Top 10 ways to make money while travelling: a quick guide to employment abroad and digital Nomacy
From Sweden to South Africa, Palau to Peru, and everywhere in between, the reality is travelling is not free. Luckily, becoming a digital nomad is not only a growing market, but remote employment is in higher demand than ever.
There are ways to travel on a limited budget, but no matter how you look at it, living and adventuring abroad costs money. Not only that, but limited budget travel may also reduce the quality of experiences and the ability to contribute to local economies.
We’ve compiled a list of the top ten ways to make money abroad, both in-person and online, that we’ve either personally tried or know folks who have. For the most part, these strategies allow expats to maximize time on the road while receiving income.
Before we get to the good stuff, there is one recommendation we have: save before you go. There is no guarantee that a traveller will receive employment while abroad. Having savings is a safety net that every traveller should have in case of emergency. This may seem obvious but we can’t tell you how many folks we met while travelling who did not consider a plan “B.” Calling family members or friends in a panic for funds does not sound like a good plan, either, so grind before you go!
The first several options are what experts call “active income.” Active income is money exchanged for a service. This means that you will have to put in effort and time while you’re travelling, but when, where, and how often you work is entirely your choice!
This method may appear oversaturated. It seems like everyone and their dog wants to start a freelance business; between free social media sites, easy-to-use website building, and small-fee hosting platforms, freelancing has never been more accessible. While the oversaturation may be disheartening, the latter points mean you are ready and capable right now!
There are several freelance avenues you can take to receive income while abroad. Writing, illustrating, coding, digital services (like blog building or web design), photography, and videography are all possibilities for the aspiring digital nomad. Our main advice for this category is that you build experience and choose platforms before embarking.
Having a portfolio also makes selling your work a lot easier. Pitching is a huge part of freelancing and learning how to captivate editors will make a huge difference. Check out pitching guides like the one on Write Life if you’re unfamiliar with how to make editors say 100% YES. A lot of editors do want to see some credibility – they want to be sure you can deliver what you’re pitching. This means you’ll probably have to do a lot of pro-bono work to build a reputable portfolio. So, pick one or two things that you have a passion for and go all in!
Already have skills? Excellent! Don’t want to spend a lot of time while you travel? There are platforms where you can display what you can offer. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork allow users to set their prices and allow clients to approach them. Goats on the Road has a very extensive guide on making money with Fiverr while travelling that we recommend checking out!
side note: companies like Nikon and GoPro offer free contests often. While the prizes aren’t consistent income, it’s a great way to gain prestige and earn a little spending money.
2. Translation and Transcription
As long as you have solid headphones and a low typing error rate, you can make decent money with these options. Most reputable companies pay anywhere between $15-$20 and may offer additional training or advancement opportunities. Online services like TranscribeMe! and GoTranscript pay workers per audio minute or hour. Other companies pay per word and require foot pedals which may be an unwanted extra in your luggage. If you have a knack for this, it may be worth it! You can buy them online or from your local electronics store. Financial Wolves has a good list of transcription websites looking for remote employees.
Translation services are a little different. Since translation requires complete fluency of another language, you can expect to make more money and be paid per word. If you grew up bilingual and understand colloquialisms and unique expressions, the demand for your services will be higher than if you learned another language in school. Money Pantry has a massive list of online services looking for freelance workers in this field.
Side note: many transcription companies also look for translators. So, if you want to do both it would be worth it to work for a company you like that offers both services.
3. ESL Teaching
After talking about translation, we thought it would be fit to speak about teaching. There are endless opportunities to teach English everywhere in the world, including in countries that predominantly speak English! There are foreigners in these countries who prefer to work with expats solely because expats understand the struggles of moving abroad. We taught English in Germany without even handing in a resume (yes, seriously). Someone from our hockey club approached us and offered us a job at a school teaching English just because we are native speakers.
