Yes, This Is Hard Work!
I am sure many of you already know that Country Living/Self-Sufficient Living/Off-Grid Living is hard work. Additionally, trying to make money from of your homestead is equally challenging. We have employed several different strategies for making money that will pull us away from our 9 to 5 jobs. We plan on implementing more in the future.
I know what you are thinking. How can you concentrate on all of these strategies at the same time? Well, our philosophy is to try a method and give it our all. Then we evaluate whether to pursue it, abandon it or maintain it and automate it. Some online business strategies can be easily automated once they are established needing just minimal communication and review every so often.
Let me give a little history of our situation before we jump into our money making strategies. We, like most, have a finite amount of money. We are thrifty and have been able to save some cash but we must be very careful and concise about how we spend it. Like any business, you need investment capital to start it. There are no free rides. If you want to build a business, you are going to need some money. Luckily, there are many online businesses you can start with a minimal amount of capital. I am aware that "minimal" is relative and can mean something different to each one of us.
We decided that is was best for our family to focus on two things: paying off debt and becoming entrepreneurs. You can watch our debt reduction journey on our Youtube channel here: How to Get Out of Debt! Our Journey to a Country Homestead. After tackling our debt issues, we set aside a good chunk of cash to invest in a business. One of our initial focuses was real estate. In my humble opinion this is the best way to create passive and stable income for your family. Investing in real estate allows you to make money in 5 different ways. Unfortunately, the initial "buy in" is significant and unless you have excellent credit, an investment partner, or pay cash for the full price this strategy is a very difficult challenge. For this reason, we are not adding it to our list of 8 but if you can afford this strategy, go for it.
We made it a point as soon as we choose to change our lives and location, to investigate alternative means of making money that would allow us to break away from our "bosses" and be self-sufficient. We got to work right away and with the help and encouragement of a good friend, Isaac aka "The Dude". (Read his blog here: http://www.anewordinary.com/) Although his reasons for starting to look at alternative means of income were different than ours, the outcome will be the same: Freedom. We started building a business using an online strategy called Drop-Shipping about 10 months before we moved to the countryside.
Strategies for Making Cash
Drop Shipping is a method of selling physical products online through an Ecommerce based website that you own. Unlike most retail style businesses, you do not take possession of or hold any inventory. You negotiate with manufacturers to sell their products on your site effectively becoming their sales and marketing arm. Your cost for the items is a low dealer pricing that you negotiate and then build in your other costs to arrive at a retail price for your customers.
We found this strategy requires some significant upfront costs even though you hold no inventory. The website and hosting are very affordable through companies like Shopify, whom we recommend. Where the costs start to grow significantly is in advertising. You must get your site recognized and drive web traffic to it. It can cost a bundle to make your first sale and if your margins aren't calculated out properly, look out.
This is a good business model and you can be very successful at it but you must have a bit more cash upfront and you must find the right niche product to sell.
Fulfillment By Amazon
This is another online retail sales strategy. This one uses the worlds largest online retailer to give you a leg up however. I am not sure if there are many people who have not heard of Amazon. I have shopped with them for at least 15 years. They offer a trusted and reliable sales platform. Most sellers on Amazon are individuals like you and I. Amazon takes a fair cut of your sales but in the end utilizing their website for selling your products gains you instant trust with customers who are already there.
A huge positive for using this strategy is that you do not have to drive traffic to the site. They already exist there and are looking for your products. You must stand out and there are advertising costs involved but you are able to sell $30 products and make a profit as opposed to selling $300 products to clear a small profit with the drop ship method.
FBA has some initial up front costs as well. You must obtain the product you want to sell. Most suppliers have minimum quantities that you must order to get a good price per item. Depending on what you sell, this could cost you. You must also have it delivered to the Amazon warehouses. This is an additional challenge as shipping costs are astronomical anywhere in the world.
This strategy has a lot of positives and can get you earning cash very quickly if you are savvy.
