Self-Employment for Anyone

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Whether you want to leave the rat race, get off the grid, retreat from the city, enjoy a simpler life, or become self-sufficient, whatever your motive – to achieve your goals you need an income.  You can work for someone else or work for yourself.  Starting a cottage industry can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be.  Start by exploring your talents and hobbies.  What are you good at doing?  Could you make money from it?  Then, look at your area; is there niche market for what you do?  Are you able to create that market?  Starting small is key.  The temptation to “go big or go home” may cause you to invest your precious capital in the wrong areas of your business.

Hawking Your Wares

Begin with an analysis of your area for marketing.  Determine if your local area has a farmers market or flea market and how to participate.  Develop an Etsy or Ebay page, or your own website.  Ensure that you are not using colloquialisms or local lore to market your product.  I’ll explain; as a youth I went to a local restaurant with my father.  My father is from Tennessee, but I was raised in Iowa.  At the restaurant the menu read, “Ham n Aigs with Taters”.  I asked my father, “What’s an “Aig”?”  After he composed himself he whispered, “Egg”.  Some local cute-isms are lost on the young or international travelers!  Market accordingly!  The best and most enduring way to market your product, in my humble opinion, is to donate your product or service.  Your generosity will be remembered and passed on to new customers.  Often your donation can be accompanied by your business card revealing to others how to obtain such a good or service.  Happy and satisfied customers are the best advertisement.

Green Thumbs

If gardening is your forte, attend your local or regional farmers markets.  Take notes on what is there.  Identify the excess and the rare.  See what people like and are taking home.  Tailor your efforts toward what is popular, but not in great supply.  Some ideas that are surefire sellers:  Herbs, Onions, and Greens.  Nothing says “take me home” like fresh culinary herbs, onions, shallots, garlic, and fresh spinach, and salad greens.  All can be grown year round outdoors, in green houses and high tunnels, and in cold frames.  Low in overhead, simple to grow organically, and to harvest, they are easily packaged with a simple rubber band at the stems or stalks or in plastic baggies.  Think non-GMO, heirloom, and organic!

Cut Flowers and Floral Arrangements

This takes a bit more gardening knowhow, but if you are a flower mage, put them to work for you!  Donate an arrangement to a local church or nursing home.  Include a “donated by” business card with your business details.

More than Whirly-gigs and Lawn Ornaments

If your talents include wood working consider items picnic tables, vegetable hods, window boxes, book shelves, storage cubes, vertical gardens, antler mounting plaques, and natural walking sticks (add a hand carved wood spirit and leather grip!)  Donate a picnic table to the nursing home or a mini-table to the daycare center with a “donated by” card.  Take orders for your creations by posting with pictures on Craigslist or in the free local add paper.  Consider furniture refinishing as a side industry.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Sewing can encompass everything from quilting to mending and alterations to custom tailoring orders.  It can be basic or include machine embroidery.  You are limited only by your creativity and the capabilities of your sewing machine.  Be aware that some may not be interested in your finished product, but in learning to make their own.  Offer sewing lessons as a mainstay of this industry.  Consider volunteering to teach a basic sewing course to a 4H or homeschool group.  Investigate how to teach an adult education course through the local school system choosing an interesting finished product.  Consult with local fabric stores and hospitals to determine if they will display finished class products.

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