A few readers have asked lately about operating a business on the road, and more specifically, how we run our business as we travel. While there are some websites whose owners go into depth about their finances, how much they need to earn, and how they plan to earn it, I really don’t feel comfortable doing so to that extent. But I will share some thoughts on our business model and on mobile businesses in general.
Over the years, Terry and I have built a successful business on the road publishing the Gypsy Journal RV Travel Newspaper, our books and RV guides, web publishing, and speaking at RV rallies and shows. As with any small business, we had some very tight times over the years, but we hung in there, we improvised when necessary, we adapted to the changing marketplace, and we listened to what our customers told us they wanted and tried to supply it.
We operate as a sole proprietorship, which is the simplest form of business structure. Each business form, sole proprietorship, partnership, subchapter S corporation, or a full corporation has it’s advantages and disadvantages. There is no “one size fits all,” so I won’t even begin to suggest which might be right for you.
Our motorhome and van are not registered to the business. If you are financing an RV, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bank that will loan the money to purchase an RV or automobile to a new mobile business, nor will they usually allow you to register it in your business name.
We had signs on our pickup with the name of our business on them, but on the advice of a friend who is an insurance agent, when we got the van we didn’t put signs on it. If we were to do so, and then got into an accident, who knows what our insurance company would say about a claim? Might they say that we insured the vehicle for personal use, and are using it for a business, and deny a claim? My experiences with insurance companies makes me very wary of giving them any reason at all to try to weasel out of a claim.
We use QuickBooks Pro to keep track of our income and expenses, and I have found it to be an excellent program that is easy to use and adaptable to most business structures.
Okay, that’s how we do things. It might or might not be right for you and your business.
What kind of business should you start? That depends on you, on your skills and talents, on your interests, and on how much money you have to invest to get it off the ground. We know RVers who have successful service and sales businesses, or operate online businesses as they travel. We have also seen a lot of people come and go over the years, who just couldn’t make it.
One mistake I see a lot of wannabe entrepreneurs make is to decide that since they see a lot of vendors selling waterless car wash, Chia pets, or solar lights, or XYZ widgets, they must all be making money, so they’ll sell them too. The market is saturated with a lot of products, which means that most of those vendors selling the same things are barely making a buck, if they are at all. Find new, unique, and useful products that shoppers can’t see at every other vending table and I believe you’ll have a much better chance of success.
The internet has become a big part of our income stream, and I think it offers many RVers the best opportunity to earn money with the least financial investment. Specialty blogs and websites serving a niche market can bring in revenue from display advertising, from ad networks such as Google AdSense, and through the sale of your own or affiliate products. We do all of them on our various blogs and websites and they all help our bottom line.
Recently we have seen a trend among some websites and blogs posting donation links and asking their readers to contribute. The feedback I have heard from the reading public makes me believe that this can do more harm to a website’s reputation and to the public’s perception of it, than the income they might receive. maybe it would be wiser to look into ways that you can make your website more effective when trying to draw in and keep customers. Of course, user experience flow will be imperative for this.
There is a misconception among many RVers that all you have to do is say you are in business, find a product and display it at a few RV rallies or swap meets, and you can write off all of your travels, the cost of your RV, campground fees, and anything else you spend. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. The nice folks at the tax office expect you to operate as a business and make a profit, not just play around at it.
And even if you have a viable working business, there are limits on what you can declare as legitimate expenses. I’m not an accountant, but you need to speak to one to understand what you can and cannot write off.
Customer service, hard work, dedication, and innovation are all important to making a business work. But if there is one secret to success in any business, be it in a fixed location, or on the road, I believe that it is to give it your all, 100% of the time, no matter what happens or what obstacles you encounter. And tomorrow, you need to get up and do it all over again. Eventually you outlive or outlast the competition.
Thought For The Day – Every morning I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.