Homesteading offers so many opportunities to create a balanced life, live sustainably, and align your life with your values, but there are also challenges. One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to make a regular income. Luckily, there is a way to make money without leaving the farm. Online homesteading not only allows you to expand your customer base but also enables you to spread the values of homesteading to the larger community. Setting up a virtual homestead is not as difficult as you may think. Spend some time on the front end considering your options, develop an inventory, and create a marketing plan. In the not-too-distant future, you will be an inspiration for those wanting to live the homesteading dream and you will be making money while you sleep.
Before you choose a platform for your virtual homestead, you need to decide what you will sell. The items you will sell and ship nationally – even internationally – should be consistent with your core values as a homesteader. For example, if you believe in the health and environmental benefits of local food, shipping food across the country is not consistent with your values. Although homemade food is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of homesteading, there are plenty of other things you can sell to create a livable income.
Although you may eventually expand your virtual homestead to multiple platforms, when getting started it is best to pick one platform and no more than three social media sites for marketing. The goal is to make life easier, not more difficult, and managing multiple sites while managing a homestead is going to be difficult. Pick your platform and commit to it for at least six months. In six months, you will have a good idea of what is working and what isn’t.
If you decide to sell a physical product, such as knitted winterwear, quilts, or candles, make sure you enjoy the work. You will be doing quite a lot of it. You can also create one-and-done products. These are items you create once and they continue to sell without any further work on your part, giving you passive income.
Imagine you have sheep on your homestead and you already sell cheese and knitted scarves and gloves at the local farmers market. To increase your reach, you can sell your knitted items in a virtual storefront, as well as raw wool and knitting patterns. Later, you can create a monthly subscription box filled with project instructions and enough fiber to complete the project. You could also create an ebook of multiple patterns. The physical items take more time but act to draw customers who will purchase your digital items.
The same idea can work for a small homestead. Even apartment homesteaders can create a small but beautifully designed cookbook or write a field guide on wild edibles. Candles can be made in small spaces, as can bath and body products. Any physical product can become a monthly subscription package or a digital DIY instruction booklet.
Once you decide on your inventory, pick a platform. There are so many virtual storefronts that it would be impossible for me to review each one here. There are some general considerations, however, that will help you choose the best platform for your situation. The main considerations fall into three main categories: cost, customer service, and competition.
Cost considerations include both upfront and hidden fees, the amount the site receives for each sale, and whether they have special mailing rates. Customer service is important, especially when you are just getting started and may need help navigating the site. Do not rely on what the site says regarding customer service. They are always going to say their service is wonderful. Read the reviews posted by other users. Of course, there will always be disgruntled users. A true issue will be repeated in multiple reviews. Finally, competition is fierce. It isn’t easy to get noticed on sites like Amazon. Even Etsy has grown so much that you really need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. With a terrific product and consistent marketing, it is not impossible, but it will take a fair amount of work.
Marketing is where you will spend the majority of your time and resources. To earn a living, it is not enough to slap an announcement up on Facebook and try to sell to your friends and family. You must find a way to reach people outside your circle. There are plenty of marketing books that will give you a solid foundation to start from.
Marketing gets a bad rap because so many people are trying to sell things that offer no value. Selling worthless products or recycled ideas requires a lot of hype and many homesteaders are reluctant to do this. Marketing doesn’t have to make you cringe. In fact, it shouldn’t. Stop thinking about marketing as a way to make money and start thinking about it as a way to build relationships. In the same way that you relate to your family, friends, and farm animals, you should relate to your potential customers. Go back to your business goals and rework them until you find the relational aspect. Do you want to spread the values of the homesteading lifestyle to as many people as possible? Or do you want to inspire a certain demographic, such as women or young people? Having a goal based on building relationships and providing value is much more effective than a goal to simply make money.
One of the best ways to build relationships is through a blog. People want to get to know you. If blogging about your entire homestead seems overwhelming, blog specifically about the products you are selling. You can write about the inspiration for your product, the materials, the creative process, and the DIY instructions. While you will follow a template for a cohesive and reader-friendly blog, the key to success is to be yourself. It’s irritating to read the same advice, written in the same tone, on every homesteading blog. Remember, you do not want to sell to everyone in the world. This is not feasible, and even if it were, it would not be sustainable. Your goal is to find a core group of people who truly like you and appreciate the work you do. This can only be accomplished through authenticity. Be yourself. Your people will find you.
Returning to the earlier examples, if you are the sheep farmer who has started selling physical and digital products online, now you can blog about it. Include lots of photos of your sheep and of you caring for your animals and creating your products. Consider creating the occasional video or a funny post about a day in the life of a sheep farmer. At the end of each new blog post, engage your readers by asking a question. Include a link to your storefront. Once you publish your post, don’t forget to post it to your social media pages. Remember, you are building relationships with people. Your storefront is where you sell items. Your blog is where you add value to the lives of your readers.
Adding a virtual component to your homestead is something anyone can do, regardless of where they live or what type of homesteading activities they do. The time required is greatly outweighed by the increase in exposure, new friends, increased knowledge, potential opportunities, and higher income. The low risk and high reward make this a perfect homesteading project.