Hiatus back off, again

Well, a solid five and a half month hiatus from corporate life is back off once again. I’d like to think I made the most of what felt like another mini-retirement. If I had my way, I’d have packed my bags and went overseas where living is cheaper but I made the best of life in the US.


When I became one of the covid layoffs this summer, it proved to be an opportunity to put more effort into eating healthier. The extra time allows you to shop more frequently for fresh fruits and vegetables and cook at home.

It also allowed more time to exercise. Gym’s were out of the question but hiking became a new hobby and a chance to get some good shots. I managed to drop about 15 pounds of which I put about half back due to cold midwest weather.

A nice climb in Colorado Springs. It’s good to get some freedom but at some point, it feels nice to return to productivity. The job interview processes can feel like this but if you put in enough effort you can make some luck.

Travel is fun

Time out of the office was a nice opportunity to see a bit more of the US. It’s not without risk to take a flight in these times, but airlines have taken steps to make flights as safe as possible. Driving a car is not without risk as well but don’t we accept some risk in life if we want to ..you know…live?

No wifi in this cabin deep in the woods of Montana.

Back to the GRIND…But Maybe I missed it

One of the things I’ve realized is that when you conceptualize of work as more of a choice than something you have to do, you can actually enjoy it. I’ve realized I missed the people. While I’ll probably always have some resentment to being chained down to a desk, I do appreciate the fine bright people I’ve crunched data and solved problems with.

The Remote Work Revolution Continues

Like so many of us these days I’m now working remotely. Much like I hoped early on, the working remote revolution has begun.

Ever since I returned to the US, no particular place feels like home. Wherever I hang my hat’s my home as they say. I’m half tempted to just airbnb around the country to somewhere warmer.

It’s a toss-up between vagabonding with the laptop and perhaps setting up shop in the city in an apartment like this:

No lie, just know I chose my own fate, I drove by the fork in the road and went straight.

Sean Carter

Seclusion Island: A thought experiment in socio-economic development

Lastly, A friend of mine living in Taiwan just started a new animation project on Youtube which is like an interesting thought experiment about the socio-economic development of a society. It’s called “Seclusion Island” Check it out if you’re interested..I think it looks promising. Here’s the link to the channel.

And here’s the first episode:

If you enjoy and want want to see more subscribe and comment and all that stuff.

Box full of cash

How I earned $10,000 on Upwork

The other day I checked my email and realized I got a congratulations email from Upwork. “You earned your first $10,000 on Upwork!” I hadn’t even really been paying much attention to earnings so I was surprised.

Oh wow not bad. But it looks like I’ve been at for three years or so now.

These days I work full time and still do freelance on the side with Upwork and Fiverr to earn extra cash to invest. If you keep up at it, it starts to add up after a while.

So How Do You Do It?

The secret is you need to invest some time into building reviews and a reputation so new clients will feel comfortable taking the risk of hiring you. As such you can’t really expect to make much in the early stages. Note that it took me three years to get where I am.

How the Heck Do You Get Your First Client?

It can be very difficult getting those first clients so the secret to doing that is to provide an almost too good to be true offering at the lowest price you can go.

Some of my initial gigs involved cold calling through a list of potential sales customers for cheap. I worked hard and over-delivered to be sure I’d get good feedback.

It’s a bit of supply and demand to get that initial business. If you provide rock star service for dirt cheap, it’s very tempting for clients to want to hire you and see if you can deliver well for them. Everyone loves a discounted amazing service.

How many monitors does it take to freelance properly? Only you can decide.

So you do this for a while and as you build good feedback you can start to raise your prices and the complexity of projects you’ll work on.

I can understand why some might feel like working for the lowest wage possible in the beginning feels like a suckers bet but you should consider it as simply investing time into building your business.

Oh yeah…Upwork Takes Their Cut

To anyone interested in trying it, you probably have a question of how much Upwork charges to be a freelancer. They generally take 20% of your earnings.

I’m sure some might say this is horribly unfair. After all, you’re doing all the work so why should they get 20%?

20% is reasonable

I believe a 20% commission is reasonable. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. They brought you the business saving you a ton in advertising and all the financial risk that comes with an unsuccessful marketing campaign.
  2. They provide escrow service to help make sure you get paid and they have a feedback system to make sure you get good clients that will treat you fairly.
  3. They handle billing and time tracking or project tracking with their own system

Consider the risk involved in launching your own service. You could spend quite a bit on marketing your freelance services before securing a client. You risk nothing but your time by bidding for gigs on Upwork.

