First of all – is it possible to make money while sailing around the world?
Yes – it’s definitely possible to make money while living and traveling around the world on a boat. But the question is, just how much can you make and how can you make it?
At the time of writing this, I’ve been living on our sailboat in the Mediterranean full time for the last year. I’ve met a variety of people doing an assortment of things to make money (and find ways to minimize the amount of money that’s spent).
IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR 2017: This article has been updated since originally posted in 2015. At the time of writing I had only one year of experience making money while sailing. The article below is still worth reading but if you want more more in-depth information and ideas to get your brain ticking, please request my Free Guide, ‘How to make money while sailing around the world’ (another window will open).
Before talking about making money, many readers first ask me how much it actually costs to maintain and live on a boat
And there’s really no quick answer to that question. Some boat ‘experts’ quote that the cost of living is around 20% of the value of the boat (per year) but we will never come close to spending that figure.
The cost of food, boat repairs/maintenance and living expenses vary greatly depending on where you are and how you do things. For example, in Thailand you can have your teak deck replaced at a fraction of the cost of what it costs in Europe. In the Med you can get your boat hauled out of the water and antifouled for 250 euros in Tunisia versus 2000+ euros in Sicily (they’re only 160 miles apart).
Once you start sailing around for a bit, you’ll start to learn the tricks of the trade
You’ll discover how to avoid the tourist super markets and find the one’s that the locals use. You’ll learn what country to sort out your VAT bill. You will also gain information about what marina to hit for out-of-water jobs and how to find boat service people for inexpensive prices.
In the Med the first thing that any boater asks upon arrive to a new port is, ‘where is the closest Lidl’? If you haven’t heard of Lidl, it’s a discount grocery store. Lidl is, by far, the least expensive shop to get your groceries and all us boaters rejoice when there’s one nearby. (Yes, I know that’s sad!)
But this article isn’t about the cost of living full time aboard a boat
This article is how to generate an income while enjoying the live-aboard lifestyle, so let me get into the make money while sailing information.
But before I list all the ways you can sail around the world let me give you an indication of the type of boaters I’ve met. There are the millionaire’s on one side of the spectrum. Then there are the very low budget sailors on the other.
The millionaires don’t seem interested in making money for obvious reasons
And the low budget sailors focus on saving money and living within their budget rather than making money. The millionaires have crew, often stay in marina’s and for food you’ll see a helicopter fly in to deliver the fresh Main lobster.
The low-income sailors tend to do everything themselves and I mean everything from sailing to maintenance to repairs. They always anchor. They often eat canned meat, fish they’ve caught and anything found on the clearance section of the supermarket. Low-income sailors are often not interested in making money – they seem to thrive on not spending money. This is not a bad thing…
And then there’s us folk in the middle
We’re not necessarily on a low budget; rather we have a bit of savings to help us out for a while. And perhaps we have an income through pensions, rental income or investments. But the cash flow isn’t always guaranteed OR it’s not necessarily enough to keep us feeling secure for the long term.
For me, personally, I have a bit of money in the bank and some pensions that won’t come into effect for another 15 to 20 years. I think we can last for five to ten years but towards the end we’ll really have to watch the pennies.
And that’s of course if we don’t have any major disasters!
I’d rather not have to watch the pennies – I’d rather have a way to generate and build up a variety of cash flow sources. A little bit of money from a lot of sources sounds like a good plan to me.
That being said, here are some ways that I make money while sailing around the world and how I’ve learned about others who are doing the same.
How to make money while sailing around the world…
1. Work for six months and then sail for six months
Now that I know about this option I wish I knew about it before we left for our world adventure! I had no idea that people worked during the winter months and then took six months off to sail around the Mediterranean or Caribbean. Looking back, I think that would have been a better way to ease into the live-aboard lifestyle.
While sailing around the Ionian Islands we met a few men, aged between 24 and 54, that had consultancy type jobs in England for the winter. They’d work November to April and then fly down to the Mediterranean, put their sailboat in the water and sail from May to October. Their consultancy job paid for their work/sail lifestyle. One guy I met rented out his house while he was gone. Ultimately, he actually made money while he was sunning himself in the Greek Islands.
