Fifteen Jobs You Can Do From Your Van
“How do you support yourselves from the road?” “What kind of jobs do you have that allow you to work from your van?” I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked those question, so I decided to write a post not only about what we do, but about a variety of jobs we’ve come across over the years that you can do from the road. Some of them are pretty obvious, others not so much.
First off, I’ll answer the “how do you support yourselves” question. We are both medical professionals, which is admittedly pretty good careers for van dwelling. With the way telehealth has grown and the quantity of short term travel contracts available to folks of just about any medical profession, it’s not hard to work from the road. However, people’s assumption that we worked from the road just because we were living in a van is incorrect. When we were living full-time in our van, Justin was in residency which prevented us from living on the road. As such, we both worked at a hospital and lived in the van in the parking lot. Right now we’re super focused on student loan repayment, so we’ve continued to work full-time hospital jobs that are keeping us tied to one place. However, it looks like we’ll be debt free in less than six months so we’ve started to prepare to take our work on the road. Justin has already started two telehealth jobs that he can do from the van and I’ve started applying to teach online for various schools of nursing. When we actually start doing those jobs from the road, I’ll post update and to let you know how it’s going! Without further ado, here are fifteen jobs we’ve come up with that you can do from your van/the road.
Being a digital nomad (a person who performs a job that requires technology like internet and a computer but is not location dependent) is probably the most obvious vanlife/roadlife kind of work and that category, tech jobs are usually the first thing that come to mind. For example, web design, illustrating and graphic design, programming, software development, and social media management. If all you need is a computer and internet, you’ve pretty much got a perfect “do it from anywhere” kind of job. How do you have access to internet from a van you may ask? Well, you can always use public internet at places like coffee shops and libraries, or get a mobile data plan that includes a hotspot or allows tethering. We personally use our WiFi Ranger to boost public WiFi signals/create a private network, which you can read about here.
When I was a kid, my family and I lived for awhile in Papua New Guinea where my mother worked briefly as a medical transcriptionist for a company in the US. All she needed was internet and the ability to type fast. For those of you who don’t know what transcription work entails, it simply involves transcribing auto files to text. For example, transcribing meetings, focus groups, lectures, interviews, closed captioning for TV, and medical stuff like dictation from physicians. About a year ago, while we were living in the van, I got really interested in transcription work because it seemed like the perfect thing to do from the road and I read that you can earn anywhere from $15-$45 per audio hour. Specialty transcription work (like medical or legal transcription) that requires the transcriber to have a knowledge of area specific lingo pays the most, so I thought I’d apply to medical transcription jobs since I’m a nurse. However, pretty much all of the medical transcription jobs I saw wanted prior experience or a medical transcription certificate, so I started working for a general transcription company called TranscribeMe! that works with a lot of reputable organizations like Harvard University, Kaplan, CISCO, and Pandora. The hiring process involved learning TranscribeMe’s lengthy transcription rules (transcribing multiple speakers, speech you can’t understand, silence, laughter, audio that starts in the middle of a sentence, what goes in brackets, what goes in parentheses, when they want ellipses etc etc - their rule book was an almost 40 page PDF!), transcribing a number of audio files that were then reviewed for accuracy, and passing a written grammar exam. After I was hired, there was a portal where I was presented with files that needed to be transcribed and after listening to a clip, I could decide whether or not to take the job. Long story short, transcription work pays by audio hour (for example, if a job pays $25 per audio hour and you transcribe a 60 minute audio file, you’ll get $25 even if it took you five hours to transcribe those 60 minutes) and it took me way too long to transcribe the files, so it wasn’t really worth it. In fact, Justin begged me to stop doing it after just a couple of weeks because I was spending most of the day on my days off struggling to transcribe stuff when I could just pick up an extra shift at the hospital. I remember one day where I literally worked for seven hours to transcribe a 1.5 hour long focus group discussion involving people with cerebral palsy for a graduate student’s thesis. There were eight people in the group and you have to identify each speaker when you transcribe, so I spent the whole time going back to the beginning where they introduced themselves trying to remember what everyone’s voice sounded like (was that Daniel or Dave who just spoke? Or maybe Sam??), and because they all had cerebral palsy, many of them were rather difficult to understand so I kept having to rewind and listen to the audio over and over. One of them was so hard to understand in fact that he had an interpreter with him and I had no idea how to transcribe that! In the end, having made a grand total of $120 for about 20 hours of work, I quit. In retrospect, one of my main issues was that I didn’t invest in software/a foot pedal that lets you control the audio playback hands free. Even though I’m a fast typist (75+ words per minute), I found myself constantly needing to stop the audio to think about how something should be transcribed or to rewind the audio to listen to something I was having a hard time understanding. Having to take my hands off the keyboard and use a mouse to rewind etc really slowed me down. Even though transcribing didn’t work out for me, I still think it’s a brilliant van job if you invest in a foot pedal (like this popular Express Scribe transcription system) and maybe even some software that cleans up the audio. To learn more, check out this article on transcription work by The Penny Hoarder.
