Making Money On Your Own On the Road

More than 40 years ago, I read a story in an Esquire hardback book, “What Every Young Man Should Know”, about a beachcomber. He didn’t do much except surf and hang around the best beaches in the world, and yet he made over $40,000 a year! (Not bad for the 1960’s!)  He repaired surf boards (even made some to sell to select clients) (which I’m sure took a lot of research and “testing” … (sure it did, Ha!)). He was also in on the surf competitions and had a business sponsoring him, he picked up shells and interesting driftwood pieces and sold them to a local beach shop, plus used some for his own brand of artwork which he also sold, and he used a metal detector to scan the public areas of the beach after hours, to find everything from watches to diamond rings!  When he had time, he would “hand write” stories about surfing and about the beaches and sell them to whomever would buy them. His home was considered a “beach shack” by many, but at the price of ocean-front property, he was still comfortable. What a life!  That was 1960-ish….let’s update that to the present.

Today, with a library computer (he doesn’t even have to own one), he can buy and sell surfboards on a global scale (doesn’t even have to make them anymore because he can sell for nearly any other company), not only pick up shells and driftwood to sell to that global audience, but take pictures of them before he sells them and then upload the pictures to his own site or a stock photo agency for resale. He can now buy the best metal detectors available and sell anything that he finds of value on eBay to a global audience!  His writing can now be used for his online web sites and ads, added to blogs where he can also sell his beach related stuff (photography, stories, driftwood… whatever) plus things from affiliates, plus he can locate places all over the world that will pay him top dollar for his stories.  And he has eBay, as well as other more specialized auction sites on which to sell anything he wants. How much do you think that will improve his bottom line income?

Today’s smart beach combers are millionaires. Google “Frank Kern” and do some research on him if you don’t believe me!  He made over $8 million in 24 hours alone on the launch of his “Mass Control” marketing training a couple of years ago! In his spare time he collects vintage surf boards, expensive cars, plays a mean guitar, and (of course) surfs, and lives in a multi-million dollar home overlooking the ocean. There is literally no limit to what a simple “beach bum” can do today!

He started out by paying a ghost writer to write a simple book for him on a niche he discovered… a book on how to teach a parrot to talk. It cost hom $2500 to the ghostwriter. Then he set up a simple web site with a payment processor, an automatic download on it (a link to the pdf book from his own “thank you” page) to fulfill the book sale. And ten years later, without much maintenance at all, he is still making about $20,000 a year from that one product alone… all without lifting a finger! Today, he could afford to pay someone to build a very professional site for him. But with today’s technology, six-year olds are building web sites! It isn’t rocket science!

This is just an example of what can be done ON YOUR OWN to make money in today’s world! But as a more detailed example, let’s take something that is drop dead simple… photography. Almost everyone owns a digital camera these days. It doesn’t have to be fancy. There are many places online where you can not only post your pictures for others to see, but they will sell them for you, too!  Ad agencies are always looking for interesting stock photgraphy that will help them sell a product. The site you upload to will show you how to protect them to prevent unauthorized use, and good photos can sell for anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The more you put out there, the more money you will make. There’s all kinds of information on this online, from how to take pictures that will sell to where to sell them. But let’s go into more depth yet…

One niche that will always be hot is “headers” for web sites and blogs. Many of you have already taken pictures that you don’t even realize can be a header, from landscape scenes to sunsets, to tops of tall buildings with the sky as a background. Even with a regular camera, all you have to do is crop existing photos down to where you have a short wide strip that can serve as a background, and will allow someone to add a title over it. Think about headers for sites that you have seen in the past. Go back and look at some of the pictures you have taken and imagine removing some of the bottom and some of the top.  Sure, some are “Photo-shopped”, but not all. Some are ordinary everyday pictures of things in everyday life. My site (and blog) at HeartlandWebTraining.com is a good example… a simple country scene that fits well with the “heartland” theme and the area in which we live. I got it online for free, but many places charge for headers.

(Update note: the site mentioned above was removed in January of 2012).

All you have to do is take an ordinary photo, upload it to someplace like http://picresize.com where you can crop it, adjust the size, quality, image output, etc, and make it a standard header size, save it back to your computer, and then do one of several things…(1) You can sell it to someone who already has a header site, so that they can make money from future sales of it, (2) you can upload it to a site where YOU can sell it as a header (while allowing them to keep a small commission), or (3) you can create your own site or blog, “watermark” your photo image to prevent someone from stealing it, and then sell it yourself (without the watermark) as a downloadable product where the entire process runs on “autopilot” and you make 100% of the profits which go straight to your bank account!  I like #3… how about you?

