Guess what, I don’t get a pay check, and I haven’t gotten one for a very long time. How do I survive without a pay check? Well, that’s a good question with a very simple answer. But before I answer that question, I want to figure out when my last pay check was. I honestly don’t remember off the top of my head because it’s been quite awhile. And technically, the last pay check I received was when I was freelance teaching Business English for a medium sized company, but I can’t really count that as my last pay check. I was technically hired on as a “contract worker” because they had to have me on paper for tax purposes, since my English gyosoopso was a separate business and I could not issue tax receipts via my English gyosoopso. Anyhow, I just checked and my last pay check from a job that I was working as an employee was when I was a Native English Teacher for an elementary school in the Gangnam School District. So according to my linkedin profile, I got my last real pay check in February 2013!!! Wow, it’s been a very long time. Since it is currently April 2018, I have not received a “steady, safe, consistent” pay check for more than 5 years!!! I must be crazy huh?
Wow, I’m just reflecting on this truth right now and I can honestly say that I am proud of myself. I have been able to create an enjoyable lifestyle for myself in South Korea. And the best part is that I am able to further build this lifestyle and increase the amount of money I make!
So yeah, I have been living life in Korea for the last 5 years without receiving a pay check, and, I’m not poor. Actually, a matter of fact, I am doing quite alright for myself financially and the best part is, there is no ceiling to how much more money I can make.
It was a little scary when I first started my business in 2013, actually, to be honest, it was more exciting than scary, but not having a steady pay check was a little scary at first. But because it was scary, I worked that much more to get new students for my gyosoopso business and got out of my comfort zone. I was truly hustling to make a living because I had no other choice but to work as hard as I could.
Why It’s Better Living Without a “Steady” Pay Check
Honestly, this is just my opinion, but I truly believe that it is so much better to live without a steady pay check. Because having a pay check usually means that you are an employee of a company or an organization where you have a lot less freedom and are most likely unable to work the way you really want to work. And this is especially for English speakers living and working in South Korea.
First of all, is a pay check really “steady”? I guess it will feel like it because you get paid monthly no matter what for the duration of your contract. But if something were to go wrong with the company you are working at, and we know how small English hagwons can be pretty unstable, then you will find yourself scrambling to find a job quick. Actually, I personally know people who had jobs ended mid-contract because the English Hagwon business they were working at closed doors with little notice.
On a side note, it’s always best to have some money saved up for some emergency situations. But not everyone has a good financial plan that allows for them to save some money. Honestly, I didn’t save much money up until a few years ago and had nothing to really show for it. I was kind of just living pay check to pay check, like I probably had a few million won saved up here and there, and there was a year where I saved a bit, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to really save like at least 10% of what we made monthly. But at the same time, we were paying off business loans and are paying off a mortgage, so there are always so many factors as to why you may or may not have much money saved up. So don’t feel bad if you don’t have that much saved up because it’s never too late to start.
So yeah, nothing is really steady, and it isn’t steady when you run your small business or do freelancing as a tutor in South Korea, but there is one important factor as to why I believe it’s so much better to not rely on a “steady” pay check. And that’s control. You have so much more control as your own boss. You can control how to make more money and you can control how much effort you are going to put into the work that you do. I think the most obvious example for English speaking people in South Korea is for English teachers. In a Hagwon or a school, a teacher can be restricted in their teaching style, what they teach, and how they go about doing their administrative duties. I know for me, being able to teach my English class the way I felt was right, was so freeing and I was able to do things I believed in.
I remember when I worked in a medium sized company and I was asked to help with the marketing and English related work. The company was doing it’s best to grow and I really saw how the company could have further grown. And honestly, I really didn’t put in the years to earn a say, but I could clearly see what needed to be done to improve the company. But I had no way of voicing my opinion. And even though I had a great relationship with the CEO and I was by his side a lot when dealing with the clients, and he would be open to hearing about my ideas, he never wanted to really implement them. He has HIS vision for HIS company, so even though my ideas to make some changes made sense and were logical, if he didn’t want to do it, then he obviously didn’t do it. So it was frustrating just seeing how the company could grow so much more and at a faster rate, yet not able to do anything. I honestly wanted to help grow that company I was working at, but in Korean companies, you really need to have seniority to have anyone really listen to your ideas.
How You Can Survive Without a Pay Check
Well, here is the super simple answer to the question I started this blog post off with. You just have to have a good idea and work super super hard. And honestly, it doesn’t have to be a new idea. I think the most obvious way to survive without a steady pay check in South Korea is to become a freelance English tutor. You can get a tutoring license from your local office of education or you can try to fly under radar and tutor without registering, but that’s technically illegal. However, a lot of people just do it. But I am in no way encouraging you to do it illegally.
I know a bunch of people who are small business owners and freelancers who teach English. Teaching English is the obvious answer, but there are other ways. There are tons of people in South Korea who have created startups and small businesses. And a lot of them have to supplement their income with side teaching jobs. I mean, you go to do what you got to do to survive. Honestly, it isn’t easy to try to do a startup, but it can be so rewarding to go that route. And in the end, you always have your prior job as a fall-back plan, which is to teach English.
And you may have to take some risk. When I started up my English Gyosoopso business, I took a lot of risk. I just got married to my wife and we started the English gyosooopso with enough money to last probably just 5 or 6 months. Usually, you should have money to last a year. But my logic was, if I can’t even make money within 4 months, then my business sucks anyways and I should just go back to teaching English for a school or company. Actually, the real answer was that I truly believed that I would not fail no matter what. And in the end, we were able to get enough students to at least keep the business going within 3 months, and were able to save a little here and there when we hit 6 months. Looking back, we should have saved a portion of our money at that time, since we went through a tough month where we lost almost half our students for a month, but we got through that part.
So I may have taken more risk than necessary, as I always encourage people to start really small first. Like, you should have some tutor students before you open up a Gyosoopso or Gongbubang business, but I didn’t do that. But at the same time, I just love throwing myself into things and adjusting day by day. I think I work best that way, but everyone is different.
It’s All About Freedom
In the end, if you have an idea that works and you also put in the work, you can have freedom. You will be free to spend your time the way you want to and work the way you want to. I am so free at the moment. I can make time to blog, make time to further build my businesses, and even make time to spend time with certain people. However, at the moment, my heart is in spending time on my businesses. And I truly enjoy the process. It was very challenging the first year of my English gyosoopso business, but my wife and I learned a lot. And because of our experiences, we have been able to build and operate Flower Gift Korea, which has a pretty good business model and allows for us to make good money and have a lot of control over our time.
I haven’t had a pay check for the last 5 years and I have never felt better. I am not obligated to be at any place at any time, unless I choose to do so. The best part is, I can do a lot of the work for my businesses anywhere and can use my phone whenever I want. I can also take naps when needed and just 100% be myself.
One more very important thing I forgot to mention was that I ended up working 10 times harder when I realized that I did not have a pay check to rely on. So if you are just going through the motions of your day, teaching kids the exact same English game you’ve been teaching the last three years, and want to do something different, then why not start a side hustle and turn that into a business? Even though I took a lot of risk when starting my English Gyosoopso business, Flower Gift Korea started off as a side hustle. And now, it’s my main business. There’s no reason why you can’t do something similar.