Tag Archives: self-employment

Juggling all the eggs in one basket

small-poppins

So it’s been just over a month since the beginning of the school year and my schedule has me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This year, at the school I work at, I’ve had the owners hire a second English teacher to cover the kindergarten classes and first grade. I continue to teach second grade through sixth grade. I thought it would free up my time some so I didn’t feel like I was dying at the end of each day like last year when I taught 2 kindergarten classes and five elementary classes (I combined some of the groups into mammoth groups to accommodate the school day and my availability). However, although I’ve given up some tasks, I have taken up others.

Instead of teaching kindergarten, I designed the curriculum and textbooks that the kindergarten will be using for all 4 levels, maternal, first, second and third grade. That took more than a few hours of my already limited time. I like doing that sort of work, but it doesn’t compare to the joy of teaching the little lovely happy souls ages 2-6.

The curriculum is already in place for first grade, but it’s been challenging to bring the new teacher up to speed. She’s had more experience at teaching kindergarten than elementary and the additional requirements that come with elementary teaching include things like diagnostic tests, parent meetings, grading with numbers rather than excellent, very good, good, regular, deficient and so on and new to her. Plus, the textbook we use comes with video and computer game components and she’s not really tech savvy. I’m glad that she’s open to learning these things, but it means more work for me at the moment.

Then there’s the pay. I’ve been making less money for more work each year I work in the Mexican school system. When I started, I made 85 pesos per hour and had 8 weeks off in the summer. Now I make 70 pesos per hour and have 4 weeks off in the summer. Of course, everything else has gone up in price during that time. Tortillas used to cost 6 pesos per kilo, now they are 13 pesos per kilo. And the peso had devalued to 19 per US dollar what seems like permanently now.

I’m also supposed to get a provisional teaching license from Guanajuato. Because of all these educational reforms, I’ll need to take the official exam too. The thing is, everybody knows the system is rigged. Several teachers I know that took the exam last year and passed, this year took the same exam and didn’t. What’s up with that? The list of requirements SEP requests keeps getting longer and longer and each required document has a price. So is it really worth it when I make $68.75 USD per week?

mototeacher

Then there are my private and Saturday classes. Since I’ve been working online, I decided to only teach private classes on Wednesday and Thursday during the week. I only kept my long-term students. However, lately, students have been canceling left and right. I have 7 classes scheduled for those two days, last week, I only taught 4. The same thing happens on Saturday. I have 4 scheduled for Saturdays, last week I only taught 1. If I were depending on these “regular” classes for my weekly income, we’d surely starve to death. Not to mention I haven’t raised my prices since I started. I still only charge $50 pesos per class, per student, per hour. That’s $2.64 USD per hour.

Camille Online

You might think that my online classes are my salvation. After all, they pay in US dollars. However, I’ve had internet connection issues this month. One day, my internet dropped just for a minute. I was able to return to the class, but my audio wasn’t working. The tech person instructed me to restart my computer, so I did. Only when I did, Windows 10 decided it needed to do updates. My computer was out of commission for over an hour while they installed. Then another day, the internet went out 10 minutes before my scheduled shift, in the entire town. It returned the moment my shift was over. Then, I’m only scheduled for about 10 hours per week, although Labor day weekend vacation requests bumped my schedule up to 15 hours. It’s not enough to live on, dollars or not. Plus, if the internet continues to be so unreliable, I’m pretty sure I’ll get fired.

I haven’t come up with any good solutions yet. I’ve committed to this schedule until December, then I’ll have to reevaluate the value of my time. Suggestions anyone?

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Failing at your own business–Transcriptionist

transcript

Searching the online want ads I came across a transcriptionist job. I was looking for something to do when classes canceled now that my Business English course was finished. So I clicked on the link and completed the test. The idea of getting paid in US dollars really appealed to me, especially with the dollar at over 16 pesos.

The next day I received an email that said I qualified to become one of the transcriptionists for the company. They also had a need of translators Spanish to English, but I wasn’t sure my Spanish was up to the task. I knew my English was quite good, so I opted to stay with that.

There were a number of training videos to watch. And watch them I did. The whole process seemed a bit complicated, but I signed up for my first assignment anyway. The video reassured me that someone would always be available on Skype if I had any questions.

The email with the assignments was sent out at 6 pm eastern time with the assignments due by 4 pm the next day. Well, this presented somewhat of a problem. While I have computer and internet access, it typically is during the day since we have no electricity at our home in La Yacata. Then there was the one hour time difference to contend with. I checked in for my assignment at 8:15 am my time, only to find that my assignment had been classified as “abandoned.” I contacted the Skype person and she explained that it was because I needed to have verified my acceptance of the assignment by 9 am EST. She changed the classification and I downloaded the audio.

I moved the file into the Express Scribe Transcription program and began my work. The audio segment was a recorded focus group for Linkedin. For the most part, the recording was easily understandable. However, getting used to the Express Scribe program took some time. Before I knew it, it was time for my classes (See Saturday Classes) and I hadn’t really advanced much. After my classes, I set to work on it again, taking the time to transfer what I had finished to the Google document file. Again, my unfamiliarity of the procedure slowed me up. By the time I had the information transferred, it was nearly 3 pm my time, which meant I wouldn’t meet the 4 pm deadline.

