Posted on | August 23, 2012 | 12 Comments
People ask me all the time what kind of work I do, and if it’s easy to make a living in Peru. There are so many people that are interested in moving down here, and they’ve heard about how living here is so much cheaper than living in the US. I get at least one email a day from someone in the United States who has lost their job and is thinking this is the time to leave the country. Maybe they’ve heard about how the economy in Peru is booming, and they think “Wow, this could be an opportunity for me!” and then they ask – “Kelly, how do you make money in Peru? What kind of a job do you have?”
They want to know how to make a living in Peru – or even if they can make a living here.
Now, the first group I’m going to get out of the way quickly – retirees. If you’re retired, have $1000 or more a month to live on, you can do it. If you have a little less than that, you can probably still do it, depending on how picky you are. I know people who make $1000/range. They are generally single; live in a small studio type apartment or rent a room. Depending on the district, that can be done for under $400, including your utilities. If you don’t go out a lot, food will cost you $200-30o (or even less). That leaves you a little bit each month for traveling and seeing the sites, meeting single ladies (or gents!) to spend your time with, or whatever it is you like to do.
But what if you aren’t retired? What if you don’t have a steady pension check coming in every month? Assuming you’re single, you’ll still need to find a way to make that amount of money to live that lifestyle. And if you’re married, or if you have kids, that cost of living will go up (you can read my cost of living post to see what we spend).
So how does one go about making money in Peru? The obvious answer is “get a job.” But finding a job isn’t quite as easy as you might think. A lot of people – me included, before I actually came here - think that the fact you speak English will open a ton of doors for you and allow you to make all kinds of money. This is not true. First of all, in order to legally work, you need some sort of visa. If you’re just moving here because you want to, getting a visa is not easy. If you have some sort of pension or monthly payment that’s over $1000, you can get a retiree visa, but that’s not going to allow you to work legally. You can either be married to a Peruvian citizen, or you can get a work visa. A work visa has to be sponsored by a work place, it’s not something you can just apply for.
There are people who get annoyed with this – “Why won’t they give me a work visa if I want to work there?” – well, the US doesn’t just go around passing out Green Cards, now, do we? Why on earth would you think Peru lets just anyone in to start taking jobs from Peruvian??
And therein lies the rub for many people – in order to live here, you probably need a job; but getting a visa that allows you to work isn’t that easy. You can always marry a Peruvian – hey, it worked for me! – but not everyone is looking to get married right away, and certainly not just so they can get a job. (Disclaimer – I did not marry my husband for a visa; I know someone out there will think that’s what my little joke meant)
So. What do you do?
Your first option is to apply for jobs with companies or schools that will sponsor you for a work visa. There are multinational companies, NGOs. embassies, schools, institutes and a whole mess of other job places that will hire you and send you here to work. What’s more, they tend to pay much better than jobs you might be able to find after you get here. Some of them pay extremely well indeed. But they also tend to require long term contracts. These kind of jobs are perfect if you’re serious and at a point in your life where you’re actually looking for a career and are considering spending a long time here.
But what if you’re just taking a gap year after high school or college and just want to spend a little time discovering the world before you leave it all behind for grown-up life? Or if you’re a single person looking to just chuck it all and spend some time in a foreign country?
Well, even though Peru doesn’t give out work visas at the drop of a hat, they also aren’t real sticklers about their immigration laws. There are a lot of people who come here and work without proper documentation, mostly as English teachers or in call centers. You can probably also find a job in any sort of labor job, if you don’t mind long hard hours and very little pay. There are some travel agencies and tour groups that higher undocumented workers.
Here’s the problem with that – besides the whole illegality of it all – the companies that tend to hire undocumented workers are, generally speaking, pretty unscrupulous. They offer low pay, and sometimes they don’t pay when they should. Sometimes they don’t pay at all. And companies that treat their employees like crap tend to be unscrupulous in other facets of their business, too; some of them cheat their customers, some of them cheat their competition. I personally know of a tour agency that hires Americans to work for them. Part of the job that they do is go on the TripAdvisor website and fill out false bad reviews against their competition. I wouldn’t want to work for a company like that. So, crappy work conditions, unscrupulous employers and the possibility of no pay – not really the lifestyle you’re looking for if you’re thinking of Peru.
While still illegal, you can teach English on your own. There is a ton of people here learning English who love to have the opportunity to practice with a native speaker. I’ve got a student doing that right now – he comes over every day, and we talk for two hours, and he pays me 40 soles. Two clients like that, and you’re making enough to get by as a single person; three or four, and you’re doing pretty good for yourself. Finding them isn’t easy, and keeping them is harder – but it can be done. And truth is, you can change about double what I’m charging my student, but it’s a family friend so I cut him a break. If you can Skype, you can also set yourself up to do English teaching on the internet – or any other kind of tutoring, for that matter.
In fact, the internet opens up a whole new realm of income options. I started making money by writing articles for other people, then learned I could blog on my own. I make a bit of income with this blog, but I have quite a few others that I use to do affiliate marketing. That means I write reviews or information posts about products, then show people where they can buy them – if they purchase, I get a cut of the money. I do most of my affiliate sales through Amazon.com – while their commission rate is a bit lower than many, they’re such a trusted name, I think I end up making more sales.
I also still sell articles – if you can write, you can sell articles for as much as $25 each, the average is around $15. There are a lot of internet skills that other people don’t like to learn – check out the site fiverr.com and see what kind of things people are selling. I’ve made a very good amount of money from that site providing simple writing and translating services.
However, I am always looking for options that allow me to spend less time working and more with my family. That’s why I joined the Empower Network. It allows me to do what I love best – just write – and earn money doing so. You can click here to check that out if you’re interested.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about options for people who are able to work legally – there are a lot more options when you’ve got that to your advantage.
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