How to Make Money While Living the Van Life

by Vera Lawrence | LAST UPDATED July 9, 2021

how to make money living on the road
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Living the van life is a great way to see the world and experience new things daily. The lifestyle is synonymous with the idea of freedom and leaving behind most of your everyday worries to focus on the more adventurous and exciting parts of life.

However, while you might be freed from everyday issues like the office grind, the one issue that remains a constant is access to funds necessary to fuel your lifestyle.

Luckily, there are plenty of guides on making money living on the road that you can consult. These guides will help you better grasp just how much money you’ll need and what kind of jobs you’ll probably want to be focusing on.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the topic, we’d like to mention that we’ve already written an article that goes over the sort of expenses you might be looking at. As for now, we thought we should focus on the many ways that you can make money while on the road.

Type of Work

Generally speaking, most people equate van life with being a digital nomad, and while there are quite a few similarities, these terms are used to describe two completely different things.

A digital nomad is a location-independent lifestyle that describes a person that works online and doesn’t have a permanent residence. A van lifer is someone that lives in their van and either travels from location to location or stays in one location in their van for a while.

A van lifer is characterized by their home being on four wheels, while the digital nomad lifestyle is characterized by the fact that they don’t have a constant place of residence but rather jump from place to place or from one Airbnb to another.

We went into the semantics of both digital nomads and van lifers to point out that there aren’t many similarities in their basic definitions outside of the type of work that both of them do.

If your lifestyle involves traveling full-time, then you won’t also be able to stay in one place for long enough to be able to find stable employment in a full-time job.

Taking this into account, our article on how to make money living on the road is mostly going to focus on online work that’ll be able to provide you with full-time income while also allowing you to go anywhere whenever you want to.

However, we’ll also go over a few part-time jobs that are tailor-made for van lifers and that not even digital nomads will be able to do without a mobile domicile.

Connection Issues

The biggest advantage that digital nomads have over van lifers in terms of jobs is their access to a reliable internet connection. If you’re not staying in a van but renting out an apartment or room, you have much easier access to a wifi signal. Additionally, if the current location that you’re staying in doesn’t have a reliable connection, then you can simply find another Airbnb.

As a van lifer, you can’t exactly switch out your van and rent out another one that has a better internet connection, so you’re going to have to improvise.

The simplest solution is to go to either internet cafes or park at gas stations and take advantage of their free service. This is the easiest solution and doesn’t require buying any additional equipment or internet plans.

Unfortunately, you won’t always have access to this sort of location, especially if you’re currently camping somewhere in the wilderness, and your online business might require some privacy, which you’re unlikely to get in the middle of a very public cafe.

Another option is to get something like satellite internet, but that can cost you a bit of money, and it might not have as much coverage as you might like. This means that your final choice is to get yourself an unlimited phone plan, which is by far the best option.

Unlimited plans aren’t that expensive, they can provide you with pretty decent upload and download speeds (depending on which plan you go for), and all you have to do to set them up is turn on your hotspot and latch on to it with your laptop.

Additionally, phone plans also have much better coverage than most non-standard internet solutions like satellite, so you’ll be able to get a signal pretty much anywhere. Keep in mind that some remote areas that don’t even have a cell signal are going to be an internet dead zone

 no matter what you do, but that’s only to be expected.

Platforms

We’ll go over quite a few jobs in our article, but we don’t really mention how to find these jobs. As such, we thought it would be a good idea to mention the platforms that we usually use to find openings in these lines of work.

The primary two places we visit when looking for remote jobs are the Fiverr and Upwork job boards. Both of these sites have plenty of job postings you could easily pick up and start doing in the span of a single day, but they’re quite different entities as a whole.

Fiverr is mainly known for short-term work and projects that you can jump in and do in very little time. Of course, there are exceptions, and each agreement will be different, but in essence, this platform is a good choice if your priorities are to not work for one specific client but instead go for a lot of small jobs and quickly make money on the road.

Upwork also specializes in remote work, but it’s mostly a place that focuses on long(er)-term sorts of employment. Again, each agreement will differ, but this platform is the better choice if you’re looking for something a bit more stable since you’ll be provided with a contract that ensures that both you and the customer are satisfied.

For all of their differences, both of these sites are a great choice for job hunting, regardless if you’re looking to make a bit of extra money or if you’re looking for some more permanent income streams.

Qualifications

Our list of jobs is going to include things such as web designer or English teacher. We’ll cover the specifics of those professions when we get to them, but what we’re trying to say is that you might not be qualified for every job that we go over.

