Why I’m Not Working Full-Time

September 27, 2019

Last year, I wrote a resume of failures, which–ironically–became one of my most successful posts. Friends and acquaintances told me that it was “humanizing” and that they were inspired to make their own.

I think one of the things that made the post relatable was how vulnerable it was. We tend to only share our successes on social media, especially when it comes to our professional lives. We see announcements about grad school acceptances, new jobs at Google, white coat ceremonies. I’m always excited to see my friends go places, and I think we definitely should keep sharing major professional developments.

That said, seeing only celebratory posts can give us the false impression that everyone knows what they’re doing, or has a fancy career. So, I wanted to keep it real again and share what I’m doing–working a freelance, part-time role without benefits. I certainly don’t know what I’m doing, and don’t have a clear career trajectory. But I appreciate the freedom I have currently, and hope it becomes less stigmatized to take a non-traditional path.

What I’m doing currently

 
I spent the past year teaching English at a university in Dijon, France. I came back in late July and have been doing remote work for a college admissions startup in Cambridge (~27 hours/week). I actually started working with them my senior year of college as an online admissions consultant, did a marketing internship the summer after graduation, and worked remotely as a blog editor during my year in France. My current work is mainly editing/writing for their blog and writing YouTube scripts. 
 
The concept of college applications consulting can be kind of uncomfortable, as the client base is largely wealthy families. It feels like you’re just helping the privileged become more privileged, when they already have access to more resources–they have the money to pay for SAT tutors, time to drive kids to fancy extracurriculars, etc. Luckily, I worked with only clients from underprivileged backgrounds when I was a consultant, and the current blog work I do provides free resources/knowledge. My company is also shifting away from a service-based model to build a free college advice platform, which will help students of all backgrounds.
 

Being a blog editor isn’t a fancy or prestigious job, but I like how flexible my work is–I work almost entirely from home at odd hours, and only work around 27 hours/week. I also appreciate that what I’m doing will directly help families with the admissions process.

makeshift standing deskMy makeshift “standing desk.” This was when I was on the move–my current “desk” is a shelf haha.

 

I applied to full-time jobs, but didn’t get any

 
I actually applied to 5 or so full-time positions over the summer, but I didn’t hear back. Five applications is really not a lot, but I only applied to jobs that I thought I’d truly enjoy and would want to do over my current remote role. 
 
I also applied to a part-time IB French teacher position at a private school, but had the worst experience. It started out okay: I interviewed with the headmaster and the chair of the languages department, and the chair had even said that the headmaster “liked me” and was “thinking about making the position full-time if I needed it.” 
 
I was supposed to interview with another staff member though, and she canceled on me one hour before, and asked to reschedule to a time I’d explicitly said I was unavailable. When I gave her other time slots, she never replied. I emailed the headmaster to let him know I was having trouble getting in contact, but he also never replied. 
 
I noticed that they’d reposted the job on LinkedIn and even promoted it. I waited another couple weeks before eventually calling the headmaster, and he confirmed what I’d suspected–they’d found someone else with more experience. That was no problem (good for them, honestly!), but the fact that they hadn’t been honest and basically ghosted me was not cool. 
 
I might’ve applied to more teaching jobs, but I’m not licensed to teach, so I was limited to positions at private schools. I enjoyed teaching in France (when the students were motivated), and like the idea of teaching, but it’s not a path that pans out well for me currently. I’d ideally want to teach at a college level, and I’m not ready to get a PhD and deal with higher education’s mess of a job market. 
 
After this yucky experience with the private school, and no luck from my other applications, I decided to continue doing my remote blog editing work.

 

I want time for my personal projects

 
It was easier just to continue in my current role than to keep searching, but I also liked the idea of working freelance. Maybe I just got used to the flexible schedule I had in France (I only taught 10-14 hours/week and worked 10 hours/week remotely), but I wanted to replicate that same freedom in the US to work on my personal projects. The main ones are:
 
RunningI’ve been an avid distance runner for several years now, and love doing road and trail races. Having something to train for and look forward to keeps me motivated not only in running, but also in general. My flexible schedule makes it a lot easier to fit my workouts in during the day. When I did a full-time summer office internship, I remember feeling glum about how my entire day was eaten by work–I had time to cook and exercise in the evenings, but that was it. Since I don’t work full-time, I have a lot more time for myself, and can work out in the middle of the day. 

