Hourly America – Make Money and Travel
Ideas are great, but they are nothing more than just that without action.
Heath and Alyssa had an idea, and then did what so many don’t, they put it into action. Now, at the ripe old age of 23 they are experiencing their first year as full-time travelers, filmmakers and writers. Yes, its their first time doing all of it, so far they’ve been pretty successful and they’re sharing with us exactly how they are making it all happen.
Even if you don’t have an interest in writing or film-making as a way to Make Money and Travel, Heath and Alyssa have some great words of wisdom for anyone wanting to break out of the norm!
So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
My wife Alyssa and I (Heath) are 23 year old full-timers who left conventional jobs in Austin, Texas in order to travel and see America. Together, we’re paid writers and filming a documentary about hourly workers throughout America. In every state, I’m working a different hourly wage job while Alyssa works the camera. Our mission is to tell the stories of hourly workers across the country with the hope of changing the way people view and interact with hourly workers.
Before this trip we weren’t in the film industry, and neither of us had ever been paid to write before. I was in a sales job, and Alyssa was working for a disaster relief non profit in New Orleans.
It all started with a simple idea. We wanted to pursue our craft (writing) and spend time traveling across America. The rest we figured out along the way. Oh, we were also married on May 24th of 2014! We departed on our 50 state tour days later on May 28th. Yes, we are slightly crazy.
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.
Alyssa and I are paid to write for companies like Camping World, DoItYourselfRV, and Good Sam. We also have a sponsor for our documentary film.
The majority of our income comes from sponsorships and then our spending money we make through blogging. We also have raised quite a bit through donations, however this was mainly to help us kickstart our journey.
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?
No, before this we were just recent college graduates. We were never certain we could instantly replace our entire income, however we had a great idea for a project and were able to secure interest from sponsors.
Many people want to obtain a location independent lifestyle, but feel as though they don’t have the careers or skills to work remotely. I would like to say that before this trip, Alyssa and I had never been paid to write nor had we had extensive experience in film before. We essentially took a seed of an idea and then found companies who were willing to attach themselves to our idea (Google search: Hourly America).
In 2014, it’s becoming more practical and relevant for companies to find people doing cool things and use them as marketing leveraging. I’m not saying we are sell outs to a company, but it was just the particular way we were able to leverage our situation and find a great partner.
There are a lot of great efforts, documentaries, and projects that are just waiting to be created. All it takes is an idea and the gusto to walk away from a great salary, sometimes right before your wedding!
How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?
50 hours a week, not including drive time in between states. We try to completely take off one day every week or two. Our weekly schedule typically is 3 days of travel, 2 hourly jobs (for our documentary), and 1-2 work days (depending on our band width).
The biggest adjustment we’ve had to make is realizing we are not on vacation. By all means, we visit national parks and do our fair share of sightseeing. However, we are completely alright with spending an entire day inside of our RV cranking away on blogs and editing footage.
It takes a lot of dedication, but also strategy. When its time to work, we like to find RV parks in boring parts of the country where we aren’t tempted to go out and play. It sounds silly, but when you’re hanging out along the Pacific Coast Highway, its not easy to want to sit inside and work. Our most productive days on the road have been in places like South Dakota.
None the less, we did take 2 full weeks in order to drive up the west coast (I suggest this trip to anyone!)
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?
Our first three months of revenue has averaged out to about $2,500/month. Half of that has come from our sponsor, some from recurring guest blogs on other websites, and the rest has come from our GoFundMe page.
We get anywhere from $25-$100 for guest posts. We write an average of 10-12 blogs per week, or 40 per month (not all blogs come with a paycheck).
We knew that it might take several months of living on the road before we were making enough to make ends meet, so we leveraged our wedding and asked people to donate to our trip. This option isn’t available to most people, but most people that are older than 23 have some form of small piggy bank.
We also occasionally receive tips from hourly jobs that I work. Our income is pretty atypical for most traveling professionals. If you’re reading this thinking “being sponsored to film a documentary is something I could never do,” I just want to remind you that we had zero experience in film and media. We had an idea, and the courage to follow through with it.
The rest we’ve learned through the school of hard knocks.
What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?
Verizon jetpack has been a life saver. We have a relatively small data plan for most people who do media. We work off of 8 gigs/month and our phone bill is about $150. We are also a one phone family, since Alyssa lost her phone at a rest stop.
Panasonic HD camera.
Canon 7d camera.
Other than our equipment, we purchased a Planet Fitness membership that has proven to be invaluable. With Wifi, hot showers, unlimited massages and tootsie rolls, it’s has been a pivotal part of our traveling and work situation. The membership is $20/person and allows you to use any of their 800 locations across the country.
