I've decided to find and create the ultimate list of workcamping job resources. Feel free to comment with any resources you're aware of, so we can truly make this a go-to resource for full-time travelers to turn to. Together, we can help a lot of people!
This will be updated when new resources are available. So help me help you so we can help each other help others!
The Facebook Post That Sent Me Searching
Last night, someone posted to the "Full-Time RVers" Facebook page that prompted me to search workamping resources and help people find "good deals".
This was her post:
"I have a question for those who workamping, I've applied for a workamping job for the first time, they are offering $9.50 an hour and $2.00 credit for every hour worked towards site rent. The site is $600 a month. Is that how it usually works? Is it a good deal? Never did this before so would love input!"
The vast majority of people said "No! This is not a good deal!" Most followed up with comments like, "the campsite should be free!" or "you shouldn't have to pay taxes on workamping income!" As a financial planner, this sent me on a tailwind spin.
Based on various threads I've read over the past year, I was under the impression that most workamping positions simply offered a free place to stay and required 15-20 hours of work per week. And even if they were paid positions, it wasn't enough money to earn a living.
Many said that because the $2 credit didn't fully pay for the site, it wasn't a good deal. However, it seemed to me that it was just a technicality. Because the $2 credit wouldn't fully pay for her site even if she worked 40 hours per week, she would essentially be earning $11.50 per hour.
So I did the math. Asssuming 20% in taxes and a $600 campsite fee, she would be taking home about $7.75 per hour after site fees if she worked 40 hours. If she worked 30 hours, she would be taking home about $6.50. No rent and somewhere between $6.50 and $7.75 sounded like a pretty decent deal to me!
I think it's worth noting that workamping jobs normally don't pay enough to earn a full-time living or support a family. Workamping is designed to be cheap wages for the campground owner and provide cheap living expenses for the worker.
My Personal Workamping Experience
The Facebook post got me thinking about my current position as the campground host at Stone Mountain Park.
I get paid $9.00 an hour and I have to pay $250 in rent. This is a $500 discount off retail. Since the campground fees are such a high priority, I wanted to find out what the real value of my workcamping position was. There are 2 different ways to look at this.
The first way is to look at at what I'm taking home after campground fees. In my case, I'd essentially be earning $5.88 per hour if I worked 20 hours per week. If I worked 30 hours per week, I'd be making $6.91 per hour. And if I worked 40 hours per week, I'd be making $7.44 per hour.
($9.00 per hour * monthly hours worked) - site fees / monthly hours worked
The second way to calculate this is to look at the discount as income. After saving $500 for the site, I'd be earning $15.25 per hour if I worked 20 hours, $13.17 if I worked 30 hours, and $12.13 if I worked 40 hours per week.
($9.00 per hour * monthly hours worked) + discount on site fees / monthly hours worked
Typically, people want to think they're getting a good deal, so they'll calculate using whatever method makes them feel best. However, although the $500 discount off my site is nice, there's no way we'd be paying $750 per month when we can drive 10 miles down the road and pay $450 per month somewhere else.
The discount on your campground site doesn't mean you're saving if you could camp somehwere else cheaper. But this is the formula people like to use because it makes them feel better about working for less.
Diving a Little Deeper
I was shocked by the responses to the original Facebook post but I only had my wages to compare with. So, I dug a little deeper and asked the same Facebook group another question.
"A recent post has got me curious about workcamping wages and discounts. If you've ever workcamped, how much did you get paid, how many hours did you work, how much was the site discounted, and where did you work?"
Out of 30 comments (which I know doesn't carry too much weight), about half were working between 10 and 20 hours per week for no wages and a free campsite. Most were taking home somewhere between $6 and $8 after deducting site fees.
The small percentage on both sides of the "paid" bell curve were as follows: On the low end, you had a few people making well under minimum wage; most between $4 - $6 an hour after factoring in campsite fees. And on the high end, you had a few who had free camping PLUS they were earning between $10 and $11 per hour.
So What Should You Look For?
When it comes to workcamping, you want to make sure it fits your lifestyle. For some people, flexibility and minimal work is the biggest priority. For others, they'd like to earn an income as well.
Most of the state parks and national forests are set up as volunteer programs. You volunteer your time and in exchange, you can stay on site for free. The work is minimal and normally it's for 3 to 6 months at a time. You stay for free, work for free, and you're typically not taxed on earnings. When you're finished with your term, you simply move to the next location.
With paid positions, you're typically an independent contractor (1099 employee) or you're on their payroll (w-2 employee). For these positions, you want to make sure you're earning a competitive wage.
Based on the Facebook comments, a competitive wage is between minimum wage and $11 per hour after deducting your campsite fees (if applicable). These positions are less flexible, normally requiring longer term commitments or an indefinite commitment. Typically, hours are longer and the work is more demanding.
Sidebar: A lot of campgrounds will offer you a "package" deal where a certain dollar amount or time goes to pay for your campsite. For example, campgrounds may offer $9 an hour and an additional $2.50 per hour that's credited to your campsite fees. Or, the first 15 hours of every week goes to pay for your campground fees.
In some cases, campgrounds will also offer a bonus for completing a contract. For example, after fullfilling your 6 month committment, we'll give you a bonus of 10% of total paid wages.
These are great incentives. However, don't let the complexity of the package fool you. Based on the Facebook comments, these "packages" often sounded good but they often paid less than a competitive wage. That said, work the numbers carefully.
Always remember, when it comes to paid positions, the real value is how much you're taking home. Don't let discounts and park passes determine whether you accept the gig. While those perks are nice, it doesn't always equate to the same monetary value you might find elsewhere.
List of Workcamping Resources
I will update this list as people comment and share their ideas, but here is what I have so far:
RVmobilemarketing.com (treat your RV like a billboard)
FBO.gov (paid government)