Home business ideas for expats

The internet is littered with guides and information for ‘home business ideas’,  ‘work at home mums’, and ‘making millions of pounds on the internet’. The general principle is that starting with little except a bright idea and a little enthusiasm you can become very rich with very little effort.

Most share the common features that:

(a) they won’t work

(b) you will have to pay something up-front to discover it won’t work…typically they start something like:

‘Just $20 a month will give you access to our secret forum where hundreds of people just like you talk about how they earn gazillions of pounds a day before breakfast’…often accompanied by a picture of someone smiling happily in front of a big house.

or perhaps

‘We would prefer to give this secret away, but we charge a nominal $29.99 so that we know you are serious about making big money working part-time from home.’

Genuine opportunities to work from home are especially useful to expats tucked away in corners of France so I thought I’d try and list some of the ideas that seem plausible and practical. Unfortunately they do all need some kind of skill, training or practice, or existing experience, and a bit of effort. The suggestions here are more likely to help pay the bills than make you rich!

There are many more scams than real businesses available, and any that require you to pay upfront should be approached with extreme caution. The following home business ideas seem to me to be plausible and have prospects to earn at least some extra money, if not make you rich. They are also not location dependent, so you can operate your business from your existing home.


Article writing: thousands of websites are looking for interesting content, every day of the year. If you have a topic that you think you can write about well, someone somewhere is looking for your skills. Try elance.com ‘writing and translation’ section to get started, although I understand there are lots of other sites which also bring writers together with those looking for articles.

Translator: if you are bilingual there is always need for translators. People with holiday rental websites would often like them to be in other languages but lack the necessary skills. Email them and suggest you could do it.

Window cleaning: Unlike in the UK, no-one has ever come to us in France and offered to be our window cleaner. If they did we’d probably say yes, if the price was right. Needed – van and ladder!

Photographer: it is now possible to sell photos on-line with no need of an agent, through one of the websites such as dreamstime.com or istockphoto.com – you receive a percentage of the sale price of each photo sold. You will need a good camera and a tripod, and a copy of adobe photshop or similar software. The photos sell quite cheaply, so the trick is to take and upload lots of high quality photos, in the popular categories.

Buying and selling on ebay: I have never done this myself, but know at least three people who earn respectable money by buying things in stores, usually at sale time, from discount warehouses, or from ‘seconds’ type shops, and then selling the same things on ebay for more. One of these people is in France and considers it their fulltime job. Apparently ‘brand name’ items sell best. Needed: practice. This home business idea sounds like it shouldn’t work, but definitely can – but start small while you find out what people like to buy or you might end up with a shoe mountain in your living room.

If you have any bright ideas yourself please post them below, we will need all the help we can get during 2009 I think. Myself, I’m off to start that $20 a month forum – anyone interested?