Building Blocks on Boulevards
Many people ask me what sparked my initial interest in transitioning from a cozy 9-5 job that I enjoyed to the unpredictable position of self-employment and working from home. Monthly wages are not guaranteed and this lifestyle involves paying for your own taxes, health insurance, and retirement. I think the first factor to consider is that I am not new to change. It was only a year and a half ago that I left my prestigious career in the equine industry to pursue a less glamorous, but still beloved position as a veterinary technician in the small animal field. I had left my passion, my support system, and many friends behind in Kentucky to endeavor on a new adventure here in North Carolina. I was familiar with ‘packing up’, both physically and emotionally, eliminating baggage, focusing on a goal, and performing forward action. It is a learned characteristic, I suppose, accumulated over years of transitioning from one stage of life to another, often moving residences, and repeatedly changing jobs. But it is a valuable characteristic at that.
A short time passed since moving to Raleigh and I quickly began to master the specific intricacies of the veterinary field. I had always loved animals; they had been my passion since I was a child and I thought they would be in the foreground of my career forever. I thoroughly enjoyed being a veterinary technician and the work that it involved. I was good at taking care of animals. But after the learning period flattened out into daily monotony, I began to want more out of life, and the familiar unsatisfied itch returned to my bones. Mostly this feeling stemmed from my new hobby of rock climbing. The training and time commitment climbing required weighed heavily on my newfound employment. It consumed most evenings, weekends, and time I could not create- between that and the long commute to the veterinary hospital I was left weary and embittered on a daily basis. I was forcefully faced with the juxtaposition of the modern American lifestyle to a foreign, wild, empowering niche of existence in the form of thrill-seeking, van-living, careless, dirtbag rock climbers, who lived for nothing but their time in the woods and on the rocks. It was an enlightening new perspective on a counterculture that first sparked in America in the 1960’s. Some of the perceived communities of modern rock climbers could be compared to the original agrarian attempts to ‘return to the land and live free of interference from outside influences’. It was without a doubt the most fascinating and inspiring lifestyle I had thus far encountered. And I wanted to be a part of it.
In the simplest way, all of life can be chalked up to perception. How one person views the world and squeezes the happiness from its resources is completely different from another. What is a perfect existence to one can represent a prison of the mundane to their neighbor. There is so much to offer in this teeming ecosystem of socio and economic viability we have created out of this privileged life that all you have to figure out is what you want and how to get it. Those that keep this mantra close to their hearts are the ones that end up happy. Everyone else is just settling.
How to Start Working From Home
1) Establish a Goal
This is perhaps the easiest step in the pursuit of freedom. Place your most passionate desire in the attainable forefront of your mind so that you forced with its reality. Mull over it, chew on it, and choke it down- you have just swallowed your first bite of possibility. In order to ascertain what you want, first you must map out its intricacies, feel around its edges, get a taste for its potency. The more familiar you are with something, the more likely you are to gravitate towards its power.
2) Develop a Plan
In this world of mortgages, rent, bills, and families, pursuing your passion in life can often be construed as playing Jenga, at least in my experience. The balance between necessity and desire is a precarious play of building blocks. The concept of need must be equally balanced by the quest for happiness. For example, you need to pay your bills every month, but you don’t have to work at a job you hate. It’s all about perception. If your bills are too high to be paid by living the life you love, change them. Do not settle for mediocrity. Sell your house, get a roommate, or downsize. While these notions may seem extraneous, it is simply your perception. Take me, for example.
I bought a small, two-bedroom house in June 2015. While my 9-5 job paid my bills and allowed me to get by, I was not happy just ‘getting by.’ I wanted to quit my job, work when I wanted, travel and rock climb the rest of the time, so I adjusted my status to better allocate my desires. I got a roommate, which in a small living space may not be the most ideal situation, but I sacrificed that minor comfort for the dent the rent made in my bills every month. In hindsight, I much prefer her company to living alone. I also downsized my belongings, trading in my riding land mower for a push one, and selling off material things that added no value to my existence. This was the first step in a dedicated direction of change, and the most crucial one. I had started laying out a plan that would forge my future.
