One of the harsh realities that most travel junkies face is this – there is usually an inverse relationship between time on the road versus time making money.
If you’re working, you ain’t traveling. If you’re hitting the road, you’re probably not making any dough.
But lots of people have been able to do both – travel AND make a living while doing it.
Money making tips for travelers – the single person’s edition
As a young man fresh out of the army in the 1990s and traveling the planet for the better part of a year, I was up for just about any job I could get my hands on. Some of the gigs include:
- Harvesting bananas and sugar cane in Australia (this is why I hate cane toads today).
- Staffing the reservations and reception desk in a Thai hostel for English-speaking travelers.
- Mixing cocktails as a bartender in Thailand.
- Working as a food prep guy in Indiana.
- Working as a substitute English language teacher in Indonesia.
- Freelance writing for a regional dive magazine.
- Guiding and instructing scuba divers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Hawaii.
None of those jobs paid anything close to a living wage, but they kept my wanderlust alive.
Today, with a family that has taken homeschooling on the road, I’ve had to evolve ways to increase my earning potential while still on the go.
Get a location-independent job
There is a growing location-independent job movement, where traveling nomads provide a service that people and businesses value and pay for.
The beauty of these gigs is that it doesn’t matter where on the planet these nomads happen to be.
For me, I just happen to know a thing or two about inbound and content marketing, and have some experience with web pages and social media marketing. I cut my teeth with major technology and healthcare organizations, and now do the same at a lower cost for smaller entities.
So, as long as I have internet access, I am in business. Personally, I get my leads through referrals, but lots of people do a thriving trade through UpWork.
It’s not big bucks, but it helps me stay on the road for months at a time, especially since we are frugal travelers.
Travel bucks, Fulfilled by Amazon
Besides the content marketing gigs I pick up, I also earn a recurring income through Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) service.
The most dependable money maker for me on Amazon are the two personal protection DVDs that I produced 5 years ago together with my martial arts mentor, Kelly Worden.
The first DVD adapts Filipino martial arts for older folks who might need to use a walking stick. The second takes combative skills that Kelly teaches to the Green Berets out of Ft Lewis, WA, and adapts them for women, teens, and generally any one who can’t use size as a deterrence.
The hard work was in producing the DVDs, but now I collect a couple hundred a month with zero effort, thanks to Amazon FBA (and great reviews and referrals).
Wait a minute, you say, no one buys DVDs anymore! Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are, but I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Note that it doesn’t have to be a DVD, and it doesn’t have to be on Amazon. If you are good at something, put together an ebook, a webinar, maybe an online course on Udemy. Learn some basics on inbound marketing, and voila, you’re in business.
Amazon Retail Arbitrage + Travel Miles Collecting = Amazing!
Ask 10 FBA retailers what their secret sauce is, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Maybe more!
Here’s mine – I do as much as I can online, and I try to combine retail arbitrage with collecting travel miles. Here is an example of what I’ve done on Barnes & Noble.
- I wait until there is a good discount coupon (sign up to their newsletter to be in the loop). These coupons are sometimes stackable – so they kick in after other discounts have been extended. I haven’t had luck with going through a portal when I buy heavily discounted items, but no harm trying.
- Then I look for bargains, and make sure they qualify for free shipping (usually on orders above $25).
- I compare those bargains to what they are selling for on Amazon. As a rule of thumb, if the final price after discounts on Barnes and Noble is less than 70% of what it would cost on Amazon, I jump on it. That factors in the FBA fees, gives me the margin to be one of the best value sellers, and still leaves me a profit.
- I then fire up my United Airlines MileagePlusX App on my phone, and buy a Barnes and Noble Gift code for the exact amount needed, after discount code and taxes are applied. This gives me 4 United miles per dollar spent (25% more if I could only get Chase to issue me a United card), on top of the points I get with the credit card I happen to be using.
- When the books arrive, I (or a buddy if I am unable to receive the items) relabel and resend them to Amazon FBA.
- Last step: wait for the money to roll in!
eGift card arbitrage + meeting minimum spend
While it is less money than Amazon FBA, egift card arbitrage is fun as heck, requires no messing with shipping, and sells lightning quick if you do it right. Here’s what I do:
- Wait for a good gift card deal to pop up – again, you need to sign up for the various merchants’ newsletters and offers. I usually hold out for 20% discounts. In this example, Staples recently ran a 20% discount on Gap gift cards. I bought several $25 Gap cards for $20 each.
- Check if that merchant is offering a rebate on shopping portals, like TopCashBack. If so, buy it through that portal. TCB was giving back 3%, so that’s what I did, and earned 60 cents (3% of $20).
- I try to use a credit card that would get me the most points – in this case, I used my Chase Ink Plus for 5x Ultimate Rewards points.
- List that gift card on a site like Raise, which again, is also a TCB affiliate, so I would get $1.50 from TCB when the card sells on Raise. I try to be the most competitive seller as I typically have lots of gift cards to move.
- For the Gap cards, everyone else was listing a 14% discount on Raise, so I went with 15% and the cards sold within minutes. Because I am a bulk seller on Raise, I get charged a lower rate of 10%, so my earnings was $19.13. Other gift card marketplaces may have a lower commission, but may not have the $1.50 TCB rebate. You figure which platform works best for you.
- Raise allows me to do an ACH transfer and the money usually gets to me within 48 hours. Here is the math:
- Total cost = $20.
- Total cash earned = $19.13 + $0.60 + $1.50 = $21.23
- Total Chase UR points = 100 (worth maybe $1.50 at a conservative 1.5 cents per UR, although I consistently get more than 2 cents per UR).
- Total profit = $2.73
- Rinse and repeat. I’ve done more than a couple hundred of these in the past 2 weeks while on a cruise ship, so it’s a nice little payout. Plus, I am getting paid to meet my minimum spend requirements on my Chase Ink Plus, which is neat.
While all these tactics provide me a dependable resource to keep my family traveling, they aren’t the only ways I earn a buck while on the road.
I’ll get to those methods in a follow-up post on investing to earn passive income, not just for trips, but big life goals as well.
Until then, safe travels!