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Reader Question: How Do You Earn a Living Abroad?

blogging-abroadLast week, a reader wanted to know how we earn our living here. We are in a fairly unique situation compared to most expats – at least those in Cuenca. The majority of expats here are retired. They receive a monthly income from pensions or investments and don’t worry too much about their income.

When we moved to Ecuador, it was for a set number of years – we hoped for 2-3 years minimum, as long as the expenses were what we projected. After than, we would run out of money and go back to Canada. Returning wasn’t our goal – it was our worst case scenario. We planned on finding work and staying here indefinitely – which is what we have done.

Here is the question:

Hello Bryan & Dena,

I really enjoy your web site and all of the posts. The new one on health was very enlightening. I have been very interested in the costs of living abroad and have found your site very informative.

I hate to be so personal but how are you generating income to live down there? I know you have the blog and I hope that it with ads is paying you a bunch. Are either of you also working there or via computer back in Canada? Are you writers?

Are you able to get by just writing and living/enjoying life there? How is a typical day for you — not a weekend day but a “work” day?

Feel free to ignore my questions, but to a certain extent I am living vicariously through you. I am a few years off from retirement but like the idea of living elsewhere for at least part of the year.

Thanks for your hard work and interesting site!

So, how do we earn our living? Its a bit of a long answer, but here goes, for anyone interested.

Project #1: GringosAbroad.com

What started out as destination-ecuador.com (boring, I know) was changed into what it is now: GringosAbroad.com Our initial plan was to write and make revenue from advertising earned on our travel blog. The advertising revenue hasn’t really developed to the level we planned, but we are making money from the project.

As a result of our travel / expat site we were hired by About.com. See Project #2. It was proof that we knew how to run an online business.

Also, through GringosAbroad we met Hernan Rodas, the founder of Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges. He had been following GringosAbroad on Twitter for a while and he asked us if we would like to visit the Galapagos Islands in return for some writing. See Project #3 for more information.

So while we still don’t make enough to maintain our lifestyle by means of GringosAbroad, it has opened up many opportunities for us. And we have plans to generate some revenue from it over the next few months. UPDATE (February 2, 2013): By making some small adjustments, our site is now generating solid revenue. Here is how we make money with our travel blog.

Project #2: About.com

After nine months in Ecuador, we finally were hired. We had applied for a number of jobs online and in April of 2010 I was hired by About.com as their online business expert. I’ve now been with them for more than two years.

What type of work does this entail? Since beginning, I’ve been through a few contract changes but now, I’m writing 8 articles per month, plus roughly that many blog posts and a weekly newsletter. I also maintain my site section and update content as need be. Could you write for About.com? Check out their Be a Guide site and see what topics are available.

about-online-business-screenshot

Project #3: Red Mangrove Galapagos Blog

As mentioned above, we met Hernan Rodas through our blog and we began chatting via Twitter. After our initial Galapagos trip, Hernan asked us to setup and run a blog for his company (it has become the Red Mangrove Galapagos Travel Blog). He gave us freedom to write in our own style and about the topics we wanted to cover. This is very uncommon for a corporate blog. Normally everything is sanitized and run through marketing, but we were given a writing assignment without a muzzle. And we get to cover the Galapagos. Contract blogging doesn’t get any better than this. And 2 months ago we went to the Galapagos for a second time – to take pictures, create videos and take some more excursions. Who knew that research could be so fun?

red-mangrove-galapagos-blog

In addition, Dena has done some writing for International Living and for About.com. I have designed a few websites and make some money from some affiliate marketing projects.

UPDATE (February 2, 2013): We have added a fourth project, BloggerAbroad.com where we share and teach how to make money blogging.

I know what you’re thinking: Why do you work so much?

How Much Time Does This All Take?

Although some weeks we end up working all 5 days, this is unusual. On a normal week (although those haven’t been very common this past year) I work about 3 days per week and Dena works about 1+ days. The rest of the time we have for our family and our interests.

What about you? What do you do to earn a living abroad?

