Earning a Location Independent Living: My 2016 Income

by Nora on February 13, 2017

Earning a location independent living can take many forms, and can accommodate many lifestyles. If you’ve read my book Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom, you’ll know that the possibilities for earning a location independent living are broadening every day.

Each year I publish my own full-time travel expenses, as well as my income for the year. I do this not to set the bar for what you should earn or what you should spend in order to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way; rather – as the years go by and my own income and expenses vary – to demonstrate that there is no bar.

In fact, it has been pointed out to me a few times over the years that I don’t earn very much money. I know this, and generally speaking, I like it that way.

I don’t work huge hours (in fact, I’ve been tracking my time recently and it turns out I work a lot less than I thought!), and I have the freedom to work where and when (and on what) I want. My expenses are always in line with (and usually less than) my income, and so I’m never left wanting for anything.

But my paltry income is far from the potential that earning a location independent living can yield. My Financial Case Studies series profiles real people earning a location independent living around the world. Can travel bloggers earn six figures? Why yes, yes they can. And some even do it without working much more than I do (once their business foundations have been established).

So, I’m neither a shining example of earning a location independent living, nor am I any kind of failure. What I love about being an entrepreneur, is that it’s up to me to design my career – and lifestyle, and income – however I wish.

Without further ado, here is exactly how I earned my keep in 2016.

(At the end of this post you will find links to previous years’ income summaries.)

earning a location independent living

2016 Income Sources

NOTE: My income was earned in a few currencies, namely US and Canadian dollars – all of which I’ve converted to US dollars here. Unfortunately, with currency fluctuations throughout the year, these numbers are approximate at best.

Freelance Writing: $10,475

This is much higher than 2015 ($6,000), but also lower than what I’ve earned in other years ($16,000+).

See, in 2015 I dropped most of my freelance gigs (to make time for my shamanic studies in Peru); but in 2016 when my life in Peru came to an end, I picked up another freelance writing gig that lasted through the year. I’m not yet sure what 2017 holds for me in the freelance writing department.

Affiliate Sales: $9,892

This is just a shade lower than 2015, with a steady 60% of my affiliate sales coming from Amazon. Given the vast repertoire of posts on my site (and others) that have affiliate links, this is my most passive form of income.

Advertising: $3,804

This is up about $1,000 over 2015. My advertising income tends to vary with the opportunities that come my way (since I’m choosy). However towards the end of the year I shifted from Adsense (which earned me a pittance) to another network, which looks like it will be considerably more lucrative going forward.

Book Sales: $2,997

This is down almost $10,000 from 2015, which saw an income spike due to the big launch of Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom. The book continued to kick out a nice stream of income through 2016 though, along with increased sales of How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World since I updated/redesigned/released the 2nd edition and reduced the price, and I also had an increase in kindle sales of Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination.

Other: $448

This number includes a coaching session, royalties from a Hollywood movie I filmed many years ago, and some income earned from assisting my (now former) teacher with some plant medicine ceremonies before I left Peru.

 

TOTAL INCOME: $27,616

…which is about $6,800 less than what I earned in 2015. In fact, it’s the lowest income I’ve had since 2011 (which was $22,000). Funny thing though….I didn’t feel it. My expenses for 2016 were well below what I earned, so in the name of financially sustainable travel, I still get an A+.

 

Business Plan for 2017

I anticipated the decrease in 2016 income for two reasons:

  1. I had a spike in my 2015 earnings from the launch of Working on the Road.
  2. In 2015 I scaled back my business activities to create more space and time for other pursuits (of the shamanic ilk).

The latter affected my 2016 income the most profoundly. And I don’t think it will change much in 2017, since once again I’m wanting to have the extra time to dedicate to working/volunteering at a retreat centre in Ecuador for the first six months of the year (possibly longer if I like it).

I’ve also found a pretty happy place between income and expenses. As I wrote in my 2016 full-time travel expenses post, it seems that my “sweet spot” for yearly expenses seems to be around $24,000. So as long as I’m earning at least that, I’m golden. I can spend the rest of my time doing other things and enjoy the freedom I’ve earned with this lifestyle.

