When I tell people I travel full time as a digital nomad, people tend to look hard at me. They usually make an assumption (possibly based on the grey hair) that I’m older than I look and that I am retired.
It’s an easy assumption in Australia to make, as it’s a huge cultural event with baby boomers, packing up their caravans to travel around Australia.
People who ask this though are generally shocked to learn I’m only 49.
(Some ask me if I’m wealthy. I usually laugh out loud at that one. I answer, with a chuckle: ‘Ah…no. I wish I were.’)
I tell them that I travel full time and work along the way as a digital nomad. Pretty quickly, I can gauge whether I need to add to that response, expanding with I’m either a travel blogger or a writer. Either answer doesn’t quite explain the full picture of what I do, but it’s the easiest answer when most are looking for the elevator pitch.
I mean, yes, I am a travel blogger and yes, I make an income through my writing. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Then they ask, HOW do I make money?
To be honest, I got over being shocked at people asking me that question. I mean, it’s kind of rude to ask someone that question, don’t you think? Usually people ask: “What do you do for a living?” and leave it at that, but it’s different times and I’m living a lifestyle few really understand. I mean, I gave up a ‘perfectly good office job with a decent salary’ to do this. (I mark those in parenthesis because well, that life isn’t for everyone either.)
But I digress…. It’s a question that will continuously be asked. So, I answer: Through sales I make through the website, along with partnerships and sponsorships I build with companies. I tell them that I have sold photography and products I have created, like eBooks, which I then sell via a website. I have a diversified income.
When they really dig in, I reveal that I do have an investment safety net (from that previous ‘office job’) because well, all of the above doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. (I’m seven years in at this point.)
My Indefinite Travel Plan
When people ask how long I’ve been doing it for, and how long I plan on travelling, it shocks people when I tell them I plan on traveling indefinitely.
“Do you have a home?”, is usually their shocked question.
“No.” Then I point to the car and tell them “that’s home for now”. I explain further, if they are about to keel over at that idea, that home tends to be wherever my daughter is, but I joke that, even then, she doesn’t have a spare bed for me either.
That usually gets a giggle and the conversation either turns into full-fledged, detailed curiosity where they have dreamy wonder in their eyes as they wonder what it would be like without a mortgage, rent, utilities, a car payment, etc. Or, the conversation ends right there.
Sometimes the idea is too much for people to comprehend. I mean, I suppose I’m technically homeless. Or as someone recently said, I’m not homeless, only keyless.
Not everyone can do it.
I know that. You’d be amazed at how much you learn about yourself when you travel long term. Some people manage a few months before the flexibility does their head in. They crave structure. They look at everywhere they travel as a whether it can be ‘home’.
Sometimes it’s too much freedom.
Some find they love the freedom so much they lose all momentum to work. That is until the money factor slaps them in the face and they realise that they have to find work somewhere, somehow. (Or at least, I would hope that would be the case. Otherwise, they will find themselves living under a bridge!)
It’s not a holiday. It’s a lifestyle.
So what does that all mean?
A digital nomad is someone who either has an online business and travels full time or, has a ‘can work from anywhere’ kind of job and travels as they work. Generally, it’s someone traveling long term and doing their job online.
To be a digital nomad, they may have negotiated their flexible workplace with their current employers, who don’t care where they are, as long as they get the job done. They may own a website or even multiple websites (like me), offering services like affiliate links, membership pages, products or services such as courses or eBooks.
They may freelance through online outlets like upwork.com or fiverr.com. I’ve known freelancers to offer services like copywriting, editing, as a virtual assistant and sometimes all of those things at once.
The secret to being a successful digital nomad is diversification. It’s the key.
How do I actually make money as a Digital Nomad?
It’s the first and most common question I’m asked.
When it comes to Digital Nomads, people are curious because it’s a dream life, isn’t it? (More on that later…). But, I’ll be open with you and share with you how I do make money as a Digital Nomad, because, well, why not.
There are a couple of ways I make money: Sponsorships, Affiliate Sales, Advertising, and Selling Products or Services online.
As a travel blogger, I work with companies as I travel. In exchange for significant online exposure, I receive compensated accommodation or experiences (like food tours) from those companies.
Let me be clear on this, because there is often a misconception: It’s not free accommodation and I don’t get stuff for free.
As a blogger, I exchange my time and provide another outlet for online presence in return for these offerings.
What that essentially means is, I stay in places I‘ve either reached out to directly (or pitched to) or have received offers from. In exchange for that accommodation or experience, I write a post on my website that can be also shared on theirs; I share my experiences via social media; and I sometimes offer photography to companies that they can use for their own commercial use (copyright stays with me) but that is usually only with higher end accommodation.
Not only do I share all this with my readers, but I also share with collaborative sites I’m involved with. I have a large network whom I work with, where we share posts and contact information when needed.
Here are a few sponsored opportunities I loved working with (through my other website, www.travelfarenough.com):
Affiliate sales are a big part of my business strategy.
