Figuring out how to make money while traveling or living on the road is the number one hurdle for most people interested in van life. It seems impossible because we’re only taught and raised to work the standard way. However, there are alot of ways to make money remotely whether its working for yourself or a company. It takes a lot of hard work, motivation and focus to work remotely but you can absolutely do it.
In this post, we will share 6 different options for remote work that you can do on the road and we’ll also share which of the jobs we use to money on the road. This list is not exhaustive so feel free to keep searching for income streams that best suit you!
For specific info on getting internet access while traveling check out our blog post: Getting Internet on the Road
1. Working Remotely for a Corporate Company
This is probably the most common way that people (including us) make a living during vanlife. It’s also the least glamorous. Everyone expects a cooler answer than “I just work for a company remotely” when they ask us how we afford to live this way.
Prior to vanlife we both worked typical 9-5 corporate office jobs as mechanical engineers. Engineering, for some reason, is ridiculously hard to get remote positions in. James’ company did not have the ability to move him to a remote position but, prior to the COVID pandemic, KJ was able to work out a deal with her employer to switch to 100% remote work. It took years of trust building and proving her dependability, but the company agreed.
At the time this was a bit of a unique arrangement. Now-a-days, due to COVID, many people have had opportunities to work remotely from home. It’s just a matter of taking that a step farther with your employer.
This is another great option because you can do it no matter where you’re located. There are all kinds of ways make money from a website or blog.
In our case we sell PDF e-books with resources to help other DIY van builders. You can also sell physical products like art work, clothing, or stickers. In addition to selling your own products there are options such as the Amazon Affiliate program, or Google Ads to make money online. Many people combine all of these to create multiple income streams from their website.
Making sufficient money from a blog is not an overnight thing. It takes time to build an audience and trust so don’t except this to be your sole income for a while.
3. Social Media
This seems to be the option most people “think” vanlifers make a living from. In our experience, only a few people are able to make enough money via social media for it to be their sole income. Most people that make money via social media actually get their income from sponsored content where a company will pay them to market a product to their audience of followers. From what we’re found you need a very large following in order to actually make much money.
For example, as of July 2021, companies are paying about $0.01 per follower for a sponsored ad on Instagram. So you’d need a following of 10,000 people to make $100 on a sponsored Instagram post. Obviously you can negotiate for more, but this gives you an idea.
Another way to make money via social media is to run a social media account for someone else as a social media manager or be a virtual assistant (this could be social media + other daily tasks for a business).
4. Rental Properties
An income property might not be an option for everyone because there’s quite a large barrier to entry (hello current housing prices).
For us, when we decided to move into a van, we knew we wanted to keep our house. It was our safety-net so if everything went wrong we’d have a house to return to after a 1 year lease.
If you have a house, we’d encourage you to rent your home out! It feels scary, but if at the end of van life you want to move back in - its there - and if you want to sell, its likely gone up in value! We’d also strongly recommend a rental management company so you don’t have to deal with any of the day-to-day or repairs while you’re on the road.
Even if you have a home with a mortgage you can rent it out to cover the payments and utilities while you’re traveling. Depending of the rental market in your area you might even be able to make a little extra money beyond what’s needed to pay your bills.
5. Seasonal Work
If you don’t mind being stationary for a few months, seasonal work is a great option! It is pretty common in the van community for people to pick up seasonal jobs for a few months. It lets you stay in one location for a bit and really get to know the area. At the same time you can be working and saving up money for the next stretch of travel.
There are lots of options for seasonal work such as, ski resorts, outdoor guides, retail in vacation towns, National Parks, Agriculture (harvest season), adventure sports guide, lifeguard, etc.
6. Freelance Work
We know people that have had good luck with this by looking for jobs within their skill set while traveling in a particular area. If you search online you can typically find odd jobs posted online in places like Facebook, Craigslist, Fiverr, Linkedin, or community message boards.
Lots of people recommend Upwork but we’ve had terrible luck using that for our field. It seems that we always get outbid by someone willing to do the job for MUCH cheaper rates because they live in another country with a conversion rate heavily in their favor.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy “one size fits all answer” that works for everyone but hopefully this gets the wheels turning! Everyone has different skills and what works well for one person might not work well for you. One common theme we do see is that many people combine multiple jobs/methods which allows them to be more flexible and also gives some stability if one of those incomes streams doesn’t work out. It also means that no single income stream needs to be a huge earner of money, instead several small incomes are pooled together to make enough money as a whole.
For more info on all things vanlife check out our website Stokeloafvan