Standard work is a bit easier to get into than remote work. Positions like waiter or delivery driver still require know-how to do them correctly, but you can receive on-site training when it comes to those jobs.

Remote work usually involves you selling your skills and time, so you’re going to need to go into the job with at least a moderate level of expertise. That being said, temp work usually isn’t all that demanding, so no one will expect you to be a master of the craft. However, as long as you’re at least competent in the field, pretty much all of your clients are going to be satisfied.

Additionally, if you’re looking to get into fields that you don’t know of, there are plenty of online courses that you can take that will give you the requisite set of skills to get started. There are also a lot of sites like Udemy that can provide you with the sort of courses that you’re looking for, as well as some that you didn’t even know existed.

Plenty of Choices

We’ve listed a dozen of what we consider to be the best ways to make money on the road that any van lifer can take advantage of. However, there are around three times as many available job options that you can find, and some might be much better suited to your skillset or preferences.

Consider this as our disclaimer since even though this guide is on making money living on the road, we can’t objectively say that these are bar none the best jobs that can help you do that. However, we chose these twelve because they all have their own perks, and we’ll try to convey what those are in the sections below.

1. Workamping

Workamping might not be a word that a lot of people have heard, especially since it’s mostly used in the RVing world, workamping is a combination of work and camping, so it’s a job that’s specifically geared towards full-time RVers.

There are programs like Amazon’s CamperForce that can provide you with access to seasonal jobs in RV parks just because you have an RV, a travel trailer, or any sort of mobile domicile. You might even be asked to work at certain national parks where they’re looking for campground hosts.

The job description is simple; you’ll be asked to perform a series of tasks, the most important of which include providing information to campers, scheduling the visitors, and the RV park vacancies and office management, basic maintenance, and cleaning.

In return for the provided services, you’ll be given a free stay at the campgrounds and free use of all facilities and utilities, and maybe even receive standard pay. Although many workamping positions pay exclusively with facilities and utilities, others provide you with weekly payments, overtime pay, and even referral bonuses.

The work itself isn’t difficult; however, it’s still manual labor, so if you have a condition that doesn’t allow you to move around too much, or if you’d simply prefer not to be on your feet all day, then this job isn’t for you.

However, if you want to have your camping costs covered while also getting to stay close to nature and meeting other camping enthusiasts, then this is pretty much an ideal job for you.

2. Travel Blogger

Many people think that travel blogging only consists of taking pictures and posting them to social media with a little comment at the bottom. While it’s true that that’s a big component of the job, behind the scenes, being a travel blogger is actually a lot of work.

Travel bloggers live off of sponsorships. These sponsorships are going to come in 2 forms. The more exclusive type of sponsorship comes from restaurants or locations in a town that you might be visiting that want you to advertise on your blog. The more common sponsorships are the ads that you’re going to be running on your site.

The site ads are a good consistent way to make a bit of passive income since they’ll depend solely on the number of site visitors you get per day. However, if your blog isn’t all that well-known and you aren’t getting many hits, then you won’t be able to live off the site ads without getting another part-time job.

On the other hand, sponsorships from businesses can pay a lot more, but they’re much more difficult to come by. You’ll need to convince potential sponsors that they can profit from being advertised on your site and then negotiate a price that seems fair for both sides, which is usually the more difficult part.

At its core, travel blogging allows you to make money by documenting your experiences on your road trips, which is a pretty great gig all-in-all. You should get the hang of the business side of things in no time as well.

3. YouTube Channel

Sponsorships are also a big part of running a YouTube channel, except that the sponsors will come to you in this case. 

When your channel grows large enough (around 50,000 subscribers or so), you’ll start to see that certain brands will start sending you emails offering sponsorship deals. These deals include you mentioning their brand or product on your channel for a specific amount of money.

YouTube will also start paying you for the option to run ads on your videos after you pass the 10,000 subscriber mark. So you’ll probably get around $1 per 1,000 views, which doesn’t seem like much but can accumulate pretty quickly, especially if you post every day.

The channel itself can be about anything you want. There are plenty of people that would be willing to watch the videos you take documenting your travels, but there are also people that might be willing to watch you if you decide to do a movie review channel, a podcast, or even a cooking program.

As long as you have a decent camera and basic editing knowledge (or are willing to pay an editor), you have everything you might need to start a channel. It might not be all that profitable initially, but it’ll still provide you with quite a bit of passive income, and the channel might grow large enough for you to use it as a main source of income later on.