They are sales links embedded on my website, that when clicked into and used by you, to buy a good or service, I get a small (and believe me when I say small) commission on the backend. It’s no additional expense to the user. With a larger readership, the clicks increase, so it takes time and energy to build that readership to make this a worthy income.
When I write a post on an experience I have recommended, and have paid for myself, I will include an affiliate link. Alternatively, I may decide to sell through a Widget on my page where I’ve offering products I recommend with affiliate links attached to those. I do this with my Simple Travel Wardrobe, My Recommended Travel Memoirs, or Essential Carry On Items widgets.
Shop My Recommended Travel Memoirs
Affiliate Sales is a way for me to make money, linking to companies I know my readers already use and I have used myself and also offering opportunities I feel would be useful to my online community. As with ads, I only work with companies I feel are relevant and helpful.
Generally affiliate links are ‘buried’ on a post. Not that they are secret, they are always disclosed, but they aren’t as ‘in your face’ as ads can be.
The companies I use most are: Amazon, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia Apple (see below), VigLink, RentalCars.com and World Nomads. If you click on each of these, they will take you to these companies through my affiliate links (see how it works?)
I do post advertisement on my websites but only place ads I feel are relevant and helpful to my readers. I won’t put crap on there. If the ads are not affiliate links, it is advertised space I charge companies for. They buy space on my website but again, it hasn’t to be ‘on brand’ or relevant to my readership.
The other way to make money on the road is to produce products and sell them via a website. Products like eBooks or courses. These are digital products where you don’t have to manage inventory.
I have created a few eBooks, but have only one I am selling. It’s a helpful 50 page guide to Housesitting, called Housesitting 101. Pretty straight forward.
I tried creating a course, but it didn’t sell well, so I cut my losses on that. It’s all about being flexible in this business.
You may have noticed, I have a couple of websites. (Yes, I’m a bit crazy, but this is how I diversify my income.) I own and manage this website and another called Travel Far Enough, which focuses on ditching the desk and living the life you dream of.
I have another two websites in the works. One is already built, but not live. I am waiting until I’m settled to manage that one, as I anticipate it will be time intensive to manage it. At least initially. I could employ someone to manage it for me, but since it’s on a subject that is very close to my heart, I want to do it myself.
The other website is one I plan on launching at the end of 2019. I own the domain at this point.
Lastly, I do freelance writing where I sell my writing elsewhere.
I have worked with Upwork before, writing hotel descriptions for websites. I don’t do a lot of freelance, but it’s part of my strategy when I need extra income.
Working on the Road
Another question I’m asked a lot is what life is really like as a digital nomad?
While this lifestyle looks to be one big vacation, it’s actually a lot of work. Hours upon hours each week go into making it a success. I think I spend more time on my business than I did working in my corporate jobtniA lot of time is spent online and sometimes it’s without great internet connections. I’ve learned to look for fast internet along with washing machines when finding a spot to land.
Publishing online is not as simple as uploading a quick post to a website.
(I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.)
Instead, it’s a ton of time spent on research, writing, editing, marketing, etc., all of which goes into each and every post. There’s even a strategy around every post that includes what information needs to be included, when to publish it, where to share that publication etc. And, every post is different.
There’s even a strategy around every post that includes what information needs to be included, when to publish it, where to share that publication etc. And, every post is different.
Let’s not forget that to be this Digital Nomad, you’re on the road all the time.
When you’re not traveling, you’re researching your travels. You’re booking your travels. You’re writing feedback on travel stays (if using Airbnb) because that’s what helps get you booked for future stays faster and more smoothly. You’re applying for and communicating with future housesits. You’re making notes of where you’ve been for upcoming posts (and if you’re travelling fast, those notes can be intimidating after a while!)
If you’re driving, there is no opportunity to write as you go. (I’ve tried recorders. They don’t work for me). Even if you’re the passenger, you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening outside the window because, well, what are you going to write about and isn’t travelling the point of doing this?! The last thing you want to do if have your head down in a laptop.
So, when I do work, it’s when I’ve stopped somewhere.
Sometimes that’s at the end of a travel day. At time it’s in a busy cafe (where, surprisingly I can get a LOT done! Maybe it’s the coffee…). Most times, it is when I’m sitting in a chair at an Airbnb or, as I’m doing now, sitting outside at a BBQ under an umbrella (the glare!), to get some serious writing done.
It’s all in managing the time you have.
I mean, I’ve been known to pull an all-nighter…or close to… because I knew I wasn’t stopping again for a while.
Most times, it’s this massive work session when I’m stopped for more than a day or two. I have learned to build in a week here and there where I just hole up somewhere and write like a madwoman.
When that happens, Day One is spent doing the washing, finding groceries etc… just getting my head around being stopped for more than a night, then it’s this massive cram session to get the writing down.
That’s why I like housesitting. It gives me some time and space to get my personal stuff done, but then time to get some serious work done. I have a notebook that I write notes in as I travel and then when I do stop, I’m a working fiend.
On that note, this post is now a monster, so time to wrap it up.
If you have questions at all about this lifestyle, drop me a comment and I’ll be happy to answer whatever you have.
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