There’s often a moment of surprise when I tell people that we’re full-time RVers. I guess it would have been a shock to me too if someone had told me that when we were still living in our sticks and bricks. Inevitably, the question comes up about how we make money on the road.
We’ve had people ask if we have a slew of rental properties, or if we got in early as bitcoin investors, or if we landed a windfall inheritance, but as soon as I tell them that I’m a web designer, the light clicks for them.
Then it becomes, “Oh, I get it. As long as you have internet, you can run your website business from your RV wherever you’d like.”
Running a Business from your RV vs. Starting a Business from your RV
Before we dive too deep into how I stay productive on the road, it’s important to recognize the difference between running a business and starting a business. I love encouraging people to figure out how to run their business from the road, but it’s a lot different than starting a business from the road.
Every business has an ‘on ramp’ – the amount of time it takes you to go from “I have an idea” to “Someone is paying me and I’m delivering something to them.” This is the business on-ramp, like getting on the highway, you go from 0 to full-speed.
Starting a business is a challenge itself, and I’m not suggesting it’s impossible on the road, since I know many people who have, but add on top of starting your business, add to that traveling to a new location periodically, living in a smaller space than you’re used to, having the kids in that same smaller space, learning what gets hooked up where, and how to dump and refill tanks – let’s just say, those two hurdles combined is a serious challenge to overcome.
As I mentioned, it’s not impossible to start a business while learning to RV, but my suggestion is to either get your business on-ramp before you start traveling full-time in your RV, or get on the road and used to the lifestyle with savings in the bank, then launch your RV-based business.
In the same way, you might not move to a new country AND start learning the language at the same time, starting a company is easiest when it comes distinctly before or distinctly after learning to RV.
Types of Mobile Businesses
We’ve met people who run all different businesses from the road. Direct Marketing, Multi-Level, Amazon and eBay businesses, consulting services, and even a remote realtor whose focus was finding clients that people in his office would show and list houses with.
I wouldn’t suggest that one business is better than another, but if I had to start over again, with all of the available businesses out there, I’d stick with web design; No inventory, no recruiting, completely remote, flexible schedule (since most communication is over email), location-independent, businesses know they need one, and the product is understandable; everyone has a general idea of what a website is and what it does.
You have to love WHY you run your business
Too many business owners love their business. It’s dangerous; hear me out, entrepreneurs:
You may love statues of daisies. Statues of daisies might be your passion, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make enough money selling statues of daisies as a mobile business to make the income you need to free you up to build the life you want.
If you’re “in love” with your business, you may be skipping over the blind spots and missing the obvious opportunities around you.
The most important thing about starting or running a business from the road is that you LOVE why you’re doing it.
Am I passionate about websites? Not specifically. I don’t spend my life browsing cool website ideas or poking around the internet just for fun, but I LOVE helping my clients grow their business, and I LOVE having a recurring monthly income to depend on, and the flexibility that comes along with knowing exactly what I’ll make next month, even if I don’t intentionally pursue new clients.
I love that there’s no inventory. I love that I don’t have to recruit people. I love that because our websites are service-based every month; I don’t have a quota of new websites to sell and design to support my family. I love that I get to sell a product that businesses already know they need.
And, LOVING being able to full-time RV and having a remote business is WHY I love having a stable recurring income and why I’m passionate about keeping my clients happy to have them retain my monthly service. I don’t get my work done and sell websites because I’m passionate about websites; I grow my online business because it allows me to live the life I want to, and I’ve found websites to be the best solution for me to live my adventure.
Find an online business that gives you love the results you’re looking for
What’s the right business for you that lets you and your family be full-time RVers, or have flexibility in your schedule, or allows you to take time off for that anniversary cruise every year, or allows you to put enough away each month for your kids’ college tuition, or allows you to take a week off every month, or leave the country for a month at a time?
Whatever your WHY is, that will drive you to build your remote business and keep you motivated.
How To Keep Your Online RV Business Productive While On The Road
Since we’re RVers, we have a few challenges;
- Our trailer is our tiny home (just under 300 sq ft for our family of 5). Space is always a consideration.
- Noise: Ever tried a 300 sq. ft. open office environment with co-workers who always want to talk about Pokemon, randomly start laughing because someone farted, or don’t understand what ‘concentration’ is when you’re writing an email or blog post?
- There’s so much to see and do! How can you possibly find time to work?
- We never know how good our internet signal will be from one day to the next. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a web designer. Internet is non-negotiable. (BUT we’ve found a few tricks for being off-grid and not having to be tied to a campground to get wifi).
- We’re entrepreneurs. New ideas and opportunities pop up ALL THE TIME! (ok, this may not be specific to RVing, but the more you travel, the more new and exciting opportunities you’ll find!)
Here’s how we stay focused and keep our online business successful:
1) Space is limited in our trailer
I have a designated workspace in our trailer. We removed the loveseat (which had a breathtaking view of the side of the kitchen cabinet) and replaced it with a desk and office chair. This is where I work. The kids know not to leave things on my desk, and when I’m at my desk that I’m working and not to be interrupted (in theory).
This also means that I don’t sit at my desk during dinner or casually browse my phone. Being at my desk means working.
Not all RVs have this option. We’re now in our second trailer, but in our first RV, I didn’t have the luxury of designated office space – I simply worked at the kitchen table. While it worked, it wasn’t ideal, but we always found ways to have the kids out of the trailer as much as possible at the campground pool or playing on the climber, or Celine would take them for a hike, to a local bookstore, or out to a playground nearby.
We don’t travel full-time just to stay in our RV, so we find ways to explore. Sometimes that means I stay home and work, and other times that means they stay home in our rig while I go out to a local coffee shop or library.
