Saturday, 29 May 2010

Creating a livelihood

I'm currently trying to work out how to make money from our little permaculture project. I'm on maternity leave, enjoying a bit more of the outdoors (as you can see in the photo below), and it's giving me a lovely opportunity to see life beyond the office!

Not that I dislike my job especially - I work in environmental education for a climate change charity. Interesting and important work, but now that I'm out of it, I'm seeing that it has distracted me from some of the things that really interest me and from areas of work that I'd hoped to be involved in.

Something I've wanted to do for a long time is to be my own boss. I love the idea of working from home and of gradually finding my own way of working, my own style and rhythm. I've been tinkering with all sorts of ideas for quite some time now, but have never taken the plunge. I've recently decided that enough is enough and I should at least try one of these things as a part time thing to see how it goes and then perhaps I could build up from there. So I'm hatching plots for a little plant nursery selling 'useful' plants - perennial veg, companion plants for organic growers, fruit bushes, plant dyes, medicinal plants etc etc. Fingers crossed!

And then... with all good ideas in life I tend to find there are little coincidences that crop up that encourage me to keep going. So the other day, I was reading Resurgence Magazine and came across this chap who'd been talking to a bunch of university students in Bhutan and one of them asked what he'd recommend them to do to go on to lead happy lives. And he said 'when you leave university don't get a job'. Sounds a bit odd to say the least! He went on to explain that they should create livelihoods instead of jobs; i.e. that they should find their niche in the world and find a way to use their skills to provide something useful for those around them. Nice!

So this has got me thinking. Seems quite a simple concept - get a livelihood instead of a job. But actually, the more I think of it, the better and better that advice seems to me. It strikes me - and bear with me on this one - that a lot of the world's problems could be solved if we encouraged our young people to seek livelihoods instead of jobs.

Economic growth is, as far as I'm concerned, the root of all evil. Living on a finite planet, the idea that we can keep growing exponentially is ludicrous. But how does that growth happen? Essentially it's because organisations keep developing more and more stuff for us to buy. Each year, they have to invent new things to keep their employees in work and so to keep this whole economic system ticking over. What happens when those organisations grow? They give more people jobs to come up with more new stuff. And the ongoing search for new stuff is what brings us nasties like nano technology, synthetic biology, GM food, nuclear waste, resource collapse and the great pacific garbage patch. It's the jobs that are doing it! So if less people looked for jobs and more people looked for livelihoods, it turns out we'd be a lot better off.

Livelihoods are different to jobs. The word itself suggests that you're making enough money to support yourself and that's that. You don't need to work your nuts off creating big profits for your boss and to pay for a head office, admin team etc etc. Just enough for yourself. If the market drops for the product of service you're offering, you can change what you do. You're the boss! And best of all, you're free! You can work what hours you like, work in your pyjamas if you like, have a frugal month and work less if you like or work your nuts off and have a party if you like.

So yes - back to my little plan - definitely a good idea to give it a go I reckon. Hooray for livelihoods! And I'll be keeping a look out for any other ways I can make a little cash from a little patch of land.

Any ideas?


  1. I really should have read your blog before meeting you last weekend - oh well just another example of how being a mum gets in the way of doing things!

    I am so in agreement with the idea of having a livelihood rather than a job. I had a job which if I'm honest I only enjoyed at times. What I didn't enjoy was working for someone else and getting no real say in how my job progressed. It was due to others that some nights I had to work late and try as I might it was impossible for me to influence things I wanted to influence. Having a baby has also made me realise that I need to re-prioritise and if I go back to work for someone else it has to be on my terms and allow me the flexibility to live life as well. Quiet where I find a job like that I'm unsure. Working for myself is an option, but only if I find something to do.

    After reading your post I need to work out what skills I do have and how to use them to make enough money for us to live. Not an easy job, but still I like a challenge... Thank you for helping me see some direction in amongst all the confusion I usually see!

  2. Hey Mrs C, sorry for only just noticing your lovely comment!

    I think it's been the same for me - having a baby kind of makes you question what you're doing in life doesn't it. It's been brilliant to have a breather from work and to be able to sit back and think about what it's all for for a while. There's got to be a better way!



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