 

An article by

Bryan is a journalist, photographer, expat and dad. He writes for Gringos Abroad (Ecuador travel & living) and Blogger Abroad (run an online business abroad). He also enjoys living in Southern Ecuador (South America) with his wife and daughter. Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn. Work with Bryan & Dena

More about: Our Perspective, Working Abroad

{ 42 comments… add one }

  • Jeff October 13, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Hello,
    First things first – what a great site and resource. I have learned a lot in the week or so since I came across this site – great job! My wife and I (no kids) are considering a 6-12mo sabbatical to Ecuador in 2015. The most polarizing aspect of living there (vs Chicago where we are today) is the cost of living, and more specifically the cost of real estate.

    The though of purchasing a large home with a guest house (living in guest house, rent home out) while we are living in Ecuador has crossed my mind several times. However, I cannot find many good resources on what is required to purchase real estate and what I need to consider as I think of becoming a landlord.

    Does anyone have experiencing with purchasing and/or renting out homes in Ecuador? I’d love to learn more on this topic to really assess the viability of it. Thanks in advance for any responses.

    Jeff

    Reply
  • Guy December 25, 2012, 12:44 am

    I just Stumbled onto your site. It is Great. Thank You for all the Great information. My Question is. What is the average income of the locals. Is their any resentment from them toward independant ( Gringos )? Please e-mail me also to my e-mail address. Thank You Guy

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines December 25, 2012, 6:50 am

      The minimum wage for 2013 was just announced and it is $318 per month. Many make more than that – many make multiple times more than we do. I haven’t heard of resentment on any scale but I’m sure it exists just like everywhere else. I don’t see it as any real concern.

      Thanks Guy! Love the feedback.

      Reply
    • Jakob December 25, 2012, 9:26 pm

      There is no resentment. Ecuadorians are very welcoming as a nation. We actually could all learn a lesson in hospitality from them. Salaries are much lower than in North America. I could expect roughly 20% of the salary I make in Canada in my field of expertise, but I am still thinking about cutting my ties to the developed world since cost of living is much less and quality of life is defined by much more than money.

      Reply
  • Heidi Wagoner December 3, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Bryan and Deena, I have been following you for over a year, as we were planning our escape similar to yours. We have been in Spain for 3 months now and have enough saved for about 2 yrs. We did look into Cuenca, because of you… but decided we wanted to start in Europe. We are still considering moving there for our 2nd year, if finances are running low. We just finished our 100th post on our blog and are looking into trying to generate an income as well. This way we can supplement and hopefully extend. I really appreciate you sharing your details, as it helps with guiding us and giving us ideas. I really just wanted to say thank you!

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines December 6, 2012, 6:54 am

      Hi Heidi, congratulations on your move! Making money abroad can be a challenge. Blogging turned out to be the best for us. We’ve actually got a new project on the go (launching within the month) to help expats/travelers earn a living abroad. We’ll announce it here.

      It’s funny – Europe is on our list but haven’t gotten there yet…

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Julie October 14, 2012, 6:40 am

    My remote job depends solely on the availibility of an EXCELLENT internet connection as I need to connect a phone to the line. Can you please comment on access / speed / cost / dependability of Internet in Cuenca. Thank you! PS: Visited Cuenca in 2006 and fell in love! We were back in Quito this year and are at the beginning of our research stage with plans for an eventual move.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 16, 2012, 7:29 am

      Hi Julie – the internet is fine, but outages happen on a weekly basis. We have cabled internet and a usb modem as backup. TV Cable is the best provider we’ve used so far. Their speed ranges from 1.7 – 16 MB. We use their 6.1MB and it works well for what we need.

      Reply
  • William Perry October 12, 2012, 11:53 pm

    Hi All – I am so happy to have found this site. After being a psychologist here in San Francisco for over 20 years I have decided to move to Ecuador. But I imagine there aren’t enough expats to have much of a practice in Cuenca. Perhaps Quito? Thanks, and keep up the great work, I love your blog!

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 14, 2012, 6:36 am

      I really don’t know. There are estimates of 3000-5000 expats in Cuenca. I don’t know numbers for Quito.