4. Freelance Writer

Many people believe that as long as you have a laptop and a wifi connection, you can work as a writer. And while it’s true that those are the only tools of the trade, knowing English isn’t the only skill that you need to have to work in this field.

Freelance writing isn’t exactly all that descriptive as far as job explanations go since it can mean literally anything having to do with putting words on a page. However, while there are many different fields of writing, the easiest field to get into (and the most common one) is content writing.

As a content writer, you’re either going to work in a company or directly for a client. Your job is going to involve doing research and creating articles on specific subjects. These subjects can range from science to car batteries. You’ll need to do enough research to know what you’re talking about when it comes to a certain subject and then produce a competent text on the same items of interest.

The work itself isn’t all that difficult, but having to memorize new information day after day might be the biggest difficulty that you come across. Additionally, you’ll need to learn to organize your thoughts and put them on the page in a legible way.

If you have a good memory and know how to string together a few sentences, then you might like to give freelance writing a try.

5. Advice Column

This job sort of takes the middle ground between being a freelance writer and a travel blogger since you’ll be asked to write about your trips and what kind of advice you’d give to people based on the experiences you’ve had.

If you’ve been on the road for any amount of time, then you’re likely going to have a few good stories, as well as a few cautionary tales. Your advice column can go over what you consider to be the best locations to visit or the best camping experiences you’ve had, as well as the places that people should stay away from.

You’re also free to talk about anything and everything, from how you fasten your dishes while you’re driving to what sort of hand pump sink or compostable toilet you use in the back of your van.

You’ll be able to write about anything you want to, which is a step up from being a freelancer in the content writing field that entails writing about topics chosen by clients.

Your main source of income is going to be the ads that you have on your site, as well as any sponsor that you might be able to find. Additionally, you could also do a guest column on another site for a fixed wage.

6. Teach English

There are essentially two types of English teaching jobs online: conversational and formal.

The formal jobs involve all of the responsibilities that you’d imagine a standard teaching position would have. You’re going to be asked to teach proper grammar, give out assignments and grades, focus a bit more attention towards certain students when necessary, and make sure that everyone is involved and absorbing what you’re saying.

The conversational jobs are essentially short 30-minute or one-hour calls with people where you both try to chat in English. Your students enhance their understanding of the language by talking with a native English speaker, and you try and correct their pronunciation or any common mistakes that they might be making.

The formal jobs usually pay better, but they'll require at least a basic certificate or document that qualifies you to be a teacher. Often, people who have taken teaching courses still gravitate towards conversational jobs due to them being a lot easier.

The decision is ultimately up to you, and it’ll depend on whether you want to put a bit more effort in and make a bit more money or earn a bit less but not have to work so much. Additionally, if you’re looking for more information on teaching jobs, you might also want to check out our Beginners Guide to Teaching English Online.

7. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is simple. A company will engage affiliates (you or the company that you work for) to generate traffic towards their products by linking them in articles or posts. These posts are hosted on sites that the affiliates manage, and they hold links towards the company’s site and the products that are being advertised.

By itself, affiliate marketing is a bit awkward to do. Your site visitors may quickly catch on that the article itself isn’t all that important, and it’s only there as padding for the advertisements within.

A good way to do affiliate marketing is to combine it with either the travel blog or the YouTube channel mentioned earlier. 

8. Graphic Design

Graphic design falls under specialized jobs, so not everyone will be able to get into this profession. You don’t need to have finished a course or have a degree to be a graphic designer, but in order to get hired, you’re either going to need to show that you know what you’re doing or have someone that can refer you.

Referrals are usually a more reliable method of getting work, but it’s sometimes hard to actually find people that are willing to vouch for you, especially if you’re just starting out and you haven’t had many clients. That leaves you with the other method: your catalog.

Your catalog is going to be your collection of past projects or designs that you’ve created that don’t yet have a buyer. You don’t really need to have too many designs for people to become interested in engaging your services. The work usually speaks for itself, so as long as the designs are creative or interesting, people are going to hire you.

It’s pretty hard to gauge whether or not you can make it in this business since your success is going to depend on a lot of factors like luck and people skills, but it’ll also depend on your proficiency and creativity as well.

However, you’ll never know until you try, so if you have the chops with a pen and image editing software, then you might want to give this field of work a try.

