Digital nomads are location and financially independent travellers who leverage technology to earn an income. And, given the ever-growing popularity of vanlife and the digital lifestyle in the wake of the global pandemic and recessions, we couldn’t not write a post about how to be a digital nomad making money on the road. If you’re considering becoming a digital nomad, want to learn how to make passive income online and, most of all, want to work where and when you please, you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog post, we specifically discuss affiliate marketing (it’s what we do) and the infinite possibilities and opportunities it presents to digital nomads who want to make money on the road. We also talk from our own experience as vanlifers but the tips and resources we share are just as applicable to all types of digital nomad.
What type of digital marketing will you do on the road?
Affiliate Marketing, Blogging, Social Media? Video Editing? Producing Ebooks? Print-On-Demand Merchandise? Dropshipping? There are endless digital marketing opportunities out there. We’ve chosen to focus on one business model – Affiliate Marketing. Here you’ll find plenty more useful articles on affiliate marketing and making a living from passive income.
Digital marketing is essentially the marketing of products and services online. It’s an umbrella term for a whole range of specializations covering every aspect of marketing in the digital space, including:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Paid Advertising
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
Will you have a blog (Content Marketing), a YouTube channel (Social Media Marketing), sell merchandise or physical (Ecommerce/Dropshipping), review or promote products and services (Affiliate Marketing), or something else? In this post we’ll focus specifically on affiliate marketing as it’s such a great business model to get started online.
What type of social media marketing will you do on the road?
Alongside these considerations, it’s also very important to think about which social media channels you want to focus on. But choose your channels wisely. Our advice is to focus on a maximum of two (one ideally if you can). We opted for a blog and Instagram to start with, with the aim of building up to a YouTube channel once we felt we’d mastered our first two channels of choice.
Once you’ve decided which digital marketing model and social media channels you’d like to specialise in, you’ll need the right equipment. This will make leveraging digital marketing to make money on the road as a digital nomad that much easier.
However, this all needs time and potentially some investment in equipment, depending on which model and channel(s) you choose. And it may mean waiting a few more months before you hand your notice in at work. There’s no point in hitting the road with nothing but a smartphone to write that article you want to publish or that YouTube video you want to upload and share. No matter how excited and impatient you are to get going!
Fitting Out Your Campervan
Vanlife isn’t easy especially if you have an unreliable vehicle that comes with a number of problems and unforeseen issues. If you go down the already converted route, make damn sure you double check the engine, take a peak underneath, test the electrics and take at least one test drive. But most of all, make sure the van can be future-proofed for your chosen digital nomad business model.
For example, if you plan to do a lot of desk-based work, have a dedicated ‘office’ area where you can pull out a desk and comfortably sit and work for many hours. If you’re a photographer/videographer you’ll need enough storage space for your equipment. You’re a mountain bike blogger? Okay, so space for one or mountain bikes is non-negotiable.
But also plan the purchase and/or conversion of your campervan based both on how functional and livable it is, because you’ll be working and living in your van in equal measure.
The Equipment You Will Need
So you have the digital marketing model, social media channels and home on wheels sorted, but what equipment will you need? This obviously depends on what you’re doing, but at the very least you’ll need a laptop. Try looking at something with good battery life as you never know when your next electric hook up might be. Or if you’ll always have enough sunny days to charge up your solar panel (if you don’t have one, electric hook up is even more crucial if you have a lot of devices to power).
We recommend going for a 13″ minimum laptop, which should have enough battery to last a day of work. Once you’ve got your laptop then take a look at all of the other equipment that you’ll need, software, external batteries, your solar panels, portable hard drives and even cloud storage such as Dropbox, all of this will come in handy, trust us.
