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In my previous post I covered considerations and qualifications for working from home as an independent contract proofreader. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of adults who live in Western societies hold a job with regular hours and some degree of financial security. Whether they earn a salary or an hourly wage, they go to work in the same place and receive a certain, predetermined income. Others, however, find themselves in circumstances where keeping a regular schedule is difficult, if not impossible. Some are parents of young children or caregivers for elderly relatives; others need to consider their partner’s job, especially if he or she works a shift at odd hours. Still others, like me, have physical limitations.
Luckily, my only “disorder” is a condition known as biphasic sleeping. Some people sleep in segments voluntarily, believing that it makes them more productive; I, however, fall into the “natural” brain state category. If you put me in an experimental chamber with no clocks or stimuli, I would be alert for two eight-hour periods split by 6.75 hours of sleep at night and 1.25 hours in the afternoon. Since sliding past my eight-hour wakefulness limit triggers a migraine, that’s how I organize my day.
Early on I decided to delay employment by prolonging my education because the Evanston Fire Department had to carry me, fast asleep, out of the dorm. (My freshman roommate at Northwestern ignited a blaze by draping her field hockey uniform over an oil heater.) My quirky body clock is also my main justification for eventually becoming an independent contractor . . . and choosing to live in Mexico, where a siesta is still part of the culture. You can’t be a champion napper and easily hold down a 9-5 job.
Not everyone requires such a flexible schedule, but if setting your own hours appeals to you, I suggest applying to a company like ProofreadingPal if you meet the basic educational and/or professional experience requirements. A successful candidate should also have the ability to work independently and meet deadlines as well as possess exceptional time-management and Google search skills.
Although contract proofreaders enjoy time flexibility and typically earn between $500 and $3,000 per month, including bonuses, they still have to meet volume requirements that are tied to seasonal fluctuations. Throughout the busy periods, they’re expected to accept as many orders as possible. On the other hand, they need to consider any financial constraints during the two slower seasons—the month after Christmas and a few summer months.
Perhaps because I grew up in a small, close-knit neighborhood and attended a six-year girls’ school with only 420 students, I try to establish a sense of community wherever I live. Here in my Pacific coast fishing village, I’ve done that by mastering the barter system—a strategy that also serves to slash expenses in a country where the cost of living is already low.
With other expats I exchange my language skills, software knowledge, and/or pet and plant care for a rent-free home, the use of a golf cart (I only have a bike), a personal computer guru, and the talents of a seamstress; during the steamy summer I often house sit for a while in cooler climes, taking my portable office with me. I also handle high-season “gringo publicity” for and teach English to the staffs of a local restaurant and beauty parlor in exchange for meals and salon services, respectively. (Friends joke that I wouldn’t need any money at all if I didn’t feed a lot of orphaned pets or have to save for retirement.) If bartering doesn’t suit you, try thinking outside the box to supplement your income or cut expenses during the periodic lulls in contract work.
In general, my job as an independent contract proofreader allows me to abide by the Zen saying, “Eat when hungry, sleep when tired.” Sometimes I work non-stop for days at a time to help out the company or earn money for a special purpose. At other times I reduce my hours if the emergency crew needs me to translate for a sick or injured foreigner, or an animal at my makeshift sanctuary requires immediate medical care. And now and then, I just want to sit by the lagoon and watch the sun set into the ocean.
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