My Experience Making Dollars and Living in Medellin
Life is pretty awesome in Medellin, Colombia. I mean, the cost of living is low, the food is good, transportation is very accessible, there are things to do year round, the women are beautiful, and the weather is great.
Regardless, you need to either have a bunch of money saved, investments that produce positive cash flow, have a good job that pays at least $2,000,000 pesos per month, or make dollars.
I got to Colombia in 2010. I had a few thousand dollars saved up, no job, and no real plan. Since I’m Colombian I didn’t have to worry about a visa. I did have to worry about making money though because I knew my savings would run out eventually.
In this blog post I’m going to go over how I have made U.S. dollars while living in Medellin for seven years.
How I Got My First Online Job
Seven years ago the main freelance job website was called oDesk.com, which is now UpWork.com.
After creating my profile on oDesk.com I started to browse jobs. I had experience in Search Engine Optimization and online marketing, however I was being beat out by Indian and Filipino freelancers who were charging $3 to $5 per hour.
Sales and customer service was another skill I had up my sleeve. I knew that no matter how cheap Indians or Filipino freelancers are, they would never be able to sell as good as I could. Therefore I started to apply for sales and customer support jobs.
I landed a job with GoSkate.com as a telephone salesperson with no base pay, just commision on sales.
GoSkate.com had a lead capture form where people that wanted skateboarding lessons would put down their name and phone number. I’d take that information and I’d call them and try to close them on a skateboard lesson package.
I worked for GoSkate.com approximately four months and made about $6,000.
In the four months with GoSkate I learned and put lots of digital marketing strategies into place. Therefore, I decided to branch out on my own as a digital marketer.
Freelance Websites in 2017
- UpWork.com – https://www.upwork.com/fl/andrewmacia
I have used a couple other sites:
- Guru.com – https://www.guru.com/freelancers/andrewmacia_freelancer
- Freelancer.com – https://www.freelancer.com/u/andrewmacia
Forbes recently put together a list of 79 websites where you can find freelance jobs.
Teach English Online
I know that many people want to come to Colombia and teach English, howbeit, English teachers do not make a lot of money in Medellin. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching English in Medellin, it was an amazing experience. That’s the way I look at it, as an amazing experience, not as a money making opportunity. The best English teaching jobs are jobs where you’re teaching corporate executives privately. Teaching for a private institute or school doesn’t allow you freedom. Furthermore, you’re bound to a 9 to 5 schedule, and at most, you’re making $25,000 to $30,000 pesos per hour ($8.00 to $10.00 US).
My brother, Francisco, came to Medellin two years ago. He works for me at Red Door Studios, regardless, he wanted to get into teaching English, but didn’t have a teaching certificate. He scoured the internet for online teaching jobs and landed one with 51Talk.
He teaches Chinese kids from 6:00 am to 9:00 am (he sets his own schedule) and makes about $20.00 US per hour. So if he works three hours every day, Monday through Friday, that’s 15 hours at $20/hour, he makes $300 per week, that’s $1,400 a month.
Considering that his rent (two bedroom apartment in the Santa Fe neighborhood) is $900,000 (roughly $300.00 US), that he lives with his girlfriend, and that he works at Red Door Studios the rest of the time, he’s sitting pretty. Mind you that I’m being conservative on his hours. He usually works about 20 hours a week.
Another example was an Australian roommate I had a few years ago when I was living in downtown Medellin.
He would wake up at 5:00 am to teach online for OpenEnglish for four hours, he’d then go to his teaching job he had at one of the local universities here in Medellin. OpenEnglish starts at $10.00 US per hour. That may seem low, but when you do the math, it’s roughly $30,000 COL per hour.
To get a teaching job here in Colombia that pays $30,000 per hour (if you can find one) you’ll have to have a pedagogical degree and/or certificate plus experience.
I did a quick google search for the search term “list of online teaching websites” and this awesome resource of websites came up. If I needed a job I’d apply to as many of these as possible.
