The Truth About Making Money Off Grid: What Nobody Wants to Tell You


For over 10 years I bought into the idea that I could live off grid on my homestead and pay for it off of the efforts I made on my property.  I sold eggs, grew microgreens for market, I even tried out a CSA for a while.  I lost money on every single venture.

For most people living Off Grid, the money they earn comes from having a job off site that brings in the income to support the Homestead.  Those coming into Homesteading with a background in business and marketing tend to be more successful with building an income on the property than others.

I spent a lot of those early years augmenting my income with local landscaping jobs.  Which is great!  I already had the tools and know how.  Getting paid to do other people’s landscapes seemed like a perfect fit.  Plus, it was an easy way to get free plants.

However, I wanted to make the income from home thing work.  So I buckled down and got to work.  Here is what I came up with after 18 years of trying, failing and finding success.


Related: After 15 years of trying, I have finally found a way to make money from my Off Grid Homestead, by blogging about it! Don’t believe me? Check out Jim & Ricky from IncomeSchool.com. Without them, I’d still be lost in a sea of blogs.

INCOME SCHOOLOpens in a new tab.


Invest In Yourself

This may not be easy for some people to hear, but let’s just cut to the chase.  You do not have what it takes to be successful to make money on your Off Grid Homestead.  There is something each and every one of us needs to learn.

If you come to this lifestyle with a business and marketing background, you’re going to have to learn a little something about swinging a hammer or growing some vegetables.  If you are a skilled handyman and competent grower of plants, you’re going to need to learn business and marketing skills.

That is something I wish I knew earlier on in my worklife.  I was SO into permaculture and the dream of starting a permaculture homestead where I would teach courses, sell some veggies and honey, maybe some nursery plants and feed my livelihood that way.  No one talked about how important business skills actually were to make that happen.

It wasn’t until I found someone living the way I wanted to live who opened my eyes towards success.  I learned 3 principles that I still hold with me today.

  • Seek out at least 5 other people whose skills you would like to replicate.  Ask for their mentorship. Learn from successful people.  I know this sounds cliche but it WORKS!

    I have a mentor who is a successful farmer and nurseryman, another mentor who runs a million dollar business and offers financial advice, a friend who is teaching me all about Youtube and someone else who is amazing at marketing.  Not only do they help guide me, they inspire me to keep pushing.
  • Always Be Learning.  I have studied business organization, marketing concepts, financial literacy, how to edit videos, ways to write blog posts, advanced Permaculture techniques and so on.  Learning about a variety of things rather than honing in on one will give you more skills to succeed.
  • Build Time Management and Self Motivation.  This takes a strong mind to get out there everyday and work towards your goal, even if it seems far off and unable to attain.  

Far too many of us spend way too much time one work that gets us nowhere.  The Pareto Principle aka 80/20 rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. 

Applied to the homestead it can be said that 20% of the work you do will yield 80% of the output, yet we tend to focus so much of our time on the 80% of work that will only get us 20% in return.  That’s crazy!  But it’s real, I was caught in that trap.

Now I make lists.  I have learned to delegate tasks that take up 80% of my time for 20% return.  I get things done efficiently and I only focus on the things that will produce the most yield for the minimum of effort.

Before you jump in and try to build a business on your homestead, take some time to invest in yourself.  Do not skip this step.  Learn the skills that you will need to succeed. 

Otherwise you are going to spend way too much time and money going after the 80% of the things that will get you nowhere, rather than focusing on the 20% of the things that will bring you success.

Diversify Your Income Streams For An Off Grid Homestead

Before we get into the best ways to make money from your homestead, we have to talk about one last thing: diversification.  This concept is key, but it has to be done right.

It can be hard to bring in all of your income from one source.  Selling fruit trees or firewood may net you a couple thousand dollars, but what about the rest?  I like to have money coming from a few different sources so that if one dries up, I still have others coming in.

This was especially evident during the time of the pandemic of 2020.  Tourism ground to a halt in many places across the world and the rentals on my property stopped getting booked.  Luckily I have other sources of income coming in so I wasn’t too affected.

The ideas that follow are ideas that I have done and have actually earned me an income from while on my property.  Some of these ideas may not work for you, but it is important to take one thing under consideration.

DO NOT move on to adding another income stream until you have the first one running smoothly.  Only then should you add on another source.  This will allow you to put all of your focus on an enterprise until it succeeds, instead of distracting your focus on several sinking ships.

Using Land to Earn Income

Land is one of your most important assets.  It has the ability to amass a fortune for you and your heirs if you use it right.  It is also one of the lowest hanging fruits that will earn you an income.

