Being two 30-something’s who travel in an RV full-time, Ryan and I get asked a lot of questions regarding our age and our lifestyle. How old are you guys?? Are you retired?? How do you make this happen?? We completely understand how these questions come to mind when people meet us. Quite frankly, we enjoy the questions!Working Remotely Is Possible!
Go back about a year or so, Ryan and I began solidifying plans for our nomadic journey and one crucial puzzle piece was missing. How was I (Kim) going to make a living while living in a 40 foot RV while traveling the country? (Ryan was fortunate enough to already be working full-time from home as a triathlon coach) The question was something I thought about constantly and I knew that if it was something I couldn’t figure out then this dream was going to be just that, a dream. No pressure there, friends!!
I immediately began researching working virtually shortly after it was decided that full-timing was our plan. Honestly, I had never even considered working remotely before this. I had no clue what kind of options were out there and quickly became overwhelmed. With that being said, the search began and my ego was quickly bruised as I kept feeling unqualified for most ideas I came across. “Are you crafty or able to start your own business??” Newp. “Do you have experience in graphic design or computer software building?” Not even a little bit. What I did learn from this is there there is something out there for everyone! You just have to keep searching!
If you are familiar with our blog at all, you probably have seen or read a previous blog post of ours about my experience working at Amazon Camperforce (if you haven’t, you can check it out here). Amazon Camperforce was my backup plan if I could not find something virtually before our set-sail-date in August, 2016, while still searching for something I could do easily from the road.
Freelancing was an idea I kept coming across during my search. The platforms I saw mentioned most often were Elance.com and Odesk.com (these two recently merged forming Upwork.com). Again, I intensely researched everything I could regarding the pros and cons of using something like this. They are defined as “a global freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely.” There is PLENTY of information out there for anyone with questions. Good things, bad things and everything in between! What I liked about using Upwork is the variety of jobs out there! I no longer felt unqualified! Job categories include: virtual assisting, admin support, customer service, web research and article writing, just to name a few.
It took roughly one month of daily applying for me to get hired with a job I felt was a good fit for me. Although Upwork is free, you are given 60 “connects” every month. These connects are used to “apply” for jobs and most positions require 2 connects to apply. When applying to each position, you can submit your resume and cover letter (not required for all applications) as well as write a short message to the client explaining why you are applying and how much you charge per hour or, if it is a one-time deal, how much you would charge to do the job. This is called your “proposal.” If the client likes what you have to say and what they see, they will ask you to interview with them. Most often this will include a video-call on Skype or a phone call, but not always. If hired, the client then sends you a job offer. It is your responsibility to ask any and all questions (hourly rate/budget, how long you have to complete assignment, etc) and I would urge you to ask this in your proposal as it shows the client you are interested and are asking the right questions so there are no gray areas.
Of course there are some cons to using a platform like Upwork. For example; there are scams out there, but if you follow the rules and make sure you know how the process works, they are easy to spot. I ran into a scammer in the beginning and once I contacted Upwork Support, they took care of the problem immediately. If you use your best judgment and common sense, the scammers are pretty easy to spot. Also, being a freelancer, you now have to log your hours and keep track of everything you do so that when tax season comes around you’re not scrambling around. Another downfall with using a service like Upwork, is the service fee they charge. They have just recently changed their fee rates and now charge 20% of the total amount paid by each client until you earn $500 with a client, then it goes down to 10%, and after reaching $10,000 in earnings from one client the fee is 5%. For example, if a freelancer charges $10.00/hr, after the service fee, the freelancer will get $8.00/hr until they earn $500 and $9/hr until they reach $10,000 when they will earn $9.50/hr indefinitely. (Here is a link to their pricing breakdown) I know this is not ideal, but you have to take the good with the bad here! You really have to manage your hourly rate to make your time worth it for many of the jobs offered. With the full time position I ended up taking, I was lucky enough to get hired directly from the employer so I was able to go around Upwork taking any additional fees.
It does require a little bit of leg work if you are serious about landing a long term gig. I made sure my profile was 100% complete (submitting a picture, identity verification, etc) and I submitted proposals to a few one-time jobs so that I could build my rating and be more appealing to future clients. If you do enough research, you learn the tricks of the trade and, in my case, I believe they paid off. I made sure I came online for a little bit every single day and kept submitting proposals. I was pretty picky as far as what I chose to apply for though. I stuck with what my background was in (administration and customer service) because I enjoyed it and knew it was something in which I was already proficient.
After doing this, I was able to score an interview with a national home automation company as an account manager. I was communicating with customers via phone and email, creating estimates, sending product information, etc. The job is absolutely perfect for me and this lifestyle. I work 40 hours a week and my coworkers are completely flexible with our travel schedule as they are all aware we live full time in an RV! In fact, all of my coworkers work remotely! Granted, I am the only nomad, but it works! We use programs like Slack, Zendesk, Service Fusion and Google Hangouts on a daily basis to communicate with each other, our clients and our technicians. I have recently taken on a new role with the same company as a dispatcher. I am the scheduler for the West Coast, as far East as Minnesota and Texas and everything in between, which also requires me working a few nights a week. (It isn’t as bad as it sounds) At any rate, it allows me to sustain this lifestyle and, for that, I am extremely grateful! I don’t know many other people who are able to work in their pj’s or while sitting outside soaking up the sun!
I am well aware that this is just MY story and it will not work for everyone. I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t want to invest in unlimited data or a MiFi while traveling, but if anything, I want this post to be motivation for anyone that is trying to make full-timing a reality. That is one of the greatest things about this lifestyle, the countless ways people make this work for them! Do your research and don’t give up! Safe travels, everyone!
Kim, Ryan and Jet