Where would you work if you can work anywhere? Here’s the scene in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam around District 3 if I recall.

I’ve heard horror stories of freelancers spending weeks on a project and delivering their services only to be left in limbo trying to chase down their pay. This is much less likely on Upwork if you choose a client with a good reputation.

You will also spend less time and effort tracking your hours and typing up invoices since Upwork does all this for you.

What’s your ideal place to freelance? I had to fire up the laptop in a Louisa coffee in Taiwan. A great place. Also, check out Cama coffee if you visit. Maybe a bit too close to Wuhan province these days. Stay safe Asia.

Why Are You Promoting Them?

You would think I’m getting paid making some affiliate dough promoting Upwork but as far as I know, they have no affiliate program. I’m just sharing tips because I think it would be helpful for people starring out and I’m all for more freelancers and trying to change the work environment to get us out of offices.

CAMP AIS coworking Space

Digital Nomad Life for Non-Programmers

Oh, you’re a location independent software engineer that travels the world living the digital nomad life with a six-figure salary, living on 15K a year? Good for you, but what about the rest of us? Why should programmers and software engineers have all the fun while the rest of us are stuck in cubicles?

I get it. Learning to code and develop isn’t exactly easy and it’s a high demand skillset. But surely programming isn’t the only skillset that lends itself to location independence. How can nonprogrammers live the digital nomad life? And why would we want to?

Why Asia for Digital Nomad Life

After spending the winter in Taiwan, I was close to the end of the 90 day limit of my visa exempt stay, so it was time to head out. Next, I posted up in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai is one of the most popular spots for low-cost living and digital nomad life. It’s easy to see why. Why did I decide to spend a few weeks here?

Delicious Thai food

Chiang Mai has delicious food at wildly low cost. Pad Thai, Pad Se Ewe, Tom Yum, Curried chicken and Pork and Papaya salad a just a few popular Thai dishes you’ll find. Chiang Mai has their very own signature dish Khoi Soi.

Khao Soi and drink
Khao Soi is a dish with egg noodles and curry plus pork or chicken
Lay's Cooling Chips
Feel hot? Eat some mentholated chips to cool off.

And there’s a surprising selection of Western style food in Chiang Mai, still at a reasonable price.

Cheap Internet. Fast Internet.

You can get 6 gigs of data and voice for about $16 for the month. (But I just beat that in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with a 5 gig SIM for about $4.50 US.) And I’ve seen some blazing fast internet speeds in Chiang Mai. Here’s a speedtest I saw using the Wi-Fi at a place called “The Funky Dog Cafe”

Cheap Housing

Should you stay at least a month, you can find very nice apartments for around $300 to $450 USD a month. Some of these hotels are rented out on Airbnb. (Click the link to get $40 off a home booking of $75 or more and $15 off an experience of $50 or more.) The one I picked was about $18 a night. I booked it on Air BNB. Unfortunately, there were more mosquitoes than I could handle, but the host was nice enough to allow me to change my reservation and not get charged for the full time.

I switched to a nicer hotel in Nimman area, the trendy upscale area in Chiang Mai. My room was about $30 for a moderatley luxurious mosquito free place.

S17 Nimman hotel in Chiang Mai.

Warm Weather Year Round

If you’re looking to avoid a midwest freezing winter or a cold winter anywhere, digital nomad life will let you go where you want. Plenty of cheap warm destinations to hide away from December to April.

Cheap Transportation

If you go to Thailand, understand Uber is not available. However, you can sign up for the SE Asia equivalent of Uber which is called “Grab. Sign up for discounts when you take Grab. My girlfriend and I were able to taxis around most spots throughout the city for around $1.60 to $3.00 USD.

Cool Cheap Coworking Spaces

Camp Coworking Space
Fast Internet, snacks, and open 24 hours. Digital Nomad central at the top of Maya Mall.

Shopping Experiences

Wild Shopping deals on multiple levels at the Chinatown market in Chiang Mai.

How to Do It

Well if you want to join what Tim Ferris has referred to as “The New Rich” that work location independent and keep cost low with geo arbitrage you need to generate location independent income.

Generate Location Independent Income

You can generate location independent income in many ways. Here’s a few.