If you want to establish employment in a new country, you can also find contracts before you go. Top paying jobs can land a teacher up to $5000/month! That said, many of these opportunities require formal education (either a Bachelor’s degree or a TEFL certificate). Some companies will assist you if you want more security. One that we found close to home is Global Work and Travel. Companies like this one offer training, security, board, etc, but we cannot stress enough that you should research every company diligently before jumping on offers. To extend, a lot of companies ask quite a sum to “use” their services. You will also need to acquire working holiday or other visas to work within most countries. To avoid the hurdles above, you can search local job boards and government websites for openings or teach online.
Teaching English online requires two things: a quality laptop and patience. Interacting with people who do not understand you in person can be challenging, doing it with a shoddy connection is exasperating. That said, you can make anywhere between $15 and $25 an hour which is well worth it in our opinions! Like many of the items on this list, you can find ESL teaching jobs online. The higher-paying, quality jobs often require proof that you can A. command the English language and B. teach others well. This comes in the form of having a degree or a TEFL certificate. There are companies online that accept you even if you don’t have one of these, but receiving a TEFL isn’t too difficult and cheaper courses cost around $200. Before you enroll in a course, make sure that the company you want to work for will accept a certificate from that specific course. Some companies only accept TEFL certificates from an accredited institution (like a local college of TEFL school). Be warned, gaining a certificate is time-consuming and requires effort. Teaching is also not easy and admittedly isn’t for everyone. Give yourself time to figure out what will work best for you.
That all said, by utilizing these methods, you can hop to different countries every few months with stable employment at a “home base.” We love the home base travel method!
4. Social Media Management and Marketing
Social media rules the world. We aren’t going to tell you to try and be an influencer, but if you can do it, you should! It’s not a terrible idea to use a following in exchange for free hotel rooms and meals!
However, our recommendation is to use your social media chops for a consistent income. Millions of companies search for social media “managers” (or just people to run their accounts) and a lot of these positions are remote. Anything from food to flooring requires a media presence in the present world to maintain relevancy. Like freelancing, the best way to achieve employment while abroad is to establish a portfolio before you leave. Securing remote employment before embarking is awesome, but the time change might pose an issue (depending on where you’re going and if you need to attend Zoom meetings or not).
The same rules apply to marketing. You can work for a company remotely as a marketing expert. Granted, you may need to learn the skills to do this and prove your worth to potential employers. If you’re ambitious, you can even start your own marketing company! We recommend giving yourself at least 6 months to create a presence online before travelling. More is better but when the travel bug bites, it’s hard to scratch the itch with home remedies.
Search Facebook Jobs, Instagram, local job boards, websites like Indeed, and our new friend Fiverr for opportunities and ideas.
5. Tour Guide
We all know COVID-19 annihilated this industry… BUT this pandemic WILL pass and people will flood to locations around the globe in throbbing waves. What does that mean? Tour guides will be in high demand in the near future. That said, it is competitive. There are only so many opportunities and thousands of people who want them. We’ve heard of expats starting their own tour guide companies in cities they are living in. Most large “free” tour companies will start their tours near famous city squares and all you have to do is create a free website, make a sign, and speak an in-demand language for the area. Some people prefer to pay guides in totality and cut the “middle man” out. However, make sure local laws won’t land you a fine and consider what liabilities exist in your area.
If waiting isn’t your game, why not try virtual tours to satiate folks’ travel hunger? Companies like Sandermans are offering “free tours” virtually and they are currently advertising that they are looking for guides.
6. Seasonal Work
Mother earth is incredible. Seasons change and mirror each other in certain places. In some countries, “seasonal” work is available year-round (depending on what you are looking for).
Like the snow? Ski hills located all over the world need lift operators, instructors, and village staff.
Enjoy the outdoors? The opportunities are absolutely endless. Fruit pickers, cotton pickers, farmworkers, hiking guides, divers, tree planters (the list goes on) are needed everywhere. Travellers can often find cheap or free room and board with businesses that need workers onsite.
Do you prefer nightlife? Bars and restaurants love hiring foreigners (who have a grasp of the local language). Events like Oktoberfest that happen for a few weeks can bring servers incredible salaries for the amount of time. According to our German host families, some German servers will take vacation time at their regular jobs to work Oktoberfest because of the insane salary potential. Note: Oktoberfest is incredibly competitive and normally folks hired will speak English, German, and Italian due to the crowds Oktoberfest brings.
