Friday, 28 August 2015

From Unemployed to Self-Employed

I've talked a little about my first days in Finland, in my "About Me". But I figured it was fair to explain that I'm not someone who has had a property portfolio all mapped out since she was 12. Hubby sold his studio apartment to buy a family home for us all when we arrived (the sale of the studio gave him a decent down payment, and 6 years later the entire loan is almost paid out). In my initial years here I had a lot of spare time, and faced with not even starting a career until my 40s, I wondered if we would reach retirement without much money. More specifically, I worried that my husband would work hard all his days and not have his money working as hard as it should :)

My first ponderings - in my incessant daydreaming - were along these lines: what can I do to earn money from home? What skills do I have, what assets do I have? Insert about twenty failed home businesses here. I don't do well at sticking to something which bores me, and the other ten were things requiring so much work that they were barely worth it (I've had market stalls, I've done paid surveys, I've made jewellery, you name it). As for assets we had a spare room that could have hosted someone for pocket money, but realistically, nobody in this house, me included, wanted to share the space with a stranger. I pondered that daydream anyway and landed at AirBnB, where I learned that the "anyone can be a host" idea was gathering traction, and that it paid more than standard rentals. So then the daydreaming changed to, "If only we could split this place, the way that people split houses" (which we can't - it's an apartment and they don't let you rip out walls and add extra bathrooms).

From there I wanted a second apartment to rent out. I wanted one like mad. I was obsessed. (Still am.) In our years of marriage my husband and I have never fought and rarely even disagreed, but here was a subject he was adamant about: absolutely not. He had that final home repayment in his sights and couldn't wait to be debt-free. Here was I talking about taking on more debt while I didn't have a job. He didn't share my vision for it to become my career, he wasn't confident in it being profitable, and to be absolutely fair, he had great concerns that we (he) might end up in financial trouble if it didn't work out. There was no way he was willing to stake our home on it. It didn't matter how much homework I did and how many hours I spent calculating costs and researching what my competitors were earning.

And research I did, non-stop. I was so desperate that I looked into renting a place to sublet. Turns out that in our city it's legal providing it's actually a person's home - so my daughter rented a place with only her moving in, and me paying half the costs. We chose the layout specifically so that it could be split and locked up, with only the bathroom and kitchen shared. She had her side, the guests had theirs. Thanks to her job disappearing, the entire project never made me money overall since I had spent my savings on the setup and was now also paying both halves of the rent. But the months we spent AirBnB'ing that second room made it very obvious that it could have been a profitable enterprise. I had figures to show my husband, who did begin to show a real interest.

And now we were on the same page: time to buy an apartment to rent out. :)

We bought the place in February 2015, and while I'll save the nitty-gritty for later on, suffice to say it's working very well for us so far. It's clearly nothing like a full-time wage just yet, but it's pocket money to add to our income, and it's more than paying its own way.