Earn Money While Traveling? No way!
Have you ever dreamed about the possibilities of making a living while exploring the country? Does the idea of having money deposited to your bank account while you’re sipping margaritas on a beach seem unreal? Well, this all could come true with A LOT of hard work. Earning money while traveling is not easy. With some serious effort, you could afford to travel full-time in your van or RV.
Today, I want to share with you 10 ways you can earn money while you travel the country in your Van or RV. Most of these income streams will require some upfront work before you can start earning any money. With the others, you might be able to earn some cash immediately.
Back in 2012, I had one online income stream, which failed miserably. I thought I was all set to travel the country for a few years, but things change and you need to be ready to adapt. Earning money on the road will most likely require more than one source of income. You need to have a Plan B if/when Plan A fails. Back then, I didn’t have that Plan B, but now, I have a Plan A, B, C, D, E…etc.
Below is a list of 10 ways to make money while traveling in your Van or RV.
# 1 – Telecommute
If you already have a job where you use your computer to handle your responsibilities, then start planting the seed with your boss that you could easily do this work from home. Try to initiate some work from home Fridays or Mondays. Get the boss used to the idea.
When you take vacations, take your laptop with you and make sure you put in some work while on the beach. This way, the boss sees that you are a responsible telecommuting employee when away from the office. Most office jobs can be handled from a laptop via email, Test messages, conference calls, Skype or over the phone. You can even connect to WiFi from inside your van or RV in the parking lot of stores, coffee shops and restaurants.
I listed Telecommute first because it is probably the easiest and quickest way to earn money while traveling. You will need a laptop, cellphone and access to internet, but if you can convince your boss, he might allow you to hit the road immediately. While you are continuing with your job through telecommuting, you can also start to work on some of the other income streams I have listed below. Eventually, you could cut back on the time you invest into your job or cut it out completely.
# 2 – Start a Blog
If you enjoy writing and have some technical know-how, then blogging could be very lucrative. It does, however, take time to build a successful blog and to gain traction in the search engines. If you consistently add posts to your blog, you will see traffic increase over time. This could be 6 months to a year, so don’t expect a blog to make you money anytime soon. Blogging would work well with Telecommuting. You could be building your blog while you still have one foot in the door back at the office.
A blog is all about building traffic (visitors) to your site (blog) and writing posts about interesting topics. You really want to build a blog around a topic you are actually interested in, so you can continually add content without much effort.
How does a Blog earn Money? Let’s say you wanted to start a Yoga blog. You write 50-100 posts over the course of a year or two and your traffic builds. You’re getting lots of comments and your audience seems to enjoy your work. They see you as an authority in the Yoga industry. At this point, you can earn from your blog in a number of ways:
- Advertising (Adsense)
- Affiliate Marketing (Amazon Product suggestions)
- eBook (Write an eBook about your passion)
- Create your own line of products
- Provide Services – Teach your Passion
# 3 – eBooks – Digital Media
Writing eBooks goes well with Blogging. If you already enjoy writing for your blog, then making eBooks should be a breeze. Using the example above in the blogging section, let’s continue with the idea that you are starting a Yoga blog. After building the blog and gaining an audience that trusts you and believes that you know Yoga, it might be time to create your first digital product. If promoted properly, an eBook can bring in $100s or even $1000s in a matter of hours.
In it’s simplest form, you can write an eBook using a word-processor like Microsoft Word and sell it in Word format or convert it to a PDF file. Using the Yoga example, you could write the eBook on how Yoga helps with your overall health. You could include a Yoga routine and maybe even have some nutrition info. Once the book is complete and proofread, you can make it available for sale.
To sell digital products, you can either sell them directly from your website or you can provide a link where your visitors can buy the eBook from a site like Gumroad.
If you really enjoy writing eBooks, then I would suggest selling them on Amazon Kindle Publishing which will open your eBook up to a HUGE online audience. Your blog may bring in a few 1000 visitors a month, but Amazon will get millions of eyeballs on your eBooks.
