The Many Benefits of Teaching English Online
A Word of Caution: There are indeed many people who teach English online while traveling, and teaching English online is an awesome way to travel and see the world. However, we must caution that it is your responsibility to ensure you follow the tax laws of your own country, as well as the visa, labor, and tax laws of any country you visit. Do your due diligence well ahead to avoid getting into trouble at home or abroad.
Thanks to the rise of online ESL education, many people now earn an income teaching English online. Online ESL teachers can enjoy several benefits:
- Work from home
- Set your own availability / work as often as you want
- Work for one online ESL company or diversify and work with multiple companies
- Teach English online as a side hustle, or use it as a base income while starting a new business
- Start generating a part-time, or even full-time income relatively quickly
But can you teach English online while traveling and still take advantage one or more of these benefits? Absolutely. Though most online English teachers work at home from home, there are indeed hundreds, if not thousands of people traveling or living abroad and teaching English online.
Why Teaching English Online Is A Great Way To Experience The World
What makes teaching English online so alluring is that you can work from virtually anywhere, as long as you have a clean, quiet environment with decent, reliable Internet. So while you most likely won’t be able to teach English from a hostel, you would definitely be able to AirBNB your way around the world and teach English online.
If you have a university degree and a TEFL qualification, and you are a native or fluent English speaker, you can start working and earning within 1 – 2 months of getting hired. And while you are not likely going to get rich teaching English online for one of the major online ESL companies, you have the potential to earn a decent income that can stretch much further in places where the cost of living is low. In those places, it is possible to have a decent standard of living with the income you can earn as an online English teacher. Add to that, most online English lessons happen during mornings, evenings, and weekends. This leaves much of your daytime to enjoy travels. Would it not be great to enjoy the afternoon at the beach, getting some sightseeing or shopping done, or getting in your day’s workout? It’s especially great because you can do all of these activities while most people are working.
Teach English Online While Traveling: Pros and Cons
ESL teaching has long been a way for people to travel abroad for an extended period and earn money to finance the holiday. For decades, people have traveled and taught English, enabling them to experience one or more countries and soak in the culture beyond the typical tourist traps. Teaching English abroad also allows people to forge relationships with locals, giving them a much deeper, richer experience and a broader perspective of cultural nuances.
The downside of teaching English abroad has always been the work hours and location dependence. ESL teachers work in public schools, language centers, universities and in corporate offices, depending on the type of job they have. This means they have few opportunities to travel outside of public holidays.
Teaching English online is therefore a huge game-changer. Unlike teaching in a school or company, teaching online allows you to teach from anywhere. Granted, you need to have fast, reliable Internet, so you can’t just sit on a beach chair and teach English online. But, you can choose how long you stay in one city or country and you have more control and flexibility over your where and when you travel.
Move Abroad and Teach English Online: Pros and Cons
If your plan is to move to another country and are looking for a base income, teaching English online is a good option. It lets you start earning money before your move, and gives you enough flexibility to set up in your new home. As mentioned, one of the great advantages of living abroad and teaching English online is that the income you can earn from teaching English online is often enough to enjoy a decent standard of living in a less expensive destination. There are numerous people who have moved to warmer, less expensive places than home, and are teaching English online as a means of supporting a comfortable lifestyle.
However, unlike extended travel, moving abroad needs careful planning. First and foremost, when choosing a destination for your move, it is important to know why you want to move there, what the legalities are around work and visas, and what your tax obligations may be in both your country of citizenship and the country where you intend to reside.
As well, it is natural for people to fantasize and idealize life in a new country. Many people particularly have dreams of living an idyllic life on a tropical island. Don’t forget though, that tropical climates come with monsoons, floods, power outages, and tropical diseases. You will also be living in a different culture with values and customs that may be vastly different to yours. The food will be different. You won’t have the comforts and safety nets you may enjoy at home. And after a while, you will start to miss home, and there will be specific people or things that you will miss, and possibly feel homesick.
It is also important to keep in mind that, for the most part, teaching English online is not intended to be a full-time job. It should be regarded as freelance income, and a way to supplement income from a full-time job, finance a vacation, or provide a base income while building a business. Although people do move abroad with an online teaching income, it is generally not a wise decision to set up a home in a foreign country based on a single freelance income.
Finally, it is important to consider tax and labor laws. The longer you stay in a foreign country, and not your own, the more you expose yourself to tax obligations in one or both countries, depending on the tax laws in your country and those of the country you intend to live in. Tax laws aside, there are often labor laws prohibiting foreigners from working in the country without a valid visa and work permit. Even if you maintain your home country as your income and tax base, some countries interpret taxability based on how long you have been living in the country and whether you maintain a residence there. This places you into a gray area, where you may be liable to pay taxes in your host country.
These are not to deter you from making a move. Certainly, people have made the move with few to no regrets. But, before moving to any country, be sure you have clear goals, humble expectations, be diligent about your financial and tax obligations, and have a Plan B if things don’t work out as expected.
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Final Thoughts: Should You Teach English Online While Traveling?
If you are planning extended travel in one or more countries for less than one year, then you are unlikely to have more than minor difficulties organizing visas, flights, and short-term accommodations. Traveling for less than one year also minimizes your tax exposure in any country you visit. While tax laws differ from one country to another, many countries have tax treaties and stipulations for when a person becomes taxable in that country.
Things get a bit trickier when you stay out of your country and in another country for more than a year. Long-stay visas are harder to obtain without having a significant attachment in your host country.
It is your responsibility to ensure you understand tax obligations in your own country, as well as any country you intend to travel or move to. Do your due diligence before traveling and make sure you get sound professional advice on the matter.
Meet Jeremy: An American Living Abroad Who Teaches English Online
Jeremy W is an American who took the plunge and moved to The Philippines where he now lives and teaches English online. No stranger to travel, Jeremy packed his bags for Southeast Asia, doing stints in Thailand and Cambodia, before settling on The Philippines.
Jeremy didn’t initially move abroad to teach English online. Rather, he and a friend were working on a startup business in USA when they decided to look for a place where they could build their startup lean. Eventually, Jeremy decided to teach English online as a side hustle in order to finance his living costs in The Philippines instead of dipping into his savings.