’t get insurance benefits, I don’t get paid time off, and I also have to think ahead for my next projects once the current ones finish up. Is that for everyone? No, but I like the flexibility of doing the tasks I’m good at and am hired to do and then I can peace out once I’m done. No meetings, not too much communication, no distractions from co-workers, you do the work, and that’s it. To me, it’s amazing and have found it to be very efficient in my work.
Being an employee to a remote company is something for someone who wants to stay there long term, wants consistency in that specific company and/or role, and possibly wants to get comfortable doing that with the benefits they get.
What type of work will you do?
Now that you know the difference of contractor vs employee, let’s get clear on what type of work you want to do? If you choose to freelance/work remotely, you want to brainstorm you can actually offer and develop a skill you will get paid for.
If you want to learn how to work abroad in 2020, specifically work remotely, you need to develop a skill or skills to make money. This is the service you will be able to provide for someone who will pay for that service. Inevitably this is how you will market yourself.
If you type in google how to work abroad in 2020, you will see loads of things online. Some tell you to “quit your job and follow your passion” or everything is “TEFL, TEFL, TEFL” jeez, what happens if you don’t want to be an English teacher? Is the dream done before it’s even started? No, but most people want to tell you to do that because freelancing realistically isn’t easy to get into.
Where to look for work when figuring out how to work abroad in 2020
The masses will tell you to be a “digital nomad” and go look for work on Upwork, Fiverr, or freelancer – we are not in 2010 anymore. Unless you are looking to make $5 an hour, it’s a hard pass. Trust me, look elsewhere. To learn how to work abroad in 2020, you have to learn where to look and find work for the services that you will provide. Here are sites I have personally used to look and have found good work:
- Use your network! Learning how to work abroad in 2020 is utilizing your contacts and who you know. All about who you know, right? Simply ask if anyone needs anything. Trust me, this always pays off because even if someone doesn’t have something for you, they will contact you when they do or when they hear of someone who needs it.
The reality of Freelancing/working for yourself
Freelancing is not really easy to get into, anyone who is saying it is, is lying. In my opinion, nothing in life is easy because everything takes work- I will not lie to my readers, that’s not what I’m here to do. If you want to take the freelancing route, get ready to put in some work. As a result, you will truly figure out how to work abroad in 2020 if you use your mind and learn how to market yourself. By that I mean:
- you will develop a skill you are good at – What are you going to do that you will be able to make money? Do you know something like the back of your hand? Do you love something AND are good at it? (Double whammy, you go get that cheddar booboo!)
- You will then market this skill – reach out to your contacts and see who needs help with what
- You will develop a reputation with contacts that will eventually give you consistent work if they trust you
- Rinse and repeat – that’s how you make $ as a freelancer.
Freelancing is incredibly sustainable because as you grow this skill, you grow your fee. There are people who easily make over 100-200k freelancing. They have years of experience, have contacts in their industry, and are considered the expert in their niche. It is a job but instead of you having a boss you manage yourself and you charge what you think is fair.
Who is this for?
Is this for everyone? Absolutely not. One of the things of learning how to work abroad in 2020 means understanding that you will have to sacrifice things. Meaning, if you are a freelancer, and this is your first time, you might miss the aspect of having a boss, coworkers, leaving work and being done with work.
The major one of those things that I had a hard time with at first is shutting off when I need to. Sometimes you are still working because you are not done with work, the difference of being in an office versus being by yourself means you manage you. No one else. The social aspect I don’t mind, personally love working alone so don’t mind the no social part, I’ve always looked at the workplace to make $, not to make friends so this doesn’t really bother me.
However, my perception isn’t your perception and maybe having a social setting for work is something that is non-negotiable for you. The key to learning how to work abroad in 2020 is to figure out what is best for you and execute it. Working remotely you also have to manage yourself. This is not for someone who needs handholding, needs to be told what to do and needs to be monitored. Things will fall through the cracks, quick and let’s just say that you will know if this is meant for you after trial and error.
