So you're a foreigner, you're in Taiwan, you've got a job at a cram school somewhere, and you want to make more money. What can you do?
1. Know your visa.
A lot of foreigners seem very confused about their visa, and what kind of things it allows them to do in Taiwan. You want to be familiar with the duration of your visa, who is sponsoring your visa, and whether your employment is compatible with the kind of visa you've been issued. (Link: List of Visa Types)
And once you've learned all you need to know about your visa, it's good to ask yourself whether or not your visa is hampering your ability to make money. If so, you want to look at getting a different type of visa (if possible).
2. Know your contract.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people never bother to read their contracts. For instance, is your contract valid given the type of visa you have? Is your contract legal in all other respects? Is your employer abiding by the rules set down in the contract?
Most contracts aren't all that complicated, and most of them are written in Chinese AND English. Reading them through should be the first thing you do before you sign them, and also the first thing you do after you sign them. After reading them (twice), it pays to think about "hypotheticals" that may occur during the duration of your employment. What happens if you're sick for more than 10 days? What happens if you don't get along with a co-teacher? What happens if the number of students in your class falls below a certain number?
3. Know more (kinds of) people.
Do you hang out with other foreigners all the time? This might be a great strategy if all you're after is sub work in various English schools, but there are other ways of making money in Taiwan, and escaping the "foreigner bubble" can make these ways of earning money more feasible.
Cultivating relationships with Taiwanese people will make you money. I know this sounds crass and manipulative, but it's true. The more Taiwanese people you talk to (and really engage with), the more opportunities you will have to make money. And even if you aren't just after money, many Taiwanese people can also be good friends who will bring joy to your life.
Knowing more kinds of (Taiwanese) people can also make you more money. If all the people you know are teachers, that's fine if all you want to do is teach. But what if you want to do something else? In such a situation knowing people like bankers, lawyers, fishermen, or even construction workers can be very helpful. You never know what might come your way through such contacts. (Link: National Statistics for the Republic of China)
4. Know yourself.
Who are you? What do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? How often do you want to do it? Answering such questions to your own satisfaction won't just make you more money, it will make you a happier person. I realize that answering these kind of questions is often easier said than done, but it's often the most difficult tasks that are the most essential.
5. Know the laws.
This goes beyond knowing the limitations placed upon your particular visa. This extends to taxes, and things that can - if you're not careful - get you sent to jail. For instance, if I start organizing parasailing tours off the coast of Green Island, what kind of insurance am I required to have? What kind of equipment? How can I be reported if I break law, and what will happen to me if I am reported? I realize that many ventures in Taiwan operate in a gray area between legal and illegal, but it's useful to think about consequences, and plan for worst case scenarios.
6. Know how to advertise.
If I'm opening a restaurant, is it worth taking out an ad in the Apple Daily? Or is Facebook a cheaper and more sensible solution? How can I use Line to expand my market? How can I get people talking about what I do/sell/make? It continually amazes me how little most people think about advertising, and how content they are to let word of mouth (or the lack thereof) guide their destiny.
However you're going to advertise, don't sell yourself short. Make a lot of noise. Get people's attention. And remember that consistency is important. Your message should be the same every time - or at least appear to be so. This tells people that you know what you are doing. (Link: "The Six Best Advertising Strategies for Small Business" at Entepreneur.com)
7. Know your market.
It's probably not the best idea to open up a pizza restaurant way up in the mountains. Why? Because only tourists are likely to eat there, and adverse road conditions (and weather) will impact your business. For similar reasons, don't open up a beef noodle restaurant next to everyone's favorite swimming beach. Why? Because people only swim when it's hot, and when it's hot they're not likely to want beef noodles.
A lot of people seem to have this "if you build it, they will come" attitude towards their business. They seem to think that if they love doing something, and they do it better than anyone else, customers will show up automatically.
This is of course not the case. You need to be somewhat unromantic about any business. You need to look at your location (or possible locations) and first think about what people in that area need or want. YOU are the one providing the service, not them. They are only providing the (potential) profit. This doesn't mean that you can't open the kind of business that appeals to you, but it does mean that you need to find a match between your product and your market.
Maintaining consistent quality, availability or products, and staying open at predictable times is part of this process. People want to know what they'll get the next time they step through your door. They want to know that you'll always have enough pepperoni to make pizza on Friday. They want to know that you'll always be open at 11 a.m. (if that's what your sign says). They want to know that you'll always stock shoes in their size. (Link: "Steps to Identify Your Target Market" at Forbes.com)
8. Know the online market.
Nowadays you can do a lot of stuff online, from teaching English to wedding photography. This online market can be particularly helpful if you live in a more rural area, or if you're operating in an area where others haven't yet embraced the technology. A lot of people flirt with the Internet and then retreat to business as usual, but it's worth a more thorough investigation. (Link: "8 Affordable and Effective Ways to Advertise Online" at OPENforum)
9. Know how to get new skills and/or credentials.
Finding out where to acquire new skills, degrees, or certificates is always helpful. In the big cities this will be easier, but for those in rural areas there are also online resources. Just don't forget that in the process of acquiring new skills and credentials you'll also be meeting people who in themselves provide business opportunities later on. (Link: "Working in Taiwan" at Forumosa.com)
10. Know that whatever you're business you're in, it will probably take a long time to prosper.
Determination. That's what will see you through, 9 times out of 10. Why do most people fail to succeed? Simply because they've given up too early. If you have an idea, and you're certain it's the right one for you, the only thing standing between you and making that idea a reality is your ability to see it through to the end.
So don't give up! It might not come easy, but it'll come. Make yourself believe it, and others will too!
Celestial Economics 天上的經濟學
Culture Shock 文化衝擊
Friends to a Fault 正直的人
Nonsense That Fills My Head on a Saturday
P.S. It should be noted that I am NOT a businessman, though I have used many of the principles listed above to make money. Many of my family members and friends are engaged in various businesses, and over the course of my time in Taiwan I've had the opportunity to see many businesses succeed and fail.