How to Become a Digital Nomad English Teacher: Your Ultimate Guide

Face it — even though remote working opportunities have increased, many of us are still stuck in dusty offices.

While some companies offer the option of working from home a few days a week, if you’d rather have a café in Bali as your Zoom call backdrop instead of your living room, that’s still not enough. What if your office commute didn’t just take you across town but to a new country entirely? If it sounds pretty great, let me tell you—it is! And the good news is, I’m here to tell you how to make it happen.

If you love the English language and have a passion for teaching, I’ve got some exciting news for you. A few years ago, I ditched the 9-to-5 grind and became a digital nomad English teacher. Now, I get to teach amazing students from around the world while exploring new and incredible places. It wasn't rocket science to get here, but it did take some know-how and a bit of courage.

Through my journey and experience in teaching programs and courses all over the world to all different ages and abilities, I’ve helped many people just like you break free from the mundane and start their own teaching adventures abroad.

So, in this guide, I’ll share all my tips and insights to help you do the same. From getting certified to finding your perfect teaching spot, think of this as your personal roadmap to a life of teaching and traveling.

Why Teaching English Abroad as a Nomad? 5 Top Benefits To Consider

Let's start with probably the most important question: why would you even want to teach English abroad as a digital nomad, and what are the benefits? Let's quickly look at them.

1. You'll be Surrounded by Inspiring Nomads and Creative Entrepreneurs

Digital nomad teacher with other digital nomads at dinner

You know the saying that you’re the average of the people you surround yourself with? Take a moment to consider whether the people you hang out with reflect the type of person you want to be and the lifestyle you want to have. Now, you’ve probably heard of places like Bali, Chiang Mai, and Lisbon. Beyond their beauty, what do these places have in common? They’re packed with people on a mission. Here, people aren’t commuting to dusty offices—they’re working from cafés, beach bars, or co-working spaces, doing everything from launching startups to writing blogs.

And you guessed it, these places are perfect for making friends, sharing ideas, and growing together. You won't feel like a fish out of the water, you’ll find a tribe that gets you and pushes you to do more. These communities are gold mines for inspiration and collaboration. I’ve met some of my best friends and business partners just by striking up conversations in these spaces. The support and knowledge-sharing are phenomenal.

2. You'll Level Up Your Skills and Open New Career Paths

Digital nomad teacher working from her laptop

If you think teaching English locks you into one path forever, you couldn't be more wrong. Teaching English actually opens up a world of opportunities. Take it from someone who's doing it—apart from grammar and vocabulary, you’ll develop communication skills, adaptability, and cultural understanding. These skills are valuable in many fields like SEO, copywriting, and UX/UI Design. When I started teaching, I soon got myself involved in freelance writing and content creation, which led to even more exciting opportunities. Teaching abroad equips you with a diverse skill set that makes you a valuable asset in any industry. Trust me, you'll be surprised how quickly doors will start opening!

3. You'll Finally Achieve Work Life Balance

Digital nomad teacher visiting a temple in Indonesia

The concept of “work-life balance” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. Teaching English abroad as a digital nomad lets you ditch the 9-to-5 grind and design your own days. You get to decide when you work and when you play. I’ve had days where I hike in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and blog in the evening. This kind of flexibility means you can pursue other passions without burning out. It keeps life exciting and fulfilling, allowing you to live on your own terms.

4. You'll Experience Financial Freedom

Digital nomad teacher in her free time

You might be wondering about the money. Sure, salaries vary depending on where and how you teach, but the key is the salary-to-cost-of-living ratio.

Southeast Asia, for instance, offers a fantastic balance—you can earn a decent wage while living cheaply. During my time in Vietnam, I saved $1000 a month while only working 30 hours per week.

This kind of financial freedom allows you to save, invest, or simply enjoy life without constantly stressing about money. And it’s incredibly liberating to know you’re not just making ends meet but actually thriving.

5. You'll Give Back and Make a Real Difference

Digital nomad teacher with students

Teaching English abroad is way more than getting another paycheck, it’s a chance to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing a student progress from knowing zero English to speaking fluently. You’re helping to open doors for them, giving them skills that can transform their futures. I’ve had students who went from struggling with basics to acing exams and landing great jobs. The connections and gratitude you receive from your students are deeply rewarding. It’s a unique feeling knowing that your work has a lasting, positive impact on others’ lives. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself and let me know!

How to Start Teaching English Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide

I've probably pumped you up so much that you're probably itching to pack your bags and say goodbye to your daily routine. But hold on a sec, let’s first map out your journey to becoming a digital nomad English teacher. This is where the real fun begins because you're one step closer to making this dream a reality!