How I got into freelancing
The way I got into freelancing was through having a very precious contact with a consultant. This helped me get tossed consistent work for about 10 months and then in August of 2019 I had to start from scratch. No more work so I had to go out and find work. It was really, really, hard, I will not lie, and I wasn’t sure if I could actually do it but in October after 3 months of looking like a madwoman, I found some projects and am doing more than ok! I am also literally making the same amount I did in an office job so financially it makes perfect sense to continue this route. The difference with freelancing is no stressful commute, get to work in my pajamas, and manage myself how I want.
Getting visa sponsorship through a foreign corporation
Still wondering how to work abroad in 2020? Don’t worry, we are not even halfway done yet! Have loads to talk about. My next point is working abroad and working for an international company. This I have not personally ever done so I can’t tell you much about this. However, it is definitely one way on how you can work abroad in 2020. This will be a process. Visas are never easy, they take a loooooot of patience, and a lot of paperwork.
Also please, please, please keep in mind that you have to go to this job in a completely different culture. Will you even like that? At this point in my life right now, I’m not sure how well I would mesh into a different literal culture corporately. Personally think it would be very overwhelming/confusing/a lot of culture shock and I just don’t get enthusiastic about this option at all. If you work for a company that has foreign offices, consider yourself one step closer. This means less paperwork, they probably know you are valid (if you’ve worked there for some time), and honestly, maybe you just have to ping your HR to see what’s up. You never know if you don’t ask. Some steps on how to consider doing this:
How to take advantage of the situation you’re already in
- Research the company you’re currently working for and see if they can help you with a job transfer. Contact HR/appropriate parties.
- Find job opportunities, apply, and try to get a visa sponsorship directly with a company.
- Look into working abroad options on some sites that pair you up with jobs. I have not tried any of these sites, so I will not recommend any as I simply don’t know what it’s like.
Let’s talk everything TEFL
Last but not least, TEFL! TEFL is another way to learn how to work abroad in 2020. What does TEFL even stand for? TEFL means Teaching English to Foreign Language. If you speak English natively, you are on the way to a possible new life somewhere abroad if you’d like. Your job will be to teach people English as their foreign language. As promised, I mentioned I was going to be referring to teachers who have broken the bank TEFLing. You can read all about a blogger named, Oneika’s success story and how she made over 100k and you can too!
Here are my 12 tips on what to consider when TEFLing:
- Educate yourself …Travel vs Work abroad -I had these 2 confused when I was looking into TEFL. I wanted to travel and thought that TEFL would answer all of my problems. Learning how to work abroad in 2020 is knowing the difference. I thought, income check, abroad check, easy job, check. Yes, you will be away but you won’t have much free time to really travel except for weekends and school holidays. In South Korea, you don’t have many holidays so if you are looking to go on frequent excursions, pick another destination. Also, most schools don’t let you pick your vacation days, they’ll usually give you a window on when you take off and you obey. Not much room for negotiation.
- If possible, always work directly with the school – One huge tip in learning how to work abroad in 2020 and how to TEFL is to remove any middle man. Work directly. I was naive enough to fully trust my recruiter, I have plenty of friends who taught English in South Korea and loved it, loved South Korea, the job, not so much. Recruiters work off of commission and yes, although not all of them have bad intentions, it is important to realize they work solely on commission and want that signed contract ASAP. They will rarely tell you the actuality of what things are like until you are there – which, unfortunately, might be too late. I would prefer to work with a school directly if I was going through the process again. This process is way more transparent and you can ask the school any questions you have, no middle man involved. When you go directly with the school, there is no room for confusion.
- Was looking for more $ which actually turned out I was getting paid less – My mind was working in American dollars with my experience. Learning how to work abroad in 2020 is connecting the pieces together to finances. I wasn’t sure if the $ I was making was going to be enough as I didn’t know the price of living in South Korea. I was set out to get the highest paying job. While most schedules are 9am – 7pm, there are some lighter schedules that if you do the math, you actually end up getting paid more. For example, I was working 10 hours a day making 2.4 mil won a month. If someone works 7-8 hours a day for 2.1 mil won a month, they are making more $ then me because of the rate in hours. Think work less with a higher pay rate. I wasn’t actually winning, and boy was I tired!
