This post may not be what you were expecting from the title, so let me explain right up front. One of my YouTube viewers asked how to make money on the road and I said, “I can only tell you how I make money on the road.”
What I do for cash when traveling is specialized and unlikely to work for other people. You can see what I mean in the video, where I offer my thoughts on other ways to earn money such as YouTube, Amazon’s Affiliate Program, and working at the National Parks, or a campground. Remember, if you get bored, I warned you. But there IS a cat video if you make it to the end!
After the video (or more likely, after you get bored of the video) come back and read the updates I’ve made, below the video. If you are searching for ways that YOU can make money on the road, you’ll find some useful things there.
How YOU might earn some money while living on the road
I added this section after I made the video because I realize that a lot of people who ask the question of “how I make money on the road” are actually asking how THEY can make money on the road. If you don’t already have a source of income or are interested in making money while you travel the US in your van, I’m going to give you some good links to start with. I’ll also give you my thoughts on each. Hopefully, this list will save you some time scouring the internet to find legitimate information. Some of the links will benefit people who want to work a conventional job in an interesting place and others are better for the digital nomad who can perform services online. They don’t fit my lifestyle because I have other sources of income. But, if I was 21 again…
Work for Nomads
Cool Works seems to be the most popular (and authentic) way to find jobs in interesting places. They have listings for State and National Parks and seem to specialize in seasonal work, all of which would be great for someone looking to stay in one place for a little while. You can also find very remote spots the parks (um, no internet) if you need a place to be alone or get away from a tough situation.
Chances are good that if you have the skills to freelance on Upwork, you’ve already heard of them. But in case you haven’t…
Let’s say you are an engineer, or an account, or maybe a writer. If your skill is location independent, you can hire out your freelancing services on Upwork. I’ve actually hired engineers to make Autocad drawings for me from Upwork. I also had my auto parts business website designed by a Serbian genius I hired through Upwork. It was a good experience, but I’ve never tried hiring myself out there. Of course, when you use a service like this, they keep a bit of your earnings and that is how THEY earn money.
This is the portal to upload your resume and start searching for jobs in the US government. Working for the government sounds like hell to me, but then again, the national parks are part of the government, so…
God knows they have a lot of people “working” for them and there are jobs in every state. These do seem to be mostly “permanent” jobs, but I found a number of seasonal positions.
Dynamite is a new player, but they focus heavily on working remotely and have, well, a “dynamite” interface! It’s easy to tell at a glance if the jobs are remote because they say “anywhere” right in the title. There are also a number of filters on the left side of the page, which make it easy to narrow things down. At the time of this writing they had about 100 open positions, so not quite as many as the other sites. However, the descriptions of both the responsibilities and the companies are very detailed. I found a tech writing job and wrote some sales copy for them; an easy $200 for a couple hours of work.
We Work Remotely
Are you a software engineer? Then you have my sympathy (ha!). We work remotely has a lot of listings for temporary jobs in the software industry, but it’s much more than that. If you have skills in Marketing, Customer Support, Design, Business Management, or Copywriting, then We Work Remotely is worth a closer look. Anyone listing a job has to pay $299 a month, so I’d expect these jobs to be authentic. This site also lists overseas employers, which can be a plus if you are venturing beyond North America. I plan to actually try this site, so watch for a future article on the subject.
Why does the name of this remind me of Spongebob?
How would you like to be a virtual assistant to someone? If you have access to a fast internet connection (a big challenge when working from the road), Fancy Hands may be a good fit. Here’s how it works. Let’s say that I’m flying into town for an important business meeting. In fact, I’m so important that I can’t take the time to make my own dinner reservation or book a room. I can use Fancy Hands to put someone else on the task. Actually, that’s a bit of a snarky summary of what you can do with this service. It really excels when the user has a task that there is no app or easy solution for. I think this would be a fun job for the right person and could lead to a more permanent position. Check out their job description at:
The “flex” in Flex Jobs comes from their targeting of professional jobs that have “flexible” hours or working locations. There are also a lot of temporary jobs and some seasonal work. There is a button for the most recently added jobs and the site looks like it is kept up to date. The downside is that there are listings that are a few months old and when I applied for some (as an experiment) the older listings were sometimes filled already. But, it’s definitely worth a look. Here’s a tip: even though the search box says “search jobs” you can put in a location and it will search the area. I tried searching “Santa Ana, CA” and it came up with 22 jobs, including one in adjacent Irvine, CA. Strangely it also lists “full time telecommute” jobs, which you would think are location independent. Anyway, you can find anything from management positions to camp counselor spots.
The nice thing about Craigslist is that you can search just about any metro area or region, which fits with the nomadic lifestyle. I actually found a bunch of campground jobs (some with free sites) after a 10-minute search. There are a lot of other jobs on there and I’m not just talking about prostitution and drug-dealing. It wouldn’t be my first stop, but Craigslist DOES have jobs if you don’t mind sorting through all the garbage. The categories are fairly useless, but with a little patience, you can find things. Just use the same caution you would use with ANY Craigslist transaction.