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.
We have two types of clients, sponsors, and companies where we guest post. We reach out to all of them. Hopefully, one day when we’re rich and famous they will reach out to us. However, if that’s the case then it’s likely we won’t need their business anyway. Life is funny like that.
We don’t have enough of a track record to give hard stats on how many companies have said no to us. However, I would say on average 75% has been our rejection rate across the board. It’s a vague number, but we haven’t been doing it all that long.
Check back in a few months!
What are the best things about working while traveling? Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.
1. Sometimes I think about what I would be doing if I had never taken the risk to travel and quit my job. I would be sitting in my cubicle making sales calls. Instead, I’m looking at the Teton mountain range in Wyoming, sipping a glass of wine. Moments like these make me really happy.
2. Being able to work with my wife is awesome. I couldn’t imagine getting married and then us departing every day from 9am-5pm. We get the best of each other every day and we are together 24/7.
3. Whenever I meet people on the road and they are encouraging about what we are doing. We have literally met hundreds of people along our journey, and if we hadn’t been traveling and working, then it would have never happened. Those are relationships that will last forever.
What are the worst things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?
1. Terrible Wifi at moments. We fight this by frequenting Starbucks locations and seeking RV park reviews that have decent Wifi reception. We also use our Verizon jetpack frequently.
2. Driving will physically wear you down, it makes for a long day when you have to mentally bust your butt as well as physically. We have taken note that it’s easier for us to wake up early in order to drive, and then work late in the afternoon. Where as before, we would wake up and work until noon, then drive late into the afternoon. The latter exhausts us. Figure out what works best for you.
3. You can miss out on being a part of a team effort. We don’t have that constant community. Technology enables us to work with others remotely, however, there’s something about being a part of an in person team that you just don’t get while traveling (but the empty feeling isn’t enough to go back to cubicle America!)
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?
Be patient while building an online revenue.
We were very lucky to be able to generate our finances at a quick rate and pretty spur of the moment. I have to say that we’ve been working on our writing skills for the past several years, although never before had we been paid to write. When I began reaching out to sponsors, I had sample writing pieces that I could gave them confidence in me as a blogger, and the same with Alyssa.
A great quote by Seth Godin when it comes to making art.
“We can’t suddenly quit a job and then race to find a form of art that will pay off before the next mortgage payment is due. Creating art is a habit, one that we practice daily or hourly until we get good at it.” – Seth Godin
This couldn’t be more true. Do research. Commit to your craft. Stand out. It doesn’t happen over night and all the hard work in the world won’t compensate for a person who won’t take risks. There will always be a form of risk when you’re thinking about traveling.
Give yourself permission to fail. Being new to writing and creating online media, I put a lot of pressure on myself to write the best blog and edit the perfect video. It sometimes causes me to freeze up and want to hide away in a tiny hole. Giving myself permission to experiment and have fun in the process has been the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself.
(Alyssa here!) Start sooner. Writing is our first love, and we knew this trip would give us the time to practice our art. However, we’re essentially starting blogs from scratch, starting a brand new marriage, and filming our first documentary all at once. If I could do it all over again, I’d start writing sooner , then get married and adjust to the smell of each other’s morning breath before starting the documentary.
The Fantasy Job
What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone else funding a location independent lifestyle? The one that made you wish you had thought of it first!
My friends Jedd and Michelle joined the Peace Corps, now they are traveling the country doing little house-sitting stints, helping people create websites, and blogging about travel at jeddandmichelle.com.
They really stuck out to me because when I think of people creating an independent lifestyle, I think big time freelancers and entrepreneurs. While they are certainly these things, they caught the bug by joining the peace corps and then found a way to sustain their independent lifestyle. I believe this is the missing piece for most people! When it comes to creating a full-time travel lifestyle, they immediately look for a job they can do remotely. While this is true, there are a certainly a number of people who start off by doing full-time mission or volunteer work. Doing this could be a great step towards full-timing because it allows you to really grasp how incredible it is to live independent of the golden handcuffs.
– Written by Heath Padgett, edited by Alyssa Padgett (like all our blogs, driving routes, and cabinets)
I don’t know about you, but these two motivate me! Such go getters as my grandmother would have said. I see public speaking gigs or a self help series in their future. I encourage you to leave them some kind words for sharing their traveling work life with us in the comments below. Also, you can read more of Heaths inspiring words and learn about their project Hourly America here: heathpadgett.com and meet the woman behind the lens and read her crafty words here: alyssapadgett.com.
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