How To Teach In Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Couple holding hands in desert

Teach Abroad: United Arab Emirates

Hey, All,

I’ve been asked so many times how I can afford to work and travel that I decided to put together a guide to all of the different opportunities out there for you to work and live abroad.

There are a lot of different teaching posts available around the world, so I’m here to speak with people who have worked in them and spell out the pros and cons of working in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe so that you can decide which one is best for you.

This first post is one I have personal experience with: teaching in the UAE.

The Stats

Average Income: $2,000 month to $5,000 month

Free Housing/Utilities: Yes

Tax Free: Yes

Healthcare: Yes

Free flights: Yes

Vacation Days: 3 weeks Christmas, 2 weeks spring break, 8 weeks summer break, two or three long weekends, and half days during Ramadan.

Certifications: Needed? Yes and no. Abu Dhabi is now requiring a teaching degree or certification (TEFL won’t cut it), but I taught there from 2014 to 1016 with only a college degree. In Dubai, a college degree can still land you a job for now.

Contract Length: Most schools will require you to sign a 2-year contract.

Where to Find a Job:

Teach Away

Teaching Abroad Direct

Footprints Recruiting

Dubai Jobs

The Guardian

Teach Anywhere

*Disclaimer I am not affiliated with any of these sites or responsible for any job or experience you may have through them*

Finances

I found my job teaching at a SABIS school in Abu Dhabi through my college’s career portal on their website. My husband (only boyfriend at the time) and I both did a phone interview, and I took a bus from Boston to New York (in a snow storm) for an interview as well. They try to set them up for those who can make them, but it wasn’t required. We both were informed that we had the positions for the upcoming school year in February, and we signed the contract in March.

The contract included housing, utilities, flights at the beginning and end of the school year, healthcare, and a $2,200/month salary, equating to $26,400/year. However, we also received a raise our second year and a $10,000 bonus upon completion of our second year.

All in all, we received about $66,000 each in cash payment over the two years. With the value of the free housing, tax free income, and flights, the package was worth closer to $86,000 for the two years of work. Considering we were on vacation for about 7 of those months, it was a killer deal!

Every teacher (and I mean EVERY) also tutors kids under the table. The fees for an hour session usually range from $40 to $50 each, and there were some weeks before final exams where I was banking $1000 in tutoring sessions. It adds up fast.

Culture

The culture shock that I experienced after I moved to Abu Dhabi was real and definitely not easy to adjust to. When I first arrived, I thought that I’d be making a major lifestyle shift away from my drinking and party days in college (because it’s the Middle East, right?)

I was SO wrong.

There’s not a lot to do out in the middle of the desert, so we would hit the brunches hard. Brunch is a magical thing. In the UAE, it means that you pay a set fee and get access to a 5-star buffet and open bar for usually 4 or 5 hours at a time. Once those were done, we’d hit the bars and go dancing or drinking for the rest of the night.

There were beaches in Abu Dhabi, but we lived out in the suburbs (Khalifa City A), so they were farther away. It was also too hot in the summer and fall months, and they tended to be expensive to enter.

Instead, we’d usually opt to buy a Groupon to one of the luxury hotels and hit the pool for the day instead. In Dubai, there is a little more to do (the Jumeirah walk, Dubai mall, or Miracle gardens, for example), but you can only go to a mall so may times before you feel like you’re back in your pre-teen days.

On longer weekends, we’d rent a car and drive down to Muscat or east to dive off of the Omani coast. The other Emirates like Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah offered some variety to explore but not much. All in all, the UAE is a strange place. If you don’t drink, and you love to explore the great outdoors, it is definitely NOT the place for you.

Now for the questions that I know you’ve been wondering about.

Yes, the UAE is Muslim. The call to prayer woke me up every night, and we often saw women dressed in burqas. However, they are pretty lax about applying their cultural rules to foreigners. When it came to clothing, my general rule of thumb was to wear either a tank top OR shorts but never both. With one or the other, I was usually fine. When we went out drinking, dresses, short skirts, and high heels were the norm.

The UAE is 80% expats, so there is a LARGE divide between the Muslim Emiratis and the Western expats. For the most part, the country is very first world, and the Muslim culture did not affect me much at all. I read a lot about horror stories and crazy arrests before I went, but they are rare (usually if you really piss off the wrong person). I have a friend who passed out drunk and woke up at the police station TWICE without consequence. It’s not as scary there as the media portrays it to be.

