If you're wondering how to finance and maintain a mobile lifestyle and travel, you're not alone! There are many ways to make money remotely and we'll share our honest experience here.
Before we immersed in the community, I often wondered how nomads sustain a mobile lifestyle and make money remotely in their buses, vans or in their pajamas at home. Often times it looks too easy and perfect on social media but it actually takes a lot of hard work and planning.
THE SHORT ANSWER
Ben and I financed our two years of nomadic living in a few ways: my freelance work in marketing and design, Ben’s work on our blog and through affiliate income. This is one of many ways! Other nomads choose to take seasonal positions, or take their 9-5 on the road with them.
We are members of the Amazon affiliate program and Tiny Wood Stove, among a few others. The bus build articles we write reference products we've researched and/or tested that you can purchase online. We earn a small commission for qualifying purchases at no cost to you whatsoever.
In addition, we curate lists of favorite products and supplies and write honest product reviews. With each qualifying purchase, we earn a small commission at no cost to you. Pretty cool! We screen requests and only write about products we actually use.
THE LONG ANSWER
The longer answer to how we managed a mobile lifestyle sustainably without depleting our savings involves the years of financial and mental preparation before hitting the road.
We chose to pay off our debt and simplify our lifestyle and expenses a full year before hitting the road. During that last year, we finished the bus build and learned some key mobile income skills (my freelance marketing business, affiliate income research, etc.). This also gave us time to save up money that we were no longer putting toward loan payments.
The goal was flexibility and to reduce the risk of this (or any) lifestyle leap. We didn't want to have too much pressure to make money remotely but what a bonus if we could.
How you design this chapter of your life will likely differ in some ways, but the great thing is that we can all learn from each other.
It’s all about YOUR comfort level and tolerance for uncertainty and risk. For us, it was pretty low so we chose to honor that and prepare accordingly.
HOW DID WE SUSTAIN A NOMADIC LIFESTYLE?
Update June 2020: Ben’s field (woodworking & home renovations) required a lot of tools that we weren't able to take with us on the road. As much as he loved the experience of travel and building the bus, Ben REALLY missed having a workshop. He wanted to start his own freelance business. This is one of the many reasons we chose to establish roots in New Hampshire and it's been a truly great move for both of us!
The bulk of our income while we lived in the bus full-time (2018 - 2020) came from my (Meag) marketing business, Wild Roots. I work with small businesses, nonprofits and personal brands on their marketing strategy, branding, websites and more.
Writing a Blog
Another part of our income is generated from our blog that you’re reading right now.
Ben is such a great writer. His approachable how-to and informational posts are actually really fun to read, like our tiny wood stove post or this on on how we insulated our bus. They’re our most popular on the blog. He also writes our product reviews.
Integrating ads into your website is relatively easy to setup but you do need to have a steady amount of traffic and content to begin with in order to be approved. I think a good rule of thumb is to wait a few months until you have a couple dozen quality posts published. A couple options are Google Adsense and MediaVine.
This percentage of our income is always growing but it took time (about a year) to see anything substantial come from the blog, just as an FYI.
Ahhh, I'm challenged by social media, mentally. I was never a heavy user before we started sharing bus things from the road. Honestly, my favorite part is direct messaging people from around the world that I may have otherwise never met in real life. It opens your world up but it doesn't have to be your everything.
There is income to be made and website traffic to glean from a social media presence, sure. It works for many people, but, it doesn't work for everyone. It can also be mentally taxing and time consuming in ways that aren't healthy or productive.
Most of of our website traffic and income comes from organic Google searches and Pinterest pins I create, not Instagram.
I spent WAY too much time on Instagram while we were on the road, to the detriment of my mental health. I put a lot of weight on that platform and how we were perceived on it. It sort of snowballed naturally as I didn't start posting with the goal of "becoming an influencer" at all. Though I made some incredible connections through it, for me, it lacked the depth and longevity I craved from writing and sharing experiences in the real.
Sponsored Instagram posts are an option to make a little or even a lot of money online. I don't personally resonate with them as a consumer or as a creator. There is more substance to media like articles, podcasts, video, etc. so we put most of our efforts into exploring those channels. I just wanted to share that bit of hindsight honesty. Do what works for you!
Direct Affiliate Relationships
Building affiliate relationships with companies and brands that you already use and love is a great way to share meaningful content and earn a commission while you're at it.
We have affiliate relationships with a few brands like:
How did we establish these relationships? Well, we asked! We were already aware of the three products above, and actively testing them on the bus. We wrote an article and shared about our wood stove, water filter, and WeBoost.
I created a .pdf media kit and expressed interest in being an affiliate. A short, professional and authentic email goes a long way. Tiny Wood Stove didn't have an affiliate program at the time but soon created one, we were their first!
We don't write about anything we haven't heavily researched and/or tested ourselves on the road or in life. We’re cheerleaders for brands and products that WORK and are that right blend of useful quality and affordable price.
Freelancing in Brand Design and Marketing
If you'd like to read more about how I started my freelance business, how scary it was at first, and some freelance business tips I've learned along the way, you're in luck! I started Wild Roots in 2018 as a way to support our nomadic lifestyle on the road. I had one client and a few projects completed before I left my full-time job. Still, I didn't know how it would go. I'm on my FOURTH YEAR now and so happy with how things have evolved.
I moved all of my writing about freelancing experience to its own post here. I also share a lot of helpful questions and answers I've received on the mobile income topic from our blog and social media crew.