One question we get asked most is how we can afford to travel for as long as we are. We of course try to cut our costs as much as possible (free lodging, anyone?), but we do also work. Many people don’t realize the plethora of opportunities that abound for making money on the road, so we will share some of them with you. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should get you started! With these options for income abroad, unlimited travel is all the more possible.
Let’s get started!
One of the easiest ways you can transition from your run-of-the-mill 9-5 is to switch to a digital nomad lifestyle. These can be standard jobs with corporations that have set (or flexible) hours and a regular paycheck. Or these could be any other internet-based work you can do from anywhere. These typically require only your time, a computer, and a strong internet connection.
Keep your current job or find something similar that will allow you to work remotely
With so many computer-based industries out there, chances are you can do your job remotely (you might already be doing so!). If your work is mostly on a computer, and you dream of traveling long term, consider asking your current employment if they’re willing to keep you on as a remote employee. Just be sure you’re going to areas with reliable internet coverage.
- Data management
- Customer service representative
- Tech support
- Medical transcriptionist
- Software engineer
- Web development
- Graphic designer
Be a contractor
This is very similar to a full-time remote job, except you’re hired per project. For example, if you’re a software engineer, you could look into websites such as Toptal or Upwork. Once you join the community, their agents will pair you with companies looking for contractors. You can usually search for contracts based on project length and the type of work involved. Alternatively, you can research individual companies or job listing sites for those looking for short-term contractors. These usually have very flexible hours, provided you complete the assigned project on time.
Virtual Assistant (VA)
These positions are in high demand as more and more people are starting their own businesses and blogs. They need help managing their sites, and this could include tasks such as social media management, topic research, and copywriting. If you’re good at these items, being a VA might be a good fit for you.
You can find VA hubs online similar to Upwork for contract work, but you’d probably enjoy the work more if you can partner with a website or blogger you’re passionate about. Try reaching out on social media platforms to meet others who might need your services, have a clear idea of your skills and how you can help, and reach out on a personal level. However, understand that most bloggers will be on a tight budget, so try to find those who are sizable but might not have help yet.
Work for yourself
Getting a job working for someone else usually comes with a greater sense of stability, but you have a lot more freedom when working for yourself. Be warned: self-employment can be very difficult, and it requires a lot of discipline. None of these will make you rich quickly (unless you just get lucky); they all take a lot of work to build. You must do everything alone (unless you pay for help). But because of the added complexity, it’s that much more rewarding when you become successful in your endeavors.
Start your own business
If you have a unique skill or talent, consider starting your own business. Know all the ins and outs of WordPress? Perhaps you could offer website migration services. Been all around the world? Become an independent travel agent. Entrepreneurs are nothing new, and you can start a business in pretty much anything. As long as you can also manage your business abroad, it can bring you income while you travel.
There are various ways to get started, but it’s probably best to get a website up as soon as possible and start marketing yourself. Facebook and other social media outlets can be good for getting your name out there. You can also contact local businesses wherever you are to pitch possible partnerships.
Create a Membership
Recurring revenue is the new rage these days – what better than to have guaranteed monthly income? If you have a useful skill to teach, a consumable product, or a penchant for creating fun monthly projects for consumers to complete, you might have all you need to start your very own membership!
We have seen very successful memberships, including crochet projects of the month, done-for-you marketing templates, guitar lessons, monthly cookies… and so many more! The possibilities are endless.
If this idea intrigues you, we highly recommend you check out the king of membership sites, Stu McLaren, who can help you get started.
Buy someone else’s company
Many people are skilled at starting up online businesses but don’t care to continue managing them. If you want to skip ahead to an established online business that already has a following, you can pick up where they left off. This still requires some business knowledge to turn a profit (in addition to the obvious initial investment), but all the groundwork has been done for you. You can buy (and sell) online businesses through websites like Flippa.
While this is very similar to the contract work above, freelancing typically comes with the connotation of self-employment. This usually means that as a freelancer, you have more freedom to choose the work you do; people hire you because they like what you’ve already done and want more of it, not because your skills would be useful on a project they envision.
Like contract work, you could find online hubs for clients, or you could market yourself individually for whatever work in which you specialize. Freelance writers are in high demand – writing everything from article copy to technical writing – but other options could be in fields like software or accounting.