Lifestyle

There were about forty other twenty-something Brits, Irish (so many Irish) and other English speaking teachers working at our school, so our friend group was built-in. We all lived in dorm-style apartments and hit the nightlife hard together.

We would also frequent the “Ladies Nights” weekly, which was basically just when bars said f it and let all women drink for free. Awesome! I made some lifelong friends in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, and the social aspect of the schools and carefree lifestyle (lots of money, lots of travel) was an amazing experience.

My Experience

The school year runs from late August to late June. As teachers, we were required to show up two weeks early our first year and one week before the school year started our second year. Those two weeks are all the training you get before you’re thrown to the wolves though, so it’s NOT easy in any sense of the word.

It was tough because in the US, if you dislike your job, you can quit and find a new one. Teaching abroad is unique in the sense that your job, visa, and housing are all rolled into one. I couldn’t exactly quit if I was unhappy because I would be deported and on the hook for a $1,400 flight home. That being said, NOT every school is the same. If you have a teaching degree, your school quality and salary will increase significantly.

While tough to deal with, it was also nice to have that push to stick it out through the homesickness and culture shock. I’m so glad that I did. I thought about giving up many times and not signing for the second year (and second year bonus), but staying was the right choice. The second year was so much easier in every way.

What else did I go through that I wasn’t expecting? Something that definitely needs to be mentioned is a unique feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. Isolation may be a strong word, but I definitely felt very far away from my friends and family in the US.

Part of it was the 8 hour time zone difference. Our school week also ran from Sunday to Thursday, which meant that when everyone on social media was enjoying their Saturday mornings, I was prepping and going to bed early for school the next day.

Additionally, we worked on Thanksgiving, slept through the Super Bowl, and there were absolutely no Christmas or Easter celebrations in school. We missed two Christmases at home with our families because flights home were too expensive. However, our European friends didn’t have that problem. Still, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience that I had there for anything. For me, the benefits definitely outweighed the cons!

 

Recap

So, in recap, over our two year contract, we taught for 17 months and travelled for 7. We made extra money easily on the side and banked $66,000 each in tax-free cash before we left. If any of this sounds good, teaching in the UAE just may be for you!

Do you have experience teaching in the UAE or Middle East? Please comment below and share your thoughts!

How To Start A Digital Marketing Business While Traveling The World

Work Remote: Digital Marketing

Hey all,

I’ve been asked so many times how I can afford to work and travel, so I’ve decided to put together a guide to all the different opportunities out there for you to work and live abroad. This current post is one I have personal experience with: working remotely as a digital marketer!

When I was first starting out, I reached out to other marketers with questions and for advice, but I was always rebuffed. They told me to pay for a consult, to buy their ebook or training course, or just ignored me completely. So, I did it on my own.

Now that I’ve started my business, I’ve been able to travel to Colorado, LA, and live abroad in Colombia. I’ve noticed whenever I post about working remotely or digital marketing, I ALWAYS get flooded with requests about how I got started, and how I do what I do. I promised myself I would never turn away someone asking for help, and this blog series was born. Here is my how to guide with every step that I took to grow my small business and achieve my dreams so that you can do it as well!

 

The Stats

Average Income: $2,000 month to $5,000 month

Free Housing/Utilities: No

Tax Free: No 🙁 You’ll pay taxes to your home country, or if you establish an LLC, the country the LLC is declared in.

Healthcare: No

Free flights: No

Vacation Days: Kind of? You can take time off work whenever you want, but won’t be paid for it

Certifications needed? Nope. I’m completely self-taught, but I have a steady stream of clients and income

Where to find a job: I use many different websites to apply for freelance marketing work, but the one that I use the most is Upwork. Freelancer is also a common choice. Both of these sites are for contract/hourly work. Other sites I have profiles on include Cloud Peeps and Angel List, although the latter is more focused toward finding full-time remote work with a company, rather than contract freelance work. I also recommend building a simple website and promoting yourself through social media and LinkedIn and spreading the word to your friends and family to send more business your way.

