All over the world, people of all ages are turning their backs on the traditional nine-to-five grind and setting off for travel, fun, adventure, and profit. And they’re getting paid while they’re at it.
Their “offices” are wherever they open their laptops…on white-sand beaches, in tropical mountain valleys, and in vibrant university towns. And they can live better while they spend less, by earning in dollars and living (and spending) in places where the cost of living is much lower than in the U.S.
“In this uncertain and volatile time, creating a side income that can be earned with skills a person already has can be a powerful antidote to the feelings of panic and worry that hound so many people today,” says Jeff D. Opdyke, of The Savvy Retiree.
“There’s so much we can’t control. Yet, by putting in place an income that a person can earn on their own terms from home—and then have to take with them when this craziness passes—that delivers not only income, but a certain peace of mind.”
To help you choose which income stream might be best for you, we’ve put together a list of 10 ways expats have found to make money in retirement.
1. Publish an E-Book
As the publisher, you get the lion’s share of the money, paying the author the standard 8% to 15% royalties based on your net sales. Or you can pay a one-time payment for the rights to publish online.
Today there are over 44 million hardback and paperback books on Amazon but only 2.6 million Kindle books. So that means there are more than 40 million books that still haven’t been converted to e-books.
Vic Johnson who publishes e-books says “In addition to my own books, I’ve published almost 50 books written by others. Some were books I took from the public domain. I once bought the rights to a book for $200, simply because I liked the content. Over the years, I’ve made over $50,000 selling it as an e-book.”
2. Create “How To” Videos
In recent years, YouTube has grown into the go-to source for all manner of video courses and guides. Instructors can monetize their videos by charging a subscription fee or password protecting content for paying customers only.
Once you have a loyal and engaged following, you can start partnering with brands that will pay a fee to have their product mentioned or reviewed. When John Chang first posted his computer aided design videos he was receiving between $150 and $200 per month. Now, seven years after he launched his channel, he still brings in about $100 per month, with almost no upkeep and plenty of opportunity to increase his income if he wanted to.
For John, pursuing his passion and sharing his expertise was its own reward. But the channel eventually grew into a supplementary income. “I like the fact that I can be retired and still teach a lot of lessons that people are benefitting from. The fact that somebody gives me something for it is nice.”
3. Turn Your Interests into a Podcast That Pays
Assuming you have a laptop, your biggest start-up cost in podcasting is a good microphone. There are a number of ways to make money from your podcast. The most obvious is through commercial sponsorship, but you can also use it as a platform to advertise your own products or services.
Podcast shows don’t need to run every day, and they typically work better when they’re kept relatively short. One episode a week usually works best. And because it’s not broadcast live, all the episodes for the month can be recorded in one afternoon. You should create something a listener can easily consume while commuting to and from work.
Luis Congdon who has his own podcast says “I can record and broadcast a podcast wherever I am in the world—no need for audio engineers or large antennas. It’s remarkably simple, and it can also be profitable. Using a lightweight and low-cost microphone and a laptop I’ve recorded from a hut in the Philippines, a co-working space in Bali, and even while staying on a farm in Colombia.”
4. Become an Audiobook Narrator
Audiobooks are an increasingly popular form of entertainment. The convenience factor of smartphones has led to an industry boom. The Association of American Publishers reported a 146% increase in audiobook downloads in the five-year period from 2013-2017. In 2020, Deloitte predicts that the global audiobook market will grow by 25%…and that trend is creating a demand for freelance narrators.
Narration is a job that anyone can do, regardless of age or experience. Whether you’re just looking to make some extra money or fund a life of travel, freelance narration might be the income for you. It’s flexible, portable, and, above all, fun.
Meghan Crawford, who is a freelance audiobook narrator, explains “My typical ‘work day’ consists of two to four hours of recording during late morning and early afternoon. I started being my own boss last September. In that time, I have more than doubled what I made at my previous job. Even as a new narrator, you can expect to earn an average of $100 per finished hour—more if your contract is with a larger publisher.”
5. Sell Your Photos
With the widespread availability of low cost, high-grade digital cameras, photography has become a way to earn an income that’s within the grasp of people who don’t want to make a significant financial investment, or who don’t have a specialized qualification or background.
