Finding work once you move down to Costa Rica may not be easy. Many of the unskilled or non-specialized jobs pay Tico-level wages, so you'll be competing with the locals and working way too hard (for too little) to enjoy your new home.
Therefore, opening your own business may be the best path to earning money.
In part one of this blog, I covered a few tips on opening a business and business planning.
Here are some more tips and notes on opening a business in Costa Rica:
To do it properly, I encourage you to take your time, study the area, the market for your services and the competition, talk to a lot of business owners, network with the right locals and expats, and build a super conservative business plan.
Owning a business can be a supreme headache in Costa Rica if you’re not prepared and don’t have the right, trustworthy people on board. But once you’ve carved out your niche and done all the hard work to get the doors open and promote your business, it can bear huge fruit, giving you the opportunity not only to live in paradise but also make great money at the same time!
First, you’ll need to secure an employer that will sponsor you in the process. You’ll have to demonstrate that you are filling a position that a Tico does not have the technical expertise to fill. Common work visa fields include: health care, IT, biotech, and international business. Don’t just jump into opening a business and start spending money (because you’ll never stop!). Instead, do plenty of research and get to know the area, the market, your competition, the logistics, and even seasonal changes.
The vacation rental business has several key aspects: marketing, reservations, housekeeping, maintenance, concierge services, transportation, and bookkeeping.
Will your business cater to Ticos or tourists and foreigners? There’s a huge difference in how you market, how you do business, and even how you run your day-to-day operations.
If you decide to open the doors to a business that’s looking to attract Ticos, recognize that most of the country’s purchasing power is located in the Central Valley. A total of 75% of the country’s population resides in the central provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago. About 60% of the population is under 30 years old. Intelligent business people target this demographic.
But, you’ll have to seriously adapt your idea due to the vagaries of the local market and different purchasing power. Don’t get any grandiose ideas since the country only has about 4.5 million people and a quarter the people are below the poverty line with little or no purchasing power. You cannot expect to market products on a large scale as in North America.
So, for many foreigners it’s easier and far more lucrative to set up a business that targets tourists as their demographics, which usually means being located in the heart of these tourist zones. With the huge influx of tourism into Costa Rica every year, restaurants, hotels, scuba diving outfits, fishing and boat tours, 4WD and motorbike excursions and rentals, and starting just about any other tour company are all great viable options for new businesses.
Starting an Internet-based business that targets a U.S. and Canadian market will greatly increase your chances of success here. For example, I know a couple of Americans who started Spanish schools that bring groups of students here. I know a Canadian who founded an online newspaper. Another friend started a cell phone rental service for tourists.
Whatever you do, don’t expect to strike it rich. With luck, you can make a good living and enjoy an amazing quality of life in Costa Rica!
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