Getting Started

My passion for travel has made my goal in life to be able to work from home, wherever that home may be. After teaching and living around the world, I began to brainstorm what skills and passions I have that would allow me to maintain my dream of remaining mobile indefinitely.

This dream came to fruition as Social Saunter, a boutique digital marketing agency that specializes in social media management, content creation, web development, and branding for small business. I partner with clients that have amazing products, ideas, and energy to help them realize their dream of growing their businesses. 

Does that sound too salesy? If so, it’s because I copied it from my LinkedIn profile because I’m lazy! But, it’s the truth. I got into digital marketing for the sole purpose of being able to travel and work remotely, and the fact that I enjoy it and am maybe even a little bit good at it is just a bonus!

Let me be clear, I have NO marketing background. Not a single college class, nothing for a side job or internship, nada. So, I went into this totally blind. Here are the steps I took to get from unemployed to successful business owner in 2 months.

1. Read. A lot.

I didn’t sign up for any of the scammy webinars or “social media courses” that are sold at the end of every marketing post and in every email, but I did read a lot of blogs. Some great bloggers in the social media world are Neil Patel, Kissmetrics, Amy Porterfield, Rick Mulready, and others.

Check out my social media blog here for a no bullshit guide to best practices for Twitter and Instagram, how to run Facebook ads, even to get started building your own website. Facebook advertising in particular is the most profitable thing that you can offer because it’s technical, confusing, and people just DON’T want to deal with it.

Once you get the hang of it and can start taking people’s campaigns down from 50 cents a click to 4 or 5 cents a click, I promise you’ll be in high demand. Learn about targeting, writing copy, and even practice building campaigns, ad sets, and ads in your own Facebook ad account without running them to begin to understand the layout

2. Find a willing participant to let you practice on them if possible.

I know that I’m lucky in this regard, but my mom and aunts run a small business and let me take over their social media accounts for a few weeks. They even let me run a week long ad campaign. This taught me so much about how to find and create content, and it gave me practice with tools like Buffer, Canva, and Buzzsumo. Now, I repay them by giving my mom all the new tips and tricks that I learn to use on their accounts 🙂

3. Begin applying to jobs

Like I mentioned above, I use Upwork to find about 90% of my clients. You build out your profile and then can search for any kind of work you want, I always narrowed it down to social media management. You are restricted to applying for only 30 or so jobs per month, so you have to be smart about choosing ones that look like they have a good budget, are newly posted, and are work that you can do (or think you can learn to do fast!)

Some tips on proposals – keep them short and sweet. I was applying with huge long paragraphs about what I could do for the companies, and my response rate wasn’t great. Now I have a go-to proposal that almost never fails.. And no, I’m not going to share it with you 😉

But ,I will say this.

Keep the focus on them. Mention their name and their specific requests to show that you read it, and then ask a couple questions about how you can help them and their business. People feel obligated to respond to questions but will probably skim if you spend three paragraphs talking about why you’re qualified for the job. Save that for a later conversation once you already have them engaged.

4. Accept job (and freak out internally)

Ok, I still can’t believe that I landed two large jobs in my first two weeks of applying. I had zero experience, and even worse, zero reviews on my profile! It was a miracle. Once you have your first clients on board, KEEP THEM HAPPY. That means putting in extra hours and effort to make sure that your work is creative and represents their brand well.

Go the extra mile for them, and most importantly, just be available. Someone who is attentive and responds promptly and politely to emails automatically jumps into the top 10% of freelancers just for that alone. Your quality of work is far outweighed by your customer service. I promise.

5. Learn a lot

Man, when I think about what I know now and what I knew then, it’s crazy that people were even paying me. You will learn SO MUCH as you go. I recommend that, once you’re a few months in, to start leaning towards a niche category if possible.

I had a large client in politics and by running their ads and working with their in-house advertising team, I learned a lot about targeting and writing copy for political news sources. When I picked up a second political client, all of that work was already done, and I could jump right into giving them great results without testing.

6. Get Reviews

Any time a client ends a contract, chase them down for a review. Even if it takes two or three emails, these reviews will change your life.

Here’s why.

Now that I’ve been on Upwork for months and have plenty of positive reviews, I don’t apply for jobs anymore. I have a “top-rated” badge which means that I could up my pricing, and now I get invited to jobs who want to work with me rather than the other way around. It’s an ego boost AND a time saver. Reviews are everything. Get them.