If you have writing ability, you can write travel articles that can be sold almost anywhere. Many times a local newspaper will pay for restaurant reviews, or an article about a local attraction. Places like AWAI have free newsletters and training programs on both writing for profit as well as photography to help you in this quest, plus they give you sources that will BUY photos and stories from you.

Also, if you can write, then you can start your own no-cost blog, just as many of you already have. At Blogger.com you can learn everything you need, from starting your blog to monetizing it.  I see some of you are taking advantage of monetizing your blogs with links to products, such as through Amazon Associates. Some are using individual vendor links. Others have their own hand-written books for sale. Good for you!

The only thing you have to be careful of with a blog on someone else’s platform is that a blog is first and foremost an “online information and conversation” medium. As long as that is it’s primary purpose, and selling things from it is secondary, you’ll be fine. But if all you do is load it with ads and there’s no real content, Blogger can (and WILL) shut it down. The only way to avoid that is to host your blog on your own paid hosting service, and then it is yours to do with as you wish (within the parameters of the hosting company). I use WordPress on my sites, but I also use Blogger for other things.

Any kind of digital product fulfillment (ebooks, audio, video, or software) is a downloadable product in which all sales happen on “autopilot” and the money goes straight to your bank account. You can also advertise products that other people provide and fill the orders for, and those are called affiliate sales. They also happen on “autopilot”, except you don’t have to set up the fulfillment process. The vendor does all the work and they pay you a small commission (usually 4 to 8%, although some can go much higher) just for telling other people about it. All they do is track a link in your ad, and it is recorded by special software.  When you reach a payout point, which can be as little as $10 or as much as $100, they pay you… plain and simple.  Until Amazon shut down their Associates program here in Arkansas, we were getting a direct deposit to our bank account every month from them. Now that we have found Skimlinks.com we can do that again, but we have to reset all our links first.

If you can buy in bulk and then “warehouse” it, you will get a much better price on it (typically 50% discount or more), but warehousing and shipping is a hassle. Drop-shipped items will typically pay less (usually lucky to get 30%), but they will do the warehousing and shipping for you. Affiliate products will pay the least, but of course, the more work your vendors have to do, the less you will make for yourself.

Physical products usually have a much smaller commission, but there are ways to improve your profit margin without going to all the work of shipping stuff…

Places that are “digital depositories” like ClickBank.com have over 10,000 products, put on there by other authors/creators, where you can sign up to sell those products yourself, for sometimes as much as a 95% commission!  And many of them are software products, and information learning products that can cost in the hundreds of dollars! Some even have monthly subscriptions where you continue to make residual sales as long as people continue to pay every month! They give you the link to the product you want to promote and you install it on your site or blog. You can even copy and paste the pictures of the product on most items. That’s all there is to making money online!

Some vendors work through “aggregators” (of which ClickBank is one) like Commission Junction, LinkShare, LinkConnector, AvantLink and many more. Rather than the individual stores monitoring their own affiliate sales, they let a professional company do it.  But there are also many individual stores that have their own programs. Just search Google for the product you want and either put “+ affiliate” after it, or “+ partner” to find products to sell through those vendors. You can also use Google Alerts to sign up for the same terms, and as soon as any new ones show up, they will email you about it. There are also some companies who don’t advertise that they use affiliates, but many times, if you contact or call them, they can set you up as a dealer or distributor.

For “true” wholesalers and manufacturers, many of them don’t even have or want web sites. They deal strictly through first-level distributors who can handle their products in huge quantities through their chain of dealers. For these manufacturers, the only place you will find them is in Thomasnet (the online version of the old Thomas Register). You may have to call them, but they can direct you down their distributor chain to someone who can sell the product to you.

For those states who have had their Amazon Associates program shut down due to the nexus sales tax laws, you can now sign up with SkimLinks.com, which is based in the U.K. and therefore doesn’t have to worry about the nexus laws. And they work with many of the other vendors, including Amazon, so that you can still use Amazon links on your sites! For those who don’t know, Amazon has about seventeen times the inventory of Wal Mart worldwide, and their product banners are of uniform size, so when you want to put more than one on a page they won’t look all skewed.

Having your own unique products is definitely the best way to go. Many RV’ers have gotten into jewelry-making, and many RV resorts have free or low-cost classes on lapidary work. The equipment you need is small, relatively quiet to run (even rock tumblers and cutters), and other than that, a small workbench is all you need. Then you can sell your unique creations through eBay, Etsy, or many other online auctions that specialize in such things, or even sell them at your own “yard sales” at your RV!

