Growing money off grid on tree

The Off Grid Income Secret, and Why No One Admits It

June 15, 2020
(last update June 15, 2020 )

Daniel Mark Schwartz Profile Picture

I see a lot of advice out there about how to quit your job and make money living off grid that is just plain wrong. Very few homesteaders will admit that they drive 100s of miles a week to commute to work. But, after working for years to afford to go off grid, I found the secret to support myself in the country.

How do I make money off grid? The only way to make money consistently off grid is to make yourself indispensable. Avoid commodity work as much as possible. And, most importantly invest heavily in yourself and your land.

Most people fail to make money off grid because they just don’t have the skills to make their passion a business. We are lucky because we live in amazing fertile times for creating location independent small businesses and local businesses. There is no excuse for not reading on to learn the skills to quit your job and support yourself off grid.

Build Your Off Grid Business

Lots of off grid sites on the internet of lists of “off grid income sources” full of entries like this:

“Learn and teach a pioneer craft such as soapmaking, candlemaking, spinning, quilting, rug-making, basket making, barrel-making”

These lists really serve no purpose, because this kind of advice just isn’t actionable most of the time.

Unless there is a local pioneer museum around willing to hire you, there is basically no way to make real money doing this. That’s why so many off grid income ideas end up just being hobbies that bring in a few bucks now and again.

I recently conduced a poll of off grid homesteaders to see how they make their money, and this is the result —

  • Online Business — 28%
  • Retired — 23%
  • Commute to Work — 19%
  • Online Job — 14%
  • Farm Supported — 9%
  • No income - 4%

Results show that by far the majority of modern homesteaders work online, with most of the rest not working at all or commuting to work a traditional job. While some may cling to the idyllic dream of the farm that pays for everything, the reality of living off grid is that almost everyone has some form of income external from the farm. So, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that most homesteads are going to need to be paired with with some form of online business to function.

The skills that you really need to learn are those that allow you to build a successful business. These include:

  • Time management and self-motivation
  • Delegation
  • Financial literacy
  • Marketing and Promotion

Once you master these skills, you will be able to build up a business anywhere. You have the option of building one or more online businesses, or local businesses. You can choose any industry you find interesting. You can build a business that is passive income, or active (full-time) income.

If you value your security, which I believe all homesteaders do, then you need to start taking the leap from employee to business owner today. Without the ability to provide for yourself, you will never have true independence.

Build Passive Income Businesses Online

Luck for us, there are just so many opportunities out there to make money passively, without having to work any particular hours. I personally love the feeling of waking up in the morning to find more money in my account than when I went to bed.

Building a passive income business online is a lot like planting an apple tree, you put in time and money in up front. Then you water and water, but not much is going on. Eventually, however, you have a super abundant producer that produces fruit year after to feed you and your family.

The reason why so few people achieve financial freedom is because — I’m not going to lie — doing this takes work. And, for a time, that’s work without pay.

But, if anyone has the ability to plan months ahead, and put in hard work for an ultimate goal without immediate gratification, then it would be the off gridder and homesteader. You do not need any special technical skills to learn to make money online, only basic computer skills, and the willing to learn.

With passive income sites, you don’t necessarily have to log-on to the internet everyday, and you can work on them at your own pace. This means you can work from home even without network access or cellphone service, and then travel in to upload you changes every so often. This is what I did to get started, when I didn’t have internet access at my off grid tree house.

While there are a huge number of opportunities online, here are a few ways that I know for sure people make a good passive income on the internet.

Niche Sites

On the internet, niche sites are small focused websites designed to get traffic from search engines by writing articles answering questions people search for. (You are currently on a niche site by the way :) Niche sites make money by placing ads around their pages, earning affiliate commissions for products they recommend, or selling digital products themselves (usually informational).

The great part about niche sites is that they take basically no active upkeep. Once you get them going, they will keep making money for months and sometimes years at a time without basically any maintenance. But, the more time you put in as it grows, the bigger and more profitable you can make it.

Niche sites are great if you love learning, and are OK with writing. Most of the daily work is writing high quality articles on the topic of your choice. Or, hiring ghost writers and editing their work. If you are willing and able to scale up and delegate your writing out as the site grows (to external freelancers) then 6–7 figures is very doable in terms of income.

Building a niche site with proper guidance (at Income School for instance) is a great place to start with building online businesses, because you learn a lot of basic marketing and SEO skills. Yet, you need no skills to get started other than the ability to read and write English.

