We had a grand plan about how we’d sustain ourselves once we hit the road in our RV. The business we envisioned tapped our unique expertise and skills, was mobile and had little credible competition.
We were so excited when we stumbled into the idea for an appraisal business. It seemed like the perfect fit for our quirky experience and the nomadic / entrepreneur lifestyle we so desperately sought.
We bought equipment, planned our services and products, and even built a website. Then we killed it before we even tried making a dime with it.
What is wrong with you people?
We’re not quitters (although knowing when to quit is a really valuable skill). As a matter of fact, we did start and are growing a business together.
But it’s not what we thought it was going to be two-plus years ago when I blogged about how we’d earn enough to sustain full-time RV life.
I would LOL when reading that post if I hadn’t already done enough adulting in my life to know – and promise you – that shit changes. Even if it’s only our own minds after thoughtfully and realistically considering all things.
The last damn thing I or you need to do is cling to something dead wrong because we can’t deal with some yahoo pointing out how we SAID X two years ago but didn’t do it.
This is our ONE life, y’all. We – and you – need to do what actually works for us. Even if we (OK I) blogged about a grand theory, then changed our minds about every last bit of it.
If we can help even one #RVEntrepreneur…
I’m telling this story in case you are (or plan to be) making your own life on the road.
Because if what I see on Instagram is any indication, most full-time RV entrepreneurs are guilty of putting on a smile and insisting everything is sunshine and rainbows.
Short of spilling our bank account details (unless you wanna transfer in – HMU!), we’ll be as blunt as possible about:
- What we thought would work for us, but didn’t.
- What is working.
- What we still need to figure out.
Read on to find out what we got wrong, where we are now and where we hope to go from here.
Work from anywhere? We’re good to go.
We had the RV. We tricked it out with the best mobile internet arsenal we could put our hands on. Our son-in-law custom built us a great desk setup that helped us optimize our available workspace.
Check it out…
Every physical resource we needed to work from the road, we obtained.
Business-wise, we were ready to roll with our new idea.
And then came gnawing thoughts…
Do what you love and the money will follow.Marsha Sinetar
Following your passion – best & worst advice ever
Once we were honest with ourselves, we realized we did not love the appraisal business idea enough to market the f*ck out of it for possibly years before it was sustainable.
I admit I’m the less practical of our duo. Yet once we got past the initial sparkle of the appraisal business idea, even I began having doubts about it.
Thinking through the mechanics of the jobs we’d done that were close to the business we envisioned, even if we had customers lined up from the time we launched we might not have loved the appraisal business enough.
So much to document. No way to know for sure what we were walking into. Or how bad the environment could possibly be. Clients who hired us because we were the only ones who came up in an internet search. So few we could consider ideal clients.
No, we shouldn’t just blindly follow our hearts. But at the same time, if we don’t like what we’re doing a whole lot, we’re not gonna give it our all.
If you’re an entrepreneur and not feeling like giving a venture everything you’ve got, don’t bother. You will be dead in the water, friend.
How RVers actually make money while traveling
What works for us isn’t necessarily what will work for you. Hence the “how RVers” make money subhead above.
We might be nerdier than many RVers, but what actually pays our bills is pretty typical of most full-timers we know. It’s a mix. So, before diving into our specific stuff, let me share generally what I see others doing to make money while living on the road.
That way I won’t give you the impression that our way is the only way.
Broadly speaking, the only way to make money is to create value. You do something people like or want, and they pay you.
It’s a pretty simple concept that applies whether you live in an RV or not.
Most full-time RVers we know who are successfully supporting themselves do it in one or more of the following ways:
- Working remotely as a regular employee
- In their own business, providing their own services or products
- Compensation for value created in the past (e.g., military service, pension)
- Affiliate marketing/ad revenue
Of course there are people doing other things (real estate investment/rental property, selling someone else’s products). Among those we personally know, however, the income sources I’ve listed above are extremely common.
