7 May 2013

We live in the best of times.

There has never been a better or more enabling time for living without a job while earning enough to live a comfortable life.

Today we can live pretty much anywhere we like and there are any number of ways to earn a living. There is a virtually limitless marketplace for anything that we produce be it actual physical products or intellectual content.

I am, of course, talking about technology. Technology sets you free. However, for anyone in an office based job this might not make any sense, as you might feel enslaved by your Blackberry or by emails and the needs of clients. Though in some ways Blackberrys and other mobile technologies have revolutionised how many people work, but not necessarily in a good way.

Perhaps at this point I should define what I mean by technology. I am talking about any combination of portable electronic devices that can access the internet and be used for communications. So, mobile (cell) phones, iPads, tablets and laptops.

Technology should not be our master, it should be our enabler. Use it properly and it can provide you with the freedom you crave instead of an extension of misery that reaches from your work to your home and can even overshadow holidays. How many of you have looked at work emails while on holiday? 

How, then, can we turn this around and use technology to give us freedom? Well if you were to think about what you want to do and apply what you know about the internet to it, how can it increase your reach and your sales? Here are some channels to think about. Social media, ebay and other virtual marketplaces, or a website.

If you were to make a product that people want to buy you have a couple of routes that you can take to sell it. The first is to open a physical shop, put your products in it and hope people who are walking past agree with you about how much your item is worth and come in to buy. This route has a number of disadvantages:
  • cost of set-up will eat away at your capital
  • you’ll need to produce enough products to stock your shop which will take away from the time you can spend marketing it
  • you will probably need to offer some other items for sale that you are buying in
  • there is an on-going cost with the rental and bills for the premises
  • you will need to be there every day
  • your shop needs to be located in a large town so that you can build a decent customer base.
The other route is to make your product and choose an online marketplace for it. Etsi is generally regarded as a good place to sell craft products. You can also sell your products through ebay and your own website. Here’s a few advantages of this route:
  • negligible set-up costs (unless you have your own website)
  • not location specific – you can live anywhere and your stock can be kept in any safe place you choose so no need for premises
  • very small on-going costs (a basic ebay store is £14.99 a month and you pay a percentage of your sales)
  • you can sell across multiple platforms instead of just one shop
  • your business is open all hours every day without requiring your presence
  • you produce items for sale as they sell rather than all of them up front. 
You could also follow both of these routes. But why would you? The second offers an international marketplace without any real risk while the first (conventional route) gives a very limited market for a relatively large upfront cost. You must be sure that your items will sell in large enough quantities to cover your costs. So you would need to make a number of saleable items just to break even.

Of course if you want to open a restaurant you won’t make much money if it’s virtual! But what if, instead, you were a chef? Why couldn’t you produce a menu for people to download with videos of you making these items explaining to people how they can make them at home in 45 minutes? You can sell access to these and sell other cooking related items on your website which you can drive traffic to via social media and Google searches. It would take a while to get noticed but you would find some success. Call it something like virtual restaurant at home or something like that except choose a better name! Hopefully you see my point. Which is: whatever your endeavor technology, when used well, can help set you free.

The real bonus though is that laptops etc. give you the freedom to work where you want and when you want. Before the invention of these items and the internet this was not possible. The areas you could trade in were largely limited to where your business was based. Or where the telephone was plugged in.

Unfortunately when you have a job these mobile devices can be an added burden. But if you are using them as I think they were intended they can set you free.

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