Thursday, April 29, 2010

They Joys of Self-Employment

Recently my unemployment-related stress has subdued, with a little help from some contractual jobs.  First, I was hired as a part-time research assistant by a professor from McGill who had taught a course I took a few years ago.  She and I have never worked together in this capacity before, but she was confident that I could do the research she needed, and it turns out that we've decided to collaborate on a paper - which will hopefully get published.  This job takes about 15 hours per week, which I can put in at any point, on any days, in any location.  Since it's mostly writing at the moment, this is very good, because you can't force the writing when the writing won't come.

Shortly after I got this gig, Drew was hired as a bike courier.  Though he works for a company, he is technically self-employed.  The company pays couriers by commission, so it's really a get-paid-for-what-you-do sort of job.  No sitting around on facebook collecting a fat salary.  Bike couriering is hard work, with long and physically demanding days, and at some companies the returns can be quite depressing.  Fortunately, Drew is working at a well-paying company (60% commission) with lots of deliveries each day.  More deliveries = more pay.  More pay = full refrigerator and beer money = happy Drew.

We've also decided to toy with a two-person gardening and landscaping service.  We called it "Jolie Jardin", which my Dad says is trite but I think is peppy, and we've made some posters with the help of Drew's bestie, Kolb (which I tried to upload here, but can't because it's a PDF file - arg!).  We handed these out in Outremont, the wealthy french neighbourhood near our apartment, last week, and while doing that we were asked by a man to visit the building he owns to see if we can do anything with the gardens.  We went to see it, and it's a huge job, but we've got some ideas that we'll meet with him next week to pitch, complete with estimate.  This would be a weekend and after work job for us, and maybe if we get a few jobs we'll take a weekday off from our other jobs also.  The rates we charge are higher than our hourly pay at our other jobs, so that would be quite OK with both of us I think.

So this self-employment deal is going well.  We're making enough money to live on with some added perks.  I have a completely flexible schedule at the moment (this will change a bit when I start my other brand new part-time job, though the hours there are still flexible provided you put in 26 hours per week), and Drew and I can take days off whenever we need to.  We'll also get some nice tax breaks this time next year, if I'm not mistaken.  The drawbacks are that we have no health benefits, and neither of us are getting paid the full value of what we are worth, in terms of education and skills.  But, that's a minor thing, and frankly, when it's summertime, I'm quite happy to take it a little easy, and slowly get into the serious salary-work sometime later in the future.

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