This ties directly into…
2) Noise while I’m working in a trailer
Space and noise go hand in hand. One trick I’ve found in our rig is to put in earbuds and listen to music. We remind the kids that if my earbuds are in, I’m not available for a conversation. The background music also helps dampen outside noise when I’m writing an email or blog post.
I also make a habit of taking or making calls in our vehicle. I can close all the doors and be fairly isolated from outside sound, and the person on the other end of the call doesn’t know the difference between me sitting in an office and being in my car when I have my headset in.
I also make a habit of working late… well, I did this before we got on the road anyway, so it’s not a surprise that it continued, but I find that after the kids go to bed, Celine is starting to wind down with a Netflix show or calling a friend, so it’s the perfect time for me to get some free time and uninterrupted work done.
Maybe you’re a morning person, so you can get some work in before the kids wake up, or maybe your kids are young enough to take an afternoon nap when you can sneak a couple of hours in. Either way, figure out what schedule works for you.
3) Distractions: There’s So Much To See And Do When Traveling!
Yep. It’s a real thing. I told Celine when we got on the road that I didn’t want to spend my life working while she was out with our 3 boys checking things off the bucket list, but that doesn’t change the fact that work has to get done.
Here are a few ways to be sure you’re getting your work in while also getting to explore:
1) Be clear on your typical schedule. For me, this is working in the morning (whenever I get up) while the boys are doing their homeschooling. Eating lunch together. Hanging out or exploring for the afternoon/evening, then getting in a couple more hours of work in the evening. There’s plenty of flexibility, but this is what I typically work towards.
2) Determine when you need a workday and when you’ll take a day off. Have a project due Monday? I need to have a full workday between now and Friday so we can change locations over the weekend or move to a new RV park. Got a project done a day early, waiting to hear back from a client, emptied that ‘to-do’ list by noon? Now you’ve got some free time.
3) Quote extended timelines. If you think something will take you 3 days, tell the client it will be ready in 5 days.
You never know when something will come up, like a local concert you just found out about, or friends from college that live in the next town over invite you over for the day, or you move to a new campground to find out that their wifi is down, and you have to run to a coffee shop every morning to get connectivity or change campgrounds in a moment’s notice.
If you get the 3-day project done in 3 days, the client will be even happier but set a clear expectation for you and for them by quoting an extended timeline.
Remember that you’re running a mobile business because it gives you the flexibility to be an RVer and to explore. Don’t get this backward let exploring take up so much time that it costs you your business.
4) Internet: How can you stay connected when running a business from your RV?
For us, I just use my cell phone’s hotspot, campground wifi, or a friend’s wifi if we’re hanging out in someone’s driveway for a few nights. It’s worked for me since we got on the road in 2018.
There are other options; Some travelers have cell phones with 2 providers, so if one provider doesn’t have coverage in a certain area, hopefully, the other does. Some people get cellphone boosters which they swear by (but in reality, you can only boost a signal that already exists – you can’t create a signal where one doesn’t exist), and other people are starting to explore options like satellite connectivity with starlink.
While I think most of the options are “down the road” for many people, we simply have cell or (hopefully free) wifi signal when we pull in, or we don’t stay more than a night. We use Campendium.com to find boondocking spots, (What is boondocking?) so if we’re off-grid, they have a rating system where people who have been to those campsites before can let you know what the signal strength is for different networks.
We usually have a good idea of what our signal strength will be ahead of time, and if we find out differently, we enjoy a night of free time off-grid and then get the wheels rolling to some signal.
In this case, quoting extended deadlines and not moving to an “unknown” area the day before a project is due will serve you well.
5) Entrepreneurship and new ideas everywhere!
It’s just the nature of being an entrepreneur to see opportunity everywhere, and years ago, I discovered this about myself, but that actually gets magnified on the road since you’re seeing new opportunities all the time.
When we lived in a house, I would go to the same coffee shops, drive down the same streets, see the same people in our neighborhood, and visit the same parks with our kids. An idea that could “change the world” starts to get easier to tame when you’ve considered that idea over and over about that scenario you regularly encounter.
Being on the road means that you see new things all the time – an idea you’ve never considered before is nearly a daily occurrence, and it can seem like this is THE ONE that could change the world – a business that needs a little tweak, an idea that one person implemented that could apply to a different industry, a service that could easily be reciprocal for another similar business that you know of… the possibilities are endless.
I bring myself back to the difference and challenges between starting a mobile business and running a mobile business and ask myself, “Do I have the capacity for another on-ramp right now?” and “If I was running more businesses, could I continue to have the flexibility in my lifestyle that I want?” The answer is usually “no,” but not always.
The Entrepreneurial Temptation I gave into
When we got on the road, we joined multiple RVing groups on Facebook – RVing with kids, family RVing, RV renovations, RV Entrepreneurs… you name it, and there’s a Facebook group for it. A question that we started seeing come up over and over again is “How do you make money on the road?”, “What kind of road-based business do you run?” or “How can I replace my income on the road?”
Of course, my entrepreneurial brain kicked in immediately. “Is there a way that I can help people who want to start a mobile business like mine?” In this case, the answer was yes. I could help people by showing them exactly how I’ve designed my web design business to create a monthly recurring income which has allowed us the flexibility to RV and travel since 2018.
My online course called “Build That Agency: Create a recurring-income web design business without writing a single line of code” is something that I could create without (much) ongoing maintenance required. I was able to take 2 days to shoot 40 videos about every step in the process from creating a brand to maintaining client relationships to finding an audience and selling websites as a monthly service. In this case, a course is a product that stands alone, meets a need, and will help others, and something I could justify diverting my attention from my website design business to get live.
When it comes to running a business from your RV, stay focused on the results of what your business provides for you, and you’ll find ways to get around the challenges and build an online business that moves you toward your dream.