Close

Employment for a Writer in Vietnam?

Dear Friends,

I am relatively new to expat.com, so before my question I will introduce myself. I am an American who grew up as a military brat overseas (Italy, Spain) and lived previously as an expat in Kathmandu Nepal for eight months. I attend St. John's College (small but rigorous liberal arts college) but have decided to leave, due to my preparedness and vision. I feel that as great as this degree is, it does not contribute to my ultimate intention. My time can be better spent elsewhere.

Vietnam and HCMC interest me especially due to the large and vibrant expat community and entrepreneurial spirit. I am seeking somewhere that has a relatively low cost of living so I can dedicate my time to writing and becoming a digital nomad. Currently getting a blog up and running, and planning to arrive in August.

My main question is this: are there employment opportunities for native English speakers other than teaching? As much as I enjoy (and would be willing to teach again) I would like to find something closer to my interests. What are the prospects of working as a writer (Journalist, freelance, technical— any kind of writing)? How do I find such opportunities?

My idea is to arrive and find work by word of mouth, and interview in person to show my commitment. As much as not having a degree might be a setback I see no problem with it—I am mainly an autodidact , have professional experience, and ways of proving my competence at a given job. I am more worried whether such opportunities even exist for writing as a native English speaker. 

I am also not opposed to finding any job upon arrival, so I can establish myself in the community and have more time for searching (i'll have a solid months worth of living expenses plus emergency funding). I have heard it is easier to find employment after arrival rather than sending out applications beforehand—is this reliable? Could I find employment by walk-in within a week or two of getting to HCMC?

As a side note, my ultimate intention is to found a literary journal and be active within the arts community—it seems HCMC has a significant population of business oriented and IT expats, but (correct me if I'm wrong) it is less developed in platforms for the arts. I'd be interested to help establish this. Contact me if you have any knowledge/interest in such a thing.

So to sum up: what are the job prospects for the newly arrived other than teaching, and what possibilities are there for writers?

In order to find much work as a writer in Vietnam, I would presume you will need to be fluent in the Vietnamese language.

Thanks, I ask because I saw some English language publications like Vietcetera and figured there might be openings in more international type media... But I suppose for the good majority you're right.

I once saw the English language Vietnam News advertising for native Wngliah speakers, so I guess you xould contact rhem and other English language news publishers.

It might be easier to find work as a copy editor than as an originator of material.  Most of the English language publications in Vietnam have reasonably competent native reporters but they still could benefit from editing for idiom and turn of phrase. 

However even if you find work, and even though you do not intend to teach, your lack of a degree could still be an obstacle.  This is because without it, you will be asked to provide evidence of five years experience in your chosen field in order to obtain a work permit and work legally.  As you seem to have recently left college, it is doubtful that you can provide such evidence of experience.  Without a work permit, you will be a mirror image of  an immigrant working in the US without proper documentation, whether said immigrant is picking lettuce or writing for a major publication.

Hmm, very helpful. Well I have nine months experience writing and editing official documentation for a school in Nepal but nowhere close to five years. Is that really the legal minimum for a work visa? Do you think if I did end up finding work as a copy editor, the company could legally sponsor it as an internship since I don't yet have the requisite professional experience?

TheThoreauLife :

Hmm, very helpful. Well I have nine months experience writing and editing official documentation for a school in Nepal but nowhere close to five years. Is that really the legal minimum for a work visa? Do you think if I did end up finding work as a copy editor, the company could legally sponsor it as an internship since I don't yet have the requisite professional experience?

Yes it is the legal minimum except where a degree suffices.  Perhaps some publications would be happy to hire you for an unpaid internship, but if you are paid, no matter how little, you need a work permit.  More precisely, the employer needs a work permit to hire you.  There may be one, but I don't know what visa would be appropriate for an unpaid intern.

You also mentioned having a month's expenses.  Better make that two plus enough (or a credit card) for a return ticket home, maybe $2500 minimum.  That would be appropriate for anyone moving to Vietnam without an external source of income.

Here is an alternative.  Sell your skills, either freelance or on contract, to publications in other countries.  Send the copy off by email, and have the payments made to your US bank then make the transfers as needed.  There are many threads here on transferring money.  Into Vietnam may have a cost, but should be possible through several methods.  Moving money out is very difficult.

Have you considered the 'laptop lifestyle?' There are a lot of jobs available online for writers and editors. You can work these jobs from any location in the world with a good internet provider.
There are a ton of English language centers here, You might be able to find some work producing materials/lesson plans for some of them but, most of them are going to use stuff that has already been published and established a reputation.

drutter :

Have you considered the 'laptop lifestyle?' There are a lot of jobs available online for writers and editors. You can work these jobs from any location in the world with a good internet provider.
There are a ton of English language centers here, You might be able to find some work producing materials/lesson plans for some of them but, most of them are going to use stuff that has already been published and established a reputation.

The first is similar to what I suggested.  The second idea would still be employment within Vietnam and would require a work permit.   I also really doubt that he could sell his skills in developing curricular materials unless he had extensive ESL teaching experience.  Having taught in regular US classrooms and ESL classrooms, both in Vietnam and with Japanese students in the US, I can say that ESL has its own unique challenges and each native language of the students presents unique difficulties.

Big Mac n fries.  Make it snappy

All good points. Thank you for your input.

I have been in VN for 17 years and I would suggest that you finish your degree at St John's. It will be the best thing you ever did. If you don't you will regret it.

As far as writing you won't make any money, unless you are an excellent writer and contribute to local English magazines, or perhaps edit legal documents in English.

Teaching you can do but most decent jobs require a degree and Teacher Certificate.

Finish your degree and then reconsider.

