Comparing Work Options for RVers

Still camping at Lake Crowley, CA

Currently camping at Lake Crowley, CA

Having now acquired a good amount of experience while RVing with both working in a fixed location, and working remotely, it feels like a good time to give a rundown on both types and the positives and negatives of each.

First an explanation of terms, as not everyone may know what work-camping is, and definitions do vary depending on who you ask. If you look at the words “work-camping”, you’d think it should encompass any kind of work done while camping (and maybe someday it will), but for now the majority of people I’ve spoken to agree to the following:

Work-camping: Working in a fixed physical location while residing in an RV.

Work-camping covers jobs specifically for RVers where an RV site is provided, often at a reduced rate or free as part of the job contract, but also to more traditional temporary jobs where the RVer finds and pays for their own RV site.

Most often, a work-camper is an employee or contractor working for someone else, although that isn’t always the case. I know RVers who sell goods at shows or festivals and are self-employed, but since their work requires a fixed physical location (in this case a booth at the show to make the sales), I personally consider that work-camping.

Working Remotely: Work that does not require a fixed physical location.

Most people think of self-employed individuals who work from their computers when they think of working remotely, and that probably is the largest percentage of location-independent working RVers, but not by any means the only option.

Employees who telecommute, and folks who run a business with physical product and ship it by mail (where the selling does not require a fixed physical location) also fall into this category.

Next I’m going to go over my own income evolution since I hit the road, for the benefit of readers who haven’t been with IO from the beginning (and long-time readers who’d like a refresher):

My first year as a full-timer (September 2012 to September 2013) was funded entirely by work-camping – specifically by taking seasonal jobs as an employee. I worked for Amazon in the fall, Lowe’s in the winter, and at a National Park from spring until the start of the next fall.

That first year, I had about 8 weeks without working, better than the two weeks of vacation I use to get living stationary and working a “real” job, but a decent chunk of that 8 weeks was spent driving from one job to the next.

In my second and third years, I started making some money working for myself remotely (through this blog and other writing endeavors) and cut out the winter job. I still worked for Amazon in the fall and a National Park for the summer, but over the winter and early spring I took volunteer positions. Volunteering gave me a free site, and the online income slowly accumulated throughout the year was enough to cover the rest of my living expenses for the gap without employment.

Now in my fourth year on the road, I worked Amazon in the fall and am attempting to cut out the summer job and boondock from winter until next fall. 5 months down, 3.5 still to go, and so far I am on track.

It's spring in the campground

I’m doing a pretty good job of following spring so far this year

So which is a better way to make a living on the road, work-camping or working remotely?

From the trend in my personal employment you know which I prefer, but there isn’t a “best” way. Actually, I recommend having more than one income stream – whether you’re working in a fixed location or remotely. That way if your primary job fails, you’re still bringing in some money. When deciding which route is best, there are actually two variables to consider: whether you’re working for yourself or someone else, and whether you’re working in a fixed location or remotely.

Individual cases will vary of course, but here’s a few generalized pluses and minuses:

Pros

Cons

Other

Fixed-location, employee
  • Anyone can do it. There are plenty of work-camping jobs out there that require no prior experience or schooling.
  • Social networking is easier, you’ll likely be in one place long enough to make friends.
  • Steady paycheck.
  • Most work-camping jobs require a stay of at least 3 months, so less travel flexibility.
  • Often pays at or near minimum wage, unless you have specialized skills.
  • Less flexibility with work schedule.
  • You’ll have a boss calling the shots and looking over your shoulder.
  • Opportunity to try something you’ve never done before and learn new skills with less risk, as you’re being trained by your employer and are getting paid whether you’re good at it or not.
  • Despite the low pay, can be a living wage if you’re frugal.
Working Remotely, employee
  • More travel flexibility.
  • Steady paycheck.
  • Boss won’t be on-site looking over your shoulder.
  • Need to be self-motivated.
  • You’ll have a boss calling the shots.
  • May or may not have a say over work schedule.
Fixed-location, self-employed
  • Social networking is easier.
  • No boss, you call the shots.
  • Need to be self-motivated.
  • Usually takes time to establish a business.
  • Variable paycheck.
  • May or may not have a say over work schedule.
  • May or may not have travel fexibility.
Remotely, self-employed
  • More flexibility with work schedule.
  • More travel flexibility.
  • No boss, you call the shots.
  • Need to be self-motivated.
  • Usually takes time to establish a business.
  • Variable paycheck.

Note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list and not every bullet point may apply to every possible situation. That being said, if any of you working RVers out there have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments below!

Looking for more? Check out the Resources page, where there are several articles listed about work-camping and earning a living on the road.