Need to get a teaching certificate? Well you’re in luck. Blendex, in downtown Medellin, now offers TESOl and TEFL certification courses. They are legitimate certificates through Cambridge University, and at a much lower price than the US, Europe or Australia. I got my TESOL certification at Blendex and so did my brother.
Work For an Expat
While starting Red Door Studios I needed to have another source of income. I figured I would network on some of the expat groups on Facebook and see if I ccould get a part time job for someone that had an online business.
I made contact with the owner of Catapult Steel. We spoke via Facebook briefly, then met at his apartment in Laureles.
He needed another telephone salesman to take inbound sales calls. I was all over it. I learned the product in a week and was given a VOIP phone and worked from home. I was able to make US dollars while working on building my own business. Although I only worked at Catapult Steel for a couple of months it gave me the economic boost and moral support I needed to push forward with my own business.
You can start networking on these facebook groups:
- The Medellin Entrepreneur Society
- Expats in Colombia
- Colombians and Expats of Medellin
- Jobs in Medellin
If I needed to get a job I’d join those groups and post my skills and availability. You’ll find that most of the expats here in Medellin are nice and helpful.
How I Get Paid in US Dollars
If you’re from the U.S., Europe, or Australia and you’re living in Colombia you can set up online payment accounts and get paid pretty easily.
PayPal – I have a PayPal account. Paypal charges you whenever you take money out, For details make sure to check out the PayPal website or read the PayPal for Dummies page. So if you need someone to pay you PayPal has a feature that allows you to create an invoice. You send it via email and the recipient can click on the link and pay using their own PayPal account or using a debit or credit card.
I did some research and found this list of websites that are alternatives to PayPal.
Direct Deposit or Mailed Check – Another way that I get paid in dollars is by having my clients do a direct deposit to my U.S. bank account. If they don’t want to do a direct deposit then I just have them mail a check to my parents house in California. My parents then deposit the checks into my business account.
BitCoin – Last, but definitely not least is having clients pay me via Bitcoin. I invest in cryptocurrencies, therefore, I allow clients to pay me via bitcoin. In order to receive bitcoin as payment you’ve gotta set up a wallet. I use Jaxx wallet, but if you do some research you’ll find that there are other options.
How to Transfer Dollars to your Colombian Bank Account
As a freelancer I would just use my U.S. bank ATM card to withdraw pesos. That worked well for a while, but as my business grew I needed to find a better way to get my US dollars to my Colombian bank account.
My favorite service has been Xoom. With Xoom I can transfer up to $10,000 US for $5.00 US from my BofA account to my Colombian bank account. The transfer happens within minutes and in the 3 years of using them I’ve never had a negative experience.
A regular user does not have $10,000 US limit though. You start off with $3,000 US limit. If you want to upgrade you have to fill out paperwork and show tax returns.
I did some research and found a list of some alternatives to Xoom.
My Colombian – American Dream
My parents gave up their life in Colombia back in 1986 to immigrate to the United States of America to provide me and my siblings a better life, therefore, I have given up everything in the U.S. to come back to Colombia to set up their retirement.
Today, my parents still live in Southern California. My dad works for Pet Smart and my mom is a nanny. Over 30 years in the U.S. my parents have owned businesses, worked odd jobs, had successes and failures, all for me and my siblings.
I have a three year plan. First and foremost, my parents will never have to work again in three years. I will have bought them a house here in Colombia and they will be living off some investments I’ve made and their U.S. pension.
This is my obsession, this is my Colombian/American dream.
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About the writer – Andrew Macia
Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz. I am an advanced level English teacher, and I also run a digital marketing company here in Medellin.
I love Colombian, and Medellin has been my home since 2010. I like to write and I want to give back to the community. This is the best way I know how. I hope you enjoy my blog!
About the Medellin Buzz
I started the Medellin Buzz as a resource for my English as a foreign language students. A site where they could read about their city in English, that wasn’t boring. It slowly turned into a personal blog and hub for information for people discovering Medellin. I check comments frequently, so feel free to leave your comment and/or questions below.