 

semi marathon de lyon

I look like I love running a lot in this photo…

BloggingI’ve had a blog for a long time; until last year, it was primarily for outfit photos and random life reflections. While I was in Dijon, I began writing posts specifically to help people from my experience, such as Triathlon Training for a Marathon, or A Guide to French Healthcare for American Expats.
 
One of my posts actually began ranking within the first three listings on Google search (seriously, Google “garmin forerunner 235 vs vivoactive 3”). It was a super niche post comparing two GPS watches, but it’s brought me over 20,000 pageviews since April. I noticed that it had been getting traffic after a couple months, and decided to test Amazon affiliate links in the post. I had originally linked to Amazon in the post anyways, as it’s one of the most affordable and easiest places to buy bigger ticket tech items. 
 
My timing was good because Amazon Prime Day was in July–my blog got 1500 views in one day, mainly because of that post. I also made $126 in July through affiliate links because of that post (and Prime Day). I’ve since made $35, for a total of $161 over 3 months. It’s nothing to write home about, but it was awesome to see that I could make money doing something I do for fun. I want take blogging more seriously while I have the free time; I’ve committed to writing one post/week, and have been trying new ways to promote my posts.
 
Of course, linking to Amazon is another ethical concern of mine, as its warehouse workers are notoriously mistreated. I also don’t want to encourage consumerism, or write posts only to make money. For these reasons, I’m limiting my Amazon affiliate links to items I find genuinely useful, only including links where it makes sense (like a review), and encouraging people to try other platforms if the product cheaper there (like eBay). I also won’t write any sales-y posts that uniquely promote products, like a sales roundup. 
 
Ideally, I’d reach the point where I’d no longer need to rely on affiliate links for income–it would be incredible to grow my pageviews to the point where I could do partnerships with companies I genuinely love and use. Unfortunately, Amazon Associates is the only way I can realistically make income with my blog currently (~2500 pageviews/month–the below screenshot is double, as I accidentally installed Google Analytics twice, and it’s an unusual month, as it was Prime Day). I’ve also tried Booking.com affiliate links, but have gotten no bites.

 

I’m a hippie

 
Finally, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need a ton of money to be happy. In France, I made 1200 euros/month teaching. Granted, my rent was WAY cheaper than it is in Boston (300 euros/month in Dijon), but my French salary and remote hourly work (~$2000 total/month) were more than enough to live on–I was able to pay for the necessities, travel, and save. 
 
I took this mindset with me back to the US. Working 27 hours/week in Boston isn’t enough for a fancy apartment (I live in an old house with 8 roommates–it’s a lovely community, even if it sounds crowded!). I have to limit my discretionary spending (can’t drop too much money on bougie vegan cafes). I don’t have a job that my parents can brag about (sorry mom and dad). 
 
I also sometimes feel guilty about not working “enough,” or “wasting” my expensive liberal arts education (I know my parents certainly resonate with the latter haha). In the US, and especially in the networks of selective private colleges, there’s an undeniable pressure to achieve something impressive–whether it’s getting a Fulbright, becoming a lawyer, or working at Goldman-Sachs. On the flip side, I never felt this pressure in France–people seemed to just want to enjoy their lives. I know I shouldn’t feel like a slacker because I’m working just as many hours as the average person–it’s just that some of those hours are spent on my blog, and aren’t traditional working hours. I also like to think that my liberal arts background instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit and a penchant for the unconventional 🙂 
 
Despite this pressure, I feel lucky to have the time to do what I want. I love that I can spend an hour in the middle of the day setting up and shooting the flatlay at the beginning of the post. It’s pretty convenient to work from home in my pyjamas. It’s nice to go to the gym before the after-work rush. I’ve averaged 8.5 hours of sleep nightly over the past month. 
 
