We sometimes get inquiries about digital nomad tips from our visitors. The range is quite broad. It goes like this... Ah yes, the draw of teaching your way around the planet with a TEFL hacking machete in one hand and a computer in the other. Do people do it? You betcha.
What do they have? Freedom, an unquenchable thirst for adventure and their backpacks are as full of countermeasures as they are electronic gadgetry, teaching materials and Swiss Army knives.
In general what they don't have are wives or husbands, children, financial stability and untransportable assets like houses. (Your car probably won't fit in your carry-on and even if you can make it fit, it will put you over the weight limit.)
We got an e-mail from a man who has a keen interest in teaching in Japan but not just Japan. Other Asian nations as well like Korea, Thailand, China etc. So for him being a digital nomad in Japan was just one stop on his march to the sea. Perhaps his name was Sherman.
He asked us - "Is it doable?" In a nut shell yes it is but it takes a lot more planning and is a much tougher nut to crack. The chief obstacle in the nomad concept is getting traction in the market. What we mean by this is it works on a radically scaled down model. You'll be staying in guest houses as they are cheaper in the short term than to shell out cash to get your own place. More here. So you'll be sharing accommodations with other travelers like toilets, showers, refrigerators etc.
So the set up cost of getting your own little piece of privacy puts downward financial pressure which in turn causes the time to break even on cutting into the market to be cost prohibitive. Of course you can always whip out the credit card and run the juice on it for a while.
Do you like fishing? We hope so because you'll be fishing for undesirable jobs in entry level positions. Which means ALT jobs and eikaiwa jobs.
Better paying jobs are hard to come by and are given out to those with some time spent in Japan. The high end ESL job market in Japan is quite saturated. And these jobs are often gotten by word of mouth which means you have to have a decent size social circle to even hear about them. And of course the rub here is that it takes time to develop a circle.Time you don't have because you're jumping ship constantly.
Sorry digital nomads but that's just the way it works not just in the world of teaching TEFL but basically everywhere on the planet.
So the main digital nomad tip is to size up your market and choose low competition cities and countries where work is more plentiful where the thirst for hiring ESL teachers is high and the countrie's infrastructure is lower than of that of tougher markets like Japan.
"What about being a working / practical nomad?"
Yes that's possible too but again it come back to getting traction. In this case you're nomadic inside of Japan so you can jump around areas of Japan without wiping out your social circle and financial pluses In other words you are a tad less nomadic. Either that or you plan on staying two years or so so you can get traction before you bail.
Here's another digital nomad tip from Dave Sperling of Dave's ESL Cafe - "If it's your intention to just work a bit and bail - don't show it. "We often run across ads that say backpackers need not apply. And we here at All About Teaching in Japan have also have posted ads from companies saying basically the same thing.
The stark reality that needs to be addressed regarding this approach is that high paying schools aren't interested in being used as a entry in your personal travel blog or your selfies. They are more interested in using you and the sweat from your brow to generate profit for themselves and ensure that their students get a decent education from serious ESL teachers.
These teachers usually have TEFL certification and a couple years of teaching experience under their belt. Often they have published papers and speak Japanese as well. These schools often plainly state they want a one year commitment for a good reason.
The sites you see about digital nomads on top of some snowy mountain with their computers furiously pounding away on the keyboard are savvy internet marketers and bloggers with good copy writing skills who know how to drive affiliate sales.
So the last digital nomad tip is if you want to include Japan on your list of places to teach is to be a practical nomad and get some traction built up. But if not your best option is to put Japan at the end of your list.
Steps for Getting Ready to Find Jobs in Japan
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