3 Useful Tips for Making Money While Living in a Van
We’ve been traveling in our feisty Jamaican blue Westy (named Mork) for the last 5 years in Europe. And we’ve been able to do it by making money online while living in a van. Looking back, it’s kind of amazing we’ve lasted so long. Grin.
We learned the hard way that when you’re traveling on the road anything can happen. Unexpected van repairs can throw you for a financial loop. There are emergencies. And being a freelancer can be either feast or famine, as far as jobs go.
So many new vanlifers ask us how to earn money while living in your van. These are our tips, with some examples for making money online or offline. We hope they’re useful!
1.) Figure out your work skills for making money online.
Yeah, I know everyone tells you that. It’s about as useful as ‘follow your passion,’ as in not at all. We were lucky that when we started out in 2012, we both had very strong skill sets.
Armando was a filmmaker who’d already started selling stock footage online and I was already writing (for pennies) online when we both decided to try doing it full time.
Whatever skills you have at the moment can be used and built up. Love posting to social? Look at social media management for small businesses. Are you great at PhotoShop? Fluent in a language? Look at teaching online or translation. Love building websites? Build away.
Here are a few online job platforms to help you get started making money when you live in a van:
Remote OK: More geared towards techie jobs (designing, software engineers, etc.)
Codeable: Anything and everything WordPress related.
Old Geek Jobs: Based in the U.S., remote work for techies of any age.
Outsourcely: A general mix for online skills (marketing, writing, mobile apps, etc.)
People Per Hour: A general mix for online skills, UK based (development, multi-media, some offline skills, etc.)
Guru: An older online job platform for a general mix of skills.
Translator’s Café: Mostly translating, some other lingual jobs.
Digital Nomad Job Finder: A general mix for online skills (new platform).
Upwork: A general mix for online skills (accounting, sales, writing ebooks, etc.)
ProBlogger: A mix of blogging jobs, research and content writing.
Or you can choose to create and then sell your product. Stock photo sites like Shutterstock; writing articles for sites like Swarm Content or find short-term jobs through sites like Backdoor Jobs, which even includes local farming work.
Extras: If you decide to go the online job platform route, take time on your profile. Don’t phone it in. When you make bids or proposals for jobs, research the company and don’t copy/paste replies. Stay in communication with clients. Many freelancers don’t and it shows in their negative reviews. Lastly, some platforms have loads of cheap-end jobs you have to sift through to find the good. Patience pays off.
2.) Think outside the box for making money offline.
Starting out, there were quite a few times we were (ahem) slightly more than broke. Whether it was just a dry time for finding new jobs or we were waiting to be paid, we found ourselves stuck. We’ve learned to always have a backup plan.
I’ll give you two examples: Armando has a degree in fine arts and he had some chalk. He went into the streets (most notably, Prague) and drew classic renditions like ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch on the pavement with a cup next to it.
He earned anywhere from €20-100. A day. Doing street art. We not only ate well but had gas money and a little left over for our next adventure.
Another time, we were in the south of Italy and getting low on cash. The countryside is teeming with ‘Agrotourismos,’ or organic B & Bs. So we wrote an introduction letter to several in the area asking for a trade.
We’d make them a video for their business in exchange for electricity, WiFi and showers/bathrooms for a week. It worked really well and we stayed at some fantastic places. We did, however, insist on sleeping in Mork. Grin.
In other words: if X doesn’t Y, what can you do as a backup plan? How? Don’t be shy – vanlife isn’t an adventure for the faint of heart. And making money while living in a van isn’t always easy.
3.) Build up your skills as you travel.
This is probably the most important tip, because it really has widened our job pool of what we can do.
I started out as a simple article writer. I can now do virtually any kind of writing (barring medical or technical stuffs). I’ve written: SEO content; blog posts; Youtube scripts; product descriptions; landing pages; and even a short horror story for pay. I also branched out into doing voice overs.
Armando started out strictly doing video. He’s now an ace video editor; does video motion graphics and animation; he’s started doing stock photography; and he’s acted (‘a thug’ in a video for a pseudo-documentary). Plus he’s also written blog posts in Italian.
The point is not for us to brag, but for you to keep in mind not just what you can do now – what else can you do? The more you widen your skills, the more jobs you’re capable of getting. More jobs = more money. You can hone your extra interests for making money online or off to increase your overall income from the road.
There are also loads of free online courses you can take when you’ve got down time a.k.a. no work. I’ll list a few samples:
Diploma in Multimedia Development (Alison Courses): Video-based tutorials on creating professional videos and using editing software.
Branding, Content & Social Media (iTunes Free Courses): A specific course on reaching target audiences for marketers.
Google Analytics Academy: Adding to your ecommerce skills.
Fine Woodworking: Yes, really. You can learn carpentry, including furniture making, online.
As you can see, you’ve got loads of possibilities for adding to your skillset. And it has definitely helped us continue our own vanlife adventures.
We hope our 3 useful tips for making money while living in a van have helped or inspired you for a more financially stable journey.
What about you? Are there any tips you’d add for making money online or off? We’d love to hear them so give us a shout in the comments below!
-Mel, Armando, Ziggy & Mork