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How to Afford Full-Time #VanLife-UPDATED

How to afford full time van life
*I originally published this article back in November and realized I needed to make some updates on ACX royalty shares. So this is your new and improved article!

The #1 question I see on the van life/ vandwelling groups I frequent is,

“How do you afford to live in your van full time?”

or

“What job can I do online that will make me money to live in my van?”

The answer is,

It depends on what skills you have and how much time you’re willing to invest

Now, I know that isn’t the money making answer that’s going to get you into a custom van and on the road to the mountains with a hot babe doing yoga at your side, but it’s an honest answer.

how to afford full time van life

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read this disclosure for more information

 

The path to funding the van life is to take your existing skills and set up a way to profit off of it.

While 99% of people out there are going to say they do a mixture of graphic design and web development work (and trust me, I’ve researched the crap out of this) I’m going to say something completely different.

I have found a way to work in my van, as many hours as I want, and have income for all of my travel adventures.

What is it?

I Record Audiobooks in My Van Conversion to Make Money.

 I have built an entire mobile recording studio in my van and I read books for people all over the world from the comfort of my tiny home on wheels!

Pretty neat huh?

Now, before you say “I can’t afford a mobile studio, you’re crazy Sparky!”

hear me out first.

My mobile studio isn’t at all what you’re picturing, I promise. I spent less than 100 bucks on it, and it gives me passable audio results that I make real, actual money with.

You can see in the picture below how simple the set up is. All I do is surround the mic with soundproof foam, set on a pop filter and then it’s good to go!

microphone used to make money for full-time travel

 

Now before you dismiss this as me being a guru selling some course, I’m not.

At all.

I’m just trying to convey to you how easy this whole process is.

record audiobooks in van

Just load all this shit into my van mmm’kay?

How I Got Started Recording Audiobooks At Home

 

Many moons ago (last May) I was putzing around on the internet looking for ways of creating passive income when I stumbled upon an ad for audiobook narration on ACX. I had already tried several other things and just didn’t have the time or energy to sift through any more passive income garbage.

ACX, sounded pretty straightforward and legit.

If you’ve never heard of ACX, it’s a subsidiary of Audible that directly connects small authors to home audio narrators. The author puts up a few pages of their work as an audition, and if you like it, you record it and send it to them.

If they decide your voice will work, then you get a contract and start working immediately.

Right away, I was intrigued. I had never narrated in my life, but I’ve been told my voice is lovely. After eight years of my late teens and early twenties answering phones, I had developed what I like to think of as a “soothing, customer voice” that I can pull out at the drop of a hat.

Also, I really enjoy reading. So I thought, why not?

***Curious about Audible? Click Here for a FREE 30 Day Trial!***

 

How Did I Set Myself Up To Record?

After some research on the ACX help boards, I purchased the cheapest microphone I could find,

Want to Read More About #VanLife?  Van Living and Portable Power Banks, a Love Story

the Blue Snowball.

How to Afford Full-Time #VanLife-UPDATED

I did not have money to spend at the time and had to put it on my credit card. I gave myself 30 days to try and make this little business venture work…just as long as the return policy at Best Buy would allow.

I figured if I didn’t make enough to cover the cost of the $50 microphone in one month, I would go ahead and return it and get my cash back. Sure, I might lose out on some time, but I had to try something.

My meager savings was starting to run out, and my Shopify dropshipping store was a complete bust!

Next thing I had to worry about was finding a reasonably quiet place to record. Since we weren’t quite back to full-time van living yet, that left our boat. It was a small wooden 1962 Cris Craft Cavalier, and it was an absolute nightmare. Each small wave that came in, sent us careening into the side of the dock, and the constant creaking of the wood gave me some interesting sound issues to deal with.

…But it totally worked.

how I record audiobooks in my home

 

I sat in the tiny closet, with my knees pulled into my chest, draped in blankets, and recorded a few auditions. I think that the first day I sent out 4 in total and of those 4, I got one offer almost immediately.

If this sounds like dumb luck, it’s not. I just happened to stumble onto something that is so easy, even I can make money at it.

work while camping

Live that dream!

Fund Vanlife by Making Money Recording Audiobooks

Now that we are back to full-time van living, recording has gotten much easier. For one, no more water sounds or crazy boat neighbors. If my location is too noisy, I just start the engine and move on to the next place. Of course, I did still need a few things to make my audio the best it could possibly be.

