Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
There’s never been a better time to make a living while traveling the country full-time in an RV. Companies are hiring more remote positions now than ever. Nomads are making a full-time living by freelancing with websites like Fiverr, eLance or Upwork. Plus, there’s this whole group of people who are running their own respective businesses while traveling the country.
Heath & Alyssa Padgett
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This creates an awesome opportunity for anyone who wants a meaningful career, but also loves the idea of skipping around national parks and working from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.
People like my wife Alyssa and I fit into this category.
We run a small video production and software business from our Winnebago Brave motorhome as we travel full-time. The past few years we’ve been to all 50 states, several Canadian provinces, 14 national parks, and experienced more of our country than we ever thought possible at 26 years old.
The best part is that our work hasn’t suffered, but thrived. We’ve premiered a feature length documentary, paid off $16k of student debt, grown a blog that reaches 50,000 monthly visitors, hosted a sold-out conference, and I even started a software business from our RV. These aren’t just things we’ve done while traveling, but things that were only possible because we were traveling.
After three years of travel, growing our business from the road, and interviewing more than 50 full-time RV entrepreneurs — I wanted to share an introductory guide to earning a remote income while RVing.
A few things I share in this post are:
Five ways people make a living while traveling full-time
How a mother of four started a virtual business while full-time RVing
9 pieces of advice for anyone who wants to earn a remote income
How do people actually make a living while traveling full-time?
If you have no idea where to start or how in the heck people actually make a living while traveling full-time, I broke down some of the most popular routes people take for earning a remote income.
Find a salaried position with a company that allows you to work remotely. You can find jobs like this on FlexJobs, a job board completely dedicated to hiring remote workers.
Transition your current job to remote (if possible). I’ve talked with several people who, just by asking, were able to transition their jobs into remote positions. On some occasions, they were the first to ever do this within their company. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
Start your own business.
Find freelance gigs you can do remotely like graphic design, copywriting, web development, etc.
Find workamping jobs across the country on job boards like Workampers or Xscapers job board for RVers
We’ve met a mix of people who’ve done just about all of these things and it’s all about preference. If you don’t mind working at campgrounds across the country or national parks, you should check out workamping. If you just love the idea of traveling the country and don’t mind working typical business hours, snag a job with a company who hires remote employees.
If you’re looking for more freedom and flexibility while traveling, starting a location independent business is likely your best option.
Earning Income on the Road Outside of a 9-5
Last year I met a woman named Bryanna who was traveling in an RV with her husband, four kids and two dogs. Her husband was able to transition his job to remote (the first in his company to do so) and she was homeschooling the kids.
She realized a few things after they began their new RV life:
Having a full-time job wasn’t as conducive to this lifestyle as they had hoped. They wanted to explore more and Craig’s job kept them inside the RV too much.
She needed to find a way to start bringing in an income that would allow Craig to leave his job and give their family more flexibility — but what would that be?
Looking for income options that yielded themselves to flexibility, Bryanna came up with the idea of becoming a virtual assistant (VA). Having no experience in VA, she bought an online course, learned the ins and outs of starting a VA business and found her first paying client within 30 days.
Note: A virtual assistant’s tasks can be anything from social media management, email marketing, newsletters, invoices, etc. In Bryanna’s case, she targeted small businesses who wanted to hire a part-time external company to do some of these things within her core competency.
Two years later and Virtual Powerhouse, Bryanna’s VA business, has enabled Craig to leave his job and has offered their family more freedom to enjoy their time on the road.
Bryanna is representative of many RV entrepreneurs I’ve met while on the road: a person who doesn’t necessarily consider themselves a traditional entrepreneur, but finds creative ways to earn an income outside a standard 9-5. After all, Bryanna’s goal as a business owner isn’t to make a million dollars, it’s to support her family while they live on the road with their kids.
Bryanna shares her story and experience of starting her VA business here on her site.
9 Tips for Starting a Remote Business
While this lifestyle has given us a ton of freedom and incredible memories, there’s been a steep learning curve to figuring out how to grow our business and manage life on the road.
Here’s some of my biggest lessons over the past few years while we’ve been growing our business and lives on the road.
1. Always have a solid financial runway.
For us, our financial runway is our projected income based off client work vs. our anticipated expenses. Especially during the early days of our travel when we were earning less than we were spending, we were constantly trying to figure out how to cut costs from our travel budget. Eventually, we were able to get our full-time travel expenses down to around $2,000 a month (here’s how).
