I suppose traveling the world without needing to work at all would be the ideal dream, but that is not an option for most of us who are not laden with big savings accounts or trust funds. For those of us who must work, we have to shoot for the next best option:
To travel the world while working for ourselves.
I am confident that anybody can find some self-employed venture they can ply road, so the question here isn’t whether you can or can’t do this but what you’re going to do. To these ends I’ve compiled this list of the top 10 self-employment opportunities that I’ve done or observed other travelers doing as I’ve been moving through the world for the past 14+ years. Not all of the initiatives on this list are going to be viable for all travelers in all situations in all places, but this is meant to be an idea spring to make you say “Hey, I can do that” and actually go out and do it.
The self-employment suggestions included in this list all have some type of learning curve, though none really take years and years of intensive training. Keep in mind that just showing up somewhere thinking that you can do the things on this list on a whim is a good way to crash and burn. Just about all the suggestions here demand at least a year of personal training before you could ever hope to make enough money from them to travel on.
Also, many of these ventures take time to get rolling. In point, you’re probably not going to start making money from them overnight.
So it’s far better to start traveling on prior savings or work a formal job for a while to buy yourself the time to get your self-employment venture up and running.
One final note is that many of the options on this list are not the best ways to make a lot of money self-employed on the road. Rather, they are ways to make enough money to live well and to keep traveling. There are of course better ways to make a a lot money, but they are often a little more complex and require a deeper sort of commitment/ financial investment. The suggestions on this list are for those looking to live the good life, not get rich.
Now on to the list of the top 10 self-employment travel jobs:
10. Blogging/ Webmastering
Only travel this road if you truly love it. Just about everybody who tries to make a living off their blog or website fails. There is a reason for this: it’s difficult, extremely time consuming, and demands a long term commitment. To be blunt, there also isn’t that much money to be won at the end of the day anyway — even if you do everything right. Though if you enjoy blogging, going out an investigating places, talking to people, taking photos, making videos, and are too stubborn to quit it is possible to travel the world making your money this way.
9. Freelance Writing
If you think practically here you can make an adequate living as a freelance writer. By practical, I mean doing technical writing, service journalism, and commercial crap. This is where the money is.
If you want to get fancy and write feature articles, share your travel stories, or write a book, you’re looking at a long hard road if you actually want to earn a living. But if you’re not to proud to deliver a pitch like this:
“I specialize in writing highly share-able, easy reads on treading topics and lists that are designed for maximum viral potential.”
Then you are worth your weight in page views and ad revenue. Though most writers seem to look down on service journalism/ blogging, even though it’s what publishers need most.
To get technical or more commercial writing gigs, look towards Elance and Odesk.
Check out our article, Freelance Writing For Travel Funds, for more on this.
8. Playing Music
Everybody likes music, and opportunities for traveling musicians are everywhere. Play in bars, restaurants, and coffee houses, and, when these more formal arrangements are not available, play in the streets. If you adapt the kind of music you play to suit local tastes, you can make a living just about anywhere.
Additional tip: the world loves banjo players. Seriously.
If you’re want more information on this lifestyle and work, go to How Traveling Musicians Make Money.
7. Upload videos to Youtube
Uploading videos to Youtube is one of the main ways that I make money. It sounds simple enough, but there is catch to it: only newsworthy videos make money. When my videos get embedded on major news sites I bring in a good chit, but when they aren’t I don’t make much of anything — maybe $2 or $3 per year each.
I’ve had my Youtube videos embedded on Yahoo News, Business Insider, Treehugger, Mail Online, Dnevnik.hr, Skyscrapercity.com, and hundreds of other sites. If you make videos that big sites want to feature or use to illustrate their stories it is possible to make a decent amount of money being a Youtube publisher.
6. Make and sell artisan goods/ jewelry and sell in the streets
This is one of the most common types of self-employment for travelers. Jewelry makers and vendors are all over the globe selling their wares in the streets, though Latin America seems to be their epicenter.
The amount of money that can be made doing this varies in accordance to your skill and the amount of effort you put into your work. In point, the traveling jewelry makers who master their trade and make high quality, unique pieces from good materials are going to make more money than the masses of schmoes trying to sell friendship bracelets that any 12 year old could make.
If you’re thinking of going this route, I recommend putting in the time and effort to do it well. Learn silversmithing, take jewelry making courses, or travel far and wide to get unique and interesting materials.
If you make high enough quality pieces it’s possible to sell them to shops/ online/ or to jewelry distributors and turn this art into a more lucrative business.
Read an interview with a traveling jewelry maker and silversmith.
5. Teach English independently or online via Skype
If you have the credentials (university degree, TEFL certificate), the experience, and are a native speaker it’s rather easy to get gigs tutoring English in person or online. Post your services on local social media sites, put up fliers in universities and places where students hang out, and offer your services in person.
A longer term commitment (at least three months) is often necessary, so this may not be an adequate job for those traveling fast.
If you’re just a native English speaker without certification or a degree, you can also land private students, though your services are probably not going to be as highly sought or treated as valuably. Seriously, proper teaching creds are worth a lot out on the road.
*Image of female traveler photographing temples at Bagan Myanmar via Shutterstock