Even though van life can be SUPER cheap, it never feels good to watch your bank account drain.
The most logical way to remedy this is to learn how to make money living in a van.
Now, I’m not recommending living in a van and working full time (that would be awful). I’m just talking about a little somethin’-somethin’ you can work on in between adventures that keeps your bank account topped up.
But what are the best jobs for living in a van?
Well, it depends on what you like!
Turns out, there are tons of awesome van life jobs out there to choose from. And in this post, I’m gonna share some of the easiest ones to get started. All of these jobs I’ve either done myself, or I’ve met other travelers doing them successfully.
Let’s dive in.
How to make money living in a van 101
Before we get into our list of van life job ideas, let’s quickly touch on some general van life work advice. No matter which job you choose, these tips will make your life easier.
Make a plan to stay connected
Staying connected can be tricky. If you’re planning to camp out in the boondocks far from the city (which I recommend), a WeBoost cell service booster can help you turn a non-usable signal into a usable one.
I was hesitant to buy one since they are a bit pricey, but the money I have earned while camping in the sticks (where I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to work) quickly made it worth it.
Please note that, while it has saved me in many places, it doesn’t mean you’ll be connected everywhere. If there is no signal to begin with, there will be nothing to boost.
We tether our laptops to our phones with an unlimited data plan from Visible—the cheapest plan we could find with decent coverage. But depending on your needs (and the country you’re traveling in), you may be better suited with one of these other mobile hotspots for digital nomads.
Create an offline plan
Speaking of staying connected, there’s nothing worse than rolling up to an awesome camp spot, whipping out your digital nomad laptop to blast out some work, realizing there’s no cell signal, then having to leave right away to find internet. That’s why I always like to have an offline plan.
For example, before I leave an area with internet connection, I’ll open up a ton of tabs and load all the websites I need to work on my next article.
To crank out your work even faster, check out my guide to productivity hacks for digital nomads (or watch the video below):
You have to slow down
Living in a van is a part-time job on its own. It’s just one of the realities of van life.
You will never be as productive living and traveling in a van as you would be with a routine and normal workspace. When you become a digital nomad, that’s just something you’ll have to accept.
You’re constantly driving around looking for where to sleep, where to find water, where to find gas, where to shower, where to poop, etc.
If you want to fit in time for work, you’ll have to camp for at least a few days in each place. If not, you’ll burn out fast (speaking from experience).
Treat your body right
If you’re slouching over your laptop for hours on end trying to work from bed, your body will eventually pay the price (hopefully you bought some digital nomad health insurance!).
It is extremely helpful to have some sort of desk in your van. If that’s not possible, you may have to get creative. Whether that be buying a foldable table and working outside or stopping more often to work in cafes, you’ll thank yourself later.
10 Van life jobs you can do on the road
One of the main decisions you have to make when choosing a job for van life is whether you want it to be online or in-person.
Online van life jobs are great because you can work from anywhere with an internet connection.
The downside is…you have to have an internet connection.
Having to stay connected may be a turn-off for some people, so in this guide, I made sure to include both online and in-person jobs you can do with a van.
Let’s get started.
#1.) Freelance writing
Let’s start with one of my favorite ways to make money living on the road. Freelance writing is hands-down one of the best jobs that allow you to travel. I’ve used it to support Day and I both in the van and traveling all around the world.
Best of all, you don’t need to be J.R.R Tolkien to succeed. With the right marketing skills, even mediocre writers can make a good living this way (just look at me!)
Now, there’s two main routes you can take as a freelance writer (or you can do both, like me):
Option 1.) Content writing
Content writing involves writing informational content for businesses—Blog posts (like this one) are the most popular. If you know how to write a blog post that ranks in Google and can drive traffic to a business’ website, you’ll be able to find as much remote work as your heart desires.
To learn how to make good money as a content writer, I highly recommend this course—it not only 10x-ed my writing skills, but it also taught me how to land big fish clients. (This free mini-class is also a good place to start).
