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Part Two of a two-part series. Read Part One here.
In my article Why I Quit My Job and Moved Into an RV, I wrote about leaving my job as a middle school English teacher in search of a career that would give me more freedom and flexibility, and I told how my husband Josiah also went from working a desk job to working from home as freelance web designer/developer. And, I explained how we decided to try to start a business investing in commercial real estate, move to Kansas City, and live in a fifth wheel RV (stationary, because we didn't have a truck).
We spent the rest of 2016 giving one hundred percent to our goal of becoming commercial real estate investors. Writing that sentence feels a bit ironic to me now, given that we had (literally) no money to invest. It would really be more accurate to say we were trying to become “real estate entrepreneurs”–or something like that. Our plan (what the real estate course we paid for was teaching us to do) was to find a good deal on an apartment and syndicate its purchase using funds from multiple investors. But at the time, I would have said we were working to become real estate investors.
We traveled to Nashville, Washington D.C., and twice to Boston to attend training and networking events. We attended local real estate meet-ups and toured apartments for sale. Josiah had phone calls and lunches with brokers, property managers, and potential investors, and I crunched numbers in spreadsheets and try to find properties that seemed like they might bring good returns to our potential investors. I had never done anything like that before, but I really enjoyed working from home on my laptop–on my own schedule–as a change from teaching.
I really enjoyed working from home on my laptop, on my own schedule, as a change from teaching.
The only problem was, we weren't finding any apartment deals that seemed safe enough to invest in–or rather, to invest other people's money in. Additionally, the more we learned, the more we found out how much we had yet to learn about the world of commercial real estate. Even though we had made some good contacts and learned a lot as a result of our real estate training program, we began to wonder if we were really on the right track. Also, time was running out, because Josiah's freelance web development project with a financial tech company in Philadelphia was wrapping up, and after that we were going to need some other source of income to pay the bills. We had hoped we would have our first real estate deal by then, but it wasn't looking too likely.
In November we nervously placed our first offer on an apartment complex in a rural community–the only one we had managed to find that we felt we could get good returns on….and it was rejected. Not only was it rejected, but I think the owner was actually offended by our low offer, which we'd come to based margins we had been taught were safe.
In December, Josiah met a seasoned real estate investor who offered some timely wisdom that gave us pause. He encouraged Josiah to slow down and take time to figure out exactly where he fit in the real estate industry, and to honestly ask himself what value he was providing in exchange for what he wanted in return. He told Josiah he admired his drive and determination to succeed, and that if Josiah had come to him as a technology expert selling software, he would've bought it in a heartbeat!
He encouraged Josiah to honestly ask himself what value he was providing in exchange for what he wanted in return.
We let this sink in. Maybe the time wasn't right for our investing business. Maybe it would be better to first spend some time working in the industry in other capacities. Maybe Josiah could even build some sort of technology solution for real estate, like this investor had suggested.
We discussed this with our real estate business coach. He was supportive and encouraged us to follow whatever opportunities presented themselves, and this was the confirmation we needed. In January of 2017, we decided to put our real estate business on hold. Josiah accepted a web development position at a local marketing agency which would require him to work with a team at a local office. For the time being, we would be staying in Kansas City.
With each new web development job, Josiah had asked for a higher hourly wage, and with his job in Kansas City, for the first time since we had been married we were able to pay for our monthly expenses with just one income (even though our expenses were actually higher living in our RV than they'd been when lived in our house!).
I wasn't sure what my next step would be, but in the meantime, I decided I would make use of the gift of free time that had suddenly been given me by doing some of the things I'd always wished I had time to do when I was teaching: I discovered Ashtanga yoga and started attending classes 3-4 times per week; I made some changes in my diet and started cooking more healthy meals at home; and, since I'd often thought about learning to play the cello so I could accompany Josiah when he played the piano or guitar, I rented an instrument and started taking lessons.
Like many RV owners, I was also spending a lot of my relaxation time looking at RV Facebook groups like RV Interior Ideas. I frequently found myself sharing ideas with other group members. For example, someone would post a picture of their bathroom and ask, “Where can I store our towels?” and I would offer suggestions and link to helpful organizational products.
I began to notice that some of the questions were asked over and over, only to become lost in the group's feed: “How do I paint RV cabinets?” “Can I replace my dining booth with a table and chairs?” “Where do cat owners who live in RVs store the litter box?” “Can I see some pictures from people who replaced their RV's factory window decor?” I started thinking it would be nice if there was a centralized resource for people to find this kind of information…and that's when I came up with the idea of creating RV Inspiration.