Start an e-commerce shop
Are you creative? If you know how to make something and can sell it online, this can be a great way to fund some of your excursions. This can even tie into a personal website if you have a physical product to sell along with your own business. Etsy and Shopify are popular options, though Etsy charges a minimal listing fee ($0.20) and Shopify requires a monthly subscription. Just be careful of trying to manage inventory remotely. This works best if you can work with a third-party distributor (like Amazon) or if your product is purely digital (more on that below).
This is an excellent guide on how to get started with Etsy, including branding, research, and marketing.
Be a day trader
This requires some knowledge and research of the stock market and obviously comes with a level of risk. But if you have a knack for when bubbles are about to burst and when a new company is up-and-coming, playing with stocks can be rewarding. Of course, it’s a good idea to diversify and have additional sources of income. This article can get you started.
Be a Forex Trader
This is very similar to day trading above, but this is specific to playing the game of currency exchange rates and has been quite successful for a number of travelers. The basic concept is to exchange a set amount to a foreign currency and trade it back after an exchange rate change for a profit. This requires close management and a keen sense similar to stock exchanges. If this interests you, you can read more on how to get started here.
Become an influencer
Yes, this might sound like some new, millennial faux-job, but those who can do it well can make a reasonable living! You should be an expert in at least one social media outlet (if not more), have a reasonably outgoing personality, and be able to build a loyal and engaged following. The market is rather saturated now, but newcomers can be successful with a targeted niche and unique content. Rewards include free products and paid travel. Many can even sell sponsored posts to boost other accounts.
This is a guide on starting from scratch in the influencer world.
Affiliate market on Facebook
This is similar to the influencer section above, and it comes with a similar level of work to get it going. A lot of folks are familiar with affiliate marketing on a website, but you can also do this on any platform where you have a large viewership. If you’re a wizz on Facebook and know how to gain a passionate following in a group or page, you can use that audience for affiliate marketing.
When you sign up as an affiliate with a company like Amazon or TrustedHousesitters, you advertise on their behalf. In return, the company pays you a commission on any sales you generate (at no cost to the buyer).
If you’re interested in building your Facebook following with raving fans, I highly recommend Rachel Miller’s 100 Perfect People challenge. She holds this 10-day challenge periodically, it’s guaranteed to add at least 100 people who are genuinely interested in your topic or product, and it only costs $10. We did this for our own Facebook page, and I have to say it was a steal for what we got out of it.
Complete online surveys
Numerous companies are looking for feedback on a variety of topics. And they’re willing to pay you for the information! If you enjoy filling out those silly surveys on Facebook, this could be a way to earn a few extra dollars. These usually aren’t huge money-makers, though, so don’t rely on this as your sole income source.
You can find some survey sites here.
Test websites and games
New websites are looking for feedback on their user experiences. If you’re savvy online, and you don’t mind browsing to some new sites and possibly record the interaction, you could get paid to do so! UberTesting can get you started if this type of work interests you.
Pick up odd jobs on the road
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t work wherever you wind up. Not all work needs to be online, so even if you aren’t internet-savvy, there are plenty of options for you.
This is a very popular option, especially in Asian countries. English is recognized as one of the most powerful languages in the world, so it is in high demand. If you are well-spoken and love to teach, this could be great for you. And you don’t even have to like kids to teach English! A lot of adults also want to learn.
You don’t need certification to teach English, though it’s highly recommended for your own preparation and to ensure the quality for your students. This is a good resource for getting started. You can teach online or simply inquire locally when or before you arrive.
Teach something else
Everyone is looking to learn something, and chances are, you harbor a skill that could benefit those around you during your travels. Are you into yoga? Trainers are also sought after. You could also teach anything from cooking to drama to how to travel! Inquire locally to see what the demand is for your skills or offer to teach at a local school.
Be a translator or interpreter
If you speak multiple languages (especially including English), you could find work as a local translator. Partner with local tourism companies or approach visitors in a popular destination city to serve as their personal translator. Many travelers fear a strong language barrier, so providing that bridge could make their trip more enjoyable.
This article was written by someone who’s realized her dream as a traveling translator and has some practical tips on getting started.
