One year ago today, I landed in Munich for the beginning of a four-month solo sojourn. I was nervous and excited. Anything could happen. I came back on the other side of that time with a new perspective.
I already loved travel, but now I know that it has to be a bigger part of my lifestyle if I want to feel like I’m actually taking full advantage of this one wild and free life I lucked into by being born. I crave the freedom. I crave the necessity of learning and figuring out new situations. I crave the magic, unsure moments when you meet someone new and you know you want to share time and experiences with them.
So here’s the question that has been simmering on medium-low heat in my brain space since I returned from my trip: How can a person earn an income at the same time as he or she is cavorting around the globe satisfying those cravings for freedom and new adventures?
Perhaps it can be possible through the magic of the internet!
In my research, I’ve discovered a few different possible income streams that I’m investigating.
Creating Digital Content
This would be like if I, for example, wrote a book. Or more likely an ebook. I think I’ve got a book or two in me.
Before I even earn a dime on that, I would have to invest the time and energy into creating the content. But let’s say that I write the next great book about personal development, relationships, breakups, travel, etc. and I really believe in the product. Next I have to either seek a publisher for an unpublished, unproven writer, or I have to self-publish.
Self-publishing actually seems like the more reasonable choice, but it still requires that I find an audience. That could stem from this here blog, or it could be that I invest a little in advertising and make the push on my own.
I think it’s actually possible that I do this at some point, but it’s not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. It requires a massive amount of time and energy up front, and I’m on a clock here. I’m going to run out of money at some point.
So let me strongly consider this option since I like the idea of creating things that weren’t there before, but maybe I put it on the back burner for now.
Freelancing projects are generally short term. A project could be anything from writing to art to web design. Basically any skill that someone could need but doesn’t have for themselves can be hired out on websites like Upwork or Fiverr.
This option is attractive because it would allow me to work only when I want to, or when my skills line up with what someone needs. I think I do have marketable skills as a writer, and I expect I’ll be learning a lot about the internet in the coming months.
There are a lot of small businesses that hire things like writing out to professionals. For example, if you happen to be a kick-ass plumber but would lose a spelling bee to an eight year old and don’t even know what “conjugation” means, you probably shouldn’t be writing copy for your website. I can help with that!
One potential downside of using a website like Upwork is that since it is a global network, I understand that sometimes people with real skills get underbid by people in countries with lower income standards. Maybe I’d create a better product as a native English speaker, but if I get significantly underbid by my buddy Kabir in India, he might very well get the job.
So it might be great, but it might also be very competitive.
Another upside though, is that I could be creating and submitting to existing publications and building my portfolio, kind of like when I wrote an column for the Tacoma News Tribune in February. (Read that one HERE if you like.)
An interesting option, as it has the potential to eventually become more or less passive income. Basically I’d be selling products through a digital store, probably using Shopify, then I use the money people give me to purchase the products I’ve sold from a manufacturer or distributor who is willing to ship directly to the customer. That way I don’t have any involvement in actually warehousing or dealing with the products themselves, which fits my pursuit of location independence. I just collect on the markup in exchange for creating the marketplace in which the customer found the product.
This is obviously also a lot of work up front, but has the potential to create a scalable source of income that doesn’t require a ton of work once the store is up and running. There are definitely some other bloggers out there with really cool success stories using this method, and the possibilities seem pretty endless.
This is the kind of thing where I would need to invest in some education in order to speed things along. There’s a lot to learn, and I’d need some hand holding. If I were to just trial-and-error my way through it, I could see that not going super well. One education option I’ve been looking into is called Dropship Lifestyle. It’s expensive, but then I’d have a program to commit to, which is a little bit more reassuring than just fucking around and hoping I make money selling trampolines or whatever.
This is a new concept for me, but I’m pretty sure it’s got legs.
I would be recommending products or at least creating links to them. It could be that I’m doing product reviews here on the blog, or it could even be through social media. If a person buys that product after clicking a link that I created, the seller of that item gives me a cut.
Amazon has a program that allows people to do this kind of affiliate marketing. So in the future, if I recommend a particular set of spatulas that I use and love, and you click a link here on my site that takes you to an Amazon page where you can buy those exact spatulas.
Not just the spatulas, but anything you buy on that particular trip to Amazon will earn me a small percentage of the total sale. Another big option for non-physical (digital) products such as hosting and ebooks and online courses is Clickbank. I’m still investigating others, but those two are likely where I’ll start.
The trick would really be that I have to be honest and not just spam people with links to buy stuff. I’d have to make sure that you as the reader know you can trust my judgement on what’s a good product to recommend. Truthfully, I’m not a shady salesman. That’s just not my personality at all, and I think you’d be able to trust me. (Those spatulas, though. They’re the real deal.)
I can see this being a supplementary source of income. Maybe even if my focus is elsewhere, I’ll be able to post links to things that I think are worthwhile for people on similar journeys to mine and make a little extra cash. But maybe I’ll be surprised and this could become my primary income stream. Who knows? I don’t!
Ok. Now what?
I’m going to be investigating these options over the next few weeks, and it’s likely that I’ll be trying out a few different things. I’m actually already on the path with some of it, which I’ll explain soon. I intend to write about it all in more detail as I progress and figure out what the hell I’m doing.
I know this about myself: I want to find a way to become location independent. I know it’s not an easy task, especially for someone with relatively basic computer skills, but I’m not dumb and (more importantly) I’m willing to put in the work. I know other people who have gone to college for computer stuff and I admire that sort of deep dive into education, but I’m not going to to take the time (and debt) to do that. I’m going to learn by trying. I’m going to build the skills as I go in actual practical situations. I have no illusions about getting rich quick or never failing. My expectations are as reasonable as they can be.
Last year, I started a grand journey. This year, I start a different one. But this one will allow me to have many more journeys on my own terms.
So join me and follow along as I bungle my way through the misadventures of a burgeoning internet entrepreneur! If you learn something you can use, great! If my example can help you realize it’s possible to step outside the cubicle life and pursue something of your own, great! At the very least, I promise to make make stupid jokes and make it all sound moderately entertaining.
Check back soon.