In addition to my Blue Snowball USB Microphone $49.99, I also purchased:

  1. Pop Filter $8.99– To reduce all the pops and gurgliness in my voice. No matter how much like Barry White you think you sound, odds are you have some plosives in your narration, and a pop filter will help!
  2. Acoustic Foam Tiles $11.99– To help with sound wave reverberation (don’t worry, I don’t understand that sentence either. I just know these help)
  3. Cardboard Box $1.68– To put your foam tiles and microphone in.
  4. Editing Software FREE– This is the magical tool you use to edit your voice into a cohesive and wonderful audiobook that is ready to sell on Audible. It’s easy to use, has tons of tutorials online and best of all, is TOTALLY FREE!

That’s it.

Seriously.

I’ve made thousands of dollars on audiobooks with less than $73 worth of equipment.


How Much Money Can You Make With Audiobooks?

Really, the sky is the limit here. I currently have 99 titles sorted under different pen names and each of them I’ve charged different rates for.

Erotica is by far the easiest thing to read, so it’s what the majority of my work is. For each quick 30 minute read, I put in exactly one hour of work and get $90 bucks. But, that is on the low end of the payment spectrum.

Most good narrators charge a PER FINISHED HOUR RATE of between $100 and $400 dollars.

The erotica I’ve just described sets my Per Finished Hour Rate at about $90. It’s not enough to retire on, but it fills my gas tank and gets me on the road again with relative ease. Not only that, but erotica readings are some of the easiest you can do. No one is listening to your voice or performance and critiquing you. They just want to hear a quick dirty story and move on with their lives.

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As a general rule, I set up my erotica reads to be as profitable as possible by skipping the pre-read through and not doing a quality control listen before I send it back to the author.

 

I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t good practice, and until you feel really confident in your skills you shouldn’t try this. But I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for”. In this gig economy we live in, everyone wants something done for the smallest amount of money possible. If an author wants me to do their book but doesn’t want to pay that much, then I do sacrifice some quality to get there.

 

…and I’m cool with that.


 

When it gets to longer/ more involved books, is when I charge more. Not only for the amount of time it will take me to read it but also the time for editing.

The general rule is that for each finished hour you produce, six hours of actual work go into it. So let’s break down the $100-$400 dollar rate from above. Let’s say you charge $100 per finished hour. It sounds like a really great number. But if you divide that by 6 (the number of real hours one FINISHED hour takes), that turns into $16.66 an hour. A far cry from the $100 an hour you were envisioning!

Not terrible, but not great when you think about how much the author is going to make off of your golden voice.

For my nonerotica works, I charge $280 Per Finished Hour and I feel good about the time I spend on those projects.


Looking For Passive Income? Try Royalty Share on ACX!

The last money-making option I’ll talk about is the royalty share option. It means you don’t get an upfront payment, but you do get half the royalties for each sale of the book.

It’s great, not only if you’re just starting out and want to get some credits to your name, but also if you can catch an author at just the right time and their book turns out to be a huge hit.

You could make some SERIOUS cash with the royalty share option.

I’ll admit, royalty share is a wondrous mythical beast to me. I’ve done one short erotica work so far that has netted me $0 as well as a few longer works that are currently in production and likely will be released just in time for Christmas.

 

Currently, my total royalty share income is $0.

 

I like the idea of having a few royalty shares in my arsenal so I can see trickles of money coming in over time. Of course, this passive income technique really only works when you choose the right book. I would give my technique for that, but since I’m not quite sure if it’ll prove profitable yet, I’ll save that for another post.


How To Fund Your Nomadic Lifestyle

At the end of the day, this is just what worked for me. I’ve tried lots of different things so far to keep myself on the road, but for one reason or another they just didn’t work out like this one did.

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If you want to try recording some auditions of your own, don’t hesitate to head on over to ACX.com and get reading. You never know, deep down, you might be the best audiobook narrator there is with a voice as smooth an Neutella.

I certainly am not that good, but I am good enough to make a little bit of money and keep these old tires spinning!

 


If you’re curious about what my voice sounds like, or just want to listen to some good old fashioned erotica, here’s a few links to my work to give you an idea as to what this all sounds like.

Click Here For a FREE 30 Day Trial Of Audible. With this handy link, not only do you get 30 free days, but you also get 2 Audible Titles and 2 Audible originals just for signing up.

Some Non Erotica Work I’ve Done Can Be Found Here:


6/6/19 UPDATE:

When I first wrote this post back in November, I had recently completed my first royalty share book. Six months later, I have 99 royalty share sales.

how much can you make working from home

Rolling in cash…

Sounds impressive, right?

It is until you look at the numbers. The way they write about royalty share on the website reads like you will get 20% of the sale price of the book.

