This article is written by my friend and fellow RVer Carrie Fay. I say friend, when really we’ve never met in person, yet talk a lot online. We also write on the related topic of working remotely. I invited Carrie to be a guest because she has great experience on becoming a traveling freelancer and loves to share her knowledge. If you’re looking for ideas on types of remote work you can do from the road, check out my article Top Remote Jobs for RVers.
Meet Carrie – The Traveling Freelancer
Right this very second, there are thousands of people who are fulfilling their full-time travel dreams, and not all of them are waiting until retirement to do it! Many are becoming what I call a traveling freelancer.
In 2016, I decided to embark on this journey myself with absolutely zero idea how I would make it happen or what it would realistically look like for me—I had no idea how to make money remotely and I’d never stepped foot in an RV!
There was a lot of learning, planning and sacrifices to be made in order for my dream to become a reality, and in the summer of 2017 I finally hit the road as a full-time RV traveling freelancer. If you have a desire to become a traveling freelancer, I have broken it down into the 7 steps I took to become a traveling freelancer.
Step 1: Make the Choice
I was blown away when I first found out there were people that were working-aged traveling around while making an income online.
I had no idea this lifestyle existed, and it seems really funny to me now how clueless I was!
I remember toying with the idea of selling everything to travel in an RV with my girlfriend at the time, and we thought it was a fairly original idea—we had no clue there were thousands of people doing it already.
Once I started thinking more about the RV life, I quickly found out there were thousands of people doing it and documenting it online. What’s more, they were still making money while working from wherever they had internet!
I realized we could learn how to transition into making a remote income, buy an RV and hit the road. In that moment it became real for me and it seemed like something I could realistically do. After all, tons of people were already doing it!
At that point, it became non-negotiable. I was determined to figure it out. I made the decision to learn how to work online, buy an RV, quit my job and never look back.
Step 2: Make Time For Research
Once I decided I wanted to pursue a location-independent lifestyle, it was time for research. I had no idea how it would all come together, but I was determined.
Not only did I know nothing about making money remotely, I knew nothing about RVs! I had never stepped foot in one before.
I spent the next few months learning all I could about RVs and what would be best for myself, my girlfriend and our 3 cats.
I also learned everything I could find about the different types of remote income and what interested me the most.
It was really overwhelming at first, but I didn’t let that stop me! I started networking with people who were already living the lifestyle I wanted to. I joined Facebook groups. I read blog after blog and I downloaded so many free guides to make money remotely.
I became friends with people who worked online while traveling and learned about their lives and businesses.
I learned the difference between a remote employee and a freelancer, and I quickly realized that the freelancing life was the life for me.
I wanted to become a freelancer because I wanted to choose who I worked with, set my own hours and set my own prices. I knew that if I was an employee of a company, I would be bound by their hours, their rules, and their pay rate.
Armed with all of my newfound remote income and RV knowledge, we started searching for the perfect RV!
Step 3: Check Your Skills and Level Up
Like many people I’ve met, when I first started thinking about freelancing, I didn’t think I had many valuable skills to offer.
I had spent my entire adult life working in jobs in the service and retail industry, and most recently an entry-level position in real estate.
I set out to learn what skills were currently in demand online on freelancing websites such as Upwork and Flexjobs, and I listed out all the skills I’ve learned in my life. I’d learned many skills from my previous jobs and my personal experiences, and I grouped them into these categories:
- General Administration: email correspondence, producing reports, organizing digital assets (files, etc), data entry, and web research
- Writing: writing emails, taking meeting minutes, proofreading, editing, creating PowerPoint presentations and transcription
- Team Leading: project management, recruitment, training new hires
- Sales and Marketing: customer support and client relations
Although I’d never actually had an Admin or Sales and Marketing job, I knew that the skills I currently had would translate well into those industries.
It was a very enlightening process to learn that I did have valuable skills I could use online, after all!
Learn Additional Skills
Knowing that I had a solid set of foundational skills, I knew I could offer services as a Freelance Virtual Assistant for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
I also knew that if I learned additional skills, I’d have more to offer and could ultimately earn more from my services, so that’s what I decided to do!
I considered things I already knew how to do and things I really liked to do to come up with complementary skills to one day offer clients online. With those considerations in mind, I landed on Social Media Marketing and Management.
As a millennial, I grew up on the internet and was already spending a lot of my free time on Social Media. I knew I could get paid for it, so I started learning how to use Social Media for businesses. But people of all ages can learn these skill too, as there are so many avenues to be self taught or take classes.
I read many articles and took courses on websites like Udemy. I devoured all the information I could find online, and started getting myself connected with entrepreneur and Social Media Marketing communities.
I spent every hour that I wasn’t at work researching, learning and implementing my newfound skills on my own Social Media profiles, and profiles for friends who allowed me to tinker.
By doing this, I started to get some really awesome results and had a small portfolio of my Social Media Marketing results!
