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How to Make Money Online and Travel the World

Want to travel the world, while at the same time have a way to support yourself totally from your online business?  While not as hard as you may think, it is not a piece-of-cake either.  No matter what some online “guru” tells you.


Don’t listen to the guy in the back alley wanting to sell you the one program/method/tool that will make it all happen with 0% effort.  It doesn’t work that way.


There are no shortcuts to success.  


Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


That said, developing a solid business that allows you to travel the world is doable.  But only if you’re willing to work smart and diligently.


What does work are proven methods that allow you to develop an actual business.  A business whose difference to traditional businesses is that it will be entirely online.


Not All Online Income is Created Equal


I’ve talked before about the differences between a remote worker, a freelancer, and an online business platform owner.


As a remote worker, you’ll have the location-independence aspect covered, but little autonomy.


As a freelancer, you’ll have more autonomy because you’ll be able to choose your clients once you’re established.  The drawback is that work is usually project-based: You’ll get paid only for work which you perform.


An online business platform is the answer to those drawbacks.


Building a Business That Allows you to Travel the World


By creating an online business platform, you gain two huge advantages over remote-working and freelancing:


You become your own Boss and can switch from “work-based” income to “product-based” income.


Work-based income requires you to constantly apply your skills for a boss or clients, who will happily pay you a salary/fee in exchange.


Product-based income has the advantage of being deliverable, at any time, to any place clients wish, without much involvement from you at the time the transaction takes place.


Worth clarifying here are what kinds of products I’m referring to.  In order to achieve true location-independence, the products delivered must be digital in nature.  In other words, your customers must be able to purchase AND receive your products online.


These products are also referred to as information products.


Five Business Models That Allow You to Live and Work Anywhere


These five online business models( (or product delivery methods), are not exclusive to each other.  You can mix and match according to a few factors, namely audience size, audience type, and by testing out and asking your audience what material are they willing to pay for.


The easiest way to start making money online is via the first two models: AdSense and Affiliate Marketing.  These two allow you to sell products which are not your own, which is the reason why it’s faster to start making money that way.


But faster does not always mean better, online or off.

#1. AdSense


AdSense is the advertising platform for Google.  Whenever you conduct a Google Search, you’ll see “sponsored links”.  These are ads displayed via Google’s AdSense network and paid for by a person or company.


Google also offers site owners the option to set-up banners that display Google ads.  For every Google ad a visitor clicks on, Google will pay the site owner a commission fee, ranging from a few cents all the way to $1, $3 and even $5 dollars or more, depending on the type of ad displayed.


Sounds awesome, right?  Read on.


There are two main drawbacks:


a Google, according to the content on your site, will choose the ads for you:


You have no say on what ads Google chooses to display on your site, or the quality of what’s being sold to your audience.  A visitor may buy a product based on an ad they saw on your site, have a bad experience with it, and will damage your brand by association.  For less than $1 in earnings most likely.


This is the reason why there are no AdSense banners on this site.  I do not want you, or anyone, to think I endorse a product whose existence I may not even be aware of.


Google can, at anytime, without recourse, ban your account from displaying ads


During Google’s last update, many people saw their earnings drop from hundreds a week to almost $0 overnight.  Google unilaterally decided which sites violated their Terms-of Service and banned accounts, or dropped them in their search rankings (how close the site is to being the #1 result for a search term).  Some sites lost their ranking without a clear explanation as to what they did wrong.


Building your entire business around AdSense income is like building a house of cards.  It can become impressive over time, but it can be toppled at any moment.


There’s another way to make money without selling your own products.


#2. Affiliate Marketing


Unlike AdSense, Affiliate Marketing (AM) allows you to sell other people’s products and services of your choosing.  The list of products you can sell via AM is endless and the commissions are much higher, sometimes topping out at 75% of the sale price of the product.


When you sign-up to sell a product, it is said you become its affiliate.  For example, a visitor buys a $10 product via an affiliate ad or link on your site, you get $7.50.


This type of offers I do endorse, provided you are familiar with the product and can recommend it to your audience without hesitation.  Selling products because the commission is good turns the focus inwards towards you (making money) instead of your audience (helping them).


When done right, AM is a way for you to help your audience with a product or service that solves a problem for them when you don’t have the skills or time to provide that solution for them yourself.


Guiding your audience towards an excellent product

is the next best thing to creating that product yourself

and tailoring it exactly to their needs.


The drawback on relying on AM is that, like AdSense, you don’t have control over the quality of the product.


Another drawback is that you need a lots of traffic when it comes to referring people to check out somebody else’s products.  You can do your best pitch regarding your product to every visitor to your site.  Not so when you’re handing off visitors to another site to be converted into sales.