I also met a guy that with three other friends are all sailing around the world season by season. They work during the winter and then they sail as far as they can get every summer. When the summer is over, they find a marina, pull the boat out of the water and return the following season. Isn’t that a great idea?!?!
2. Find a work-from-‘home’ job
The work-from-home trend is still on the increase. I imagine it will exponentially increase. More and more companies see the value in having employee’s work from home. There are a couple of people in the marina, that I’m in now, that appear to work from home but they’re really working from their boat.
I have to say that having an Internet and/or a good phone connection can often be hit or miss, Technology, however, is getting better and better every day. If you can find a home-based job, and there are loads out there, there’s nothing stopping you from working and sailing.
3. Consultancy – on land
If you have the skills to do consultancy – perhaps a past record of success in a particular field – you can potentially pimp yourself out (infrequently) to do some consultancy projects.
There is a woman eight boats down from me that jets up to England every few months. She does some consultancy work and earns a bit of cash. The woman then flies back to the boat to enjoy the live-aboard community. It’s not something I would want to do, but heck, it works for some.
4. Consultancy – on the sea
Again, if you have a set of skills that do allow for consultancy, the possibility exists to set up an online consultancy service. There’s a photographer in Greece I stumbled upon that teaches other photographers how to make money online.
If you have a skillset and are happy to offer your experience it’s definitely not rocket science to create an online service offering. Yes, it might be time consuming and it might be a steep learning curve, but loads of people offer consultancy services online so why can’t you?
5. On-line project based work
If you can write, edit, design, program, transcribe, research, and any other work that can be done online, you can find thousands of opportunities on the Net. Check out websites like elance.com (now called Upwork.com) just to get an idea on online projects. For this particular website ‘clients’ post a job that they want completed and you can bid on the job. If you win, you fulfill the requirements and then get paid.
A great online work opportunity for designers is Design Crowd. A ‘client’ posts an outline of what they want. You can decide to create a design and if you ‘win’ the project you get the money on offer.
Elance.com (Upwork.com) and DesignCrowd.com are just two of hundreds of online project based work opportunities. As long as your work can be completed over the Net you’ll be sure to find opportunities to serve people and companies around the world.
6. Services aboard or near the boat
I’m often amazed at boaties that come to me asking for advice on how to make money. Usually they know some sort of trade and don’t consider offering it to the boating community.
For example, I met a lovely live-aboard named Pam. She was desperate to make a little extra cash so she could enjoy a night out with her hubby every now and again. When I asked her about her past work engagements she said she was a hairdresser.
Within a couple hours I convinced her to offer her hairdresser service. We made flyers for her to hand out while at anchor and in marinas. She’d send around flyers, give out a VHF channel that she monitored and make boat calls when requested.
Since I last spoke to her she was earning over 250 euros a week and enjoying a couple nights out with her hubby.
The list of things you can offer on and from a boating environment are limitless, but just to name a few:
- Massage Therapist
- Taxi driver (while holed up at a marina for the winter, you can make money by renting a car and taxiing marina guests and friends to and from the marina)
- IT Geek (Every marina has one of these around and they’re invaluable!)
7. Services within the world of boating
Over the year I’ve met several boat people that are always happy to help out with boat maintenance and repairs. Some people want a nice home cooked dinner and others want a bit of cash for beer. The cool thing about being a live-aboard is that the longer you live aboard the more you learn how to do things that other people will pay you for! Here are just a few examples:
- Teak repair
- Boat washing/cleaning
- Engine maintenance
- Boat repairs
- Boat handling (teaching)
I think a good point to make is that no boatie seems to be out to make money. Everyone is out to fill their time doing things they like AND perhaps get something of value in return. For one boatie it might be a home cooked lasagna and for another it might be 20 euros to spend at the happy hour.
Living the boating lifestyle has nothing to do with making loads of money. I does, however, have everything to do with enjoying the fulfillment that living aboard a boat brings.