Option 2.) Copywriting
Copywriting is similar to content writing, except it involves writing material that is specifically designed to nudge the reader (or watcher) towards buying something. This type of writing is a bit more advanced and involves a lot of persuasion and psychology.
As a skilled copywriter, you can essentially create sales for businesses out of thin air. You write, and people buy. Since your words can directly boost a company’s revenue, you can charge hefty fees.
Copywriting is a whole different style of writing and requires a mindset shift. Here’s my favorite copywriting course (that I’ve taken 3 times!). I even wrote up a full review (and sneak peek video) of it [here]. It only opens four times per year, but if copywriting sounds interesting to you, make sure to get on the waitlist.
That said, if you’re strapped for cash, you don’t have to spend money on a course to start landing entry-level writing jobs.
Yes, these courses significantly speed up the process, but if you have the time, you can figure out how to do pretty much anything using free resources. (like my Earn 1K Freelance Writing Crash Course, for example 😉⬇)
Once you get the hang of working as a freelancer, you can also take things to the next level and start a dropservicing business.
#2.) Virtual assistant (VA)
A VA is essentially a virtual secretary for someone who needs help with digital tasks.
These tasks could be things like:
- Email management
- Data entry
- Managing calendar
- Travel planning
- Phone calls
- Customer service
- Keyword research
- Social media marketing
- Graphic designer
- Managing other VAs
- And more
By taking these time-consuming tasks off the hands of your client (usually a solopreneur or small online business), they’ll be able to focus more on growing their business.
This is one of the best digital nomad jobs for beginners because you can get started as a VA without any special skills. If you know how to work email, enter data into spreadsheets, research things online, etc.—there are business-owners who could use your help.
Now, you’ll obviously be able to charge more if you can offer more specialized skills, but it’s not a requirement.
Since van life can be so cheap, you may even be able to support yourself by earning $50 a day online. For a beginner, that’d just be a few hours per day!
When many people think of van life jobs, the first thing that pops into their mind is an “influencer”.
These are the popular accounts you see on Instagram and Youtube showing how amazing van life is.
They earn through ads, sponsored posts, sponsored trips, affiliate marketing, selling their own products, using their reach to start other businesses, and more.
There are tons of ways to earn as an influencer, but becoming an influencer is hard work (at least one making a full-time income). There’s way more involved than simply snapping a few pretty pictures and posting them on Instagram every day.
Also, while I’m no big shot influencer, let me tell you from experience:
It may ruin travel for you.
For example, instead of hiking to a beautiful lake, relaxing, and enjoying the moment…
You’ll be constantly thinking about what shots to take, writing down directions and notes to share with your followers, lugging around drones, tripods, and GoPros.
The content you end up with may look like you enjoyed the place.
But you’ll never be fully present.
That said, it’s still an incredible opportunity. And for the right person, becoming a travel influencer can be the perfect job for van life. The cool part is, if you’re willing to truly dedicate yourself, it’s something pretty much anyone can do.
Blogging for income is definitely a long-term play. I’ve been chugging away with Project Untethered for almost two years now, and I’m just started to see some income trickle in.
The thing is, blogging isn’t just about direct income. It opens up other opportunities as well.
For example, one of my copywriting clients said he chose me over a sea of other more-qualified applicants because of my blog. He knew that if I had a blog, it meant I must have certain tech skills.
Blogging also can unlock awesome experiences.
If you build a following around one of your hobbies, brands will start to offer you free stuff. I haven’t focused much on this area of blogging, but we did get invited to do a pretty epic street food tour in Bangkok.
Lastly, blogging is just FUN.
It doesn’t feel like work to me. It’s like an addicting game. You tinker around with things and watch your stats grow.
So, I wouldn’t recommend blogging to someone who needs to earn a van life income STAT. But it is something to consider if you’re in this location independent lifestyle for the long haul.
