10 Myths to Starting a Business as an Expat: Why What You Think Won't Cut It.

December 16, 2012 Business Thinking,Ideas

As a trailing spouse, I totally get that your life is like a non-stop pin-ball machine.  You get settled only to get LifeResetCoaching-Reset_Your_Lifelaunched to an entirely different country, where you have to learn everything all over again.  Meanwhile, all of your friends and family think that you’re living an extravagant adventurous lifestyle. Not to mention that your spouse, the employee, hits the ground and is off to work.  Not many people understand the role of the trailing spouse.

Yet before all of the languages, the moving, and the countries, you were a professional. You earned a paycheck, and financially contributed to your household. Perhaps you were a police officer, an engineer, an accountant, or a teacher. While you do an amazing job as a spouse who packs, prepares, organizes, and carts children, there’s so much more you can offer the world.

In my time as a trailing spouse, I’ve seen spouses lose themselves in the monotony of parenting and for those without children, they’ve lost themselves in the monotony of complete freedom. These are smart people, but they’re lost in an unknown world with an unknown professional purpose.

If this is you, and you’re stuck and don’t know where to go or what to do with your professional life, I’m going to expose 10 myths that keep trailing spouses stuck, and I’ll give you a compass to find your true north–maybe even a new purpose

Myth #1. I can’t work because I don’t have the right Visa status in this country.

Fact. It’s definitely more difficult, but there are many schools and organizations who will sponsor you as a foreign national to gain the appropriate Visa work classification in country. American schools and non-profit organizations may be more amenable to cooperate.  Once you start job searching, the biggest obstacle you may face may be translating your experience and qualifications and proving your language proficiency.

Myth #2. I can’t start a business because I don’t have a skill or product to sell.

Fact. You don’t know what skill or product you can sell.  Everyone is good at something. Whether it’s how to train dogs, change diapers, or manage large scale products, you know how to do something. These days, the world is equally interested in information via blogs and guidebooks. First, you just need to find your thing. Then, you need find the people who want and care about your thing.  Believe me, they are out there. You just have to take the first step. For help getting started check out 5 Ideas for Starting a Part-Time Business.

Myth #3. I can’t start a business because I don’t understand business models, websites, accounting, etc…

Fact. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about business models, websites, marketing, and accounting. You just have to know about your own business model, website, marketing, and accounting. Plus, once you understand what you want to do, identify your target market, and determine your method of sale, almost everything else can be outsourced.

Myth #4. I don’t want to start a business. I want to help people.

Fact.  You can totally help people and make money too.  Money, in and of itself is not bad or negative. It’s just a form of exchange. Even non-profits have operating expenses and pay people salaries.  You can have a business that helps to support you and your family while it simultaneously helps people.  The thing is, you won’t be able to either support your family or help other people until you start something. It could be any form of business or non-profit, but you’ve got to start it.

Myth #5.  We move too often for me to build a client base.

Fact. With the help of our good friend the internet, it’s easier than ever to start an internet-based business that you can run from a tablet computer or a laptop.  Whether you’re selling a product or a service, having an internet based business  will allow people from all over the world, who are interested in your products/services, to find you.  So whether you’re in Santiago or New Delhi, your business will move wherever you take it.

Myth #6. No one will buy what I have to offer

Fact.  Google has a free tool called google keywords. Google “google keyword search” and it will pop up.  Then do a keyword search on exactly what you want to sell.  The tool should tell you how many people in a specified area search for what you’re selling.  If there are more than 1000 searches a month, you’ve got a potential business on your hands.

Myth #7. I don’t want to spend the money OR I don’t have the money to spend. 

Fact.  These days, you don’t need a lot of money to start a business.  Several companies offer free websites and blogs that have the same functionality as custom websites.  As you explore the viability of your business, there are several free and low cost options available to get you started.

Myth #8. I need more training to start a business

Fact. Training is wonderful when you can get it.  Knowledge, however, is bred out of experience. Albert Einstein said, “the only source of knowledge is experience.”  So, while you could totally go get training, you’ll gain 10 times the knowledge as you get out there and start practicing and meeting like-minded people in person or on the web, who may be able to share new and supportive insights.

Myth #9. I don’t like OR don’t want to sell.

Fact. You sell every day.  You may sell an idea to your spouse or your kids.  You may sell yourself on the idea that you cannot possibly write that ebook or start a company.  Somewhere, selling has become a dirty word. Selling is really just the act of sharing a possibility with someone else and explaining the benefits of adopting that possibility as their own. We do it every day! We share books, recipes, ideas, movies, lunch locations, etc.  While there may not be any money changing hands, the act of sharing something with someone and inviting them to give it a try, is…selling.  So, why not try it to expand your professional experience and personal finances doing something you love?

Myth#10. My children need me.

Fact. They do need you. Being able to be at home with children was one of the primary reasons my husband and I decided I should start this business. The truth though is that in addition to being a parent, you’re still you and your children will benefit exponentially by witnessing the entrepreneurial process as you launch and run your business. Your business doesn’t have to be all consuming for you to be successful.  Consider the possibility of giving yourself 2 to 4 hours three days a week to begin the process of business formulation.

In this article, I’ve just touched on 10 myths that I’ve heard in my experience living abroad and running my life coaching practice.  The take away is this: you can do just about anything you choose. If you’ve contemplated starting a business and you just haven’t done it yet, you may be telling yourself some of these myths or perhaps you have your own. The stories we tell ourselves may be acting like giant boulders completely blocking you from the road to success.

The truth is that being an entrepreneur may not be easy. You may struggle. You may go months without any sales, but if you believe in what you’re doing, if you’re continually readjusting things and learning from false starts, you will succeed. The test for any entrepreneur is in the constant learning and the continual quest for success.

Henry Ford said, “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement” So, get out there and get into action! The worst thing that could happen is you’ll learn something…

Ciara Kamara is the Principle & CEO of Life Reset Coaching, LLC where she works with individuals around the world to refocus, reset, and reinvent their current ways of being to create something totally new and completely unpredictable with their lives. She’s a trailing spouse living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Get her free eGuide here to reset your life.