If you’re a medical professional, telehealth is a rapidly growing industry that’s easy to do from anywhere as long as you’ve got good internet. Depending on their specialty, physicians can do telehealth providing consult services (for example, an intensivist providing ICU consults to a small rural hospital) or primary care with a company like 98point6 or urgent care type work with a company like amwell. Telehealth isn’t just limited to physicians though! For example, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, and more can do online counseling for companies like betterhealth, and nurses can work as telehealth health navigators, do phone triage, and even remote patient monitoring through ICU telehealth programs.
Continuing with medical related things, there are a ton of remote jobs available for medical coders with a projected growth rate of 15% by 2024. Medical coding involves categorizing medical diagnoses, services, procedures, and supplies by code for health care billing purposes. Most jobs require some kind of certification (like a Certified Coding Specialist) or sometimes even a degree, like a Registered Health Information Administrator. Certification programs usually take somewhere between 12-24 months to complete, which may sound long, but the level of flexibility and possibilities afterwards are many! Check out this everything you need to know to get started in medical billing and coding article for more information. If you are already a medical coder, check out this article by The Balance Careers with a list of ten companies that offer remote medical coding jobs.
Teaching online has become a big thing these days. There are a lot of remote teaching jobs for just about every area you can imagine from grade school through university. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been applying for jobs teaching nursing online and have found a ton of options! A couple months ago I made a post to our Instagram account asking what jobs people did from their vans and someone responded saying he taught high school science classes online, so it’s definitely possible. If you’re not a certified teacher but feel that you’re an expert in an area(s) you could try something like Teachable, a free online platform with 18 million+ students that allows you to create and sell courses. Another good option for people who are interested in teaching but don’t have actual teaching degrees is being a language teacher. For example, there is a pretty high demand for English as a second language teachers, and many positions are online.
If you’re passionate/knowledgeable about travel, working as a travel agent is something you can do remotely, either for a company or a travel agent looking to expand, or on your own if you feel up to launching your own business. With how easy it is to book things online these days, it may seem like travel agents are a thing of the past, but according to travel industry veterans, travel agents are making more money now than ever by by specializing in niche travel, like specific destinations for wealthy clients. For more info check out this article about how to become a work from home travel agent by Tried & True Mom Jobs.
If you like writing or are good at editing, there are actually quite a few freelance jobs out there that are flexible and easy to do from a van or the road. Two well known companies that make it easy to connect with writing opportunities (and loads of other freelance opportunities as well like graphics & design and digital marketing) are Upwork and Fiverr, where people are looking for everything from press releases and scriptwriting to resumes, speechwriting, and blog posts. Both Upwork and Fiverr allow you to create a profile describing your expertise and hourly rate that you then use to bit for jobs that get listed on the site. While anyone can post a job, both Upwork and Fiverr work with a lot of really big companies like Netflix, PayPal, Microsoft, and Airbnb, so you could land some pretty legit jobs.
If you’ve graduated from college, chances are you can work as some kind of tutor. There are dozens of companies that offer K-12 and up tutoring services that hire folks to tutor online. While most online tutoring jobs I looked at offered around $10-15 per hour, if you’re truly an expert or have an advanced degree you can earn as much as $60+/hour (I saw someone with a rate of $120/hour who’s services had been used many times based on his reviews!) on tutoring sites like Wyzant that allow you to set your own rates. For more information, check out this article by Tried & True Mom Jobs that details nine of the highest paying online tutoring companies.
