Question: Is it possible to make money on the internet while cruising?
Having done that myself for several years now, I can answer with an unqualified yes. Based on our experience it is quite clear that it is possible to make a nice living using the internet. With current and near-future technology we think one might earn above average income even while at sea given reliable fast internet service.
Regular employment via telecommuting comes to mind. In my opinion, however, it would be incompatible with cruising, simply because managing a boat at sea is a full time job, more than full time because it must be tended to twenty four hours a day. Even with good internet access one would have to have a very understanding boss as I doubt one could keep up an acceptable level of productivity while passage making. While living aboard in port, though, it would work just fine. Just like a regular job. If you are already an established author or photographer you may be able to sell your work using the internet, uploading creative product when in port; but if you are a novice with no publishing contacts it will be very difficult.
There are other ways to make money on the internet. Perhaps the most obvious is selling things on eBay or similar sites. A family member supplements his Navy retirement income buying and selling sports cards online. That may not be the best solution if you are moving around a lot. You wouldn’t want to bring a fragile product like collectible cards on a boat. Simple and direct as it may be, handling any sort of physical inventory while cruising would be a challenge. If you are selling things, like our sports card trader, you need to figure out how to handle order fulfillment. How do you do that during a thirty day passage to the Marquesas? For that matter, how will you fulfill orders once you are in a foreign port? Better, I think, to avoid handling any sort of inventory at all. If you want to sell things, consider Café Press ( American Vega Ship's Store). A Café Press store or Amazon A store (Lealea's Book locker and Lealea's CafePress Store) can be easily set up but requires many hours to edit and organize. There are people who will sell you a turn-key e-commerce site with all the bells and whistles guaranteed to make money, usually including an Amazon A store or similar. They work on the same principle that made so many entrepreneurs wealthy during the gold rush years selling outfits to gold seekers. They know that there is more, and easier, profit in selling the pick than in swinging it.
There are day trading and gambling online, which I put in the same category, and porn – profitable, I hear, but…
I like affiliate marketing programs and advertising. The business model is much the same as ink-on-paper magazines. The way it works is this: Editorial content serves a niche market and supports advertisers targeting that market. In a nutshell: You build a web site aimed at a niche market, fill it with creative content, sign up for appropriate affiliate programs and an ad server and you are off to the races. For a little extra icing on the cake you can open a Café Press store to sell logo items, photo prints etc. and an Amazon A store featuring selected books and so forth. The difference is that while the ink on paper magazine has long since been tossed in the trash and is no longer producing revenue for the publisher, our internet model continues to yield passive residual income, meaning that it continues to earn even when you are no longer actively working on it. Sweet!
What is the catch? If your goal is to replace a $60K income, we estimate it will take 40 to 60 concentrated hours of work per week, every week. Also, it may take years to get to that income level. It certainly will not happen overnight. The simple, brutal truth is that it takes a lot of work to make a lot of money. The good news is “passive, residual income”. Once you have put in all this work, the income will continue to flow without your attention, at least for a time, gradually tapering off as people lose interest and your content loses relevance. So you go to work again. (See where I’m going with this?)
What kind of work?
Let us go back to our sports card trader and take it to the next level. In addition to selling cards on line, he is haunting the forums and gaining a reputation as someone knowledgeable in all things related. He decides to start a blog to address the information requests he gets. He signs up for Google Adsense and starts getting a few dollars from advertising. A couple of affiliate marketers are appropriate so he adds them to his web site. He opens a Facebook page and a Google plus page to promote his blog. Traffic increases. Looking around he sees that the same questions keep coming up so he writes and publishes an ebook, offering that for sale on his sites. His Café Press store features mugs, t-shirts and other items with reproductions of classic sports cards imprinted. His Amazon A store focuses on sports: books, equipment and memorabilia. Over time, our card trader notices that his income goes up with the frequency of fresh content added to his sites and down when he neglects to log in and upload fresh material regularly. He begins to spend more time on research and writing, and more on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). He realizes that by putting in enough hours you could make a fair amount of money…
Yes you can. But I thought you wanted to go cruising.
How much work is it, really? Before I answer that, let me say that we regard our internet activities as a hobby and social activity, not as a business we rely on to sustain us. We know how to turn it into a profitable enterprise but we choose not to work that hard. And that is the whole point. We are cruisers. Not internet entrepreneurs. But we could be.
Building a good web site and keeping it fresh with new content is very time consuming. So is search engine optimization (SEO), as is social media marketing (Too time consuming if you are not sufficiently disciplined) and if you let these things slide for a week you will see your income start to slip. When we are in port, as we are now, my goal is to write 1000 words per day or produce 5 minutes of finished video, each day, five days a week. After all, we are just waiting for spring. Why not? Besides, we all need goals and a purpose. Sometimes the juice just flows and it only takes a couple of hours. More often it is six or eight hours and I discard the whole mess and start over. Such are the perils of producing creative content. Laura works on the web site pages, ad placement and, of course, graphics and photography. We both write blog posts, monitor comments and posts on social media and niche forums. While we are in port, our numbers invariably go up as we are able to create and upload content and interact more on social media. When we cast off for our next destination we continue to receive passive residual income, gradually declining, until we are able to resume publishing fresh content. People visit our website regularly looking for something new each time. When they figure out that there is no fresh content being presented, they stop coming back, traffic drops, ad rates follow and income from the site tapers off until we reach port and get back to work uploading fresh content, gradually rebuilding traffic and income.
How much do we earn on the internet? I can’t tell you. It would be a violation of the Adsense terms of service to publish that information. I can only say that since building my first web site, americanvega.org, in 2006 and uploading our first YouTube video five years ago, we have built the total income from all internet sources to an amount almost, but not quite, equal to two pints of draft beer per day at Kito’s Kave in Petersburg, Alaska. About 85% of that comes from YouTube.
From January 2009 through December 2013 our total earnings from two Café Press stores and two Amazon A Stores totaled just one draft PBR worth over $300. Now, you may think ‘$300 over four years is not exactly a fortune’, and you would be right. Let me introduce you to the concept of “Golden Crumbs”, or as Mom would have said “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick” - Passive residual income.
Is it possible to make enough money on the internet to support the cruising lifestyle? Yes, but only if sufficient passive residual income has been built before you cast off. That will take a lot of work, a lot more work than we have put in on AmericanVega.org, CruisingLealea.com and Cruising Lealea on YouTube. Better, I think, to consider internet income just one source of golden crumbs among several.