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Income ideas from newbie?


mistycaledonia
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Hello all  I am new to this fab forum and finding it very informative. We myself, hubby and 2 children have made the decision after a long time thinking and researching to move to South France. Where exactly has yet to be determined once we go and stay in a few places while house/smallholding hunting.

My hubby is a skilled furniture maker and for the past 10 yrs has worked on the sites as a joiner. His work in both sides is excellent being a very hard worker and a man who takes pride in his work. We want to set up an AE furniture making business with my hubby also offering himself as a joiner perhaps to expats until his french is better. To supplement this business we also want to offer on our persoal smallholding a small eco yurt campsite depending on planning. My question at the moment is this Are these ideas any good? Is there work for a good joiner/hand crafted furniture? How easy would it be to get planning for yurt site? Where in the south somewhere would be good for smallholding, joinery and yurts etc.

Sorry for the broad questions but all replies gratefully received.

Cheers M

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Yurts, the current government seems to have taken against them recently, I would check very carefully before starting such a venture. Under what circumstances they are OK I don't know.

We were in France for a long time and frankly hardly ever used artisans, with the charges they have, they charged themselves out of our budget. It was no wonder when we got to France (early 80's) that there were so many DIY hyper stores, they were needed. Sounds like you need to be somewhere where everyone is aisé. Even in our region which not a poor one and husbands salary was decent, we still couldn't afford such luxories.

 

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Hello Misty and welcome to the forum.

I'm sorry I can't help you with the yurt idea but I can comment on your husbands skills... from a customer's view point.

We (like so many expats) have been renovating our property and we have completed a large amount of the work ourselves.  However, some things like staircases, wooden windowsills, skirting/coving and wooden worktops were all installed by quality artisans.  We felt, in our case, that a skilled artisan would give us a better quality finish and having spent a lot of money on the materials it was a good investment.  Our house is almost complete but we will again use an artisan to install new wooden flooring.

I don't consider us wealthy and we do have to watch the pennies but we know where our skills end and we certainly would use the services of a good quality artisan if the job required it;  I would say this is fairly typical of our friends here too. I do agree that rates can be high... but we have also been surprised that sometimes the better qualified/more highly recommended artisans aren't always the most expensive.

There is work in our part of the world, but there is also competition.  If you can build a good reputation for good quality and good value your husband may well be able to build himself a business.

good luck with your plans [:$]

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Thank you idun and Rose for your replies. I am very aware that an artisans work can be expensive particularly handcrafted furniture and I expect that side of the business won't be our bread and butter as is the case here in Scotland. It is the joinery side of things that keep us going. We are hoping that the AE scheme will help us to be competitive with our charges as from what I have read the cotisations are not as high. We are not out to make a fortune just enough to get by paying our way so to speak. We hope to be self sufficient in meat,veg and fuel as much as possible to cut costs and will have some savings to get us through while contacts etc are made.

I think from what I have read on forums is to try to have a few income streams. If we find making a living becomes too difficult my hubby could work 6 months of the year in the uk which would see us through. I just need comments from you experienced people to confirm or not whether we are going in a positive direction workwise?

Many thanks

M

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[quote user="mistycaledonia"]Thank you idun and Rose for your replies. I am very aware that an artisans work can be expensive particularly handcrafted furniture and I expect that side of the business won't be our bread and butter as is the case here in Scotland. It is the joinery side of things that keep us going. We are hoping that the AE scheme will help us to be competitive with our charges as from what I have read the cotisations are not as high. We are not out to make a fortune just enough to get by paying our way so to speak. We hope to be self sufficient in meat,veg and fuel as much as possible to cut costs and will have some savings to get us through while contacts etc are made.

I think from what I have read on forums is to try to have a few income streams. If we find making a living becomes too difficult my hubby could work 6 months of the year in the uk which would see us through. I just need comments from you experienced people to confirm or not whether we are going in a positive direction workwise?

Many thanks

M

[/quote]

Workwise you would be better off financially , in the UK!

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Blunt though Leo's reply is, I think he has hit the nail on the head.

 

Advice generally given is to have 2 years salary as disposable savings when you move to give you time to build up your business.

There are certainly places for good artisans, but as said there is also competition.