Or, you could just wing it
It’s also fairly common (at least among those we know) for people to fly by the seats of their pants for a while until they figure out something that works.
Or give up and come off the road. Eek.
People drive for Uber or Lyft. They workamp. Do whatever they need to get by. Sometimes all the while posting drop-dead gorgeous photos to Instagram.
Not a damn thing wrong with that. But: Those shiny, happy images make it hard for people who don’t know otherwise to suss out what’s actually working to financially sustain other RVers.
If you haven’t yet hit the road, understand that when you’re an RVer with a public presence as a business owner, blogger, YouTuber, etc., the last damn thing you want is to have your credibility questioned because – surprise – you struggle like any human.
We must preserve the veneer of success. Even if in reality we’re working like mad, trying to get something going and keep our RVs rolling.
Take our shiny, happy images with a grain of salt.
How WE make a living on the road
After we realized we didn’t love the on-site appraisal business idea, Brian started telling friends and family that he planned to “be Teresa’s bitch” once we hit the road.
I loved this, as you might imagine.
Well, until we showed up for the RV Entrepreneur Summit and he posted this crap in the Summit Facebook group:
Anyway…A Fearless Venture, our WordPress website consultancy, is our main (but not only) moneymaking venture.
This is A Fearless Venture
A Fearless Venture is in part the business that was mine for years before we hit the road.
Now, however, instead of limping along with me trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, Brian’s analytical, data-loving, project manager brain is on board and helping it grow.
Since he’s come aboard we’ve been able to expand our core services to include website backups and maintenance.
We <3 recurring revenue
Our WordPress Site Care service lets people pay a small monthly fee in exchange for us handling the basics that keep a WordPress site safe and running smoothly.
It doesn’t account for a huge percentage of our business’s revenue right now. But it’s got potential.
Thanks to investing in kick-ass software, the service is less resource intensive than our website design and WordPress troubleshooting services. Translation: We can easily handle – and we want – far more Site Care clients.
My fear is that website tech is such a scary black box no one likes looking at that they’re just going to hire the first person who pops up on Google.
That’s a tough one for our tiny team.
We’re SEOing the hell out of it, and it’s growing. Slowly. Stay tuned.
(but not much)
Everyone thinks they can start a blog and make a million dollars without doing anything. RVers are by far not alone in this respect.
Some people do make money somewhat passively by blogging. But of all the people I know who are pulling in sustainable blog income every month, to a man/woman they have worked their asses off to get and stay where they are.
“Passive” income comes from affiliate relationships, sponsored content and ads. Without the aforementioned working your ass off, you won’t grow your website traffic enough that ads, affiliate links, etc. can generate substantive income.
In other words, it ain’t passive.
With A Fearless Venture, we’ve signed up for affiliate programs only with companies we already know, like, trust, use and recommend. Not the piece of crap hosting company that would pay us $65/pop for every customer/victim we refer.
Hence our affiliate earnings of maybe only $200 over the last year.
We have posts that make a good case for our recommended products/services, and have more planned. As traffic grows, so should our affiliate earnings. But with our tiny niche and higher ethical standards, we’re probably not talking mega bucks.
Website redesign FTW
Before Brian came aboard the business, I’d gotten to the point that I loathed big, full-site redesign projects.
Problems that cause people to seek redesigns are often complex, requiring strategy and communication that goes deeper than where to put the logo or if #CC0000 is the right red.
It’s hard to deal with the admin and communication aspects of a site redesign when you’re also handling every other aspect of it. Especially if you’re detail oriented and mildly OCD.
A quick e-mail requesting feedback on a site prototype becomes a one-hour diversion. It’s exhausting.
So I’d started turning away site design inquiries. Even took down my portfolio.
Our focus with all our core service areas was on correcting problems caused by DIYing it, or incompetent “designers” and “developers” (yes, #sarcasm). The issue with what we offered was that the best way to fix a janky site is often a redesign.