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32 Responses to Comparing Work Options for RVers

  1. Hawk June 8, 2016 at 2:36 am #

    So glad u covered this topic, Becky. Good summary of things to consider. VERY helpful – as I continue creating a NEW life on the road.

    By the way, great video interview with Bob. Has it been three years for u? AWESOMENESS.
    Hawk recently posted..How Parrots Taught Me a New Life of AppreciationMy Profile

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      Happy to hear that you found this helpful Hawk, best of luck to you on making the transition to full-timing!

      I’ve been on the road since September of 2012, over three and a half years now. 🙂

  2. Sarah Joy June 8, 2016 at 5:02 am #

    You touched on having multiple streams of income in your post. I absolutely agree! I’m not full timing yet, but I am working very hard to lay the groundwork for several streams of income for when I finally hit the road. I currently have an online shop at Society6, I have my photos uploaded to a stock image site, and I’m also working toward the grand opening of several Etsy shops, supported and marketed through the Instagram accounts I manage (I’m doing a project called 365 days of painting on my personal Instagram account to show my work, for instance).

    I’ve never been a particularly good employee, but I’ve found that I am very happy with building and maintaining my own businesses. Now that I’m aware of these skills, I’ll definitely be doing mostly remote work when I’m on the road, and doing some work camping and volunteering like you.

    Have a beautiful day!

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

      Sounds like you have your income plan well in place Sarah, it’s great that you’re working on it now before you hit the road so that you won’t have to try learning both at the same time.

      Best of luck!

  3. Mike June 8, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    Thanks Becky, could you please explain how the Amazon affiliated link works?

    I’ve clicked on your link and it took me to my account with Amazon.

    Does this automatically link my account to you?

    Mike

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

      Hello Mike, no it does not link your account to me, not in any permanent way anyhow. I have the affiliate link set up so that it takes a person to Amazon’s home page. Anything purchased from Amazon within 24 hours of clicking that affilaite link gives me credit – a small percentage of the purchase price without costing you anything more. Items already in your shopping cart when you click I don’t get credit for, just things placed in your cart and purchased within that 24 hour window.

      In order to get credit after that 24 hours is up, you’d need to click the link again.

      Hope that clears the confusion. 🙂

      • Gail Gardner June 9, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

        Great explanation. You might want to create a page and link it near your affiliate information for others who wonder, but don’t ask. That could increase your Amazon commissions.

        Small world. I found your interview (the one I tweeted from @GrowMap) on YouTube. And I see you’re using CommentLuv. I was one of the original CommentLuv bloggers (still am). The creator of CommentLuv also created a really great anti-spam plugin called GASP (named after my blog: The GrowMap anti-spambot plugin). If you have issues with spam, there is a free version (GASP tab on my blog is linked to where you can download it). And if you ever use CommentLuv Premium it is built in.
        Gail Gardner recently posted..WANTED: Bloggers Interested in Collaborating to Increase Their IncomesMy Profile

        • Becky June 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

          When I started IO in 2011 I’d bought an e-book on how to set up a blog by a lady named Ash Ambirge, she recommended CommentLuv. I use Akismet for my anti-spam plugin and have not had any issues but thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  4. marijka June 8, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    I agree with Hawk – great summary! I found you through Bob’s video and was immediately drawn to your blog since I will also be a working solo female traveler. Yesterday I was finally able to start reading your story from the beginning and finally had to break out the eye drops after too much binging. lol Thanks for such wonderful info and photos! (And I especially love that you respond to comments in a world where most bloggers ignore them; therefore, I rarely participate.) Safe, fun travels to you…

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

      Welcome to IO Marijka and I’m glad you’ve found my posts (and the video I did with Bob) helpful. 🙂 I’ve been blogging for over four years now so yes, there’s a lot to read at this point, haha!

      You’re very welcome, and I hope you continue to follow along for the adventure. I wish you the very best in making the transition to full-timing, this is a wonderful way to live! Take care.

  5. Reine in Plano June 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    You mentioned FRUGAL a couple of times and that’s important regardless of the manner of financing your lifestyle. Note that frugal doesn’t mean never spending for fun or never splurging on stuff but it’s a lifestyle that evaluates how your money is spent and makes wise decisions about what will benefit YOU the most. Living a frugal lifestyle and choosing to spend on things that REALLY benefit you gives you LOTS more options about where you go and what you do. I know you will agree that what you gain way more than what you give up.

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:15 pm #

      Very good advice Reine, thanks for sharing.

  6. Vanholio! June 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    Good stuff! Finding work is such a common question.
    Vanholio! recently posted..Don’t Cook Ramen Noodles, Soak ‘Em Cold!My Profile

    • Becky June 8, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

      Yes Vanholio, glad you enjoyed this.

