This article is part of a series about jobs for digital nomads. I’m interviewing real-life nomads about how they earn their living while traveling and bringing you their stories along with career-building tips and advice.
Meet Jodi Peters
Like many nomads, Jodi Peters of SweetSimpleWedding and DotOrgConsulting has a mix of income streams. She uses house-sitting gigs to find lodging that fits her travel schedule, and she teaches ESL online during her slow months. She also does consulting and technical writing for nonprofits.
But Jodi’s primary source of income is officiating weddings, mostly in California. She’s become a popular officiant as sweetsimplewedding.com, and she lets the work guide her travels.
Jodi has been a nomad for over two years now, and her nomadic life has taken her all over California and abroad to England, France, Spain, Iceland, and Indonesia.
Before she became nomadic, Jodi worked as a teacher and then supervised a pharmaceutical call center for seven years. “My quality of life and work/life balance was really unhealthy. Once my youngest left for college, I knew I could rent my home out rather than continuing to carry the costs all on my own.for a year, I built side gigs in several fields to test the waters. As they began to succeed, I became free from the need to work crazy hours just to pay all the bills, so I launched my freelance businesses full time.”
Variety is the spice
Jodi confides “I earn a good living between my 4 businesses but would be in poverty with only any two of them.
But Jodi loves the variety of her mix of freelance work. “I switch between several very different skill sets, so it’s always interesting. I spend a lot of time in really beautiful places. My schedule, location and income are completely up to me.”
Her workload shifts seasonally. During the summer months, she’s meandering across California to perform weddings, and in September and March she’s teaching more ESL classes to pay the bills while she travels abroad. (Read about building an income as an ESL teacher at this link). She accepts house-sitting and pet-sitting gigs that mesh with her travel plans to help cut costs. The work she does for nonprofits is mostly by word-of-mouth and she can do that work from wherever she’s currently planted.
While some digital nomads are focused on a single business, Jodi’s income mix is not unusual. By definition, digital nomads enjoy a lot of variety and are willing to sacrifice some stability for freedom and adventure.
“I lowered my expenses so that the freelance work supports me fully, but I do use savings to help two of my children who are in college,” Jodie said. But when I asked her what she loves about her work she answered unequivocally “All of it.”
Working with weddings
Jodi officiated her first wedding 10 years ago and liked it so much she continued doing it as a hobby until 2017. She’s now presided over 89 weddings.
Jodi has built her business mostly through word-of-mouth, but she also acquires clients through referrals, her websites, booking apps, and networking. Like many nomads, she’s had to trade off traditional definitions of success for the freedom of entrepreneurship, and like most of us, she doesn’t regret her decision at all.
Most of Jodi’s wedding work is in California, so she plans her international travels around wedding seasons, but if you’re interested in traveling more with your wedding business, that’s possible.
The best way to get far-flung wedding gigs is to become well-known within a tight-knit community. Ideally, choose a community that’s less likely to have local clergy officiate their wedding. Are you connected with any communities that might be a natural fit for you? Gamers, cosplay folks, dancers, polyamorous people, atheists, yoga lovers, nudists, tight-knit religious groups, and LGBTQ communities are examples of natural niches where you could make a name for yourself beyond your own city. Tap into social media groups and niche websites to spread the word about your services.
Who makes a good officiant?
Jodi says: “Don’t pick a field until you deeply assess your skills and interests. What I do works for me, and I love the variety, but it’s not for everyone. If you love public speaking and weddings, it’s very easy to get ordained and train yourself to do a lovely ceremony but very hard to build a reputation and book clients.”
This career might be a perfect fit if you have a dramatic flair, you’re comfortable in front of an audience, and you’re a hopeless romantic. But you’ll still need to work hard and learn to market yourself to be successful. You’ll need to build a simple website, or hire someone to do it. Some of your time will be spent researching local laws, doing bookkeeping, and networking locally and online. You’ll probably spend more time marketing yourself than reading vows, especially at first.
Online Wedding Officiant Course
Do you prefer the structure of a course to guide you through the process of starting this business? Udemy offers one for a very reasonable price that is complete and very well-reviewed.
Become a Wedding Officiant – A Complete Guide
Tips & resources for getting started as a wedding officiant
- How to Be A Wedding Officiant offers a checklist of tasks, with links to more detailed resources. It’s a little daunting, but very thorough.
- Here’s a quick and to-the-point guide from Weddingsforaliving.com
- If you’re wondering how much to charge, TheKnot.com has a price guide. Their suggestion of $500-800 is a bit higher than the average officiant expects to earn. Jodi is currently advertising $225, with an additional fee for extra services.
- Universal Life Ministries will ordain you at no charge. The site offers a lot of resources, including this guide to marketing your services and this quick guide to becoming an officiant.
- To market yourself locally, start by pretending that you are planning a wedding. How would you go about finding an officiant? What if you wanted an unusual or very special niche wedding? What would you search for on Google? Make sure you get listed on any directories that come up when you perform that search, and include those keywords when you create your website.
- What do you have to offer as a wedding officiant that could make your weddings extra special? Are you a master of drama and romance? Do you want to be known for your offbeat ideas, or for your spiritual rituals? Are you exceptionally open-minded about marriage?
- This is an ideal side gig if you work a 9-5 job, since nearly all weddings are weekend affairs. Start by learning the laws in your own state, and add surrounding states (or other countries) as your business grows.