Express yourself and get paid.
Jobs for the Artistic and Creative Traveler
Street Music Street Performance Street Statues Close-Up Magician Pavement Drawings Caricatures Postcards/Paintings Sand Sculptures Signs and Murals Web Design Self-Publishing Travel Writing Photography DJ Video Blogs Artisans Selling Instruments Kid’s Parties
Street Musicians, (or buskers are they’re commonly known in some parts) practice one of the oldest professions – a close second to prostitution – and still make a living in the modern world, saturated as it is with mass media.
True, the average attention span is about a tenth of what it once was and after a morning spent on the X-Box, with the Ipod playing, a hippy bashing out Blowing in the Wind on a street corner may not make the greatest of impressions.
Still, with most entertainment canned and wired these days, live performance can still touch the hearts (and wallets) of the public and if you’ve got an original act then you can make it in the street.
Check out the Roadjunky Busking Guide for more.
Also Busking resources has some good busking tips.
Can you juggle fire, walk on hot coals or clown around in a red nose? If you can do anything at all that might catch people’s attention, you’ve got the makings of an act.
More important the raw talent itself to make a living out of street performance is the ability to manage a crowd. When people gather together they lose their individuality and merge into an unconscious, meek yet unforgiving entity that a skilled performer can play to his or her benefit. The moment you manage to make a few people stop, others will come by to see what’s happening. Once you start talking to them, most will hang around to see if anything is actually going to happen.
If you’re juggling or swallowing swords and the like, you’re best off starting with simple tricks until the crowd begins to swell. How much money you squeeze out of your audience depends on how many people you can attract before the early arrivals get bored and leave. A great sense of timing is needed.
Make sure you observe the laws of the country, perhaps by laying down a protective rope barrier on the ground and you should choose a spot where your audience won’t cause too much congestion. Keep the crowd interested with plenty of jokes and interaction. As long as you look relaxed and confident, your audience will also feel at ease and be more receptive to your show.
Your act need last only ten minutes or so – or at least the build up to your one big trick should last that long before you hit everyone up for cash. DON’T ask for their spare change as that’s what you’ll get. Request generous helpings of banknotes and make strong eye contact so no one sneaks away without giving. The use of a beautiful assistant to collect can be invaluable here.
All across the world there are hotels, conventions and private parties that pay big bucks to singers, musicians, belly dancers and other performers. You might only have to stand up on stage for 3 minutes to make a couple of hundred bucks.
The key is to getting a few agents to find work for you. They’ll be taking their commission and so have every interest to tout your skills twirling fire-sticks or dancing. Particularly in South East Asia, gigs will include the cost of a flight and accommodation and at times like New Year you could make in the region of $800 for a single performance.
An alternative are the fixed gigs at hotels where you’ll perform every night and live in a nice room in the meantime. The money isn’t quite as good as the one-off events but the work is steady.
Have you ever walked through a public square somewhere and almost had a heart attack as a stone statue suddenly turned its head to look at you? Well, you too, could be a human statue and make money by standing still for very long periods of time.
To do statue work it’s crucial to get your appearance right. You need to invest in some quality body paint and put considerable effort and thought into a unique appearance that will dazzle the passers by. One of the best we’ve seen was a statue in Barcelona all dusted in white who sat on an old toilet bowl reading a newspaper – each time someone dropped money in his hat he pretended to make a bowel movement.
Then it’s a case of finding a good spot and standing very still. If your act is too good or no money falls in your hat for a while, start slowly pointing at passers by to attract some attention. After that, only reward them with movement for each donation.
Wiki Living Statues
Whilst magicians can also play to large crowds, there’s not always the opportunity for that and some quick cash can be made by doing close-up magic at restaurant tables or park benches. A traditional magician’s suit will gain their confidence and most people can’t resist trying to spot the trick behind your tricks.
Choose people who look like they’re in a good mood – couples on a date are usually a good bet, especially if the guy looks like he wants to impress his girl with a generous donation afterwards. Families with kids are also good subjects as the children often get involved before the parents can object.
Obviously, you need to know how to do magic and this can involve considerable time and energy. But once you have some tricks up your sleeve then you have a way to make money for life, anywhere, any time.
