Tag Archives: income stream

Income stream #2: Teaching online, 4


I’ve been thinking about how often it makes sense to update income stream #2 since I am now making a relatively stable amount of money. I get bimonthly paychecks of the same amount: $360.06 (though for some unknown reason there was a 1-cent difference in September). There is no particular reason that I am updating after three pay periods; it’s just when I found the time this week.

One thing I have learned so far is that with online teaching, there will always be some uncertainty from semester-to-semester. A month or more ago I got an email from the online learning coordinator saying that they were putting me in a hidden section for next semester; my section would only open if two other online sections of my course filled up. At first I was sweating it because it would be a little painful to go back to zero income after a semester of consistent paychecks — not because our budget would change, but because seeing our account balance go up rather than down staves off ulcers and periodic freak-outs. Then two weeks later I got a mass email from the overall head of online learning (I’m sure he has a fancier title than that) explaining that some sudden policy changes at the university were likely to impact student enrollment for the next semester, but they were still evaluating to what extent. The gist of that email to all online instructors was this: sorry, but don’t count on getting work next semester. Although I teach in one of the higher demand departments, I was feeling like I probably would not get a class since I was low on the totem pole and my section was still “hidden.”

On the plus side, I started to think of all the things I could do next semester if I had more free time. Finish two in-process manuscripts stemming from my thesis and submit them for publication. Finish a quilt that has been languishing for years. Continue decluttering and “getting things done.” Oh, all the (unpaid) things I could do!!

Registration finally opened a couple weeks ago and after just a few days, I received my electronic contract. Perhaps this means that I should feel more confident in the future that my course is in high enough demand that I will have some degree of job security, but in speaking with my colleagues, it does seem that each semester there is some period of waiting it out to see what courses will carry and how much work you will get. So for now, I’m going to take it one semester at a time. Still, it’s awfully nice to know the minimum amount we can count on for next semester.


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Income stream #2: Teaching online, 3


Everyone who reads this blog already knows I’m neurotic, right? Let’s just establish that right up front. Seemingly simple things like teaching an online course throw me into a state of angst at least as severe as, say, deciding whether to buy a $2 frozen yogurt when I just had one last week. Does teaching this course align with my core values and what I have previously determined to be my life’s work? Am I just doing this for the money — so that I can buy frozen yogurt twice a month or dress Addison in the latest thrift store fashions (obviously)?

Existential crisis notwithstanding, it was quite a relief to see that second paycheck in our checking account. Our balance is going up not down. UP not DOWN! It’s amazing! Is that a good in itself? It kind of felt like it tonight.

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Income stream #2: Teaching online, 2


Phew, another paycheck . . . just in time! Last week I had to scramble to transfer money from one account to another in time to cover some of our bills* (and DRAT, I incurred one late fee, which never happens and just about gave me an ulcer!), so it feels good to have finally arrived at a point where I will get regular paychecks again. The last time I had a regular paycheck was April 2011 — yikes! (And Neal, well, that goes back to probably summer 2005.)

The semester only started on Monday and I am quickly learning that online classes are heavily front-loaded for the instructor. You get lots of student emails trying to figure out how to even get started; you’re trying to help with their technology issues; you’re trying to figure out your technology issues (in fact, during my first synchronous meeting, one of my tech-savvy students was sending me excerpts from a manual to explain how to perform certain actions — ha!); and there’s a surprising number of assignments the first week, probably in large part because that is one of the primary ways to start making connections and getting students engaged. So far, I’ve put in 15 hours of work this week and I haven’t even started grading the papers they submitted! (The university suggests instructors put in 10-12 hours per week, so hopefully this week is an exception.)

Still, I’ve really enjoyed meeting my students. They’re living all over the United States. They’re Germans, Haitians, Bolivians, Sri Lankans, Native Americans, Californians, Washingtonians, Idahoans, Hawaiians, Floridians, and Texans. They’re 18-year-old freshmen and 50-something-year-old moms. And I love the fact that I can hear about all these diverse life experiences right from my own bedroom!

Bring it!

* We keep the bulk of our savings in an intentionally inaccessible online savings account with ING Direct.** This usually works really well to help us keep our spending low because we see only a small checking balance, but every once in a while I lose track of the balance and don’t transfer money in time. And then I punish myself by taking the late fee out of my dining out budget (after begging the company for mercy, of course).

** I’ve been using ING Direct since the early 2000s and have liked them (no, they’re not paying me to say that because it would be pretty dumb to pay people to say things to like 6 readers at a time). All online savings interest rates are in the tank right now, but they still have one of the smoother user interfaces I’ve tried, great customer service, unique account features as well as occasional savings promotions. Let me know if you want a referral to get a $25 bonus for setting up a new online bank account.