8. Charter the boat out
This is an interesting area. Hubby and I looked into this and setting a boat up legally for charter is not cheap. You need to have the boat ‘coded’ – that means that you have to have X amount of in-date fire extinguisher’s, bungs on ever stopcock, massive amounts of safety systems and on and on.
That being said, we were told that we could charge over 40k euros to charter our anchored boat in Monaco for a weekend during the Grand Prix (so, perhaps, in some cases, it might be worth getting the boat coded?)
From what I’ve discovered, however, many boat owners charter their boat in an under-the-radar fashion. In other words, they offer some sort of charter service illegally. This is not something I’m necessarily suggesting…I’m just saying that quite a few people do it. Some options include:
- Sort out a charter company to rent your boat out
- Allow others to take your boat out privately
- Take others out yourself
- Do day-trips for tourists
9. Products from the boat
So…are you a crafty creative person? I’d like to think I am but everything I make looks like something my daughter came up with (she’s 4 years old). Me aside, there are loads of amazingly talented knitters, jewelry designers, bakers and craft creators out there on boats.
Several of the crafty boaties make things for themselves, or family members, but there are a few that create goods to sell.
Jewelry is a great option. With limited space on a boat, jewelry doesn’t take up a huge area and as long as you’re making quality goods, sales can really add up.
And I have a personal tale on this option
I make and sell Britican Galley Herb & Spice blends on our boat and online. I get the raw bulk ingredients from ‘local’ herb and spice manufacturers – mostly organic. Then, I mix the spice blends, package them (using bags and printed card labels from my printer), and create recipes and galley recipe videos for the blends for boaties to enjoy.
Note: my YouTube Britican Galley recipes channel is different from my main SailingBritican channel. If you want to catch a glimpse into what it’s like to live on Britican, check out some of our 70+ videos here: YouTube.com/SailingBritican
When I first started sailing I realized that there’s a massive lack of space in the galley. On land I had cupboards filled with different spices. When I moved onto the boat I had to be picky. Instead of having all the spices necessary for chicken soup, a chicken roast, chicken salad, etc. I simply combined several spices to make a chicken blend. Instead of having jars of basil, oregano, parsley, sage, garlic, lovage, turmeric and bay leaf (all the spices that work perfect with chicken) I combined them all into one jar.
Reflecting on the type of food we eat, I then had a blend made for beef, seafood (obviously), Italian dishes and Greek dishes.
My sales force (hubby and my daughter) take the dingy out or walk around the marina asking if there’s any interest and we get loads of sales. And once someone tries one of my blends, they come back for others and the word quickly gets out!
Note: I shouldn’t say ‘my blends,’ as they’re my mom’s blends! Back in NY she started an amazing company over fifteen years ago and I’ve just taken her blend recipes and rebranded her product as mine (‘Thank you mom!’)
I just wanted to include this idea as it’s not rocket science to come up with something of value that people will want to buy. As long as you create a product that adds value people will be interested. In my case, I help people to quickly and easily add amazing flavor to their galley dishes ☺
10. Products online
Okay…this is a big area – so big that I could write a book on it, so watch this space! This is the area where I’m focusing most of my efforts on and hopefully I can share some practical ideas with you.
When you’re sailing around the world, it’s a great idea to either create products or discover local products to sell back on the homeland HOWEVER there’s a serious shipping issue. Shipping anything from one country to another costs so much that often the buyer fails to buy when they see the shipping fees. Furthermore, if you’re like me and in Greece or Italy, it’s questionable if the recipient will ever get a shipment!
That being said, I’ve decided to sell items from various bases in my two ‘homelands’ – America and England.
Let me explain
First, there are my mother’s spices that I’ve rebranded as ‘Britican Galley.’ Not only do I make and sell them from the boat, I also have my mom make and sell them from America on my behalf. And I also have a friend in England blend, package and ship them in the UK.
I sell my herb & spice blends on a website called Etsy. Etsy is a marketplace for homemade and handmade goods. Click here to see my spice blends on Etsy here: Britican Galley.
So, I’ve essentially found a product that I’ve ‘white labeled’ as my own and have the manufacturer (my mom) take the order and fulfill it from the States (and my friend from the UK).