      Reply
  • Chad September 19, 2012, 5:39 pm

    I have been researching to find out if American Nurses can be employed in Ecuador/Cuenca. I am a bilingual RN. I am also curious what the pay would be. Do you have any contacts that would be able to give me some information? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jakob September 20, 2012, 12:29 pm

      My sister in law is a RN in Spain. She recently inquired what it would take for her to work as a nurse in Ecuador as she is planning to move back. They gave her a series of country specific training courses she would have to complete (I do not have the list right now) to certify the skills she obtained abroad. It would also be different depending on whether you want to be “auxiliar” (assistant) or fully licensed. I have found that medical professions are usually highly regulated in any country which implies additional training when you obtained your skills abroad.

      From a quick search of job postings salary range seems to be around $500 a month for assistant nurses, and closer to $1000 a month if you are fully licensed. This is a reasonable middle class salary in Ecuador. However, there are regional differences. Cuenca usually pays less than Quito or Guayaquil.

      Here is a recent job posting looking for an “Auxiliar de Enfermeria” in Cuenca that gives you some idea about the prerequisites:

      BAXTER ECUADOR S.A
      Publicado 12 de septiembre de 2012
      Puesto AUXILIAR DE ENFERMERIA– CUENCA
      Área Salud
      Tipo de puesto Full-time
      Sexo Indistinto
      Vacantes 1
      Salario u$s500 bruto por mes
      Lugar de trabajo Cuenca, Azuay

      Baxter Ecuador requiere contratar una Técnico en Enferemería para la ciudad de Cuenca, que cumpla con el siguiente perfil:

      Perfil

      – Mínimo bachiller y contar titulo de Auxiliar de Enfermería otorgado por una Institucion acreditada y/o refrendada por el Ministerio de Salud Pública (minimo un año o 300 horas)

      So, your post-secondary education in nursing has to be legalized by the Ministry of Public Health. If you have an academic degree in your profession, your first step to get it recognized in Ecuador is registering it with the SENESCYT (Secretaria Nacional de Educacion Superior, Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion, http://www.senescyt.gob.ec). This is as much as I know, I hope you find what you are looking for.

      Reply
      • Bryan Haines September 21, 2012, 5:45 am

        Thanks for sharing this – it’s great info!

        Bryan

        Reply
  • Gary August 1, 2012, 9:16 pm

    I’m curious if you ever hear of accounting jobs for expats. I really only want to live on my savings but would welcome some work. Also because I’m not retirement age does buying a house quality for an investor visa? Is there a minimum amount to “invest” to get an investor visa?

    Thanks Much

    Reply
    • Jakob August 2, 2012, 3:56 pm

      If you think locally you would have to get the Contador Publico Autorizado designation to be able to work as an accountant in Ecuador. There would be plenty of work. I am not sure about the availability of remote work for US or Canadian clients.

      Reply
  • Tes Stone July 25, 2012, 4:36 pm

    Greetings Bryan Deena and all. I saw you on HGTV’s Househunters Int’l. about a year ago. My husband & I’d been eyeing Belize as a retirement country. We decided against that country and I discovered Gringosabroad.com. Because we slowed down a bit in our search, I stopped reading. Having seen a re-run of the HGTV show, I am back because it really is the most informative, honest and enjoyable of any of the travel blogs. Your information is so down-to-earth and useable. And most important, your other readers are graceous and don’t seem to have an “ax to grind” as so many other bloggers do these days. In fact, you’ve all renewed my interest in Cuenca which is now back on my list of possibilities. I’m sure I’ll have more questions/comments in the near future. Good luck to you all.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 25, 2012, 6:19 pm

      Thank you for your kind comments Tes. We really appreciate it.

      Its true that our readers are generally positive and add significantly to the conversation. Of course, it depends on the topic – we’ve had our share of slam/attack comments too. We try to cover things in a neutral way so as to inform and not offend.

      We are so happy to hear that you are enjoying the site. We’ve got lots planned for the coming months.