But what really happens is you get 20% of what the customer pays for the book.

In most circumstances, it is far less than the amount shown.

Depending on membership status, and if they purchased the book as part of their plan, or a la carte, most of the time you are getting far less than the asking price of that book.

So far I have made $54.65 off of 8 total titles in five months. To be fair, May hasn’t been calculated into that total since everything is a month behind, so I guess I could be a millionaire, but I won’t know until they do the math on their end.

Seeing your sales numbers as they happen tells you nothing about your income, you have to wait for the next month to see that.

So at this time, I’m going to say that royalty share might not be worth it unless you really love the book or the author is willing to put some serious cash in to promote it.

Questions To Ask An Author Who Approaches You For a Royalty Share:

1. How many books have you sold? *

2. Will this be part of a series?

3. What is you marketing budget for promoting the audiobook?

4. What are your previous audiobook sales?

5. Do you have a budget for me to have this edited by someone else? **

 

* Books on Amazon are automatically promoted for their first 30 days. So Keep in mind, if you are looking at the sales rank number in the first 30 days of publishing, it can artificially look like a good deal when it’s not.

** Since editing takes a ton of time, try and talk the author into footing the bill for that so you can outsource it.

 

Easy Work For Full time Travel

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Comments 46

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  1. These sound like some absolutely amazing tips for those who are trying to get out on the road! I may have to try some of them myself.

  2. Super interesting. I guess I always assumed only famous people did audiobooks… Honestly, I’ve never even listened to an audiobook. But this is super cool!

  3. Wow, interesting to learn you can actually making money from recording audiobook. Thanks for sharing your experience. The vanlife experience certainly is an interesting journey.

  4. This sounds like it would be such an amazing adventure. I love that you have shared some tips and advice.

  5. I love this.. bookmarking as I am very interested in learning more. I have looked into quite a bit of passive income jargon and well, kind of sick of it already. I’ve also read about audio stuff but never heard of anyone doing it or how it worked. I would be interested in learning more about this venture and getting to work. I would love to do this

  6. Thanks for sharing! I’ve been looking for ways to make passive income. Hadnt thoughts about audible books.

  7. Wow…Van life sounds nice. I travel a lot in RV, but definitely never though of living entirely in one. Great post.

  8. I loved reading this post and reading about how you began your journey with living the vanlife. I would love to live on the road and journey around, however we can’t do that yet because we have 5 kids. My husband and I talk a lot about when they are grown up and us just being on the road after my husband retires. It sounds like an awesome way of living and that is cool that you make money while traveling around.

  9. We love to travel our goal is to retire soon and live by road with an RV. I feel so relax and recharge every time we travel. Van life sounds good too anything that includes travel is always fun.

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  10. That’s pretty incredible that you have been able to afford that kind of life just recording some audio books. I am sure it would be a different and somewhat enjoyable way to make some money. I loved reading books to my daughter. Not sure what the market would be for that, but I should check it out.

  11. That is so cool! I had never considered doing audiobook recordings, but it sounds like a great way to earn some extra money.

  12. It must be really fun to get to travel, work and enjoy at the same time. Kudos to the both of you.

  13. Thanks Sparky, good to hear from you again. I’m very curious about this as I LOVE reading aloud (and think I’m pretty darn good at it.) I’ve even looked for volunteer gigs, which is my favorite definition of what we should do for money- what we would do for free. Hey, big question though- you didn’t say much about what the six hours of editing work would entail? Could you say more about that? And to note… what I’ve been doing for non-location based fundage, is document editing. I have a niche market but heard about guru.com, for freelance editing. Have you tried that or heard about it?

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      I haven’t tried guru for freelance editing, but I do occasionally pick up audiobook work from there. I’ll have to try some other things and see if I can’t make a little more money:)
      As for the editing, it’s a little complicated. I first look for all of my obvious screw ups, I have a dog clicker I use so I can see it easily when going through the initial edit. Then I move on to reducing my breaths, because we all have to breathe, but we don’t want it to be too noticeable. Those things are easy though because you can actually see what they look like when using audacity, so they’re super easy to reduce.
      The last bit is listening through the reading and eliminating any “mouth noises” these can vary, but they’re usually the wet noises your mouth makes that you don’t even hear until you have a microphone in your face.
      So for the 6 hour rule I gave you, think of it like this:
      One hour is you just sitting down and reading the book. You need to know what happens to know how to act it.
      One hour is you reading the book aloud into your microphone.
      Three hours on breaths, plosives, mouth noises, spacing between sentences, and general editing.
      One hour is your final listen through for quality control.
      And that adds up to six hours!