The beauty of stock websites for photographers is that once they’ve uploaded a photograph, it can be sold any number of times, to different people, meaning that it can continue to make you money in the background, again and again, without any more effort on your part.
Moving to Medellín in 2011, Joel Duncan funds his new life through his photography work, he says “I think that it is the possibility in Medellín that I love the most. You can easily see that this is a great place to live and build a future. I had no idea what to charge back then and my shoots took about three hours, now they take me only 30 minutes.”
6. Become a Travel Writer
To make money as a travel writer you must be able to sell your articles. And there are thousands of magazines all over the world that will take them—both in print and online. Finding these publications takes some research starting out, but it pays off big dividends down the road. Thankfully, the internet has made this process so much easier for writers.
Leslie Patrick Moore, and her husband Steve, love in San Miguel de Allende. Leslie earns two-thirds of her income from writing marketing copy for companies, and the rest from travel writing. She began content marketing back in 2011.
Leslie says “My creativity has been able to flourish here without having to constantly worry about money. And it doesn’t hurt that my office is often my hammock, set amidst the colourful bougainvillea that grow against the brick walls in our backyard.”
7. Internet research
There’s a way to make good money—cold hard cash—surfing the internet in your spare time. In fact, there’s an entire industry that wants to pay you up to $50 an hour…And all you have to do is sit at home and check out websites.
Internet research as a job can give you the ultimate freedom and flexibility of self-employment. And the best part about it is, you never have to go to an office…there’s no commute…no “boss” breathing down your neck. It can all be done from the comfort of your own home, wherever in the world that home may be. As there’s internet access where you are, you have a great, well-paying job.
Winton Churchill, the founder of an international training and consulting company explains “An interesting new income category has emerged, thanks in part to the world of "fake news." Companies and individuals are more concerned than ever with fact-checking the information they use on their websites and in their promotional materials. And they're willing to pay someone to make sure it's correct.”
8. Create a Money-Making Blog
Get specific with your topic and think about your unique perspective. There are tons of generic travel blogs, but what do you have to offer to set yours apart. Is it luxury travel or budget travel? Do you have expertise in or live in a specific location? Can you share advice about activities you do while traveling, like hiking or shopping?
Always think about the value you’re providing. Why should anyone read what you’re writing? What’s in it for them? Write posts that showcase your experiences in a way that highlights the benefits and is helpful to others. It could be tips for finding the best food while traveling, how to have fun experiences for less money, or how to travel the world without flying.
Ali Garland who has been blogging since 2009, she says “Right now, my biggest source of affiliate income is from Amazon, which is anywhere from $300 to $600 per month. And the great thing about this type of income is that the money keeps rolling in even if I decide to take a couple of days, or even a week, off.
9. Shoot Some Video
As a travel videographer, you’ll journey to exotic locations, experience dream vacations, and stay in five-star hotels… free of charge…in fact, you’ll be paid handsomely to do it.Getting set up is easy and more affordable today than it’s ever been. These days, most digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets have high-quality video capabilities, and you can buy a good handheld video camera for about $400. To edit the videos there are several programs that are free to download.
So why would they hire you, a complete novice in the area of travel videography? Simple. You offer a great product at a much lower price than a professional production company. By following a few simple rules you’ll be able to produce a more professional video than your average tourist.
Tom Reissman is a videographer and says “I was able to start my travel videography business with basic equipment and used to charge about $400 per video. Over the years I’ve built up my reputation and gradually increased my prices. Today, I can charge up to $4,000 per video.”
10. Set up an Online Course
Why not create a full-fledged online course, made up of written tutorials, PDF downloads, and videos? This could be made available through the membership area of a dedicated website. Members can go at their own pace and post questions related to the course in a dedicated group.
Rebecca Groskruetz created an online membership site where members can go at their own pace and post questions related to the course in the private Facebook group. From the initial launch of Rebecca’s course in April 2016, marketed exclusively to members of her original Facebook group, she sold 33 programs at a price of $127. Excited by the results she had a bigger launch in June of that year—this time she sold 216 at $149 each. In all, she made $36,375 in sales.
Rebecca explains “Once the initial course was a proven success, we created a new product: a separate membership site that teaches furniture painting techniques, this new membership site already has approximately 1,400 students. The price varies from $4.99 for a week’s trial to a one-time payment of $199 for an annual membership.”