If you speak or write multiple languages, there are a lot of remote jobs for interpreters and translators. For example, CyraCom and LanguageLine Solutions hire interpreters that can work from home as private contractors (so all you need is good phone service) and both companies provide services to huge organizations like hospitals, so there’s lots of work. Every time I pick up a CyraCom phone at my hospital and call a translator to speak with a patient I think what a perfect van job it would be! Working as an interpreter for a legitimate company does require doing some testing/training (which makes sense because you don’t want your interpreter to mess up when you’re doing something like going over a consent for surgery), but companies like CyraCom appear to provide the training. The only difference between working an interpreter and a translator is that translators deal with text. Both Upwork and Fiverr (discussed earlier) have categories for translators.
Seasonal work is something a lot of van dwellers do that allows them to work in one place for a small portion of the year and then spend the rest of the time roaming around unemployed or doing work that is less consistent or doesn’t pay well enough to support them on the road for the whole year. A few examples of seasonal work personal friends and vanlifers we know have worked in include package handling during peak seasons (for example, Amazon hires a bunch of extra people to package stuff at their warehouses around Christmas and companies like FedEx and UPS hire extra drivers for package delivery), pretty much anything at ski resorts, and agriculture. Check out the seasonal jobs page at the Department of Labor for some ideas of what’s available in the US.
If you’re good at photography or videography, you can work as a location independent freelancer or sell stock images/videos. From what I’ve read, it’s probably a bit hard to fully support yourself selling stock as the market is pretty glutted, but it would be a great passive way to earn some extra money. In fact, we currently have a friend who partially supports himself from the road with stock photography/videography. There are a lot of sites for freelance work, but once again, Upwork and Fiver both have categories for photographers and videographers, or if you’re really serious, you could launch a website and start your own business. For selling stock, check out this article from Shaw Academy that describes ten places where you can sell stock photography.
There are a lot of great online accounting jobs these days where you can do everything from bookkeeping to taxes. Goats On The Road wrote an excellent article about 10 online accounting jobs you can do abroad that probably covers the topic better then I can, so I’m going to leave it at that.
Customer Service Representative
Since most customer service jobs simply require a phone and internet access, a lot of companies like retail stores, banks, and credit agencies now hire independent contractors to take calls from home, which could just as well be a van. Apparently, it’s a rapidly growing industry due to the “home-shore movement” that is pressuring companies to do less out-sourcing.
I came across this option last month while reading an article about jobs you can do from home. The article recommended a company called UserTesting that pays you (usually $10 per job) to review websites and apps. It sounded pretty good, so I signed up and have earned $60 to date. You simply login to your account and take screeners until you qualify (each website/app is looking for some one with specific qualities, for example, someone who earns a certain amount, works in a certain industry, shops regularly for designer clothing, plays certain games online etc) for a job, then follow a list of instructions that ask you to try certain functions of an app or website while recording your thoughts out loud. When you’re finished you submit the recording and get paid by UserTesting after your recording has been rated. You have to get a four star or higher rating to get paid. However, only two of my six recordings have been rated and I’ve been paid for them all, so not sure what that’s all about. The payment are via PayPal. The biggest downside with UserTesting is that you do have to do a lot of screeners before you qualify for anything. When I looked UserTesting up and read through their reviews, they were pretty abysmal and it seemed that the main reason people gave them such poor ratings was that they felt they never qualified for anything. Another company that basically does the same thing is UTest, but they have better reviews and we have a friend who works from home exclusively doing UTest. He really likes it and seems to be earning a decent amount of money, so I signed up for it as well but haven’t finished their online training and therefore haven’t done any work yet. I’ll post an update when I do though and let you know if it’s as good as it sounds!
Apparently, virtual assistants are one of the fastest growing remote career fields and is something that would be pretty easy to do from a van/the road. While virtual assistants obviously do a lot of different stuff, in general, they provide support to their clients through things like answering emails and phone calls, organizing files, writing letters, coordinating schedules and calendars, and making travel arrangements. Basically just taking care of little administrative stuff so that the client can focus on the larger aspects of their job/life. Average pay is anywhere from $10-$30 per hour. For more information, The Work At Home Wife posted this great article about how to become a virtual assistant that includes a list of companies that hire virtual assistants.
If you work a job from your van or the road that isn’t listed here, we’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment or send us a message and we’ll be sure to share it.