Offer your services
Are you a photographer? What about someone who’s really good at managing money? A masseuse? A therapist? A personal trainer? You can partner with local businesses or market yourself to individuals and sell your services. Your skills go wherever you go, so you can sell them anywhere! This is typically a one-on-one exchange; don’t be afraid to get out there and have conversations about what you do! We have personally had luck with selling our photography and videography to smaller businesses who need the media for marketing; it helps when we’re also their clients. Particularly popular now is drone footage, so be sure to mention that in your pitch!
Host a retreat or workshop
If you’re a leader in your field, you could gather interested people wherever you go for workshops. Video and photography are popular in this area, as are fitness and yoga. It’s a great way to teach a class on the go. And if you’re well established with a solid social following, you could even partner with local venues to host a retreat.
This resource can get you started with hosting your first photography workshop.
If you are musically or artistically inclined, street artists can bring in a decent set of coins from a few hours of busking. Set yourself up on a corner, put a hat or instrument case down, and do your thing! Be sure to research to make sure you’re legally allowed to busk there, don’t disturb the locals, and have fun! And pro tip: put a few coins into your collection vessel of choice before you begin; psychologically, people are more inclined to contribute if they feel they aren’t the only ones.
Sell a product
Provided you have a means of consistently creating said product, you could potentially sell it on the streets. As with the busking, make sure you do it in approved locations. We have seen various wares, from spray paint art and photographic prints to location-specific crafts and trinkets.
Be a tour guide
If you’ve been in a place long enough to have gained some knowledge of the culture and best hotspots, you could set yourself up as a local tour guide. It’s a bonus if you can also serve as a translator during the tour. Particularly popular are expats who market to visitors who speak their native language. We went on a bicycle tour of Japan with a gentleman from the US, and while we love all that’s different, it was a relief to spend a day with someone who could speak fluently with us.
Start by seeing if you can partner with local tourism offices, or join one of the free walking tour programs all around the world. This can build credibility before you set out on your own. You can also seek out a number of companies who will actually fly you out to predetermined locations to serve as a guide for road trips, pub crawls, or other spring break and vacation trips.
Be an au pair
Do you love kids and the idea of staying in one location for a while – slow traveling? Being an au pair might be a great option for you! Basically a full-time, live-in nanny, you not only get free room and board, but you often get paid in addition. Like so many things, there are many websites to help you get started, including this one.
Pick up a seasonal job
If you are traveling during high season and you don’t mind helping other tourists in the area, picking up a seasonal job locally can help keep you on the road. These could include working at tourism offices or hostels, helping out at festivals or events, being a scuba or ski instructor, or working on a local farm. If you enjoy cruises, you could also work on a cruise liner! These jobs ebb and flow with the seasons, so research your destinations for what’s in high demand when.
Earn a travel sponsorship
This often requires a strong social following like being an influencer, but even if you don’t have a lot of followers, you can market your other skills (like copywriting, photography, or video) to earn a spot on familiarization (“fam”) trips or other sponsorships. Most sponsorships are an exchange of services (which still helps us travel longer!), but once you reach the upper echelons of sponsored travel, companies will pay you to go on their tours.
If you’re interested in getting paid to travel, Marie with Seriously Travel is an expert on sponsored luxury travel and has a lot of information on how to get started.
This here is our favorite section, and the one in which we try to focus most of our time. After all, if we can simply do work once and get paid continuously, that’s a major win, right? Keep in mind, there are no quick solutions, and though these are passive streams, they still take work to get going and to maintain. However, once established, you can take a few days (or a week or more) off without losing out on a paycheck.
Start a YouTube channel
Do you have a knack for video? Video is very popular right now, but like everything else, it takes practice to master. YouTube can’t really be monetized until you’re consistently getting thousands of views on each video, but with honest effort, it can be very worthwhile as both an income source and as a marketing platform for other endeavors (like a business or blog). Most importantly, be sure to create high-quality content that either entertains or informs (or both). And don’t give up if your first few videos don’t immediately get a lot of views; many views come months or even years after the initial upload.
Feel free to follow our YouTube channel for all our fun travel videos!
