Help me be lazy
July 10, 2011 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I would like to limit my working time to 20-25 hours per week, and spend the rest of my time as a flaneur. How can I do this?

I'm one of the least professionally ambitious people I know. For the last 2+ decades I've spent a lot of time obsessively trying to figure out what I should do for a career, and have finally figured out that my "career" is not something I really care about. What I'd really like to do, I've realized, is limit myself to part-time work and spend the rest of my time doing whatever the hell I feel like doing. I'm not a total bump on a log, and "freedom" for me would most likely entail plenty of time to read, stroll about, garden, exercise, volunteer, and in general just exist.

Hah. So, my question for you is, how in the #%$ to actually pull this off? I am no stranger to living frugally, but have estimated that I would need to make at *least* $25 an hour, after taxes, in order to set my grand scheme into motion. (I live in the midwest with my partner and don't plan to have kids. And I'm no financial genius, so I'm probably missing some big expense that would set that amount even higher.)

The trouble is, I don't believe that I have any actual skills that would allow me to find part-time employment that would pay that much. For the last ten years I've worked full-time as a public reference librarian. While this field is admirable, I'm also a little burnt out. I have no special aptitude in any of the fields that people usually make a lot of money in (finance, medicine, computers). I've considered copywriting but a very large part of me is skeptical that this field pays as much as all the internet people say it does. Am I missing anything? I have a BA in English and a Master's degree in Library Science. I've somewhat resigned myself that this may have to stay just a lovely pipe dream, but would be thrilled to learn of options to make it more than that.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Could you provide a throwaway email address?
posted by Wordwoman at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2011

What about working full time seasonally?
posted by yarly at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2011

Are you on your partner's health insurance plan? Because you're going to have a big problem finding a part-time job (at any pay) with health insurance.
posted by phunniemee at 1:45 PM on July 10, 2011

Well, read the 4 Hour Work Week and when you figure it out, send me an email and let me know what you did.

Watch Office Space a couple of times to get yourself properly demotivated for your current setting.
posted by carlh at 1:47 PM on July 10, 2011

Adjunct teaching, while not easy, does allow for a more flexible schedule. Same with test prep. $20-something an hour.
posted by k8t at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2011

A structural rather than a specific point:
Option 1: A part time job where you work 3 days a week.
Option 2: A job where you work short periods of very intensive work - but have more lengthy time off between work spells. Same number of average hours as above

I suspect that you will find option 2 jobs are better remunerated because you are being paid as a fire-fighter to solve acute problems competently. You need to ask yourself whether you would be willing to deal with the periodic stress and unpredictability of such jobs.
posted by rongorongo at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2011

The Anti 9-to-5 Guide (both the book and the website) has some practical advice for this sort of thing (the book is more aimed toward women -- it is subtitled "Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" but there's no reason why the advice can't apply to men). Now, a lot of that is about being a freelancer but it's definitely about doing what you want within your terms.

Of course, that's probably more a matter of inspiration than real-world advice.

(My mom, of course, after many years and many different jobs, now works at home and does a combination of designing -- mostly patterns and such for products -- and home decor sewing. Her partner does a lot of web stuff. Both work from home and both basically have the freedom to do what they want. They aren't making a ton of money but they manage pretty well. This is possible -- you just have to find a way.)
posted by darksong at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nursing. Sure it takes a lot of effort to get there, but you could work 3 twelve hour shifts a week and earn more than enough cash to do whatever you want on the remaining four days. That's my plan anyway. For me, the dream is about 3 years away and well worth the effort.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2011

$25/hour after taxes is, let's say $37/hour before taxes (assuming a third is coming out in taxes). $37/hour is north of $75k per year assuming you worked 40 hours a week. So basically, you need a fairly serious job that would normally pay a fulltimer $75k per year and the convince them to hire you part time and to continue to five you all the benefits a full time employee would get (e.g., health insurance, 401k -- because, let's face it, you sound like you'd like to retire -- or some other retirement option, etc.)