Vacation/Long Term Rentals

One of the first things I did on my property was to build a couple of ‘ohana units to rent out to travellers or locals.  With a small investment I was able to create a recurring income.

Rentals are one of the quickest ways to generate some income, especially if you are using other people’s money to fund it.  The downside is having someone else in your personal space and all the drama that comes along with that.  But if designed right, you can make your property feel separate and private while hosting others right next door. 

Airbnb.com is a great way to rent to travellers, but be sure you are certified with your local governmental agency.

The ability to earn income in this way depends on your location.  If your homestead is deep in the sticks where you normally don’t get many visitors in the area, then it may be hard to find a tenant.  But almost anywhere in a semi-touristy area should be able to do just fine because it has built in demand.

Rent Your Land to Campers
Building out rental units isn’t the only way people are making money from their land these days.  Some people offer up space for travellers to camp.  A company called Hipcamp.com allows homeowners to post available “campsites” for travellers.  In return the campers pay you a fee, just like Airbnb.com does for houses.

Lease Your Land To Farmers and Ranchers
If you are lucky enough to have a few extra acres on your hand, you can rent out that land as animal pasture or for an agricultural operation. This is a common practice for many rural landowners who simply are not interested in utilizing the land in this way. 

I have been on the paying end of this arrangement when I used to run an organic farm.  I leased the farmland from a larger landholder and paid as much as $400 a month for an acre of land!  Imagine renting out 10 acres!  The price will vary greatly based on demand though.

Your land may also have resources that you may be able to monetize as well.  Let’s get into some of those ventures below.

Homestead Enterprises That Bring In Income

This is the dream that most people have when they envision having an off grid homestead: to be able to make money through some product of the land.  For most, that means selling fruits, veggies, meat or dairy that is produced on the homestead.

Only problem with that is, where I live, there is a huge farmers market where dozens of people are doing the exact same thing.  It is difficult to make ends meet this way, I know, I’ve tried.  If you are really motivated to make it happen, expect a lot of work and low profit margins.

Instead, how about we grow food and still make money.  Let’s go over a few on farm enterprises that ACTUALLY made me money.

FRUIT TREE NURSERY

Having a fruit tree nursery was a dream of mine ever since I visited a backyard nursery on a ¼ acre lot in Los Angeles that produced 1000’s of trees.  For 5 years, that’s what I did.  Then I got distracted with my kids.

It made sense, I was already developing a food forest on my property.  I would save cuttings, seeds, air layer other people’s trees and build up my stock to the point where I had more than enough for myself and to be able to sell.

I was able to make it happen with virtually no money.  I got the pots from a nursery that was giving them away.  Harvested most of my own potting mix (and purchased some too) and I propagated my own plants. Luckily in Hawai’i it rains all the time so irrigation was a breeze.

I would start selling them as soon as they were rooted in 1 gallon pots for $5 and the ones that did not sell would get re-potted to a 5 gallon pot for the following years and be sold for $25.  I also had lots to give away as gifts or to guerrilla plant in my neighborhood.

I made about $5000 per year profit on my fruit tree nursery working about 5 hours a week. I think selling fruit trees and other perennials are a little easier than selling annuals because the barrier to entry is a little higher and what does not sell can only be sold for more the following year, instead of being thrown out.

FIREWOOD/LUMBERMILL

If you happen to have some forested land that you steward, firewood can be a great money maker to generate some on farm income.  I live in an area where there is demand for firewood, but no one produces it.  Other areas are saturated.  So be sure to research your market before you get started.

Harvesting firewood is hard, back breaking work.  However, most woodlots need some tree thinning from time to time, so why not sell the lumber. 

It does take a little capital to begin.  A chainsaw, wood splitter and a good truck can get you started but eventually you may want to invest in winches, come alongs, conveyor belt and more.

You can market the firewood to sell by the cord, or you can create a firewood CSA where folks paid for the wood in advance as well as a little extra premium to go towards sustainable forestry methods for the land.

I was able to produce a cord of wood each day on my own, which gave me a profit of $200 per cord.  Only problem was, the work was so difficult that I would only produce about 20 cords per year.

If you have larger machinery and capital, you can invest in a home lumber mill and convert that firewood into dimensional lumber that will fetch an even higher premium.  I have not done this myself but had a friend that used to mill lumber.  He was able to sell many of his pieces for top dollar and turn a profit off his efforts, but it did take a lot of effort.

MUSHROOM CULTIVATION

Firewood is a great way to make money, but what if you can convert that same effort into something that produces an even higher yield?  Say hello to mushrooms.

Mushrooms can be spored directly onto cut logs, seeded into wood chips and even propagated on waste products such as straw and coffee grounds.  It makes sense to move into growing mushrooms at some point.

