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 goal was just to make it to 50 states without going broke. But once we started traveling full-time, we were hooked. We knew we needed to find a way to make this RV lifestyle sustainable.
In the past 3+ years of full-time travel, we’ve:
- Started two businesses
- Paid off all our student debt
- Traveled to all 50 states and 4 Canadian provinces
- Built sponsorships with companies like Winnebago, Snagajob, Jellystone Parks, Outdoorsy, WeBoost, Cobb Grill, and more.
- Written books
- Started the #1 RVing podcast
I wrote this post to outline the 7 ways we’ve been able to build a remote income while traveling—inspired by a podcast interview with Michael Boyink, of Ditching Suburbia.
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 someone crazy enough to travel around the country on a wrapped bus and find hourly jobs. Enter Heath & Alyssa.
I never even asked Snagajob to sponsor us—I only asked for help finding the jobs. But after meeting the team and hitting it off, they offered to sponsor our journey
Naturally, I said heck yes.
My friends Cees and Madison Hoffman recently landed a sponsorship with Chacos Sandals to travel to all 59 national parks over the course of one year. While they have 52k 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 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 helping support their journey.
Listen to my interview with Cees & Madison: How to Find Companies That Will Pay You To Travel
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 generate 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—notably photos—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 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.
2. Freelance 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 wish I had some kind of skill where I could be paid to travel.”
My marketable skill at 23 was selling software, that was it.
But as we talked with Snagajob about our fifty jobs in fifty states journey, they gave us a bizarre offer.
“We have some film equipment laying around that we aren’t using, if we give it to y’all, will you film a documentary?”
It was always on my bucket list to film a documentary, so I asked my wife her thoughts, since she would be filming me as I worked all the jobs. She said yes, despite having exactly zero experience filming anything.
During this time we turned to our BFF (Youtube & Google) and learned how to operate a video camera. We also volunteered at a ton of events, workshops, and filmed 2-3 days per week while I worked hourly jobs to get experience. (I call this the trial by fire approach to learning a new skill).
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-based business is possible for others to replicate (even if you don’t have the skills yet).
Update: We find all of our clients through referrals or through our blog here. Our specialty is filming online courses for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Through filming courses, we learned a lot about launching online products and marketing your small business. This has led to more marketing consulting gigs with companies like Winnebago and Outdoorsy.
3. Guest Blogging & Freelance Writing
Guest blogging is an awesome gateway drug to making money while traveling (bad comparison? probably).
When we first started our 50-state journey, we reached out to multiple RV websites to find writing opportunities.
For each article, I was paid a whopping $25.
But honestly, I didn’t care and was more than happy to write them. I love writing. After working in a cubicle for a year, 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 has grown in the RV community, we’ve been able to charge higher and higher rates for our articles (current rate $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. This may look like sharing their Facebook posts, linking to their website on your personal blog, or just sending them an email to tell them how much you enjoy their publication.
- 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. Then there’s 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. Plus if you’re planning on blogging as part of your business, this is a great way to link back to your site and gain authority in your space.
4. Affiliate Income
Up until last year, I’d never dabbled in affiliate income. I knew that some people made money through Amazon and every now and then on Youtube I get spammed with ads on “How to create a seven-figure blog in 3 seconds!!”
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
What is affiliate income?
Affiliate income is where you are paid to endorse products or services you use and believe in.
An example of this would be Alyssa and I recommending a campground membership service we use called Passport America that gives you 50% camping fees. We love Passport America and use it constantly on the road. I wrote a blog about them, included my affiliate link, and it generates around $600/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 six 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:
1. Michelle’s course called “Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing“
I’m enrolled in this course and I saw a huge and immediate uptick in my affiliate earnings after joining Michelle’s course. I don’t buy 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. Before her course, we made a whopping $20/month with Passport America. Her course has taught us strategies for finding more affiliates, marketing them naturally, and getting more eyes to our affiliate posts. Using her strategies, our income has leaped from $20/month to over $2,500/month. I seriously can’t recommend her expertise enough!
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 seven 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 a unique perspective that companies wanted to hear. While our blog is all about RVing, most of these conversations were all on how to find and attract millennial talent, something I learned a lot about while working jobs across the country.
It was also relatively easy to ditch the RV for weekends at a time and fly to various parts of the country to speak.
How to Find Speaking Gigs
I’m actually not great at finding speaking gigs, mostly because I’ve never tried. 100% of our speaking gigs have come from people finding our blog or seeing us on television.
Back when we were on the CBS Evening News, a woman named Elaine heard our story. She texted a co-worker about our story, who found our blog and called us to book our first speaking gig. From that first gig speaking to 250+ HR reps, I gained inquiries from companies like UPS, Kohl’s, and Chick-fil-A. All of the sudden we went from zero experience as speakers to earning over $10,000 in a year from speaking gigs.
Through our blog, we’ve attracted organic leads to speak at conferences, RV rallies, and events.
If you want speaking to be a part of your income on the road, you’ll need a website, a speaking page, and a reel with clips of your experience.
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 turn her expertise in resume writing into a course. Instead of someone paying Jenny upwards of $800 for consulting, they can buy her resume writing course for $200.
Jenny’s course quickly did over five 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 paid course (yet!) but it’s something we’re working toward. Instead, we created a free course on how to travel America on $2k/month. It’s our main lead magnet for our website and a great way to show authority on any given subject.
If you do have expertise in a particular subject, creating courses can be a great way to make money while traveling, especially if you are already blogging and have an engaged audience.
Our newest stream of income in 2016 was 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 and 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. But there are companies like CreateSpace who will print your books on demand if you want a physical product without the inventory.
We are currently working on adding more digital products to our site (including a free How to Start RVing guide) and focusing on how we can better serve the RVing industry and other full-timers.
Those are just seven of the many ways we made money in the past three years on the road.
Update: Last year, we rented out our RV and made over $5,000 while we were visiting family for the holidays. You can read about our experience renting out our RV to supplement our income here.