      All the best on your plans,

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Kathy July 24, 2012, 4:23 pm

    I was thumbing through your website earlier and saw some books being advertised for sale. Now, I cannot find them. One of the books was about teaching English and the other was something about making money with a travel blog. I kept that in mind to click on it later and now I can’t find it again. Was one of them “Make Money Blogging – Work Anywhere Do Anything”? And was the other one “English Teacher’s Overseas”? These were not Google Ads – I just cannot find the page again.

    Have you actually used these resources to help you?

    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction as both of these areas – travel writing/blogging/photography and teaching English interest me.

    Reply
  • Connor Davies July 24, 2012, 7:36 am

    There are plenty of ways to make money remotely when living or traveling abroad, and the opportunities keep on growing. I have made my living as a freelance writer, English teacher, and marketer among other things for a number of years now, and I am always looking into new ways to earn from overseas.

    Bryan and Dena, it sounds like you have it sorted! I can’t say I’ve been invited to blog for any exotic companies, but there are a lot of other, perhaps less glamorous, ways to earn a living no matter where you are in the world.

    It is also becoming more normal for companies to hire workers remotely, and I think that this is only going to make it easier over the coming years for digital nomads and other people who want to work from overseas.

    Reply
    • Jakob July 24, 2012, 10:41 am

      Absolutely. Many Canadian and US software firms hire virtual employees (employees without an office). Those people work from wherever. This model is especially popular for consulting positions, many of my colleagues are virtual and we don’t really know where they are.

      The only problem is that customers sometimes want you to come to their premises at least for project kick off. They will pay you a flight within North America, but not from Ecuador, so I would have to cover Guayaquil – Miami out of my own pocket. This is why I try to work from Ecuador (usually Manabi) when I know I won’t have to travel for a while. If I do have business travel on the agenda I work out of my home in Canada and travel from there. Most of my work is US based for virtually any organization, private, government, even United Nations. I work for a Canadian software company.

      The main reason why my colleagues don’t work from Ecuador like me is because they don’t feel comfortable handling the risk. Projects have hard deadlines, meetings have to be observed and solutions have to be delivered. You cannot tell a customer that you could not connect with them because the internet was down for example and then be in Ecuador. My employer would immediately be on top of me if that happened and order me back to Canada. In other words, you have to be 100% sure that your arrangement is going to work the way you need it to. This requires a high level of immersion in the host country, you have to be able to handle tech support and sales reps for your internet connection and you have to know the infrastructure very well beforehand, so that you are not surprised by an unreliable connection. As an example, I had a planned internet outage between 2pm – 5pm every day for a week as the provider was maintaining the lines in anticipation of a holiday that would bring tourists to Manabi. Those little things can kill you professionally if you are not prepared.

      Reply
  • Aaron Evans July 20, 2012, 4:34 pm

    I’m a computer programmer with specialized skills, so I was able to find remote work, but I found that it can often start out at close to local wages — since I’m often competing against people from Asia & eastern Europe who have similar costs of living to Ecuador.

    After several months of hard work and projects where I didn’t get paid, or got paid very little, I was able to make a comfortable living working from our home in Cuenca, and even hire an Ecuadorean part time to help on some of my projects.

    I was making about 1/4 what I was used to back home, but my living expenses were also only a quarter of what they were in Seattle, so it evened out, but I was still working full time + in front of a computer.

    I realize this option isn’t available for everyone, but there is more and more work that can be done remotely, or freelance. The real battle is in finding someone who will take the chance on a remote worker.

    Having a blog or portfolio that demonstrates your skills may not generate money, but can help establish your credibility. My blog started out as a travel update for friends and family, but then morphed into a technology site where I write about my own problems and their solutions. Participating in online communities is another good way to get the word out and build goodwill. Answering questions in forums, joining mailing lists on the topic of your expertise, etc., networking on twitter, etc. are all good, but don’t expect them to pay off in dollars, or immediate contracts.

    We recently returned to the USA, so my wife could be closer to family and have a baby, but we hope to go back to Ecuador again. In the mean time, I’ll continue networking, blogging, and building my reputation.

