Who doesn’t dream of ding dong ditching the wicked boss at the office or early morning work alarms? I know I did. But fear is a powerful little demon monkey that hangs on your back. The idea of working from home full time seemed like a dream of a dream. It wasn’t until an online voice casting agency sent out a mass recruiting email for a remote customer service agent that I just so happened to receive because I am a voiceover artist, and answered because I was desperate to ditch a challenging boss. This overseas company took a chance on me when I didn’t know any of the services they used to manage their business, calls or tickets. But I knew technology and customer service, and I had freedom of low financial pressure to learn.
I’m in one of those small towns you hear songs about on the radio. Lost in Middle America. Lima, Ohio. What I had no idea is this small town was the perfect place to get lost in the remote economy and find my way into things I genuinely felt a passion doing. Things I wouldn’t have had the time to explore if I were buried under the weight of high rent for small spaces. Killing my entrepreneurial spirit, and human spirit in general, for the safety of a 9-5 that would pay the bills just another month. If I could go back to the miserable girl sitting in a radio station for pennies because she thought she had to, I’d tell her a few things.
Take the chance on a small town. Small towns are where it’s at to build a business or work a remote job. Not everyone can see that because they are looking at the things they are ‘missing’ or don’t have easy-drop-in-your-lap access too. But here is where your best chance at remote work or working from home would be successful. Why? The cost of most mortgages around here are in the $400 for a 1500 square foot house and up range. This meant I could afford to take the chance of starting a voiceover business which I had technically already started but was only doing part time. I didn’t need to move where there more 9-5 choices, I needed to move my butt and look at what I had access to and actually market what I was doing to other cities, remotely. I had set a ceiling for myself where there was none because I was used to bosses setting ceilings of how much I could make. But here…here one big job would pay the mortgage for the month and let me focus on another job that covers my utilities. THEN my time could be spent marketing, designing continuing education for myself and community involvement which is where my heart had been but my corporate boss hearts never had been. I could spend my time increasing my quality of life because I’m 15 minutes from most things in town, minutes from family, and have access and freedom to create most events I’m missing in the area. Focusing on what some city out there might offer or could drop opportunities in my lap had slowed me from recognizing I already HAD a business right here. The boom of the remote economy meant I could sell my services anywhere. It meant I could develop services and sell them anywhere. Reduced cost of living location was simply smart overhead at this point.
Underbid the competition. When someone is weighing the possibilities of which employee or contractor they are going to hire, like it or not, cost is a factor. As a business, they are working to reduce their bottom line and get the most bang for their buck because it’s smart. Just like it’s smart for you to underbid the contractors trying to land the job or client that you want. Your cost of living is much lower than bigger city contractors or employees who might bid/interview on your line of remote work…and depending on the industry it’s possible to undercut them and still negotiate a decently higher rate than you could get in your current physical location. Let me break this down what I mean. Google tells me the average rate for a secretary in San Diego is $18. Here it’s $10. Don’t be upset for us. The wages are proportionate most of the time to the cost of living. We sit on ⅓ to ¼ the living expenses some of our clients sit on. Except that here I can pitch my virtual assistant abilities to someone there for $15. I need to work 72 hours for the month to pay my house bills. Let that sink in. Larger cities are used to inflated rates for locationally close services, giving you a leg up as you are sitting on 1/3 the cost of living price in your area and still offering them an incredible savings for the same ability. It’s a win/win.