7. Build Your Own Online Presence

So now that you’re a master marketer, you should be able to jump from freelancer to business owner and market your own business, right? We filed our business as an LLC with the state of Ohio. It costs about $100, but it protects you from being sued to a certain extent, so it’s worth the money. It can also make your taxes easier depending on your situation.

Then, I bought a domain name and built a basic wordpress site. Daniel has since updated it, but mine was entirely passable without knowing an ounce of coding. Get a Gmail address with the domain name and you will look professional af. Trust me, it goes a long way (and helps you stay organized!). Next, jump to Twitter and Instagram, and start growing your accounts and your followers. Write interesting and informative blog posts to draw traffic in, and bam, you are now a business owner. Congrats!

I don’t want to make starting my marketing company look like a walk in the park because it definitely wasn’t. However,  I DO want to show you that it’s possible and not as daunting as you may think. If you dream about leaving your desk job, use these tips to get started learning about social media and land your first marketing clients in your spare time without any risk!

Finances

Ok, the most important part. How much money do I make?!?

Here’s the breakdown. I started researching social media management and building my website in August. By the beginning of September, I had my first two clients and was making $2400 a month. Since then, my client base and jobs have fluctuated, but most months end up between $2500 and $3500. This work is done in about 20 to 25 hours a week.

I could (and probably should) bump it up more, but I like to spend my free time on Slight North (or napping. or running, or at the pool…) If you worked a full 40 hour week every week and had clients paying you for it, you could easily pull in $5,000 or $6,000 a month.

The main problem is client turnover. I work with a lot of small businesses who just opened a website and think that once their social media is up, they will immediately begin selling hundreds of products a week. When a month passes and their growth is steady, instead of explosive, they usually take social media into their own hands or abandon their business all together. This means that taking on new clients is a never ending process for me and leads to the fluctuation in income mentioned above.

The cons of owning a digital marketing company include: 

  • My taxes as a small business owner doubled, from 15% to 30%.
  • I am responsible for providing my own health insurance.
  • I have no paid vacations.
  • There’s pressure not to take time off so as not to lose a client.

However, the pros list seems to even them out:

  • I live in South America where the cost of living is low. $3000 here goes A LOT farther than it would in the US.
  • Travel health insurance is also a lot cheaper than US health insurance.
  • I can travel and take half days whenever I want to, or work from a remote island, new city, or hut in the mountains. Lifting the location restriction from work has been the greatest move of my life. 

My Experience

If you work in the freelance business, you need to have thick skin. If you don’t, I promise that you will soon. One month you may be celebrating record high profits, and the next you’ll be threatening legal action against a client trying to ghost you while owing $1200 (I eventually got it from them, don’t worry).

Be ready to be looked down upon and outright disregarded. That 40 minute phone conversation you had? Yeah, they probably won’t even  bother to answer a quick follow up email asking if they still want to work together. It’s easy to be blown off in a digital relationship.

Another difficult aspect of running my own business that I didn’t expect was the burden of bearing the sole responsibility of a project and not having any one else to look up to or get advice from. Everything that I manage and produce is attached to my name alone, and it’s a lot of responsibility to make sure that my work ALWAYS reflects well on me. No tasks will handed up or down the chain of command here.

Owning a digital marketing business is definitely not the walk in the park some bloggers make it out to be, but it may be a good choice for you. My advice would be to always be paid upfront, never turn down an interview or invitation, and not to take yourself, or your work, too seriously.

For me, digital marketing is a means to an end: travel. While working, I’ve been able to visit LA and Colorado, see all of Medellin, and travel to Jardin, Cartagena, Bogota, San Andres, and Cali. Soon, we’ll be moving to Peru, and we’ll take our time traveling through that country as well.

The money is good, and the hours are flexible. Don’t undercut your worth, but don’t overcharge. Work hard when you do, and keep your clients happy. Just like anything, theres a work life balance and the stresses that come with it. In the end, I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. At least, not until something better comes along 😉

 

Are you interested in working remotely or breaking into the digital marketing scene? Leave a comment below or shoot me a message, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have! Good luck!

 

All my love,

Di

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