I was essentially telling people “Sorry – your site sucks. You’d be better off having it redesigned. And I’m not going to help you.”
With Brian sharing the load, I could once again enjoy designing. Trouble was, I killed that part of the business. It’d take some doing to resuscitate it.
Then, a friend needed help. Soon, it was another friend – then I started getting referrals. I quickly realized I needed to get a new portfolio up.
That was months ago. Our design queue is back down to a sane level as of about five minutes ago, so any day now I should be able to start working on our stuff.
And then came the workamping jobs
When Brian and I got married a decade or so ago, it hadn’t been long since we’d each attained a reasonable level of professional accomplishment.
Kinda happens when you do the starter marriage thing and choose poorly. But anyway…
We had like five minutes of dual income bliss to shore up our savings before shit started happening. So while we’re doing okay, we are not twenty-somethings with our whole lives ahead of us to play catch-up.
Plus we’d like to be able to splurge on luxuries every once in a while. Indulgences like health insurance…dental care…401k contributions.
We’re OK with flying by the seats of our pants some, but not at the expense of our emergency fund or “luxury” goals.
So a while back Brian decided that he’d try an Amazon Camperforce gig leading up to Christmas this year. Once his invitation to that party was in the bag, he thought it would be a GREAT idea to add on another workamping gig while we’re waiting on that one.
Now here we are, spending the summer in a tourist town. I’m not exactly complaining.
My ever-vigilant partner still watches over our clients’ websites every day. But in that same day, more often than not, he also watches water.
One way or another, Brian spends about 12 hours a day trying to keep blissfully unaware people from grave harm.
Does workamping pay enough to fund travel?
Workamping jobs don’t usually pay well. Sometimes compensation is nothing more than a free camp site.
Whether a position pays or not, the time commitments and financial compensation for workamping can hinder travel as easily as help it.
My earning power on the worst day is better than what any workamping gig would pay. Financially, workamping doesn’t make sense for me.
And actually, I’d rather Brian didn’t do it. But right now he’s having fun, making money, getting a great tan and still kicking ass for A Fearless Venture.
Will we continue workamping?
Maybe. Maybe not.
In the 13 months since moving to the RV, we’ve spent less than half that time workamping. All of it while running A Fearless Venture. Four months of it while winding down Brian’s shop.
I’d rather do our own thing. However, if a gig is a net positive, helps us stress less about savings and doesn’t undermine our longer-term plans, I’m OK with it.
Should you workamp?
Same answer. Same reasoning. The only thing I’d add is that, if you’re looking to workamping as a main income source, you’re in too vulnerable a position. The more it’s a “choose to” vs. a must, the better off you’ll be.
I think Rene Agredano shares good food for thought around the financial pros and cons of workamping in this post for RVlife.com.
Sometimes workamping is primarily about having a good place to park for a while, or (as when we volunteered as camp hosts in an Atlanta-area state park) getting a spot where you otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to camp.
We earned zero dollars for the 24-ish exhausting hours we put in every week as camp hosts. The work was on top of working in our regular businesses.
However, camp hosting allowed us to volunteer and live at a park we loved, and stay in a spot near family as well as the business Brian was working to wind down.
What we’re still figuring out about earning money from the road
Ideally we’d immediately know and follow our passions, live the #RVlife dream, passively make tons of cash while going from one jaw-dropping bucket list destination to the next.
While we’re waiting for that to happen, we’re taking an “all of the above” (as in, every tactic you read above) approach to sustaining ourselves.
We like it out here. We’ve done a lot of fun things since ditching suburbia, but mostly we’ve worked. Not ticked off bucket list items.
We’re like the kids who don’t want to come home just because the street lights came on. We’re no fools – we know there’s more fun to be had.
A Fearless Venture is making money. We just want to shift the balance to a less intensive level of hands-on work, so that there’s more time for creativity and enjoying our travel.
And, of course, earn enough to pay for those “luxuries.”