I thought I would start a new thread on homestead income. What got me to thinking was a question Paul ask on the soap making thread. He ask if making soap could be a viable business plan. This is based on twenty years of personal experience while living in the bush in Alaska. When Alaska still had homesteading and open entry land only about 3% of those who staked their land actually proved up and got patent on their land. The reason most homesteads failed was they couldn't figure out how to make a living. Some did start their own business and still didn't make it because they copied someone else's failure or they treated it like a hobby you can't do either and expect success. First and most important IMHO is you have to learn to think out side the box. I know that sounds redundant but schools don't teach students to think they teach to pass test. You need to learn and practice critical thinking and creative thinking. The second thing is don't let your personal prejudices get in the way be flexible if plan A doesn't work don't beat a dead horse go on to plan B. That doesn't mean go to something totally different just look at things from another angle.
OK there are two basic ways to make a living both can and should be modified to meet your specific needs. Find a need and fill it or find an unique way to sell something that is already out there.
Someone made the first widget, he saw a market and filled it. Someone else came along and looked the widget over and said I can make this better. So he made the new and improved widget. A third person comes along and thinks that widget has some ugly packaging I think I can re-wrap it and more people will buy it. While yet another comes by and checks out all the widgets on the market. He says there's a million widgets out but I don't see a single left handed model so he revamped the widget produced a left handed model creating new target audience. I know this simplified but I think it makes my point.
Several years ago my wife and I made jewelry for caribou antler and porcupine quills. Everyone said it wouldn't work there a hundred people doing it, we ended up with more business than we could handle. The reason, my wife came up with her own distinctive designs for each piece and we had our own unique packaging. We were also willing to sell wholesale which gave us markets we normally wouldn't have access to. We both had our part to do I did the rough work on the antlers and made the packaging while my wife made the actual pieces and did the sales. This is just one of the ways we have made an living in the bush. We've had our failures and others that were OK but except for my guiding each fall, which by choice I do less each year, neither of us has held down a "job" in over 15 years. Some years we eat stake some years we eat rice & beans.
One thing I haven't seen much mention of is sale of knowledge. We have people contacting us all the time if we had any hands on courses. Because of our remote location and the cost involved it wouldn't be particularly viable for us although we are working on a couple of other things. If you have the land that is accessible and the knowledge you could offer some hands on classes I believe there is a demand for them. More and more people are looking to become self sufficient. A lot of them believe we are going into another major depression and they don't know how to survive one. We have people come to our forum looking for answers. You would be surprised how people don't know how to plant a potato or raise a chicken. It is not something to jump into but it is something to work towards. Improve your skills and start small.
My general rule of thumb in business is to try 100 things and figure that two of them will work out. And often times it is the two you thought least likely while the "sure thing" was a flop.
And for each thing, there are a hundred ways to do that ...
In hindsight, fools will see all of that work that resulted in little or no profit and come to the conclusion that those things should have been skipped. And it is those same people that seem unable to make it. Wacky.
I'm newly into all of this and our goal is to get land, do some perm and farming and try to make it viable as far as income too. I have Paul's voice in my head (watched a lot of his youtube) like a running narrative now.......better than the old distractions!!
We have started a couple compost bins, some sheet compost is laid down for next year and a few plants are growing (rosemary, cabbage and jalapenos). I am currently constructing a few dehydrators (solar and other), setting up some worm bins, and trying to learn how to can/pickle/make soap/baskets/etc. I fully subscribe to Paul's idea of 'try 100 things' to see what works, plus I like to try the 'failed' attempts until a new/working way can be found, or at least good knowledge learned in the attempt.
So, the 'Homestead Primer' is just about what I need, right??? Anyway, mad thanks to Paul and Y'all around here. I've been reading and linking like crazy and will probably be very involved/inquisitive/interested/interactive around here soon as I learn/do more and need sooo much help/information.
Yes, try 100 things, but man, you can get skinny in the meantime, huh!
Here's an option for some people: Get your products online. Sure, there's competition, but any money is better than no money. You'll get repeat customers if you treat them right the first time.
Things I learned while trying to develop an online business that actually paid me something:
The 'niche' marketing - I read about a guy that had ostrich. He tried everything he could think of to sell - eggs, oil, meat..nada. Then he advertised 'ostrich feathers'. When I read about him, he was selling the feathers by the boatload (literally boat loads) to a company in China that made feather boa's and such.
Even if you think it's too common to sell, it might not be common to people somewhere else. There's a family in SW Kansas that advertised tumbleweeds as a joke. Much to their surprise, they got orders, and a lot of them from the movie industry in Hollywood.
Information continues to be the #1 seller on the internet. Okay, maybe downloaded music is now, but you get the drift. You all excel in some area, so write a booklet about it, or do a how-to video.
There are sites that have templates for website design and small shopping carts (up to 10 items, I think) and they are free. Just remember that all your work will be done up front. I started trying (and trying) for several months before I found out what I could do to actually rank high enough for people to find me. I didn't even know how to turn a computer on when I decided to try this. Did I get rich? No. But I do make money every month and that was the goal.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Sorry if my last post sounded so 'in your face'. I didn't mean it like that, it was just a suggestion. I didn't want anyone to think I was advertising, but I want to point out that I don't sell product from my homestead. I sell automotive and body shop supplies online for a company in another state. I get paid commission. The point was that getting yourself online might give you some extra bucks.
Things you might have in your area that I have a hard time finding here, for Pete's sake: Pinecones!!! I always want them at the wrong time of year. Took me forever to find sunchoke starts, too. Willow starts? Hardy bamboo??? Where are they, as they aren't around here. I'm pretty sure they grow in this zone, but no one in my neck of the woods sells them. Hey, I should hit the internet.
I'm all about bartering and seed/plant sharing, but sometimes you need actual cash. The internet might be a place for you to get some.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
I got this tall by not having enough crisco in my diet as a kid. This ad looks like it had plenty of shortening:
Wood Gasifier Builder's Bible, Ben Peterson --ebook