    Reply
  • trc July 15, 2012, 9:11 am

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for supplying these details.

    Reply
  • Brad McKee July 13, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    My wife and I have enjoyed reading your thread and thought you might have a moment to comment on a question we have. We have been considering a move to Ecuador at least for a time and would need to work a bit for living expenses. We are professional musicians who have worked internationally in the past in various restaurants, hotels and resorts. Most of our international experience has been in Vietnam where our audiences were generally local Vietnamese as well as international tourists. We do not work with a “booking agency” but have found opportunities by physically approaching Hotel management, restaurant owners and by word of mouth. We have decided that we want to live internationally full-time using our music skills and experience to support us along the way. We have already, for several years, adopted a modest lifestyle and prefer experience over material possessions. With your experience of living in Ecuador do you think there is a market for an American couple who perform classic hits from the 60’s and 70’s as well as original music in one of the larger cities, or the tourist areas on the coast of Ecuador? We are not looking to make a bundle just enough to support a meager life-style! We are in our upper-middle ages and will not have a retirement pension to count on at any time. Therefore we plan to need to work (hopefully in what we love) for the rest of our lives.

    Thanks for any input you have on this idea…

    Brad

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 14, 2012, 7:33 am

      Hi Brad, sounds like a great idea. I really don’t know the music scene here. I know there are some restaurants in Cuenca that have live music once or twice per week.

      Maybe another reader will be able to help with this question?

      Bryan

      Reply
      • Brad McKee July 15, 2012, 11:43 am

        Thanks for your reply Bryan. I’ll check into the link you provided. We are enjoying your site, lots of good information! If you would like to check us out you can find us at http://www.musicalnomads.com

        Brad

        Reply
        • Bryan Haines July 15, 2012, 11:48 am

          Thanks Brad – site looks good. All the best on your plans!

          Reply
  • Lenny Charnoff July 12, 2012, 4:18 pm

    Great conversation. My wife and I have been in Cuenca for 14 months. Initially, I thought I would be completely retired. I have a teaching and high tech background(Apple and LG). I started the IPad Users group and do some one/one tutoring on Mac/IOS devices. I also get paid for some video assignments.

    It’s not added income but not nearly enough to live on.

    For the record my wife and I love it in Cuenca and plan to make this our permanent home.

    A few obsevations. I walk everyday(3+ miles), participate in Tennis, Swimming. I’m a member of the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce and participate in 2 active Poker Games both Cuencano and Expat.

    This is an unofficial guess but I don’t think there are more than 2000 full time expats(with valid Cedulas) in Cuenca.

    That’s a small market to make a full time living on. Not that it can’t be done because there are several very successful businesses.

    Re: Marketing to Ecuadorians. First, I think you have to be bi-lingual or hire someone that is bi-lingual. Second, I think you need to allocate a couple of years before you really know the business community.

    Looking forward to reading more on this thread.

    Reply
  • Michael Berger July 11, 2012, 11:36 pm

    We have a traditional family in which my Ecuadorian wife keeps the house and takes care of our daughter while I work six days a week. We would like to slow down a bit to be able to spend 4 days a week in Cuenca working and have three days off to spend out in the country every week. If you guys are able to get by working four day weeks then hopefully so should we!

    Reply
  • Jakob July 11, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Some great ideas here, but I do ask myself why all of you are so focused on the expat community in terms of making a living. That greatly limits your choices. Ecuador is in need of many skills and many expats would find work with local companies if they looked. Foreign education and experience are very valued.
    You can start at http://www.multitrabajos.com

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 11, 2012, 5:45 pm

      Hi Jakob – you make a very good point, this is the market often targeted by working expats. Either in translation, relocation assistance or real estate sales.

      Aside from this blog, we don’t cater to the expat community at all. With About.com, our primary readership are small US businesses. With Red Mangrove, the readership is primarily foreign tourists. Expats (in Ecuador) make an almost insignificant percentage of Galapagos tourists – at least in terms of traveling with a tour operator. I’m very proud of this site, as it is generating revenue and jobs here in Ecuador and promoting one of the most impressive places on the planet.