Relying on the ex-pat market is IMO a big mistake - even if only at start up.  It limits your market greatly.   The majority of people wanting work done in France are, not surprisingly, French.  So to do business a very good command of French will be essential.  I know you see lots of threads like "Does anyone know a good English speaking joiner/plumber/ electrician/etc.." but the majority of ex-pats actually employ French artisans - and muddle through or better, depending on their level of French. 

The ex-pat newcomers have greatly reduced from those arriving in 2004-2007.  Most of those have now completed their renovations or run out of money and either way they are not going to commission new work.  Those that have arrived since may want work doing but are now constrained in financing it.  One of our local artisans (Dutch as it happens because there is a large Dutch/Flemish expat and second home contingent in the Ardèche) is thinking of moving on after 15 years because work is drying up.

 

The impression I get is that even under AE you should not expect to get much more than minimum wage (SMIC) after all payments have been made - some do not even manange that - unless your business becomes fully established.  SMIC is around 9€/hr.  Contracting out to a builder will almost certainly guarantee payment at SMIC rates.

 

While I am sure that the move can be done think carefully about how difficult it can be. 

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We have been spending a lot of time in France over the last 5 years and last year we purchased a small house for holidays and with a long term plan of semi retiring and spending 40% of our time in our little bit of French heaven.

Just my observations from over the last 5 years.

France must be one of the most bureaucratic countries in the EU. You even need planning consent to put up a small wooden shed.

The French system is anti enterprise and (I will stand corrected on this) the AE system seems to limit your earnings.

The method of business registration prevents you from diversifying. You are registered as a carpenter and if you wanted to branch out into other fields you would be working illegally in those fields.

In line with the anti enterprise culture it would seem that if a village has a carpenter, then his father and grand father were also the village carpenters and they are the people that the villagers go to when they want carpentry done. Drive around you will notice that very rarely are there more than one trade in any village.

Most ex-pats I have come across seem to be more or less just managing to get by rather than making a good living.

Don’t get me wrong I am not anti France in any way and I stand to be corrected on any of the above but I would not set up a business there if I wanted to make a good living.

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As an example - I was talking to a young woman (english) who has a stall in the local market yesterday - she was selling "bio"eggs, and also advertises "bio" pork and lamb.

Just to set up the egg sale she had to pay out 500€ to some organisation. They all have to be stamped. She didn't seem to be selling any - several other people were selling plain eggs,cheaper.

The reason I spoke to her was that I had a surplus of our eggs and offered them to her - she couldn't sell them (H&S regs)  but was glad of them for her family.

She's married with 2 young children, and I just wondered how long she could keep going.

Maybe her husband works elsewhere.

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Interesting about the eggs, Patf; we buy ours from the local bio egg man, who is on our market twice weekly, with loads of customers. There are bio notices on the stall, but the eggs aren't stamped. He also delivers to the local bio shop three times weekly and those eggs are stamped. He sells many times more than a non-bio eggs a couple of stalls along, which charges a small amount less.
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I think anyone who goes out to France with the sole purpose of making alot of money, unless its tagged to a business in another country ie a web based business, is deluded. Indeed with the right skills you will be able to make a living 'just to get by', my ideas to make the move would be to get away from rip off britain, live a more relaxed and sustainable life, create more time for my family. Surely, and only if finances permit, these far outway any amount of money.
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The Gallic shrug probably covers him. 

I really do get the feeling that the Brits love rules, regs and laws, we love to have a set of black and white boundaries to live by.  Someone dreams up a new law, we all grumble then do exactly as we are told (be it from Brussels or any where else).  It seems to me most other European countries citizens "forget" the laws they don't like and their governments "overlook" this.  Good on em I say.

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NCB.  I think the days of rip off Britain are well and truly over, from my very limited experience shopping in France I would say the UK is cheaper on 80% of purchases.  I have sold a successful business so I can get away from the relentless consumerism and even worse, bargain hunting of the UK.  It's getting impossible to make a decent living in the UK because of the "rip off Britain" myth, no one wants to pay for anything at more than cost price here these days.

The bit about getting to a more relaxed place is spot on.  I don't want to be rich, I want to eat, pay my way and have a life other than work.

