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Traveling Webmaster/ SEO Consultant

Traveling Webmaster SEO Consultant Independent Travel Business SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- “If you can get creative, you can make money from it,” Mandy spoke in the backyard of a coffee house in San Cristobal, and I knew that I was speaking with a traveler. Traveling since 2008, she makes her bean money as [...]

Traveling Webmaster SEO Consultant Independent Travel Business

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- “If you can get creative, you can make money from it,” Mandy spoke in the backyard of a coffee house in San Cristobal, and I knew that I was speaking with a traveler. Traveling since 2008, she makes her bean money as an independent SEO consultant/ webmaster, and seems to be living very well on the road. I was interviewing her for Vagabond Journey’s Independent Travel Business series, and I was shown yet another way a prospective traveler can make up their travel funds while moving about the world boss free.

I had not met her before during my stay in San Cristobal, having just communicated through email previously, but I knew exactly who Mandy was as I walked up behind her in the coffee house — for she was tucked behind a $350 Asus Eee PC bashing away at her daily work.

It was clear that had found one of my errant, computer rustling brethren.

Work as an independent traveling webmaster/ SEO consultant

I sat down with Mandy eager to talk shop, as it is pure babble for most people that I meet to talk about search engines and making a living from a website, and I often grow excited upon meeting a new friend of the way.

Mandy told me that she had been working in SEO consulting since 2006, and that she is completely self taught. SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, and the work involves numerous on and off-site tactics for scoring a website higher in search engine results. This is a big business in a world where the face of companies have gone online, where search engines are often the top way for a website to receive traffic.

“Do you fear that the search engines will someday start banning sites that use the SEO tactics that you are using?” I asked bluntly, knowing that the search engines tend to frown upon the manipulation of their algorhythms.

Mandy looked at me seriously for a moment before laying down the cold hard facts:

“If the search engines banned sites for what I’m doing, then everyone would be doing it to their competition. There is nothing they can do.”

Mandy then went on to tell me that she makes most of her money through her own large variety of websites, with affiliate programs and Google ads being her top earners. Her SEO consultation involves private clients who hire her to place their websites into the upper echelons of the search engines through off-site tactics. Her ballpark fee for this is often around $500 per month — not a bad chit, for sure.

As with many travelers who run independent micro businesses, Mandy’s work hours fluctuate rapidly: she admits that her time at the grindstone fluctuates from zero to 14 hours a day, depending on what project she is working on.

Mandy admits that she makes at least $15,000 a year from her own websites and private consulting business, but as I ran her numbers I have the strong suspicion that she may have been being modest. But, at any rate, $15,000 per year is more than enough money to travel the world in style. She also told me that she keeps her costs of living low by trading hotels and hostels search engine placement for their websites for free accommodation. To set these deals up, she walks into a hotel, explains who she is, what she does, what SEO is, and how she can land their website on the first page of Google for a specified list of keywords in exchange for a month of free accommodation.

In this way, Mandy keeps the costs of her travels very low as she earns an income on the road.

Cheap travel essential for independent itinerant business

This is a key point for almost any independent travel business: to be successful you generally need to keep your living expenses as cheap as possible. In point, the more money a traveler spends, the more money they need to make; the more money a traveler needs to make, the more they need to work. It is my impression that a major reason why someone would want to run their own itinerant micro-business is to be free from the sutures of 9 to 5 living: it is pointless to work on the road if you must put in a hundred hours per week to pay for your existence.

Mandy is a master at living cheaply. She said that she is currently paying $5 a night for a private room in a hostel in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, and it did not seem to me as if she spent too much more than this eating and recreating daily. It became clear that I was interviewing a traveler who lives well on under $500 a month.

Mandy added: “Make yourself useful, get creative, and you can get things for less.”

This should be the mantra of all travelers.

Search Engine Optimization Travel Work

Equipment and expenses of being a traveling webmaster/ SEO consultant

Mandy’s equipment seems to be her Asus Eee PC laptop, which she paid around $350 for, a $20 per month virtual private server (VPS), and the various programs that she uses for her off site SEO work.

In all, it does not seem to me as if her business overhead even come close to totalling $1,000 per year, especially as she is currently traveling in a region (Mexico) with easy and cheap access to the internet. Mandy seems to profit many times over from her online business, and, unlike many other travelers with independent ways of making a living, it does not appear to me that she needs to live hand to mouth.

The becoming of a traveling webmaster

Mandy explained that she came into traveling after working for long stretches at various fortune 500 companies, living the 9 to 5 white collar life: clean clothes, military-esque employment hierarchies, supervisors, structure, political correctness, a way of life more suited for robots than humans. At the age of 27, Mandy was offered a heady promotion, which she promply turned down to the surprise of family and co-workers. She had enough of the daily grind that is often an inherent consequence of working for other people in the prim and proper business setting, and stated proudly:

“If I kept doing that I would have found myself in a bathroom slitting my wrist with a paper cutter.”

