My name is Jefferson. Yes, you heard right, like Thomas Jefferson (the third President of the United States). I am an expat living in a tiny country village in Vesilahti, Finland.
I think I have it real good. Why? Everything is so clean around me. Country air, E.L.N.L. (Extreme Low Noise Level), and according to annual surveys by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International, Finland is top-ranked among the least corrupt countries in the world.
Having traveled to over 20 countries prior to moving to Finland, and having worked in the United States. I still think the Northern climate with its definite four seasons makes Finland a unique traveling pleasure. So, I'm determined to live in Finland and raise our children here. My dream has come true.
For me, as a foreigner, I had significant obstacles to overcome. Language, culture, and, hey... like any average person, I need a livelihood. Overcoming these is what I will tell you about in the following story.
After selling our small row-house, I purchased an empty lot and decided together with Aura to build a house like our Finnish neighbors! Every family needs a home, so, might as well build a house. (With the help of the bank)
All our neighbors are either school teachers or builders by profession. I'm joking, of course! Aura is a school teacher. She teaches kindergarten through 5th grade at a local school here in Vesilahti. Many Finns try to build their own house in Finland as much as possible without hiring professional services like a bricklayer or carpenter/builder. This is a DIY country. The reason is simple - labor costs for professionals in Finland are high.
With the help of friends, supportive relatives, and a local retired carpenter, we built the foundation for our house. Phew! The top half (Where the grey blocks end) is a ready-built or pre-fab part. The bottom floor is our apartment. The way upstairs/attic was left hollow - to be finished later.
Back in 2004, I was politely terminated from my 9-5 job as a Test Engineer in a large electronics firm, despite a B.S. in Engineering, and years of previous work experience in that field. That's when it came to my mind... "Jeff, do you want to rely on those 9 to 5 jobs for the rest of your life? To work day-in-and-out for the boss, while the boss's boss chooses his own work hours.
Being the determined person that I am, I looked for online opportunities. Some online businesses looked appealing, so I joined this and that. Pretty soon, I had the credit card limit at maximum. Ouch! I made hundreds, even thousands of "virtual" dollars and then, sadly, lost all my money in the end.
My brain was learning the whole time during (it seemed like) endless searching for that right online or work-from-home business opportunity. So, it was the time to go back to school for me to educate my way towards a different future. Then, I found an ebook which inspired me to do what I loved while getting paid.
The ebook guided me in writing Web pages that work. It was an easy read. The book inspired me to start with myself, so-to-speak, and helped me realize that I had valuable information to share which others that people could benefit from.
After reading it, I decided to start an offline business in the yard/landscape service sector, and offer to grind out tree stumps with a small stump grinder. I thought: "I'll do something I love, like working outdoors among trees. That would be fun! Plus, I get to travel around and see Finland." Yes, I love that combination. So it never feels like a job.
So I purchased a stump grinder, an ax and chainsaw and started a yard business. I decided to find customers by creating my first yard service website jepp.fi. To make this website really attract searchers, I followed the useful information from the ebook carefully; then began writing content for my yard service website jepp.fi. I, being a non-native with limited Finnish writing skill, with the help of my wonderful wife, Aura, translated the English text of my Web pages into Finnish.
... Think, type.. think, type... type... type! Edit, re-edit. Phew!
Getting ready-to-buy customers to my jepp.fi website was not instant. Creating Web pages with quality information took time. In my case, it took five weeks, within which I created 20 pages. The end result: traffic to my pages, plus, no need to chase after people trying to get a sale - they contacted me for work. Ah, isn't that what we all would like in our small businesses? People contact me! And, best of all, I did not pay for expensive yellow-page ads.
Sidenote: Back in 2004 I had no clue that a business owner needs to keep developing his business all the time! It's not a one-time deal, turns out.
The 20 or so pages that I originally wrote in 2004 still score very well with the search engines in 2014. Hey, this is working! Life is great, I am getting online orders, making money, and off to work I go! "This is easy", I thought. Life was getting better and better, until...
In 2006, while working for my yard service business, I had an accident. After a long day of hard strenuous work, the last tree was to be felled. It was only a small tree, but requiring a special cut to fell it properly. Saw, saw, crack. Uh-oh! The tree went the wrong way and hit a high power line.
Like in 007, explosions and fire! Wow, what a scene! I was standing under the tree at the time. Personally, I suffered no immediate injuries, but my eyes took a beating and the strain of the moment encouraged the onsetting of a disease called Retinoschisis, affecting the nerve tissue in the eye. Hoping that I will not go blind, and depression sets in...
"Am I going blind?" - I asked the doctor. Doctors in Finland are quite educated, and right up to par with current medical technology. I got a simple answer from him. Here are the doc's words of wisdom: "Just keep on doing what you like." In other words, just go back to work.
The doctor also did mention to stay away from lifting heavy objects. So, it is time to re-think my future, and think up of an occupation where I am lifting less heavy objects like chainsaws and logs. I thought: "What would I do if it were my last day to live on Earth?" Answer: something I really love doing, while spending time with my family.
Ever had the feeling that you are your own greatest obstacle? Trust me, I know what it's like.
To shake myself out of that kind of thinking. I had seen success before with my yard service website jepp.fi. So, I could repeat what I already have learned from building my jepp.fi site. Why not start another website and repeat that success? Practice makes perfect! Well, I would say it makes better, at least. Why not duplicate my previous success on a larger scale?
I needed a new idea to start an online business. Back to the books again! In January 2008 I came up with a theme for a new website - something I could do with my family, and that I know I would enjoy.
All I would need is the mind, or "brains", and the determination to go forward with a good plan. I put hours of work into my little Finnish service website jepp.fi.
Crazy me. I went fanatic. In late 2008 until 2012 I became a fan of my own website FI (Finlandinsider). I pumped out page after page of content. Most of it was... well... not very interesting to my readers. Not even sure if I was interested in it myself. On the level of helpful. I'll give it a four out of ten. In other words, not good at all. I carefully crafted my Web page using keywords and traffic to my website was growing. I was sometimes getting 500 visitors per day. Then, Google changed a few algorithms around and in late 2013 I was down to 40 visitors per day. Gasp! All that work in vain. I have written 200 webpages and my traffic is gone. Nightmare!
I decided to stop the content generation completely. Yep, you heard it right. Quit, give up, and get out! I heard that if there was someone else who could do the work 80% as good as I can, then I could delegate it to them. This does not mean I have stopped eating Finnish food and I don't like to travel to see new places in Finland.
This is what I did. I contacted my friend Hannes to compile a book out of the website. He actually did a much better job than I could have done.
Then my mentor told me that it takes a long time to get momentum in any business venture. I began thinking that I have barely got momentum with FI. Right, of course, I gave up generating content, but that does not mean I need to stop completely. If I work in a smarter way, focus tight, and leave no stone unturned, there may be hope for this website.
As a starter, you can check out the FI ebook. It is a book about my experience in Finland which is completely free to download and keep on your computer and to share! If you enjoyed it, then please share it with others - this is the best way to say "Thank You!" to us for all the hard work we've put into this website and to pass the info along to your friends at the same time!
Remember, do not give up on your dream! The Finland insider Guide Book is one of my dreams that finally came true. I am sure you can learn something new about Finland when you browse through it!