Being able to make money while traveling is pretty much the dream.
Three years ago, Alyssa and I came up with a crazy idea to buy an RV off Craigslist and take an extended honeymoon across the country. Our original plan was to not go broke and ultimately force our parents to hate us (for being reckless). Not only did we not go broke, but we’ve been able to pay off a ton of debt and continue making money while traveling full-time.
I wrote this post to outline the 7 ways we’ve been able to build a remote income while traveling (inspired by the podcast episode I did with Michael Boyink, listen above).
7 Ways to Build a Remote Income and Make Money While Traveling
I know what you’re thinking. Sponsorships are for the Insta-famous people, the blogs with millions of views, or Peyton Manning (because he’s literally in every other commercial).
But sponsorships have changed. The very first income we ever made while traveling full-time was via a sponsorship with an online job board called Snagajob. When we landed that sponsorship we had no blog, no following, and no experience with sponsorships.
To land that sponsorship I sent one cold email.
Alyssa and I were two, 23 year old kids with a crazy idea to go on a 50 state honeymoon and work a job in every state. Luckily, Snagajob (the company who sponsored us), had been searching for some interns to travel around the country on a wrapped bus and find hourly jobs. Instead of hiring interns, they just sponsored my quest to work a job in every state.
My friends Cees and Madison Hoffman recently got sponsored by Chacos Sandals to travel to all 59 national parks over the course of one year. While they have 30k Instagram followers now, they had zero when they left (outside of immediate family and friends).
So, how does a person with no audience, attention, or existing platform land sponsors that pay them to travel?
One way is to come up with a project that will take you over the country to execute on a goal you’re passionate about.
Case in point, Cees and Madison are obsessed with national parks (they even got engaged in one). They decided last year during the Centennial Celebration of the parks to try and visit all 59 national parks over the course of a year. They pitched Chacos Sandals and a bunch of other companies, and several committed to help support their journey.
Even though Cees, Madison, Alyssa and I had no existing audience, it still made sense for companies to jump on board and sponsor our cross-country journeys.
In short, content.
Content rules the internet. Companies need to generic great content to engage their fans and represent their brand. A brand like Chacos sandals wants to appeal to people who like being outside and in nature. Cees and Madison have been able to capture amazing content for Chacos Sandals while visiting national parks all over the country. Even if Cees and Madison didn’t become Insta-famous or anything else, Chacos Sandals is still getting incredible authentic content that represents their brand.
If Chacos were to pay an employee or professional photographer to go visit all 59 national parks, it would cost them a butt load of money (and the result would probably be more stuffy and corporate feeling). By attaching their brand to Cees and Madison, they’ve been able to create authentic content their fans love.
You can listen to an interview I did with Cees and Madison here.
2. Client work
Before we bought our RV I followed a professional photographer on Instagram who lived, worked and traveled full-time in a truck camper. I remember thinking to myself, “How the heck does this guy get to travel the country full-time. I kind of hate him (kidding, sort of). I wished I had some kind of skill where I could be paid to travel.”
My marketable skills at 23 were selling software, that was it.
However, our sponsor company (Snagajob) sent us some film equipment to turn our road trip into a documentary.
During this time we turned to our BFF (Youtube & Google) and learned how to operate a video camera. We also volunteered a ton at events, workshops, and filmed 2-3 days per week while I worked hourly jobs.
After a full year of doing this, we knew our way around a camera (at least for a beginner). When it came time to wrap up our first year of travel, instead of going back to a full-time job we started freelancing our new found video skills.
Seeing as we were brand new, we didn’t have clients banging down our doors. However, a few long term video projects gave us the financial runway we needed to keep up our lifestyle. Flash forward three years and video production has become our #1 source of income while traveling.
Our first videos are embarrassingly bad and by most professional videographers point of view, we are still newbies. However, that’s all the more reason why starting a client business is possible for others to replicate (even if you don’t have the skills yet).
3. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is an awesome gateway drug to making money while traveling (bad comparison? probably).
Our very first income during year one of full-time RVing was via freelance articles I wrote for RV websites. Each article I was paid a whopping $25-$50. But honestly, I didn’t care and was more than happy to write them. For the first time I was being paid to do something I enjoyed, not to mention being paid while traveling.
Over time, as our blog and authority built in the RV community, we’ve been able to charge higher and higher rates for our articles (currently ~$250/article).
A few tips for finding paid guest blogging opportunities:
- Focus on the actual craft of becoming a better writer before you do anything else.
- Next, build up a portfolio of blog posts you are proud of (make sure they’re exceptional quality).
- While working on the two steps above this one, be continuously searching for relevant websites and companies who you think you’d like to write for one day. Leave thoughtful comments on the website’s content and build relationships with the editors and contributors over time.