Fiver Gigs

Sign up to do gigs on Fiverr. Fiverr is a website where people from all over the world post “gigs” that they will do for prices starting at, as you may have guessed, five dollars. A gig can be almost anything. It could be something as common as a logo or website design, to something more obscure like dance in a monkey suit and sing a song and provide a video of this performance.

So you can choose to do any type of work on Fiverr. You could proofread resumes. Perhaps you could sing jingles. Or maybe you could be a hand model. But the bottom line is you don’t need to be a programmer.

The secret to getting work on Fiverr is having good reviews. It’s not easy to get business initially until you’ve built trust. Here’s how you do it. Start off charging bargain basement prices and increase your gig price as you get good reviews. You have to pay your dues.

Use Fiverr as just one channel to advertise your business. If business comes in through Fiverr, sure you’ll need to pay them 20% but it’s risk-free. Think of their fee as an upfront advertising cost that you only pay if you get business. That’s something you won’t get from Facebook ads or any other advertising.

You can use Fiverr as your place to vet business ideas with zero advertising cost. Once your business proof of concept has shown an idea is viable consider developing your own website to try marketing your service on your own terms. Once your site is built advertise it with a marketing avenue that works. Facebook is popular to do very targeted marketing.

Fiver isn’t just a place to earn online. As you build your business, you’ll eventually want help and expertise of others. Other freelancers can help you build your business. Need a logo or a whole WordPress site? Get 20% off Fiverr gig purchases when you sign up for Fiverr here.


Upwork is similar to Fiverr in that it’s a community of workers willing to help you with projects or a network you can join to do work yourself. You could say Upwork might be viewed as the somewhat more “grown-up” version of Fiverr. Sign up to do larger projects on Upwork.

The same as Fiverr, the secret to success on Upwork is offeirng top tier service at ultra low prices until you have some good reviews under your belt to inspire trust from new potential customers.

If you sign up for customer service related work before April 15th, 2019 you will receive 1 month free of Freelancer Plus at Upwork.

After Chiang Mai, I took off for Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, another popular low-cost living spot in Asia. More on that later. But here’s a preview of a serviced apartment you can get for around $30 a night. Another Airbnb find.

Once you are earning some location income you can dramatically lower your cost of living and get by on around $1,500 a month if you’re interested in living the digital nomad life. Come back to this site and consider subscribing if you’d like to know more about ditching the office.

This post contains affilate links for Grab, Agoda, Airbnbn, Upwork and Fiverr. I may be paid a commission for sales generated from clicking these links at no cost to you. I only establish affilate partnerships with companies that offer brands or services I use and believe are a good value.

Blogger Toolbelt

This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission for sales generated from these links. I only establish affiliate relationships with brands I use and believe in and would not support them if I did not use them myself.

If you decide to create a blog and hope to get a following (and make some money), you should understand it is going to take some work. But like most work, if you want to do the job well, there are tools to help make it easier to do your best. Blogging is no different.

Why SEO Matters

So what is SEO exactly? SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. In layman’s terms, it means optimizing or improving your website or blog in a way that the site ends up in the search results for popular search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Baidu. If your writing shows up in more search engine results, more people will end up on your site and read what you’ve written.

So how do you optimize your site so that it shows up in search results? Well, the question is so complex that an entire SEO industry exists to attempt to improve SEO for their clients. Search engines like Google have very complex algorithms that determine where a page should appear for search results. The complexities of search result algorithms are proprietary and not truly clear, but some aspects stand the test of time to improve your chances of showing up in search results. You can search “Getting Canned” and I should show up on the first page.

The SEO and Grammar Relationship

One is to consider that you should use proper grammar in your writing. If your posts are sloppy and have poor grammar, it’s unlikely that search engines will see your site as a quality site worthy of a high ranking in search results.

So how do you make sure your grammar passes the test? One tool that I’ve found to be very useful is the grammar checker Grammarly. There is a free version of this tool and a paid version.

I discovered Grammarly after submitting my first guest post to the blog Fly to FI. Despite my efforts to manually check my work, I made several grammar mistakes. Blog owner Cody, caught the errors and kindly let me know he made some corrections and let me know how useful Grammarly is as a tool for bloggers. I installed it the same day.

I was so impressed with the free version that I realized at some point, if I’m serious about writing, I should get the paid version. I invested in the pro version to check my work just before I submitted my guest post to 1500days.com.

