For what it’s worth, you don’t actually have to be worried about a future economic collapse to wonder if your life might be more fruitful and productive if you didn’t put on a monkey suit, drive your zippy little commuter car in bumper-to-bumper traffic to a hermetically sealed glass ediface in the city, and sit all day long in front of a computer screen figuring out the meaning of “paragraph 3b, subsection 21, part 4, of form 29-5689/2a, ver 87“.

Seriously, though, you might be one of the lucky one’s with passion for your job, control over your working environment, and some measure of economic security.  But, if not, do take the time to consider the alternatives. 

Dealing with this subject may be the single most important challenge in your life.  Depending on where you live (and how much you believe the “official” statistics), one in five American workers is unemployed or “under-employed”.  Thats a really big deal – we’re probably talking about 40 million people.  Go ahead, add yourself to the list if you consider yourself trapped in a job you hate. 

If you find yourself in these unfortunate ranks, there is one thing you can do about it.  Make your own job.  As frightening as that sounds (to me too), it may be the most “freeing” thing you can do in your life.  And, if the economy continues to worsen, it may be the most necessary thing you can do in your life.

The following resources, it is hoped, will help you (and me) in this important endeavor.  Note:  Far be it from me to advocate working “outside the law”, but, let’s face it:  the State is not friendly to small business.  In fact, the State has become rather hostile to any useful work.  So, given that we’re only talking about our economic survival here, just let your conscience be your guide.

First, Some Motivational Resources:

The Bottom Line:  You know it, I know it, we all know it….the only real alternative to taking a job is….making a job.  Again, you might be lucky enough to have found one that is perfect for you.  Also, having run my own business in the past, I’ve come to really appreciate what my boss does for me, really and truly.  But still, there is great truth to the notion that, perhaps, we can’t really be happy in our work unless we’ve personally taken control over our own creative and productive resources. 

Food For Thought:  Choose something you care about enough to get you excited to get up in the morning to learn, to practice, to share.  Your enthusiasm and passion has got to be your number one investment.

Alternative Businesses – Tailored to the Brave New Economic Order

Think about the changing nature of the “new economy”.  What trends do you see?  Well, we’ve got more and more “boomers” entering retirement age, for one.  We might also expect to see households coping with ever tighter budgets, so helping to address that might be a good idea.  Imported goods might not be so cheap anymore, especially food, clothing, or – truthfully, almost anything.  So, give up the office (or the unemployment line) altogether and become a….

  • Gold miner, yeah, that’s the ticket!  Here’s howDo it in AlaskaReally!
  • Professional Food Processor:  Not for those inclined to hide under the desk whenever the government starts peeking into your life.  This activity is more regulated than the nuclear power industry, but hey, it’s also really important.  While it might just make more sense to sell your products under the table (lots do, of course) you could really help yourself – and your small-farm neighbors – if you bit the bullet and tried this great start-up idea.  See some good starting resources here at  You can also get some help (really?) from the USDA’s Rural Information Center.
  • Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker:  In a similar vein (no pun intended, ha, ha), there’s crying need throughout rural America for more meat cutters, believe it or not.  Our government has driven them out of business almost as fast as gunsmiths.  To get the skills for this important work, consider this program at Bridgerland Applied Technical College…I hear it’s the best in the country for small start-ups.  As for bakers and candlestick makers, well, these two may become useful avenues as well…we’ll just have to wait and see. 
  • Want to Farm?  Small farming isn’t for the average couch potato.  It’s not usually been very profitable either.  It takes lots of money to make very little.  But, my friends, that is changing.  Food security may be the most challening issue facing the planet over the next decade.  Even if all you do is provide a way to meet more of your own food needs in your spare time (and on your spare land), its probably worth thinking about.  Some intermediate possibilities may be as simple as growing exotic/heirloom starts in a small greenhouse for your neighbors.  If you have the will to go bigger, there’s a good chance that you’ll be well rewarded in the days to come.  Some funding ideas are available from the USDA ( yes, I know, of all places).  More farm start-up info at the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS)
  • Speaking of Farming:  You don’t have to own a farm to be a farmer.  That’s right.  One of my brothers, as it happens, is a successful bee-keeper and honey producer.  He’s now retailing other people’s honey along with his own.  But, here’s the point, his bees are placed (very usefully, I might add) on other people’s farms.  They want and need his help and he doesn’t seem to have a problem finding folks willing to participate.  Here’s one good resource
  • Now, try this one on for size:  How to import a diesel Land Cruiser from Canada.  Like all “forbidden fruit”, they sell like hotcakes.
  • Too much paperwork to go the import route?  Well, if you’re mechanically inclined, there’s a booming business in Diesel Conversions….mostly for:  Land Cruisers, other Toyota 4x4s, Isuzu Troopers, Jeeps, Vanagons (especially the Synchros), and 4Motion Audi’s and Passats.  It seems there’s this huge gap in the market for smaller AWD diesels, who’d have guessed?   Surprise, sounds like a regulatory problem, not a market problem.  Some examples:  here, here, here, here, and here.
  • Build Chicken Coops and Greenhouses:  Seems all the out-of-work home builders need something to do.  Some are doing this, especially for city or suburban folks.  ‘Course, if they themselves tried to use a saw or hammer, they might just hurt themselves.  Give them a hand, why don’t you?  Here’s one inspirational example:  Green Chicken Coops.
  • E-Junk:  Help those retirees unload their junk on Ebay.  It seems that a lot of them can’t or won’t do it themselves.  If you have specialized knowledge you can really help these elderly collectors.  I understand 40%-50% of the sale is the usual cut for handling the auctions and shipping.  This makes a great side-line to owning a Second Hand Store, by the way.  I used to believe that this might be the #1 industry in Montana, but have come to believe this is among the best “green” recycling businesses around.  Read this article for more thoughts on the subject.
  • Leatherwork – Like traditional crafts?  You don’t have to be a niche saddle maker to find an entry into this field.  For one example, a good belt is hard to find, but not that hard to make.  See:  Montana Leather.
  • Shoe Repair – Like the butcher, the cobbler’s craft may be making a comeback.  I know, we’ve become accustomed to “throw away” shoes, much like everything else in our lives.  Too often, it makes more economic sense to just buy a new pair.  But, that may be changing as import prices continue to climb.  Here’s a good supplier:  Cobbler Supplies.  For what it’s worth, any kind of clothing repair may also make a serious comeback.  If you’re good with a sewing machine, you might also consider doing alterations and repair.
  • Making Soap – Believe it or not, this ideal came from a fellow worker bee and, truthfully, I couldn’t have been more shocked if he’d lit me up with a cattle prod.  Now that I think about it, he’s got a little bit of that Tyler Durden glint in his eyes….As it happens, my sister-in-law does this too, as just one part of a multi-faceted creative business.  Anyway, if that sounds interesting, then start here.
  • Paper Making – This has always fascinated me for some reason.  If you’ve never seen artisanal paper, you’ve really missed out.  I know some who’ve combined this wonderfully creative art with custom book making and: greeting cards, business cards, wedding invitations, picture framing and matting, etc.  Surely making it is more satisfying than simply “pushing” it.  Here’s one good site on the subject.   
  • Other ideas worth thinking about:  Bicycle Repair, LED Lighting Systems designer/installer, Trash Hauling, Small Solar Sytems installer, Local Bulk Food supplier/packager, Small Irrigation Systems installer, Garden Prep/Rototiller, Tool Rentals and Small Engine Repair, In-Home-Care Services… 
  • And, hopefully, there will be more ideas to come.

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