  7. Jody Duquette June 9, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Thanks so much for covering the topic of Workamping! It’s a great way for folks to help support their RV lifestyle. You made some very good comparisons and brought up good points that will help people determine if they want to find a job that’s more stationary or allows for more traveling.

    As Editor of Workamper News, I just wanted to clarify that we believe that a Workamper is someone who does any kind of part-time or full-time work (doing an activity in trade for some sort of compensation) while living in an RV. Where the RV is or how long the RV is in one place is not a factor. 🙂

    It is my goal to help folks step out of the box to know that Workamping is not just “working in a campground/RV resort.” There’s such a huge variety of options out there, including running a small business out of your RV or working via the internet as you have found success doing.

    Folks who are looking to travel more but still earn an income should be sure to check the Multiple Locations sections of job listing resources like Workamper News. Here you’ll find positions (often times sales-related) that allow more flexibility in location.

    • Becky June 10, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

      Thanks for writing in Jody, now that I know what Workamper News’ official stance is on the definition I’ll edit the blog post a little. You’re correct that most people think of workamping (I always say work-camping because it’s not trademarked and I refer to sites other than Workamper News) as working at a resort or campground, but maybe that’ll start to change now as more working-age people take to the road. Take care.

  8. pamelab June 9, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    Hi, Becky –
    Lots of new people in the comments. Very nice. I enjoyed your video also – Mr. Bobo, too.
    As it gets closer to my date to pick up my Casita, I find I am excited and anxious. Working on that. Listing things on Craig’sList and eBay and OfferUp. Having some luck and trying not to worry about what I don’t sell. I may start out with a small storage unit, but I hope to not have one eventually.
    Thank you for sharing your photos and all that good information. I really enjoy your blog.
    Happy Trails.
    Pamelab from Houston

    • Becky June 10, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

      Yeah Pamela, I’m enjoying all the new names in the comments. 🙂

      Downsizing can certainly be stressful. I got lucky that my roommate Julie got a small storage unit for her things when the two of us lived together in the Casita briefly before I started traveling. That gave me a place to put a few of my things that I hadn’t gotten rid of yet and work at clearing them out at my leisure in the months before I became a true full-timer. In my experience, everything works itself out in good time and I’m sure you’ll figure it out as you go, take care!

  9. Sue June 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    I like the way you have broken down the different options.

    My husband and I have had three different work-camping stints at campgrounds which provided a free or reduced rate site. Overall, it did not suit us and we are now working for a company that moves us around the country for different jobs. But there are many people who love campground work.

    One bit of advice that I’ll pass along for those who might be interested in campground work is to consider how you feel about working where you live (or living where you work). Do you want to live next door to the people you work with? How would your boss feel if you told the paying customers next door what you really think about their barking dog/unsupervised children/nosiness/other assorted annoyances?

    Working at a campground is a good way to meet a lot of people, but sometimes you want a bit of distance between work and home.

    If the job doesn’t work out, are you willing to pack up and move?

    I think your advice about having several income streams is an important point. Having a plan B (and C) is good too.

    One thing that has really surprised me is the wide range and number of jobs out there for RVers.
    Sue recently posted..Big Times in MinnesotaMy Profile

    • Becky June 10, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

      Actually Sue with as many work-camping jobs as I’ve held, not a single one of them was campground hosting – you’re correct that there are a wide range of possibilities.

      My national Park jobs were primarily being a cashier in a gift shop (although the one in Zion I also did front desk for a campground – but I wasn’t a host and wasn’t bothered at my RV, I just did reservations and check ins and outs. My fall jobs at Amazon are working in a warehouse and not customer service related at all.

      I did volunteer park host for the Texas State Park system, but the park I was at was tent camping only and not many sites, and us volunteers lived down a road that the public couldn’t get to. I mostly did traffic control there actually on the weekends – the park was real heavy on day use visitors (rock climbing) and frequently the gates had to be closed when it reached capacity (only room for 450 cars at a time).

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found something that works well for you, take care.

  10. Kit June 10, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Travel nursing is a popular career, 3-month stints and pays well. Plus, nursing is a full-time job working three days a week (one reason I chose this career). I might try that in the future if I get tired of living in one place, but I love where I live right now. Before I finished nursing school, I worked as an in-home caregiver with two agencies, and the hours vary weekly, so paychecks are not steady income, some are huge and some are tiny. So no, not all stationary jobs give steady income. Also, it’s always smart to have more than one job, I still keep a few hours as a caregiver.