The free version of Grammarly provides critical grammar and spelling checks at no cost to you. Try Grammarly free and if you decide to upgrade to the PRO version you’ll also get the following:

Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
Genre-specific writing style checks
Plagiarism detector that checks more than 16 billion web pages


  • Check your writing across the web
  • Access your personal editor via Grammarly.com
  • Access your documents on multiple devices
  • Integrate with Microsoft® Office (Windows only)
  • Use native desktop apps (Windows and macOS)
  • See definitions and synonyms via double clicks
  • Catch contextual spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Add words to your personal dictionary
  • See explanations of grammar rules
  • Get performance stats via email

If you are interested in writing that will look professional and be free from grammar mistakes consider install the free Grammarly extension by clicking on Grammarly links or banner below.

World Currencies

The Pay of a Blogger

It’s mid-January 2019, and the current state of the internet is that there’s a lot of bloggers out there. Take a spin on Instagram or Twitter and check out the wave of WordPress devotees publishing everything under the sun. Search “blogger,” or “travel blog” or “financial independence” and take your pick of the blog that catches your attention. I’m considering jumping on “bloggers that blog about bloggers blogging” as a niche site. Meh.It’s probably already been done.

If you look at what’s out there’s there’s quite a range. Some are fantastic. Some are still developing we’ll say. You may wonder why are so many people doing this? You may especially wonder what is the pay of a blogger?

Connection to a Blogging Community

If you do some research into finding happiness, you’ll inevitably end up with one of the answers being about being connected to a community. How can I say this without sounding too kumbaya? If you create a blog and give it a serious go, you’re going to end up looking to other bloggers to understand a lot of things. What is the difference between a page and a post? What exactly do themes do? How do you get these widgets to work? What are bloggers doing to get traffic? How do you get paid? Well like most things in life, you’re going to want to talk to someone who has experience doing it unless you want to try to recreate the wheel.

Starbucks in Taipei
The open office seating of a blogger in Taipei, Taiwan. Or just stay home.

Connecting with other bloggers will generally improve your writing as well. Do a guest post and you may get some good feedback. I remember when Mr. Flexcents made me aware of the fact that I’m putting too many spaces after my periods. I’m getting better at stopping this decades-old habit. I’ve since followed the habits of other bloggers that use Grammarly to ensure their writing has good grammar. Good grammar is crucial if you want to start having good SEO and rank within Google’s search results.

While you’re making a go at blogging and learning all the quirks of HTML, PHP, plugins, marketing, monetizing, networking with other bloggers, it might be worth making a not of something. You’re learning and developing valuable business skills that you could market to others and get paid.

Friend or Foe?

Wait a minute. Aren’t you bloggers all competing with each other? Coke and Pepsi don’t help each other out. Well often in capitalism, it is this way. But I think winning depends on the game your playing.

After my first few years out of college in the work world, I remember comparing the vibe to my college days. College to me always felt a little bit like a utopia. I mean people sort of had common goals and weren’t exactly competing against each other in most ways. The goals were to meet people, have fun, learn, have great experiences and prep for the work world. People were comfortable to be their real self. Then after graduation we entered the work world.

The work world felt like the antithesis of college to me. Now we were no longer able to dress as we wanted but instead dressed in accordance with the workplace policy. Business casual typically, followed by a casual Friday if you’re lucky. Bust out the polo and jeans. Yay.

And then beyond clothes, there were the people. Personally, in the corporate world, I was often met with a certain type of phoniness in some of the people I met. The corporate personality. Someone who knows how to “play the game”. Someone well adept at maneuvering the strange office political climate and knows how to manipulate others to get what they want. It seemed to be evidence that we no longer had common goals, but instead had entered into some type of zero-sum game. After all, only so many people on the team can be promoted or get an exceptional merit increase.

This online community thing seems to be a lot more like college than the workplace. Someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure. In fact, someone else’s success can be part of your success.

Getting Your Name Out There

A large part of doing the blog thing is getting traffic to your site. There’s a number of ways to do this, but one strategy is to create content for others blogging or podcasting on their sites. You’re helping them, but in turn, you’re also getting your name out. So from this perspective, you have an interest in their success as well.

When you get your name and story out there, you may find some people relate to your story and wish to connect with you. Before you are focused on trying to get rich from blogging, you should appreciate being a content creator as that it gives you a chance to share your story. It gives you access to a medium to make friends and connect with other like-minded people. I recently connected with Adrian over at Clever and Lazy who had a similar job loss experience during the financial crisis that landed him in Shanghai China for a while.