Mandy then set off to travel, she went to Geneva and worked as an aupair. Eventually she began looking for ways to earn her living working for herself, she looked towards the internet. She found success.

Mandy now travels the world with no intention of returning home or of working as an employee for anyone ever again.

The life of a traveling webmaster

“The biggest problem is people don’t understand that I’m not on vacation,” Mandy explained, “They come up to me in the hostel and say, ‘You have been inside all day, why aren’t you out sightseeing?’ . . . They think I’m a sloth.”

Mandy followed this up by rhetorically asking how often someone from DC really visits the museums, and her point stands: a person running an independent business and traveling perpetually is no longer a simple tourists on a hedonistic vacation designed to balance out the pit of employment which they find themselves in for the rest of the year; no, a perpetual traveler working on the road lives wherever they lay down their rucksack.

When you work as you travel, the rules of engagement change: you become more woven into the landscape, you find yourself standing outside of the tourist bubble, living a life that becomes normal rather than being a vacation. Traveling to work, or working while traveling, is a very different occupation than recreational travel. Travelers who work on the road, by my definition, are no longer tourists, as their main objectives are often to make up the resources to live continually in travel, rather than seeing the sites. These people have found a way to weave the “real world” substance of work and business within the traveling landscape: these people are travelers.

Travel slow for travel business

Part of Mandy’s strategy for being able to live off of her independent businesses is that she travels extremely slowly.

“I don’t like having to pick up my crap every three days and move to a new city,” she says.

This is a hallmark tendency of travelers making a living on the road, and all of the people who I have so far interviewed for this series — myself included — tend to stay in well chosen locations for two or three months at a time before moving on. Traveling slow not only keeps the cost of travel low, but it also provides the time and space to set up an independent business and develop it.

This is as true with traveling webmasters as it is with the other travel professions: not having to pack up your gear every other day and spend hours in transit, looking for hotels, finding food, and getting acquainted with places allows for more time devoted to work and more opportunity to make money. Travel days and work days are often mutually exclusive, and by staying places by the month more time is opened up for doing business.

Traveling webmaster/ SEO consultant conclusion

“This will continue to be my lifestyle moving forward,” Mandy stated at the close of our interview, and I believe that she means it. She has found and developed the key that many people are searching for: she is free to travel anywhere she wants to in the world, she works for herself alone, and she makes enough money to live comfortably. This is, perhaps, the goal of any traveler.

Mandy can be contacted at Small SEO, and her travel blog is at  Vagabondette, her email is mandy@ either of the domains above, and she is on skype at smallseo. She says that she is happy to answer your questions about being an independent traveling webmaster or with starting an SEO consulting business.

This article is part of a series on travelers who run independent micro-businesses as they travel the world. Follow the links below to navigate through the rest of the series.

Filed under: Digital Nomad, Independent Travel Business, Make Money for Travel, Mexico, Perpetual Travel, Traveling Webmaster, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3425 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

16 comments… add one

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  • brandon November 10, 2010, 1:33 am

    I hope that a lot of techie service providers, graphic designers, and freelance writers (especially the ones that want to travel) get a chance to read this because it’s proof that you can take your work on the road just by having a cheap laptop and internet connection.

    The most awesome thing about working in these types of fields is that these skills can be mastered in such a short period of time.

    If people taught themselves by purchasing inexpensive courses or free tutorials on Youtube and studied two hours a day for three months, professions like simple web design, graphic design, SEO, affiliate marketing, freelance writing, etc, can be learned to the extent of making a living from on the road.

    Heck, two hours a day for three months is long enough to learn multiple skills.

    People spend tens of thousands of dollars and two to four years to go to a trade school or university that can’t guarantee them a job upon graduation.

    I firmly believe that if you spend a couple hundred on do it yourself courses and confiring with consultants instead of spending thousands on traditional school, you’ll be doing yourself a service in the long run because this way you’ll learn EXACTLY what you want to learn.

    Plus two hours a day for three months is a lot easier to do than 3 to six hours a day for years in school.

    If the end goal for someone is to be able to perpetually travel wherever and whenever they want, i cant think of a better or easier way to do it than this.

    One final note…. learning skills is awesome for three reasons:
    1. You can apply the skill to your business (web & graphic design, SEO, etc)
    2. You can sell it as a service to others (web & graphic design, SEO, etc.)
    3. You can create and informational product on how to learn the skill and sell it so that others can benefit.

    Skills are triple monetizeable. You can achieve great things by being a Jack of All Trades or a Renaissance Man.

    I really appreciate this Independent Travel Work Series. I’m sure It’s going to help a lot of readers realize how possible work and travel really is.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 10, 2010, 1:14 pm

      This is excellent, you really pushed this piece deeper and made it far better.

      Right on about the potential use for skills: they can be used for a personal business, to work for someone else, or to teach to others. People ask me all the time what they need to travel the world, and the main thing that I can tell them is to learn as many skills as they possibly can — as their is often a multiplex of uses for each one.