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mistycaledonia, you don't mention the age of your children, but if they are in secondary education be cautious about moving them, as the general consensus is that unless children are already fluent in French, once they are twelve it is too late to move them into a different education system and language, without the risk of damaging their education becoming too great. Especially, if things don't work out and you have to return to the UK. (I thought the Scottish education system was excellent?)

The further South you go in France, generally the more expensive it gets, so do your research carefully.

With regards to your business plans, don't rely on the Brit expat market, as with the very weak £, many expat Brits in France are returning to the UK, or hanging on by their finger tips economically, so commisioning custom made joinery or furniture, will be the furthest thing from their mind.

Most importantly, rent before you buy, as the costs of buying a house in France are much higher than the UK and selling can be problematic, especially the older type property in rural areas favoured by Brits.

Last but not least, research the section on health care, as you could find yourself in the position of having to pay for expensive private health insurance for the family, until such time as you are able to get a viable business up and running. (Inactif Brits are unable to permanently join the French health system, until they have been in France 5 years.)
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Rip off Britain. Why say that. France's government is very good at ripping people off.  Just look at the planning 'tax' that no one ever mentions, didn't years ago, still don't, very substantial and shocking amount.  The CSG, etc which hits everyone in France. Stop saying such foolish things, France's government are experts at getting money.

And this notion that all french people get around their taxes and payments and don't get permission to do things is rather 'off'. Just is not so. Naughty people and crooks in every country, but not all people are naughty or crooks.

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I am not saying they get round their taxes, more that they are subject to the same laws as us but don't place the same importance upon abiding to them to the letter that we do.  How many times have you seen any one riding a motorised bicycle with out a helmet in the UK.  Sort of sums up my view.

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Many thanks for the replies/links.

 'Plain speak' isn,t a problem at all. We probably would be better of financially in uk however that's not the reason for the move we want to be better of in other ways as some replies mention. Thankfully we will have at least 2 yrs worth of savings to tide us over while business is built up. We feel we would need to have various income streams and not put all our eggs in one (expat) basket. In the end we will only know when we give it a bash. 

All replies though are giving us food for thought and helping us see where we may have to find more information etc.

Cheers M

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[quote user="Sprogster"]. Last but not least, research the section on health care, as you could find yourself in the position of having to pay for expensive private health insurance for the family, until such time as you are able to get a viable business up and running. (Inactif Brits are unable to permanently join the French health system, until they have been in France 5 years.)[/quote]I agree that M/C needs to be aware of this but any business only has to be up and running afaik - it does not have to be a financial sucess - to get its owner/s and dependents into the healthcare system.  It does cost though - cotis (social services contributions) are not cheap - they are also often based on turnover not profit so that could affect your choice of business also, m/c.
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If your children are of an age where you are not risking their education, my advice would be to take a year out in France, rent and put the children in a local school.

If at the end of the year you decide that financially it is not going to be viable, at least you won't have the situation of having to sell up, if you can, at an undoubted loss.

Most members of this forum fall into two main categories, retirees and second home owners. This reflects the wider demographic of Brits in France, as according to official stats only about 10% of the Brit expat community in France actually work there.

It is often said that France is a brilliant country to retire or go on holiday, but not to work, especially if there is a language barrier.

I don't want to appear unduly negative, but the very high return rate for Brits who move to France without a job to go to and need to find work, is estimated at over two thirds.

Last but not least, despite the relatively recent introduction of the AE scheme, France is not exactly known as a country that encourages small business enterprises and the earnings cap on the AE scheme, might be a major limitation, for a younger family like yours. Also there is a risk that the AE scheme might not survive President Sarkosy, in its current form, if he is not relected next year.
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[quote user="mistycaledonia"]
am I right in understanding that the AE scheme entitles the family to healthcare provision?
[/quote]

Yup! I haven't gone into the way it deals with dependents, because my wife & I are both AEs and the kids are long gone. However, as far as I know being an AE gives the same access to family health care as any other business regime. It certainly paid for my cancer treatment.

Someone said that AE restricts your earning potential, and this is true, but for many people the limits are higher than they are likely to earn anyway and if you do better you can shift to a different regime.

AE is good for businesses with low-ish costs, because of the way it's based on turnover and has a fixed allowance for costs built in. It certainly isn't for everybody and some trades, like farming, are specifically excluded.

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