I was recently on a couple of podcasts to get my blog name out there. I was on Choose FI and The FI Show, both great podcasts with incredible content that I highly recommend. A shout out to The FI Show for their work editing a bit of my nervous rambling. (It was my first podcast!) .

Oh yeah. Money.

Ah yes, money. How much MONEY does a blogger make? There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. There are undoubtedly thousands of blogs out there that don’t make a cent. Many don’t intend to make money. And then there are those that make millions and millions of dollars and cents.

If I were to take an educated guess on pay, I’d say the following. A new blogger might make roughly $200 a month of income after maybe six to twelve months of writing. This figure is with the caveat that they do some hard work and have the dedication to create content as well as market their site. But the way the internet scales, this could increase exponentially if your content catches on or goes viral. Your results will vary. If you’re interested in starting a blog, read more here.

I wrote a post about how much I made early on with this blog here. Generally speaking, most of my affiliate links pay me somewhere between $10 to $100 for a sale. I only show links to companies I actively use and truly recommend.

This post contains affiliate links to Grammarly and I may be paid for signups that meet certain conditions. I only recommend products or services I use.


The Life of a World Traveling English Teacher

Recently, I was asked to write about teaching English as a means to make money while traveling the world and how someone can do that.  I can share my experience of how teaching was an opportunity that was my last resort after losing my job in the 2008 financial crisis.   After around two years of not working, I faced a choice.  I could continue collecting unemployment and applying for jobs, or I could take any work available to me even if it meant leaving the country.   I chose the latter.

Night Market Taiwan
Shilin Night Market in Taiwan. A sugar cane drink available.

I first became aware of teaching abroad after having a random chat with a stranger who was freshly back to Chicago after having spent a year in Southeast Asia as an ESL teacher.  It seemed like one of those adventurous things that other people do, but that somehow wouldn’t be possible for me.   The guy said he had a blast and that it wasn’t difficult to become a teacher as long as you have a college degree.  I pressed him further to see what it takes to become an English teacher and travel the world.  I was sure I would hear an explanation for why I could never do this.

His response was the contrary.  The barriers to teaching English abroad aren’t that high.  Every country is, of course, going to have unique requirements, but I can say that many places will hire you to teach English as long as you meet some reasonable standards. Here’s a generalized overview of what’s typically required:

  • Most countries prefer you to have a college degree, but it often doesn’t need to be related to teaching.  Any college degree will do.
  • Your chances of finding work as an English teacher are much higher if from a native English speaking country.  Most teachers I met were Canadian, US citizens, or from S. Africa.
  • Many countries now require a criminal background check from your home country

This overview isn’t a comprehensive list of requirements as each government has their specific rules and regulations for teachers.  Some may require you to have TEFL or TESOL certification.   For an excellent comprehensive list of requirements broken out by destination,  you can check out the school where I picked up a TEFL certificate and download the guide here.

Dan Bing, Luo Bo Gao, and Gyoza.
Dan Bing, Luo Bo Gao, and Gyoza.

So let’s say you’ve decided you’d like to travel the world and teach English abroad.   What happens next?  Well, you’ll want to do your research and choose a country.  Wikivoyage and Wikitravel are good sites to research destinations.   Once you determine the country, do a targeted search for ESL jobs in the destination of your choice.  Then you’ll want to secure your teaching gig.

One reliable place to look for teaching jobs is a website called Dave’s ESL Cafe.  One thing I loved about searching for gigs as a teacher is you don’t have to deal with our US recruiting system that has you fill out 400 fields on Brassring or Taleo and type out all the stuff that’s already on your resume.   You only need to send an email with your resume attached.

A quick note about international culture.   Outside of the USA, a resume is often referred to as a CV, and it’s not uncommon to include a profile picture of yourself in your CV.  Keep this in mind when appying to jobs overseas.

The Actual Teaching Part

So there I was in the middle of Asia, an unemployed payroll software implementation consultant, about to lead a class teaching English to Taiwanese kids.  Let me be the first to tell you I had no idea what I was doing.  I’d never taught English before, or any subject for that matter.   Sure, I’d led a few employee benefits presentations and taught groups how to go through the online employee benefits enrollment process, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when teaching ESL (English as a second language).   As it turns out, it’s not too bad.

McDonald's in Taiwan
Look, it’s McDonald’s but the menu is in Chinese.

