Since I want to help you achieve a life of travel, I am going to focus on location-independent and low startup business ideas.
My main focus isn’t to just compile a re-hashed list of ideas that I have never even tried myself. Some of these ideas I haven’t tried, but I plan to try in the future. When I do, I will document each of the experiences extensively for us to follow along and learn together.
That being said, when you read about these ideas, keep an open mind.
If you have any questions, by all means contact me or leave a comment so others can learn with us. If you’re confused about a topic, don’t worry. We’ll work on it in further detail.
Things to keep in mind:
You need a business license to sell goods. You can try to without one, but I would suggest doing that only to test a market first. Get one asap. I did mine as an LLC and registered with the state you are doing business in.
This will give you a tax number (EID). Plus, you can write taxes off easier and a bunch of other tax tricks that will save you thousands. We will get into that in another article.
Being a vagabond, we will be going to places where the market is already in the psychological state to buy. You can try to sell stuff at a random street corner, but if you put yourself into a position where the majority of people have defenses generally lowered, you will be much more successful.
Places like flea markets, trade shows, expos, events, concerts, fairs, festivals, sporting events, or anywhere there is a majority of people already buying. If you choose to sell anywhere else, look into zoning laws (contact your local zoning board).
Health inspections will be required when you are selling packaged goods and foods. Sometimes, even with pre-packaged foods, you are required to store the foods seperate from your house.
I travel with no house, or anything, so I won’t be focusing on food sales too much. If I learn about a profitable food venture you can take with you on the road, I will definitely let you know.
SMALL BUSINESS IDEAS YOU CAN START WITH NO SPECIAL SKILLS
(Small Note: These ideas are assuming you are traveling on the road. This means you have no office, storage space, or kitchens of access. If I think something is worth it, I will explain temporary storage places or commercial kitchens you can temporarily invest in.)
THINGS I’VE TRIED
I’m in the process of setting up a horror/gothic themed shop just full of weird things like poison bottles, masks, vintage signs, and shrunken heads in jars.
I love doing that stuff, and I’ve been able to make money off it. I know if I tried to hustle it harder, I could probably make some kind of living off it.
Here are some basics to plan with if you try to craft something yourself.
Know your numbers.
How much does it cost you to make? Get this down to the cent. Materials, cardboard box, shipping, wholesale prices.
Now you want a healthy profit margin. Try to aim this to at least 75%.
If it cost you $1 to make, you want to sell for at least $4 dollars.
Take the price you charge for the item minus the cost to make.
We will call this X.
Now divide X by the final cost of the item.
$4 (total) – $1 (cost) = $3
$3 (total) / $4 (X) = 75% margin
Now if you feel your item is worth more, charge more!
It costs me about $1.50 to make a poison bottle, but with the authenticity I put in, along with time and effort, I feel like it is a quality bottle that is worth $25 dollars.
This means my profit margin is 96%
Always remember that it’s okay to have a low ticket item, as long as you have good margins. You would of course be in the volume business by then.
2. Flea Market Flip
I love this one! Ever since the TV show Flea Market Flip came on, I was obsessed with it. I love building and crafting things, and watching them profit $300-600 dollars for a days worth of hustling and refurbishing! Sometimes your furniture or craft won’t sell. But you have to take some risks for the chance of reward. I will definitely be trying to assimilate this into my travel lifestyle so I can better inform you.
Questions to Ask
What are the tools I need to refurbish/create furniture?
Where will I store the piece until its ready for a tradeshow?
How will I transport it?
3. Wire Management/TV Diagnosis
I used to work for Dish, so this one was relatively easy for me to get contacts. However, anybody who knows anything about electronics can do this. You would be surprised at how many people just can’t figure out what input to switch to on their TV. I could make an easy $50 for literally changing a channel on a TV. I’m actually going to use this idea and turn it into a side business when I choose to settle down for a few months. If you learn how to mount tvs and soundbars, and start to carry a product you buy at wholesale, you can really make a living!
I spent 3 hours mounting this guys TV and sound bar one day. He wanted it perfect, and when I would get everything aligned, he would change his mind at the last minute!
To top it off, he would ask me “By the way, can you do this? I need that done as well. Can you reprogram my TV? I want my nails trimmed.”
Being fairly new at this, and being the nice guy that I am, I would say “Sure!”
No, I didn’t trim his nails, but I did everything he was asking. He even got me to help him replace his top on his Jeep! (He paid me $100 for that alone though, so I can’t complain)
This kind of thing can happen when you have a service business. The customer just seems to want everything done while you’re there as some kind of ‘complimentary’ service.
After this, I realized that I wasn’t being professional. I was being pushed around, and it’s something that happens to a lot of entrepreneurs. It can cost you hours of your time wasted, and hundreds of dollars lost if you can’t simply say NO. We will cover this and the psychology of selling soon.
Questions to Ask
If you are just starting, how would you get clients?
Where would you advertise?
What equipment do you need (zip ties for wire management, drills for mounting, a phone for appointments)
What I Would Do (& Numbers)
I would start with making an ad on craigslist for wire management/tv mounting/tv diagnostics. I would invest in a burner phone (a small $20 dollar flip phone) so I can use it strictly for business.
