How to be Self-Employed in the Country

Catherine Dybiec Holm shares how to create a job for yourself and be self-employed in the country.
By Catherine Dybiec Holm
August/September 2002
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Creating a career when living in the country.

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How to become self-employed in the country.

Being self-employed in the country can make a lot of sense, since traditional jobs may be few and far between. If you are suited for this particular way of working, the joy of being able to craft your own place in the world doing something you love, is beyond words.

In 1995, my husband accepted a job in a remote area of Minnesota. We live eight miles from the closest town, population 680. I've become a freelance writer, and here are my tips for others who want to become self-employed:

Do something you excel at and have a passion for. You will need your passion and enthusiasm to maintain your momentum. Self-employment can be a lonely venture (for those in the country, possibly lonelier). You're it: There's no one to turn to when something goes wrong. On the other hand, your successes are your own.

Constantly assess yourself and your business with an honest eye. Don't overextend yourself and try to offer every service possible if you're not prepared. Word spreads fast in the country, which can work for you (marketing, word of mouth) or against you (dissatisfied customers, perceived bad service).

If you've moved from the city, learn to rethink your approach to certain aspects of running a business. Use mail order for supplies rather than running to the store. Be prepared to deal with slow phone lines or power outages if you depend on the Internet or fax. Long-distance charges for phone calls can add up quickly. Watch your expenses: Gasoline costs and mileage are higher in the country.

Lose the nine-to-five mentality, if you ever had it. You're living closer to the land now. There will be times when you will need to put homestead activities (haying, gardening, food gathering, hunting, animal care, maintenance) first. The land and the seasons do not wait. Work your business around these ties to the land, which make living in the country so great.

Think globally, if this applies to your business. Make good use of the Internet, which levels the playing field for businesses, even in remote areas. If you can, offer your product or service beyond immediate regional boundaries.

Pay off debts and become as self-sufficient as possible. This will mean different things to different households. income from self-employment can be sporadic. Be prepared and have the necessary savings in the bank. Avoid new debt. Consider other forms of preparedness — food, storage, alternate power — if this applies in your household. You want to be as independent and flexible as possible.

While I admit I was ill-prepared for the transition from city to country, I've settled in after several years and love the country life and our homestead. Self-employment and living in the country are a perfect fit, Both incorporate self-reliance. Both can be hard teachers. But for those who want it, there's not a better combination.

— Catherine Dybiec Holm
Cook, Minnesota

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