Step 4: Purchase the RV, Renovate & Downsize
In between all the obsessing over how to make money from the road and learning, we searched for and purchased what we thought was the perfect RV for us!
It’s a 1999 36’ Rexhall Rexair, which is the exact length and model we had wanted. We found it for what we thought was a great price, because it had a lot of water damage we needed to repair.
Thinking back now, we were very naive and I wouldn’t choose to buy this RV again, but it has been an amazing rolling home for the past year and a half and I love it dearly.
We had 6 months to renovate and repair the RV before going full-time, and we had our work cut out for us! We replaced the subfloor, the plumbing, and rebuilt the generator with the help of YouTube and some friends.
Once we purchased the RV, things became really real. We knew we had to start downsizing our belongings, and fast! Overall, our downsizing process took around 6 months.
We started purging our clothes and other smaller belongings, and then moved on to bigger items like furniture and appliances towards the end.
Downsizing was the most emotional part of the journey! I never realized how much I was allowing my material possessions to control me and define me until I was faced with getting rid of them. If downsizing is holding you back too, check out Managing The Emotions of Downsizing for RV Living for great tips.
It took half a year to part with my stuff because it was so emotionally draining. I couldn’t do much in one day. You know when you start to clean a room and find something you forgot you had and you start fidgeting with it and reminiscing about when you purchased it and how your life was and like… ALL the memories? It was like that every time I started sorting my stuff. This made it hard to get it done quickly!
Step 5: Quit Your Job (Maybe not Though!)
Yes, you read that right. I quit my job… a little too prematurely! I quit my job with 2 months to go before moving into the RV because life was getting a little crazy. I quit before I started making money remotely. This is not something I’d recommend to anyone!
We were in the process of renovations, downsizing all of our belongings, learning how to make money remotely and generally just emotionally and physically exhausted.
It was a whirlwind of emotions and one day I got caught up in the moment and quit my job. My girlfriend was still working, and it gave me additional time to catch up on things we were falling behind on.
Quitting my job was instrumental in us meeting our RV move-in deadline, so although it created more financial stress for us at the time, it was worth it!
With the newfound free time that I had, I was able to devote more time to learning marketing and sales skills to use as a freelancer.
I was also able to finish the RV renovations and make arrangements for our first few months as RVers in a camp host position at a State Park.
Step 6: Transition from Apartment to RV Life
Transitioning from City Apartment life into RV life is a major transition! There is a LOT to learn about living in an RV if you’re someone who has never really spent much time in one before.
Because of our time crunch, we never had the opportunity to take our RV for a camping trip before we moved into it. We were total newbies!
For that reason, and because we weren’t quite making money remotely yet, I landed a camp-host position at a State Park not far from where we were living.
Transitioning to RV life in this way allowed us time to get to know the RV and get used to using it’s systems, it allowed our cats to get used to the new home and it gave us time to continue to work towards our location-independent goals.
As a camp host, I helped maintain the grounds of the State Park, got to drive a Gator, wear khakis and generally just looked like a really important nature-girl. It was awesome!
We met many other campers and camp-hosts, made friends with some deer and learned all about living in and driving an RV.
Step 7: Land You First Freelancing Clients and Hit The Road
Overall, we spent 2 months working as camp hosts for Texas State Parks. In that time I started to look for my first freelancing clients!
Offering Social Media Marketing and general admin virtual assistant services, I found my first clients in no time. I utilized websites like Upwork, Flexjobs, LinkedIn and Facebook to find my first clients, and I did many different types of jobs ranging from Social Media Management to Data Entry.
After our 2 months at the State Park were up, we hit the road! With a little savings in the bank and money finally starting to come in from freelancing, we had finally achieved our dream.
It wasn’t long before I found my first long-term clients and created a predictable and reliable stream of income for myself, and we found we needed much less money to live on traveling in an RV compared to our city life.
Since then, we’ve traveled over 10,000 miles and visited 15 states!
The first few months of traveling were a bit unpredictable, because I was very new into my freelancing career. It was scary at times, but I was in a situation where I had no other choice but to make it work, so I did.
Conclusion – My Journey to Becoming a Full-Time Traveling Freelancer
The one thing I would change about the way I transitioned into this lifestyle would be quitting my job before I was ready.
Ultimately, quitting my job worked out in my favor, but it caused a lot of financial stress. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone—in fact I tell people NOT to do it the way I did!
I would have taken myself seriously sooner and started looking for freelancing clients before I quit my job, so that there wasn’t an interruption in my income.
If you’re looking into a location-independent lifestyle, my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you know how you will earn money remotely before taking the leap.
Once you figure out how you will earn an income from the road, everything else becomes easy!
Be sure to see more of Carrie’s great resources at https://makingmoneyandtraveling.com.
If you’re looking for more remote work ideas, check out the Remote Work Roundup – 7 Paths to Working Remotely so you can travel full-time.