Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Making a Living: Where to Work When There is No Where to Work

After months of research you’ve found paradise. It’s a small southern town with an entire population less
than your current neighborhood. Crime is low, the schools are good you have even found a great deal on the perfect home for your family. Your spouse’s job will be a 30 minute commute to a nearby “big city”. No
big deal you both agree that you want the slower pace of small town living. You make the move. Two months later, your move is over, everything has finally been put away and your ready to look for some part time work around town. The local paper only shows ten jobs. Three of the jobs require selling cars, four are full time and the rest involve asking customers “would you like fries with that”. So you let some time pass. Two more weeks and the market still looks pretty bad. Now what? One of the realities of small town life is that the number of jobs available will be considerably less than big city markets. National franchises may offer positions in retail sales or fast food but other opportunities may be limited. So what to do?

Some work can be accomplished as effectively at home as it can be in an office hundreds of miles away. If you are a writer, graphic artist, or voice talent many times you can utilize these skills from any location that is accessible to the internet. Websites like www.elance.com and www.guru.com provide a marketplace to match up talent with employers. What can make this challenging is the competition. Since these sites are international competition is as well and you may be forced to compete with individuals outside the United States who are willing to work for much less than you are. Some employers though will only accept bids from talent within the country and these types of jobs are more lucrative to bid on. A variation to using one of these sites is to act as your own agent. Seek out employers in the fields which you are familiar with and offer to work as contracted labor. Sometimes companies need temporary help and prefer this solution to hiring additional employees. Before you enter the Telecommuting arena make sure you have samples of your work which can be sent to potential clients or posted on your website to show your abilities.

Blogging and social networking online can also help you to pick up work as well. The key is not to overly “advertise” yourself. Be useful, informative and show your abilities but stop short of posting a “Will work for food” sign on your site.

Advertise Locally
Take the lead on getting your name out locally. Don’t wait for an ad to appear in the paper for a position. Run your own ad, list your qualifications and what job opportunity you’re looking for. Sometimes a business owner simply has not placed their ad yet.

Start a Business
Yes, this can be the most challenging option of all. Starting a business takes alot of consideration and planning. If one spouse is working and you have the liberty of time and a bit of extra cash or low interest financing available this may be your best solution. Look around, see what your community had to offer. What are they missing? What is not being done well. The easiest small business to launch quickly and with the least amount of capital is a service based one. Services which are in demand in many areas include:
  • Day Care
  • Home Repair
  • Lawn Maintenance
  • Elder Care
  • Errand Running
  • Wedding Planning
  • Photography Services
  • Printing
  • Sign Making
  • Auto Detailing
  • Sewing & Alerations
  • Cleaning Service
  • Bookkeeping

Do your research carefully, look in the phone book talk to people who live in the community about the business you are thinking of starting and listen to their feedback. Even if you hear negative comments about opening a particular type of business you may still decide to move forward with your idea if there appears to be a real demand for it.

Any business, no matter where it’s started can take some time to get up to speed. Word of mouth, one of the most effective forms of advertising, takes time to build. Don’t expect to be making a profit in the first six months of your business and don’t celebrate your success after your first good week. Many businesses are affected to one degree or another by seasonal work. That being the case it can take a full year of operating to understand the patterns of busy and slow times.

If you are planning on running your business from your home check with your county and city to make sure you can legally do so and to find out what licenses may be required. This should be one of the first things you check, before you purchase equipment, tools, or supplies. If you find that you cannot operate out of your home and you’re not ready for a business location, check with an existing business about sub-leasing space from them. Many times related businesses can benefit from one another for example a pizza restaurant beside a video rental store or a wedding planner inside a florist show.

Another good thing to do is search online for Yahoo group or similar social networking tool which relates to your business. Many times members of these groups are willing to help one another because the distance between them keeps them from being direct competitors. In some of these groups you’ll find seasoned individuals who have learned the in’s and out’s of their trade and are more than willing to share these lessons and advice. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a non-profit organization composed of retired
executives who give their time to help small business owners grow. The group also provides free, confidential business advice from business experts via email. There is tons of information available freely on their website at www.score.org. It’s a good place to keep coming back to when you’ve got questions and need help from experienced business professionals.

Another thing to consider is that opening your own business can be a great opportunity to meet new people as well. Sometimes breaking into the social fabric that knits towns together can be challenging but once accepted as a “local” word of mouth can spread like wildfire. Whatever solution you find to your unique small town work experience should fit you like a comfortable shoe that’s been broken in by alot of miles.

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