Amazon FBA

I first heard about FBA from a friend’s wife who was using it to make a good size passive income on the side, while taking care of her young kids. Initially I was surprised that FBA is profitable for individuals running small businesses. But, the more I looked in to it, I found quite a few people are doing very well in this marketplace.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have been so excited about this opportunity as I am, if I hadn’t meet real every day people making money from it. Just searching around for FBA, everything seems so scammy. And, unfortunately many of the FBA gurus out there are probably scammers. However, if you know where to look for guidance, there is real money to be made from FBA and drop shipping.

The essence of FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) businesses are that you search out potentially profitable small products that can be bought for cheap in bulk from China. These are almost always existing products that you just order, you aren’t necessarily designing a brand new one. Then you have the boxes sent to Amazon’s warehouse, where they market, sell, and ship the products for you on their online store. And, Amazon deposits your share directly in your account.

FBA is so much less writing/editing than niche sites, which is probably a big plus in many people’s minds. But, with FBA you take much more time to research the products you want to sell, shopping around for suppliers, and coordinating the different parties (your supplier, shipping company, Amazon) to make sure everything goes smoothly. So you end up needing a different set of skills.

YouTube

While it may seem crazy at first glance, there is huge opportunity for creating a passive business on YouTube right now. Lots of relatively small channels are drawing in millions of views , which means lots of money through ads, affiliate links, and by selling their own digital products.

The concept there is basically to make a video version of the niche sites discussed above. Here, instead of writing articles so that people find and click on them through Google, you are creating short videos that answer questions people have on YouTube and Google Video search.

Right now, YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, which means lots of people are out there looking for help. But, because YouTube is so much newer than the web as a whole, and because fewer people want to make videos than write articles, many many potentially profitable search terms don’t have good results.

In short, YouTube is still the wild west, and there are still tons of opportunities to make money.

To make profitable YouTube videos, you don’t need $1,000s of gear. In most cases a cell phone, a decent quality lav mic, and a few lights are enough.

YouTube is great for off grid even if you don’t have internet. YouTube’s upload system allows you to batch upload many videos at once, and schedule them to come out over time. That means you can record several videos over a few days, as you like, then batch upload them all when you get to internet access.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a form of digital salesmanship, where you market other people’s products in exchange for a commission when one of your leads purchases the products. While all forms of passive businesses tend to profit from including affiliate links in their content, there is a special type of “passive” income strategy that focuses directly on selling products.

Unlike other methods, affiliate marketers will choose a number of affiliate products to sell, and design a number of ad based marketing campaigns and landing pages for each product. This is basically the art of the hard sell, you are going after leads directly with the intent to convert them in to your client’s customers.

Currently, the realm of direct affiliate marketing seems wide open to newcomers. The rate of return for well crafted adds on major social medias sites, and Facebook in Particular, is still very high.

Lots of people out there are making quite good money on affiliate marketing, even though it has a quite spammy feel to it.

Affiliate marketing may be the least passive of the concepts in the passive income category, just because add campaigns generally need babysitting to make sure everything goes right and you can quickly iterate to find high performing ad image and text combinations.

However, like all the other passive income methods, you have a lot of flexibility when and how long you work. You are not tethered to any particular schedule like you are when you work a normal job.

Make an Income through Small Scale Farming

One of the most popular recommendations for making money off grid is to grow any number of agricultural products and sell them either locally or online.

The way most people approach this is usually not very profitable. The biggest problem is that most agricultural products are essentially commodities, and are frequently sold locally via CSA delivery or farmer’s markets, which are extremely time consuming to operate.

Unfortunately, because of this many small farmers are worked to the bone, and receive relatively little for what they put out.

The best way to make money via growing produce on your own property is to specialize in more exotic foods of limited supply. Here are a few products that I’ve seen do very well in certain markets:

  • Micro-greens
  • Wasabi horse radish
  • Foie gras
  • Snail
  • Exotic eggs
  • Mushrooms

The absolute best place to sell your produce is to chefs at local restaurants via a weekly deliver schedule. Most towns and cities now-a-days have local fine dining or “fancy” dinner restaurants which increasingly demand fresh and exotic foods, which are in lower and lower supply as American agriculture continues to conglomerate and centralize in to mega-corporations.

