When my husband and I moved to our Appalachian homestead just over a year ago, we had no idea what to expect from this new lifestyle or whether we would even enjoy it. In fact, we barely knew how we were going to support ourselves!
Because the land we live on is part of Big Laurel, an Appalachian nonprofit and a land trust, we were fortunate enough to spend the first year working through AmeriCorps, which allowed us to host outside groups at our mountain retreat and give them some exposure to rural Appalachia.
Though AmeriCorps was an incredible opportunity for us, it wasn't a sustainable employment option for the long run, and 6 months into our stay, we began to explore other ways of making an income that would allow us to keep living on our homestead.
My husband was fortunate enough to get the position of director of Big Laurel, but my next job didn't line up so easily. Finding a job away from home was difficult for me for a few key reasons.
1. Our driveway alone is 30 minutes long. Not only do we live on top of a mountain, we live a long ways away from any town whatsoever. There is no “quick trip” anywhere, and getting a job away from home would require me to spend hours driving everyday.
2. Rural areas tend to be economically depressed. The available jobs in our area are few and far between, even if I could get to them.3. We chose to live where we do because we love our home. Spending hours away from our beautiful homestead everyday would defeat the whole purpose of living there!
Clearly, working away from the homestead wasn't a great option for me.
Because of this situation, I began to think hard about what it would take to start a career right from my homestead. There are plenty of advantages to working from home that any homesteader can appreciate.
Working from home fits the homesteader lifestyle. When you homestead, you never know what tasks are going to present themselves each day. The flexibility of working from home allows you to set your own schedule and tackle tasks by YOUR priority, not the priority of a boss.
It's great if you have kids (or host groups all the time like us). Though my husband and I aren't parents yet, we do have two very needy dogs, a motley collection of other animals, and are constantly opening up our house to visitors. Working from home gives me the flexibility to take care of these daily situations while also getting the time to enjoy the people that visit us.
It allows for unparalleled flexibility in schedules. One of the hardest parts of homesteading for me is occasionally feeling trapped at home without the ability to get away. Though working from home could conceivably exacerbate this feeling, I've found that it does the opposite. Because my job doesn't require me to be in a cubicle office at any given time, I feel like I have the freedom to constantly change my surroundings, even travel internationally when I want to (so long as we can find a house sitter willing to be on duty for a week or two).
For my own home-based business, I decided to capitalize on one of my strengths and passions: writing. And I'm not alone. It turns out there has never been a better time to be a freelance writer. The explosion of the internet in the past decade has lowered the barriers for entry into professional writing and made it easy for anyone with talent and a drive to succeed to work towards becoming published.
I've been freelance writing for several months now and have found it to be the perfect way to make money from our homestead. Throughout my journey so far, I've come away with a couple tips that could help anyone that is looking to get started in this exciting field.
Build up a portfolio. Having an online presence is incredibly important for doing well as a freelance writer. I have been writing in my personal blog since we moved to our homestead last summer, and it's been one of the best tools for advertising my writing that I have. Some of my best clients have come from longtime readers of my site that were more than happy to employ me because they came to trust me through my weekly blog posts.
Apply for jobs everyday! Though there are a lot of freelance jobs available, there is also a ton of competition. I've had better-than-average luck in the field, and I still need to apply to more than 10 jobs to hear back from one. If you really want to be a writer, you'll have to get used to sending out lots of cover letters. I spend each morning scouring job postings on various freelance websites looking for new opportunities. (A hint: No site is off-limits — I've found some of my best clients off Craigslist!) Keep putting your name out there, and you're sure to meet with success eventually.
Consider joining a bidding site. There are lots of freelancing websites like Iwriter and Upwork that directly connect freelancers with clients. This can be an easy way to build up steady work for yourself, but I have two big complaints with this model.
First, because these sites rely on bidding, it can be a race to the bottom for which freelancer is willing to do the most work for the least amount of pay — hardly ideal for making a living.
Second, most of these sites have high fees for freelancers, sometimes in excess of 20% of your earnings. Because freelance money is pre-tax, this can take a significant cut out of your profits. That being said, these sites can give you steady business, especially when you are just starting out.
Having a full time job while homesteading can be tough, which is why I'm a big believer in working from home. Whether you choose to become a freelance writer like me or take a different approach, I'm sure you will find plenty of satisfaction from working from home and being in charge of your own schedule.
Lydia Noyes is an Appalachian homesteader and full time freelance writer whose writing on natural living and sustainability can be found all over the web, including her posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS here. You can connect with Lydia at her personal blog and on Instagram.
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