Just like with any business, once the cash flow dries up you’re done. We are always doing our best to focus on what actions will drive revenue for us so we can continue this lifestyle.
2. Calculate a realistic amount that it will take to fund your travel lifestyle on a monthly basis.
This is easier said than done. I think the best way to do this is a close audit of how much money you’re spending while stationary and then cross reference that with other travelers who publish expense reports (such as ours from our year of traveling to all 50 states).
Once you have some projected rough costs of transitioning and maintaining a nomadic lifestyle, you can work backwards to figure out how much you’ll need to be bringing in each month.
3. Join a Facebook community who can help support your transition to being location independent.
One of the most difficult things for us while we were transitioning our lives into the RV was having zero support and community around us. Sure, some of our friends thought it was neat that we were going to be living in an RV and traveling, but they weren’t able to give real life advice for this kind of decision.
However, the Facebook groups within the RV community offer a plethora of great advice, wisdom and support from people who’ve been there, done that.
There’s a few huge benefits to the Facebook groups:
Getting real-time feedback from actual people vs. sorting through tons of content on the internet.
Virtually surrounding yourself with a community of people who support your dream and can help encourage you.
Using Facebook group connections to make friends in real life once you’ve hit the road.
Here’s a few groups that are great resources for people transitioning into RV life:
4. Don’t wait until you’re on the road to start your business.
Unless you have a lot of money in savings, I wouldn’t try to start my business while I was already RVing (speaking from experience). There are too many literally moving factors.
If I could go back and do it all over again, I’d do my best to have our business up and running before we started traveling.
5. Leverage travel as part of your business strategy.
Being on the road gave Alyssa and me a great opportunity to land future clients and network while on the road. During our first year traveling on the road we volunteered to film at more than 50 businesses, conferences, and events..
Since we were new at film and video we’d reach out to businesses and events and offered up our services for free. This helped us build a portfolio of work, gain necessary skills, and network with potential clients. Ultimately, several of our first clients came directly from those places where we volunteered our services.
6. Don’t skimp on internet (or rely on campground Wi-Fi).
One of the biggest mistakes we made early on was not finding an unlimited Verizon or AT&T plan we could use. Our first year of travel we spent way too much time in Starbucks and trying to sneak by on campground Wi-Fi (which is RARELY decent).
We recently upgraded our rig and started using a WeBoost cell booster, which magnifies our cell signal – easily increasing our internet speeds in remote locations. It’s a worthwhile investment for $500.
7. Slow down.
We spent our first couple years driving so much that I felt I was constantly getting behind on my work. As a result, I always felt stressed and it stole away from our adventures.
As a solution, we started staying a couple weeks or a month in new places. This gives us plenty of time to balance exploring and knocking out our to-do list.
8. Trying to work on travel days is a lost cause.
On days when we’re driving the RV I get next to no work done, outside of a few emails sent in the morning and maybe a phone call or two. Typically, we pack up the RV, drive several hours, stop for lunch, and then drive a little more. By the time we arrive at our next campsite, I’m typically zonked and ready to lay down.
For a while I stressed myself out trying to work on these days. Now we typically count these as “off” days and anything we accomplish is a nice bonus.
9. Clients don’t care if you live in an RV.
I was worried that potential clients might be weirded out that we live in an RV. As it turns out, they haven’t been at all. In fact, while we’ve jumped on various Skype calls with clients they’re always excited to hear about where we’re currently staying and what we are doing. In fact, living in an RV makes us stand out to our clients.
As long as the work gets done, nobody cares that our house moved in between phone calls.
If you’re interested in earning a remote income, you can learn more on The RV Entrepreneur podcast. The RVE podcast is a weekly show where I’ve interviewed more than 50 digital nomads on how they’ve built their business while traveling the country in an RV.
I didn’t anticipate that our lifestyle would consist of living, working and traveling the country in an RV, but it’s hands down the best decision we ever made. Being able to wake up and choose where to travel, how we spend our time and what projects we work is the ultimate form of freedom.
Hope to see you out on the road.
Heath & Alyssa Padgett
Heath & Alyssa Padgett
We've been RVing since 2014. What started as a honeymoon dream to visit all fifty states spun into an obsession with RV living and RVing around the world.