While I definitely appreciate the “freelance life” overall, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to work independently. I’m still on my parents’ insurance since I have no benefits. Maybe eventually I’ll need to make more money for investments like a car and car insurance. Maybe I’ll stumble upon a full-time job that supports an active lifestyle.

But in the meantime, I’m glad to be doing my own thing, and hope to make it work while I can.

Cheers,

6 Comments

  • Darya January 27, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Cheers to you, Lily. Stay true to what you’re doing. I wish I had that flexibility and freedom, and I hope you luxuriate in it, as well as your agency inside that. Tell Boston and the runner’s road hi for me!!

    • Lily Fang January 27, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you, Darya! Your thoughts and encouragement always mean so much 🙂

  • Rachel G January 27, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Finding a full-time job in your field soon out of college is no joke these days…particularly if your degree isn’t one that leads straight into a licensed profession (i.e. nursing or something really specific like that). My brother graduated in December and has had so many interviews and has been sending in applications everywhere since then, and I know it’s been a pretty discouraging process for him over all these months–but just last week a company flew him across the country for an in-person interview after their video calls and they said he should expect to receive their official offer by Monday–and I’m so excited for him, especially because he says this kind of job is pretty much his dream position. I hope everything falls into place…and then I’ll have a brother out in Wyoming in the middle of nowhere, which is not very convenient for me, but will be good for him. 🙂
    At the same time, I can also very much personally relate to the idea of loving freedom to do what I’m most interested in and living on less money in order to have that freedom. I have been told that I have “wasted” my degree since I’ve only had a full-time, official contracted job for one full year since graduation. I don’t think my degree (in Mandarin) was wasted, though…I have one student I meet with after school 4 times a week (he’s 8 and I’ve worked with him since he was 4) who I’ve become a sort of link for communication between his parents and the (English medium) school since his parents are from mainland China and don’t understand any English at all. His Dad told me at the beginning of this school year, “I want you to always teach him until he graduates from high school because I trust you.” I’m not sure I can guarantee another 10 years…but it’s been a joy to see him grow over the past 4 years.
    Granted, I fully realize that the reason I’m able to have the freedom I do in life is because Angel does work a full-time, normal job with health insurance that covers our family. Honestly, that was always the life we wanted together, since before we got married. I always hoped for freedom to raise my kids, write and edit as opportunities came up, get involved in volunteering in my community, tutor kids as I stumble across those kinds of relationships (and it’s been a surprisingly high number of left-handed, Chinese-speaking kids attending English schools who have somehow found their way into my life over the past four years).
    No, I have not made any impressive amounts of money…but I am good at being thrifty, and I really enjoy the life our family has together, with a little bit of extra freedom since we’re not trying to juggle the schedules of two careers plus babies/toddlers.

    • Lily Fang January 27, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Huge congrats to your brother! It must feel so good to land a dream job after a long search! Even if it’s far and remote, Wyoming seems like a cool place, and you’ll have an excuse to visit 🙂

      I think languages always come in handy in day-to-day life, even if you don’t directly use them in a job/career. That’s awesome that you’ve been able to watch your student grow and develop a relationship with him and his family! It’s also fantastic that you’ve been able to raise Cyrus, do your own projects, and fully enjoy your life. You’re a great example of how a non-traditional career/lifestyle can be fulfilling–you always have the greatest stories and I can tell that you’re able to spend quality time with your family!

  • Kezzie January 27, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Actually finding a job you love is quite hard! I had no option but to get a fulltime job when i came back from Indonesia because my Mum told me that I needed to get one and pay her rent but I was lucky to find my job at the Royal Academy of Music (mainly through nepotism and good timing) after 4 months of temping- other people, I know, it takes much longer. If it’s working for you at the moment, stick with it! Do you have any plans to go back to France at all?

    • Lily January 28, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      Haha I love how honest you are with the “nepotism and good timing” comment. Having connections is everything! I would love to go back to France at some point, but am not sure when. I feel like I haven’t taken full advantage of the fact that I work remotely, and want to do so this year!

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    About Me

    I'm Lily, and I run races and go places (& blog about it). I also try to advocate for the planet & its people.
    Here is where I document my (mis)adventures and try to offer some helpful advice. Feel free to join me for the ride. Read More

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