>It might be easier to find work as a copy editor than as an originator of material.  Most of the              English language publications in Vietnam have reasonably competent native reporters but they still could benefit from editing for idiom and turn of phrase.
---------------------------

Well, if my experience is anything to go by -- I've been an editor, sub-editor, writer and publisher for more than 35 years (magazines, newspapers, books, online) -- it's going to be very hard unless you try the digital nomad route, which won't be easy either.

I thought I identified a market in the English-language web pages put up by Vietnamese companies, where the English is invariably 'Vietlish'. "I can easily fix that for you," I wrote to many of them and also spoke with them at networking forums. My fee was similar to that of English-language teachers.

"Very interesting, we'll let you know," was the general, polite response. With one exception (a couple of small jobs and then nothing) I never heard back from anyone.

It was then that I realised that Vietnamese companies that have English-language web pages only do so
to entice aspirational Vietnamese, not so much to lure foreigners. And foreign companies here have their own back offices to supply this sort of stuff from home.

Am I mistaken? Does anyone have a different take on this?
Rob

I agree with most of what's written above.
1) One months' expenses is woefully insufficient. Am curious as to how much you think that is.
2) English language writing here does NOT pay very well. For example, someone I know did extensive research and wrote 2-500+ word articles under contract for this web site. He was paid $40 minus PayPal fees for the effort.
3) Your best bet is to write from home for overseas publications. No work permit and paid Western rates. No one will know or much care where you are as long as you meet deadlines.
4) Writing blogs or for university assignments bears little resemblance to writing for pay. You mention "professional experience"; how long is your writing CV and did you make enough to pay all your bills. Living is relatively inexpensive here and the pay is quite low (see #2 above).
5) I disagree with the person who urged you to finish your degree. In the real world, the money it takes to get an arts degree is almost always money you'll never see again. Same thought re getting a degree just to teach English in Vietnam. Do the math.
6) You have a nice dream. Unfortunately, it's unconnected to reality.
7) Begpacking is NOT a viable option.

Although I agree that not everyone needs a university degree, they do need training/ education in whatever they pursue. So, perhaps professional writing courses, etc would be an option or a technical degree. But wherever you go and whatever you do your academic credentials will determine your opportunities and your salary - not to mention that you will actually have skills to sell.

Clearly it sounds as though the young man has no plan, no goal or direction and that is concerning. That is also why a BS degree would be a great place to find your passion and direction, along with an education that will help you as a person and as a future employee.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of an education - and all statistics show that your salary and lifetime earnings with a degree is far higher than someone without a degree.

HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY !

I do appreciate the honesty, and it's certainly been a helpful reality check. However, I do have a goal and a direction for my life-- I plan to write books at any cost, and whatever employment I can utilize to pay the bills will do. A college degree won't contribute to what I want in life aside from making it easier to earn a higher salary. I have a strong compass on what I seek to do, but figuring out how is what I'm currently processing. My thinking was something like this: having spent nine months in Nepal, and having fallen in love with Asia, Vietnam (which has has always been on my list of places to visit) should be next. With the relatively low cost of living on top of whatever employment I could find there I'd (hopefully) have enough freedom to write in my spare time, which is where my passion actually lies.

Since posting this I've thought better of it, at least the part about finding work once I get there. It seems the only employment that's feasible for me is remote work, which is ok. Thanks for all the input, it's been a help for sure.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Transcendental thinking is still an alien concept..?      :blink:

As we lurch ever closer to a new anarchy...

The thoughtful few thank you too. For your idealism, and resisting
biting at the baits.   And understanding that not everyone grew up
with Thoreau or Skinner, Huxley or Orwell et al...

You are not alone     :shy

TheThoreauLife :

*snip*...I've thought better of it, at least the part about finding work once I get there. It seems the only employment that's feasible for me is remote work, which is ok. Thanks for all the input, it's been a help for sure.

More power to you, if you can pull that off.

What no one is saying (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that there is no other option (in your case) other than a job connected to a work permit, or tourist status.

It will be illegal for you to work without a work permit.

Whatever worked for you in other countries won't work for you in Vietnam, if that means any kind of employment without a work permit.

I wouldn't hire you for anything, once I arrive, because we could BOTH be in HUGE trouble if caught.

Did I mention, any kind of employment without a work permit is illegal?

Cheers!

No doubt traveling around Asia will give you a new perspective on the world and probably some good stories. This will add to your life experience and help your writing.  Adventure is good!

Certainly we all wish you well in your pursuits. I guess we old folks tend to become more practical than idealistic.

Curiosity once killed a cat but satisfaction brought him back.

Finish your degree as it would and will ad so much credibility to your work and social standing. Most articles I have read in Vietnam that are foreign written state the authors degrees and experience. Visit Vietnam for a couple weeks before you decide the permanent move.

"A college degree won't contribute to what I want in life aside from making it easier to earn a higher salary. "

  As a writer myself, I understand, and appreciate your passion but I think your attitude towards a college degree is all wrong. A college degree will make it easier for you to earn 'any' salary-period! And it will open more doors for you in the field of writing too.

When I was young, a high school dropout had a hard time finding 'any' employment, now this has extended to college. I seriously believe you should reconsider your priorities.

  Just my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.....

A college degree is a MUST to have anywhere in the world, ESPECIALLY IN VIETNAM!
The Vietnamese only look at your degrees whether you are looking for a job, a wife or socializing. They believe EDUCATION is what makes you  stand out in a society. That's why 80% of VN families send their kids to English Schools to learn.

So please TheThoreauLife listen to RoyLittle, Jodyh54 and Drutter and finish your degree in the US before coming to Vietnam to live and to work. You will regret it if you come to Vietnam without a degree!

Wishing you Good Luck in whatever you do!

New topic