If you can draw or paint, you can create your own line of products, such as greeting cards, or even full size paintings that you can sell. Collecting payment is simple, and PayPal accounts cost nothing to set up, and only a small fee is deducted from each sale. Plus if you get their MasterCard, you have immediate access to your funds, so you can use the same funds to buy the product from your vendor, or pay to ship the product the same day.

This brings up another fallacy. I have heard many people say that they don’t have the money to stock up on wholesale merchandise!  Wake up people!  In this world, you can advertise the product before you even own it! You can collect the money first, and THEN order the product from your supplier, to be drop-shipped directly to your customer! I do this all the time! I don’t buy ANYTHING in bulk anymore! When I sell it… THEN I order it! No money invested in useless inventory to set around for the next year! Problem solved!

If you have PayPal, then obiously one way to make money is to sell stuff on eBay. It doesn’t matter what it is. As mentioned above, you can even sell unique pieces of driftwood or rocks that you find on the beach or in the desert! Artisans will pay for this stuff from which they will make their own creations!  You don’t need talent to sell to them!

Many times, you can hit yard sales and get deals on stuff where they don’t know what it’s worth, and turn around and sell it on eBay for a profit! It can’t get any easier!

Also, you can invest in a metal detector and go after-hours to public places like beaches and parks, and find all kinds of things that you can sell on eBay or otherwise. I just read on someone’s blog where they collect a lot of small stuff for awhile and then put out signs and have their own little yard sale right at their RV, so you don’t even need a computer! You can even collect unique rocks, geodes and other things which can then be sold to lapidary specialists if you don’t want to do it yourself!

If you are inventive, and can design and/or manufacture an item yourself, you can even sell that while you travel. One older gentleman that I used to know had invented a new type of construction lock that he was selling online. This was fifteen years ago, and he was nearly 80 years old back then!  So don’t tell me that you are too old to learn! If you can’t make the item while you travel, then contract with a shop to make it for you. If you are concerned with someone stealing your idea, and it has more than one part, then subcontract each part to multiple shops, so they don’t know what the finished product is, and then just assemble it yourself! You can get free boxes from any post office and ship it Priority Mail from anywhere!

One of my sites (in bad need of updating, so don’t be too critical) is Toolsorter.com, where I used to be the world’s largest full-line stocking distributor for Ernst tool organizers. We have since dropped that line because we are eliminating “warehousing” products so that we can get back to traveling. I also currently sell a line of all weather tool boards, which I have drop-shipped by the supplier’s warehouse in New York.  All I do is collect the money along with the order, and then email the order on to my supplier. They ship the boards and send me the tracking numbers for my customer along with my invoice! (They aren’t set up for online wholesale payments so I write a check for those, but only after I have been paid up front, and the order has shipped to my customer!)  Some of the companies I sell to are the largest in the world, and although some are, not all are listed on the site yet, such as Elkay (think plumbing fixtures on a world-wide scale).

I have many repeat customers as well as new ones! I just sent an order last week of ten tool boards to a large machine tool company in Wisconsin. My average order size, just from that site is over $68, many times I sell multiple boards AND tool organizers in the same order. Although I do have to manually process the orders (send them to my suppliers), I can do that from anywhere! And keep in mind, this is a very “small niche” site.., after all, how many people do you know who would search for “tool boards”, and yet there I am at the top of the first page of results on Google!

If you don’t like computers, then there are plenty of suppliers for things like flea market merchandise, which can also be sold other places, including “yard sale” style and online.  Many stores buy from these same places!  There are directories published to flea markets all over the country, and once you find a larger one, their office will likely have all kinds of catalogs available for wholesale merchandise you can buy. Many markets are only open at the end of the week, giving you a few days at the beginnig of the week to do whatever you want to do in the area. You are free to move on when you feel the need to.

If you are close to the Mexican border, and can buy a load of stuff only available there, you can find an intersection on which to set up here in the states and sell out of a cargo trailer or truck. Stuffed animals and leather goods are always good sellers. Check with the state first, as you may have to get a sales tax license and vendor permit for your location. If you don’t have a truck or trailer, borrow one or rent one for a couple days. You will still have a profit! On holidays, mother’s day, father’s day, Valentine’s day, we saw flower vendors all over the place out west, and even other places! For real flowers, contact any wholsale nursery!  For the fourth, you can sell fireworks, although the laws on this might be a hinderance. Always make sure you are legal! For Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, stock up on yard ornaments. They always sell well.