      Thanks for actualizing this attribute of learning skills and applying them to travel so acutely.

      It is also good advice to recommend people to learn skills through other mechanisms than university. Universities suck the mother load out of a person’s finances and often only equip them enough to pay back the costs in 35 years. Seriously, I graduated with a degree in anthropology, which I apply towards doing archaeology — a profession that generally only pays between $10 and $15 an hour.

      Under educated strippers make far more money than I do when plying my university grated trade.

      I went to university because I liked it, and it is also clutch to have a degree when applying for longer term visas when traveling. Because I have this stupid piece of paper, I can easily land a $30 an hour English teaching job in Japan or South Korea, and it is also easier for me to apply for other work visas or residency places (if this was ever what I would want to do haha). There also may come a day when I try to weasel my way into getting a grad school fellowship.

      But a degree will only help out a traveler up to a certain extent, and with the amount of money that you need to pay for it, you could travel for 10 years. It is also my impression that learning skills that can be plied on the road for cheap is often a far better option.

      Thanks!

      Walks Slow,

      Wade

      Link Reply
  • David Jacobs November 10, 2010, 4:37 am

    Does mandy have a blog/website we can follow? Any useful links we can have a look at?

    B good and thanks for the material, as always, Wade.
    Dave

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 10, 2010, 12:59 pm

      It is my impression that she has lots of websites, but the only one that I know of is Vagabondette.com. But this is a personal site — not one for business — so much of what this interview details is not applicable.

      Link Reply
      • Dave from The Longest Way Home November 10, 2010, 9:49 pm

        shame, an seo without a website … Maybe she needs to hire me to do that for her 🙂

        Good point though, contact info for everyone on this series would be a big plus for them and people reading about them

        Link Reply
        • vagabondette November 15, 2010, 12:26 pm

          lol Dave! I do have a website for my SEO consulting business but I really don’t promote it any way other than business cards. Most of my clients find me through referrals and connecting with me on various social networking sites. I’d say most of them have never even seen my site. 🙂

          That said, here’s a link if you want to check it out:

          Link Reply
          • vagabondette November 15, 2010, 12:27 pm

            whoops, link didn’t go through. Here it is again: Small SEO or smallseo.biz just in case I’m not allowed to add hyperlinks.

            Link Reply
          • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 15, 2010, 12:27 pm

            Thanks for this interview, Mandy, it seems to really have gotten people inspired.

            It does not seem as if the link to your SEO page got published with the comment. Feel free to add it in.

            Walk Slow,

            Wade

            Link Reply
  • Dave from The Longest Way Home November 10, 2010, 4:57 am

    Can Mandy please come to The Philippines and live with me for a month Ha ha

    I expect to see Vagabond journey ranking #1 for Wade next month 🙂

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 10, 2010, 12:57 pm

      I will let her know haha. Yes, I do want to be the top Wade in the internet world haha.

      Link Reply
    • vagabondette November 15, 2010, 12:27 pm

      I’d love to! When should I be there? 🙂

      Link Reply
  • kera November 15, 2010, 2:14 am

    this life you describe has been my dream for years… my partner & i recently got out of a bricks & mortar business that was sucking the life out of us… i’ve been in web development for 12+ years, and always envisioned hitting the road with my laptop & my paypal account.

    thank you for demonstrating that not only is it POSSIBLE, it’s absolutely DOABLE without a huge income… i’m SOOO excited!!!

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 15, 2010, 11:08 am

      Yes, this is totally doable, and you can save a lot more money. It is easy to live well in Mexico on under $500 a month, and if you can bring in a USA style income on top of this you can save a lot. I have another friend here in San Cristobal de las Casas who works independently doing IT work for an American company — so he is getting paid USA wages while having Mexican expenses.

      Truly a smart way to live.

      Wish you the best in this new endeavor. The only thing left to it is to do it.

      Link Reply
  • vagabondette November 15, 2010, 12:33 pm

    Hey Wade! Thanks for the great write-up. I am, of course, spreading it around so hopefully you’ll get some new visitors for your blog! Since someone suggested adding contact info to the posts I’ll just throw mine up in case anyone has any questions they want to ask me directly. I’m always happy to help out others who are interested in starting their own businesses/websites.

    My website for the SEO is Small SEO.
    My travel blog (rarely updated) is Vagabondette
    My email is mandy@ either of the domains above.
    I’m on skype at smallseo

    Hope things are great and see you around town!

    Mandy

    Link Reply
  • Frugal Cebuana Wanderer August 29, 2013, 8:30 am

    I can totally relate to what Mandy is doing. That’s location independence. Most online freelancers are doing that nowadays. I’m currently on the process of exploring that lifestyle. Jeezzz. This post is very inspirational I wanted to jump. (:

    Thank you for this, Wade. (:

    Link Reply