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As we continue to share our vision for our campground, today I want to share something that sounds especially basic—how we plan to make money—and some of our more out-there ideas to turn our campground into a profitable business. Because while finding campsites these days may be difficult from a camper’s perspective, there are a lot of struggling campgrounds out there.
And we have one idea as to why!
When Heath and I started RVing full-time in 2014, we earned $1,000/month from a sponsor to write blogs and film a documentary…
Which didn’t even cover our gas expenses for our first month on the road.
(Gas from Texas to California cost us $1,639.98 in case you were wondering.)
Pretty quickly, we started to add more income streams so we could achieve our goal of visiting all 50 states in a year without going broke. We picked up one freelance writing gig (which paid a whopping $25 per blog post) and then another. Then Heath landed his first consulting gig and then our first video client.
It wasn’t until we had half a dozen different income streams that we finally started to break even while traveling.
This taught us a big lesson in business early on: If you want to stay in business, you need to diversify your income.
Some routes were active, some passive. Some on retainer month after month and some one-off payments. It took six months and six different income streams to hit that break-even mark. Finding multiple income streams was the only way that continuing full-time travel became possible and sustainable for us.
Fast forward to RVing in Italy in 2019 and we had 41 different income streams set up so our business would keep operating while we stuffed our faces with gelato and toured the Colosseum. I would check in on things for a couple of hours each week, but for the most part, our business was automated and running without me.
My friend Kelsey is a master at this. She has over 100 products that print on demand with Amazon. She has 500+ digital products that she sells on Etsy. She has no inventory, little customer support, and 600+ ways that she can make money on any given day. 😱 All she has to do is create the products and leverage Etsy and Amazon’s marketplaces to sell and ship them while she learns how to fly an airplane.
It’s RV entrepreneurship at its finest, really.
When one product doesn’t sell, no worries. There are hundreds of other products that can.
This is the beauty of running an online business. You can spin up new income streams at any time. Write an ebook. Create a course. Make digital downloads. Find new affiliates. Start offering coaching. Create sponsorship opportunities.
We’re building a campground.
You don’t pull up to a campground and book a campsite for the night + a digital download bundle full of ebooks, courses, and printables.
That would be unexpected and weird when all you’re looking for is some hookups.
Diversifying at our campground isn’t as clean cut as it is with our current businesses.
I’ve looked at a lot of profit and loss statements from campgrounds over the past few years as we shopped for our own property. A good portion of them are losing money or barely breaking even.
Some of this, we learned from campground owners, is because they’ve viewed the campground as a semi-retirement lifestyle where they work the property and make their money when they sell, assuming property values are good. And while we of course want our campground to end up being a great real estate investment, we want our campground business itself to make money each year too.
A big reason so many campgrounds aren’t doing better than breaking even is that they only have one income stream: campsites.
You come, you pay for your site, you leave.
There’s little else offered to bring in money. Generally, diversifying income at a campground looks like this:
- Vending Machines🥤
- Laundry 🧺
- Firewood 🪵
- Camp Store 🌭
- Dump Station 💩
I actually heard from one camp owner that he makes more money on laundry than camping fees because he’s the only laundromat in his town! That blows my mind.
These add-ons can boost monthly revenue by a few hundred bucks a month depending on the park (although I still haven’t seen a park where their camp store isn’t losing money every year) and are commonly expected at most RV parks.
They aren’t bad ideas. But they don’t make a huge difference on the bottom line.
Which begs the question, how can Heath and I diversify our campground income beyond campsites?
We have a few ideas, like:
- Bike rentals since we are connected to 70+ miles of biking trails.
- Surfboard rentals because, believe it or not, Montrose is a major river surfing destination. Who would’ve thought?!
- Event venue for rallies, RV conferences, and owner meetups.
- Coworking space for locals.
- Recording studio for podcasters and Youtubers.
- And, if Heath gets his way, a rooftop bar and a coffee shop.
Some of these options would require more overhead and staffing. Some could be automated. One would require paying $15,000 for an outdoor staircase that will be “100% worth it babe because when have you ever been to a campground with a rooftop deck with views of the mountains? The campsites will sell themselves with a view like that.”
It’s not a bad idea Heath, I’m just pointing out that that’s a lot of money just for the staircase to the roof. 💸
We don’t know which of these income streams will work out until we try them next year, but we do have a list of options, plans for how to execute on them, and a Pinterest board with “rooftop patio ideas”.
Plus we know from the past seven years that the only way we’ve been able to travel and see so much of the world is because we took the time to strategically set up a business with multiple income streams. A lesson that, if you’re looking to run your own business while you RV across the country, is worth learning early.
Thank you for following along on this journey with us.
I don’t know what will work out with our park. But one thing I love about having a blog and sharing these stories with you is that I can share our initial excitement over our grand ideas and then share how they marvelously failed or surprised us by being a great success.
Because that’s just how life goes.
I’ll keep you posted on this rooftop bar idea. Heath is super attached.