As far as my website goes, I’ll continue to post once per week. What has changed is that once a month I am adding video to the mix with my vlog about all things travel-related. Producing a video takes about a gazillion times longer than writing an article, with potential financial rewards for my efforts being long-term if at all. So this is a labour of love rather than business/financial savvy.

I may even scale back a bit on my freelance writing commitments in 2017, depending on how much time and energy living at the retreat centre requires. My expenses in Ecuador will be low, so I can afford the dip in income if it comes to that. Freelance writing represents an admirable chunk of my income, and it complements my website (and often affiliate income) well. But it’s mostly a matter of trading time for money, and I’d rather develop further passive streams of income.

I’m considering two mammoth projects (that will ultimately increase my passive income), but which also requires a monumental amount of time and money at the outset:

  1. It’s time for another redesign of my website. I’m resisting it with everything I have; it’s a lotta work and time and money and quite frankly, I’m just not-web-savvy enough such that changes like this are terrifying for me.
  2. I’ve alluded to a book I had a divine stroke of inspiration to write (a memoir of sorts), which is in the proposal stage. Problem is, it has been in the proposal stage for a very long time, as I can’t seem to muster the inspiration to finish the outline. Writing a book (especially one like this) is horrendously time consuming, and lately I’ve been resisting all extra work-related time commitments.

So on the whole, I’m taking 2017 as it comes. I’m spending the first six months in Ecuador at a retreat centre, with no plans or commitments thereafter. I’m open to new opportunities, and I’m in a flexible position to explore many avenues.

As they say in Spanish: vamos a ver – let’s see!

 

Previous Summaries of Earning a Location Independent Living

2015 ($34,000)

2014 ($31,000)

2013 ($43,000)

2012 ($39,000)

2011 ($22,000)

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Hirtle February 14, 2017 at 1:42 am

I really enjoy these income summaries. My wife and I have been traveling for nearly 3 years now, but we’ve been living cheap and riding off our savings for the most part. Only recently have we started to focus on earning enough income while traveling to make it sustainable. Posts like these help us by showing that we are not living too luxuriously (we’re at about $25k total for two people per year); and that earning that much while on the go is achievable.

Reply

2 Nora February 14, 2017 at 7:54 pm

Hi Tim,
I’m so glad these posts are validating for you! Seems like you’ve nailed down a system for traveling on the cheap; and I wish you the best of luck in developing your income stream so you can keep on going!

Reply

3 Tiffany February 15, 2017 at 5:20 am

Oooo….site redesign. I have been thinking about that too…but, yeah, what I do know is I’m not that tech savvy either. And watching ‘how to’ videos on you tube only go so far. You sound in good spirits about it all so I’m sure it will all go well no matter what. I love how you put these reports out there. It is a reminder to all of us the amount of money we earn is not a reflection on how free we can free. Thanks Nora! 🙂

Reply

4 Nora February 16, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Thanks, Tiff! Good luck with your own site redesign!

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5 Jose L February 25, 2017 at 11:09 am

Hey Nora, thanks for the update, very interesting info. About your income as freelance writer, could you point me in the direction of an article where you talk in more detail about it?
Thanks and good wishes to a great 2017!

Reply

6 Nora February 25, 2017 at 2:47 pm
7 Jose L March 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

Awesome, thanks!!

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8 Sasha March 21, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for the detailed updates every year, Nora! These posts really help other digital nomad folks like us who don’t have quite as much experience see that it’s very possible to stay on the road and keep doing what you love as long as you’re smart about it and you don’t pigeon-hole yourself. I’ve been (mostly) location independent since August 2013 and it’s hard to imagine going back to life before the change! PS – We might make it to Ecuador this summer. How long do you plan to be there?

Reply

9 Nora March 22, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Hey Sasha,
I’m so glad you find these posts useful! Yay! As for me and Ecuador, I’ll probably be here until June.

Reply

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