Here are the three blogging courses that have helped me the most:
- Freedom Machine – When I took this course, it included group calls and personalized feedback. Now, it is a completely self-guided course. For me, the personal feedback was huge. But if you’re a strong self-learner, this course is very detailed, works for a variety of niches (remember, you don’t necessarily have to write about travel or van life), and will get you from zero to blogging master quickly. That link will send you to a free intro course that will give you some good ideas even if you don’t buy the full course.
- For Aspiring TRAVEL Bloggers – If you are specifically interested in travel blogging, this free mini-course will get you ahead of 90% of other travel bloggers out there. I’ve been blogging for 2+ years and still learned some super valuable tips.
- Fat Stacks Blogging Bundle – This course bundle takes a completely different blogging approach than Freedom Machine (and 99% of other blogging courses out there for that matter). When I start my second blog, I will be using this approach. It also comes with access to one of the best private blogging forums I’ve ever seen—allowing you to tap into massive amounts of knowledge and experience. (Check out my full Fat Stacks review here).
My approach has been to cherry-pick the best info from all three of these courses. (If you sign up for any of them using my affiliate links above, I’ll be happy to help you if you ever run into any questions along your blogging journey – just shoot me an email).
#5.) Temporary and seasonal jobs for van dwellers
So far we’ve covered a bunch of ways to earn money living in a van online. Now, let’s look at one you can do in person.
We’ve met a bunch of awesome people during our travels who live the “work hard, travel hard” lifestyle.
Instead of mixing work and travel together with an online job, they separate the two.
They work hard at a seasonal or temporary job for a set period of time to pad their savings account
Then go off and travel hard for several months.
When they need a break from traveling (or are running low on money), they repeat the process.
For example, in Olympic National Park, we bumped into two ski instructors who worked all winter, then explored in their converted skoolie all summer.
A lot of seasonal jobs for vandwellers involve teaching a certain skill: kitesurfing, rock climbing, tennis, scuba diving, etc.
I’ve also had friends who make bank working a few months per year crab-fishing in Alaska and tree-planting in Canada.
And if all those jobs seem crazy to you, there’s nothing wrong with picking up temporary work at a restaurant, bar, department store, etc. Working as a campground host is another popular travel job for seniors. You may not earn a ton, but when you aren’t paying for accommodation or gas, it’ll be easy to save.
Unlike online jobs—where you’re constantly torn between productivity and travel—the “work hard, travel hard” lifestyle allows you to focus 100% on one thing at a time.
#6.) Remote jobs
If you haven’t started van life yet, you might be able to simply shift your “normal” job into a remote job.
After everything that happened in 2020, remote work is more popular than ever.
Companies who never would have considered remote employees are jumping onboard. They’re realizing that remote work arrangements are not only possible, but in many cases, can save them money.
Keep in mind—Since van life tends to eat up a lot of time, you may have to tweak your role, take on less responsibly, or go part-time.
But if you can get the green light from your boss, you won’t have to worry about building skills for a whole new job.
But what if you’re already traveling (or your boss tells you to take a hike)?
Well, just find a new van life remote job. Opportunities are easy to find on all the major online job sites—just filter your search for “Remote”.
#7.) Online teacher
Chances are, you have a skill that others would pay to learn.
The most obvious is speaking English.
There are millions of people around the world willing to pay to learn English. And thanks to the internet, you can teach them.
In most cases, all you need to get started is a TEFL certification. TEFL programs are not all created equal (and some are downright scams), so be careful which one you choose—you usually get what you pay for. I loved the course I took, and they have options for both online and in-person training.
Once you’re certified, one of the easiest ways to get started teaching online is to teach young Chinese kids using platforms like VIPKids, Qkids, and DaDa.
Teaching Chinese kids isn’t your only option, but it’s a quick way to get started and gives you a flexible schedule (although you’ll probably have to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn on teaching days).
As you gain more experience, you can gradually branch off into teaching private students. For the best income, I’d recommend targeting kids with rich parents or employees at multinational corporations.