- Who do you want to teach? I am a fan of kids. I like them, they are cute, but they are draining to discipline? If you are not into working with kids, pay huge attention to the student age group. TEFL will teach you a lot about how to work abroad in 2020 but I think it is up to the person on who they want to work with. I would say about 80% of TEFL jobs deal with kids. If you don’t have the patience to deal with it, skip it. Kids are draining. If you are not a fan of them it’s going to things agonizing. Although you don’t have to skip TEFL completely, do look for TEFL classes for adults or business classes. This is a more relaxed setting and I would say even more professional because these students are serious about learning English. You will have serious and dedicated students. To successfully learn how to work abroad in 2020, try to like the job!
- Is this the best option for you? SO many people do TEFL (myself included) because they think it is the only option they have to travel and work abroad. That is false, I wish I knew more about the remote world before I made that decision. There are other options, I promise! Is TEFL really the only way to learn how to work abroad in 2020? No!
- Schedule – TEFL isn’t for someone who is looking to travel and do things on their own time. When you learn how to work abroad in 2020, you want to take your schedule into account. What’s not fun about some TEFL jobs is the hours. You will be at school all day, at least 8 -12 hours in Asia. In Thailand, I actually was only going to be teaching for 2 hours but I still had to be there at 8am – 3:30 pm. Too much free time with nothing to do.
- Pay- Common sense that nobody signs up to be a TEFL teacher to become a millionaire. The pay is very low and in most situations, it doesn’t allow you to save for the future. Think about how will you make this all work? Once you are in your mid 20’s, your mind starts to think differently about the future. Let’s talk numbers – the pay for when I TEFLd was $800 USD in Thailand for a month and South Korea was $2,029 USD. Do keep in mind in South Korea they pay for your apartment, your insurance, and Korea is pretty cheap but it’s not sustainable forever unless you are going to live in South Korea forever. When learning how to work abroad in 2020, pay matters. Know if you can actually support yourself on the given salary. BIG TIP – ***Are you arriving with any savings/emergency funds? If not, will your monthly salary be enough to cover expenses? What to do if you need extra money…?
- Location – Don’t just pick a country. Maybe even go to visit the country and then pick a city or a region. I’m quite daring, I went into my TEFL experience on a limb even though I planned everything to the T. However, if I learned anything from my experience, it is to think long and hard about my whereabouts. Location is everything. Know your city, town, country. Is it hard to get out of there? Is there public transportation? How will you get around? Major lessons learned when I got to Sakeo, Thailand and realized the only way I was getting out was through a 20-minute walk through town to get to a Laundry mat where the owner would call me a van to get to Bangkok.
- Social life – Being that you are moving to a different country and a different society, how will you make friends? It is important to pick a culture that you like and feel like you can relate too. I’m a fan of solitude but I also enjoy the right company. It is important that you try to manage a new social life. In my TEFL experience, I didn’t have a social life because I was very tired from working so much, which definitely caused the experience to lack in South Korea even more.
- The unknown – Be prepared to be open to a new culture and the unknown. Be prepared to be open to a lot of misunderstandings as your culture and the new culture are completely different. This is a huge adaptable experience where you probably won’t always know what to expect next. This is a no brainer but easier said than done. I think I was expecting to know every single thing about what Thailand was like and there is no way to know. You are not going to know unless you are psychic. The most important thing is to be ready to be adaptable, open-minded, and present. Learning how to work abroad in 2020 you have to be acceptable to the unknown. There are so many things you just have to learn as you go.
- Will TEFL be your work long term or just for a period of time? If your answer is long term, make sure you are setting yourself up for success. You can make serious money TEFLing you just need appropriate qualifications. When considering TEFL on how to work abroad in 2020, think about the time frame you want to do things for.For example, most countries in the Middle East, and Russia require you to have a teaching degree and teaching certifications. Some even want you to have a master’s degree in my research. If you are really looking to turn to teach English abroad as a serious career, definitely get a teaching degree and certification. Most American schools abroad pay really well but you need to meet their requirements. They aren’t looking to hire a random traveler who wants to play teacher for a year. Act the part to play the part. Some American schools in Spain pay about $50k USD yearly. That’s pretty good for the cost of living in Spain. This could be a real career while abroad and having the flexibility to travel. If you are looking for more. Now, if you are wondering how to work abroad in 2020 and your answer is just to TEFL for a period of time, then a Bachelors’s degree in any major and are a Native English Speaker is usually enough. Sometimes you don’t even need a Bachelor’s degree. Look up TEFL opportunities in your ideal foreign country and go from there. One thing I will point out, in this case, is you won’t break the bank financially. TEFL temporarily is decent. However, it won’t last forever because of the conservative income. It is an experience within itself but you can’t expect to save for real-life adult things on a permanent low salary.