Step 1: Assess the Requirements to Teach English Abroad

TEFL certification English test

Just like job hunting on LinkedIn, teaching English abroad has its prerequisites. Before you quit your current job, make sure you meet the basic requirements.

The first one is pretty straightforward—you need to be a native English speaker or have near-native proficiency. Don’t worry, no one’s looking for fancy English degrees that’ll leave you drowning in student loans. Many destinations care more about your TEFL certification and enthusiasm for teaching than a traditional degree. Some examples include Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, and Costa Rica!

Step 2: Get TEFL Certified (Your Golden Ticket)

Digital nomad English teachers holding TEFL certification

You know those Google certification courses for digital marketing? Think of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) as the equivalent of teaching English abroad. It’s not enough to just speak English—you need to prove you can teach it. Tutoring middle school kids for extra pocket money is one thing, but showing you’re serious about teaching is another. Getting TEFL certified shows schools and students that you’re legit and ready to take on the classroom.

How do you get TEFL certified? 

We live in a world of options so, of course, you'll find various ways to get TEFL certified. Here are the different ways of going about it:

  • Online TEFL Courses: These are great if you need flexibility and affordability. You can study at your own pace and often get job search support.
  • Self-Study TEFL Courses: If you’re super disciplined and self-motivated, this might work for you. Just know that you’re on your own—no hand-holding here.
  • Face-to-Face TEFL Courses: These courses are immersive and typically held in a foreign country. They’re fantastic for getting a feel for the teaching environment and culture. Plus, they often include job placement assistance. A friend of mine did this in Thailand and loved the immediate classroom experience.

Your TEFL Checklist

  • At Least 120 Hours: When searching for your TEFL course, make sure it includes at least 120 hours of instruction. This is the industry standard to get certified. In terms of how much time it'll take you, consider an average of 10 to 12 weeks for an online course and 4 intensive weeks of 9-5 for a face-to-face course.
  • Accredited by a Reputable Organization: Look for accreditation from a recognized body to ensure your certification is legit.
  • Includes Observed Teaching Practice: It's one thing to think you can manage a classroom and another to actually experience it. This is a must for gaining practical experience and building confidence in the classroom.

How Much Does a TEFL Course Cost?

Now, it's time to dive into your wallet. For a quality online TEFL course, the prices typically go from $250 to $500. They’re generally more affordable and offer flexibility, which is great if you’re balancing other commitments. Face-to-face courses are obviously more expensive, usually between $1,700 and $2,400. Before you freak out, they often come with perks like job placement, accommodation assistance, and visa support. I know it's a bigger upfront investment, but these extras can be worth it.

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A bit of self-promotion: If you want to learn from someone who's been through it and is still doing it, let me help you. I offer Face-to-Face TEFL courses designed to set you up for success. If you already have your TEFL certification, check out my Teach Abroad Package to help you land that dream teaching job abroad with the salary you deserve. I’ve been there and done that, and I’m here to make your journey smoother! Interested in teaching online? I can help you with that, too!

Step 3: Choose Your Teaching Path

Digital nomad English teacher in a classroom

Now that you're TEFL certified, it's time to decide how you want to teach. Here are the main options you might want to consider:

Online Teaching Platforms

When you first start, finding your own clients can be tough. If you're not ready to dive into the deep end, don’t stress. When I first started out, I found online teaching platforms like iTalki, Lingopie, and MagicEars super helpful. They connect you with students from around the world and take care of the logistics. It’s a great way to get your feet wet without worrying about finding your own clients. Not to mention, you can set your own schedule and work from anywhere with a decent internet connection. Plus, it's a great option for a first-time teacher as you get lesson plans provided, and there's more focus on communication than there is on grammar.

Freelance Teaching

Once you feel confident and want more control over your rates and schedule, consider going freelance. I loved the freedom it gave me, but it also meant hustling to find students. You can advertise your services on platforms like Upwork or even create your own website to attract students. Word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful here, so don’t shy away from asking happy students to refer you. It’s more work, but the independence and potential earnings make it worth it.

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Be aware that you will pay a fee to these platforms for advertising with them.

Also, to make classes more engaging and save me time, I use lesson plan templates from Lingua House, Busy Teacher and ESLBrains. 

Create Your Own Courses/Materials

If you’re feeling ambitious and have a knack for creating content, developing your own courses or teaching materials can be very rewarding. This route requires a lot of upfront work and marketing skills.

I have friends who have taken this path, and it was challenging for them but also incredibly satisfying to see students benefit from custom materials. It’s not the easiest way to start, but once you’ve built a reputation and a following, it can be quite lucrative if you're able to set up a good sales funnel. It allows you to share your unique teaching style and insights on a broader scale.