There was a definite point when I knew I wanted to quit the veterinary industry. It had become a dull routine of interspersed joys overshadowed by the melancholy tones such a position requires, in blunt terms, euthanasia. While this had always been a part of the job, after a certain amount of time it begins to weigh on you, bogging down the otherwise positive moments of healing and happiness you create for the animals in your care. After witnessing the personal euthanasia of my boyfriend’s beloved golden retriever, going to work became miserable, and the time for change had come.
Luckily for me, my tuned mind had begun subconsciously preparing for this moment. I had been avidly researching work-from-home positions on the Internet over the past month, devouring blogs of similar life-seeking advocates, and had thus far constructed a hefty list of telecommute possibilities. Thankfully in this day and age the Internet has become a bottomless well of fruitful wealth and opportunity. I had begun entertaining the notion of telecommute employment alongside the possibility it would create for endless travel and climbing. The idea came upon me like a beacon of light across a darkened sea, intuitive and inviting. Whether or not I could make it a reality was yet to be determined, but I was willing to put in the research and the work to find out. I am going to emphasize here that working hard is the basis of any well-formulated plan. If you want to live the life you love you are going to have to work for it every step of the way. Nothing good is given to you.
3) Put the Plan into Action
Developing a plan for change is hard enough but following through is what separates the warriors from the settlers. Risk is an assured factor in every element of change. When you gain something, you risk losing something else. Again, it is all about perception. Risk can be looked at as a positive factor toward enacting transition. The risk of failing can ultimately drive you to succeed. Life is what you make of it and your success or failure depends almost entirely on how hard you try. The reward is greater than the risk every time.
Putting my plan into action consisted of pursuing different forms of telecommute employment. What I had previously considered in my spare time to implement my income I must now transform into a decent living wage. I brought my list of construed ideas to the table and began the evaluation. I will include a shortened list of my ideas here as insight to others, but as I am currently employed for some of these companies as an independent contractor, and unfortunately I am bound not to discuss the finer details of the companies or my employment.
a) Search Engine Evaluation
This position sprung to the top of my list after reading an article about making money online on The Penny Hoarder. It seems that a lot of millennial and post-college graduates are pursuing this sort of income in lieu of entry-level positions. There are many different companies offering this type of work including Leapforce, Lion Bridge, and Appen Butler Hill. I was specifically drawn to the company known as Leapforce after reading numerous comparison reviews of the companies and evaluating the position eligibility. Loosely stated, the companies hire independent contractors to evaluate search engine results for their clients. The range of pay can be anywhere from $12-$16/hr, and compared to minimum wage, especially being a work-from-home position, this was an extremely appealing characteristic. The catch for this type of position is the unpaid testing and training you have to undertake in order to be successfully hired. I am currently an independent contractor for Leapforce so I cannot go into great details but I will say the three-part test is rigorous and unforgiving. I studied for sixteen hours straight, passed all three parts over a period of two days, and accepted a contract with the company within a week. According to numerous reviews across the Internet, most people’s experience is not as successful. I am grateful to have joined this company when I did and as easily as I did because so far it has been an invaluable source of income. But as with any independent contracting position and especially this one, work is not consistent, and termination is possible at any point if you fail to meet certain standards. I think it is this risk and the challenge that I find as appealing as the income. But again, its all your own perspective.
b) Online Tutoring
This kind of position had been in the back of mind for awhile as teaching has always been appealing to me. There are many opportunities out there for solid careers in online tutoring and a variety of companies that are always hiring including VarsityTutors.com andchegg.com. However, these positions are not for everyone as many of them require a four-year degree or equivalent teaching experience in the desired subject, in addition to a rigorous testing and examination process. Although I chose not to follow through with the company I was offered an interview with, VarsityTutors.com, and cannot offer any post-employment advice, I began the application process and it is as difficult as it is legitimate. My beginning in the world of online tutoring came in a more unique form, and on craigslist at that- English as a Second Language.
