Often, people move abroad at the request of their employer. And, just as often, the opportunity to be placed overseas for work is given to younger folks in the midst of their careers.
But for many, that’s not the situation.
You might be retired and looking at moving to far-flung shores… maybe you’re single. If you’d like to supplement your funds—whatever your situation—there are a few ways you can earn an income while overseas.
#1. Teach English
The country you move to will determine the demand for this service. For example, if you move to Spain, you’ll find Spanish people are eager to improve their English. While they learn in school, they don’t always have the opportunity to practice.
Schools such as International House Madrid or Hyland Language Centre, two of the largest language schools in Spain, will help you get your CELTA certificate to teach English anywhere in the world without a four-year teaching degree. TEFL is another option, though not as widely accepted.
Some people teach part time for international businesses, like BBVA, a major bank in Spain. Others become teaching assistants in schools, public or private. (In the public schools, a local has to be the lead teacher.)
On the other hand, in Portugal, where most people—especially in the tourist areas like the Algarve—speak English, there’s no need for lessons. Unless you also speak Portuguese, your language services probably won’t be needed. (They also prefer British English and would expect you to know and teach accordingly.)
#2. Start A Business
Some decide to start their own café or restaurant, but competition is fierce, so niche players fare best. Research your market like the locals do. In the Algarve, one beach town has several Irish-named restaurants that cater to Irish tourists, but some are owned and run by Portuguese with no Irish ties at all.
Import/export is another great option in many countries. In Portugal, you could try buying cork purses, handmade linens, or vinho verde wine to sell online or back in the United States. Nearly any country you visit has some kind of unique artisan craft that would sell at a premium back home.
Providing transportation services like Uber or BlaBla Car (like Uber for long distances), can be a simple way to make some money. In Portugal, however, keep in mind the expensive toll roads before mapping your route.
Storage units are also a universal need. A local company that does well in Portugal charges monthly, provides indoor and outdoor storage, and has various size units—down to one square meter.
#3. Work In The Tourism Industry
If all you need is supplemental income, or you desperately need more cash quickly, restaurants will always need chefs, cooks, and service help. If you don’t mind returning to what might have been your first job, there will be work available.
Or welcome investing travelers from a position with a Sotheby’s, ReMax, or ERA real estate agency. Be the English-speaking expert to help those looking to buy a vacation or permanent home wherever you are. In Portugal, most of these positions are commission-only, so have some savings available until you start getting sales.
Other international businesses will use native English speakers in customer service positions located in larger cities—companies like Dyson in Madrid and Booking.com in Barcelona. In Lisbon, some employers work with the employment agency, ManpowerGroup, to book service reps in English.
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#4. Online Opportunities
A business getting lots of mention lately is a “drop ship” business online: selling items that ship directly to the consumer. Using Amazon or Etsy as your selling platform seems the simplest way to begin, and you can research the necessary steps online.
You will need a wholesaler to purchase from. Alibaba is a name that will come up, a billion-dollar company in the news recently. From clothing to household items, people sell what’s hot or something they found a need for themselves.
#5. Partner With An Established Business
Starting your own business, especially without knowing the local language, takes time to get established and pushes the boundaries of your savings. Partnering with a local or U.S. company could help.
Do photography for a real estate service or work with a small, Portuguese real estate company to compete better in English with the big-name companies.
Populations are aging everywhere and caregiving companies look for workers as independent contractors. A lady I know from Florida (in her 60s) is an in-home aid in southern Portugal. For this, however, you need to know a basic level of the local language.
Many people provide their services as their own business but team up with a local company to build their name and provide more regular income.
Contract with a local hotel or fitness place to provide yoga, hiking, or meditation classes. A U.S. expat in Spain provided hiking tours in the lower Pyrenees, most recently in partnership with a U.S. travel business, Adventures in Good Company, for many years.
#6. Work For Your Supper
Help a local family or small organization with labor or service of some kind (handyman, painter, garden harvest, hostel manager, etc.), and accommodations and basic meals are provided.
While this may sound perfect for a 20-something backpacking their way around Europe (and it is), many providers are looking for experience, which makes it great for older adults who are in good health.
Workaway is one of the biggest players offering this matchup. Often, these jobs are in smaller, more rural areas, but some are city-based. Many opportunities are ongoing, both single- and couple-friendly, and located all over the world.
If you want to check out an area or are willing to move with only a suitcase or two, this is a great way to see different places for almost no cost, and by being boarded, you can save large amounts of cash, freeing up your resources for other things. If I had known about these opportunities before my move, I would have used them just to see the world.
#7. Translation Services
Not in the usual sense, like immigration or legal documents, but for things used on a daily basis, such as menus, marketing flyers, or documents catering to tourists…
Many businesses translate their marketing materials themselves. They have no idea their materials may be working against them… not sounding anything like something a true English speaker would say. A better translation could increase their income, making them seem more English-friendly. If cash is tight to pay you, you might barter for meals or services.
One caveat: In Europe, most tourist English is translated for the U.K. market, where the majority of their English speakers are from. The spellings and speech will be different, and they won’t be particularly interested in American English.
There are other options out there, as well: dogwalker, tutor, IT help… expats are doing all of these and more.
Do your homework and try to speak to others in the area, either in person or online; you’ll get plenty of inspiration from fellow expats.
And once you arrive, you’ll find ideas abound… Either market gaps beg to be filled, or you fall in love with the local handmade soap (or whatever), knowing it will easily find a customer back home.
Starting a business is never without some hoops, however large or small. Attitude is key.
If early starts are necessary to your self-defined workday, a stroll on the beach at sunset makes it easier to get up with that morning alarm.