If you’re a video editor/producer, here is a suggested list of equipment. You may not need all of this, but it helps to gauge what will be utilized by somebody constantly creating video or audio content on the road:
- 15″ Macbook Pro
- Panasonic Lumix G7 4K Camera
- 1x Seagate Hard Drive
- x6 64GB SD Cards
- External Portable Battery
- JBL Headphones
- Camera Tripod
- Video Mic
- USB Microphone
- EE Unlimited Data Plan (Internet around UK, Europe + others)
This may be overkill for many of you, but this equipment allows us to work efficiently to a standard we’re both happy with. Bloggers/writers, you’ll only need a fraction of this, photographers maybe even more. To start with, we had nothing but two (fairly old) MacBook pros, smartphones and a selfie stick. Now, we can afford to upgrade much of our equipment, but it takes time.
We’ve met many a digital nomad making money on the road, just through their smartphone! Anything is possible, but buy what you need, not what you want. You can always add to your collection at a later date.
Recurring Revenue Ideas: Passive Income
If you’re working for yourself monthly subscription products are a great way to earn passive income – get involved with Patreon or sell weekly online courses that people can pay to join. Recurring passive income is the best revenue when travelling, as you don’t have to worry about work coming and going.
If all goes well and you’re taking on too much work to handle, outsource! We knew people who were willing to take on some of our work, and then I just took a 10% cut for passing them on a project!
You’ll have weeks where you’ll want to pull your hair out, and other weeks where you’re eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, knowing that this will happen, take on as much work as you can. If it’s too much, outsource or ask a friend or other vanlifer if they’d like some work, be the middleman if you have to.
Picking The Right WiFi
But none of this will work if you can’t get online. And you don’t have a digital marketing business without WiFi on the road.
We use EE’s Mobile Data Plan, which enables us to use our current UK smartphone data plan in many countries. We then simply hook up our smartphone internet to our Macbooks. But we do use coffee shops to upload large files on a regular basis, when required.
So remember, the internet is your best friend, and having a decent WiFi set-up in your van will allow for smooth workflow. The last thing you want is to have to drive around trying to find free Wi-Fi, in order to upload your latest video.
Keeping Track Of Your Income
Being self-employed means keeping track of your income. What’s coming in and going out of your bank account is another skill a digital nomad must learn in order to make (and keep) money on the road. We recommend taking a look at QuickBooks, which my husband Dave also used when he was a contractor (pre-vanlife).
QuickBooks not only keeps track of your spending and earning but it can also send invoices, track the miles you’ve driven so you can claim them as a business expense if need be. Best of all (and our favourite part) is that you can easily save your business reports as pdfs and send them directly to HMRC (or equivalent tax agency) when it comes to your annual tax return.
It’s incredibly simple and user-friendly and works out at about $8.00 per month. They have an App which allows you to do all of that directly from your phone. You can even take pictures of your receipts with your smartphone, which it then automatically matches up with your outgoings. You’ll know exactly when, where and how you spent that money.
Some Final Thoughts
Ultimately, to be a digital nomad making money on the road isn’t easy, but it can be incredible if you put the right things in place. You’re your own boss and can work when you want but you’re also totally accountable when things don’t go as planned. It’s not for everyone, we have many friends who would rather work for a year and then travel for two months.
We also know of people who want to do the complete opposite and work while they travel. Each to their own, but this also means that at times you’ll have days, maybe even weeks of just constant work without the opportunity to explore. And without time freedom, location independence or financial freedom which defeats the whole object of being a digital nomad. There have been times when we’ve been on the beach with a beer in one hand and a laptop in the other. But we also remember the times we’ve been stuck in a supermarket car park on a rainy night, trying to get online to send an invoice. And one thing we won’t forget is the constant thinking about money – in everything you do, you think money.
We’ve Chosen To Focus On Affiliate Marketing
Here you’ll find plenty more useful articles on affiliate marketing and making a living from passive income. One of the many advantages of now having an affiliate marketing business is that this is all taken care of by the business(es) whose products and services you promote. From invoicing and payment to back-office support and marketing – in other words, a business-in-a-box.
If you have any questions about being a digital nomad, or want a more in-depth look into how we did it, drop us a message in the comments below or email email@example.com.