Updated: May 25
How My Salary Changed Going from Teaching Abroad to Freelancing to Working Remotely Full Time
One thing that always comes up when talking about this "unconventional" lifestyle of living and working abroad is money. Some of the most frequently asked questions are:
How do you afford to travel so much?
What do you do for work that gives you freedom to travel?
Where do you find work opportunities abroad/online?
I've been able to consistently find ways to work abroad and online around the world, but it's not a walk in the park. Getting into teaching abroad required a lot of research, preparing my resume, and interviewing... a lot. There wasn't a one-stop shop resource to show me how to secure teaching positions abroad, but that's why I created my Guide to Teaching Abroad.
I started my journey of teaching abroad as a volunteer English teacher. The time I spent volunteering was extremely rewarding and gave me the experience I needed to make that move into full-time teaching. In the span of a year, I spent three months in Italy and five months in Senegal. I made exactly zero dollars, but gained so much more than money. This time is where I fell in love with life abroad, tried dozens of different foods, made countless connections, tried a bunch of new things and found something that truly made me happy.
After a year of volunteering as an English teacher, it was time to secure the bag. Teaching abroad was my first experience of actually making money while living abroad. I spent my last month in Senegal using my free time to apply and interview for jobs around the world... literally. After a bunch of emails, applications and Zoom calls, I had my top two offers to choose from. The first was for a position in Taiwan and the second was for one in South Korea. As you probably already know, I chose South Korea.
A couple weeks later, I had flown back to the States, got my visa, and was getting ready to hop on another one way flight to a country I'd never been to before. The only difference was this time I wasn't paying for the flight and I was actually going to be making money. Major money moves, okay?
Teaching in South Korea was a rollercoaster of an experience, but one thing is for sure: the bag was secured. While there, I got a free apartment and had basically no bills. Pretty much all of my salary was going right into my pocket. I was eating out, traveling the country, snowboarding, and everything in between while still saving thousands.
All the Details on How I Saved Over $15K During My Year in South Korea
Once I started making money going back to volunteering wasn't on my mind. After a year of teaching in South Korea I moved to Haiti to continue teaching abroad and securing the bag. The cost of living was significantly lower so even though I had more bills, I was still able to save my coins.
Then, I did something a little wild...
I quit teaching.
After three years of teaching abroad I decided to take another leap of faith to continue chasing my dream lifestyle. Throughout 2021, I started to get into remote work and by the end of the year, I quit my highest paying job to be a digital nomad. Teaching showed me that life abroad was possible and, now, I wanted to go after being completely location independent. This lead me to getting into the freelance game.
✨Cue a $10K increase in salary✨
Freelancing was a completely different experience for me and, take it from me, it's not for the weak. From managing different clients to chasing down invoices, it can be a lot. Before quitting my teaching job, I made sure to have enough clients to replace my salary and provide a little bit of stability, but every month was a wild card even with consistent clients. Sometimes invoices go unpaid, projects get put on hold, clients realize they don't want to pay for the work, and so on.
Like I said, freelancing is not a walk in the park.
Even with all the chaos that comes with freelancing, I was able to try a bunch of different remote jobs, learn new skills, increase my salary, and achieve one of my big goals of being location independent. I spent 2022 living out my digital nomad dreams in México and Costa Rica by moving to new places on a monthly basis. Throughout the year I worked from Airbnbs, restaurants, cafes, poolside, hostels, and everything in between. I always wanted to try that lifestyle and, now, I can say that I have.
I can also definitively say that it's not for me.
Slow travel was always my go to when moving abroad and experiencing a more fast paced style of traveling just reinforced that for me. Spending one month in a destination wasn't long enough for me and made me feel like I was constantly on the move. I like to move somewhere and sit down, establish a routine, make friends, really learn my way around and immerse myself into a new way of life. Moving every month didn't allow me to do that on the level I want to so I decided to take another leap of faith...
Towards the end of 2022 I starting closing my freelancing contracts (fancy way of saying I quit again 🤣). Freelancing had wore me out and I was ready for a change of pace.
So I started job hunting for full time remote positions in a new industry: marketing and communications.
Freelancing was chaotic, but in the midst of it all I found something that I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue. As a freelancer, I had the freedom to take on different projects and responsibilities that were interesting to me. I was able to pitch my job description instead of the other way around. This allowed me to gain experience in professional communications, marketing, copywriting, graphic design, and social media (aside from my unhinged personal accounts 😭).
Now, I had the transferable skills to break into a new industry as a full time employee with a stable income, insurance (cries in American healthcare) and benefits without sacrificing the freedom I found in being location independent and in control of my schedule.
I used all my tips and tricks in my Guide to Transitioning into Remote Work to secure a full time remote position working in marketing and communications. I also got a super fun part time gig to continue learning and establishing myself as a digital marketing professional.
✨Cue a $50K increase in salary AND benefits✨
Yes, you read that right. I'm all about transparency and being real with you. I went into my job search with goals in mind and was firm. After hundreds of applications, countless rejections, and way to many Zoom links, I found exactly what I was looking for and then some. I secured my position then bought a one way flight out the country ✈️
As a salaried employee, I don't have to worry about chasing down invoices or fighting for new contracts. I know when my money is going to hit and it does like clockwork. I don't have to rely on my parents for insurance and have access to more health benefits. I feel valued at work and my jobs align with me personally.
During my three months of job hunting, I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found my prince. For the majority of us job hunting is a long game. We can’t just call Daddy CEO to get us in the door 😩
This job hunt was especially a challenge because I was trying to break into a new industry. I had to show people what I was capable of… via Zoom 😂 I also was very intentional in my search and didn’t want to settle for any ole position. The position, organization and people all had to pass the vibe check.
A lot of people share the great news that they got a new job, but tend to leave out the fact that it was weeks, months, or even years in the making. Me? Imma show it ALL.
Here's a little overview of my job hunting timeline:
First Application: 8/24/2022
First Interview: 9/2/2022
Received First Offer: 12/10/2022
Accepted Offer: 12/17/2022
First Day of Work: 1/2/2023
Again, transparency is key. Job hunting is not for the weak & it almost took me out a couple of times. It wasn't an overnight process, but it was worth it in the end.
Salary has always been a taboo topic, but Gen Z is here to normalize talking about how much we make and fighting for what we deserve. No more secretly getting paid less than John, but doing twice the work ✌🏾
My journey didn't take the typical career path, but every experience contributed to the who I am today. From working through language barriers to being my own supervisor as a freelancer, everything put together produced the marketing and communications professional I am today.
Throughout my career, I've had plenty of salary changes, but, luckily, they've all been in the right direction. I plan to continue learning, developing, and establishing myself in this new industry I'm loving so much! I'm already growing and can't wait to see what's next on my journey. After all, I'm always looking for exciting opportunities to experience something new.
There are so many ways to secure the bag while traveling and working abroad. I've tried three different ways and each one was a different experience.
Now, I'm sharing what I learned along the way so you can do it too!
Drop any questions you have in the comments 👇🏾