I did it to make the back breaking work I was already engaging in to steward the forest turn me a larger profit for the efforts that I put into it.  I was able to increase the value of 1 cord of wood by 5x’s the amount, making $1000 instead of $200 for only 20% more effort.  This was a win.

Mushroom cultivation is easier than it may seem.  If you’d like to learn more, check out this article that highlights all about growing mushrooms in the tropicsOpens in a new tab..

HONEY PRODUCTION


If you are going to raise animals on the homestead, why not raise ones that can actually provide you some income.  Bees can help you bring in more over any other animal on your homestead.  The reason for this is there are a lot less people willing to raise bees than there are looking to start a flock of chickens.

After the initial expenses, which can be as high as $1000 for the basics, beekeeping is a relatively inexpensive endeavour.  Bees do not need to be fed.  Honey does not have an expiration date.  And the price for honey?  It can be as high as $60 to $80 per gallon!!  One beehive can fetch as much as $400 a year!

The great thing about keeping bees is that they do most of the work.  Sure, you have to maintain the hive from time to time and then harvest the honey, but for just a couple of hours of work per week, you can get a real nice return on the time you spent.

To learn more about raising bees in the tropics, check out this articleOpens in a new tab. we posted earlier on this very subject.

To get started with the right gear, why not try out what I already use.  I’ve tested it, it works and none of it was overpriced.

WORM FARM

I know this may sound strange to some of you out there, but that’s what makes this idea work.  Start a worm farm. 

Red Wiggler Worms
Here in Hawai’i, no one sells red wigglers.  There may be a few backyard operations that are found only through word of mouth, but establish a decent website and you’ll have more customers than you know what to do with.

Red wiggler worms are the type of earthworm that are found in worm composting systems.  Since Hawai’i does not allow the importation of red wigglers from the mainland, your only option is from a local source. 

You can harvest them on your own.  They are everywhere (if you know where to look).  The easiest way is to just buy them.

I used to have a couple of bathtubs setup for raising compost worms.  One bathtub would yield about 100lbs of worms per year.  As demand for the worms grew, I was able to sell 1lb of red wiggler worms for $30.

Not only do you have the worms to sell, but the castings are a valuable product as is the worm tea.  I would bag up some castings for $10 a pound and worm tea for $15 a quart and customers would eat it up.

Unfortunately I left the islands for a few years and the worms have since gone back to their homes in the ground, But if I was going to start up a homestead endeavor again, I’d start with the worms.

A great commercial Home Scale version of a worm farm can be purchased hereOpens in a new tab..

Black Soldier Fly Larvae
Another area where I found some success was through the breeding and sale of black soldier fly larvae. 

These little buggahs are super prolific and high in protein, making them an excellent meal for chickens.  With the price of chicken food in Hawai’i, this is a great way to augment their feed with something more locally grown.

Free ranging on the greens in the garden, then fed some protein snacks in the form of Black Soldier Flies and you have yourself some of the healthiest birds on the block.

Black soldier flies are great at turning meat by products into usable compost, something other forms of compost have difficulty doing.

I would sell 1lb bags of dehydrated Black Soldier Fly larvae for about $5 a bag.  One barrel of larvae produced about 50lbs. At one point I had 5 barrels going which handled the food waste from a local retreat center. 

It wasn’t the best money maker, but if ramped up, it can provide a valuable service to the community while producing plenty of profit for you.

Making Money Online

The internet is here people!! Thousands of people are making money EVERYDAY online.  They work from home, make their own hours and have no boss.  If others can do it, so can you.  I firmly believe that.

I always liked the idea of making money online, but was always too much of a purist.  I believed my time should be spent producing something tangible, like food or building houses. Making Youtube videos or writing a Blog did not serve a purpose to anyone, at least that’s what I told myself at the time.  Boy how I was wrong.

I recently have begun to dive into the world of making money online, dedicating my time on this blog and a Youtube channel by the same name.  It is my goal to earn a full time income doing this, which I am happy to say, I am halfway there.

By focusing on my passion for off grid living, I not only help teach others on a much larger scale who are interested in living this lifestyle, but I am motivated to make projects happen and put in the work on my homestead.  For me that is the greatest value. 


The online space is a great way for any homesteader to develop a decent income, you don’t even need an internet connection for some of these ideas.  Below are a few ways that I have tried to earn an online income and have had success with.

Niche Sites

I am really excited about this idea right now.  It has already produced a decent return for me.  Essentially, a niche site is a small website focused on a topic that provides helpful answers to questions people ask on the internet.  This is a niche site btw.  Niche sites make money through ad placements and affiliate links like the one below.