Saybot (Shanghai) Inc. was created in 2004 and is the foundation of “Alo7 English”, a children’s online learning program aimed at teaching Chinese children English. Since the program’s beginning there are over 10 million users on the Learning Website and the demand for tutors is growing. Alo7 uses a visually designed Skype shared-screen interfacing system programmed for Chinese children ages 3 to 15 to be able to interact with native English speakers. The program has become extremely popular in Shanghai and exponential growth is estimated as the platform gains more tutors. The program is easy to learn, use, and implement for both tutors and students alike- training is minimal. Alo7 provides all of the lesson plans and tools to succeed. The only requirements for tutors are to have a four-year degree, excellent English speaking skills, the proper equipment, and the availability to work unique hours in conjunction with the time difference in Shanghai. I interviewed with a personnel manager for my area and decided this was a great opportunity for me to supplement my Leapforce income and implement my teaching skills. I began working at Alo7 and Leapforce in May 2016, and the conjunction of these two incomes is what ultimately allowed me to leave my job in the veterinary industry.
This is something I did a lot of research on and heavily considered as a viable opportunity, but for me the monotony of such a position was overwhelming. There are many legitimate companies constantly seeking transcriptionists and all that is required is to apply online and transcribe a sample for them. Rev transcription at www.rev.comis probably one of the most lucrative opportunities for beginners at $0.40-$0.65 per audio minute but their application process is difficult. Other companies include TranscribeMe and GetTranscribed, and they pay about $0.23 per audio minute. or $20 an audio hour. I am confident in saying that the more practice and experience you get transcribing audio the more money you can make. You can also specialize in medical transcription and although most people go through some minimal schooling before pursuing this avenue, the programs are cheap and short and the immense payoff of these specialized positions certainly makes it certainly worthwhile.
Here we come full circle. This is the basis upon which I have laid out the road before me. While immediate income from Leapforce and Alo7 are crucial right now, writing is my most passionate pursuit. It is the river in the desert that surrounds me. To be able to support myself completely on a freelance writing income doing the only thing I love as much as climbing is what makes this whole journey worthwhile. And I know that it is possible. With the growth of the Internet and the transition of our world into the deepening domain of technology, the opportunities in writing online are vast and endless. Companies are seeking a verbal entourage of qualified candidates offering up an oyster of rewarding positions tucked behind dull names like ‘content writer’ and ‘marketing specialist’. They need people to write business pages, create content for their website, manage their social media, and bottom line implement full coverage of their company under the giant umbrella of wealth the web is now feeding to the masses. This is a difficult paragraph to write as far as providing value to you because I cannot tell you where to begin. There are so many avenues, highways, and side roads into this business and I am just getting started. The only advice I can give you is to offer a broad range of writing skills to employers, establish a portfolio in the form of a blog or website, have a brand, and sell yourself. I have been writing since I learned the alphabet, it is as natural to me as the earth or the sea, and it is only with this assurance that I walk unafraid into the unknown of the future. If you want something bad enough and if you work hard enough, success is inevitable. Believing in anything else is only selling yourself short of the prowess your mind and body have to offer you in this life. My biggest suggestion for you: check out Upwork, a platform for freelancers. This is where my writing journey began.
4) Live your life and dream your dream
This is the final milestone of the starting line of your great adventure. If you have developed your plan and put it into action the only place to go from here is happiness. Keep your mind straight, your goals in front of you, and start walking. Do not lose sight of the gold at the end of the rainbow but most importantly look around you as you travel. There are many things more beautiful than gold. We walk a straight path but it is not without intersections and opportunities. You never know what you might encounter along the way that brings you to an even better end than you first imagined. A year ago I would never have seen myself here today, leather chair cool against the goosebumps that raise on my legs pressed against them, coffee on my lips, writing this article for you in the hopes that it will inspire you as much as I have been inspired by this crazy, beautiful, unpredictable life.