Step 4: Find Your Ideal Teaching Location

Digital nomad English teacher in Indonesia

Let's get back to one of the biggest perks of becoming a digital nomad English teacher: you get to ditch the 9-to-5 office schedule and live and work from virtually anywhere in the world. But let's be real, some places are going to fit this lifestyle better than others. Think about factors like the cost of living, vibrant nomad communities, and plenty of teaching opportunities. Here are a few top picks to consider:

  • Southeast Asia: In Southeast Asia, you’ve got Thailand’s Chiang Mai with its cheap living costs, friendly locals, and an expat community that feels like family. Then there’s Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, a lively city that perfectly blends old-school charm with modern amenities. Indonesia’s Bali offers the dream lifestyle—surf in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and relax with a sunset on the beach. And if you're on the hunt for great food, rich culture, and a growing community of digital nomads, Malaysia's Penang should be on your radar.
  • Europe: Europe has its stars, too. Portugal’s Lisbon is all about stunning views, great weather, and a vibe that’s as chill as it gets. Spain’s Valencia brings you sun, sand, and a city brimming with life. The Czech Republic’s Prague is straight out of a fairytale with its architecture and modern twist. Hungary’s Budapest offers beautiful scenery and a lively, welcoming expat scene.
  • Latin America: In Latin America, Mexico’s Playa del Carmen is a beach town that’s all about good vibes and good times. Costa Rica’s Tamarindo is perfect for those who love nature and are looking for a bit of adventure. Colombia’s Medellin offers year-round spring weather and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Remember, when picking your spot, consider visa requirements, cost of living, internet reliability, and the kind of environment you thrive in. Some places are perfect for those who love being in the heart of the action, while others are better suited for a more laid-back, beachside lifestyle. Do your homework and choose the spot that feels right for you. Trust me, finding the right place makes all the difference in your digital nomad journey.

Step 5: Secure Your First Teaching Gig

Resume

Once you've got your TEFL certification and chosen your location, it's time to start applying for remote jobs! Here’s how to land your first teaching gig with some real-life examples from my own journey:

  • Create a Standout Profile: First things first, make an online profile that screams "hire me!" Highlight your qualifications, experience, and personality. When I was setting up my profile, I included a video introduction. It felt weird at first, but it really helped me stand out. Potential students got a sense of who I am, and it made the whole process more personal. I would also try and use buzzwords such as "engaging", "energetic" and "creative". You should also include specific terms that you've learned on the TEFL course to stand out against the crowd!
  • Write a Killer Resume/CV: Don't be lazy! Tailor your resume to each job you’re applying for. Show your relevant skills and experience, and don’t be afraid to get a little creative. When I applied for a position in Vietnam, I included a section about my love for Vietnamese culture and cuisine. It showed I was genuinely interested in their country, and it definitely helped me get my foot in the door.
  • Ace Your Interviews: Practice makes perfect. Prepare for common interview questions and be ready to discuss your teaching philosophy and approach. During one of my first interviews, I was asked how I would handle a disruptive student. I shared a funny story about my own experience as a student and how I use humor and patience to manage the classroom. They loved it, and I got the job. And remember, by taking a face to face TEFL course, you'll feel fully prepared to answer these kinds of questions as you'll already have been in the classroom teaching.
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With Teacher's Friend, I'll also help you with mock interviews and tips for improvement!

Don't be shy—reach out to other teachers and potential clients directly. Join online forums, attend local meetups, and make connections. I found one of my best gigs through a recommendation on the Teaching English Facebook group in HCM. We got to talking, and she recommended me for a position at his school. So, you see? Networking can open doors you didn’t even know existed!

Step 6: Embrace the Nomad Lifestyle

Digital nomad English teacher with local friends

Congratulations! You're officially a digital nomad English teacher. Now, it's time to embrace your new lifestyle and make the most of your freedom. Here are a few tips:

  • Manage Your Finances: Create a budget and track your expenses to ensure you’re living within your means. Don't make the rookie mistake of overspending. You can even use a simple app to keep track of your spending and savings goals.
  • Find Affordable Digital Nomad Accommodation: Look for nomad accommodation options like co-living spaces, guesthouses, or apartments with flexible lease terms. There are also websites like Workaway and WorldPackers that offer free accommodation and sometimes even food in exchange for your English teaching skills!
  • Adapt to New Cultures: Be open-minded and respectful of local customs and traditions. In Japan, for instance, one my friends learned the hard way that tipping is considered rude. Embrace these differences—they’re part of what makes this lifestyle so enriching.
  • Build a Supportive Community: Connect with other nomads through social media, digital nomad blogs, online forums, or local events. When I was in Phnom Penh, I joined a local expat group on Facebook. We organized weekly meetups, games nights, and excursions out of the city. These connections made the city truly feel like home.

Don't forget that the nomad lifestyle is all about adventure, flexibility, and personal growth. So get out there, explore the world, and make unforgettable memories! This journey is what you make of it, and with the right mindset, it’ll be the ride of your life.