Click-through rates for affiliate or AdSense links are said to be great when they reach 3% (3 out of a 100 visitor page-views).   Never mind that they might not actually purchase anything after they click, which means you get $0 if it’s an affiliate link.
We’ll now move to the basic building block of a product-based online business.


#3. E-books


E-books are the best way to package your content and offer specific solutions to your audience’s problems in an expanded format.  They are not complicated to make or particularly costly to produce.


Be advised that the more polished your product, the better your brand looks and more likely you’ll have repeat buyers of future products.


An e-book can be sold many times over without added time or cost to produce.  You can also become an affiliate provider yourself, providing commissions to others who decide to sell your product.


E-books are the best way for you to get started with product creation.  In fact, when you begin kicking around an idea for a site (or even if you already have a non-producing site), try to figure out early on what sort of product you can offer your audience.  Whether it is a travel-related guide, if you have a travel website for example, or a solution to a particularly difficult problem for your niche’s audience.


E-books are also great tools to generate leads and get people to sign-up for your website.  It is easier to get somebody’s information when you put your best foot forward and give them something for free in return for their trust.


Once you’re comfortable with E-books, you can move to a more advanced content-delivery method.


#4. Video Training/ Webinars


If your niche lends itself to it, video-based training or content is a great to deliver information in a format most people are accustomed to.  You can develop a course matched with printable E-book-style workbooks for an attractive, interactive way to help your audience.


You don’t have to start creating a complete course from scratch.  By adding complimentary video as part of resources accompanying your first E-book, you can hone your skills and get better at video prep, while providing additional value to your E-book products.


It’s a win-win.


Like E-books, video training can be delivered as a self-paced course, with your input required during Questions-and-Answers sessions with those who have signed up for your classes.


Or, conversely, you can open classes for everyone at same time and have everyone connect for live sessions via webinar at the same time.  The session can then be recorded and made available for those that were unable to attend or who wish to watch it again and take notes at their own pace.


For those who are always on the go, the next method may prove to be useful.


#5. Audio Training


This is similar to video and offers an alternative to those who prefer their lessons on the go.  Like video, you can offer material in audio format as an added value to your products (for example, interviews recorded with other interesting people involved with your niche).


Audio training is closely related to podcasting. You can establish yourself as an authority by providing audio content related to your niche, since the field is decidedly less crowded.


It also keeps in the loop those in your audience who don’t have time to sit down to read all your content.




These are by no means the only ways to make money online, but by far the most consistent and time-tested.  Figuring out the niche that you want to build your business platform around is usually the hardest part.


Once you zero in to the niche you’d like to build your business around (flower planting, travel, home budgeting, etc – the list is as endless as there are interests in the world), focus on identifying what are the most common problems in that niche.


When you’ve figured out what the issues in your chosen niche are, the rest just consists in providing the best answers and solutions in a format that’s comfortable for you to work with and that is helpful to your audience.


What business model excites you most and would you feel most comfortable with?


Keep tuned in and check back Mondays for business building info, Wednesdays for content related to expat life, and Fridays for tons of travel pictures as I do an on-the ground report spotlighting a travel destination.


I’d love a shout out on Facebook and if you sign up for e-mail updates.


Also, check out my Pinterest page about Antigua Guatemala, one of the prettiest colonial cities in the world and latest digital nomad destination I’m trying out.


*Image: Flickr @  Nico Kaiser 

About Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook.
Currently exploring: Guatemala.


  1. Great info! The one that gets me most excited is the e-book model because writing is likely the best profession in the world (in my eyes, anyway) :)

    • Rich says:

      The cool thing about e-books is that it’s just a basic building block. You can add a lot more to an e-book and make it an interactive experience.

      Imagine a travel e-book, for example, that has not just photos, but video, 360-degree images, interviews, local music… the possibilities are endless!

      If you have an iPad, download a free sample of the book ‘Resonate’, by Nancy Duarte. Great example of what is possible with an interactive e-book.


  2. Rich,
    Are you currently making money with any of these models? If so, are you planning of giving more details in future posts?

    • Rich says:

      Hi Tana!

      Yes, I am!

      As a matter of fact, I’m developing and documenting a Case Study site, from scratch, where I’ll use all the models and documenting results.

      Stay tuned!


  3. Very interesting read, I like it.

  4. I was doing this back in 2005, not a new thing but good to see people still living the dream!

  5. Informative and well written post :)!

  6. Great article, Rich. I like how you immediately pointed out that there’s no shortcut or easy trick. Too many people search for all of the answers, but aren’t willing to actually put forth the time and effort to get to where they want to be. Can’t wait to see what you write in the future.

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