How Bloggers Earn a Living Online: Heath Padgett

State of Blogging

Heath Padgett

“At least five times a day I wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life.” – Heath Padgett

When I asked Heath Padgett to share his story of running his blog from an RV while traveling around the entire country with his wife, I never expected him to share the exact same sentiment I’ve heard from so many other small business owners.

“What the heck am I doing with my life?” is a resounding chorus in Facebook Groups, masterminds, and private Slack channels around the globe. And there Heath was, saying it again.

For the past two years my wife and I have been working on a documentary called Hourly America that follows my story as I drove an RV cross-country and worked an hourly wage job in all 50 states.

 

We also film online video courses for clients. Since beginning Hourly America, I’ve also been asked (and paid) to speak for large companies like Chick-Fil-A, UPS, and several others on my experience finding and working jobs in the hourly job economy.

 

I blog about our RV lifestyle at HeathPadgett.com and host a weekly podcast called The RV Entrepreneur where I feature interviews of location indepent entrepreneurs who run businesses from their RV’s (I know, super random… but also cool).

 

My work is super diversified at this point but I’m enjoying trying a bunch of different things. At least five times a day I wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life, but in my own way, I’ve also been really intentional about experimenting with different forms of income and crafts.

That’s right. The “what the heck am I doing with my life” conundrum even occurs when you’re getting speaking gigs from major brands and seeing the incredible country most Americans only get glimpses at.

So if Heath asks himself this question as often as many other business owners do, his days must be long and hard, full of meetings and endless deadlines, sapping the joy out of life, right?

My day typically starts at six AM. I read for a half hour, journal, then spend some time writing a blog. Our day is typically spent working on a project for a client or editing our documentary. We spend most of the day working inside the RV and on travel days we’ll pack up our entire home and hit the road.

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the first time Alyssa drove their first RV

Hmmm. So those days don’t sound incredibly challenging. Sure, they have their ups and downs (as anyone who’s ever been on a road trip or tried to post a blog on a spotty wifi signal can certainly attest to) but it’s not the day to day that causes Heath to question his sanity.

So it must be a small revenue pool.  

In the past couple years our income streams have been:

 

  • Video/client work for online courses: Typical projects are $4-6k for an online course plus 15% commission from sales. $1k/day for typical promo shoots.
  • Sponsorship from two major sponsors: Snagajob for our 50 state trip and Hourly America project ($1k/month while traveling and $5k to visit Alaska & Hawaii) and Winnebago for our 2016 RV (discount on new purchase and monthly stipend for blog posts we write).
  • Speaking: $2,500 speaking fee
  • Freelance editing & shooting weddings: $300/ per edit & $300 per day of shooting. We’ve been hired as additional shooters close to 12 in the past six months (I shoot and Alyssa edits).
  • Affiliate income: I am just getting started in the affiliate income space but am excited to increase this stream in 2016.

We don’t have an average income just yet. Our yearly earnings last year was ~$50k. Here is a complete breakdown of our year #2 expenses and income while living, working and traveling in our RV.

wds laughing
conferencing at World Domination Summit

Okay. So that common question isn’t about hard days or finances. Well, the other thing that comes up constantly with other professional bloggers is the desire to diversify but not knowing how. Turns out, that’s not really Heath’s problem either:

I’m currently working on building an online booking system for RVers to book campgrounds. This is a huge need in my space. We are also working to put together a physical product & guide for people who are transitioning into the full-time travel lifestyle.

Could it be that this is just a normal feeling? That every small business owner has a “is this real life?!??” moment about five times a day?

Heath’s certainly pinching himself.

I love the fact that we live, work, and travel in our RV. I love that we can pick up and go whenever we like and the fact that we’ve seen so much of America. I also love being able to work on projects alongside my wife. People seem to get a kick out of the fact that we live in an RV, it makes for a great conversation starter.

 

“Wait, you live in an RV?! How old are you?” ← Typical response.


My definition of success is having fun in my work and providing value to the world, without the feeling that I’m sacrificing my health or relationships. When I do that, I know I’m successful.

And yet, despite all the love, the plans for growth, the multiple revenue streams, and the days that feel like a beautiful mix of work and play, Heath is still a student of his craft. He admits to not having all of the answers (who does??) and seeking advice from him mentors along the way.

Heath hard at work at Denali in Alaska
Heath hard at work at Denali in Alaska

The best part about Heath is that he wants to teach everything he knows to others who want to live the RV (or professional blogger) life:

When I first got started I didn’t really know about affiliate income, online courses, or any of those things. I started blogging because I eventually wanted to publish a book, so I needed to work on building up an audience.

 

A big push for me actually came from Nathan Barry when I first signed up for ConvertKit last year. I recently wrote about how up until that point my blog had been hovering around 2,000 monthly page views and only 112 subscribers. I told Nathan I thought it was pointless to continue blogging about the RV lifestyle because I didn’t think I could ever monetize it. He told me that I should stick it out and try to provide as much value as I could in the RV space.

 

And after one year of using ConvertKit I’ve now grown that audience from 2k monthly page views to over 25k monthly page views. My email list has grown from 112 subscribers to over 1,600 subscribers. Best of all, we recently struck a one-year sponsorship deal with Winnebago and a 2016 RV (see more details here about how I made this happen).

 

I know this wouldn’t have been possible had I not buckled down to grow my audience. Much of this stemmed from a seven day email course that I released via ConvertKit to my followers.

If there was one word that Heath would tattoo on the forearm of every new blogger today, it would be the word VALUE.

When I first got started blogging, I thought about me, me, me. Once I quit thinking about myself and started asking the question, “How could I provide value?”, that’s when I really started to grow my blog.

So maybe that common thought every business owner has is resolved with one five-letter word. Provide value and see the fruits of your labor in your bottom line. Value can shift “what the heck am I doing with my life?” to “wow, I can’t believe this is my life!” and that’s a road any RV-driving-blogger would be happy to drive down.

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

  • Paul Zakrzewski

    Great article, fascinating story. Here in Santa Barbara, where I live, I see RVs parked along the side of the road, even on my dead-end street, and I often wonder about the lives inside. So Heath Padgett’s doc and various projects are definitely interesting and not something I see out there already. Also, as a blogger starting out, I love the fact you show a realistic portrait of making a living at this — not some fantasy of a dude raking in boatloads of cash, but a smart & engaged entrepreneur with diverse revenue! Thanks.

    • Yeah, one idea with this series was to show the full range—not just the top that are making 6 or 7 figures. I remember when I made my first $1k from blogging—it was a big deal!

    • Thanks, Paul, for chiming in! It’s always fascinating to hear these stories and Heath has a great one.

  • Thanks for sharing this Nathan! My wife and I recently bought an RV (http://themonens.com/) too and we want to “full-time” it like Heath and his wife are! So thank you for sharing and turning me on to Heath’s blog. I just subscribed to his podcast and blog!

  • Hey Heath, I enjoyed listening to your podcast for the first time – It is fun to hear what you are doing!

  • Great story! It reminds us that pushing value to our readers is an ultimate type of marketing! Build relationship first, educate them first, make friends, setup the foundation. And what is value? Value is nothing more than solving one problem for one person per blog post. That’s it! In such a way our message will attract those who are able, willing and ready to buy.

    Be focused, specific and push value!

    Thank you for reminding about that!

    • You got it, @dimasichkar:disqus! Value first. I love what you added: “Value is nothing more than solving one problem for one person per blog post. That’s it!” So simple!

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