Every school that you teach at is, of course, going to have their own culture and way of doing things.   But given that I worked or subbed at several schools over my years abroad, I can say that I got a fair sense of what it was like for English cram schools in Taiwan.   First and foremost it’s important to keep in mind that you are not likely to be teaching at a proper public “school” as we know it, but rather at a cram school or in Chinese “buxiban.”

The buxibans are more business than school, and the students (or their parents) are customers.   Part of what this means is that there is an aspect of teaching whereby you need to be a bit entertaining, and the kids need to like you.   A previous American teacher once described teaching ESL as being a bit like being a “dancing monkeys” for the children’s amusement.  I don’t know if I would go that far, but there is an entertaining aspect of being an English teacher in most schools.  You need to bring the charisma. You will likely be playing a fair amount of whiteboard and classroom games.

I remember most of my classes either typically ended up being fun and engaging for the students and me. Or they ended up being pretty dull if the students were exhausted from a long day at school and didn’t have the energy to learn English.

The Life of an English Teacher

So I talked a little bit about the actual teaching. But what about the life of an English teacher?  How is it? Well, it was mostly fun. I’ll take you through a fairly typical day for an English teacher.  The schedules tend to be lax, and you have a lot of free time.

9:00 AM.    Wake up.  As long as you’re up before 10:00 or so you could head over to the local breakfast place and get some dan bing. Dan Bing is like a delicious Chinese egg crepe. There’s not much reason to get up much earlier than this. Many of the teachers I worked with sometimes slept in until noon if they had a late night.

10:00 AM.   Perhaps go to the gym and workout followed by lunch. You might want to meet up with friends and go for a scooter ride or head to the mountain and go hiking. Or perhaps some shopping followed by a hot pot lunch. The big city in Taipei was about a 40-minute bus ride away, and depending on your schedule you could head to the big city and be back in time for teaching if you head out before noon.

12:00 PM.  Might as well grab lunch with a friend or a native. Plenty of places to get a nice meal usually for less than $5.

1:00 PM   If you want to take a nap no one is going to stop you.

5:00 PM   I might be misremembering but, typically class didn’t start before 5:00 PM.   Classes usually ran from 1.5 to 2 hours. You typically had one to three classes per day. Two was the most common schedule for a day. For most schools, your day will be finished by 9:00 PM.

9:00 PM   You taught two classes and worked for a total of four hours today.  A busy day to be sure.   Time to meet up with your friends and grab a nice dinner for probably $5.   Maybe hotpot, maybe an Asianized version of spaghetti, teppanyaki was always a favorite.  Westernized restaurants were available as well. There was a TGI Friday near us as well as a Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway.

10:30 and on.   Well, a lot of the people that go to teach English overseas are in their mid to late 20’s so this meant there was a fair share of drinking and partying.   My first year I spent living in a dorm.  I was about 33 and had a little partying left in me but also was starting to wind down.   Some teachers would drink and go all night.  I usually wanted to bow out by 1:30 or so but now and then a late night wasn’t a bad idea.  After all, there was nothing to wake up for the next day besides breakfast.

Acacia Nut is otherwise known as “betel nut” is chewed for caffeine-like energy.  A  bit like chewing tobacco.

Betel Nut
The packages were sometimes provocative with half-naked ladies

Life in East Asia

The country where I ended up spending around three years, was Taiwan.   I spent my first year in a medium sized city called Taoyuan that was about a 40-minute bus ride from the big international city of Taipei.   I had no idea what to expect as this was my first time setting foot in Asia.

The first thing you’ll notice upon setting foot on the island of Taiwan is that the primary method of transportation is the scooter.   Taiwan’s roads are vibrant and alive with scooters darting in and out of traffic.

The streets of Taipei have plenty of neat little restaurants and coffee shops.  Here’s an example of a charming, quaint coffee shop where I wrote some of my first blog posts.

One of the cornerstones of Taiwan’s culture is their night markets. Most cities have a few night markets in different neighborhoods. Night markets have a vibe that is about like a county fair.  Many people come together and set up shops that are a bit like flea markets, and many vendors are selling all kinds of foods.  Quickly prepared and sometimes fried foods are a favorite.  A favorite and somewhat notorious food in Taiwan is “stinky tofu” which is fried fermented tofu which has a powerful odor that many would consider a bit harsh or stinky.”  But the taste is pretty good.

