#DigitalNomadNI | Blog 090 | Passive Income While Travelling

March 19, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most common questions I see from those choosing to live their lives in a camper or motorhome is; "How do I continue to work without having a 'fixed-abode' and living in a van?" The quickest and easiest answer is, keep doing what you're already doing, and park near work!

The complication comes when you've no fixed-abode, what do you do then? Most mail forwarding companies aren't accepted by banks (for obvious reasons) or insurance brokers, so you're going to need a trusted family member or friend's address, then you could set up a mail re-direct from that address to a postbox of your choosing. Insurance for living full-time in a van is a whole other subject, which I might cover in a future post.

There are those of us who are lucky enough to be able to take our work with us, like me for example. I'm a digital content creator for a US centric organisation, all I need is a laptop, strong WiFi and occasionally, my camera. Unless you're in this space already, it's a tough nut to crack to establish your credentials as a valuable member of any creative team, especially when you're constantly in-between locations. We (my wife and I) are 'remote workers', the only stipulation my wife has, is that she has remains within the UK for network security reasons as part of her government role. Me, well, I can work anywhere, so long as I'm able to sync with my colleagues in the US (which typically involves me working a little later in the evening to match up to their morning schedules) I'm all good.

 


The Side Hustle
 

Everyone needs one, and I've had a side hustle for as long as I can remember, stemming from being made redundant and having nothing to fall back on, which wasn't fun at all. At various points in my life I've turned the gas up on that hustle, that being photography. I've photographed celebs, gigs, events, weddings, festivals, cars, models, products, buildings, even crops! Anything and everything that I could do to keep the money coming in. You've really got to work hard to get your name out there, pushing yourself in front of opportunities, which, living in a van could prove really difficult, especially if you're never in one spot long enough to make your mark.

A few questions you need to ask yourself, and also be truthful about:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. What skills do I have that could possibly align with that passion?
  3. Is there something I currently do well, for free, that I could monetize?
    1. Did you build your own camper?
    2. Are you mechanically minded?
    3. What trade experiences do you have?
    4. Are you good at odd jobs?
  4. Do you have a hobby that could be monetized?
  5. Are you a creative, what could you 'make/create' that you could sell online?
  6. Do you do something face to face that you could do via Zoom across a larger group, considering a subscription model?
    1. Yoga instructor
    2. Counsellor

These are just a few of the things to consider when thinking about what you could do to supplement your income on the road. Delve deep, explore your experience and look at ways to digitise it for profit. If you're not on the road yet, but planning on doing so, what adult course could you do now to up-skill that are suitable for travelling that don't require a whole load of tools that you'll ultimately have to carry in your van.

If you haven't seen the 2020 film NOMADLAND starring Frances McDormand, then you're missing out on a treat. Some critics hated the slow pace of the film, but in that, they didn't the point, it's a reflection of life on the road. A calmness, peace, a struggle to make ends meet, surviving cold weather, especially in an American capitalist society without welfare support in the same way we have here in the UK. In the film, they relied heavily on the goodwill of each other.

When you get to meet up with friends!When you get to meet up with friends!It's great when you can meet up with likeminded friends for breakfast. Living in a van isn't all Instagram influencers makes it out to be, it's getting up and finding a place to bin your rubbish and tip your black waste. It's coping with condensation, vehicle repairs, electrical faults, a backlog of laundry that needs done, seeking out fresh water and a safe place to park for the night, which is even more compounded if you're a lone female traveller.

Money shouldn't be the priority before embarking on this lifestyle, but it is one very important element of the whole picture, and means of surviving or building a side-hustle is key.

 


My Side Hustle

As mentioned earlier, I've a camera, "Who doesn't these days?" you scoff, but, it's a basic one. I sold all my 'good gear' last year to slim down to just the basics which include (but not limited to) the following items:

These items I would class as the bare essentials if you want to make a go of creating a channel on YouTube, but even just having a mobile device should suffice, the important thing is, to get started with what you have. Don't aim for perfection out the gate, you'll learn as you go along, you'll find your own style eventually and build upon that.

I filmed my whole build process when I was building out my first camper conversion, I say "first" I'm not doing it again! Now that's all done and dusted, I barely filmed  for a YouTube channel, I now focus on my filming stock footage for a number of online agencies. Some I have more success with than others, and the latest one I joined only has a few elements uploaded with a let's see how this goes mindset.

The list of agencies I supply to is as follows (with a direct link to my portfolio):

The last one is the most recent I've signed up to, having not had much success so far with Pond5.com - Again, only been with them a little over a year. The reason I chose to join Pond5.com is because I've seen a lot of TV shows where they've appeared as a credit for content, so I thought, well, they're doing really well, why not see if I can contribute also. Now, not having sold anything on that site isn't anything to do with them, it's down to the buyers looking for the content that I've created, if what I have on there is something they want, then boom, we have a deal. You just have to keep plugging away.

The first on the list (Alamy) is my photography hub, where I sell most of my still images. When out filming arial footage, I take a few stills and upload them to that site at the same time. Double exposure and all that. Will I make a fortune from this sort of stuff? The honest answer is "never", and again, this is why you have to be honest with yourself. It takes years to get make any residual income from this stock photography industry, you need a huge catalogue of content that has a wide appeal to audiences that are in the market for content. You just have to keep getting out there.

The most I've made from photography was in the wedding sector, but I gave that up last year. The reason being was, that it ties you down to dates in the future, meaning you can't get away to do what you want to do. I loved it, loved every couple I've worked with, but I didn't want to have commit my time 2 years from now.

We're not full time van life dwellers, but we are edging towards it, hopefully within the next 12/18 months. We still have one left in the nest to cater for, she's close to flexing her wings, but we're out every week in the van, exploring the local areas and updating the Park4Night app when and where we can. My wife and I are very comfortable with the idea of making this work, and we can't wait to make it happen.

Have you made a go of it? What has been your experience so far? What tips do you have that would benefit my readers?


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