      And GringosAbroad has been more a labor of love than a profitable venture. While we are generating some advertising revenue, but it doesn’t even come close to the time invested – both to start or maintain the site. Our work just sort of evolved over time. We decided on opportunities as they came along, as to what worked with our goals. We are very happy with the mix of tourism, relocation and business writing that we are doing. More than 100,000 people read our stuff every month. And all of our content is free.

      Thanks for sharing the link – I think it will help many people.

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Mary Jo Burke July 11, 2012, 3:39 pm

    There are a number of legitimate online writing opportunities, but many of them pay very little.Others will not allow you to work outside the US. One which I occasionally work for is textbroker.com, which can pay up to 2 cents per word. If someone likes your writing, they can contact you directly and pay more. They deposit your earnings into your PayPal account, although each deposit must be a minimum of $10. You won’t make a lot, but it’s helped me save for travel.

    Reply
  • peter July 11, 2012, 3:26 pm

    Always good reading-thanks. Any thoughts on my working as a professional photographer probably mainly to ex-pat market, but also to Spanish speaking locals? -Comments appreciated.

    Reply
  • Jerry July 11, 2012, 2:08 pm

    I enjoyed your article about making a living abroad. I have Question, do you know of any photographers making a living in Ecuador? I do not mean with any of the locals. As an online business or selling to travel mags., sites etc. Just curious I am about 1 1/2 year away from pension. but would need to supplement it to live a little more comfortable I worked for myself most of my life. Any info would be appreciated.

    Jerry

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 11, 2012, 5:33 pm

      Good question Jerry, I don’t know. There are a few expats that are photographers, but I don’t know if they are making a living with it. In terms of photography opportunities, there are many. It really is a question of having a buyer, or an agency to sell through.

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Susan Blair July 11, 2012, 12:40 pm

    This is just what grandma asked for. I have purchased a townhouse in Gualaceo. A quick 30 minute ride to Cuenca. My plan is to retire there in Feb 2013.
    I am not sure what I will do with my free time after 30 years of nursing, but I sure look forward to it. May need the assistance of your previous guest.
    I look forward to meeting with all in Cuenca soon.
    Keep up the excellent work!
    Susan

    Reply
  • Fran Yates July 11, 2012, 11:00 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article re: making money in Ecuador. I applaud the gentlemen who was bold enough to ask, “How do you earn your living?” I have wondered but decided against asking, for fear of offended. I do NOT have any plans to try and do the same, but rejoice in the fact that you and Deena’s abilities have paid off.

    Reply
  • Susan Klopfer July 11, 2012, 10:35 am

    P.S. Our first vacation is planned for the Galapagos!

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 11, 2012, 10:50 am

      Nice! We’ve been there a couple of times and it is amazing.

      Reply
  • Susan Klopfer July 11, 2012, 10:33 am

    Really fascinating. Thanks for sharing this information. My spouse and I are moving to Cuenca in August, and hopefully we will be able to jump all of the required hoops to open a private psychology practice for expats in South America. We will surely be using your website for advertising and will appreciate any of your ideas. Fred is a great writer and would enjoy writing articles about psychology in this context. As a writer myself, I look forward to the new-found time I’ll have to think and create! Take care.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 11, 2012, 10:52 am

      Thanks Susan – sounds like you’ve got some great ideas. Psychology for expats is a pretty niche market.

      All the best on your plans!

      Reply
    • Steven Morrey January 14, 2013, 1:33 pm

      Hi Susan,
      I noticed you plan to open a psychology practice for expats.
      My wife and I may be moving there in the near future and she has a background in psychology. Specifically working with at-risk youth, but she has also worked as a counselor.
      If you’re looking for some help let me know. We’d be glad to come visit.

      Reply

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We are a Canadian family living in Ecuador (South America) since 2009. We cover expat hacks, language learning, earning abroad, and product reviews. Read about the best gear, places to live, and cost of living. Interested to work with us? Read more about Bryan & Dena

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