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Income stream #1: Tutoring, 2


I bet you thought we were going to make money more than once a month, didn’t you? Yeah, me too. But no matter, we’ve been going on vacation instead.

When our last two family reunions are over in August (has this been the summer o’ reunions for anyone else??), I have high (well, moderate at least) hopes for this blog. First, I’d like to post a little more about income — but that requires income, know what I mean? Second, I want to post more about “the why” of our financial choices and alternative lifestyle since Alysa previously asked in the comments. We’ll see how far I can get in the midst of also starting a “real job” in early September!

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Income stream #2: Teaching Online


I mentioned this on my personal blog a few weeks ago, but I was waiting for my first payday to log it over here. I recently signed a trial contract to teach online classes for a university. I won’t be publicly mentioning the specific university for contractual reasons (though it’s not a secret if you want to ask privately or via email), but as online learning expands, online adjunct faculty positions are growing (I found this aggregator of teaching opportunities through a quick Google search, though I heard about my particular job opportunity through fortuitous eavesdropping). When I was putting in ridiculous workdays to finish my thesis last summer, I was doing it for the love of my men in jail. The thought of teaching at a university, or the flexibility of doing it online, really hadn’t crossed my mind. But in what I now know was a miraculous little moment — I was unexpectedly in another state for crying out loud! — I just happened to overhear something about an open university position that sounded like a perfect fit. And BAM! nine months later, I got my first paycheck.

This sum is actually just a flat rate (minus taxes) for the online training process I’ve been going through, and thus not indicative of my teaching salary, which won’t start arriving until mid-September. The course that I was hoping to teach was Money Management because, seriously, who wouldn’t want to teach something so fun?! But there were no openings this fall so I’ll be starting with a survey course of family studies research. If I get good student reviews, I’m hoping that I’ll eventually get to start sharing the joys of budgeting and Roth IRA contributions with college kids. Sweet!

In my training thus far, I can’t imagine a better fit for me right now than this work. The courses are almost entirely asynchronous, which means I don’t have to be online at specific times. I need to log in at least once a day to check student emails and progress, but if I’m having a rough day health-wise, I can just defer more substantive work until I’m feeling better. Molding young minds from my own bed in my pajamas = one sweet gig. Wish me luck!


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Income stream #1: Tutoring


Our first payday since we embarked on this “alternative lifestyle.” Tutoring will always be a fall-back income stream for us. Neal previously started his own SAT preparation company (as a 22-year-old college dropout — weird, right?) in order to make decent money with flexible work hours. Not too long after we got married in 2007, he began to talk about quitting the SAT business because after four years, teaching high school students the difference between nouns and verbs becomes tedious. But every year I persuasively talked him out of quitting with my elegant logical reasoning powers: “But we need FOOD! I’m NOT eating rice and beans every day!” Finally, last year, I gave in and he has spent the last several months not preparing students for the SAT, something he had previously done every spring for nearly ten years. I think he much prefers drawing stick-figure comics for a living (or not-living, as the case may be).

But I digress. (Fair warning: I do that a lot.) Back to tutoring as fall-back income stream. SAT prep expertise happens to be a very marketable skill and we’re confident that in a state like California where pretty much everyone takes the SAT, Neal could easily find tutoring work. But since we have the opportunity to be picky right  now (until that day, about once a month, when I suddenly freak out because it’s painful to watch our account balance dwindle), SAT work is on the back burner. Although I’ve tutored people in everything from math and statistics to English and writing, I was also not actively pursuing tutoring work because (1) it is not necessarily my ideal work, (2) I hate marketing myself, and (3) I hate asking people for money. I like the flexibility of tutoring, which can ebb and flow with my health swings, but the other considerations made it less appealing. But when a new friend approached me about tutoring her in some college classes, and I was near one of those freak-out days, I said okay. And it’s actually turned out to be a lot more fun and interesting than I even expected. Can you believe I got paid to discuss the criminal justice system for 45 minutes the other day — something I do for free as often as I possibly can? It really is a pleasure to work with someone who, when given the opportunity to write about anything, wants to write essays about criminal justice reform, healthcare reform, and educational equality.

Still, I consider tutoring to be no more than an occasional income stream, at least for now. I am not actively recruiting new students and my current one will likely only need my help for writing-intensive classes. But if you hear of anyone specifically looking for tutoring on the criminal justice system, send ’em my way!


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