If the sound of waking up at the buttcrack of dawn to teach on China-time doesn’t excite you, these might be better options for you:
How Teach English online to Mexican students
Top 5 Companies to Teach English Online to Spanish Students
How to Teach English Online While Traveling to Adults
For the past year, we’ve used Airbnb to rent out our condo in Colombia while traveling around the world.
I also rented out my bedroom in the U.S. back when I left on my first 12-month backpacking trip around South America.
If you have the space, mind as well earn some money from it while you’re off traveling in your van!
#9.) Mobile entrepreneur
Here’s another van living job you can do without an internet connection.
Simply offer a service to other campers and people you meet on the road.
This could be exercise classes, yoga sessions, massages, haircuts, arts and crafts, pancake breakfasts, or anything else you can think of.
Some of our van life friends started selling cool leather bracelets while traveling.
…and one time we were even offered money to give salsa dancing lessons!
Obviously, you’re not going to get rich with this van life money-making approach. But it could be enough to keep gas in your tank and beer in your tummy.
When you think of consulting, your mind might jump to technical skills like business, law, and digital marketing consultants.
While these are common (and highly paid) options, you can be a consultant for just about anything.
If you have knowledge in your head that other people want access to, you can charge for it.
For example, we met one van life couple who ran a mobile holistic healthcare consulting business. They have clients from all around the U.S. who schedule phone appointments to get holistic medicine advice.
They took a certification course about holistic medicine, landed a few clients, and word-of-mouth spread from there.
Best of all, their van gives them free advertising.
Bonus: Housesitting jobs
I can’t speak for all van lifers, but after a while, odds are you’ll want a break from living in such a small space.
That’s where housesitting comes in.
Why splurge on an Airbnb or hotel when you can use housesitting to score free accommodation?
We’ve already written a full housesitting jobs guide, but long story short:
- You sign up for a housesitting platform
- You search for homeowners who need someone to look after their pets while they travel
- You apply for the housesitting assignment
- If approved, you get free accommodation
This year, housesitting has saved us a couple thousand dollars in accommodation expenses (and we didn’t use it nearly as often as we could have).
The best part is, not only do you get a comfortable place to relax, but it also allows you to get into a routine, be productive with your other work.
How to find jobs you can do living in a van
Now that you have an idea of your van life job options, how do you start?
Well, that depends on which job you choose.
In-person and remote jobs are easy. You find work the same way as you find a normal job (online job sites, job newsletters, visiting places in-person, connections, etc.).
But freelancing and entrepreneurial jobs?
Those aren’t as straightforward.
If you’re serious about making van life (or the travel lifestyle in general) a long-term thing, my advice would be to invest in yourself from the beginning. Find some sort of training in whatever job looks most interesting to you.
Remember, if you want to start a business, you need to treat it like one.
Some people spend tens of thousands of dollars in college to get career training (which they may not even use…like me 🙄). But then they don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on a course that will help them start their business.
I get it, though.
When I first started, I was the ultimate penny-pincher. (We’re talking the type of person that reuses semi-dirty paper plates).
I tried to learn everything myself, and while I made some painfully slow progress, it wasn’t until I invested in training that my online work started to take off.
I later realized it was a bit ridiculous of me to spend months trying to learn how to do something myself, when I could’ve just paid someone to teach me in a matter of days.
Anywho. Live and ya learn.
The point is:
The faster you get off the ground, the faster you’ll start earning—so don’t be afraid to pay to speed up the process.
Recap of the best jobs for living in a van
There you have it, folks. As you can see, there are many different ways to make money living the van life.
Some of the most common jobs for van life are:
- Freelance writing
- Virtual assistant
- Seasonal and temporary jobs
- Remote jobs
- Online teacher
- Mobile entrepreneur
I have personally met travelers using these van life job ideas to support themselves on the road (and I do several of them myself).
The trick is deciding which ones are best for YOU.
This will depend on….
- Your current skill set
- Your interests
- Your travel style
- Your “end goal”
Ultimately, no matter which you choose, you’ll feel pumped knowing that you can now support yourself from anywhere on earth.
Now go make that cheddar!
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).