Make Money on the Open Road: How to Earn a Living From Your RV
My wife and I were camping at a hot spring in Arizona when a small camper van pulled in. We watched a man get out and remove many large plastic bags, which he piled on the roof. He was making room so he could spend the night in his home-on-the-road.
Later, around a campfire, we asked him about the bags. They were full of used stuffed animals he bought at thrift stores, and he said he made about $4,000 per month selling them alongside various highways and roads as he travelled.
It may be an unusual way to make a living, but according to Workamper News, many people live in and work from motor homes, trailers, truck campers and conversion vans. "Workampers are adventurous individuals, couples and families who have chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines ANY kind of part-time or full-time work with RV camping," explains the site.
Are you ready to hit the road and make money from your RV?
What Kind of Work Can You Do?
Many campers get seasonal jobs working in campgrounds or parks, Workamper editor Steve Anderson explains in a CBS News article. He notes businesses are also common: "We have literally hundreds of members running businesses out of their RVs and living in multiple places every year.”
Anderson mentions the following examples of businesses his subscribers operate while traveling in their recreational vehicles:
- Sales of RV-related products
- Consulting services
- Dating services
- Law practices
- Contract nursing
- Business consulting
- RV repair tutoring
“With the advent of the Internet and especially now with the tools for bandwidth to connect to the Internet, the door is open to do multiple things from an RV,” he explains. And even selling bulky items isn't out of the question, because you can drop-ship them or carry them in a trailer behind a motorhome.
Who is Working from an RV and How Much Do They Make?
Many people who live in their RVs are retirees who supplement their income with jobs or businesses. But Anderson says, "We have people in their 30s and 40s who are successfully living the RV lifestyle and running businesses."
And your income may not be as limited as you might think. For example, Steve McMahon sold about 5,000 "high-gain cellular-telephone antennas" for $70 while traveling the country in his 37-foot motorhome, according to Entrepreneur. That's $350,000 in total sales.
The same article says Richard Dahl made and sold more than 1,300 RV water filters at $30 each while traveling for a couple years. He expanded his business to include hundreds of items, and started The RV Water Filter Store website, shipping items from any post office he passed as he traveled. In addition to covering his living and traveling expenses, the profits allow him to save $30,000 per year.
Terry Cooper was a college professor before hitting the road with his Mobile RV Academy more than four years ago. Now he runs five-day courses teaching people how to maintain and repair RVs. Attendees pay $1,644 in tuition and Cooper has courses scheduled in 10 locations around the country for 2015.
Not every job or business on the road has to be RV-related. Your RV can be just a way to move from job to job or move where you like if you have a business. Bill Myers says he’s talked to many people living the RV lifestyle, including:
- Internet entrepreneurs
- Campground hosts
- Construction workers
- Tourist area workers (they move with the seasons)
- Aerospace engineers (working on a spaceport in New Mexico)
Michelle Brunner runs ReMiks Jewelry from her motorhome. "I crisscross the country full time in my RV in search of natural & organic elements, as well as recycled treasures," she explains.
And she does mean full time; according to one profile of Brunner, she's been doing this since 1996.
Ready to Hit the Road?
Selling everything and starting a vagabond lifestyle is a big transition, but it doesn't have to be expensive.
Bill Myers offers the example of a couple who bought a $5,000 used motorhome and cut their cost of living from $6,000 per month to about $400 per month. He also says he bought a 26-foot travel trailer for $4,000 and ran his newsletter business from it.
How do you learn what you need to know? Try hanging out in the Workamper forums for a while.
Where can you find work on the road? Talk to others who are living and working from their RVs, or start with these resources:
This company needs RV campers for the sugar beet harvest, which starts around the end of September in Montana and North Dakota. "Sugar Beet Employees can make up to $2,000 in a two week time frame,” the company says.
Amazon needs "RV’ers with a positive, can-do attitude" to work seasonally at fulfilment centers in several locations around the country. The jobs last from three to four months.
Look for campground host positions on this job board.
You'll find various job postings here. Recent ones include park management jobs, front desk positions and sales work.
A subscription is $33 per year, but without paying you can still open the menu for "I am a Workamper" and under the "Find a Job" tab click "Featured Employers" to find a list of companies and organizations that hire RV'ers.
Of course, jobs are not your only options. In fact, starting a business will give you the most freedom to go where you like. And if you look over my list of 103 ways you can make money from home, you'll find dozens of businesses you could operate from an RV.
Your Turn: Would you consider living in an RV and working as you travel?
Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).