Even with all the projects I had going on, it was hard going through the ups and downs as well as the many frustrations of working for myself. Yes, I could set my own hours and yes I had the ability to work from home, but for all of you that think because you work for yourself that it means you can work less…you are sorely mistaken. You do have the opportunity to make more money but it also requires more work hours than if you were just working for a paycheck.
If you have worked in Costa Rica and you are a person that has an entrepreneurial personality, then you need to be involved with 3 to 6 projects at the same time. This is not because you are not making enough money from them, it is more determinant on the fact that getting paid for your work is sometimes very difficult in Costa Rica.
While running my SEO company; even though we would do our work and get the keyword terms in page one of Google searches, there were many times where the client would decide not to pay as “they did not see any sales increases from the SEO”. You cannot reason with a person like that by trying to explain to them that SEO is just one portion of marketing. The website needs to entice them to enter their info and their prices have to also be competitive in many industries in Costa Rica. If I have a Los Suenos condo site and I am renting for 20% more than my competitors, it does not matter how much SEO you do, the client will go somewhere else.
To go along with the “no pay” clients you then have the “slow pay” clients. One thing you will notice in Costa Rica is that when you owe someone money they want it right away and there are no reasons that you can have that will make them stop calling you, texting you and emailing you for that cash the day it is due. However, if you are owed money you will notice that person will not return calls, will see messages you write to them on Facebook (thanks to the new “seen” text that pops up) and ignore them, and sometimes even change their numbers to avoid paying you. This is the just the way it is. It is the same way with the power company in Costa Rica. You can ask them to come out to turn on your power and they will get there when the get there, but if you miss a payment or if you are late they will shut off your power right away.
A friend of mine told me once that the best way to get someone out of your life in Costa Rica is to lend them money. I think in many cases this is true.
Although the SEO went well some months, it was a matter of building up clientele that I knew would pay on time and in full. Believe it or not (sarcasm) this is not as easy as you might think in Costa. The worst part is that unless you are willing to pay a lawyer to put together a contract in Spanish and then if the person breaks the contract you are willing to fight it in the inefficient Costa Rican legal system, then you are just hit out of luck. Most business transactions in Costa Rica are based on good faith handshakes and a trust that you will get paid if you do your work. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that do not run their business with any sort of ethics. These are the same ones that know you have no recourse if they do not pay you.
The above scenario leaves you in quite the conundrum. I am a person that wants to prove to a client that what I say I am going to do, I will do. I am the same way with my current employees. If they prove themselves to me, I will make sure they are paid on time and paid well. However, this puts me in a spot where I need to trust that this client is going to pay me for the work. The other option is that you ask for the money up front. Unless you have a long term business or personal relationship with that person, then in most cases they will tell you that this is not an option. Many businesses owners are used to getting screwed over or wasting money on people not providing the services they say they are going to provide. It is a vicious cycle that can leave you very frustrated at the end of the day.
The other projects I was working on were commissions only which are great once you have your pipeline filled with prospects and they are closing on a normal basis. Most sales processes for shipping and dental tourism are 6 to 8 months. Yes, you will have some people close in the short term, but most are looking to get these things done months down the road and are in the information gathering phase. This leaves you working hard to build rapport with clients but also leaves you with no immediate money in your pocket.
Going through all these frustrations leaves you feeling like you are working for nothing at the end of the day when you do not see any financial reward for your efforts. Questions start to fill your mind…”will this ever turn into a financial gain? Is all this work worth it? Should I just take a salaried job and work for someone else?”
After about 5 months I began having doubts. Not in my abilities but in the fact that is Costa Rica really where I want to be? I had job opportunities in the USA and Europe that were waiting for me and all I had to do was hop a flight, admit that I could not make it in Costa Rica, and start that Monday through Friday day job. I knew that in order to enjoy life a little more I needed to make cash. Do I finally pack my bags and go home?
I thought that success and financial independence were right around the corner, but I had thought that with other projects I had been involved in here in Costa Rica. None of them seemed to pan out. A friend of mine once told me that Costa Rica was like the island on the TV show Lost. It is not ready for me to leave quite yet. It seemed that every time I was ready to pack it in and head home, something would happen.
When I was going to move to Seattle, I had open heart surgery and every other time I was ready to go, I would have a little bit of success to keep me holding onto hope. I am not one to give up easily in life and on projects that I have put time and effort into, but at some point you really do have to cut your losses.
I was living in a town where everywhere I went I was reminded of a girl that I had “loved”. I was living in a country where I was frustrated on a daily basis. I was in hope that I would have financial success and kept to my business ethics while I saw scammers and fraudsters make easy illegal money on a daily basis. No matter how much temptation was put in front of me I would not break my morals for monetary gain.
The real question was, could I or would I ever make it within the borders of Costa Rica? The question repeated over and over in my head on a daily basis and more and more anger grew inside of me. I could not continue living life like this. Something had to change.
I remember one time when I was going through rehab in Houston a psychologist said that in order to break the cycle you needed to change your location and situation. You had to cut ties with all those negative things in your life and get away. If you continued in the same place then you would never break free of your addictions.
Was I angry because of the lack of financial success or was it because I lost the girl? There was only one way to find out and that was to get away.
The question remained “to where?”
Next Up – Time to Move On