Photographers and videographers love what they do, but many don’t know they can also sell their media on stock sites. Fair warning: this is a numbers game, as image libraries are especially saturated. You have to upload thousands of high-quality photos – each with well-researched tags – in order to be found and sell a picture. I have worked with a few sites, including Shutterstock and Picfair, but I’ve discovered it isn’t usually worth the effort. Even if you make a sale, it’s typically for only nickels and dimes. And images that do well on stock sites fall into a particular look and feel (mostly shots with people).
Video has a much larger profit margin (and it isn’t as saturated), but it still takes effort to properly categorize them. Clips tend to go for closer to $20 each, depending on the length and quality. Aaron has had some success selling his videos through BlackBox, an aggregate site that distributes your videos to multiple stock sites (but takes a cut to do so).
If selling stock photography interests you, this is a good resource for getting started.
Sell a digital product
Creatives who specialize in creating digital products can find an income source here. This is popular because there’s no inventory to manage, so it can be managed from anywhere. Furthermore, a single digital item can be created once and sold multiple times. Once the initial work is done, the revenue is passive.
Options here include graphics, digital prints, or e-books. There’s some work upfront, but it can return on the investment quickly, depending on how popular it is. You can sell from a personal website, but this is most successful if you already have excellent visibility or following. If you don’t, you can partner with sites that already have the credibility, like Etsy (psst… Brianna has an Etsy shop for fun products made from her travel photography. If you love travel photography or you just want to see some examples of what can be done with photos, check out her store here).
Sell a video course
If you know a topic inside and out, you might benefit from creating a web series and selling it as a video course. As mentioned above, video is very popular right now, and people want to learn new skills. This is another digital product that could earn you repeat income. Just note that your production skills should be top-notch, or you might want to hire external help.
This site can help you get started on designing your first course.
Design a game or app
Got some programming skills? Consider developing an app! If you have ideas for ways to make your and others’ lives easier or more fun, designing an app can be an option for earning a bit of income. Free apps with in-app purchases tend to be the most popular, but if you have a truly novel idea or super helpful app, you could charge for each download.
Unity is an excellent program for developing games, and it’s entirely free. They also have an expansive library of tutorials to get you started. There are also lots of tools to help with native app building.
You might be familiar with this term with regards to ordering a product online and shipping it directly to a family member without it first going through you. However, this is a popular revenue tactic as well. If you create art of any form, you can partner with third-party printers to sell physical products with your designs – without ever managing inventory. Websites like Printful and Redbubble are popular for this.
If you want to take this idea to the next level, there’s also the concept of dropshipping as a middleman with a cheap product made overseas. When you see ads on Facebook for cat hoodies or all-in-one travel bags, those are likely dropshippers. They market a product that is already popular, and they profit on the markups. This is a little risky, and I’m not sure how I morally feel about this business model, but it works for a lot of people. You can learn more about the process and how to get started with this really in-depth video.
Rent Out a room or your home
Do you own a home? Are you able to sublet? If you have property back home, you might consider putting a room or the entire home up as a rental. Airbnb could be a good option for short-term rentals, but this could be more difficult to manage than more permanent residents. Either way, this provides a passive income stream for your travels.
Sell your data
Just like with surveys above, companies everywhere are thirsty for usage data to measure trends to target advertising. If you don’t mind installing a cookie on your browser that tracks your browsing activity, you could be compensated by just doing what you ordinarily do online. One such option is Powr of You which has both a desktop and a mobile app. MobileXpression tracks your mobile usage. Another similar application is Achievement, which links up with your health data (from your Fitbit, etc), and gives you points for every time you log things like steps, sleep, or heart rate.
You can find other similar programs here.
Lastly, the most popular option is probably the blog. It’s popular because it is relatively easy to get started, and it takes little to no initial investment. However, it’s important to understand that blogging for anything more than a hobby is a serious undertaking and should not be considered lightly. Yes, it’s fun, and yes, we love doing it. But it’s also a lot of work, and it is very difficult to make a blog profitable. Like so many things, it’s a game of numbers, SEO, promotion, backlinks, etc. But once you have a solid following, you can employ ads, affiliates (as described above), and sponsored posts (others pay you to write blog posts).
If you’re considering starting a blog and you want some help on where to begin (as well as an honest assessment of what blogging truly takes), we highly recommend you check out this free mini course from our friends with Two Wandering Soles. They’ve laid it out beautifully, and we’ve learned a lot from them.
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