Five Ideas for Supporting Yourself in the Spanish Economy

11 February 2021

Make a Living in Spain

Spain Expat presents five ideas for making a living in Spain and how to go about it.

Learn your competitive advantage.
Not being independently wealthy shouldn’t hinder your dream of moving abroad. If you’re looking for a way to earn your bread and make a living in Spain, here are five ideas to help get you going:
  1. Open a Business
  3. Go Corporate
  5. Teach
  7. Freelance
  9. Be a Student

Open a Business to Make a Living

Have you ever thought: Wouldn’t it be fun to start a restaurant? Run a hotel? Open a gift shop? Or perhaps a…? If you’re able to discern that it’s not just a passing fancy, then you might want to think seriously about opening your own business to make your living in Spain. Not for the faint of heart, opening a business in Spain requires lots of determination, tenacity in the face of both adversity and bureaucracy, access to cash or capital, armloads of research and good, old-fashioned hard work. Besides starting from scratch, you could also buy an existing business or franchise location. But whether you choose to create or acquire a business, be prepared to make friends with the various professionals whose services you will most likely need: a lawyer or solicitor, gestor and accountant or financial advisor. An excellent source of information (in Spanish) is the official Ventanilla única empresarial. There, potential entrepreneurs can find a wealth of information, such as how to choose a legal business structure or the legal and financial obligations of a business in Spain, and can get a good idea of how to navigate the Spanish bureaucracy. A short online questionnaire can help you determine which forms you will need for what you plan to do. Offline you can find a Ventanilla única office in most regions of Spain. You can also find information and support (in Spanish) from Spain's Cámaras de Comercio (Chambers of Commerce), also with local offices throughout the country. If you don’t speak Spanish yet, it would probably be a good idea to have a business partner who does. To build a business in Spain from the ground up, you should first consider: What kind of business or industry am I familiar with or interested in? What kind of customers should the business be looking for? Where is a good location for the business? How can I raise the needed capital? How involved do I want to be with the everyday running of the business? And not least of all, what is my contingency plan if the business should fail? Go and buy a book on running a business; talk to some people who have already done it; learn more about your intended industry, region and customers; and then if you’d still like to take the plunge and open up your very own business in Spain, start with writing your business plan. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. (Check out Rich Dad, Poor Dad for some business inspiration.)

Go Corporate to Make a Living

If you’d rather attend a meeting than write a business plan, consider going corporate to make your living in Spain. First, if you already work for a multinational corporation in your home country, check to see if there’s a branch or an office in Spain. If there is, let your research begin! Does the office in Spain do something similar to what the company does in your home country, or is it completely different? Learn your competitive advantage. Do you possess skills or experience that the local Spanish staff doesn’t have? Can you complement them so that they can do their jobs better? What makes you more qualified than anyone else in your office to be sent to Spain? Do you have a unique insight or perspective? It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be sent abroad as a reward for your work, so instead focus on identifying the decision makers and making them understand why you’re the best thing that’s going to happen to the Spanish office. Second, it may be time for you to turn corporate. Many major multinational corporations have offices in Spain, including Microsoft, Airbus, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Deloitte, and Google. Check the career section on their websites for the latest openings. Also try Spain Expat’s exhaustive list of job sites in Spain. Though it may be grim to acknowledge, unless you’re an EU citizen or have some exceptional talent, experience or knowledge, your chances of getting a corporate job in Spain are not good. But if you do have one or more of those assets working for you, there’s nothing to stop you from making a good living in Spain.
It’s possible to transfer your career to Spain.

Teach to Make a Living

If teaching is your strong suit, you may indeed find your place as an educator in Spain. Two options to consider are teaching at an international elementary or secondary school, or becoming an English teacher in a private language academy. If you are currently an elementary or secondary school teacher in your home country, it’s possible to simply transfer your career to Spain. For example, American schools seek teachers with US teaching credentials, British schools seek teachers with British qualifications and so on. Check with your country’s embassy for a list of international schools in Spain. Otherwise, teaching English in a private language academy is a popular career-starting or career-changing move for English-speaking foreigners bound for Spain. Why? English is BIG business here; there is a relatively high demand for English teachers, language academies require minimal qualifications and it’s often easy to find a job. Some people deride the low wages and low educational standards of teaching English in private academies, but others happily make a career of it. There are a fair number of people, however, who use teaching English as a way to make contacts in Spain before branching out into something else. For more information on teaching English in Spain, see Spain Expat’s series on teaching English in Spain, as well as The Complete Guide to Teaching English in Spain.

Freelance to Make a Living

If you enjoy the freedom of being your own boss and setting your own hours, consider going freelance in Spain. The employment options available to a freelancer are limited primarily by your imagination, motivation and marketing skills. They generally fall into two groups, however: Internet based and in person. Internet-based freelancers often need little more than a computer and a reliable Internet connection to get going. Creative, editorial and technical fields of work lend themselves especially well to freelancing for clients based anywhere in the world. Think of journalists, writers, proofreaders, translators, photographers, graphic artists, web designers and computer programmers – with a computer, a VOIP phone number and an Internet connection, is there anything they can’t do? In-person freelancers are freelancers who provide a service at the client’s home or office, the freelancer’s office or a separate location. Consultancies, specialized professions and private lessons lend themselves especially well to in-person freelancing. Think of marketing consultants, financial consultants, business analysts, accountants, lawyers and solicitors, private-practice doctors, psychologists, masseuses, piano teachers and private English teachers. Depending on your specialty, however, you may first need to have your qualifications validated for equivalency in Spain. It also takes time to find enough freelance business to support yourself. If you don’t have another job or another way to make money waiting in the wings while you build up your client base, make sure you have a year’s worth of savings in the bank before you make the leap to full-time freelancing. Otherwise, being poor in Spain is manageable, but certainly less fun. See the cost of living page for an idea of just how poor one can be and how much you need to get by whilst living in Spain.

Be a Student to Make a Living

Well, being a student isn’t employment per se, but if you’re thinking about living in Spain anywhere from three months to three years, going back to school could be a viable option for two reasons. First, since you’re only planning on being in Spain temporarily, you can count on your current financial relationships. Check with your bank about their student loans. Or even a personal loan. Then check with other banks in your area. You might also be eligible for a government loan. Americans should submit a FAFSA to determine their eligibility for government grants and loans. Canadians should check with the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLC). Now would also be a good time to learn more about schools and higher education in Spain. Second, your career might benefit from the chance to go back to school. You could get an MBA or other degree to help you advance in your career, or pursue a degree that allows you to change careers. Completing your coursework in Spanish could be a good challenge; otherwise Spain has a wide variety of degree programs and training courses available in English. Whichever of these five routes you choose to make your living in Spain, remember that with enough preparation and research, you should be able to find your niche. Good luck!

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