Teaching English as Part of The FIRE Plan

To anyone that is pursuing Financial Independence, I would strongly advise them to consider teaching English as part of their plan. I’ve often heard of the idea of “barista FIRE” which is the idea that once you reach a certain savings goal, you sort of “coast” and work a job that is low paying but less stressful. I think Teaching English is a great coast plan for the following reasons:

  • Teaching English often has a relatively relaxed schedule where you might work around 20 to 25 hours a week. This type of program frees up your time to pursue other activities and freelance or develop a side business
  • Going abroad allows you to use geo-arbitrate to leverage your dollars somewhere where they might go farther.
  • If you’re an American, you can potentially save a lot of money getting away from our broken health care system which is costing many over a thousand dollar a month for health insurance that is little more than blackmail payments to avoid getting stuck with a $100,000 medical bill in the event of a health catastrophe.
Teaching English was a memorable part of my life and will likely play a role in my plan for the future. I should mention that you can teach at a school and also online. I have friends still living abroad teaching, and one did a guest post talking about teaching online while traveling. Consider teaching English abroad as a part of your FIRE plan.

5 Ways to Earn Money Writing

One of the ways I’ve continued to explore earning income beyond the confines of a traditional office job is through freelance writing. Have you ever seen that person hanging out at a Starbucks during a weekday hammering away at their laptop while sipping on a latte? It’s possible they are a writer of some sort and the coffee shop is the closest they are going to come to setting foot in an office. It seems like an enviable position to be able to work where you want and when you want. But how are they getting paid?

Well, when you step outside the traditional means of office W2 income you may find that there isn’t just one standard way of getting paid as a freelance writer. So what the ways some people are doing it? Here are some examples below.

1. Start a Blog

There’s an extremely low barrier to entry for starting your own blog or website.  In fact, the only thing you really need to do to have a blog is basically

  1. Find an available domain name, and buy it,
  2. Then get hosting for your blog which typically runs between $50 to $100 a year.
  3. Choose a theme and start posting.

So while this is a bit of a gross oversimplification of the process, this is basically all you need to do to self-publish your writing on a blog.  But you’re published; so now what?

You’re published. So now what? Could these be bloggers checking their phones to see if they’ve made any money? Maybe.

2. Earn Affiliate Marketing Income

Well if your content is good enough and you start to gain some traction, you start to gain readers and eventually you find yourself with an audience.   An audience has the potential to be a customer and as a blogger your in the position to direct a message to your audience.   That could be to try a product or service you recommend as an affiliate.  It’s not hard to do if you have their attention.  Do I have your attention?  If so and you want to start a blog you could do so just by clicking here.    See what I did?  I just recommended Siteground as a host because I’m an affiliate.  They’re good and I use them.  So imagine you, dear reader, signed up.  I’d make some money.   Just like that.

If one of your readers signs up for one of your affiliate products or services, you earn a commission.   If you have a large audience you may start to receive several commissions a month, a week or even daily.

3. Write for Others

So writing is entertainment and it educates or informs but first and foremost, it should captivate the attention of the reader.   And if it’s doing so, that writing has value in a way that is similar to the way that TV, Netflix, movies, or the news captivates.   So just as studio’s pay directors and writers and actors to produce content that has value, there are website owners, news organizations, and publishers that are willing to pay for others to write content.   If you want to be a writer, you’re going to want to do two things:

  1. Find the people willing to pay for your writing.  (or let them find you)
  2. Demonstrate that you can write by showing them a bit of proof.

Now if you are reading this, you may be detecting a bit of irony in that this writing is probably a bit on the mediocre side.   Well, what can I say, it’s like I said, there’s a low barrier to entry to blogging.  So while my writing might not be Shakespear, I’m confident my ideas are good.  Hopefully, I’ll continue to improve and look back on this in a few years as a shining example of how far I’ve come.  If nothing else we can at least say I used the word “ironic” correctly which is more than I can say for an angsty 90’s singer.

4. Find the People That Will Pay You

If you’re looking to do #1 and find the clients that could use you as a writer you’ve got to recognize that to some extent, like so many things in life, it’s a numbers game.  So do your best, but also put yourself in front of as many people as possible.

  1. Getting your writing out through your blog is one method.
  2. Reaching out to others that might be interested in your writing is another method
  3. Marketing your writing services on various sites like Upwork and Fiverr is another method. Sign up for Fiverr with this link and you’ll get up to $100 credit.

