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Have you ever dreamt of taking your product business on the road with you while you travel full time in an RV? It can be an exciting prospect to have the freedom to travel full time and still make money. But running a product business on the road comes with unique challenges that require some creative problem-solving and forward planning.
Here are a few tips to help make it possible and things to consider before you hit the road:
The con to having a product based business, unlike a digital nomad who doesn't have a physical product is that you need to actually ship things. If you use a third-party fulfillment center then there isn't anything to worry about because they will ship and receive returns for you. If you plan to run your business from the road, shipping the products yourself as you travel to different locations, one of the most important things you’ll need is a reliable shipping system.
You’ll need a shipping program or system something that allows you to print labels and track shipments quickly and easily no matter where you are. The other thing to consider with this that your SHIPPING location will likely be different than your RETURN location if a package gets shipped back or a customer needs to return the product. ShipStation is an excellent option for this, first off because it works with major carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL so you can find the best rates for wherever you’re shipping from and to. This will allow your customer to select whichever career they prefer but also allow you to go to the nearest carrier near your location. ShipStation allows you to continuously change the SHIP FROM location and have a different return address. The other bonus of Shipstation is that if you are on multiple platforms such as Faire, Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, etc ALL of the orders come into one central location.
The return address brings you to another thing to think about when considering how to run your product business on the road. What is your home state? And will you continue to keep that state? Will you domicile? Domicile is a legal term that refers to the one state where you permanently reside, or where you intend to return and establish residency. Some fulltime travelers keep their home or continue to own property in their state and so nothing changes for them with regards to their address. You could use this address for your return shipping address if someone will be taking care of your mail.
But if you do sell everything and don't own property in the state you can consider a domicile state and become a resident of a new state. Which ever state you chose, you will need to re-locate your business there. Definitely do your research with all of these requirements but things to consider licenses, permits in the state, and registered agents.
If you domicile in a state, you can use mail services that are for fulltime RV travelers like Escapees, Good Sam Mail Service, UPS mailbox and more. Our fulltime travel family uses, Escapees Mail Service. They manage our mail, remove any junk mail and hold packages until we want them forwarded to our location. I use this mailbox address which is our domicile address for return packages.
Your home state or domicile state leads into another key factor in running a successful product business while on the road which is taxes. No matter where you’re located geographically, if you’re selling products online then you must collect sales tax in every state in which your customers reside pending the threshold and nexus requirements. This means consulting with a CPA or other financial expert who specializes in online selling laws for each state in which you do business. This can not only save time but also ensure that all applicable taxes are collected responsibly and accurately reported each quarter or year end. If you plan to sell at in-person shows as you travel the country you will need to get the state's sales tax permits.
Finally, when running a product business while on the road, it’s important to figure out how packages will get delivered while traveling from place to place. Many campgrounds or RV resorts allow you to have the packages shipped to them. This is definitely something to call ahead and double check before either booking a reservation or shipping items. If you are looking to travel and be more off the grid, many post offices offer package hold services where you can have your packages held at the post office.
Other ways of receiving packages while traveling fulltime would be using friends/family address or Amazon locker if allowed by a carrier.
If you travel frequently, the logistics of receiving packages can be a bit nerve-wrecking, especially around the holidays when there are delays. However it is TOTALLY possible, look ahead at your schedule, slow down your travels when you need supplies or to receive shipments and make you dream of traveling and running a business happen.
You need a website that is easy to use. I have used Shopify from the start of b.e.happe and I wouldn't use anything else. It is a robust website that allows you to bulk edit products, an app that I use 95% of the time, and the customer service is amazing if you ever need assistance. There is a chat feature so that customers can reach out to you via your website and a blog section!
Shopify also links to shipstation so all your orders will be there!
WiFi on the road is a big topic in the full time travel community. There certainly are a lot more options these days as compared to 3.5 years ago when we started traveling. We prefer to stay at campgrounds and resorts that have amenities such as Wi-Fi, however you can not trust that it will be a strong connection. I have a Verizon hotsport through a Verizon Small Business account. In the 27 states that we have traveled to and through I have never had any issues with it not working. When we plan to different locations of the country we check how the coverage with carriers is near that location so that we have an idea on how Wi-Fi will be.
Obviously there are some product businesses that would be harder than others to run on the road. For example, a pottery business versus yarn or knit hat business. The raw materials for both of these businesses will be different. However if you are running a product business from the road and shipping from the road you will need the basics to start with.
To weigh your products you will need a shipping scale. This one from Amazon, that I use can hold 200+ lbs and it's compact! The Dymo printer was an item that I invested in and it has been a lifesaver! If you are a product based business, buy the label printer. You don't have to wait in line at the Post Office, you print the labels on the Dymo via Shipstation or your website host and attach them to the packages. The Dymo 4XL is a thermal printer so there's no need for ink! The labels that the Dymo 4XL are easy to find online or in store.
Running a product business on the road definitely comes with its own unique set of challenges—but with some creative problem-solving skills and careful planning ahead, it can be done successfully! Use these tips as guidelines for setting yourself up for success when managing a product business remotely so that it runs smoothly without any hiccups along the way! With these strategies in hand plus some dedication and hard work, success is sure to follow!
This blog post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission should you chose to sign up for a program or make a purchase using my link. It's okay- I love all of these companies and use these products, and you will too!