I wrote one eBook back in 2012. I first listed it on my website, which was a new site with no traffic at the time, and my book didn’t sell at $19.95. Later, I listed the book on Amazon at $2.99 and started making $80-$100 a month royalties on that one book. That book stayed up on Amazon for 3 years, before I discontinued/unpublished it. Imagine if you wrote 20 eBooks. 🙂
# 4 – Affiliate Marketing (Amazon Associates)
Another income stream that would run well along side a blog is Affiliate Marketing. Once again, we’ll use the Yoga example from above. So, you have this Yoga blog humming along and your audience is growing. They are constantly asking you “what mat do you use?” and “what are your favorite accessories?”. To answer their questions, you make a page on your site showing your suggested accessories. The pictures and text of these accessories link to a website which sells these products. When your blog visitor clicks one of the links, their browser takes them to the merchant’s site. The links you provide are affiliate links, so if the customer buys a product, you get a small commission on the sale for directing the customer to the merchant.
I have been using Affiliate links for years. My favorite Affiliate program is the Amazon Associates Program, but there are many, many others. These programs can be used on your blog or social media to help you earn money while traveling.
The Amazon Associates Program doesn’t pay the best, but there are some key benefits to using their program:
- The Affiliate link adds a 24 hr cookie to the visitor’s computer.
- During the 24 hour period, anything they put in their cart and buy, you earn a commission on that purchase.
- The more items you sell, the higher your commission goes.
- No cost to Join Amazon Associates Program.
- You can use your own Amazon buying account to join.
- Create multiple tracking ids to track individual items or track sales from a variety of social media sites like: Facebook, YouTube or your own website.
How Does Amazon Associates Pay?
The Amazon Associates program pays by direct deposit to your bank account once a month and usually on about the 27th – 29th. Payments are two months behind, so I just received my June 2016 affiliate payment on August 29th, 2016. Amazon Associates will pay a minimum of $10, so your account needs to be up to at least $10 before they process a payment.
# 5 – YouTube
YouTube is where many people start when they dream of building an online travel income. It is believed that if you start posting videos, you will all of a sudden make enough money to pay for your travel expenses. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In the beginning, you will make very little money from your YouTube channel. It’s so bad, many video creators quit in the first few months. The time spent vs money earned is very lopsided. After saying this, don’t let me discourage you from trying. You may be a natural on camera.
Starting a YouTube Channel
Anyone with a camera and an email address can start a YouTube channel. It’s that simple. The question is, can make good enough videos to attract and hold an audience? Don’t worry about your first few months, just get into the practice of making videos. Learn how to use your camera, practice editing videos and brainstorm ideas for upcoming videos. As your channel evolves and you figure out what you want to do with your YouTube channel, you can always change the channel name and even delete your first few rookie videos.
Important Things to Think About When Making Videos
- Good Lighting – Make sure you can be seen
- Great Audio – Nothing irritates a video watcher more than bad audio
- Use an HD camera or cellphone – viewers like to see good video quality
- Keep the Uhs, Umms and Likes to an absolute minimum
- If you’re nervous, have an outline prepared to help with the flow of the video
- Be upbeat, if it fits your channel voice
YouTube is a popular platform for people trying to earn money while traveling. There are many Vandwellers than I have followed on YouTube who took off and expected to make a living with their channel, only to find out that $30 to $50 a month wouldn’t cut it.
How Do You Make Money on YouTube?
- Adsense (3 types of ads displayed on videos + on-page ads)
- Amazon Affiliate links to products talked about in videos
- Sell your own products – eBooks, T-shirts, stickers..etc.
- Re-Direct YouTube traffic to your blog where you might have a product for sale
- Patreon – A crowdfunding program where your patreons give you money monthly for perks
Whatever you do, don’t depend on YouTube to support your travel plans, especially not in the beginning.
To get an idea of what current YouTubers are earning, check out this site and put in their YouTube name: Socialblade.com
One of the largest channels I know of in the Van/RV Travel niche is Eric’s. I would mention his channel name, but he has it trademarked. LOL! He currently has 604 videos, 84,000 subscribers and over 20 million video views. SocialBlade estimates that he earns between $222 and $3,600 a month. I know this is a wide range, but based on my channel and other YouTubers I have talked with, his number is probably over the $3,600 a month.