Small scale farming has a lot of potential, as long as you have an efficiency streak in you, where you are willing and able to ruthlessly streamline your activities. Commercial farming for profit, even when growing crops with good profit margins, is not a leisurely pursuit. Planning must be extremely precise in order to deliver on time and avoid crop damage. That’s why I recommend The Urban Farmer so you can learn the business and industrial side of market gardening from the best.

Renting Out Space

With many people potentially interested in returning to a more rural and natural lifestyle, you have the opportunity to offer up space for rent on your homestead land as a way to make some money on the side.

AirBnB

One particularly popular way of renting out space is through AirBnB, the app / website for person to personal rentals. Small picturesque tiny homes and “nature getaways” are currently very popular on the site, and may land you enough income to keep you going, particularly if you are within driving distance of major cities or well traveled tourist destinations.

I know of a woman in Southern Oregon who does quite well with this model, supporting herself largely on the proceeds from AirBnB rentals during the tourist season. She a has a small cluster of tiny homes on her property, which allows her to keep 4–5 rooms occupied at a time during peak season.

The down sit to this, is that you will have some cleaning to do between guest, which makes this more like a traditional job.

Rent Out a Parcel of Land

If you have plenty of land, and you aren’t sure what you would do with it all, you might want to consider renting out a chuck of the land for someone else to live on permanently or seasonally.

There are a large number of people out there who don’t have the means to buy their own parcel of land, but want to experience the freedom of living off grid. Many of them would be willing to pay a fee to rent a piece of your land.

In particular, nomadic tiny home dwellers and RVers are very interested in places that they can set down roots for part of the year. If you have a clear space for them to drive up in, and potentially hook up to facilities, you have a very lucrative potential for income.

In most cases, ads on Craigslist or an appropriate Facebook group is all you need in terms of marketing your rental.

Online Work

Some people just aren’t that interested in taking the burden of building up and managing their own business — no matter how passive — or they are in need of a paycheck in the short term. For those people, there are online jobs available that suite the off grid lifestyle quite well.

Upwork

[Upwork.com] is a site for connecting freelancers with companies who hire them for projects of varying size. I know several people who use it to hire freelancers for their businesses, and they recommend it as a place to find quality contractors.

While I don’t know anyone currently contracting there, I have heard good reviews in the past.

There are a lot of fairly technical jobs available on Upwork, which you should take advantage of if you have the experience. But even if you have no special skills, there are jobs available, including:

  • Content Writing — write articles for blogs / websites on specified topics
  • Editing & Proofreading — fix up other people’s writings
  • Customer Service — answer emails and/or phones
  • Tech Support — answer emails and/or phones (entry level uses script, so technical skill not necessary)

Upwork tends to attract higher quality clients, which means you can more work for fewer people as compared to competitors like [fivrr.com].

Upwork also allows you to exchange info with clients you have worked with, so they can contact you directly when they have work in the future. This is preferred by both sides, since you get to know how each other work. As a contractor, over time you will be able to build up a portfolio of clients that come to you directly for work, which is the best situation for a freelancer to be in.

Remote Positions

Increasingly traditional companies are coming around to remote working arrangements, where you are able to preform either a full time or part time job from the comfort of your own homestead.

From what I can see, these types of jobs are most common in the programming and computer science fields. But, even if you aren’t a programmer, it is worth giving the jobs listing a look over to see if there is anything that fits your experience and skill set.

Here are some sites that specialize in remote job listing, although there are a ton more out there if you do a search for remote job listings:

Your Current Job

As remote working grows increasingly popular among employees, many companies are reluctantly giving way and converting positions to remote. It could be that your current job might be the next one, if you ask the right way.

I have experienced this myself, with my last job as an employee. By being upfront with my intention to find a job with more flexible work at home schedule (which I thought meant quitting my current job), I ended up converting my existing position to a mostly remote situation, with occasional days in the office.

Most employers much rather keep an existing employee rather than hire on a new one. So, by making clear your interest in a remote job, you might just hasten the creation of a position for you, that would otherwise not have existed.

How can I make money living off the grid?

Some people prefer growing, foraging, or crafting items and selling them locally or online. Another option is to work an online job — either full time or freelance — or even develop an online business. However, many off gridders end up commuting to work.

Can you live off the grid with no money?

The biggest expenses for off gridders are often property taxes, insurance, and transportation. There are ways to find “free land”, so if you are able to survive without transportation, then it may be possible. Although, not particularly easy.


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