Why I Quit My Highest Paying Side Hustle

QuitI am not a quitter. At least, I wasn’t. Not until about two weeks ago. A combination of factors collided in such a way that I realized walking away from $400 a month was the smartest decision I could make. So I quit my highest paying tutoring gig.

As a tutor, I deal primarily with students. That’s where my passion is. And I’d like to think that after nearly a decade in the classroom, there really isn’t a parent or guardian that I can’t handle. But in this case, I met my match.

The first few years that I worked with this family were great. The student made progress and the family seemed genuinely grateful. Sure, there were last-minute cancellations or miscommunications on occasion, but that’s what happens when you deal with kiddos. They get sick, they forget, they even make excuses. That’s to be expected. Really, things were great.

Then, about a year ago, I started dealing with more cancellations. One time, I reached out to the parents and the father wrote back, “Managing million dollar acct at work. Can’t be bothered with this.” That’s one of the lengthier responses I’d ever received from him. Most of the time, the husband blamed the wife and the wife blamed the husband. I have no idea what it is like to be married with children, so who am I to judge? I didn’t like it, but I let it go.

Not soon after the cancellations started, I would also get random emails sent from a cell phone that were full of home renovations or vacation home pictures. The comments ranged from “Maybe one day you’ll have one” to “If you and your husband want to borrow the keys, just let me know.” I was awash with every emotion, oscillating from insulted to disturbed. He even took the time to caption one “WIP”. That merited a follow-up email to make sure I understood: “Forgot your [sic] not in business. Means work in progress.” Still, I tried to laugh it off. The student was a pleasure to work with and was really struggling. I didn’t want to give up now, not after four years of working together.

Finally, last month, the family asked that I rearrange my schedule to accommodate two additional tutoring sessions per week — the SAT and ACT were on the horizon. After juggling around some other commitments, I made it work. Then, a whole string of cancellations happened; one not more than 30 minutes before the student was set to arrive at the library. I replied to the family and said, “If this session is cancelled, I expect to be paid. We agreed upon a 24-hour notice policy.” The student showed, and I got paid. All was well until the next week when the father emailed, “I’m cancelling our next session and I most certainly will not be paying.” That was 12 hours before we were supposed to meet.

With a few swift keystrokes, I replied that I would no longer be making myself available for these sessions due to the frequent cancellations. I did not mention any of the subtle digs or shoddy attitude. After all, tigers don’t change their stripes. There was no objection, no apology, only a half-hearted attempt to blame their child.

If I run the math and realize that I let almost $5,000 a year slip through my fingers, I feel pretty terrible. But if I look back in my tutoring folder in my Gmail account and see all the abuse and disrespect I tolerated for four years, I feel ever worse. Side hustling is great. But it isn’t worth your self-respect.

Why I Quit My Highest Paying Side Hustle

25 thoughts on “Why I Quit My Highest Paying Side Hustle

  1. Sounds like you made the right decision. Rearranging that much of your time only to not be paid is a high price to pay. I cannot imagine why the father was treating you that way. It sounds like you handled it all well but I’m glad you can move on now!

    1. I don’t really get it, either. But all I know is made (and continues to make) me feel really badly for his kiddo. Thanks for the support, Kalie!

  2. My eyes got wider and wider as I read this – WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.

    I am so so so happy for you that you chose to walk away from this, because I think everyone who reads this is going to agree with me that sparing yourself this kind of treatment is well worth the $5000! I’m so glad you gave yourself the gift of getting out of this situation and not having to deal with people like this anymore.

    I don’t want to minimize the amount of money at all, but for real – high fives all over the place on this one.

  3. This student has much larger problems than school work. The parents are some sick MFs! Can you imagine the mind games they play on this kid?

    $5,000 is a lot of money, but it’s NOTHING when it’s dirty money. You are so much more mature than I am. My dirty Brooklyn sailor mouth would have ripped the father a new one a long time ago. Ditto on the high fives from Des! You’re awesome, Penny.

