Moving to Orkney,
Working From Home

Building a lifestyle of freedom

Stromness, Orkney Islands illustrator Bryce Wilson's Mermaid Bride as seen in Orcadian folklorist Tom Muir's The Mermaid Bride and Other Orkney Folktales.

I was working nights in a demoralizing job. I hated leaving my four kids to go to work.

Since their father had managed to squirm out of paying child support, there wasn’t much choice. Someone had to take care of those beautiful children.

Old illustration of children

Stinky jobs ... they stink

With no higher education at the time, I could only get lower-paid jobs. I worked several at a time to make ends meet.

Stinky jobs.

I didn’t mind the hard work, but I desperately wanted to work from home.

All I wanted was to be with my children.

Kay Nielsen, illustrator. Asbjornsen, Peter Christen and Moe, Jorgen. East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North.  New York: George H. Doran, n.d. [1914].

While searching the Internet for work-from-home ideas, I discovered a unique set of tools for building an online business. It was called Solo Build It - "SBI."

This one seemed different from the plethora of scammy schemes I'd already rejected.

It was supposed to teach everything you'd need to develop a real business online, step by step. Even people with no previous knowledge seemed to be creating viable businesses from home. I decided to try it.

I chose the topic of sleep problems. Working nights, I was having a lot of those.

Old illustration of a woman sleeping in a chair

I worked on my website during little bits of time here and there. For one reason and another, I eventually had to abandon it, but I was so impressed by SBI - its tools, education and the super-helpful forums - that I knew I’d try it again someday when life was less crazy.

For many many years I kept working those stinky jobs.

The kids grew up before I could get it together enough to try again to build a web business, but I had a vision of how life could be different.

Sisters at a wedding.

New life, new challenges

When Tom and I first “dropped the bomb” on our families about our relationship - as our surprising Christmastime revelation to the family came to be known - my daughters had a hard time. (My cheeky son wants it known that he fully supported us from the beginning.)

They worried about how we could maintain a strong relationship from across the Atlantic. I promised them that I’d still be available to talk, that I'd visit them often. I would most certainly not get a regular job, which would mean having to work around limited time off.

If they needed me, I would come to them right away. It was a rash promise, since Tom and I knew were going to need a second income.

I knew it was time to try again. I had to build a location-independent business.

Family of Tom and Rhonda Muir of in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

SBI can be used on a WordPress site, too.

I never liked working for other people, anyway. 

It took a while to get settled into my new life once the UK government finally allowed me to move to Orkney. 

I’d been reflecting on what kind of website business I should create. I checked in with SBI again and found that they’d continued to improve their product in the years I’d been away.

I was amazed at all the unique ways that people were building sites around their passions, hobbies and expertise. Unless these people were flat-out lying, most of them were making some kind of a regular income, too.

It took a while to decide what topic I should write about. I followed all the SBI brainstorming techniques. I learned to use the tools to find a potentially profitable niches that I'd be happy to explore for years to come.

I finally decided that my beautiful, new home would be my topic.

Sunset on the pier, looking toward Stromness, Orkney, Scotland.

Progress has been online for about a year, now. It’s been slow going so far for a few reasons.

One is time - life happens.

Another is having to learn everything as I go along.

Another is …


I’ll admit it, I’m an introvert - a huge “sensie”.

Cinderella, by Elenore Abbott. Grimm's Fairy Tales. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920.

I had a vision of the kind of website that I wanted to create, but when I got to the part where I’d have to go public, I froze. 

I felt that it was necessary for both Tom and me to be warm and accessible in our pages. He's used to being in the public eye, so it didn't bother him at all.

I just wanted to do my part from a closet.

It took some time to get my head in the right place, to where I felt comfortable putting my life and personality out there.

The SBI forums have been so valuable, not only resolving technical difficulties that I have from time to time, but helping me to get my head around being a business person and setting my vision for the kind of business I want ... and the kind of life I want.

Family on the Orkney island of Graemsay, Orkney, Scotland.


It’s important to me to still be Mom, even though I live 4000 miles away.

I’m visiting my daughters in Virginia as I’m making this page. My son is coming from Michigan tomorrow to be with us for the weekend. I’ve been in the US for 2 ½ weeks, with another week to go. 

I’m glad to be here, sharing in the lives of my children. Yet even as I’m spending time with my family, I’m able to put in a few hours a day on the website while they’re busy about their own lives. 

That’s because the business I’m building is portable. I can take it to America, but I can just as easily take it to Slovenia … or Iceland … or Edinburgh … and have!

Lake Bled, Slovenia - Bled Castle on a hill.

Freedom to travel

From time to time, Tom gets the opportunity to travel for speaking engagements and storytelling gigs. Having never been a traveler until now, I’m finding that I quite like it!

Having a portable business means I can fly off with him at a moment’s notice and take my work with me – if I want to, that is.

Colorful street in a Slovenian town.

And when my kids come to visit, we can go off together!

Sisters in Iceland


As with any new business, getting off the ground takes time.

For a web-based business, finding your passion and your voice and learning how to create the site come first. Building traffic comes next. Unless you have a ready-made product to sell, most of the monetization streams take a bit more time.

I’ve started with recommending affiliate products that I believe in because they’re easiest to add to the website. Most any topic will have related books, products or services that you can heartily recommend to visitors.

I’ve got a wee stream trickling in. Since my affiliate links are only a supplemental income, I'm not expecting great riches from them, but having many small streams of income is part of my plan.

Future plans

I’ve got a few more ideas up my sleeve, which I brainstormed way back when I first started planning Orkneyology. Making a flexible master blueprint is part of the important pre-planning that the program guides you through.

Tom and I are both writers. Among other possibilities, we plan to write ebooks, to self-publish books and sell audio collections of his stories.

Our more labor-intensive ideas will take a bit more time to produce, since I’m learning how to do everything as I go along.

But slow and steady wins the race. So far, the plan is on track.

July 2020 Update

I've made recent progress in monetizing with our new online shop. From here we'll be selling our products with our own original themed designs and - coming soon - our own line of books!

The story continues …

I've found that watching other people's creative businesses develop is one of the most inspiring ways to get creative myself.

You can watch some of those stories below.

I’ll add more posts here whenever there’s an interesting development. 

In the meantime, I wish you good fortune in bringing your own beautiful ideas to life.



Kay Nielsen, illustrator. Peter Christen and Moe, Jorgen. East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North. New York: George H. Doran, n.d. [1914].

Skeptical, like I was?  Read more from ordinary people who are making their work-from-home dreams come true.

And the SBI Advisor Team is happy to answer your questions.

Can you make a living from anywhere - even the Scottish Orkney Islands? An American expat tells you here story and shows you how you can earn money from home with a location-independent business.

Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!

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