Financial Case Study: Joanna, Online English Teacher

by Nora on May 1, 2017

In this series, we’re exploring the various careers of world travelers, and how they make ends meet financially while living abroad. Yes, financially sustainable full-time travel is possible!

 

Joanna, Online English TeacherJoanna is from a very small town in the north of Poland. After living in London for 10 years, she took a vacation to Thailand that changed her life. She packed her bags and moved to Thailand to teach English for two years. Now, she is an online English teacher in addition to blogging at The Blond Travels. Learn more about Joanna and her online English teacher career here!

 

How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I have been working remotely for a year now. During that time I moved from Thailand to Vietnam. I stayed in Da Nang for 3 months. Then, I moved to Poland for 4 months. I lived in Kraków, which is an amazing, beautiful city. And now I am back in Chiang Mai.
Before becoming an online English teacher I visited Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Laos and Indonesia. When you live in Thailand it’s very easy to travel around.
To be honest, I don’t like moving too often. I prefer to stay somewhere for a bit longer and I treat Chiang Mai as my home. Every now and then I take a week or two off and then go somewhere for a short holiday.

Please describe what you do for income.
My main income is as an online English teacher. I work for Education First, which provides me with students and I never worry if I’m going to have any classes or not.

I also help another online teacher with her workload. When she doesn’t have time to teach I take over. I like that even better as her students buy packages and I usually teach the same student for a month. This way I see their progress.
With Education First I have different students every time and as a teacher, who likes seeing them grow, I am not a great fan of that system.

How many hours per week do you work on average?
I have to complete 60 hours of lessons per month for Education First, which is about 15 hours per week. Plus, I have extra students and my blog, so I end up working a lot during the week. However, I always keep Friday afternoons and weekends for myself. I call Fridays Joanna’s Days and I always try to do something for myself then, whether it’s a pedicure or a good coffee in my favourite cafe. During weekends I try to relax, go out or go for a scooter trip outside of town.

How much money do you make?
My income has changed dramatically during the last few years. In London I used to earn almost 1,700 GBP, which is ok for the capital, but life is so expensive there that it didn’t seem a lot.
After I moved to Thailand I earned 500 GBP – what a difference, right? But this was enough to pay for accommodation, food, entertainment and other things. I only had to use my savings for any longer holidays.
Now my income varies. On a good month I earn 600 GBP from my classes that I do for Education First. If I have another private student then that’s around 250 GBP extra.
I don’t earn that much from the blog at the moment. It’s still pretty new and I’m working on developing it. Again, it varies from month to month, but I can say that I earn around 50 GBP a month from my affiliate marketing and sometimes I get something extra, like a sponsored post or an ad that pays 100 GBP.
However, there are months when I earn close to nothing as I don’t have time to do lessons because I travel. So, I always need to plan for such situations.

Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
I do earn enough to sustain my lifestyle. Of course, I would love to have a more stable income, but I am still working towards that.
No matter how much money I earn in a particular month, I always (no matter what) put aside some money. It doesn’t matter if it’s 200 GBP, or 10 – having savings is very important to me. I have one savings account and one retirement plan, where I can put away as much as I want and whenever I want to. I feel safe knowing that I have a back up for unexpected expenses. (See also: Having an Emergency Fund While Traveling

What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
I love two things about it: the sense of freedom and working on something I feel passionate about.
As mentioned before, I work a lot. I actually haven’t worked so much ever before, but I feel free at the same time. I can set my schedule as I want to and I can take days off whenever I feel like it. I also like to treat myself after a whole week of hard work. I love knowing that I gave my best to something and now I can have some time for myself.
When I lived in London I believed that I didn’t have any hobbies and passions. I liked reading books, but that isn’t anything special. Only recently I discovered that not only I have something I really enjoy doing, but I have some pretty good ideas on how to make money and I’m now working on achieving my goals.

What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
Chiang Mai is my home and this is where I feel happy. The challenge here is the visa. When I taught at school it was easy – I had an annual non-immigrant visa that I could renew every year. Now, I have to think of ways how I can stay here legally and it’s not easy. Thai immigration laws are very strict.

What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
I know exactly what I want to achieve.
I would love to develop my blog even more and grow my income from affiliate marketing. I want it to be a source of information to others, especially when it comes to travelling and living in Thailand.
As I said before, I’ve just opened my own online English teacher company. It focuses on Polish students at the moment, but I will have an English version of the site. I am the only teacher now, but my plan is to develop it and have a group of native and non-native teachers that could teach conversational English. I don’t want to have a huge company, but big enough to secure a stable income every month.
I would love to spend my summers in my town, in Łeba, where I would have my own small hotel, or maybe a few rooms to rent. Then I would like to be able to travel a little and then stay in Chiang Mai for the winter. I really don’t need much. I don’t want to stay in luxurious places and have designer clothes. I just want to be able to live in places I love and have a lot of business projects I can work on.

Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
I would say – plan ahead first. Don’t quit your job and set off because everyone says you can. Save money, have some clients to work for and then go and work remotely. (See also: Before You Quit Your Day Job…)
Savings are very important, especially when you work for yourself. Make sure that you always have a back up. (See also: Managing Your Savings Accounts)

 
Want to know more about how to design your life so you can earn money while traveling the world? Check out Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tiffany May 1, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Hey Joanna! Nice to meet you and great interview! I know what you mean about earning more yet at the same time living in a more expensive place. Good for you on figuring out hot to sustain yourself while also growing! I hope it keeps going well for you. 🙂

Reply

2 Joanna Szreder May 2, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Hi Tiffany, nice to meet you too!
Thank you very much for your kind words. All the best to you, too!

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3 Dave May 2, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Love this. Good for her on moving to Thailand! It’s always cool to see how other people are moving abroad and making it work.

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4 Joanna Szreder May 8, 2017 at 1:07 am

Thanks, Dave. Moving to Thailand has been the best decision ever 🙂

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5 Simona June 11, 2017 at 2:21 am

Dear Joanna,
it is good to read about what you are doing. This was a dream for me but now I know I can plan and make it come true in a sustainable way. So my point is, writing can be really inspiring for other people, not only your job. thank you.

Reply

6 Sasha June 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Great to hear from another online English teacher living their dreams! My wife and I taught in China for over 5 years and moved to online teaching last year to be able to travel more. I can’t say I blame you for wanting to stay in Chiang Mai. It’s a great city with lots to offer. You’re right about Thai immigration being tough. We had the same issue in Bali. That’s why we’re now in Mexico where US citizens can stay 6 months at a time. So much easier than visa runs every month!

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