Many preppers have a dream of moving to a rural retreat such as a 50-acre lot in the woods or a small farm. That’s actually fairly easy to achieve because of the vast amount of rural land in the US and Canada, much of it for sale cheap.
The problem is that when many of these people arrive at their bucolic Shangri-La, they quickly discover there’s no way for an average person to make a living there. Like long-time rural residents, such as me, they discover that the majority of job prospects in such regions fall into three equally unappealing categories.
These categories consist of:
- Going to work in a local retail store for minimum wage or a restaurant for tips. The gas you’ll burn driving to the job will probably exceed the salary you get from it. You might make out better at the restaurant, but except for out-of-town visitors, you won’t see any decent tips.
- Working for the local government for slightly more than minimum wage. This might offer some benefits, but in most rural areas you’ll need a brother-in-law on whatever board runs the local government to get such a job. If you don’t have a relative working there, forget even applying to most local governments for work even if you’re qualified. Note: If you see a rural government advertising a job, chances are they’ve promised it to Cousin Goober, and there’s no way anybody else can get it.
- Commute (usually drive) 50 or 100 miles or farther to the big city to find a real paycheck. This gets boring fast, and it can cost a fortune.
Freelancing for Fun and Profit
Fortunately, there is an alternative: You can freelance. It isn’t easy, and it won’t lead to instant fame and fortune, but you can make a decent living or at least augment your other income by doing it.
I’ve been freelancing as a writer for about four years, and I’ve finally started making decent money at it. It’s been a long, hard struggle, and I’ve learned some important lessons that I’ll pass on to you.
The first and most important is to always be searching for more clients. There are always better clients out there, and even the best clients can vanish overnight and never return. Some days I spend more time looking for clients than I do actually writing. A good idea is to schedule one day a week or an hour a day to the search.
The second lesson I’ll pass on is to have a really good Internet connection. If DSL via a landline is available in your area, get it. If you cannot get a direct connection, there are several satellite Internet services out there that service all areas. I’ve heard some very bad things about satellite Internet, but it’s better than no Internet. Remember, you can write the cost of your Internet off on your taxes as a business expense.
The third lesson is to get a really good computer that you can rely on and get a service policy and a warranty on it. I went through Dell and found its online tech concierge and backup to be a lifesaver. Make sure that you have an online backup so all your data will be stored somewhere outside your home; that way your work will be available if something happens to your house. If spending extra on a good computer sounds expensive, remember, you can write it off as a business expense on your taxes.
The fourth lesson is to be willing to devote as much time and effort to freelancing as you would to a real job. Freelancing is self-employment, and the self-employed always work harder than those working for others.
The fifth lesson is, if it is possible, set up a comfortable home office away from the living area with a door you can close. You’ll need to devote full attention to freelancing and eliminate distractions. I’d also recommend a standing computer desk because sitting for long periods of time is very bad for your health. Make sure you can work standing up or moving around.
The sixth lesson is to try and take time away from the computer every day. Schedule time to read, do chores, eat meals, walk, spend time with the kids, etc. Following a basic eight-hour work day with a few breaks works best for me. Strangely enough, I’ve found that breaking away from work is one of the toughest parts of freelancing.
A seventh lesson is to set up a business such as a limited liability corporation or LLC. This is important for tax purposes because it lets you write off a lot of stuff on your income taxes. You need to do this because you’ll have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes if you’re working for yourself. These are normally taken out of your salary, but you can reduce your tax bill if you take advantage of all the tax write offs Uncle Sam offers. You won’t believe what the IRS will let you write off if you have a business.
Getting Started Freelancing
A lot of people out there are saying I cannot write, so I can’t freelance. That’s wrong; in today’s world, almost any job that can be done over a computer can be performed on a freelance basis and probably is. If you’re working on a computer in an office right now, chances are that job can be done as a freelancer.
Sit down and write a list of all the skills that you have. Here’s a partial list of jobs I’ve seen performed by online freelancers:
- Accounts Payable
- Accounts Receivable
- Grading Papers
- Data Entry
- Administrative Assistant
- Software Writing
- Website Design
- Graphic Design
- Website Maintenance
- Legal Research
- Website Development
- App Development
- Business Consultant
- Online Security
- Transcribing Documents
As you can see, only a few of these involve writing, and it’s only a partial list. If you want to see what’s available, start searching for work online right now. You’ll be surprised by what’s out there.
If you don’t see your specialty, go to one of the websites described below and search or set up a job for it. You might be surprised by the response.
Where to Search for Work Online
There are several websites that serve as online marketplaces for freelancers. The best I’ve found is Elance, where I’ve found more work than any place else. I’ve some work through Freelancer and Odesk, and I haven’t had any luck with Guru at all.
I like Elance for several reasons. I can transfer money from it directly to my bank account or PayPal. Elance sends me updates of jobs via email, and it emails me when a job I might be interested in becomes available. It’s also really flexible for my clients; they can set up one continuous job for me or new jobs when they want me.
Best of all, I’ve found more repeat clients through Elance than anywhere else. The key to making money in freelancing is to get good repeat clients. That’s tougher than it sounds; I generally find I have to go through ten clients to find a good client who’ll give me a decent amount of repeat business.
Developing a good reputation on Elance is the best way to get a lot of repeat business. You can also try searching through sources like Craigslist, but I find that Elance is where the serious clients willing to pay real money for real work like to hang out.
How to Succeed at Freelancing
There is no magic formula for success in freelancing; as at a job, you’ll have work hard, do good work, and respond to your clients’ needs. The more time and effort you devote to it, the better you’ll do.
Try and do something that you enjoy. I find that I make the most money from the stuff I have the most fun writing about. I make the least money from those things I consider a chore. Make sure you’re having fun or you’ll do a lousy job and won’t make any money.
The best way to get started freelancing is to try it. Sit down at the computer, go to something like Elance, and take a simple job. Even if you’re working now, it can be a great second source of income. If you can develop a strong reputation as a freelancer, you can have a source of income you can rely on when you make the move to your rural retreat.
Even those who are preparing for collapse should look into freelancing because the collapse has not occurred yet. Until civilization collapses, you’ll still need to pay bills and taxes (the IRS, your credit card company, the car finance company, and the mortgage company will still find you out in the boondocks). You’ll also need to find ways of financing the purchase of your survival supplies.
Freelancing can serve as a good additional source of income that you can access in even remote rural areas. Remember, going freelance isn’t perfect, but it’s better than having no money.