Making a living in France can be a challenge, but with some careful planning there is every reason to make a success of it, as explains
In recent years, there has been a distinct change in the demographics of people wanting to relocate to France. While, for obvious reasons, the early retirees make a beeline for the country and its relaxed way of life and affordable property, there is a growing number of younger families wanting to make a permanent move who need to make a living once they get there.
With the rate of unemployment over 10% in France, finding permanent work is difficult unless you are bilingual with a niche skill. However, the new start presents a wonderful opportunity to consider running your own business and enjoy all the freedom and benefits that it will bring to your new way of life.
USE EXISTING SKILLS
Because this is a fresh start and a new beginning, you will have enough new challenges without reinventing yourself totally, so it will be a case of using your existing skills, albeit in a brand new way.
You need to carry out research to find whether a market exists in France for that service or those goods you might supply, and if it does, whether the people who might love what you are offering have the budget for what you intend to provide.
The latter is something which is often overlooked. People might love what you are offering, but they also have to be able to afford it for you to make a living. It’s encouraging that so many entrepreneurs do realise the research they need to do, and the planning they need to have in place in order to make a success of the move and their new business. You really do need to have a plan!
Another thing to consider is where you are going to be based – and not necessarily whether you want to live in Brittany or Burgundy, but where you will base yourself in the local area which you have already pinpointed as your favourite area of France, for whatever reason. For your own future personal happiness, it’s good to be among other people when you move to a new country. This is even more important when you need to be broadcasting the news of your new business.
Being several kilometres from the nearest neighbours might appeal for a short time, but settling on the edge of a large village or small town is far better for your business development. In fact, you need to go to the local bar or café every day (what a chore!) and make sure you are talking about what you are doing. If you haven’t been self-employed before, this is something that will be new to you and is what people refer to as ‘networking’.
You need to let everyone know what you are providing or selling, and never decide they don’t need to know – even if they don’t need your service or product, their neighbours or family might do so.
If you are intent on using some existing skills in France, please don’t take it for granted that having the qualifications translated will mean they are transferable – it may well not be that simple. You need to do some (very) local research in the area where you are intending to settle.
Rules and regulations are decided at a local level in France for many aspects of life – business practices and planning regulations in particular: or more precisely, the rules are interpreted at a local level. This means not assuming that something acceptable for your friend in an adjoining region will work for you 100km down the road.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
It counts for nothing to have done homework on the internet or at a distance: visit the local chambre de métiers (if you have a trade) or chambre de commerce (if you are offering a commercial service or product) in person and talk to the clerks there at an early stage to see what your chances of success are, and always have a back-up plan.
My advice would be to research existing business opportunities which might perhaps seem a little more mundane than what you are dreaming about, but which would put bread and butter on the table, and slowly build up contacts and credibility in the area. It would also supply what you had hoped to do in a full-time capacity, as an adjunct to the ‘main’ business. I have seen this scenario repeated successfully time and time again.