We are living the dream…our life on our terms. Making a living, no fixed office and the freedom to move and work from wherever we like. So can you! Because it’s a lifestyle and not an endless vacation, this Make Money and Travel series exists as a source of inspiration. By sharing examples of real people around the world making money from anywhere and living the lifestyle they want, proves where there is a will, there is a way.
Meet our friends, the Newschool Nomads. Brent, Jenn, Thing one and Thing two. In October of 2011 Brent and Jenn decided not to wait for everything to be ’just right’ to start living the life they wanted. So despite having some debt, two young children, 4 pets and a fair amount of fear…they packed it up, moved into a home on wheels and hit the road!
A big whoop whoop for Brent and Jenn! They have been traveling and experiencing life in a whole new way ever since. Jenn road schools the boys, blogs all about their journey, the people they meet, and even finds interesting ways to stay fit on the road. Meanwhile Brent is the breadwinner and was more than happy to share how they fund their family’s travels. So here we go!
Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in; If you have multiple streams of income that fund your lifestyle, tell us what they are.
I (Brent) work with multi-media. If pixels are involved there is a good chance I’ve done something with it. While the bulk of my projects are web/graphic design and helping companies develop their online presence, I also do video production, DVD authoring, iBooks, and animation.
Have you always had this job? At what point did you realize that you could bring in enough income to continually fund a location independent lifestyle?
I sort fell into web work. After studying psychology in school, I traveled around with a band as the drummer for a number of years. When the band broke up I worked in a college bookstore before a friend asked me to do skate boarding videos at his skate park. Unfortunately, the budgets got cut for the videos but I was able to stay on to take care of their graphic design and website. It was a learn-on-the-job situation. (I also met Jenn during this time and we got married.) This was during the late 90s when the internet was just starting to boom and I was soon offered a job as webmaster for a publishing company. To make a long story short, I started picking up side jobs and 5 years later I decided to go off on my own and work freelance only. With great effort we managed to financially get by in Southern California so going on the road didn’t seem that daunting because it was so expensive to live in Southern California on one (freelance) income. The biggest unknown (worry) was wondering how my clients would respond when we hit the road.
How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?
The hours can range depending on how many projects I have going on and my client’s needs. On average, I try to get in 5 billable hours a day but that doesn’t include email, research, consultations, and administrative work. I’m not sitting on a laptop at the beach that’s for sure.
If you are willing to say, what is the average yearly salary for someone in your line of work? How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work? If you don’t feel comfortable giving numbers tell us, are you scraping by, are you able to put money in savings and pay your bills or are you raking it in?
Since I’m freelance the income really varies. It was a progression from having small occasional side jobs to having more work than I could handle on the side. At that point (about 7 years ago), Jenn and I had a discussion if we wanted to take the risk of leaving a steady paycheck and benefits to the uncertainty and fluidity of a freelancer. We had just bought a house and have two kids so it wasn’t an easy decision but, ultimately, we had faith that everything would work out so we took the leap. It would be five more years before we took another leap of faith and hit the road to travel full time. All that said, we’ve been cultivating our business over a number a years.
Our business pays the bills but we certainly still live on a budget. Like most families, we still have some debt we are trying to pay off. Everyone says wait until you are debt-free before you hit the road and, yeah, that would be ideal but we didn’t want to fall into the trap of waiting until everything was “just right” so we went for it anyway. We knew we didn’t want to live the rest of our lives doing the normal things. It just wasn’t for us. We are really just a middle class family with big dreams and faith.
What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?
A computer, back up hard drives, and wifi are essential. We use Millenicom (the Verizon plan) for the majority of our internet but I can also can tether to my phone (AT&T) if needed. I installed a 3G antenna with a booster that is really helpful from time to time. The Coverage? app by Technomadia has proved to be essential when choosing campgrounds to help us get an idea if there will be reception.
Jenn schools the kids during the day at the kitchen table so it was necessary to find an RV that would accommodate a desk and a bit of privacy. We did some remodeling in the RV so I would have an “office”. It’s worked out great even though my office is 6 inches from the shower.
Who are your clients? Do you find them or do they find you and how? What is your rejection rate? How many clients do you pitch to finally win over one? You don’t have tell us who your clients are directly, just how you go about getting the work.
My clients range from publishers to pistachios. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve seldom had to seek out clients and I get most of my work through referrals. Traveling has been very good for expanding our network.
I don’t typically pitch to clients. I meet people and build relationships and work often comes out of that if they have a need. I do my best to meet deadlines, follow through, do quality work, and put the client’s needs first. I think that along with time has allowed our business to grow organically.
What are the best1-3 positive things about working while traveling? Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.
First of all it’s having so much quality time and adventures with my family. For example, it’s amazing to spend the first part of the day working and then end the day with a picnic in Yellowstone. Yeah, quality unrushed time with our family is number one.
Secondly, it’s the opportunity to meet so many new friends, reconnect with old friends and family, and see so many different lifestyles. We’ve spent quality time with friends experiencing their lifestyles from New York City to rural Wyoming.
Thirdly, our country is just so beautiful. We’ve just started to scratch the surface but we are so grateful to be able to spend time exploring nature’s beauty.
What are the worst1-3 frustrating things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?
First, having to choose locations based on reception can be frustrating. Sometimes I have to go hunting for an internet connection and do my day’s work from the truck. Not the most productive environment.
Secondly, sometimes I have to miss out on things because of work. Jenn gets sad when I can’t join them on every field trip and outing but I’d be working regardless of our location so I’d rather them be out exploring and learning than sitting at home in our sticks and bricks house without the opportunity to see different parts of our country.
Lastly, there have been some loss of work due to not being in town. That has been disappointing and, at times, stressful.
If you could go back in time and give yourself 1- 3 pieces of advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?
While I’m very thankful for word of mouth referrals, it would be nice to have a better marketing presence for my own business. In other words, it’s a case of the cobblers children have no shoes. I wish I would have taken the time to develop my own website, showreel, and portfolio. Now it just seems to be a constant on my to-do list that I can never find the time for. So yeah, if you are just starting out do those things now and don’t wait until you are too busy.
This is a logistical thing but I’ve always worked from a large desktop computer and still do. We have a laptop but it doesn’t have all my key files so, for instance, when I have to work from the truck it’s a pain to transfer files back and forth. In hindsight, I think it would have been a better choice to use a laptop for my primary machine and attach a larger monitor when necessary.
When we first hit the road I would begin my work days around 9am like I did when I worked in our house. Oftentimes that meant I wouldn’t be done until around 5 pm. The last few months I’ve started to get up and work around 6 or 7 am so I can be done in the early afternoon which gives me more time to explore with our family. I wish I would have adapted this schedule right away.
The Fantasy Job
What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone funding a location independent lifestyle? The one that made you wish you had thought of it first!
Some people have created a location independent lifestyle by developing products that help people and provide residual income. So I guess in a nutshell that would be the fantasy job because (not complaining) while I get to travel I still have to put in all the hours and they can be long. We have a friend who developed a surf prediction app and now he is traveling the world surfing. It would be pretty cool to develop a snow app and travel the world snowboarding with our family.
Now it’s time for you to think outside the box. There’s no set of guidelines and anything is possible. Of course, some jobs are naturally easier to perform remotely such as webmasters, software developers, writers, and bloggers. While doctors, teachers and firemen will have to do some creative thinking, there is always potential for location independence.
Please take a moment to click over and check out Brent’s work at Nims Media, read more about NewSchool Nomads, get fit with Girl Hero’s and give them some social media love. Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr LinkedIn Pinterest Instagram