Pavement or sidewalk art has gone quite out of fashion in recent years but it can still draw a good hat provided it’s not a rainy day. You need to be a proficient artist able to work on a large scale with chalks and you need a cooperative surface with a good deal of pedestrian traffic.
People will stop and watch as you create your temporary masterpiece so leave your hat out with the bait (a few coins and notes) from the moment you start sketching. Feel free to add and adjust to the picture as the day goes on and remind the public that you’re the artist.
Even if you don’t make a fortune you’re making the world a more beautiful place to live.
If you’ve got the knack of doing quick pencil or pen portraits of people’s faces then consider setting up with a couple of chairs and an easel in your nearest public square. Adorn your stand with previous portraits to demonstrate your skill and wait for customers to turn up – you can state your price on a board if you want but you might do better estimating the wealth of each new arrival and pricing accordingly.
You can work in a cartoon style, exaggerating people’s features to comic effect or else do fine line portraits. Tourists and locals alike are usually pleased to take away a portrait of themselves, it’s something personal and original in an age of digitised images.
It’s tough for an artist to get by selling his or her work. Until you get a name for yourself and hold your own exhibition, you’re likely to be ignored by the mainstream art world.
There’s nothing to stop you from taking your work to the street, however and selling direct to the public. Just laying out your portraits against a wall creates a stall effect and if you can turn out some quick pieces to accompany your masterpieces you can accommodate to all wallet sizes.
On the road another option is to design postcards or T-shirts and sell these to other travelers. If you can come up with something funny or topical that captures the essence of a place then you could be on to a good thing. An example would be the infamous Tintin In Goa T-shirts that displayed Tintin running police roadblocks on his motorbike, or as an acid casualty being led to the embassy by a resolute Captain Haddock.
Sculptors can apply the same tricks as painters and artists but as their work typically takes longer to produce (unless you’re adept at making figurines from torn tin cans or paper), an alternative option is to learn to sculpt sand.
Naturally, you need to be next to a beach and preferably one with a promenade where thousands pass each day. Sculpt the sand to resemble famous people, lovers or palaces and then hit up the passers by.
If you’re lucky then neither the tide or the drunks at night won’t quite have demolished your handicraft by the following day.
Whilst trying to make money around the world, always bear in mind that every other small business is trying to do the same. Maybe you can help them do so with an image makeover.
Any business that you see with an unimpressive sign could do with the help of a professional sign painter or muralist – walk in, inform them that they’re missing out on custom with their current set up and offer your services.
Hostels, cafes and night clubs also need internal décor done to encourage custom and you can charge healthy rates to paint murals on the walls, tables and floors. Original art is worth paying for and you’re typically worth as much as you charge. Don’t undervalue yourself.
There’s no real reason why web designers need to stay at home to work any more. Whilst it can be good to talk through projects with customers, Skype now offers the chance to conference online for free from anywhere in the world. You can both be looking at the mock designs on a web page and making changes without being in the same room.
All you need is a laptop and to be on the road somewhere with a viable net connection when you need one. Work can be sourced from http://www.craigslist.com or other freelance work websites and hey presto, you have one traveling professional. Plus, one gig at prices back home may well be enough to live for a month in, say, Indonesia.
No writer or poet worth their salts should ever go hungry. You can order a small print run of your work at low cost and walk around markets, cafes and beaches selling your work on your charisma alone. Make sure that you get an eye-catching cover and if you sell each book or pamphlet for 5-10 times the cost of production you can get by.
The disadvantage is that piles of books are heavy and may limit just how far you can travel with all your merchandise in tow. Then once you’ve found your base, it can get pretty tedious flogging your art and answering the same old questions time and time again.
At least you’re doing something original, though. Your work may touch people and you’ll get read, which is more than your manuscript was doing before in the slush pile of an inundated publishing house.
At the very least you can always use your book as a kind of currency, exchanging it for food, drinks or shelter.
Another option is to publish your book through Lulu.com, a print on demand service that will produce, post and receive the money for your book online. You send them the file and cover image and then people can buy via the site – Lulu sends you a check once every few months.
Half the backpackers on the road who can spell consider themselves travel writers in the making. They keep feverish journals and dream that one day they might be sent off to distant corners of the world to report back to a fascinated public, too timid to venture to such exotic place.