- When you’re ready to make the ask, you will have a backlog of great content, a skill of copywriting, and if you’ve done a good job of being a community member — a decent chance the website will ask you to write for them.
It takes a long time to turn freelance writing into your full-time income, but it can be a great way to supplement your income while traveling.
4. Affiliate Income
Up until last year I’d never dabbled in affiliate income. I knew that some people made money through Amazon stores and every now and then on Youtube I get spammed via advertisement on “How to create a seven figure blog”. But other than those limited experiences, I knew very little about affiliate income.
My preconceived notions about affiliate income were this:
- Your blog traffic has to be incredibly high.
- You have to be a really pushy salesman (which I don’t want to do).
What is affiliate income: Affiliate income is where you get paid to endorse products or services you believe in. An example of this would be Alyssa and I recommending a campground membership service we use called Passport America. We love Passport America and use it constantly on the road. I wrote a blog about them, used my affiliate link, and it generates around $200/month while we’re traveling.
What I learned this past year is that you don’t have to be a pushy salesman to do well at affiliate marketing. And while it certainly helps to have high blog traffic, you don’t need a ton.
What you do need, is trust. Trust from readers who come to your blog, podcast, or Youtube channel. You can’t recommend crappy services or poorly made products. If you do, then nobody will listen to you. You can’t sound like a snake oil salesmen, because nobody will buy from you.
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it is truly one of the most flexible ways to make money while traveling. My friend Michelle, who is also a full-time RVer, made over seven figures last year from affiliate marketing. Granted, she’s been doing this for a long time and is an outlier. Most affiliate marketers never bring in this high dollar amount, but for someone such as myself, a couple thousand dollars a month would go a long way.
If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, here are a couple resources I would check out:
- Michelle’s course called “Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing“.
I’m enrolled in this course and I saw a huge/immediate uptick in my affiliate earnings after joining Michelle’s course. I don’t buy/join many courses, but Michelle’s is one of the few that is worth every penny. She walks you step by step through how to get started in affiliate marketing and teaches you everything you need to know.
You can check out Michelle’s course here (this is an affiliate link: if you purchase her course through my link, I’ll get a kickback for sending you her way).
2. The interview I did on The RV Entrepreneur where I interviewed Michelle.
In this interview Michelle walks through how she’s been able to scale up her income to 7 figures while full-time RVing.
You can listen here.
I wouldn’t necessarily associate speaking with remote income, but last year a decent portion of our income came through inbound speaking gigs so I’ll include it here.
After working a job in all 50 states for Hourly America, I was flown out to speak at companies like Chick-fil-A, UPS, and at several other HR related events. My experience of finding and working in 50 different hourly job environments gave some unique perspectives that companies wanted to hear about. Most the conversation was in regards to “how to find and attract millennial talent”, but I fit into that conversation as well.
It was also relatively easy to ditch the RV for weekends at a time and fly to various parts of the country to speak.
6. Online Courses
Online courses are a big deal in 2017 are only getting bigger. Platforms like Teachable are making it ridiculously easy for anyone to create, launch, and build an online course to sell.
While Alyssa and I don’t have a paid course, this is the majority of video production work we do for clients. We work with small businesses, entrepreneurs or thought leaders to produce online courses.
Last year we worked with Jenny Foss to launch a course called Weekend Resume Makeover. Jenny is a sought after resume writer in Portland, Oregon who frequently has to turn off her client services (because she’s booked out). We worked with Jenny to productive her expertise in resume writing and turned it into a course. Instead of someone paying Jenny upwards of $800, they can buy her resume writing course for $200.
Jenny’s course quickly did over 5 figures in revenue. Now, instead of turning off her services, she’s created more remote income that frees up her time.
Alyssa and I don’t have a course because we don’t consider ourselves experts in any given field. We’re still newbies at video production, blogging, and many other areas we dabble in. If anything, we know quite a bit about RVing compared to someone who has never done it, but we don’t feel that knowledge grants us the privilege of charging $500 for a course on our lifestyle. Instead, we just created a free course on how to travel America on $2k/month.
However, if you do have expertise in a particular subject, creating courses can be a great way to make money while traveling.
Our newest stream of income in 2016 was from an ebook I wrote called The RV Entrepreneur. The book documented what I’d learned from the past few years of building a remote income & also interviewing more than 50 RV entrepreneurs.
Having an ebook to sell on our site has been a solid addition to our income while on the road because after writing it, it’s 100% passive income and we hold no physical inventory. Other RVers we come across actually ship out physical products from the road (see here), but that’s not something we intend on doing anytime soon.
We are currently working on adding more digital products to our site (including a How to Start RVing guide that will be free) and focusing on how we can better serve the RVing industry and other fulltimers.