If you find a company who will offer this, let me know if they're hiring, I'm interested.
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:30 PM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Are you athletic? Some trainers for youth sports like figure skating and hockey pay very well.
posted by adverse_conditions at 2:42 PM on July 10, 2011

My starting pay as an adult ESL teacher was $29 hour, and at that time they were giving me 20 hours a week. No benefits, and now they give me less time and they offer me classes I'd rather not teach, but it's been a rewarding second career for me.

Where would you volunteer? Explore that - sometimes it can lead to a paid gig.
posted by Rash at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2011

Take the LSAT, ace it, teach for Testmasters.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:53 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Job share? Some very progressive companies allow splitting one full-time position between two people, mostly as a benefit for working mothers.

But you're going to need a specialized skill or trade in order to make the kind of money you want.
posted by miyabo at 4:06 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recommend consulting or freelancing of some kind. I worked as a consultant and set my own hours, took only as much work as I desired, and basically lived your dream.

Writing may be a good direction for you -- but keep in mind that with any freelance/consulting type work, you need to put in a lot of hours before you get to the point where you can work fewer hours. I think that's true with most fields. You might look into becoming a life coach or massage therapist also.
posted by pupstocks at 4:35 PM on July 10, 2011

If you're willing to go back to school and then work full-time for a while after that, and don't plan on supporting a spouse or kids, a skilled trade like being an electrician, plumber, or mechanic can pay pretty well.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:01 PM on July 10, 2011

I think that's pretty much everyone's dream. One non-obvious answer is to buckle down, work your butt off, and retire early. Think of it as a hard-core sprint (5-10 years) to the same goal everyone else is strolling (20-30 years) towards.

This is very achievable if you keep your costs down - way down - a lot farther down than what you've got now. Think beyond "I stopped buying latte's" frugal, to "extreme frugal."

At the same time, you will need to pour gas on your income. Take the job you've got now, and get a second one.

Save every single penny. Draft out a financial goal, the amount of money you need to have in the bank in order to live off it for the rest of your life.

Sound drastic? It is. Read Early Retirement Extreme to get motivated, and keep your eye on the long-term goal!
posted by ErikaB at 8:10 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ha, I've just started working full-time after fifteen years of part time work during which I had multiple children and really enjoyed my free time. My husband never worked full time and has not worked for the past year and a half at all, choosing instead to stay home with the children instead. We aren't rich but our newish car is paid off and we have been agressive in paying off the house.

I have a great pension plan (full pension at 55), great benefits, six weeks vacation a year, and amazing Medicare. I earn close to $35/hour, now paying just over 15% in income taxes so my take home is decent. You'll kill me, but I'm a librarian too. Maybe you just need to look at switching systems to a better paying one? Are you burnt out on "customer service"? Maybe look into back office or administration then.
posted by saucysault at 10:32 PM on July 10, 2011

saucysault, I think you should have mentioned that you're Canadian. It's like you're taunting us Americans.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:58 AM on July 11, 2011

ErikaB makes a good point, and anecdotally I think it would be easier to lump all of you working together in one big chunk and retire early. However, you are running the risk that, if you get hit by a truck after 14 years, you've slaved away with little leisure to show for it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:17 AM on July 11, 2011

Just like in Canada the wages paid to librarians varies a lot between systems. If the OP isn't getting a good wage she should look at other systems, especially unionized ones.
posted by saucysault at 5:38 PM on July 11, 2011

especially unionized ones.

Again with the taunting?

(Honestly, I have no idea what the job market and union prevalence for librarians are. I'm mostly being silly. But six weeks of vacation a year? I think that counts as pretty impressive for most Americans outside of academia.)
posted by benito.strauss at 7:29 PM on July 11, 2011

I work about 20 hours a week. I'm a professional violinist in an orchestra. I also have a generous amount of vacation time. Like right now, when I'm in the middle of a six-week period with no obligations.

I can't say that I get that much done in the time outside of work. And I'd say it's the worst during these long stretches of nothing. If anything, I get more done, feel more engaged (comparatively), during the working season. So there's that to consider.

I'm telling you this so you know what it can be like to work 20 hours a week. I'd say it's close to impossible you'd be able to get a position as a musician in an orchestra. But, uh, best of luck finding something else. Or not.
posted by Busoni at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2011

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