Workamping: Paid Positions Versus Volunteer Positions

Why would anyone take a volunteer position over a paid position, especially if the same hours were required for each?

Well, we take those positions and many others do as well. I don't know that I can fully explain why, but let's look at some possible reasons.

We can only speak in generalities here because the positions, the employers, and the duties are so varied. The ultimate judgment can only be made from an individual's perspective.

For those that have to work lots of hours and have to get paid for them, this page probably won't be worth much.

But for those that have the option of working for pay or working as a volunteer, we might be able to provide just a little insight.

First, let's look at what will likely be the same between a paid position and a volunteer position.

  • Both will usually provide a "free" RV site
  • Both will usually provide full hook-ups (although slightly more likely for a paid position)
  • Both will usually offer free/discounted propane or free/discounted laundry or some similar perks
  • Both require being on a schedule
  • Both will tie you down for at least a month
  • Both will allow you to reduce your normal living expenses

    Now we can start sorting through some pros and cons.

    Paid Positions
    Pros

  • You get paid!
  • They give you more options for getting free parking close to popular destinations
  • Usually there are more perks like free cable or free internet service, store discounts, food discounts, etc.

    Cons
  • Usually you will have to work more hours
  • Even if you don't have to work more hours, you may not get consecutive days off, you might have to work split shifts, or you might not be off the same time as your partner
  • Usually you have to commit to more months of work
  • You might find yourself under rigid management
  • You naturally feel a greater sense of obligation
  • There might be greater expectations from the employer, and, if not communicated properly, that can lead to bad experiences for both parties
  • You might be less likely to say "no" when asked to perform duties outside your original agreement
  • Less opportunity to mesh duties with passions
  • If you work in a state with state income tax, you will have to file an income tax return in that state (see our Tax Implications of Workamping page)


    Volunteer Positions
    Pros
  • Usually fewer hours and more time for exploring
  • More likely to have more consecutive days off
  • More flexibility
  • More opportunity to mesh duties with passions
  • More laid back work environment
  • More opportunity for sense of personal fulfillment by giving back to society

    Cons
  • You don't get paid!
  • Not only do you not get paid, but you might be working several hours over and above the value of the RV site
  • Management is often a bit disorganized when it comes to volunteers and there can be a lack of direction

    Summary
    There is no great epiphany here. And once again, we are dealing in generalities.

    We know there are fantastic employers that pay good wages, require fewer hours, are very flexible, and provide better work environments than any volunteer position. And we know there are volunteer positions that make people wonder why anyone would ever volunteer there.

    But one factor seems to really distinguish the paid positions from the volunteer positions. That factor is the "hard to put your finger on" psychological difference between being an "employee" and being a volunteer.

    It seems that the wages create a greater sense of obligation and a lesser sense of freedom. That may not even be reality, but there is definitely a different feeling. And that subtle difference of a paid position is sort of contrary to the spirit of a full-timer.

    We have met a lot of full-timers that started out taking only paid positions and later changed their approach to workamping. They have adjusted their living expenses down because they found they prefer the intangibles of being volunteers.

    Now, I'll caution you that there are many folks out there that are critical of those that take volunteer positions (or that otherwise work more hours than they get paid for). They think those scenarios are either 1) stupid, or 2) detrimental to their capability to get paid for all hours worked in the future.

    I'll just say that there are opportunities for everyone with every kind of need. It may take time to find out what works for you and your lifestyle.

    Don't be afraid to try lots of different positions. You'll make mistakes, but you'll learn from them. All that matters is that you make your dreams come true and you enjoy the process.

    Click on the links below to explore more about workamping.

    What are the types of jobs available?

    What kind of commitment is required?

    How much can I expect to earn?

    What if I just want to volunteer for a campsite?

    What are the tax implications of workamping?

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