Sunday, March 29, 2009

Portable Career

This article that I wrote appeared in this months Oasis.

Portable Career

The hardest adjustment for a trailing spouse is to get used to the idea of giving up ones existing job or to search for a new one in a new location. But what if you did not have to give up your job, identify new clients from scratch or lose your income?

Yes, unbelievable as this may sound, it is possible, especially in this day and age of the internet.

The most common jobs that can be easily done over the internet are writing, editing and proof reading. Most freelance writers, write in the comfort of their homes. Their editors finalize the topic of the article over email and the writer sends it back once it is done. Rarely does an editor meet with their writers even if they are in the same town, so distance doesn’t matter. (This may not hold true for journalists in all cases).

Editors and proof readers also receive their basic material over email and send it back the same way once corrections have been done. Publishing houses, magazines, dissertation students from University all these are always looking out for writers or proof readers.

A couple of friends of mine run successful life coaching/personal coaching businesses online. They speak to their clients via skype or other VOIP software and it makes no difference to the client wherever in the world their counselor is located.

I do know a couple of people who have managed to continue their consulting business from different corners of the globe. With clients in their home country, they visit them occasionally on trips home and continue to work with them online over email, web or video conferencing and VOIP.

With internet banking and global payment services like Paypal, receiving money from different countries is not a problem in this day and age.

If you are computer phobic and internet based businesses are not for you, then there are still a lot of options to earn some money, even in a new country/location.

Giving classes is the easiest option to start up in any new location. If you have a special skill or vocation like cooking, baking, sewing, embroidery, jewelry making, yoga or anything similar, it is easy to start classes in that skill once you get connected in your new home.

If you like cooking and baking, there is the alternate revenue stream of cooking/baking to order in small or large quantities. In Egypt, taking up a stall at the Cooks Day off at the CSA is a good way to get a large cross section of potential customers exposed to your food. People like Kathy have even sold their home made cookies via outlets like Miriam Market.

If you love knitting, embroidery, designing jewelry or anything else which has a sellable end product, you will find a large target audience at the vendor stalls that normally accompany church and other monthly meetings or bazaars.

If you speak a foreign language, you can take language classes in small groups or individually. If you are especially good at explaining subjects like mathematics, economics or the sciences, a lot of parents look for someone who can coach their school going children in such subjects.

Most of these jobs can be done out of the comfort of your own home if you so prefer.

If you are someone who loves shopping, then you can turn that too into a profession. Personal shoppers are in great demand in some countries. If you know where to buy good quality clothes in Egypt, you can make money by using that knowledge coupled with a sense of style to spend other people’s money while building them a tasteful wardrobe.

I know women who have used their eye for buying unusual knick knacks, handicrafts or antiques to buy unique pieces in their home country and then sell them in their adoptive/host country and vice versa. In most cases making a tidy profit, due to the lack of availability of these items. (Please check the local laws for importing & exporting food items and antiques)

It is truly a blessing if you can convert something you enjoy doing into an income generating opportunity and if this opportunity is portable, then you do not have to worry which location your spouse is going to be transferred to next.

Karishma Pais (Kim) is an expat trailing wife in Cairo. She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Behaviour. She consults on HR projects, delivers intercultural training at the CSA, counsels new and experienced expats, is the editor of DIVA, writes for several magazines – online and offline, she runs and among other activities. Her Social Commentary and blog about life in Egypt can be read at

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