5. Show Them You Can Write

If you’re looking to do #2 and demonstrate you can write by showing some proof, you’re going to want to be published.   Early on, it’s not going to be easy.  But creating a blog has almost no barrier to entry.  The next step will be reaching out to others and seeing if they will allow you to guest post for them.   It’s a bit of a quid pro quo.   They get some free content which is hopefully your best writing, and for your efforts, you get a bit of exposure.  Exposure means reaching a new audience which means the potential to reach new customers or clients.

But what if your writing isn’t that good?  Well, you could stick to the office job.  Or you could remain unemployed.  Or you could push yourself to practice and get better.  There are tools out there like Grammarly which aims to help improve your writing.  It’s definitely helping me.

Teach English Online

Teaching English Online for Supplemental Income

Today’s guest post comes from Nate, a world traveler and entrepreneur friend of mine currently living overseas in Asia- Milton

The Online Classroom

The digital age is transforming education.  Particularly when it comes to foreign languages, people are trading in pencils and paper for laptops and computers.  They are foregoing rigid timetables in favor of flexible schedules.  And perhaps best of all, people are saying goodbye to traffic and rowdy classrooms, and instead enjoying the comfort of their own home while they teach.

Not too long ago a friend of mine was in the midst of a career transition.  He had had enough of the daily grind, and was giving it up to focus on art and writing projects.  A worthwhile move, to be sure, but he needed some supplementary income to aid his new pursuits.  I introduced him to online English teaching and explained how it would fit nicely into his lifestyle.  Now he teaches for a couple hours every morning and spends the rest of each day working on things he is passionate about.

I myself stumbled upon this same online teaching gig when I was between full-time jobs.  As anyone who has ever been fired or quit an unsavory job can understand, I was in no hurry to jump back into another grand commitment.  Online teaching allowed me to do some part-time work and earn a little money while I got out and (gasp!) enjoyed myself.  The thrill of having work done before noon (or in my case, being free throughout the day until teaching at night) was overwhelming.  I could learn new skills, take small trips, focus on getting in shape… the list goes on.

Note from site owner:  If you are interested in teaching English overseas, you may want to consider getting certified with a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.  This can help you with being prepared and in some countries, it can boost your earnings potential.   I personally got a TEFL certificate through a company in Chicago called International TEFL Academy.  I recommend them and also think they have a great website for an overview of teaching in many countries throughout the world.  If you’re interested in getting certified you can reach out to my own advisor Cassie, here at International TEFL Academy.


On top of all that, the job itself was really quite fascinating.  Surely all of us are familiar with the traditional classroom setting, whether as teachers or students (or both), and are therefore aware of its shortcomings.  An online class removes some of the parenting or babysitting aspects of teaching, but maintains the interactive nature of language education that lets students read, write, speak, and listen.  It can be both fun and rewarding, and is an interesting way to gain insight into another culture.  When it’s all done, the commute is as simple as going from the computer to the couch, with maybe a stop at the refrigerator in between.

Work anywhere you can get online.

Eventually, I landed another job (when I was good and ready, of course), but online teaching is still part of my weekly routine.  My school offers a flexible mix of regular hours and optional extra hours.  It is a great way to tailor my teaching schedule to the demands of my overall week.  If I know next Friday will be a slow day, I can simply sign up for extra classes and make a few extra bucks.  Conversely, if things are a bit busy, I just stick with my regular classes.  The minimum required hours each week is 4, but there are well over 20 available, which means teaching can become anything from a side project to a full-blown job.  It sure beats having some boss tell me when and how much to work each day.

Online Teaching through DaDa

Specifically, the school I work for is called DaDa.  The company is based in China and offers teaching hours Monday through Friday 6:00-9:00pm Beijing time, as well as classes all day Saturday and Sunday.  They have their own special software and materials right on the screen, allowing even first-time teachers to easily navigate students through each task.  Additionally, they provide various sample videos and resources to help ease new teachers into their role.  The pay range is fairly wide but can be over $20 an hour, and the company offers an array of bonuses and rewards.  Consider checking them out here for more information or to apply for a job.

Maybe you were recently let go from your job.  Use it as an opportunity to try one of the many freelance activities the internet currently provides.  Teaching English online joins a list of pursuits such as blogging, programming, and video-making that are helping to free people from the constraints of the corporate world.  At the very least, it may provide some entertainment and extra income while you seek out that next big contract.

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links and site owner may receive a commission for International TEFL Academy signups.  Contributor, Nate, may receive a commission for DaDa school sign-ups.