For comparison, lets look a my channel. I have 74 videos, 221,000 video views and 2,900 subscribers. It shows my earnings to be somewhere between $4 – $64 a month. I can verify, that mine is on the higher side, but I don’t make videos too often.
What do you need to do to succeed on YouTube?
- Create and Upload videos consistently
- Try to have good Audio and Video quality
- Interact with your subscribers
- Collaborate with other YouTubers in your niche
- Comment and add value on other YouTube channels in your niche
# 6 – Freelance Work
If at your last job, you learned a valuable skill, then you have a Freelance opportunity to earn money while traveling. Some of the best Freelance jobs are computer based jobs like Graphic Design, Web Design, App Developer, Search Engine Optimization and more. Personally, I was looking for online work where I didn’t have to deal with clients, but maybe you dig that type of work.
If you are comfortable learning new skills, you could easily take one or many online course to build your knowledge of the many Freelance opportunities available to online workers. You can really learn a lot for free watching YouTube videos, but I would suggest going to Udemy.com and take some of their courses on the topics you want to learn.
Sites Where You Can Sell Your Freelance Services:
- UpWork – Post the services you provide
- Freelancer – Post the services you provide
- Fiverr – Like the others, but normally less professional, so it could be a good place to start if you’re new.
- Guru – Same as the others
- Indeed – You could put up a resume for Freelance work on all the job sites
- Your own website
- Facebook – Let your inner circle know the services your provide
Serious about Freelancing? Then create a brand and build website.
If doing $5 gigs on Fiverr seems well below your pay grade, then perhaps you should think about creating a brand around your freelancing business and build a professional website. The domain name could be related to the freelancing niche you choose or you could use your name as the website name which would act like on online resume. This would allow you to pivot in another direction easily, if you get bored and want to try another type of freelancing.
# 7 – Workamping
Workcamping has become very popular in the Vandwelling and RV worlds. Workamping is typically part-time or full-time work at amusement parks, retail shops, fulfillment centers, restaurants, lodges, water parks, state and county parks and more. These jobs are normally at or slightly above minimum wage and you typically perform general labor.
You may be wondering why would someone want to be a Workamper at such a low wage? The low wage is partially offset by some of the Workamping locations offering a free campsite or RV site for the duration of their Workamping stay. If they work a 60 day job and the site normally charges $20/night (but they get it for free), then they just saved $600 a month in living expenses.
The lure of the Workamping jobs is to work hard for a month or two or three to save up money, while living in a free spot. When they leave the job, they should have built up enough money in their bank accounts to allow them to travel for a month or two before starting the next workamping gig.
The Popular Workamping Locations:
- Amazon Camperforce – Work at an Amazon Fulfillment Center during the holiday rush.
- Sugar Beet Harvest – 12 hour days harvesting Sugar beets – Pay is good.
- Nation Park Service – Work at Yellowstone and explore on your days off.
The downside of workamping is that it’s an actual job. You have to turn in a resume, apply for the job, show up for an interview or have a Skype interview. Did I mention you have a boss. Yuk!! But, if you don’t have an online business generating income, it’s a great way to get your feet wet, while traveling the country, at a low risk.
Where can you find Workamping jobs?
- Workers on Wheels
- Working Couples
- Also check State and National Parks
# 8 – eBay – Selling items online
Running an eBay business is a great starter business for learning eCommerce. It is better suited for a person who is stationary and has large amounts of storage, but eBay can be adapted to fit the traveling lifestyle. Most people know what eBay is, but real quick, let me explain.
eBay is an eCommerce marketplace that brings buyers and sellers together. You, as the seller, list your items on eBay for sale and buyers search for things they are interested in buying. When the buyer finds an item, they can purchase the item using PayPal (a money transfer service). It is then your responsibility to ship that item to the buyer.
I have successfully run an eBay business for the past 3 years. My eBay business allowed me to pay cash for my van, it has helped pay for the camper build and it continues to pay for my day to day bills. If you are stationary and have storage, eBay can be a very lucrative business.