    1. Thank you, Mrs Groovy! I cannot even imagine what dinnertime would be like in that household. I felt so badly for his wife and his kids (there were several). Oof.

    1. It is so easy to see it in other people’s situations, but I struggle when it happens to me. I knew I should cut our ties, but I came up with so many reasons not to.

  4. I am glad that you had the freedom to walk away. Some things are not worth the money. And as someone who’s married with kid, I think that support and consideration of the people who work with your child is just something both halves should be capable of. (although I admit I was a little snarky in the letter I wrote back to Little Bit’s Spanish teacher when she wanted to point out the “bad words” she was saying in class. I granted that Little Bit was explaining Captain Underpants to her classmates at an inappropriate moment, but “Wedgie” is not a bad word and it was enthusiasm for literature.)

    I am surprised by the parent’s apparent success if that’s the way he treats people. I do, however, have faith in Karma. You will be able to find plenty of clients who are better to work with, and the universe will work itself out for the other guy.

  5. Wow! I can’t believe the amount of disrespect! I go out of my way to treat others nicely, whether it’s a smile to people on the street or making conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. The world would be so much more pleasant if everyone made a little more effort towards being nice to each other. I think you made the right decision.

    1. It’s crazy how some people feel that they can walk all over people. The fact that he would throw his money in my face was really rude, too. How can you complain about paying for missing appointments when you agreed to the cancellation policy AND spent two weeks sending me photos of your vacations?

  6. I think you should consider money when making a decision, but it shouldn’t be the top priority. Self-respect and value of your time come in way before that. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with these people (and I’m sorry for their child), but you absolutely made the right decision to leave them behind. Hopefully a much better situation will come along to make up that income for you.

  7. Good for you – sometimes it’s just not worth the money! I had a friend who made a great salary, but had to work 70+ hours a week to do so. In my eyes, the difference in income did not make up for all that lost free time. Glad you finally stopped being disrespected by this family. I’m sure better things are to come!

  8. I’m so proud of you for kicking those entitled jerks to the curb! In addition to looking out for yourself, maybe you’re also subtley teaching the kid a lesson that cancelling on people and not respecting them is not okay (even though the parents clearly can’t learn this lesson themselves). Someday I’ll share a similarly self-respect affecting story of why I dropped my side hustle once and for all — but can’t do it til we’re not anonymous anymore. But now, two years later, I have never regretted it. Knowing you’re being mistreated is not something anyone should have to live with in any part of life, money making or not!

  9. Not worth it Penny. NOT. WORTH. IT. When things like this happen, we have to remind ourselves that money isn’t everything – and there’s more where that came from. 🙂 I am glad you feel relieved about the decision.

    1. So relieved. And the more inquiries I get about sessions makes me realize that I put up with this nonsense for so much longer than I should have. I really didn’t want to bail on the kid, but I was really out of options.

  10. Sam says:

    Amen! You did the right thing. Money is one thing, peace of mind and reduced stress is another. You chose. I like your choice! As a teacher (of adults and teenagers), it is usually an adult which creates problems, and kids pick it up. Adult students can be very demanding and think they deserve it all, and it is my job to give them success. Nope. The student is always responsible, especially the adult student. Give an assignment, and the student doesn’t do it, guess who is the one responsible? Not me. Anyone who says a teacher is responsible for a student’s learning is living out on some planet not recognized in our dimension . . . 😉

  11. Wow. I’m mostly impressed with your self-restraint; I think I would have replied to the “can’t be bothered with this” note with a middle finger. Losing the income isn’t fun, but this is what the path to FI is all about — being able to walk away from bad people and bad situations. Glad you did it!

    1. Ha! There were so many times when I wanted to be a jerk back. But it wouldn’t have made a difference. And yes for striving for FI in order to move away from negativity.

    1. Ha! Yes. It was really unfortunate. The kid was a typical teenager, and I really valued the progress we had made together. I think he did, too. That’s the hardest part about teaching and tutoring – dealing with grown ups 😉

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