    • Becky June 11, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Kit. I know a couple full-timers who are nurses, it does seem to be a good job for traveling. As far as that chart goes, it’s been my experience that employees have steadier paychecks than contractors/self-employed folks but of course nothing is absolute and I did say that in the post. Glad you’re enjoying nursing, take care.

  11. David Greybeard June 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    I’m stationary for now, but when I was traveling and picking up temp work (warehouse work, mostly) one of the best things about it was knowing that I was moving on in few months. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get up and go to a crummy job if you know that you’re not stuck there for years. You’ll never make much money, but I always got a good reference for the next temp agency by showing up on time for every shift and always giving a week or two notice before I left, much more than most temp places expect from most of their workers. I usually stuck with a national company that had franchises all over. You’ll still have fill out an application at every location, but your direct deposit info might work from day one.

    • Becky June 20, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

      Yes David, that’s much how I feel about working at Amazon, haha. I don’t know how people can do it all year long, 3 months is plenty! Thanks for sharing.

      • Hawk June 20, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

        Yeah, David Graybeard & Becky – I work full-time with Amazon. Four years! It’s an acquired taste — to be sure.

        Now I train new employees to pack orders in boxes. Pretty good job from that perspective. And nice pay!

        I plan to transfer all around the US to MANY other Amazon warehouses. While in my RV full-time. SWEET life – camping… traveling… taking months off to hike… and to be an AWESOME nomad.

        All the best, Hawk
        Hawk recently posted..Awesome Parrot Training with Positive Reinforcement TrainingMy Profile

        • Becky June 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm #

          Amazon does go well with RVing Hawk, sounds like a good plan. Best of luck to you!

  12. Teri June 26, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    HI Becky,

    I find a big part of being frugal with work camping is the amount you pay for your RV spot. The majority of my time prior to last fall and this summer was spent volunteering. I am finding with doing jobs at minimum wage that the subsidized RV spot is a pretty large portion deducted from your wage. So I am still a fan of volunteering for a free site but trying hard to find employers that subsidize a larger portion or provide free RV sites plus a wage. I have found one this summer in ND, Amazon and looking for others in the future..

    • Becky June 27, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

      Absolutely Teri! In my National Park Jobs post, I break down three different offers I got and showed readers that the one that paid the least per hour (Badlands) was actually the most profitable because cost of living was so much less (cheap rent, free laundry, cheap meal plan, etc.). A person really needs to look at much more than just the hourly wage. http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2013/04/05/working-at-national-parks-for-rvers/

  13. MG September 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

    I’ve read about work camping a variety of places, and wanted to mention a couple of things I do which are fairly well compensated and that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere.

    First, I prepare tax returns from late January through the middle of April. This was my pre-semi-retirement gig, and I’m credentialed, so it pays enough in three months to cover my expenses for the full year. If you’re just starting out, you can probably still pull about $15/hour. And if you’re good at the work and good with people, you could probably be making $20-25/hour after a couple of tax seasons, assuming you work for somebody other than H&R/JacksonHewitt/Liberty. (H&R does have a pretty good free training program, so that’s a good way to learn, but not a good way to make decent money.) The biggest downside is that you’re working a LOT of hours.

    Second, I work with PB Disaster Services doing home inspections after natural disasters (e.g., I spent three weeks in Louisiana after the recent flooding there.) It’s not really work camping since the company flys you to the work site and then puts you up in a local hotel, but it’s still compatible with the RV lifestyle since it’s fairly easy to find RV storage for while you’re gone. Pay is about $25/hour plus another $50+ per day as a per diem to cover meals and incidentals. You are expected to do (paid) overtime. There are production bonuses for people who work quickly, and I know someone who makes about $12k per month doing this. Downside is that the learning curve is steep, so your first time out is frustrating. Also, the work can be emotionally challenging since you’re often dealing with people who have lost everything. And, of course, the work isn’t steady. You might go out for three months one year, and not be called up at all the following year.

    So…if someone is looking for seasonal jobs, this is what’s working for me! (And the last time I worked a full 50 weeks in a single year was 1997!)

    • Becky September 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

      I’ve talked to a person or two who did the tax return thing but neither of them blogged about their experiences. The disaster home inspections is a new concept to me. Thanks for sharing MG.

  14. Teri May 12, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    In 2013 you taller about finding a temp job with Kelly Services. How did that work out? I am finding it hard to track down temp jobs but I have not been looking at large cities so that may be harder.

    • Becky May 12, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

      Kelly Services was slow to to locate something for me. They did finally contact me about two temp jobs (both warehouse) about three-four weeks after I applied, but by then I’d already been hired on at Lowe’s.

      So I’d say it’s worth applying, but keep applying to individual businesses at the same time. Best of luck to you Teri, it can take a while!

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