The biggest misconception people have about working from home or working for yourself is that you work when you want or need and can take it easy the rest of the time. The reality, for online teachers at least, is that we work at the demand of our students.
The only way to make this job work as a full time gig is to set work goals in accordance with your financial goals. I know I need to make X number of dollars a month to pay my bills, save and have some room for unexpected costs. It is necessary to translate that dollar amount in to classes taught, break it down by week and meticulously track day by day.
I’ve learned I have to notice early on – by mid-month at least – if I’m falling behind on my goals. After that point there isn’t enough time to meaningfully add to my schedule and make up the hours. With teaching it’s easy to fall behind on goals. If classes don’t get booked it adds up fast. Being a class or two short of a daily goal quickly means stripping down the budget to accommodate anticipated shortcomings.
The truth about working from home means I am available until my goal is met. Maybe I only need to work 8 hours in a day but I can’t force my students to consistently fill 9am-5pm so that I can go live my life. I start around 7:30 most days, many days earlier, and most days I work until 11pm or midnight. Some days it’s 1am or 1:30am.
Working crazy hours Monday to Thursday allows me to end earlier (mid afternoon) most Fridays and then take Saturday and Sunday off with my family.
The hard part is having to politely remind people that you actually do work and it isn’t possible for you to change your schedule last minute the way some work from home jobs can. Even if I could, changing my schedule for last minute plans would still mean making the time up so chances are even if my companies let me change my schedule last minute I would still be held on schedule by financial obligations.
What we really mean when we say our work from home jobs are flexible is that, with 24 hour potential to work you might be able to set up a unique schedule that suits your life. My whole family works 9-5’s with weekends off so I try to mimic that as much as I can to maximize my time with them.
That being said lots of people are working jobs like mine on a when-the-kids-are-out schedule, or using it as a night job. Flexibility doesn’t mean that I can change my schedule last minute, but it does mean that I can book classes around other obligations outside a traditional work schedule.
Oh, and I guess it’s true that outside of my budget, I don’t have to ask anyone for approval when I want a day off.
Thinking of picking up extra work? What kind of schedule would working from home mean for you?