The daydream ends just about when you realise that you have no idea how to turn that pile of battered notebooks or random Microsoft Word files into money.
Read the Roadjunky Travel Writing Guide to find out how.
Travelwriters.com – might get you a start.
A picture may be worth a thousand words but taking one that’s worth a thousand bucks is a whole other story. In the digital age anyone can take a photo but supplying professional needs is a whole other story.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t learn though. Digital cameras do afford the traveler the luxury of practice and you can now try to get that ultimate sunrise picture a thousand times in a row. Investing in good equipment and taking the odd course will speed you along your way, as well as hundreds of hours of practice and immersing yourself in the work of the masters, learning to appreciate what makes great travel photos. The National Geographic isn’t a bad place to start.
Learning to sell your work is another challenge in itself. Until you get a name for yourself it’s hard to get commissions but you may get a break simply by being in the right place at the right time – war zones, disaster areas and festivals are a good place to start.
Pester editors and build up your own website so that you look more professional and don’t be afraid to give images away to showcase your work. In time the first commissions may come rolling in. Until then see if you can build a website of such depth and coverage of a country that it becomes a resource all in itself.
Travelphotographers.net – loads of good articles on the trials and tribulations etc
A popular DJ can slouch around on the beach all month, occasionally heading to the internet café to download some new tunes and then head off to one full moon party, earn 1000 bucks and be back by sunset the next day.
Becoming a DJ that can live this kind of lifestyle is another matter. You can start though by listening to as much music as you possibly can and keeping careful notes on all that you listen to. Build up a collection of music that appeals to you and hang around with other DJ’s to learn what’s new and coming.
The world of DJ’s is full of ego and nepotism and a word from someone established might be enough to give you your break playing to a big crowd in a club, rave or bar. Failing that, offer your services for free to establishments and the response of the crowd may be enough for them to consider paying you to stay on.
The internet is entering the video era and there’s a world of opportunities for amateur film makers and documenters. Sites like youtube and revvers host your videos for free but they can still be watched by embedding them on your own site.
The actual monetisation of video is still evolving but whilst the net is still in its virgin video days, it’s an amazing time to carve out your own space in the market. You could become, for example, the first person to say, produce video diaries of the backpacker scene in Thailand.
2 or 3 minute docs that catch on can become viral, attracting millions of views within days and establishing you as a name in the video world – if you have a website that can translate to vast revenue through advertising and adsense.
If you can make jewelry or ornaments out of string, wood, jewels or cloth then you can sell them. You can either set up your blanket stall in public places, walk around with your produce or else peddle it anywhere else you see fit.
A good bet is to make things that people can wear to make themselves feel more beautiful and the higher price you set on your work the more valuable people will consider it – they’ve little else to compare it to.
While you’re waiting for customers to come along you can be busy making more items for sale and, if you make a public show out of blowing glass or making origami ducks, then you might even attract a small crowd.
There are a number of instruments which are still virtually unknown in the Western world and if you can learn to play one of them well, then you can also sell them in the street. Combining the elements of performance and business, you can attract potential customers and then give them a lesson with their purchase.
Examples might include making your own didgeridoos out of plastic tubes, painting them and then selling each one for 50 bucks – it will only cost you 5 to make each one. Alternatively, you could buy 100 pairs of panpipes and run little workshops on the street – once you’ve invested energy teaching someone to play they’re far more likely to actually buy a set.
If there’s one area of people’s lives where you can guarantee they’ll spend money, it’s their kids. So when one of the little ones has a birthday or wants to celebrate Christmas with friends, their parents will happily pay performers to come in and make a go of it.
You don’t need to have any talents in particular, the important thing is that you know how to keep 20 hyperactive, sugar-intoxicated kids happy for two or three hours. Arrive with a bunch of games for them to play, prizes for the winners and loads and loads of enthusiasm.
Your basic task is to arrange activities, games, contests and anything that might keep the attention of the kids from bothering the adults sipping their beers in the next room. You need to keep the atmosphere upbeat and get all the kids involved so that they talk about the party long enough that their parents will end up hiring you.
Place announcements on every notice board in town and if you’re still not getting any calls, make up some fliers and give them out to parents picking up their kids from school. Like all performance, this is cash in hand.