9. Web Design

Web design isn’t as complicated as programming, but it still requires quite a bit of know-how. This is one job that you’ll almost certainly need a degree for, or you’ll at least need to show that you’ve finished some kind of course.

It’s entirely possible to be self-taught when it comes to web design, but the problem is that a lot of potential clients are going to be wary of you if you say that you have no formal training whatsoever.

If you’ve already taken a course, then you’ll know that the most important thing is to have a good working knowledge of how WordPress works.

At the risk of over-simplifying things, web design is essentially using drag-and-drop design tools in order to place already existing website features on the page and organizing them in a pleasing and functional way. However, any web designer who’s worth their salt knows their way around code as well.

Web design isn’t easy, but it’s much simpler than a lot of people would believe. Additionally, there’s almost always a web design position available somewhere, and the pay isn’t shabby.

If you have the necessary qualifications or are willing to learn, then this is potentially the most lucrative job on our list.

10. Virtual Assistant

This is another strange one. As you might have assumed by the name, a virtual assistant is someone that works for a client online and helps them with a few of their day-to-day tasks. 

The exact nature of the tasks will be agreed upon when you get hired, but it’ll likely involve items like social media account management, retyping documents, general administrative support, and so on.

You might also have a specific skill set like video or image editing, but as long as this wasn’t made known during the interview process and these tasks weren’t part of the deal, then you aren’t obligated to do any such editing at the request of your client. You can, however, negotiate additional fees or contracts if they want to engage your services in that field.

Finding a job as a virtual assistant isn’t hard. The hard part is finding a reasonable employer. That’s not to say that the people that are looking for a VA are all bad, but a lot of them don’t know where your responsibilities start and end, and others don’t realize that you can’t be on call all day.

As long as you set strict guidelines as to what falls under your responsibilities and exactly how many hours of work you’ll put in on a daily basis, then you should be just fine.

11. Sell Handmade Items

Producing and selling handmade items isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of how to make money living on the road, but it’s still a good option for a lot of people. On the other hand, if you have artistic skills but aren’t cut out for graphic design, you might want to go another way.

Starting your own business where you sell your handmade items, like paintings, t-shirt prints, pin designs, and so on, is a great way to earn a bit of money from your already existing set of skills. So naturally, this job will require you to either be an artist or produce handmade goods like sweaters or figurines that you could ship by airmail to your sellers.

Regardless of what you decide to produce, you can easily sell just about anything on both eBay or Etsy; however, since this is far from a standard sort of job, this means that it’ll take a lot more engagement and hustle from you if you want to sell as many items as you can.

We mean by this that you might want to start a social media page for your business where you market the products you’re selling.

12. General Freelancing

Being a freelancer is pretty easy as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection. There are hundreds of different jobs that you can find which can prove to be surprisingly well-paying and with very reasonable hours and responsibilities. The problem is that we can’t possibly list all of them.

Everyone has a specific set of skills, and some people are much more fit for administrative work, while others are more suited towards something more creative. We’d say that the best way to go about things is to try out as many different jobs as you can and see which position feels the most natural to you personally.

If you weren’t able to find work on either Fiverr or Upwork (which is very unlikely), then you could also try Craigslist or job-specific social media accounts. There are plenty of web or graphic design Facebook groups created specifically to work as a job board, and they’re very easy to find.

If you know what you’re looking for, then finding a job in a specific field can be pretty easy as long as you have the necessary qualifications. However, if you aren’t sure of the type of career path that you want to go for just yet, then you can shop around a bit and see which jobs seem to catch your eye on the online boards.

Conclusion

Any of the choices that we just listed could be a perfect fit for you, or you might not really gravitate towards any of them. The beauty of van living is the freedom you get both in terms of locations and jobs.

If you aren’t all that into your current job, you can easily check out the online boards and easily track down something that appeals to you a bit better. In addition, you have the option to either keep switching jobs for as long as you want or stick to a single job if you find that you really like it. To close things out, here’s a reminder of our suggested options.

  1. Workamping
  2. Travel Blogger
  3. YouTube Channel
  4. Freelance Writer
  5. Advice Column
  6. Teach English
  7. Affiliate Marketing
  8. Graphic Design
  9. Web Design
  10. Virtual Assistant
  11. Sell Handmade Items
  12. General Freelancing

Vera Lawrence
Vera is a part-time van lifer after spending nearly four years in her 1990 Ford E350 (named Fred). She currently lives in Utah and takes extended weekend trips into the desert with her two dogs. She is an ice cream fanatic and avid runner.

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