I Earn a Comfortable, Rewarding Income by Teaching English Online
Even after living full-time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for three years, I still experience these surreal moments when I think I’m on vacation. With its tropical greenery, stunning beaches, and year-round warm climate, this Pacific resort town is constantly astounding.
Though I chose to make my home in Puerto Vallarta, I could live and work from anywhere in the world there’s an internet connection. My time is split between managing my own website, which sells online courses for English learners, and teaching private lessons online to students from around the world. As I focus on intermediate to advanced learners, all the lessons are conducted solely in English.
Although I acquire the majority of my students through marketing I’ve done for my own website, there are hundreds of English platforms that allow you to get started without a website. In fact, I use a platform called italki to manage my teaching schedule, guarantee upfront lesson payment, and occasionally pick up a few new students.
The journey to this new life in Mexico began back in 2005 with my first small startup, a delivery service in my hometown of Kelowna, Canada that I launched with no more than a used Pontiac Sunfire and a credit card with a $500 limit. The company took off within the first year, and quickly my spouse, Curtis, and I were dedicating ourselves to it full-time.
Fast forward a few years, however, and we’d become burned out from constantly working seven-day weeks. We were also still far from achieving the financial stability we craved and were starting to think about other ways we could earn a living. In 2008, we decided to take a much-needed vacation, going on an 11-day Caribbean cruise that ignited our passion for Latin America.
Over the following years, we visited Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia, and recognized that with the more affordable cost of living in these countries, we’d be able to enjoy richer, more comfortable lives in Latin America if we were able to find a way to earn online in U.S. dollars.
During this period, my knowledge of digital marketing grew, and I made my first few attempts to build an online income. Although neither of these worked out, I gained confidence in my ability to market an online service. The only thing I lacked was a product that I could get behind.
I knew I’d be moving to Latin America, so it was important to speak Spanish. Although I’d been studying the language on and off for about 14 years, I was stuck at a beginner level. I knew there had to be a better way to learn it. Through a lot of trial and error, I realized that I needed to focus on real-world communication. Using audio from natural conversations with a transcription, I was able to extract the most commonly used vocabulary, train my ears to understand what I was hearing, and practice speaking by trying to explain the topic.
Using this approach, I progressed from a beginner to an advanced level within six months. With the huge demand for language learning online, I felt like this system could provide the product I needed to start my online business.
Initially, I thought of teaching expats Spanish (something I finally started doing about a year ago), but at that time, I realized that I’d have to bolster my skills before reaching the point where I felt comfortable teaching the language. Nevertheless, I was confident my learning system would be applicable to English as well.
In 2015, I got to work learning how to build a website, creating my online English courses, and offering private lessons. I applied the knowledge acquired from my previous online marketing attempts, and it wasn’t long before the site started to attract visitors.
Students started paying Curtis and me for private online lessons. And we also began earning a small amount of money from memberships to access the courses. The following year, we saw an opportunity to sell our house, clear our debts, and build some savings. Although our nascent online business wasn’t yet earning enough to support us, Curtis and I decided to take the leap and relocate to Mexico, where our savings and earnings would stretch much further.
Today, the business continues to grow and has become a reliable source of income. And from a personal perspective, living in Puerto Vallarta offers an incredible lifestyle. We live in a spacious house with three bedrooms and a small pool. We have a housekeeper who comes twice a week and prepares delicious Mexican food. And being food lovers, we dine out several times a week.
Even though I am still working full-time, I can largely set my own schedule and take time off when I want. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from my job because I’m helping others learn how to communicate effectively and confidently in a second language.
Whenever someone comments that I’m lucky to have this life, my reply is always that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. If you want to make a big change, you have to be willing to make difficult, scary decisions. You can’t let fear hold you back when the right opportunity comes knocking on your door.
Written by Amy Whitney