It’s one (beautiful) thing to travel with a fat bank account. But what if your followers could be your currency? Or better yet… your talents? What if you could stay in hotels across the world using work exchange alone? Drooling from the taste of freedom yet? What if I told you it’s easier done than we all once thought?
After workawaying my way with my blog and camera across Colombia, a bit of Mexico, and even one of the costlier cities in the Eastern USA (Miami), below I’ve laid out a list of work exchange ideas that are enjoyable and probably won’t seem like work to those who have a talent/skill for the one(s) they choose.
This article is for those who would rather pitch ideas to businesses outside of online platforms such as help.x and workaway.info. Though these are helpful, they are not free and come with less freedom and scalability than creating our own package with which to approach potential clients.
***Many, though not all, of the options below have the ability of earning an added salary in addition to a work exchange arrangement, which is up to the agreement of both parties involved, taking local laws into account. If you choose to do so, charging for your services in addition to receiving accommodation could mean you need a work visa for the country in which you are traveling. Remember to check your local government website for details on this before you leave your home country to work in another country. Many times you will need to apply for a work visa while in your home country months in advance to leaving.***
Without further ado, here are ways to use your talents and interests as a currency:
Tutor people in any subject while living with the family in exchange. Check out Aupair.com or Aupairworld.com and other online communities and groups for opportunities and make it obvious that you are looking for a tutoring arrangement. Many times families want an “Au Pair” (a person who cares for children in another country in exchange for room and board) to come and speak your language with their kids so they can improve their language skills. No extra housework necessary.
Write city guides or publicize an honest and quality review for businesses on your blog or online presence in exchange for accommodation. No, you don’t need a huge following! Many times it helps businesses a TON just to tell your travel friends about them. Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing.
~ Au Pair
Be a nanny (or teach your language/care for elders/whatever the arrangement) in any part of the world while receiving accommodation and food, depending on the arrangement.
~ Housesit / Petsit
Care for someone’s home and/or pet while they are on holiday and live in their home for as long as they are gone.
~ Camp Counselor
Many times camp employees get accommodations on-site with an added hourly rate, depending on the camp and area.
~ Cruise Ship Employee
Opportunities include bartending, instructing scuba diving, being a tour leader, MC, restaurant waiter, chef, etc. to name just a few. Hourly rate usually included.
~ Yacht Employee
Choose to be a bartender, waiter, chef, tour leader, scuba instructor, maid, blackjack dealer, liveaboard nanny etc. to name a few. Hourly rate usually included.
Exchange a few of your hours picking fruits and vegetables for a place to sleep and good healthy food to eat.
If none of these suit your fancy, find a societal need and make up a work exchange of your own.
As modern entrepreneurs, should you so choose to accept the title, we are allowed the freedom of organizing our own businesses in any and all niches we choose. Entrepreneurs have the freedom to expand their skillset in any way they desire and use their own personality to create a business.
As entrepreneurs, we must think outside the box.
We can essentially take any of our talents that would be of service to others and exchange them for hospitality. As long as we come at it from an organized and professional standpoint, be kind and thoughtful in our approach, and follow-through, the work exchange will flow smoothly and successfully… in most cases. There are no guarantees in life 😉
And keep in mind, the follow-through is arguably as important as the work itself. Keeping in touch with past clients can help you land another opportunity with them in the future, and/or help link you to other businesses you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Plus, it just means a lot to people when you remember them.
Here are some workaway package ideas for hotels and hostels worldwide. Please remember to be aware of the laws of the area(s) in which you are exchanging:
~ Create art (murals, fliers, banners, signs, menus, posters, websites, business cards, etc.) for businesses in desperate need of some ambience or online appeal.
~ Write honest business reviews on applicable online pages and/or publish it on your blog.
~ Write vacation guide articles and publish it on your or their website blog.
Check out an example of an area guide here done for a hostel in Colombia.
~ Take professional photos if you have a good camera and if their business photos online (or lack thereof) leave something to be desired.
~ Shoot and/or edit marketing videos for businesses.
~ Translate or edit a hotel or hostel’s restaurant menu in your language.
~ Manage the business’s social media.
~ Write a tour article detailing a description of the excursion they offer. This is a great way to participate in tours at no extra cost.
Example of a tour article here.
~ Be the company’s brand ambassador by partnering with them and helping them spread the word by using your following on social media.
~ Build furniture or technology for businesses still developing.
~ Join a monastery.
Okay, I put this one on here for laughs. Most of us don’t want to be monks. But really, it is an option.
Something a little more “realistic”, though, would be to go on a Vipassana Meditation Retreat, which are completely free across the world. Your meals and accommodation will be taken care of for over a week, while you meditate and transform your mind every single day. Your will is your ticket in and your silence is your rent. This type of commitment changes lives for the better, and it wouldn’t be free to anyone and everyone if it didn’t have a huge impact.
This is not sponsored! Just food for thought 🙂
PRO TIP: Remember to be clear on what you believe your services are worth and what kind of arrangement you are looking for (this was something I skimped on in the beginning and looked a fool as a result). No need to lower the bar on yourself; just lay out what you think your services are honestly worth in exchange for what you are asking.
PRO TIP: It’s important to note that some ideas on this list are worth much more than others, so adjust your “package” accordingly. For example, taking professional photos of a business for their online presence could cost anything, depending on the country, the skill level of yourself and your camera, the specific area you are in, and the business itself.
These are just a number of factors that go into a fair exchange process, so do some organizing and thinking about the value of your skillset before you throw your precious energy into a work exchange situation.
Remember, YOU decide your worth, not your clients. So it is worth picking a number that is resonant with the energy that you put into the skills you are bringing to the table.
PRO TIP: On that note, it’s helpful to have a laid-out and organized document of the work exchange agreement you are offering to potential customers. It’s also extremely helpful to have an added document detailing the exact agreement of the work exchange and what is expected between both parties. This avoids future complications and simply ensures the most professional and thoughtful exchange for everyone involved.
PRO TIP: In this line of work (or almost any, for that matter), you are going to get a lot of “no”s. Remember your worth, learn from the situation, and move on to the next. If a business doesn’t like you or your prices, this is not time to immediately readjust the value of your package! Take criticism, if any, into account and simply be as flexible in your offer as it feels comfortable so that you can meet potential clients in the middle.
Making a living shouldn’t be gear-grinding and uninspiring. This is following your passions we’re talking about here. Work exchange is simply a fun alternative way of traveling to experiment with and maybe even pursue as a lifestyle. Anything we do in life that gives us energy and passion means we’re on the right track, or it wouldn’t feel so damn good in the first place! As Mary Oliver so eloquently puts it:
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Work exchanging is a skill and art in itself. The better we master this art—and if we got better at no other skill but this one—the more we automatically increase our value as entrepreneurs. Work exchange is a powerful thing. Freedom is a powerful thing, which is exactly what is magnified in our lives when we can use our skills and talents as a currency. Where will you go with your own expertise?
Or a better question: Where will your expertise take you?