Guest posting by Warren Archer – 18 March 2013
The most common way to earn a crust in Thailand as a foreigner is by teaching English. While teaching can be a very rewarding career, it does have its limitations:
- You may need a university degree – That leaves people without a higher education with virtually no job prospects in Thailand, unless they have enough money to set up a bar/restaurant/cafe in Thailand or working for a multinational in Bangkok.
- You have to work set hours – This isn’t so unreasonable, as this is what you might be doing back in your home country, but if you really want to come to Thailand to break free of constraints, then flexibility in your hours can be important.
- You may not be given enough hours – Especially if you’re starting out, the school may just trial you by giving you a few classes a week – if you’ve already been foolish enough to blow all of your money by paying in Thailand, only to realise you want to stay, this may mean eating Mama Noodles and staying in a 100 baht guesthouse until you can get back on your feet (after the school lets you go full-time).
- You need a TEFL certificate – This can be difficult if you don’t have the funds, it also puts time between you making money, and may be a few extra weeks of having to hold off before you can start ‘living again’.
Making a living online can be very lucrative. While making $5-$10 an hour online in a western country is certainly not be enough to live off, it is in Thailand. The perks are pretty obvious, but I’ll list some here:
- No need to be well-groomed – Almost any other job a foreigner could have in Thailand will require at least a neatly ironed button-up shirt. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be in cool clothing all year round, especially in the south. If you’re working from a computer all day, you can even work naked if you so please!
- Set your own hours – Want to spend your nights boozing it away in bars? You can wake up at midday and work through until 6 or 8PM. Prefer to spend your days underwater pursuing your passion for scuba diving? You can start work at 5PM and be in bed by midnight. There’s so much to experience in Thailand, it can be a shame if you’re locked into set hours at a school, office or even your own bar (which most certainly will not run itself).
- Unlimited earning potential – Teaching jobs have a price ceiling of probably no more than 50, 000 baht a month (and that would be a lot for an English teacher here). Depending on how hard working and entrepreneurial you are, you could be making many thousands of US dollars per month. Some expats get along just fine living in a cheap apartment, eating street food (or normal Thai restaurants) and watching movies or reading books as entertainment. However, if you have a taste for European restaurants, want a big car and an even bigger house/apartment, a teacher’s salary probably isn’t for you.
- Tax advantages – If you are billing people back in your home country, but using a Thai company to receive funds, you could be paying as low as 0% tax, with a maximum of 23%. Compare that to your home country, and this may be as much as 40% or more. This may not work for all nationals though, as some have to pay taxes to their home country regardless. But it’s definitely worth looking into, and possibly even surrendering your citizenship and become a Thai citizen if you’re in it for the long haul. This is particularly easy if you’re paid by PayPal or a similar service.
The essential ingredient for working online and earning money is personal self confidence. If you have that and a little gumption, you can make it work.
The best way to make money, with the lowest barrier to entry for me, would have to be writing content. By signing up for a service like Textbroker, you can satisfy the copy-writing needs of thousands of companies that need content delivered fast. Assuming you are a half decent writer, you can start off on 2.2 cents a word. If you were able to pump out 4 articles a day, of 500 words each (which is about one-third the size of this article), this would equate to $50+ a day for 2-4 hours work. And that’s not even taking into account that ‘professional authors can make 6.7 cents a word, effectively tripling your income to $150+ a day for 2-4 hours work.
In my early days copy-writing, I was lucky enough to get myself into a position where I was earning ten cents a word. This meant that I was spending about two hours a day working; the rest of my days were made up of trekking, reading books, playing guitar and boozing all night. By the time I had written a few sentences, I had already paid for my day’s rent at the guesthouse (which included WiFi), and my overheads were virtually nil. All I needed was an old laptop and Google Docs, which is free!
Another way to making money is online betting. While trying to live off online betting profits in Australia, America or the UK may be hard or impossible initially, because of the steep learning curve; I believe it is much easier to do in Thailand.
Because you basically have to pay to learn from your mistakes in the early days of an online poker career, it doesn’t help that you also have to pay exorbitant rent and other expenses in your home country. Say you’re prepared to wager (and lose) $25 a day playing poker, that’s not so bad if your other expenses are only $15-$25 a day, if it has always been your dream to play poker full-time to try out the lifestyle.
Even if you manage to play profitably in your home country, you may still have to give up on your dream of playing full-time. For instance, if you manage to get to the point in your playing where you’re able to pull in $50 a day, that will not necessarily be enough to live off comfortably in the west. But if you were able to do that in Thailand, that would be enough to live off easily, and you would also be able to live out your dream of playing poker all day, instead of pushing papers.
Of course, none of this applies if you just plain suck at poker. But these same principles apply to horse racing, Forex trading or day trading stocks. If you’re currently at the level where you’re only able to make enough money from these activities in your home country to the point where you can only pay ½ or even only ¼ of your expenses, it may be worth it moving to Thailand and trying to make a full time go of it, as your living costs will be substantially lower.
Another option is to cultivate a skill in Thailand that can be provided to people back in the west, but with the benefit of you having lower overheads. This could be graphic design, web development, programming and so on.
If you have a nest egg, you can even come over and learn the craft while you’re here. How does renting an apartment with a pool for $10 a day sound, while learning HTML for free at W3 Schools online? Or perhaps your artistic talent got drained after university, when you were forced to take up an office job to pay back your student loans. It’s possible you could come to Thailand with a couple of grand to live off, and try your hand at graphic design work on sites such as Fiverr or eLance, just slowly taking it one client at a time. Chances are, you’re going to rebuild your nest egg and go above and beyond your financial expectations before you go bust.
These are just a few ideas for making a living online in the Land of Smiles, I assure you there’s more, and you just have to look to your current skill set and see how that can be applied to the online world.
If you have other ideas for making money online or otherwise in Thailand, please share your information in the comments below.