I’ve also utilized a really cool thing called ‘Dropshipping’
There’s all sorts of dropshipping companies. These companies offer products for you and I to sell on our websites. We collect the money, the dropship companies stock the product and do the fulfillment. Dropshipping is a dream come true if you can find good products!
If you look at my online store, you’ll see that I offer a line of sexy sailing t-shirts for women. I had the designs created on Elance.com (now called Upwork.com) and then found a t-shirt printer/fulfillment company that fulfills in the US and UK. When someone buys a t-shirt from one of my stores, I simply forward the order to the t-shirt company, they print the t-shirt and then ship it to the end client.
I take the money for the t-shirt and then pay the t-shirt company for the order
It’s a great system. I’d like to say that I make a big profit from the t-shirts, but I don’t. I’m lucky to make a few dollars, euros, pounds. These t-shirt fulfillment companies are not cheap, however, I have no stock, no delivery headache and…if the t-shirts do start to sell (in a big way) I can get more printed in bulk and reduce my costs.
Check out my Etsy shop to find out the other products I sell online. Aside from herbs & spice blends and t-shirts, I have nautical jewelry, marine pillow cushions, sexy sailing sarongs, trendy adjustable sailing belts and more. Visit: Etsy.com/shop/SailingBritican
Now…let me take about books
I didn’t intend to publish a book at first. Heck, I simply started to collate a little booklet of VHF templates so that I had a reference manual for our nav station. In fact, I went to Amazon to see if I could by a VHF template book – something that had the MAYDAY, Pan-Pan, Securite, requesting medical advice, etc. wording – and I couldn’t find anything.
So…I created a book of what to say if X happened. And X was anything from a MAYDAY to how to deal with a situation when a child accidentally pushes the MOB button! I wrote my little book and then when visitors saw it, they asked for a copy.
One thing led to another and I decided to publish it on Amazon
I got my cover done on Design Crowd, I created the content and within a couple days the hard copy and Kindle version were up for sale. To my amazement, I’ve had several sales and I haven’t actively promoted the book yet!
Note: Aside from this book, I also have one titled, ‘Checklists for Sailors – Passage Planning, Sailboat Maintenance, Cleaning, Medical and More: Making it easier to enjoy sailing your sailboat‘ (Link to Amazon.com will open)
So…books are a GREAT opportunity to create on a boat that you can then sell to the world. There’s no stock and there’s no need to fulfill the product – Amazon does everything for you.
There are also opportunities to create partnerships with people that sell products you want to promote or you can become an affiliate. You promote the product and a company will pay you a percentage of all sales. Furthermore there are fulfillment houses that will hold your products and ship them for you.
Perhaps you’re massively creative, have some great ideas for products and want the world to know about them. Yes – you can create a product, get it manufactured, find a place that will stock and ship it for you.
Just because you’re sailing around the world doesn’t mean that you can’t use your brain to create an empire! Right?!
Anyway, this article is getting way long.
What’s my point?
Well…if you’ve decided to not live your dream of sailing around the world (or anything for that matter) because you can’t figure out how to make an income, SHAME ON YOU!
No…I don’t really mean ‘shame on you.’ It’s not easy to know what you don’t know. My point is…don’t sit back and let life pass you by because you can’t afford to do what you want to do.
There are always ways and means to ‘live the dream’ – make money while sailing
You just have to have a vision and believe in yourself. Take little steps every day to get what you deserve. And you know what? We all deserve a good life!
I’ll stop there. If you want any further information, please email me. If you find value in my articles, please support me by purchasing a produce from my online shop.
And if you’re very serious about buying, owning, and maintaining a sailboat checkout my shop here. It’s an ever growing online shop of quick, hard-hitting, no-nonsense, no salty sea-dog sailing terminology, results-driven guides.
Finally, as mentioned at the top of this article, I have an updated version of this article. The update accounts for three years of making money while I sail rather than just my first year. I know far more now than I knew when I wrote this. Get the free report, ‘Make money while sailing around the world.’