When I asked a friend who was successful in making money on the internet how he did it, I was referred to Income School.Opens in a new tab.  Income School provides a step by step, clear cut, no gimmick program that will lead you to success.  I know because I have already experienced some success.  Check out Income SchoolOpens in a new tab. today.  You will not regret it.

The reason most people do not have success with this method is because of the time it takes before you see returns.  It can take up to 2 years of constant writing to begin to see a decent income.  If you have time to wait, it is definitely worth it though.

A Niche Site provides you with a passive income.  That means that once the foundation of your site is in place, it is possible to earn money without doing any further work.  This past summer I went on vacation for 6 weeks and continued to receive a check even though I was not adding anything to the site site!  That was a nice feeling.

You can also do most of the work without an internet connection.  You can write your articles offline and when you get to a hotspot, it just takes a few short minutes to add it to your website.  That’s a great online business!!

Youtube

What? Youtube?  “No one makes money on Youtube.”  You could not be more wrong.

Following the methods for creating niche websites, you can create a niche Youtube channel that provides helpful answers to people’s questions.  Youtube is the second largest search engine after Google, so it makes sense right?

All you have to do is get over your awkwardness on camera and get to work.  Youtube provides a nice payout in ad revenue, plus you can use the Youtube platform to link to affiliate products or to release some sort of paid product. 

The folks at Income School who I have been guided by to create this website have released a new Youtube course within their general Project24 program, adding twice the amount of value that was already in the program. 

Once again, if you are interested in earning a passive income through Niche Sites or through Youtube, get the Income School program, you will not regret it.  And check out our Homesteadin’ Hawai’i Youtube Channel.Opens in a new tab.

Teach English Online

While not passive, you can earn up to $22/hr teaching english online.  I tried this out for a while when I was younger and now there are even better programs out there. 

Teaching english online is fun, but challenging as well.  It is important to come to this job as a professional at to prepare engaging classes that your student will enjoy.  Otherwise you won’t have any students and you won’t be making money.

If you are interested in this option, check out VIPkids.  They are the #1 online platform for making money by teaching english online to children in China.

Freelance Writing/Marketing

Now that I am actively engaged in producing a blog, I have uncovered a whole world of freelance workers that will write blog posts, make youtube thumbnails or create logos, build websites and more.

Many of these workers are located in foreign countries demanding lower wages than what you may be willing to accept, but there are still many opportunities that only native english speakers are qualified for.

Freelance Writing through companies like Upwork or starting your own service writing blog posts for people like me can be very lucrative.  1500 words can fetch you as much as $75 if you know what you are doing.  Much of that work can be done without an internet connection too.

Upwork, Fivver, Textgoods or Guru can be good places to find writer and design work.

Off Site Jobs To Help With Cash Flow In The Early Years

For most people, the early days of living off grid are kind of tight.  You just put in your nest egg into your land and structures, it’s time to bring in that money again.   Onsite farm ventures or online businesses can take some time to see a return.  For many, finding a job off site is their only option.

LANDSCAPER

This is the perfect crossover job for the off grid homesteader.   You need or already have the tools, might as well make them earn an income.  Besides, you get to take home free plants whenever you want and get paid for it.

A lawn mower and weed wacker is all you really need to get started and then add on from there.  A good maintenance gardener can make $1000 a week without trying too hard. 

If you live where I live in Hawai’i, people are always looking for a gardener. No one really wants to do the tough jobs these days, but if you don’t mind, expect your calendar to fill up quickly!

SUBSTITUTE TEACHER

I’d have to say almost 50% of the off grid homesteaders that I run into are either a teacher or substitute teacher.  It really is a great profession for the off grid homesteader.  The hours are good and the pay is decent.

As a substitute teacher you have the ability to choose which jobs you want to take.  This allows you to have more flexibility and freedom in your life while bringing an income onto your homestead.  Now you can be sure you’re available when those chicks arrive in the male or your cow gives birth.

BUILDER/HANDYMAN

If you are capable of swinging a hammer or laying some pipe, you can make a decent income as a handyman or builder in your area.  Some handymen charge as much as $75/hr!  That’s a nice chunk of change.

Plus, you get to use the skills you already have as well as potentially come across resources that clients may be discarding that you need for your next project.  A good handyman is always in demand.

Conclusion

Whew!  That was an exhaustive list.  I hope you learned some tangible ways to actually build an income for yourself on you off grid homestead.  Just like the work it took into writing this blog post, it’s not going to be easy.  But you can do it.

Choose one idea you feel passionate about and go for it.  Put all of your effort into it.  Keep learning and seek out those that will help you grow.

Living the simple life and bringing in a modest income on the homestead is worth it.  What are you waiting for?

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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