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How To Make a Self-Employed Bohemian Living in Portland_Oregon

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Your primer on thriving in the Rose City

*** Read Before You Move Here ***

Portland, OR is one of my favorite cities in the United States.  It's filled with fun, eccentric people and a quality of life that's hard to beat.  The downtown's small and vibrant, and the surrounding urban suburbia gives the various neighborhoods a cozy, get-to-know-your-neighbors vibe. 

However, the pleasant living is contrasted with a dearth of available work.  Worse yet, due to the influx of migrants from all over the country, rents have increased and competition for quality jobs is fierce.  It feels like this town breeds creativity through adversity, and many people have made fortunes through unorthodox means.  Here's a small list of things that you should know before you decide to make Portland your home:

Rent in the Winter

By the time December's nearly over, rent prices drop.  Why?  All the tourists that were charmed by the awesome summer weather are starting to realize that the town's not for them (maybe they can't get a job that pays a living wage?).  During the spring and summer months, people move in for short-term leases and enjoy all of the great neighborhoods.  Then they leave for their homes in California.  Winter rolls around and property managers are scrambling to fill units.  If you're looking to move in to a nicer area for a couple hundred dollars less each month, wait till winter.

Got Musical Talent?  Play for the People (and Cash)

Think of Portland as San Francisco-lite.  With all of the street festivals and events that happen around town every season, people are everywhere.  If you can play a guitar, you can make some money playing music on streetcorners.  Interviewing a couple of successful buskers (street musicians), I learned that the take-home pay can be close to $100-$200 a day! 

Start Your Own Resale Picker Business

Every day I'm hustlin'! 

Portland is filled to the brim with thrift stores and outlets that offer the public cheap goods.  Goodwills are within 20 minute bus trips, Craigslist is always a hot market, and garage sales/swap meets happen rain or shine (rain, most likely).   If you have an eBay/Amazon account, you're ready to be making serious cash for flipping goods to the world.  I've made quite a bit of cash off of eBay, and I know people who have whole businesses based on the bounty of Portland's reduse-reuse-recycle culture.

The Goodwill Bins, located in Sellwood, is a Portland entrepreneur's dream.  Tons of about-to-be-landfill consumer goods, electronics, clothing, books, and media are available.  At the very least, you'll find yourself having constant feelings of nostalgia as you browse through huge blue bins.  I know several people who make a middle class existence just from reselling the various goods they find at the Goodwill Bins on eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, or even local thrift store.  

That leads me into another type of hustle... you can sell your clothes to stores like Red Light or Buffalo Exchange for cash on spot!  That's right, take that pile of last season's fashion or abandoned roommate clothing and sell it.  Because the clothing that is eligible for purchase varies from buyer to buyer, you can roll your cargo down Hawthorne or come back another day and try again.  

If you have access to a lot of books, Powell's Books will buy them from you!  What books will sell are mainly what they do not have in stock and more recent ones.  Paperback novels seem to be rejected, as I've seen whole collections of Louis L'Amour westerns and Diane Steele placed in an donate pile.  Get quality books that you can't sell on Amazon or eBay and sell them here.

Silicon Forest?

The Portland Metro Area is often nicknamed the "Silicon Forest" by very optimistic people.  In reality, Portland's economy is slowly gaining steam after the recession had a severe impact on the job market.  Industry heavyweights like Intel and NVIDIA are restructuring to compete and numerous tech-related startups are struggling to survive.  What this means for you is that there are lots of tech-related gigs available.  If you have any skills with web development, programming, or IT networking,  you can earn a fairly decent living.  Just be warned - the competition can be fierce.  Self-employment is a viable possibility if you're fast and competent.  Again, think San Francisco-lite. 

For any electronics needs you may have, check out Free Geek.  Free Geek is a great non-profit that allows volunteers the ability to learn about computers.  For any computer parts or DIY repairs, check out their Retail Store - sometimes you can find some real deals (to sell on eBay!).  You can also volunteer 24 hours of your time and get a desktop computer for free.  I volunteered here for several months and learned more than in college!


If you're the crafty type, SCRAP is a great resource.  Located on NE MLK, SCRAP has cheap prices on materials for art projects.  Their inventory changes all the time, but you can find fabric, office supplies, paper, crayons, paint, and anything else the community has donated.  Think about selling your crafts on Etsy?  SCRAP is your new best friend.   They're REALLY cheap, so don't waste your cash at some overpriced art store - Go to SCRAP!

Speaking of scrap, North Portland has a whole cluster of metal recycling centers.  All types of metals can be brought down to these places and exchanged for cash.  Prices that you can sell your scrap for depend on market rates and the generosity of the buyers.  With Portland being the "Silicon Forest", there are tons of electronics scrap located all over the Metro area.  Turn those useless Dell Workstations and CRT monitors into cash.  I've personally received $2.50/lb for motherboards from inside computer towers, and made $800 from an small office clear-out job.  You can also take any significant piece of metal (like a filing cabinet) and sell it to the scrap yard for a decent price with little hassle. 

There are more ways to make money in the Rose City, but I'll just let you see for yourself.  Enjoy Portland and make your own way in this great American city!




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