Yes, you can make money with Youtube. Advertising space is always available on your videos. Although you make mere pennies from each view and each ad clicked, it can add up if you have a popular video or even better, a viral video.
This strategy takes time to build. Making videos takes time and effort. Planning, recording, creating, editing and promoting your videos is hard work but can be a ton of fun. If you hit it big with a viral vid, you can create nice cash flow (although it fluctuates) from the very beginning.
These two strategies can go hand in hand. Much of the money bloggers make does not come from blogging directly. Bloggers usually use their blogs as springboards for offering other products or services they endorse or recommend. You will often also see ads in blogs for products or services that the blogger has used or highly approves of because of personal experience.
Those products and services can also show up as an affiliate link. In this case, the blogger has established a longterm partnership with a company to promote their products. A link embedded within the blog will take you to an external product/company website where the product will be sometimes offered at a discount.
In our blog, we endorse and recommend only products that we personally use and own. These products are not provided to us by any manufacturer but are items we have used for years and have had great experiences using.
Organic Heirloom Gardening/Farming
Getting going can be challenging but should not be that expensive. Seeds, soil, fencing and tools are really all you need. Building your soil is going to be the most challenging aspect of your gardening experience. Each variety of fruits and vegetables like different soil. Take blueberries for instance, they love and thrive in an acidic soil. Swiss chard and sunflowers like a more neutral to alkaline soil.
Once you get your soil straitened out you must attract good pests and repel the bad ones. For example, companion planting with basil and chives works to help control certain pest from attacking your tomatoes. This can be a complex planning exercise and may also take a while to work out. From, attracting bees to pollinate your crops to repelling rabbits and deer from devouring your lettuce and beans, it all takes practice, patience and time to work out.
Once you are able to grow a bumper crop of lovely Non-GMO, Non-Hybrid, rare Heirloom veggies that will feed your family, you can start to sell them to several other groups/businesses.
You can start your own CSA or Community Supported Agriculture group. These are membership group who come to you for weekly boxes of fresh produce for a small fee on top of a yearly or monthly membership fee. You can grow an amazing network by growing the best produce around.
You may also create a network of local chefs who want to offer their customers flavorful and rare fruits and veggies. Additionally, you can find small local specialty markets or health food stores that are looking for great produce. All of these methods can net you a nice income and you can grow and scale it as you need.
Chickens, sheep and goats. All three of these animals can produce valuable items that you can sell and they are among the most economical. For one, they are small. You do not need a large amount of land to raise any of these guys.
Of course chickens take up the least amount of space. I must clarify, egg-laying chickens take up less space than meat chickens based upon an assumption that you are going to actually let them free-range. Layers are cleaner and more family friendly (depending on breed) than meat chickens. Meat chickens on a per pound basis are also more expensive. A good egg layer will lay about 5 eggs per week and you can supplement their diet with veggie and garden scraps. If you buy a breed that lays rare eggs like a Lakenvelder or a Blue Cochin, you can demand a higher price.
Both sheep and goats can provide you with milk used to make cheese, moisturizers or soaps. Sheep have a leg up in our opinion because they can also provide you with wool. All of these are very marketable products and based on your level of expertise in processing these byproducts can net you a great deal of income. Goats can be a bit more temperamental than sheep and also pose a challenge when it comes to grazing. Goats eat everything! They will chew on trees, bushes and shrubs, etc. Sheep mainly stick to grass. Although this can obviously be mitigated by proper fencing and corralling, sheep are the way to go in our opinion.
As you can see, making money on a homestead is hard work but very doable. There are also numerous other ways to generate income but we have found that these 6 are very attainable and the easiest to start. Nothing has an instant return. You must put in the time and effort to build these businesses. Start with one or two methods while you still have your day job. I know, I know, the prospect of quitting your 9 to 5 job is extremely exciting but honestly you are not going to be able to do that tomorrow or even next week. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article we worked on our Drop Shipping stores for some time before even making a move. Honestly, those stores have not produced as we need....yet.
We hope this helps!