At one time (mid-90’s), we used to have a photo-imaging business (mugs, T-shirts, and about 200 other items available) and would make about $200 (clear) on a weekend (from a $25 a day 10 x 10 booth) even in the weakest of markets. (Closer to Christmas time it was in the $1000’s.) With a digital camera, a laptop, a scanner and printer that can handle transfer material, and a source (such as QLT) you can be in business in a week. You don’t have to do things that take expensive special heat presses or software. You can sell the kind of transfers that they can take home and iron onto their own shirts.  QLT and other suppliers have plenty of merchadise that a photo can be inserted into, including mugs. They also sell fancy software for making greeting cards out of photos and many other specialized products. If you know Photoshop, you can even do special effects for them, or you can buy QLT’s software. I might add, they do have other processes now, as well, but most of them take expensive equipment.

One of our neighbors back in the 90’s had a regular route developed for going around and doing the old “charcoal sketches done by a computer” at the county and state fairs. Although it may take awhile to get on the list and move up to where they will let you in, it can be quite profitable, once you filter out the venues where the sales aren’t as good. You need to develop a “route” to be most profitable and that can take a couple of years or more. They said they made about $4500 a week for half the year, and then they took the other six months off and traveled in their huge Country Coach. He was a retired fighter pilot, and had a huge picture of an F-14 on the side of the coach! Neat!

Another friend of ours used to sell motorized scooters of all kinds (both electric and gas) to the RV crowds at the various get togethers that groups have. One time he sold a whole trailer load of them at one meeting and cleared over $30,000 for the weekend! And then he went home and slept for a week! They worked him to death assembling them!

Most conversion equipment is less than $100, for converting slides to digital, VHS to DVD’s, old vinyl records to MP3’s etc, and there is a definite need for such services. For less than $300, you could set up your own little business out of the back of your vehicle, or at a flea market, or online, where you could transfer these things for people who don’t know how to do it themselves or don’t want to spend the money on equipment for a one-time use. In-person seems to work best for this, as many people don’t want to send off the only original copy they have to someone they don’t know. But you can put out a lot of business cards and take calls, and then meet with the people as you get to their area. A friend of mine is getting $20 to transfer a VHS tape to DVD’s.  How many of those can you do in a day? (About four to five jobs pays for the machine.)

There are no long term commitments at most of these markets, some are indoors and some outside, and you can move on anytime you like! Many of them will allow you to set up and park right there with your booth setup, or at least nearby, so that’s free nightly parking which more than offsets your booth rent! We even bought our dash covers for our vehicles at one of the flea markets in Mesa. Many booths are actually run by larger brick and mortar stores in town, and they hire people to manage the flea market booths for them! That’s another job opening if you don’t mind working for someone else for a longer term!

If you are a reasonable musician, mime, or magician, you can set up almost anywhere and put out a tip jar. Many people make a decent full time living just from tips.

Another idea is waitressing or a waiter at restaurants. There are always jobs all over for that, and if you get tired of it, move on. The better the restaurant, the better the tips will be.

I’m sure that if I sat here for another 30 minutes I could probably come up with 30 other ways to make money on your own, just off the top of my head. If I actually dug into my files and did a little research, I could write a whole book on the subject! (And maybe I will… later!)

Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that you have to make all your money doing only one thing! There’s nothing wrong with having several things going all at once! You can sell from a web site or blog that you work on in the evening! You can “create” during the day, and sell on the weekends at flea markets!  Being diversified means that if one thing doesn’t work, or dries up for any reason, it won’t stop you. In my web training, I always tell people “don’t let any one process or entity have more than 20% of the control over your business ventures!”  You can afford to lose 20% of your income until you adjust for it and recover. If all your eggs are in one basket, and someone steps on your basket… well… you’re done!

Life isn’t about how much you make or save…it’s about the quality of life and how you live it. Hoarding money shouldn’t be a necessity for ANYONE, because in today’s world it is all around you. You don’t have to “hoard” it.  You can make it anytime you want and as much as you want whenever you need it, and be out doing what you love to do while it’s coming in. All you have to do is stop and think about what you are doing, how you can do it better, and look at everything around you as means of income to reach that goal.

If you set your “system” up right, the money will always be there…coming in on autopilot, even long into retirement!  You don’t have to stockpile it! Picture yourself in your ideal environment, and then do what you have to in order to get there!

A photo of you in your ideal surroundings as a success in life should be all your kids or grandkids need to inspire them to do as well. Teach them how to do it on their own, but don’t leave a fortune to them and have them spoiled by it!  Remember, “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he can have a lifetime of abundance”. Use your money to enjoy your own life, and to teach others how to achieve the same success, and you will have it also, plus you will be more respected for sharing what you have and know with others.

If anyone has any questions or comments, please don’t be shy! I receive all comments by email and have to approve them first, so I see all, and will reply with answers as necessary!