If you’re looking for a more diverse learning experience or want to contribute to sustainable, organic farming, WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Famers) is also a great option. The only downside is that WWOOFers aren’t paid. Room and board are covered, but the idea is that travellers gain knowledge and experience in exchange for labour.
For different opportunities or ideas, we recommend checking out the Transitions Abroad website.
The next few options are what experts call “passive income.” Passive income is money earned continuously after an action with little to no effort. This means that you will have to put in effort before you travel but then can watch your bank account grow while you’re on the road!
7. Ebooks and Audiobooks
If you have a special skill, knowledge, or interest that others want to know more about, this option could be just what you need! The best part is that after you’ve published your book, money can continue to enter your account without considerable effort.
Publishing your own Ebook or Audiobook (or both!?) has never been easier. Platforms like Amazon have made publishing incredibly accessible as sellers can upload their content in as little as 5 minutes. The only obstacle here is getting other people to buy your content. Luckily, if you write and publish the books yourself there isn’t much risk besides spending your time. That said, unless you are a gifted illustrator as well as a talented writer, you may need to hire someone to create a cover. Furthermore, it never hurts to have a professional edit your work before publishing. We recommend visiting a platform like Fiverr where you can find discounted services from up-and-coming artists!
Audiobooks are awesome, too, and Amazon holds a list of reputable narrators ready for work. After some research, we found that many of them will work for $30-$40 an audio hour. Do NOT share royalties with narrators – pay the audio hour AND make sure wherever you publish your audio or ebook that you retain ALL rights. That means you can publish your book in multiple places which equals more profit!
There are plenty of resources online that are available to help guide you through both processes. We haven’t published any E or Audiobooks so we won’t comment on the matter too much. Check out SelfPublishing.com’s guide to publishing Ebooks on Amazon and go to the Audible website for more information!
8. Renting Your Car
The idea of renting out personal vehicles for cash was unbeknownst to us until we saw it on Shark Tank. This method is contingent on two things: having a vehicle and being near a city with a demand. Basically, you leave your car at the airport and other people rent it while you’re away. Turo is the leader in the industry and offers comprehensive liability insurance for those who rent out their vehicles.
9. Travelling Package Delivery
This idea is for the frequent flyers, train hoppers, bus gliders, and so on, out there. Everyone knows that shipping internationally is expensive and risky. Not only that, but it can take forever! That’s where services like Piggybee come in. Travellers register and post their travel routes so folks who need packages delivered can send payment offers. This service is well-known as “crowdshipping.”
Some companies are listed on the Venture Radar website, but with a diligent internet search anyone can find these services
10. House/Pet Sitting (possibly no pay)
If you’re a traveller that enjoys soaking in locations for extended periods of time, this option is potentially a dream. While it may not pay, accommodation is free! Every expat knows that one of the largest obstacles of moving abroad is finding affordable housing. Living in hostels is fun for a while, but residing anywhere long-term is better spent like a local in our opinions. The best part of house or pet sitting is that you can find beautiful apartments, condos, villas, and homes to move to and from. Anywhere from bustling city centres to serene beautiful beaches are listed on easy-to-use platforms. Also, pets are cute ❤
The one catch about using house/pet sitting platforms is that they require a fee. It can cost anywhere between $20 and $50 for a year subscription which isn’t too bad when you look at the potential gain. To extend, sitters aren’t in control as much as other options. The house lister determines how long the stay is, the conditions, and house sitting a pet may mean fewer days spent away from the residence. The market is heavy on sitters with fewer listers, so you might not snag that “dream” location. It truly depends on your goals as a traveller!
That’s it! We hope this list inspires you to start an online hustle or build a portfolio for when international travel opens again. You can do a lot of the methods on this list to supplement your current income or even replace it! When you’re ready to embark on your journey, shoot us a message! We’d love to check out what you’re working on while voyaging 💜
So, with that, keep working hard, Sailors💪