- TEFL certification – to certify or not to certify? : Again, this goes back to where you will be teaching but I would definitely get certified. It organizes the experience compared to you having to figure everything out on your own. I went into TEFL very blindly and I did not have a good experience because I trusted recruiters. Once you have your country picked out, you can see if getting certified is a requirement. Most countries in Europe want you to be certified in TEFL. Asia, not so much. You can even have just an Associates to teach or (rarely) just an HS diploma in some places in Asia.
When wondering how you can work abroad in 2020 as a TEFL teacher, I know the next question is what is the application process like? Well when I was applying for TEFL jobs, I saw certification requirements on a lot of ads in Thailand. It is only recently that I am really seeing the flexibility in the Asian countries that you do not need a Bachelor’s degree sometimes. That means demand is HIGH! Some other things I would say, having a TEFL certification really helps you out on how to look for a job. Usually, how it works, the TEFL institution helps you sign up to a school once you’re done getting certified. This can help keep people at ease so they have extra help. This experience can be overwhelming.
The TEFL experience I’d like to share
Now I do want to clear the air that this isn’t always the best option because, in my opinion, the experience can lack in so many ways. First things first, you are moving to a completely new country and are talking to your boss/colleagues via the internet so who knows what is actually going to show up when you arrive.
I’m quite daring when I finished university I wanted to travel SO bad and knew my parents wouldn’t totally freak out if I mentioned I was going abroad with a job. I knew this was a ticket out so I decided to take the risk and try it out. So what did I do exactly? I searched for jobs online via craigslist and google and found a million and one job offers that hired me in one second. Why? I was qualified, I’m a born and raised American that speaks fluent, native English and I have a Bachelor’s degree. Those are literally the qualifications they look for and once they talk to you and confirm you are a normal person, they will send you a contract and ask when you can start. Literally that quick, literally that easy.
Nothings ever as it seems right?
But is anything ever really that easy? No! So what happened? I took a job in Sakeo which is 3 hours away from Bangkok in the middle of nowhere. My first teaching preference was Bangkok. When I had the opportunity to ask a current teacher how she liked the same program, she warned me it’s terrible and she wouldn’t have came if she knew the circumstances.
Now, I had already given my 2 weeks (was super ready to execute all of this) to my corporate job so when that happened it was the start of a series of unfortunate events. I did have the back up option of Sakeo so I signed that contract and left. I could’ve paid more attention to the location prior to leaving. Once I got to Sakeo I wasn’t feeling it at all. My apartment wasn’t what the recruiter showed me. I felt incredibly disappointed and lost all trust with that first strike. Reason being, I had put a lot into moving so when I saw that she wasn’t coming through in the smallest ways I wanted out.
Not the best weekend
We had a break the first weekend I was there so I went to Phuket. Ended up getting bit by a stray cat and was super discouraged to go back to Sakeo. Stayed in Phuket for a month doing day trips and excursions and then went to South Korea to TEFL. Figured if I was already on that side of the world, South Korea was the next move.
To summarize, prior to going to South Korea I was in a time crunch to get a job there because I had to leave Thailand due to the visa situation. The job was to work 10 hours every day and I was hesitant but the recruiter kept pushing on it and I budged like a bobo and it ended up being a disaster. I wasn’t getting paid correctly, I was overworked, and honestly, I was over the whole experience. My pointers to you if you really want to TEFL is:
- set yourself up correctly, know your job, know your work situation
- know your location, get an apartment, have living conditions set up. This is one of the most stressful things. I see people moving to Madrid to be TEFL teachers all the time. They get very discouraged because it’s not easy to look for a home as an immigrant. Plan ahead.
- Have money saved, the last thing you need is to be short on money in a foreign place – absolute no, no
That’s my complete guide on everything I know on how to work abroad in 2020. Happy traveling! I would love to hear all about your work abroad plans, let me know in the comments below!