Work smarter not harder. We shouldn’t just be looking at moving for a job that pays incredibly well, but maybe we should also willing to relocate to create our dream job. Financially, a smaller town with lower cost of living is an incredibly efficient financial choice for a business – especially if you have a family. But isn’t that the American Dream? By definition that American Dream (thanks to Google dictionary) ‘is the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.’ To create the life that you want. But that doesn’t mean that it comes with easy choices. It doesn’t mean that you get something just because you want it. The American dream didn’t come easy to those leaving family behind to come here. It still takes hard work even now with the ability to grab onto a remote job, and it still takes some really hard choices. Maybe even relocating for a few years to achieve financial stability or create something incredible. Make those choices. Stop working so hard because you are told this is the way it has to be by someone who isn’t affected by your happiness, but only affected by the inconvenience of your unhappiness. Work smarter. And you’ll have a better chance of making your dream a reality. Maybe even in your pajamas from home. But that’s an entirely different set of problems. #struggleisreal
Don’t look at what you don’t have as a negative. Create it and charge for it. This might be my favorite piece of advice I’d give old Ambyr. We listen to it everyday. People who complain they don’t have anything to do in their area. People who wish they had some place to go dancing. A certain kind of food chain nearby. A certain kind of service. A certain artist playing in their town. Whine whine whine. But no action. How easy it is to sit at home and demand what we don’t take action over. Now to be honest this piece of advice hit me by accident. I was asked to fill a need for a female voice because there was only one other option in our area at that time. So I did what I was asked for two years without asking questions. Until I realized I wanted to learn how to do it from home and offer it to other markets with the same problem of limited access. So I sought out mentors from other cities and one incredible one right here that worked at the TV Station that had started me on this path. Joined every Facebook group that talked about starting this business, what equipment they were buying, who they admired and followed and where they were selling their voices online. Through trial and error, I began to follow the paths of the artists I admired the most in the industry. Then I had a family that wanted to get away on vacation while I was figuring this all out and needed someone to stay alone at their house and watch their dog who couldn’t travel anymore due to age. 67 pet sitting clients later, I have a full blown business offering pet sitting. If I had been smart, I would have looked at what we didn’t have in our beautifully small town and created these businesses earlier, because it’s an incubator for niche market creations and services that can be marketed to larger markets. Being a small area where I am one of two female voice artists and a studio that I built in my house, means I had time to learn my craft before launching it out to bigger markets online. I could afford to make my mistakes here and perfect my process. I got to see how meeting that local need worked, and iron out the kinks of designing a solution for markets just like our smaller community. And then I realized I had a package I could easily pitch to other communities our size with these same needs. From my home. That’s more valuable than some schooling available today if I’m really honest. Mentors all over the USA became my teachers. Small markets became my classroom. Slack became my office watercooler talk for clients all over the world.
If I could go back, I would have told that girl to take the leap. That risking finding a remote client was better than trying to find the grace to handle a boss that didn’t share a vision of what being employed by someone could mean. That it was more than cheap labor. That it was more than following a static set of rules. But that it’s a meeting of the minds to create solutions, engage communities and impact the people around you as you market what you’re passionate about not just what you’re selling. I’d tell her there are so many people in the world who need what she’s offering. Who don’t just put up with her entrepreneurial spirit…but won’t hire someone without it. That she doesn’t have to choose between community and work anymore. She doesn’t have to choose between her health and work. That remote clients and employers are on the hunt right now for someone just like her and don’t care if she works from bed that day.
She just has to say yes to change. Yes to adding new skill sets. Yes to a new kind of office.
Are you wondering right now what you’d go back and tell your younger self…or maybe thinking it’s time to have a talk right now?
-Take a look at the top cities in your state for low cost of living. Realize that not all stats will be in numbers alone.
-Do your homework. Maybe getting outside into the suburbs would lower your cost of living enough to give you the courage to go after your first remote client or business. But maybe you have to have a tough conversation with your family or yourself about the next 5 years and where it’s going to lead you.
-Spread yourself a little thin and market what it is you want to do on the side. Do it part time. See if you still love it. See if it doesn’t make you wish you could do it full time. And if it does…
-Make the move. Don’t sit on the decision and complain about your job. Change the balances until you’re doing what you love full time and what you have to do only part time.
Realize at the end of the day, you have to love what you do. Because the reality is that you’ll be rejected, put down, put in a box, and kicked around by life no matter what path you choose. But when you love what you do and can choose your own terms – what life does to you won’t determine what you do with life. You won’t let fear dictate your life – you’ll let love.