I started thinking it would be nice if there was a centralized resource for people to find this kind of information.
I had never built a website before, but fortunately I knew a great web developer (my husband, in case you haven't been following along!) with tons of experience who was able to help me set up a website in WordPress. I started writing articles in March of 2017 with the goal of writing 16 articles before launching my website publicly (so my website would have plenty of content when people started visiting it). In June of 2017, my site went live and RV Inspiration was officially born.
Blogging turned out to be a lot more work than I would have ever realized, and not just because of the writing! I found out that running a blog for business was actually just as much or more about marketing as it was about publishing blog posts! Fortunately, I discovered a wonderful and supportive community by connecting with other RV bloggers, and by collaborating with some of them was able to progress much more quickly than I would have on my own.
It took a full year of work before my website was making enough money just to pay for the monthly cost of running it. But finally, as of this month (June 2018), RV Inspiration is finally earning what can be considered an actual income, and by fall, we should be able to pay our bills with just my blog income if needed and not have to depend on Josiah's earnings. (At some point I plan to write an article or series of articles that go more in-depth about my blogging journey. If that's something you're interested in, subscribe to my email list and I will be sure to let you know when I do!)
Back to Josiah's part of the story–
Working for the company in Kansas City as part of a large team of developers ended up providing Josiah with experience that would be crucial to his future as a technology entrepreneur.
By working with people who were the best in their field, building websites that had no room for error (his first project with this company was for Sprint.com, and his second was for Ford Motor Company), Josiah was constantly pushing past the limit of his ability, but by remaining positive even when faced with tough challenges, he earned a position of leadership.
I want to point out here, for those who might be feeling like it's too late to start a career in technology, Josiah doesn't have a degree in computer science. He took a few basic coding classes in his first year of college (and I think a lot of the course material went over his head), and he actually dropped out of college and worked for several years in an unrelated field. He only started seriously learning to code in 2014 after setting up a website for his uncle's small business, which I explained in my last article.
Josiah's self-education in web development was fueled by unwavering commitment to his dream of owning his own businesses, working from home or wherever he wanted, and earning the financial freedom and time freedom that would enable him to pursue his other passions.
Josiah's self-education was fueled by unwavering commitment to his dream of owning his own businesses, working from home or wherever he wanted, and earning the financial freedom and time freedom that would enable him to pursue his other passions.
Toward the end of 2017, Josiah decided to return to the idea of building software for the real estate industry–and now he had the coding skills he needed to do it. He wasn't sure what to build, but he leveraged his networking skills (practiced during our year as “real estate investors”) and ended up connecting with a couple of (actual) commercial real estate investors in need of a software solution who were happy to tell him what to build.
After a few months of long weekends and early mornings building the software before and after his day job, one of those investors offered to partner with him, which meant in exchange for equity in Josiah's new company, Josiah would receive a salary and work directly with the investor out of his Dallas office while finishing the product. So in April of this year (2018), Josiah resigned from his job in Kansas City, and we paid someone to haul our fifth wheel to an RV park in Aubrey, Texas–our first move as digital nomads!
Taking the first steps toward our business and lifestyle goals required courage. We frequently questioned the wisdom of the choices we were making–and if we had it to do over again, I'm sure we'd do some things differently. Our path wasn't as linear as we had imagined. Although we love living in our fifth wheel and buying an RV is not part of the story we would change, we didn't expect that we would spend years parked in the same location!
We also didn't just throw caution to the wind and risk everything haphazardly. We weighed possible consequences and planned and prepared as best we could. But at the end of the day, it took a leap of faith, and without that, we never would have had the opportunities we'e had. By first putting forth our own effort to create the life we wanted, and not just once, but consistently over time, more options have become available to us. And we're finally starting to see the fruit of our labor, as the lifestyle we've been working toward–a life lived on our terms–is starting to take shape.
Also…plot twist! At the end of 2018, after 9 months in Texas, we were finally both able to work remotely, so we decided to return to Springfield “for a few months” in our RV…and ended up liking it so much we've decided to make it our official home base! We plan to downsize our RV and have rented a house in the meantime. You can read more details in my blog post, “What We Did and Didn't Like About Living in an RV Full Time”.
I'm finding that a lot of people share the dream my husband I have: to live a life of freedom and purpose, and to have a job that's flexible enough to support that.
Resources for finding remote work or starting a remote business
I'm finding that a lot of people share the dream my husband I have: to live a life of freedom and purpose, and to have a job that's flexible enough to support that. If that's you, I encourage you to check out this remote work resource page I've put together: