By far one of the most common questions we see amongst the Vanlife community is
No doubt, living in your van while you travel across the country can be an amazing adventure. Not only do you get to experience new places, meet new people, and create new memories, you get to make your own decisions about how to live on a daily basis.
Rather than doing the same commute and performing the same job every day, you can manifest an authentic and creative lifestyle based on smart choices. While it might not be the answer for everyone, van life can be a great solution for a world gone mad.
As a proponent of van life, you probably have a deep desire for freedom, flexibility, and adventure. While people break into this exciting world for many reasons, more often than not, van life is a quest to break down pre-existing barriers and live a lifestyle that feels more authentic. Maybe you're sick and tired of doing a 9-5 job you don't even like?
Perhaps you want to explore the big wide world? Maybe you're looking for a sense of connection, a bigger picture, a frame for life that adapts and moves with you as you grow?
Life really can be an adventure, as long as you do your homework and invest your time and energy in the things that count.
The realities of van life
Despite its free-wheeling reputation, living a successful life on the road requires planning and discipline. While you can be much more flexible with your time and energy when you're on the road, money is still needed to pay for fuel, van repairs, and all the other expenses of modern life. The trick, and it can be difficult at first, is to make money in a way that doesn't waste your time or confine your sense of personal freedom.
Van life is about movement and flexibility, with conventional jobs not really an option. While you can get a temporary or seasonal 9-5 while you stay in one location, this is not possible if you want to travel on a regular basis. When you're living in a van, the vast majority of money-making opportunities require creative thinking. The freedom of van life comes with a number of responsibilities, with a proactive approach helping you to make money on your own terms.
The best time to be mobile
Despite the many challenges of the modern world, we truly live in amazing times. Globalization allows unprecedented access to goods and services from around the world, instant communication enables exciting new opportunities, and mobile technology gives us the power to change the world from any location. With nothing more than a laptop and a smartphone, we have more computing power at our disposal than ever before.
It's never been easier to make money on the road, with communication and connectivity driving key changes in workplace culture. Telecommuting is more popular than ever before, job sharing is on the rise, and both the gig and sharing economies continue to experience massive growth around the world. Businesses and bosses are increasingly open to the mobile workforce, and self-employment opportunities abound.
10 ways to make money on the road
From conventional seasonal jobs through to physical products and online services, let's take a look at the 10 best ways to make money while living in your van. We'll start with the most conventional – and lowest paying – jobs before listing some exciting new opportunities with almost limitless growth potential.
1. Telecommuting on the move
We'll start at the beginning, with telecommuting the easiest way to transition into full-time van life. Defined as a work arrangement where employees do not commute or travel to a central place of work, telecommuting may involve working from home, mobile work, or remote work. If you have the ability to perform your current work while traveling, then your transition into van life could not be easier.
It must be said, however, that telecommuting opportunities are highly dependent on the specifics of your current job and the attitude of your current employer. While the flexible workplace is getting more popular all the time, not everyone is in a position to work remotely while they travel. Telecommuting is much more possible with jobs that involve technology and data, including IT workers, financial analysts, accountants, writers, designers, and administrative assistants.
In fact, any job where you spend the majority of your time sitting at a computer is ideal for telecommuting. While few employers are open to full-time telecommuting work, the situation is slowly getting better all the time. If you think you could perform your job online, it may be worth talking to your boss and trying to organize a trial run. Telecommuting is a particularly viable option for highly skilled IT workers and part-time travelers who want to return to their current workplace.
2. Find seasonal work while you travel
Travelers have always financed their lifestyle by taking advantage of seasonal work. Whether it's picking fruit during the spring, working behind a bar during the ski season, or helping out on a farm over summer, doing different jobs as you move around can be a great way to travel. Seasonal work typically involves working hard for a few weeks or months before moving to a new location. While it's not exactly novel, this way of making money while you travel is time-tested and almost guaranteed to work.
There are lots of seasonal work opportunities in the United States, from hard physical labor and agriculture jobs to hospitality and tourism. While high-paying seasonal employment opportunities are few and far between, there is certainly no shortage of part-time and minimum wage jobs. Popular examples include food and package delivery driver jobs, retail jobs over the Christmas period, festival jobs, summer camp and ski resort jobs, and jobs picking fruit and working on farms.
3. Make money from your hobbies
Along with seasonal work, free-spirited travelers have always made money by selling physical products on the road. This can be a great way to turn your hobbies into a money source, especially if you have something truly unique to offer. From the beaches of California to the streets of Portland and summer festival season stalls, travelers love setting up shop wherever they are and selling their wares to wide-eyed locals. Along with physical products, you may be able to make money busking with music or performing arts.
When it comes to selling physical goods in the real world, there are lots of options available to you. Popular products include jewelry, artworks, pottery, hand-made clothing, and second-hand clothing. If you have a crafty hobby that you love doing already, it may be easier than you think to transform it into a small business. There are some challenges to overcome while traveling, however, so it's important to do your homework in order to avoid problems along the way.
The van lifestyle is not exactly known for its storage space, so it's important to choose a product line that is physically small and somewhat robust. Jewelry is extremely popular among travelers for good reason, with the small size and high prices of individual items making it ideal for people who are living in a van. While busking or selling physical products on the road can be incredibly flexible and rewarding, it's also important to stay on the right side of the law in order to avoid move-along orders and fines.
4. Sell stuff online
The first three ideas on this list were somewhat conventional, either taking advantage of your current job or living like travelers have done for centuries. The modern world has opened up a number of exciting new opportunities, however, with technology continuing to inspire new ways of working and creating value in the community. For example, if you want to sell physical products to a hungry market, you are no longer limited to market stalls and festival sites.
- Selling stuff online is easier than ever before, either through local marketplaces, global auction sites, or niche e-commerce stores. There are lots of options available to you, from selling belongings you don't use anymore through to drop shipping and setting up your own web-based retail store.
- Selling personal belongings is easy on sites like eBay and Craigslist, with some travelers buying unique items as they move around the country and selling them on for a profit.
- Drop shipping is another popular way to make money while living the van life. Drop shipping is a form of supply chain management where you move stock directly from wholesalers to customers. Drop shipping is perfect for the van lifestyle because it relies on marketing and distribution management and doesn't need any storage.
- Starting your own small online business is another great idea, with Etsy and other e-commerce websites allowing travelers to find and reach out to customers directly. The trick, like always, is to select a profitable niche, analyze your market, and optimize your online presence.
While selling physical products can be a great way to make money while you move around the country, it can also create a number of challenges. Operating an e-commerce website may free you from renting a shopfront, but you still have to create and distribute physical products. As you might imagine, this can be tough when you live in a van.
Operating a drop shipping business offers another layer of abstraction because you don't have to deal with physical products at all and can focus entirely on distribution and marketing. This can still be challenging, however, with ongoing communication needed between suppliers, customers, and distribution networks.
5. Start your own blog or social media channel
You can go even further, with the internet allowing you to make money without any physical products whatsoever. Starting your own blog or social media channel is a powerful way to reach out to people with information alone. While competition can be fierce, there is an entire world of consumers out there for you to attract. There are a few different ways to make money from blogs and social media content, with different people and products benefiting from different approaches.
- You can generate revenue from platform advertising, with Google, Instagram, and YouTube all offering their own income streams.
- You can generate revenue from direct business advertising or by becoming a social media influencer.
- You can generate revenue from selling your own creations, including electronic products and services.
- You can generate revenue through affiliate marketing, which is covered in detail below.
6. Become a freelance writer
Along with generating your own content on blogs or social media channels, you can also make money by selling content to other people. Becoming a professional writer is within the reach of most educated people, especially if you have a sound understanding of the English language and a creative imagination. From conventional journalism jobs through to copywriting and advertising, most websites and businesses around the world rely on fresh written content.
In many ways, freelance writing is the ideal job for people living the van life, with nothing needed other than a laptop computer and an internet connection. While finding clients initially can be tough, there are lots of private online job postings, and some freelance agencies to connect writers with clients. If you want to get started as a freelance writer, however, it's important to find markets and clients who value high-quality content.
If you want to become a writer, you may want to reach out to local businesses and forge relationships with real people. While you can make money by producing online content alone, traditional print jobs often pay more and real-world clients can be easier to deal with than online editors and support staff. At the end of the day, however, freelance writing is a great option for travelers who want to generate revenue from anywhere in the world. If you've ever wanted to create your own working hours and become your own boss, becoming a writer can be incredibly rewarding.
7. Become a freelance photographer, designer, or coder
Writing content is not the only way to freelance over the internet, with visual media creators, web designers, and programmers all in high demand. If you already have any of these skills, it may be possible to start your own business and start living the van life of your dreams. Just like writing, other freelance work can be carried out from any location with very little investment. While visual work may require a larger laptop screen or separate monitor, there is nothing you can't do from your van.
There are many websites dedicated to online job postings, and others dedicated to freelance photography and website design. Along with large global freelance websites such as Upwork and Fiverr, some disciplines are associated with their own dedicated services where people can find qualified and experienced workers.
From photography and logo design through to all aspects of website development, remote work opportunities abound in the tech sector. While most online jobs are highly competitive, work is fairly easy to come by if you have specific skills in data science, blockchain applications, cybersecurity, and specific languages such as Scala and Ruby.
8. Make your own digital products
If you enjoy writing, producing or sourcing visual content, and designing user interfaces or experiences, you may be interested in making your own digital products. Sometimes called an e-product, a digital product could be an e-book, a music file, or a software application, among other products. Internet radio, podcasts, and streaming services also fall into this category, with many websites also offering subscription services with unique content for subscribers.
While creating a good digital product is much harder than writing content or creating logos alone, there is also an opportunity to make much more money. The internet has a global reach, which means you can potentially sell your product to millions of people from all walks of life. For example, you can publish your own e-book and sell it on the Amazon Self-Publishing platform, produce your own music album and sell it on Bandcamp, or make an amazing mobile game and sell it at the App Store.
A successful e-product requires the combination of multiple skills and technologies, however, from market and niche analysis through to product creation and marketing. Creating a good product is not enough in isolation – you need to find your market and communicate your message to the community. While creating a valuable online product can be a tough task for just one person, there are opportunities for people to work together online and pool their resources.
9. Combine your skills with internet marketing
Internet marketing is the key to online success because it creates a bridge between quality content and real-world value. Whether you want to market your skills as a freelance writer, advertise your web design services, or sell your digital products to the world, value is only created if people hear your call and decide to act in response to your message.
While the internet has opened up more opportunities than ever before, limitless global reach also comes with immense challenges. The sheer size of the global market can be a huge hurdle to overcome, with marketing needed to promote differentiation and overcome competition. If you want to travel around the country in your van and make money as you go, internet marketing is the most valuable skill you can develop.
Instead of relying on a boss to tell you what to do, or depending on other people to sell your products, you can learn to analyze people, discover niches, and meet real needs in the community. Once you truly master the art of marketing, you can use it to sell a wide range of products and services online.
10. Focus and scale your efforts with affiliate marketing
Making money while living in a van can be challenging, to say the least. While all of the solutions listed above will work if you put the effort in, they each have serious hurdles that need to be addressed. Telecommuting is only an option for the select few. Seasonal work is often underpaid and insecure. Selling physical products, either online or in the real world, requires storage, distribution, and serious investment capital. Innovative new ways of living require smart solutions and creative problem-solving.
The real advantages of online work only become apparent when you start dealing with data and information instead of physicality. Starting your own blog or becoming a freelancer opens you up to an entire world of new opportunities, with nothing more than a laptop and internet connection required to get you started.
This way of working can also be limited, however, with standard pay rates offered and no ability to scale up and create real passive income. While making your own digital products is better in this regard, going down this route can be extremely difficult for anyone, especially when you're living in a van. Online marketing is the key, and the best thing of all – you don't even need to create your own products to get started.
Affiliate marketing allows you to benefit through the promotion of products created by other people. As a method of performance-based marketing, you are rewarded for each visitor or customer you send someone's way. The power of affiliate marketing is mind-boggling, with all of your efforts focused on reaching out to the consumer, and most of this work able to be scaled and automated over time.
The power of affiliate marketing lies in its simplicity. Once you discover a niche product you believe in, you simply have to reach out and create a message that resonates with a certain market segment. Once you have some success, you can scale and refine your efforts by making clever marketing decisions instead of doing endless hard work. By putting this message in front of the right people at the right times, you can truly benefit from the global reach of the internet.
Van life is about freedom, authenticity, and creative new solutions instead of tired old habits. Affiliate marketing and other online work opportunities allow you to take advantage of this freedom and live the best possible life you can.
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