Since our move to France, the most commonly asked question is “How are you making money/a living/ends meet?”. For all those budding homesteaders or people wishing to live their dream but who are worried about their modus operandi abroad, I thought I would share our experiences of not only making ends meet but actually saving to build a house.
Firstly, a little history. Our skill set is quite broad but not very deep. Think ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’! The only money-making talent we both share and have lots of experience with is teaching. After a fabulous year learning to teach in China at the Thames School of Languages, we knew we were going to do a (singular!) ski season in the following November of 2011, but we were set to return to Europe in the August. This left us pondering over what to do in the interim and a chance conversation with a friend in China opened us up to the world of online English teaching. Despite attempts at other forms of work in France, including melon picking (never again), teaching online quickly became our preferred option. Over the next few years(!) of seasonal work we used iTalki as a way of working in the interim periods.
After another stint of teaching classroom-based English for the state system in South Korea, we returned to France to start work on our straw bale house. Naturally we decided to restart teaching online and this quickly built up to a full time teaching timetable. It enables us to work on our land (out of our caravan!), with all electricity provided via solar panels. The phone line for the tinterweb is thoughtfully strewn across one of the outer hooks on the awning. Surprisingly it is a convenient setup. Even more surprisingly, the internet connection is supreme! 34MBPS….which is better than the connection we had in Korea! And it is on our field, in the middle of the countryside. Happy days…Although with data contracts becoming ever more affordable, soon we will literally be able to teach from anywhere.
By utilising the teaching platform provided by iTalki we remain completely flexible with our hours, prices and the type of classes we deliver. The students we meet on there are truly inspiring; language learners seem to be a cut above the rest in terms of commitment and learning. It also gives us the privilege of meeting, learning from and working with people from all over the globe with a plethora of backgrounds. It is genuinely satisfying work.
Due to its flexibility, teaching online allows us to continue other professional pursuits, including working for our favourite, Collett’s Mountain Holidays. We are able to work for them in ways other people cannot. We are able to take time out from teaching without too much strain, whenever we choose, provided we are organised and communicate with our students. Delivering training to the new staff for a month in the Spanish mountain resorts of the Picos D’Europa and the Pyrenees is a real highlight of our year, breaking up our time and varying our day-to-day scenes.
Our outgoings are extremely minimal and this means we can squirrel away a good percentage of our earnings as savings for the house. No debt, no utility bills (except the super, mega, awesome internet and mobile phone), being veggie and generally being careful to purchase high-quality items, second-hand or in exchanges means that we can keep tabs on the cash flow and plough as much as possible into the house.
Thus far, the work has panned out really well; the tax is relatively high for self-employed people France, but it does enable us to qualify for healthcare and pensions. Not only has teaching online turned out to be extremely enjoyable, it is also lucrative enough to enable our lives in France.