One of my best Colombian friends is a coffee farmer. I’ve never seen him happier than he is right now. His reason: The powerful dollar. As a commodity, coffee is like gold, silver, copper, coal and the likes – priced in dollars and determined by worldwide supply and demand. Although coffee prices are very low at the moment, my friend has found a niche in the market selling specialty coffee to the US, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Norway, charging as much as 4 times the world price for his product. That, combined with the current power of the dollar, has allowed his business to thrive in an otherwise weak market.
Earn dollars in Colombia and you will have an amazing purchasing power. Minimum wage here is only $200 dollars per month at the moment. You should be able to earn that in a few days, if you approach any of the ideas below the right way. Earn $2000 dollars a month in Colombia and you can live a very good life here, even in the big cities.
- Selling freelance services on Fiverr, Upwork or Toptal. Any hardcore coding or engineering skill can be sold. But don’t worry, softer skills like building simple websites, copywriting, online marketing, logo design, portrait drawing, proofreading, translating, songwriting, jingle composing, video editing, business plan writing, etc. are also in demand.
- Get a remote job, especially in tech, but also customer service and editorial jobs are listed. Check out WeWorkRemotely, StackOverflow, RemoteOK and WorkingNomads.
- Start a blog or make an online community about anything you’re passionate about. Once you have content, you can start selling ads or use affiliate marketing to generate income. In his book, Click Millionaires, author Scott Fox explains how to get started. If this guy can do it with his forum about backyard chickens, then so can you.
- Publish a book using ClickBank or CreateSpace. It could be anything from a cookbook with your granny’s recipes to an insider’s guide to Bucaramanga. Let your imagination run loose. The days when going through a big publisher was necessary are long gone. Check out Steve Scott and see how he publishes mini-books (50-150 pages) with guides on how to use Evernote, how to exercise well and everything in between. Each book cost between $0-3 dollars. He also has a blog where he describes in detail how to get started.
- Buy an apartment, furnish and rent it out on AirBnB. All prices on their website are by default quoted in dollars. Bogotá, Cartagena, Medellín, Santa Marta, Taganga, Barranquilla and Cali all have plenty of demand. It could also be a farm house in the coffee district, especially Salento attracts a lot of tourists.
- Exporting. Because of the protectionist policies of the Colombian government, there is a big local production of many things that qualify for exportation:
- Agricultural products like coffee, sugar, exotic fruits, avocados, quinoa or flowers.
- Become an international distributor of Colombian brands like Leonisa underwear, Agua Bendita swimwear or Michú designer bags. These are just a few, there are many more to choose from. Search and you shall find.
- Create your own product to export. Labor is cheap and quality raw materials available. These guys are in the middle of creating organic sodas. Although they plan to start selling locally, the strategy is to begin exporting eventually.
- Even if you have no technical skills whatsoever, you can still start an online business using platforms like Shopify, Etsy, Ebay, Amazon or TicTail. Find a Colombian product like mentioned in 6.2, or any other product from anywhere else in the world. The point is having a location-independent business where you will be earning dollars. Using any of the platforms above and all you really have to do is source the product, upload photos, set prices, market and ship it. For a small fee, Amazon will even store and ship your products for you.
- Daytrade. The US market is the most liquid and easiest to trade. Personally, I sell put options on stocks and collect between $1-2.000 dollars per month doing so. I use Interactive Brokers. They have the cheapest commissions, but are a little more complicated to use. For a list of good brokers, check out Barron’s article on the subject. It’s not hard to do and you can find YouTube videos that explain the process. If you prefer reading, High Income Retirement by Dr. David Eifrig Jr. offers a great guide and was my inspiration to get started. The trick is to only sell put options on securities that you would like to own at a price that you are happy to pay.
- Selling Colombia as a destination for specialty experiences. I met an American woman the other day who has a yoga certification retreat. Foreigners from all over the world come and stay at her organic farm for up to a month at a time, taking classes and getting certified. A Danish guy sells guided motorcycle tours. Both businesses price their services in dollars. Both owners appear to be very happy in the given business environment. Your experience could be a week of river rafting in San Gil or maybe a week-long course on how to do portrait painting. People love combining traveling with learning or trying out something new. That’s your opportunity.
Here you have it, my 9 best ideas for earning dollars while living in Colombia. If you have any ideas to add, please do so in the comments below.