For years, I had a dream of being able to to run my own company while traveling the world with my family. My husband and I would sit up late at night poring over spreadsheets to figure how out how much my business idea, a marketing and branding consulting business focused on helping women entrepreneurs, would have to earn in order for us to make the leap and quit our 9-to-5s.
We knew that on a basic level we needed to bring in around $4,500 per month to cover our monthly credit card payments, amenities, and gas, taking into consideration that we would be selling our house and cars.
In January of 2016, one month after my son was born, I launched my business, Brandmerry. I spent the next eight months growing my company to the point where I could leave my 9-to-5 working in the communications department of the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
By September 2017, I had achieved my first annual revenue of six figures. And in 2019, we were able to hit the road.
Since we headed out, we have lived in California, Florida, up and down the East Coast, and quite a few of the national parks, including Grand Teton National Park and North Cascades National Park. In total we've lived in 33 states and visited 14 national parks, most recently Olympic National Park in Washington state.
If you're a solopreneur, business owner, or just interested in RVs, I'm here to tell you that you can lead a nomadic lifestyle and succeed in your career. If time, location, and financial freedom are important to you, don't wait. If my husband and I had waited, then we would have risked never doing it at all.
Here's how we got started and my best advice.
In 2018, two years after launching my business, our family experienced some losses that were the wake- up call we needed to start living the lives we wanted. My mother-in-law passed away from cancer. It hit us hard, especially after losing my grandmother unexpectedly earlier in the year. The two losses also brought up the grief of losing my brother to cancer in 2009.
We realized that life is short and nothing is guaranteed. It was time to expedite our dream. We sold our house, my husband left his job to care for our son full-time, and we bought our RV.
Video by Courtney Stith
Our top financial goal has been to pay off our debt from student loans, home and car payments, as well as about $30,000 in credit card debt. By the end of this year, thanks to the success of my business and how we've been able to reduce our cost of living, we are on track to pay off our credit card debt. By my calculations, clearing that debt will have shortened our overall payoff timetable by at least 10 years.
While our debt wasn't the sole reason we embarked on our RV lifestyle, our ultimate goal is financial freedom, which to us means being debt-free, being able to invest in stocks and investment property, and mostly, to be able to live the life we want without any money worries.
We learned early on that full-time travel can be expensive. You can spend a lot of money going to RV parks, close to $500 a week. We found the costs added up quickly. The solution was to start boondocking, a concept we learned about from following other RVers on Instagram and YouTube.
Boondocking is essentially camping on public land off the grid. It's typically free or you can stay at state parks for as little as $10 a night, sometimes with water and electricity. Not only was this decision the most cost-effective, but we get to live in the most beautiful settings, surrounded by nature, something we love.
In the early days of building my business remotely, I'd forget to do my research ahead of time to make sure I'd have access to Wi-Fi and cell reception. I made a few mistakes along the way. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to hop on a call when I needed to or I'd go weeks without conducting a livestream. I learned how to account for the unexpected, using apps like FreeRoam and Campendium, which map out cell service locations if you are boondocking.
But technology is only one part of the equation. I also need to plan my work schedule well in advance, so that I'm achieving maximum productivity for my business. This means using travel days to delve into more intense, "deep work" projects while my husband drives, as well as batch scheduling the tasks that need to be done.
If we are going to be in a city with strong Wi-Fi for a few days, I know that means it's time to get to work. I'll pick these days to record several videos for my membership community Brandmerry Academy, schedule client conversations, and write my e-newsletters for the month. By doing this, I can step away for a few days to explore a location with my family and be fully present, rather than constantly checking my phone.
Since starting to travel full time, my business revenue has doubled, my monthly cash revenue has doubled, and I've introduced two new products and services. Within the last year, I've had 78,000 unique visitors to my website, which is a 207% increase from the previous year. This year I am also on track to pay myself a six-figure salary.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
In our RV, my husband, son, and I now share a small living space. That means I have to set very strong boundaries with them, as hard as that may be. One way we make this work is by having a shared calendar.
My husband knows when all of my calls are, as well as my designated working days. He knows these are the pockets of time where I need to be laser focused on my business objectives, and that means no interruptions.
My son was quick to adapt, perhaps even quicker than my husband, as I had already spent the first three years of his life working with him by my side.
Another factor that I didn't originally consider was how my existing wellness routine would translate to full-time travel. It's important to schedule time to move my body daily, whether that means working out in the RV or activities like hiking and kayaking, something that wasn't normally accessible in our city life in St. Louis.
We also have to think about where the nearest grocery store is. Are we staying in a location where there are healthy eatery options available or just a sprinkling of fast food chains on a highway? We often pack our cooler with healthy lunches and snacks for long travel days to a new location.
For me, this kind of planning is key because without strong physical and mental health, we aren't able to enjoy what this lifestyle has to offer.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
If I had to compare who I was before we started traveling to the person I am today, there is no comparison. I realize now that I used to put entirely too much pressure on myself. I would feel so stressed about whether my business would survive if I didn't post on Instagram everyday, or if I didn't conduct a frequent livestream.
But once we were on the road, I implemented changes to my marketing that allow me to step away, while still growing my online community and making sales in my business. I put more emphasis on search engine optimization and relying on Google to drive traffic to make sure my website was ranked when people searched for my services. I also started putting more time and money towards Pinterest as a way to keep my content alive longer.
I stopped putting so much emphasis on Facebook and Instagram to grow my business, transitioned to a more evergreen business model which includes SEO, blogging, and Pinterest, as well as Facebook ads.
And my audience gets it. If they don't hear from me on social media for a day or two, or six, they know exactly why that is. It's because I'm out living. My lifestyle is woven into the mission of my business. By removing the pressure of showing up for that standard 9-to-5 window, a rule I never liked subscribing to, I've become more creative, passionate, and productive.
Having taken that pressure off my shoulders, I want to help other women entrepreneurs to do the same. I encourage you to give yourself the space to prioritize experiences over hustling for hustling's sake. Start focusing on what you want to do rather than what you "should" do. A life of "shoulds" is not a life I'm going to live, and you don't have to either.
Michelle Knight is a mother, wife, world traveler, and storyteller. She is also a personal brand coach and marketing strategist and the founder of Brandmerry.com. She works with female entrepreneurs to create an authentic, captivating and money-making brand through the power of story. In nine months, Michelle launched her freedom-based business and left her 9-to-5 while raising a new baby. One year into her coaching business, Michelle created a six-figure business.
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