This last one isn’t a website (but maybe it should be), it’s more of a strategy. At some campgrounds, you can exchange work for a free campsite. Or, you can offer to write a review for a discount. Unfortunately, I prefer to stay in a national forest if I’m not on free BLM land, so this doesn’t really apply to me. However, if you need full hookups, a conventional campground may fit your travel preference. If you want to work seasonally for a paycheck AND/OR free campsite, try contacting campgrounds directly. Call them up, or go to the website. Here is an example of one place that I’ve stayed at which has cool facilities and seems to have happy employees. The pay isn’t great, but the location is awesome!
Work Philosophy and Work Ethic
I’ve worked for myself for 20 years, sometimes completely on my own and sometimes working for another company at the same time. If your income is not steady, I’ll offer one piece of advice:
Work whenever you can!
Don’t wait until money is critically low to find a source of income. Think of it as a battery that you need to keep topped up; one which “powers” your travel. In addition to my sources of income in the video, I’ve also helped people with vehicle electrics and solar at some of the van gatherings and RTR (the Rubber Tramp Rendevous). My background in electronics comes in handy to help people with some of the technical aspects of van dwelling. Your background can serve you as well. Even if you don’t have a formal education, there are things you can do, that others can’t, or won’t. Brainstorm it and keep an open mind….just don’t do anything you’ll regret the next morning!
Other ways to make money as a nomad…maybe.
I’ve been experimenting. I’ve done some corporate marketing in the past, but I’m not an internet marketer…nor do I intend to be. I made this website to show my kids how easily and inexpensively they could travel the country. However, it’s not lost on me that there are a LOT of travel bloggers that make a full-time income off of their blogs (or claim to). They use affiliate links, YouTube, or just plain beg for Patreon sponsorship. I think the majority of them are not making what I would consider a “full-time” income (and I can’t say what that is, without sounding like a tool), but they are making SOMETHING I’m sure. Then there are a few who make a $5,000-$10,000 a month and I DO consider THAT to be a full-time income. So obviously, it’s possible but I don’t think it’s as easy as some people would lead you to believe. A lot of “internet marketing” is just people that are offering marketing tools and courses to teach YOU how to make money off of a blog, rather than doing it themselves. Well, I suppose that’s one way to make money at it, but I’m thinking that this is not what most people have in mind.
Back to the experiment. I’ve looked into some of the popular methods people cite for earning travel income and have even tried some of them. I’ve decided to write a separate article, on these “make money while traveling” schemes, which you can read in this post. If you are new to the concept of “making money online” this overview may save you some time. It deals with how other people are making money off their travel blogs. However, if you’ve already explored the topic, it’s quite likely that you’ll know more about it then me! I think some of these methods are feasible, but the 80/20 rule applies. 20% of people will be REALLY good at generating passive income, but the majority of us will struggle. So, as an alternative, may I suggest…
Wait, Maybe You Already Have a Portable Job!
I know, your boss is an asshole and will NEVER go for this–so was mine, but then I convinced him to let me spend the winter in FL! OK, I guess he wasn’t that bad, but he did need some convincing…
Do you primarily work from a desk or phone? Maybe you can convince your boss to let you work from “home”. We don’t need to tell her that your “home” is a van in a national forest (I literally attended a conference call with Ford Motor Company, from the Ottawa National Forest two weeks ago). Here’s a step-by-step plan to convert your job from “on-site”, to “from-home”.
- Ask. Ask if they would mind if you worked from home. They might say YES! But they probably won’t, so….step 2
- Call in sick on a Tuesday. Call in sick, with a plan! I’m sorry if this sounds dishonest, but the ends justify the means here. Let some work stack up the week before and on Monday as well. Nothing critical, just stuff that will be due in a few weeks. On your sick day, you are going to get up at your normal time and start working. Answer emails first, so everyone knows you are working. Important: shoot a question to your boss, 30 min after you call in. Now, work! Work like you have to finish EVERYTHING for vacation! Work until everyone has left for the day.
- Go to work on Wednesday and say you are feeling better. If anyone comments on your working while you were sick, just say, “there were some important things I felt I had to do, but I’m amazed at how much I got done, even while sick.”
- Thursday, go see the boss. He may comment but even if he/she doesn’t, mention that even while sick you were AMAZED at how much you could get done with extra time at the beginning and end of the day. Ask if you can try a couple Fridays from home–just a couple. No? How about just next Friday?
- Repeat your efforts and then ask about Mondays from home.
- At this point, it should be obvious that you get more done from home. Mention that you need to take time off to visit a relative, but MAYBE it would be OK to work from their house…you are now on your way to working your job from the beach, but remember, you still need to WORK even if it’s from a beautiful location. At least until you get some form of passive income going.
If you found any of this interesting, you might want to bookmark the page. I’ll be updating it as I learn things, so it can serve as a reference page to others. If you’ve got some suggestions, find me on Facebook (@odysseycamper). I don’t want to put my personal email here because of spammers and trolls, but I WILL try to answer any questions that you have.
Darren at Odyssey Camper