So, How Can I Make A Living In Mexico?
[Editor’s Note: The following post is by Jim Karger, TDV Legal Correspondent]
There are hundreds of thousands of US citizens who would like to escape America now.
So, why don’t they pick up and leave?
They don’t have enough to live on the income generated by their savings for the rest of their lives. (Many actually do and believe they don’t, but I will save that topic for another article.)
For those who want to live in Mexico, and who know they will need to work to stay here, this is for you: Some ideas on how to make a living south of the border.
Before I discuss ideas for businesses and jobs that can and have worked for other expats in Mexico, lets talk about what won’t work: Competing with Mexican nationals for semi-skilled jobs. They barely make enough to survive. You won’t last a month performing hard labor for $2 or $3 dollars an hour.
Which leaves a lot of vocational options that have merit, depending on location, and which includes starting your own business, or working for an existing business here in Mexico.
Here are a dozen businesses/jobs that a motivated American with the right experience and skill sets could begin and realize their dream of disconnecting from Amerika:
Real estate agency — This business is perhaps the most common startup among expats. It can be established with relatively modest capital and if you can list and sell property, you can make a living. Unfortunately, it is late to get into this game in most Mexican cities where Americans and Canadians are prevalent. Unless you can bring a model to market that no one else has thought of that will cause real estate that hasn’t sold to sell, you will be one of a large pack in a currently depressed Mexican residential real estate market. Going to work as an agent for an existing agency is also a possibility if you have experience and a record of success.
Coffee shop/Internet café — This is another business that many expats have tried and some have actually succeeded. But, in San Miguel de Allende where I have lived the past 11 years, the city seems saturated with opportunities to buy your morning fix. That said, there is always room for a coffee shop with a new twist in a new area. Just be ready to take on the likes of Starbucks, who are taking Mexico by storm.
Restaurant — Most restaurants fail regardless of which side of the border you are on. But there are notable exceptions. One young couple from the northeast with restaurant experience came to San Miguel a few years ago and opened an Asian-fusion restaurant with a creative menu and an even more creative bar. They have done well.
B&B — Buying a property that lends itself to offering rooms and breakfast can be a good, if low volume, business. They key to success is to buy the property at the right price after evaluating demand and location.
Tours — Bringing in tourists from the US and Canada and providing customized tour services can be attractive in the right market, meaning a location in Mexico deemed safe and desirable by tourists from north of the border.
Employment agency — We went through several maids after we moved to San Miguel, not finding one that had the full set of skills we were seeking. One enterprising entrepreneur started a company called: “Maid In Mexico”. They came in, determined what we were looking for and trained our maid to service our home and two casitas to a high standard. The same thing could be done training gardeners and handymen. And, for sensitive positions or those with rare skill sets, one could open an agency that conducts background checks, civil, criminal, and confirms experience, for a fee, of course.
Health club/gym — Finding a modern, state of the art health club or gym is difficult except for Mexico’s largest cities. While capital intensive, if you have several hundred thousand dollars to invest and experience in the fitness business, there may be opportunities in various Mexican locales. If you can’t or don’t want to own your own fitness business, consider becoming a personal trainer, Yoga teacher, or Pilates instructor. I even know one woman who made a living here for a period of time teaching other women to pole dance (not training to be strippers but because pole dancing is, apparently, great exercise.) Just know you will be competing with certified Mexican nationals doing the same thing and that keeps a lid on potential earnings.
Import/Export — Importing into Mexico is highly regulated by the Mexican government and the same is true when exporting good from Mexico to the United States. Someone who can help individuals and businesses leap the legal hurdles might just find a successful niche business.
Non-profit support services — The number of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Mexico is substantial. Someone who has had experience and success in writing grant proposals, for example, may do very well servicing the many US non-profits that operate in Mexico.
Organics — Organic produce and meat may be bigger in Mexico than in the US. Organic farming is popular here and many make their living growing green and selling at various farmers’ markets and restaurants.
Accountants and tax preparation professionals — US citizens must pay tax on their worldwide income, causing a need for US licensed accountants and tax preparation professionals in areas of Mexico favored by expats.
Medical case management — This is a service I haven’t seen here yet, but is needed. It might include evaluation of medical insurance alternatives in Mexico for expats, case management for those hospitalized or in nursing or hospice care, including treatment, hospital/doctor selection, and billing. Someone who has a medical and business background might do well managing the healthcare of expats in Mexico.
Those are a dozen ideas. There are dozens more.
Just know that starting and becoming successful in a business here in Mexico or anywhere for that matter requires skill, preparation, market analysis, and hard work. All businesses require, or at least are best-served in Mexico with bilingual owners. So, if you don’t speak Spanish, don’t wait until you get to Mexico. Find courses you can take now. And, it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, businesses require money to open, oftentimes as much as a similar business in the US and Canada. Don’t come down on a shoestring and believe you can crank up a successful business. It doesn’t work that way. If you want to work in Mexico as an employee, determine what you can add.
Either way, if you are serious, come to Mexico, not as a tourist, but with a view to finding and evaluating opportunities that are in demand which can be serviced by your skill sets and to meet the people who can help you leap the hurdles.
Jim Karger is TDV’s legal correspondent and the TDV concierge for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he and his wife have lived for 11 years. If you are interested in knowing more or visiting San Miguel de Allende, recently rated as the #1 City in Mexico and the 8th Best City in the World by Conde Naste magazine, contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.