Two weeks ago I got an amazing job offer. It had a great salary, tons of benefits, and involved writing. The job offer was so good, I really couldn’t imagine turning it down. I don’t make tons of money working online. I definitely don’t have a lot of fancy benefits like a free gym, laptop, or flights across the world.
I considered it seriously, but something started gnawing at me. I spent the last year and a half building up my life as a freelancer. It’s had a lot of ups and downs. There are parts of it I don’t like (weird hours). There are parts of it I love (it’s mine ). Most of all, it gives me the space to do my creative work.
I ended up turning down the job. It broke my heart to do it. It was an amazing opportunity. The CEO seemed really cool, the office (in China) was beautiful. I really think the job would have helped me as a writer, which was the hardest aspect to turn down.
But I’m not ready to walk away from what I’ve been building the last year. I finally have regular clients. I have the space to work towards my larger goals. I am free to experiment with what matters most to me. Taking the job meant abandoning those clients and those goals. I didn’t see a way I could do both.
“Following your dream” is one of those ideas sold heavily to us in childhood and incredibly difficult to pursue as an adult. The only reason I can do this is because I don’t have a mortgage, car payments, credit card debt, kids, or student loans. But that’s exactly why I am doing it now. I figured if I failed at 27, it would be a lot easier to recover than if I failed at 47. So here I am, trying to be a writer.
What Do I Do Exactly?
A couple months ago I was talking to an old friend and mentioned working.
“You work?” He said.
I do work. As much as I would love to be independently wealthy and just sail around, I make a meager salary which keeps me fed and watered.
So how do I make enough money to travel around the world?
I make the majority of my money teaching Chinese kids English online. The great thing about VIPKID is that it pays decently and you can make your own hours. I usually open my hours two weeks in advance but as long as no one has signed up, I can change them. I can work as few as zero hours a week and as many as 91 (not that I would ever attempt that). The most I work is 30 hours a week (with just this company). I usually work about 20. Here’s a super embarassing video that I have on my VIPKID teacher profile for parents when they look for teachers to select:
Perks: VIPKID provides you with all the lessons in advance. It’s pretty interactive and I think it’s a great company. I’d invest in something like this for my kid to learn a foreign language. The lessons are only 25 minutes long and the kids are generally well behaved. And again, you make your own hours. Want to go to Peru for two weeks? Fine. Want to sleep in one day? Fine. Want to work all night and all weekend? Fine.
Drawbacks: You teach on Chinese time which means weird hours. In Colombia, I was working midnight until 8 am and sleeping during the day. In Argentina, I was teaching far less and usually getting up at 6 am and teaching until 10 or 11. Cancellations are difficult.
Also, sometimes you get bad kids. I once had a kid so bad both parents had to physically restrain him as he laughed maniacally, wrestled away from them, and attacked the camera so violently I thought it would break. But that was once of hundreds of kids. Usually, they are very sweet!
If you are interested, you can check out VIPKID here: https://t.vipkid.com.cn/?refereeId=7568701&refersourceid=a01
*You should have some previous teaching experience (not necessarily English), be a native speaker from the US or Canada, and have a college degree.
Cambly is another English-teaching website. It’s even more flexible than VIPKID. You can literally sign up and just wait for people to call you and talk until you don’t want to anymore. The students are generally adults with at least intermediate-level English. I’m pretty good at keeping people talking so I don’t always have to plan in advance. However, when I have repeat students, I like to send them articles or videos to discuss certain topics.
Perks: I only take advanced reservations now; I never get online for random calls. I love my regular students. They are so interesting and we always have great conversations about everything from diets, gender roles, workplace culture, gun control, healthcare, and romantic relationships. They share photos of their trips, tell me about their problems, and discuss their life philosophies. If you need extra money, you can always just log on and wait for people to call in.
Drawbacks: It pays pretty poorly, which is why I only take a few reservations a week. I’ve also heard horror stories about the random calls. I used to do random calls at least a few hours a day and never had anyone that bad. However, other female tutors have complained that random men will expose themselves.
I’ve never had any of these issues myself. All my students have been great! I even met up with one of my students from Saudi Arabia in Argentina in December and stayed with him in Bariloche.
If you are interested in Cambly, you can sign up as a tutor here: https://www.cambly.com/en/tutors?referralCode=gwen30
*You do not need any teaching experience or to be a native English speaker.
I started off editing full time and about a year ago was making the majority of my money this way. I still edit with select clients and enjoy it. The problem with editing, I found, was that the expectations didn’t always match the payments. By the time I had found clients, pitched, and gotten the work, I was sometimes working out my time investment was only being paid about $4/hour. Currently, I only work with so many regular clients and know their style and get paid a fair amount. I found most of my clients on Upwork.com.
I make the least from writing, but it’s what I like. I’ve written for a few blogs and websites, as well as a couple of books. It doesn’t pay great but it’s what I am trying to break into and worth the effort, in my opinion. Likewise, I used the last year to write a novel and finally have the first draft.
I usually refer to my jobs as my “hustle” since I am working in so many different ways in any given week. It’s not going to make me rich, but it does give me to space to pursue my goals and travel around the world, which is what is important to me right now.
But who knows, maybe in a few months I’ll regret not taking that job in China…