I am currently scaling back my eBay business because I can’t run it at the current size from the road. I believe eBay can still be a great way to earn money while traveling if you focus on smaller items to resell. On my eBay store, I mostly sell new & used clothing. These products are easy to find in my area for cheap and I can usually get back 10X my investment or more. A clothing item I find here might be hard to find in other parts of the country and the world for that matter. eBay puts my small clothing shop in front of a huge buying audience. I may buy a shirt here for a $1 but someone on the east coast might be willing to pay me $15 or $20 for that shirt.
The cool thing about being a full-time traveler is you get to go to parts of the country where others may never visit. You may find an overabundance of an item on the East coast where the price is low, but the item would be a rare find on the West coast. This is where you can come in and buy the product at a low price, then sell high to people looking for the item on eBay. Finding small, easy to pack and store items would be the way to prosper with an eBay business while traveling.
What Small Items Could You Sell From the Road?
- Video Games (Rare, Retro & Popular)
- Handheld Video Games (Nintendo DS, Sony Vita)
- Small Electronics (Used Smartphones, Cameras, Accessories)
- Watches (Small and easily stored)
- Ties (You could fit 100 ties in a small tub)
- Shirts (Have a small inventory – Brand: Robert Graham)
- Research eBay and find the 100s of other small items to sell
I’ve been running my eBay business as a stationary business for the past 3 years. I have my sourcing spots where I know I can find products to list on my eBay store, but this is boring. It’s the same thing week after week, but I can’t complain because it pays the bills. It would be fun, to be out on the road spontaneously finding random things while traveling. Mixing travel with work.
Where to Look for Items to Sell on eBay
- Thrift Stores
- Garage Sales, tag sales, moving sales
- Facebook Sales
- Pawn Shops
- Flea Markets, swap meets
- Discount Stores
Besides eBay, there are many smartphone apps where you can sell your stuff while out on the road like Craigslist, OfferUp, Mercari, 5Miles and many more.
# 9 – Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)
Amazon is a HUGE marketplace where you can buy both new and used items. Many people don’t know this, but you can also sell your own items on Amazon.com through a program called Amazon FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon. With this program, you list your items on Amazon, pack and ship them to one of Amazon’s warehouses, then Amazon receives your shipment, checks it in and makes your items available for sale on Amazon. When an item sells, Amazon re-packs it, ships it, handles customer service and pays you for your portion of the sale.
The beauty of this program is that Amazon becomes your storage area, so you don’t need to be tied down to a house or an apartment with a large inventory, like eBay. Your goal with this business would be to pack your items to ship to Amazon as your free space in your van or RV is used up. How often you ship to Amazon would depend on how much product you buy.
You could essentially, travel the country buying items at reduced prices, ship them into Amazon and keep traveling while Amazon handles the rest. I have personally met a few people in my eCommerce/Reselling group who are doing just that, but they stay in hotels every night. Imagine running this type of business without the nightly hotel expense. Vandwellers and RVers can make it happen. 🙂
How Do You Know What to Sell?
You’re probably thinking this is great, but how do you know what you can sell on Amazon? To run an FBA business, you WILL need to have a smartphone with a data plan. The first thing you should do is download the Amazon Seller App for iPhone or Android. This app allows you to scan bar codes on products to determine what price the items are currently selling for on Amazon.
With this app, you scan a bar code, enter your buy price and from there, Amazon shows you what your estimated profit could be. The profit would be based on your buy price plus the costs of shipping to Amazon, Amazon storing and packing expenses subtracted from the current lowest FBA selling price.
Below is an example of using the Amazon Seller app. I bought this PlayStation 1 game at a Goodwill for $1 and flipped it on Amazon for about $50. This screen shows the rank in Video games, the reviews which happen to be great and the expected profit:
Below is another screenshot on the Amazon Seller app showing the breakdown of this Clock Tower PS1 game and how much I will profit:
This all may be a little confusing, so the best thing to do would be to download the free Amazon Seller app and start scanning. The more you use the app, the easier it gets to understand the numbers. You can find items to scan everywhere:
Where do you find product to ship into Amazon FBA?