  14. Wow, so interesting! I have never been told that I have a lovely voice, so don’t think this would be an option for me. However, I’ll have to keep you in mind if I ever write a novel. 😉

  15. I’m impress reading this blog. I have also do that when I start to my music recording even though I don’t have a good voice but I’m using sound editor for that it’s audacity. It’s one of my software I use for recording.

  16. Hi Sparky! I’ve been looking at ACX myself, but I’m on a Linux set up and having some trouble finding software that works for me. You mentioned Audacity, is that what you mostly use? or would you recommend something else?

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      Hi! Yes, I mostly use Audacity when I edit. My boyfriend does take some work on for me now and again however and when he does, he uses Adobe Audition. I’ve tried it myself, but find Audacity so much easier to use. Also, it’s free!

  17. Hi there Jenny/Sparky 🙂
    Loved your post, it’s the first authentic one I’ve found on amateur audiobook recording.
    Like you, I have spent months trawling through ways to make passive income. I’ve tried a lot of things too – unsuccessfully.
    I do a little UX User Testing for panels and Website Evaluation through Appen for online work. Mostly I’m currently a poor freelance writer, but at least it’s something.

    I have signed up for ACX as a Narrator and I am creating my profile.
    But I noticed on the profile checklist, it says to upload an audio sample. I haven’t done Audiobook narration before (I have only done casual UX User Testing), so I don’t have any audiobook samples.
    ACX says ‘ If you do not have audio samples that are from Audiobook projects, consider recording a sample from a Public Domain title to get started.’
    Does this mean, read from any book title?

    And would you recommend waiting until I have got a decent microphone before I upload the audio sample?
    I’m thinking the answer to this is yes, but just thought I’d check with you, what you did in the beginning 🙂
    Would really appreciate your advice. Thanks 🙂
    (P.S – I listened to a few of your audiobook samples on Audible and I love your voice!)

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      Hi Layla!
      I would definitely recommend waiting until you have a decent microphone to record your samples. You want to put your best voice and work out there to convince people to hire you. If you sound bad on the sample, they might think you’ll sound bad when they’re paying you too.
      As for public domain books for the samples, it’s books like Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, Jayne Eyre, etc. I however, have used samples from other books I’ve narrated, no problem. If the author objects to you using a 3 minute sample, you could always delete it.
      Let me know if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help!

  18. With that box and foam tile setup do you like lean forward and kinda put your head in the box to speak? I heard that the snowball kinda picks up a lot of “room noise”, whatever the heck that means. So I figure you’d have to kinda really stick your head way in there all leant forward like. Picturing that in my head looks like it would be uncomfortable for anything more than 4 minutes at a time. You’d be all sore from hunching over like that. Do you have a certain way of positioning yourself/the box when you get down with the act of recording? I’m down to try this box setup if I can get another picture on my head for how to do it.

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      Nope, just put it in the box and talk into it. I place my snowball to the front of the box, so I am pretty close when talking into it. The foam inside the box helps get rid of some of that room noise the snowball picks up.

  19. I must admit i’ve been ignorant of caravan travel. Nice analysis and insight here. Learnt a bit

  20. I didn’t know nor heard about this before. I love the simplicity of your living, it’s one of dreams actually to buy or own a mobile home.

  21. How cool! I love audio books and profiting from that was something I’d never even considered. Great read. Enjoy your travels!

  22. This is very interesting to know as somehow I am thinking of doing the same after retirement. Great information and tips on how to survive living like this

  23. I envy you. How I wish I was blessed with a soothing voice. I’ll share this with my wife. 🙂

  24. O wow I have recently been thinking about buying a audio book. I’ve always wondered about the people who them. My voice is way too monotone

  25. I’m on the verge of making the decision of whether I should go into Blogging full time, I believe your post has had quite the impact on my decision.

  26. Just like you, a few months back I was fascinated by audiobooks and started my research. The income attracted me and according to some people’s suggestion, I practice recording on my phone. I was about to purchase the microphone and go ahead with this adventure something stopped me. Maybe I was thinking who will consider my voice or it is a long way to go. Now after reading your post I’m planning to reconsider it. let’s see how it goes this time.

  27. This is the first time I’m hearing about ACX. Sounds like a pretty cool way to earn money. I might just try it out!

  28. This is next to impossible for me! I cant even think of having a life in van. I am so used to my home

  29. What a great way to enjoy life and earn at the same time. Love the enthusiasm and spirit..keep it up!

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