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Work This Way

At some point in their life, everyone dreams of emigrating and starting afresh, yet one of the key hindrances is the answer to the question "What will I do to earn a living?". Quest Bulgaria investigates earning a living in Bulgaria.

It doesn’t matter how dissatisfied we are with our current employment, the state of affairs at home or the climate, the lack of knowing what to do once we have thrown in the towel stops many of us from living our dream.

In the rush to buy cheap property in Bulgaria, many existing ex-pats intended to make a living by renovating and reselling property, but the sheer volume of choice for new buyers today has left many people with properties they cannot sell. That is not to say that buying property is not a good investment here, it is, but you need to be prepared to wait for demand to outstrip supply.

My advice would be not to rely on a quick sale but to see this form of investment as medium to long term and in the meantime consider other ways to earn a living.

 

Is selling real estate a viable option?

Many people have joined the ever-growing ranks of real estate agents. In Bulgaria, anyone can sell real estate, at the moment, there is no need for a licence and finding properties to sell is easy. Just about every Bulgarian I know has offered me a commission on the sale of their land or dwelling. Yet the absolute volume of people pushing real estate is unrealistic and whilst some succeed, many do not.

 

What to do?

So, with this in mind, what is there left to do? The answer is an awful lot, but only if you are prepared to stick your neck out, work hard, be persistent and be realistic about your potential earning power out here. There is no way you can charge the same rates for work you previously undertook in the UK. Even existing expats expect to pay rates in line with the rest of the services offered in the country. An example: in the UK, I was happy to pay £90 for a colour and cut at my local hairdressers, in Bulgaria I refuse to pay more than 40 Leva (around £15).

Bulgaria is crying out for skilled builders and tradesmen. I have been waiting six months to find someone to plumb in a dish-washer and a whole year for an electrician to add some more sockets. Gary Lancaster, a trained builder and carpenter from the North East, found self-employed work within his first week of being here. ‘I have met many people who are dissatisfied with their existing builder’s workmanship and I am constantly being asked to correct work which has been bodged.

I built a wall in Rogachevo and a local foreman was so impressed that he asked me to join his team who were building an apartment and villa complex nearby.

 

It seems that many skilled Bulgarian builders are busy with larger projects that there is a gap for local craftsmen.

A neighbour of mine asked every digger driver in her village if they could remove some earth from her garden, only to receive the same answer, ‘I’m too busy.’ ‘If I had known where to hire a digger I would have done the work myself!’ she said.

The same goes for tool hire. Where can you rent a drop saw, a rotavator or a large floor sander? You have to be able to speak the language, be in with your neighbours and hope that they have a friend of a friend who can help you out.

 

A Bit of Imagination...

Even if you do not have any skills relating to the construction industry, there are still many more opportunities. My husband is constantly threatening to fill Bulgaria with cigarette vending machines. They simply do not exist here.

Bulgaria is also chronically underdeveloped in terms of facilities for kid’s entertainment and teenagers here have little they can do after school. Outside of the tourist seasons or when it rains there are very few places to take your children to play. Back home there are at least three Whacky Warehouse play barns in the town we lived in. There were also more clubs for children. We used to pay £72.00 a month just for karate lessons.

Obviously here in Bulgaria, it would be unfeasible to think, you could charge UK rates, but the cost of living here is a lot cheaper, which means you can earn a lot less and still live comfortably. The local population is slowly becoming wealthier, particularly in the cities. The Varna branches of McDonalds are always full with Bulgarian families and it is not cheap in comparison to local fast food.

 

Tourist resorts offer much in the way of beauty treatments, but the prices are extortionate and not everyone wants to travel to their nearest resort.

Didi, a local hairdresser from Kranevo, set up the first salon in the town six months ago. It is always busy with customers and you have to make an appointment if you want to have your hair cut and dyed.

Yet the techniques she uses are outdated compared to Western standards and she does not offer beauty treatments. It is almost impossible to get waxing done over here.

 

There is also no organised house cleaning facilities and again you have to rely on word of mouth to find a local woman prepared to do the job, the same applies for ironing, general laundry and pet grooming.

 

In the Resorts

In resorts, there are also many opportunities to succeed, although rents for stands and stores may be prohibitively high.

The best source of ideas for developing a resort-based business is to visit advanced and established resorts outside of Bulgaria and see what is on offer there. I guarantee if it is not being offered in Bulgaria yet, it will be within a couple of years, so get in first. Last year in Golden Sands, tourists can enjoy their first taste of paintball. The year before it was the big banana sea ride.

The ski resorts are devoid of summer tourism, yet the mountain areas, like the Rhodopes, offers the perfect backdrop for horse riding, jeep safaris, balloon rides and a whole host more, yet they don‘t exist.

 

Employment

If you are reluctant to take the plunge and start out on your own, there are many jobs offered in English at www.jobs.bg . The most frequently offered are as estate agents and English language teachers and again you don’t need any special qualifications to do these jobs. You will also be paid a regular salary and won’t have any of the worries that self employment brings. There are many jobs for English language speakers offered on this site in the capital, Sofia - you can find everything from Sales Representatives to Software Engineers.

 

Income From Back Home?

Another way to make a living is to rely on income from home. Pensions go a lot further over here. If you are able to keep a property in the UK, you could rent it out and live quite easily on the proceeds. If you own several properties in Bulgaria, you can always try renting one of them out, a great idea if you have a
city apartment or property close or in a tourist resort, but not realistic if you have an isolated renovation project. Summer villas can earn you around £400 per week. City apartments can earn you in the region of £500 per month.

 

Work From Home

Working from home is a good way to earn a living and you may have skills, which would transfer nicely into work that you can conduct in this way. Jobs for home-based workers mean that you can take time off with your family and often can earn an income from another country. Work from any Western European country or from the USA will provide you with a good income by Bulgarian standards and the internet is full of positions and ideas.

Getting away from it all means being able to push the boundaries and move in a different direction. Perhaps you have always dreamed of writing a book, painting or turning a hobby into a job. Many people have done this by selling on auction sites like eBay.

Currently there are many Bulgarians selling antique and military collectibles. Bulgaria is exactly the place where you can do this as many items are much cheaper here than at home, but beware, eBay will not tolerate the sale of ‘fake’ goods.

 

I would advise anybody coming over here to have two years income to support yourself. This will allow you time to set up a new career without pressure, but be sure that is what you are going to do. It is so easy to come over here and just relax into a slower pace of life without planning for the future.

So, if you are wishing you could get away, but are holding back at the prospect of no income, think again. Bulgaria has much to offer. All you need is the motivation to discover what you can offer in return.