I contacted the Skype on-call person again to tell her of my dilemma. I had only managed to get 12 minutes of a 30-minute audio clip finished. Boy, that was discouraging. I had spent more than 4 hours on it. She told me to mark the file with the “I need help” button and to stop working on it. I would get paid for my 12 minutes but the person who finished my assignment would get the remaining pay.

I thought maybe with practice I could get faster, so I was determined to try another assignment. Then I got sick and the days passed and I guess maybe I didn’t have the time after all. The problem was my schedule. I need to have a day or two to work on assignments since I can not devote my whole day to it. With the 4 pm deadline, there was just no way I was going to be able to finish. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t going to work out. So much for mucha moolah.

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Failing at your own business-Produce Truck

fruit truck

Produce trucks provide fresh fruit and vegetables to outlying areas.

The next harebrained scheme for making money was a produce truck. My husband bought a 1985 clunker pickup truck. He removed the bed and refitted it with metal bars to hold the crates of fruit and vegetables. We made another trip to Morelia and stocked up on fruits and vegetables. We had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillas, onions, garlic, oranges, pears and melons. We had a scale that I had used in the U.S. to weigh things to send through the mail. Ok, so it wasn’t in kilos, but we could approximate right? And some plastic bags.

We started on a Saturday, being payday, and drove through town. We started noticing that most other produce trucks had a sound system announcing their wares. We put that on the ‘to get’ list.

Well, we didn’t do too badly that day, sold some things. We probably acted a bit too grateful and surprised to pass as seasoned sellers, but hey, it was fun and we got to see some places we hadn’t visited before.

Day two, started out well. Then we ran into the ‘federales’ the state police. They wanted their ‘mordida’ or cut of the take. My husband pointed out that we had just started that day and we hadn’t made any money yet, so they accepted 2 bags of tomatoes as payment.

Then day 3 came and the truck broke down. I told you it was a clunker didn’t I? My husband went hitchhiking back to the nearest town to see if he could get a piece for the gas tank or something and left my son and I in the truck, guarding the wares. And would you believe, the ‘federales’ stopped, not to see if we needed assistance, but to see what they could take. I didn’t have any cash and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to even roll down the window to talk to them, so eventually they went away. They must not have gone too far, because when my husband came back, so did they, and picked up a few kilos of fruit for the Mrs. at our expense.

We persevered until the fruit we had bought was either sold or on the point of going bad. We didn’t lose money, but we didn’t make any either. My husband sold the truck.

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Failing at your own business–Vulcanizadora

tire

The most common form of advertising for a tire patching place.

Minimum wage? HA! Decent pay? HA! Benefits? HA! Insurance? HA! Vacation? HA!

Ok, so we weren’t in the States anymore. Finding employment was a challenge for my husband. Keeping it was a challenge for me. So we had the novel of idea of working for ourselves. We failed at EVERY endeavor.

First, my husband opened a vulcanizadora (a repair shop for tires, bike and tricycle tires, moto tires, car and truck tires, wheelbarrow tires, etc.) He had an air compressor, pump, and the basic tools he would need. We went to Morelia and bought a bulk supply of patches and glue. We rented a place and opened.

Business trickled in. By trickled, I mean by droplets. Maybe one client a day, maybe not. Let me tell you a little secret about my husband, he is not very patient. My son and I would arrive with his lunch and his comment was ‘ahorita vengo’ meaning I’ll be right back’ and he’d be off. Well, I brought my sewing machine over and busied myself with making stuff while William played contentedly nearby. Then he’d be back and decide that it was time to close, so we would.

open sign

Work Hours: We open when we arrive. We close when we go. If you come when we aren’t here, it’s because we didn’t meet.

This type of behavior isn’t confined to my husband. It seems to be the hallmark of little businesses here. The owner opens around 10 am, maybe 11 am. He or she is there maybe an hour or two. Then leaves to take care of something or other, leaving behind an employee or the kid. Of course, should anyone happen to stop by and want to make a deal, the employee/kid usually doesn’t have the authority to do so and will tell you the owner will be back at x hour. If you are determined, you may come back at x hour only to find that the place has been closed for lunch, which here is from about 1:30 to 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Then the place may open again around 4 or 5 and stay open until 6, but then again maybe not. So how does anyone sell enough even to pay the rent?

Anyway, we weren’t making any money with the tire patching business. So since I had been making things with the sewing machine during those long, hot afternoons, I had enough to open a ‘bazaar’ in the adjoining alcove. I had stuff, nothing very interesting, but things we had brought that we didn’t really need and the stuff I had made while I waited to return from wherever he had gone like ponchos, little girls’ dresses, some cloth baby toys. And I was more patient than my husband. I stayed open from 10 am to 2 pm, and sold nothing.

That little venture lasted about 2 months, then we closed down and renewed our employment search.

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