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Today I’m going to do something I never thought I would do: I’m going to tell you all about my income. Yikes.
Unless it’s your first time here – in which case, hi! Thanks for stopping by! – you’ll probably know that I live nomadically and travel full-time. I’ve been doing so since October 2017 and have zero intention to stop anytime soon. And the only reason I can do that is because I make money remotely.
If you’ve ever been curious about how exactly I do that, good news! I’m about to share everything with you. So let’s talk dollar.
What it means to make money remotely
The reason I can travel full-time isn’t because I have a trust fund, winning lottery ticket or a magic genie answering my every wish. Like most money-earning people, I have a very normal source of income: my job. (Sorry for the boring answer!)
The difference between my job and most jobs is that I own the company I work for. I’m currently the only full-time employee in my company and the sole shareholder. That means I have no boss to answer to, no schedule set for me and no real cares in the world. Okay, that last one was a lie – running your own business is probably one of the most stressful things you can do to yourself! But hey, there’s got to be some kind of downside, right?
Owning your own company doesn’t automatically mean you can work from anywhere. In fact, it could make it hard to get away. But I set up a business that I can run from anywhere, even from outside the UK… and so that’s what I do. All I need is my laptop, electricity and a WiFi connection, and I’m pretty much good to go.
How I make money on the road
As we already know, I work remotely for a company that I own. But what exactly do I do?
The truth is, it’s kind of hard to explain in one sentence. I do a few different things. They all fall under the broad umbrella of digital marketing, but the work I do varies from client to client. So, in short, I create and optimise digital content.
And since that doesn’t really mean much, I’m going to break it down for you…
The exact work I do
All of the work I do is related to digital content in some way. This includes:
- Website copywriting
- Writing blog posts
- Managing blogs
- Creating social media posts
- Drawing up SEO strategies
- Keyword research
- On-page and technical SEO
- SEO writing
- Creating affiliate content
- Monetising existing content with affiliate links
- and more!
Phew, that’s a long list. And it’s actually kind of weird to see it written out like that.
Some clients only order one product or project, but most of the time I sell these in packages to suit each client’s needs. The two things they all have in common is that they fall under the broad topic of digital marketing and can all be done remotely.
How I managed to work remotely
The reason I’m able to do this work remotely is because I did it in a fixed office for several years beforehand. If you want to become location independent and live the digital nomad life too, my biggest advice is to get some serious skills and experience behind you. I cannot emphasise that enough.
Before quitting my job to travel, my previous roles were at media agencies and publishers in London. In those jobs, I did SEO (search engine optimisation) and affiliate marketing for various brands, mostly within the fashion, finance and fitness sectors. Oh, and also technology – I don’t only optimise things beginning with ‘F’.
The thing was, I could have done my job from anywhere. In fact, in my final job, I had a very lovely manager who let me work from home once a week and also take my work with me on my travels, meaning I could save up that valuable annual leave. It’s something I’ll always be grateful for and I couldn’t have possibly dreamed. It shows that sometimes you just have to ask for what you want!
In the end, however, it simply reached a point where I was compromising on both work and travel, and paying a crazy amount to live in a city I didn’t love. So I decided to find work I could take travelling full-time and, holding back tears, gave my one month’s notice.
Running a business remotely
While that probably all sounds pretty rosy, any small business owner will tell you that running a company is far from easy. And for most of us, it’s certainly not as glamorous as it sounds!
From the day I quit my job and took my business – and travels – full-time, what followed was several months of stress, confusion and late-night reading of dull as hell books about tax. (Well I may have secretly enjoyed them a little, but shh. I won’t tell if you don’t.)
Taking my business full-time is the BEST decision I’ve ever made, but I really don’t think I could have done it without working full-time for someone else first. My London jobs, as soul-destroying as some of them were at times, gave me the skills and confidence I needed to make this whole location independence thing work. Without them, I simply wouldn’t have had anything to sell!
In short: the reason I’m able to run my business remotely is partly because of the nature of the work I do, and partly because of the skills and contacts I built up from my previous non-remote work.
Making money from travel blogging
Of course, my business isn’t the only way I make money. I have a second main income stream – and you’re looking right at it!
You might have noticed a little disclaimer at the bottom of my posts, and that’s because I started monetising my content seriously once I left the regular salary that a full-time job brings. Now, my priorities are diversifying my income as much as possible, and luckily that’s fairly easy to do with an established blog.
Once I started travelling full-time, I finally put the skills I sell to use on my own website. My final job in London – the one I loved – was helping to establish a new affiliate marketing department at one of the UK’s top magazine publishers, so it was an obvious step for me.
Affiliate marketing: Sometimes when I recommend a product and a reader buys it, the retailer gives me a (very) small percentage of the sale to say thank you. And for the sceptics who think I couldn’t possibly make an honest living doing that… if you start chucking affiliate links everywhere and recommending products you don’t truly endorse, let’s just say you won’t be doing it for long!
Advertising: These are pretty sparse on my blog because I’d still rather use other methods, but this is the main income stream for my YouTube channel. The money I make from this is more like pocket money – enough to cover, say, my food for the month and not much else. But it all helps!
Sponsorships: This category is HUGE and could be broken down further, but I’m dumping it all under one broad category to keep things simple. Sponsorships can be anything from a brand paying for a sponsored post where I write about their product, to a package of products, placements or other content-related deliverables. Usually it’s a one-off project, but sometimes it may be a long-term partnership.
Want to know more? Check out this video I made:
How I travel for free
And now we get to the part that isn’t really income or an expense, but couldn’t possibly be ignored in this post: press trips.
A press trip, in short, is a trip organised by a tourism, airline or other travel brand to show one or more bloggers/journalists an area in the hope that they will write about it. These trips are entirely comped and do not cost me a penny. Accommodation, transport, food – everything is paid for.
Unlike others, because I do not have a permanent base and therefore don’t pay rent or a mortgage, I essentially have zero expenses when I’m on a press trip. That means that, even if I’m not being paid to be present, I’m not spending any money while I’m there.
As the saying goes, however, nothing in life is free. Press trips are a lot of fun – I now count them as the main core of my social life – but they’re just as much work. Work that, most of the time, I’m not getting paid for.
And even though the amount of money I save is significant enough to make it worth it, it’s hard to really appreciate the value when you don’t have any sort of pay day. That said, I do get to do my favourite thing (travel!) and it’s always nice to live for free ;)
How much does it cost to travel full-time?
It would be impossible to talk about how I afford to travel without talking about how much it costs to travel full-time. And this is the bit that might just blow your mind:
I’ve found it cheaper to travel full-time than to live in London.
Obviously some places have been pricier than others (hello, Japan!), but London is an expensive city where money doesn’t go far at all. And it obviously depends where you’re from, but travelling can be surprisingly affordable – more affordable, even, than your ‘normal’ life.
Now here’s the bit I think really makes a difference: I don’t have a permanent home. This won’t be the same for most people who want to travel – but, then again, most people don’t want to travel full-time permanently.
Whatever your situation, the idea is the same: cut out the biggest expenses in your life and you might be surprised how easy it is to afford to travel. You don’t have to prioritise travel over having an actual home to live in (unless you’re crazy like me) but there’s no need to think travel is only for the rich or lucky.
I wanted to travel and I made it happen. And so can you!