FAQs About Teaching English Abroad: Your Burning Questions Answered

Digital nomad English teacher with student

Okay, let's tackle some of the most common questions I get from aspiring digital nomad English teachers. Consider this your cheat sheet for navigating the world of teaching abroad:

Who will I be teaching?

You'll mostly be teaching kids of all ages, but you might also have opportunities to teach adults and teenagers. Your students will come from diverse backgrounds, especially if you're teaching in Asia or online. Get ready to meet people from all walks of life and learn about different cultures!

What's the teaching experience like?

Teaching English abroad is an adventure! I can promise you’ll experience incredible highs (like seeing your students' faces light up when they understand a new concept) and some challenges (like adapting to different cultures and teaching styles). But overall, it's a super rewarding experience that will push you to grow both personally and professionally. I wouldn’t change it with anything else.

How much can I expect to earn?

Let's revisit the million-dollar question! First up, remember that salaries vary depending on where you teach. Here's a rough estimate of what you can expect in different regions:

  • Southeast Asia: $1,200-$2,500/month
  • East Asia: $1,500-$2,500/month
  • Europe: €1,200-€1,700/month
  • Costa Rica: $700-$1,200/month
  • Online: $10-25 USD per hour
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Keep in mind that the cost of living also varies greatly between countries, so do your research and choose a location where your salary will allow you to live comfortably and save for your future adventures.

You may also be interested in:

What is the Cost of Living a Nomadic Lifestyle?
Explore the nomad lifestyle costs with this ultimate guide. Includes FREE budget tracker, real-life cost examples and cost-saving strategies.

Where should I teach?

Choosing the best place to teach really comes down to what you want out of your experience. Here are some popular digital nomad hubs to get you started:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand: This city is a digital nomad favorite for a reason. It offers a low cost of living, incredible street food, and a strong community of like-minded people. Plus, the scenery is breathtaking, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore Thai culture.
Chiang Mai for Digital Nomads – The Ultimate Guide
Dive into the complete guide for digital nomads in Chiang Mai. Tips on coworking spaces, cafes, culture & more to thrive in Thailand’s nomad hub.
  • Lisbon, Portugal: Lisbon is known for its beautiful architecture, delicious food, and vibrant digital nomad scene. The mix of historic charm and modern amenities creates a unique and enjoyable living experience. Plus, the weather is fantastic.
Lisbon for Digital Nomads – The Ultimate Guide
Lisbon is a multicultural city that attracts digital nomads and remote workers from all over the world. Read our guide to learn how to work remotely from Lisbon.
  • Playa del Carmen, Mexico: This beach town is popular among digital nomads and expats for its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful beaches. It offers a great balance of work and play, with a lively community and plenty of activities to enjoy when you’re not teaching.
Playa Del Carmen for Digital Nomads – An Honest Guide
Discover Playa Del Carmen as a digital nomad with our honest guide. Co-working spaces, living costs, and tips for a smooth experience.
  • Bali, Indonesia: For those who dream of living by the beach, Bali is paradise. You can teach in the morning, surf in the afternoon, and unwind with a sunset. The laid-back lifestyle and stunning natural beauty make it a perfect place to relax and recharge.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, Ho Chi Minh City is your spot. It’s a vibrant metropolis with a unique blend of modern life and traditional Vietnamese culture. The city’s energy is infectious, and there’s always something new to discover.

If you need more inspo, you can check all the nomad destinations here:

Best Digital Nomad Destinations | Digital Nomad Guides
Discover top digital nomad destinations worldwide, and find the best accommodation and coworking. Learn local tips and connect with other nomads.

Your Adventure Awaits

You're all set! You've got the tools and the know-how to jump into the life of a digital nomad English teacher. This is your shot to break away from the mundane, explore new places, and make a real impact while you’re at it.

Don’t overthink it. Take that first step today. Sign up for a TEFL course, start scouting your dream destinations, and get ready to launch your new life as a globetrotting teacher. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Ready to Embrace the Digital Nomad Lifestyle?

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We'll see you there, Freaking Nomads!

About the Author: Georgie Robyn Snape

Georgie, from Teacher's Friend, has been teaching and traveling since 2013. She's taught in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand (yes, you can teach there too!), Phu Quoc Island and online for two years. She has also been a teacher trainer in Cambodia and Indonesia, and Bali for two and a half years. She is now a digital nomad who helps other people teach English abroad and become digital nomads, too! If you'd like to know more, get in touch with her today.

Disclosure: Hey, just a heads up that some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that, if you buy through our links, we may earn a small commission that helps us create helpful content for the community. We only recommend products if we think they will add value, so thanks for supporting us!