Get a paypal credit card swiper. They cost $15 bucks and allows you to swipe and charge credit cards. Not everyone will have exact amounts of cash.
Start out at charging $50 for the roll (the drive/travel time to the house) and $25 for each additional hour.
I do this because if I get to the house and I fix the problem within 5 minutes, I’m still getting paid $50 bucks.
Use these guidlines to just start. Adjust pricing as necessary. If you get going, definitely invest in some insurance and become legal asap.
THINGS I HAVEN’T TRIED
These business ideas I haven’t tried yet but plan to try in the future. I wont go into much detail here, but I’m writing about these for my future reference and to make you think critically about how money is everywhere.
1. Landscaping/Wood Cutting
You don’t need a lot of tools to start this side hustle. I had two friends who cut fire wood for people all day long. They didn’t own a vehicle or a chainsaw.
Most people will have the tools themselves, they just need a little help with labor. Use this to your advantage!
What I Would Do (& Numbers)
To advertise I would:
- Put an ad on craigslist
- Door to door flyers (in a nice looking neighborhood)
- Put signs on the side of an intersection.
As I travel more I frequently see a short ad on the back of pizza boxes, stapled to light posts.
I would start with charging an hourly at $15. Charging more for your value will filter out the customers who want everything for nothing. It usually attracts the kinds of customers who are a pleasure to deal with. Just be sure that your work value is worth the $15/hour. If you do a good enough job, word of mouth can expand your business like wild fire.
2. Cleaning Service (Homes)
I knew somebody in this business who got around pretty well with flyers posted around town. It is however, very competitive.
Her competitors would leave nasty notes on her fliers, and even rip them off and replace her ads with theirs.
I would take the same actions as the Landscaping idea above. When talking to my first customer, I would specifically ask what needs to be done.
Using that info, I then would go buy essentials for the job. Do they already have a vacuum cleaner? Windex? etc..
3. Teach Music
I know I’m trying to focus on businesses that don’t require much skill, but this one is most definitely worth mentioning.
I think everyone should learn at least one instrument. The joy of being able to play along with one of your favorite songs or jam out with others is worth learning alone.
When you get pretty decent at an instrument (you do NOT have to be perfect), you can set up small ads to teach people.
All you need for this is an instrument! I definitely want to look into this myself. You can meet your client in a park, or somewhere that is private but public.
Start the charge at what you think you’re worth. Remember, people want and NEED your help if you are even just slightly better than them. Of course, the better you are, the larger the gap is between your abilities, which means your value increases.
Just play around with pricing. Pick a price, make a quick ad on craigslist, and stop. These actions take less than 20 minutes, and will get you started.
Just getting started is the most important thing you can do when hustling.
Even if you’re not 100% sure yet.
4. Craigslist Flip
I myself haven’t done this, but I watched someone who was making ~$2,000 a month doing this.
It’s as straightforward as it sounds. People throw away things of high value for a couple reasons.
- They don’t know how to price or sell.
- They don’t want to bother trying to sell and think its easier to just junk.
- They need to get rid of it right away (maybe their wife is pissed and forced the guy to sleep on the couch until that ugly old piano was gone)
Thing is, you never know. I just checked the free section in craigslist the other day and saw 3 pianos, 2 in perfect condition.
Some go for thousands, and I guarantee I could have sold those pianos for at LEAST $100 each.
I saw a free motorcycle that looked to be in good condition.
I also saw many window panes. Windows can fetch a good coin, and you could make one into a table to sell at a flea market.
I learned that most things on the free section of Craigslist are big/bulky items. A truck will most likely be required to make a profitable hustle.
If done right, you can line up multiple items for pickup and rent a U-Haul pickup truck for $20 bucks a day.
5. Ice and Water
I’ve stumbled upon small events being held in parking lots before, and to my surprise, there were vendors selling bags of ice and bottled water.
Questions to Ask
Do you need a food license to sell bottled water and ice?
What about zoning laws (if I wanted to target high traffic tourists on a beach)?
What I Would Do (& Numbers)
If I needed quick cash now, I would do light research about zoning laws (unless I was at some kind of event), and I would walk around with an ice cooler to test the market.
A pack of 36 bottled water is $4-8 for 24. (I found multiple prices for the same 16oz bottles)
2 bags of ice costs $2.78 ($1.39/ea)
Rolling cooler costs $25
Your price per bottle is around $0.28 to $0.45 cents.
You would need to sell each bottle at at least $1.50 to make it worth your time. Personally I would want $1 net for my investments.
Your cooler would be paid off after one case of bottles.
Hopefully this list shed more light on a couple topics for you than just a generic, re-hashed list of topics.
As I start to hustle these and other side businesses, I will be fully documenting my steps. You will be able to see from start to finish how I start these side businesses, what I go through, and problems that may arise.
I can’t wait to tell you about the gun trade shows I’m visiting next week. I have a plan that forecasts a 66% profit margin. Stay tuned for that detailed post!