- Garage Sales
- Thrift Stores
- Flea Markets
- Pawn Shops
- Big Box Stores
- Liquidation Stores
- Online Liquidation
- Resell Apps like OfferUp
When you’re first starting out, thrift stores are a great place to get an understanding of the Amazon Seller app with very little pressure from the employees. A garage sale, on the other hand, would be an awkward place scan things while the seller is hovering over you. The same applies to flea markets and pawn shops. You can scan at these locations, but have a story prepared like – I’m comparing prices or I’m taking a picture to see if my husband/wife wants this. In a thrift store, the workers are typically running the registers or stocking shelves and don’t care what you’re doing. So, get the app and practice using it in thrift stores.
There is so much more to say about FBA, but I will save that for a future post.
#10 – Merch by Amazon (MbA)
Merch by Amazon is where I have been spending most of my time during July and August. This program has been around now for about a year and I am just now dedicating time to this business. Shame on me. 🙁 Merch by Amazon is currently invitation only. You apply for an invitation, then wait about 3-6 months to be accepted. It only takes seconds to apply for an invitation. Might as well put your name in there.
Merch stands for Merchandise. Amazon is now in the Print on Demand (POD) business where they are printing designs to T-shirts and shipping them to buyers. As a MbA account holder, I am allowed to upload my own graphic designs to Amazon.com where Amazon will review my designs and approve or reject them. If approved, my design gets a listing page on Amazon where it becomes available for sale.
When one of my T-shirts sells, Amazon will print it, pack it, ship it to the customer, handle customer service and pay me a royalty for the sale of the shirt. This business requires Zero investment to run, but I do pay a monthly fee to use Adobe Illustrator to make my designs. You could very easily use a free program like Gimp or Paint.net.
This business is an incredible opportunity for people wanting to earn money while traveling. All you need is a graphics program, a laptop, internet access, some creative skills and you’re in business.
Here is an example of one of my shirts I created in the Van Life, Living in a Van, Vandwelling niche:
You can see all my Van related shirts here on Amazon: Van Life Rules! T-Shirts
The program starts you off with 25 design slots. You can create and upload 25 designs to Amazon. Once you sell 25 shirts in any order from any of your designs, Amazon will upgrade you to the next tier which is 100 design slots. As you sell more, your account will continue to tier up to 500, then 1000, then 2000 and so on.
For me, most of July was spent training myself to use both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on them, but Illustrator has so many tricks to learn. My 1st Merch shirt was uploaded on 8/7/16 and then I uploaded my 2nd and 3rd shirts two days later. The next day couple days, I sold 7 shirts. It was super exciting getting those first sales in this new business.
This business looks to be a numbers game. The more shirts you have uploaded to Amazon, the more chances you have to make a sale. Jumping on trends quickly is also a good way to make some quick cash. Also, preparing early for upcoming events like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are great ways to get some sales.
Below is a detailed walk-through of uploading a design to Merch by Amazon – video by Chris Green.
This business is still very new to me and I’m still learning. Expect to see more about Merch by Amazon on my site in future posts.
Bonus: Two More Ways to Earn Money
I’m not going into detail with these two, but they came to me as I was building this post.
Bonus # 1 – Etsy
If you are the creative type, you could make things like bracelets or paintings to sell on Etsy.com.
Bonus # 2 – Sell Photography
While you’re out traveling and exploring all the cool places, you might as well be snapping photos to sell on varies photo-sharing platforms. Maybe you are in Yellowstone and spot a Bear in the wild and get a good photo with some beautiful scenery. That would probably sell well. There are many sites where you can sell your photos.
Thank You for Making it this Far
Thank you for reading this EXTREMELY long post (over 5000 words). It took 3 days, off and on, to complete. I hope it helps others get an idea of how they can earn money while traveling. Personally I am earning an income from 7 of these 10 ways to earn money. I do not Telecommute, have not Workamped yet and I don’t currently do any Freelancing. I do, however, feel like I have some skills to do Freelancing if needed.
Please leave comments below and tell us how you make money on the road. Do you already earn money from any of these listed? Thanks!