An adventure career ebbs and flows in ways that can make both your cash flow and your business availability unpredictable. There are four main stages where you have to consider your needs and your opportunities, and tailor your funding streams and business plan appropriately.
Leading up to the adventure
The long run-up
This is a time for thought, planning, making contacts, laying out the strategy for the more hectic periods that will follow. You need money to survive on in this period, you need to be setting money aside to pay for the adventure, and you need to set yet more money aside to pay for your costs while you are away and give you some kind of head-start when you come back home.
This can be a difficult time, you believe in your project but it is still far in the future, possible sponsors aren’t feeling the urgency, friends still suspect it’s all a pipe-dream. This is where the groundwork for the crowdfunding campaign, the sponsorship pitches, the PR strategy, are all done.
The hectic final months
Now your approaching deadline adds vibrancy and urgency to the project, media and sponsors are finally getting back to you. But they want things you’ve not prepared and you don’t have the time left to do it all. The closer you get to leaving, the more interesting offers you receive, just when you have less and less time and mental bandwidth to judge and pursue each opportunity.
You are probably now eating into the savings you’d hoped to leave behind for your return, as it becomes easier to solve last-minute problems by just throwing money at them. (And how is your training getting on, in the midst of all this?)
Hopefully it all comes together. The classic trap is to raise some sponsorship, live off it while you try and raise the rest, fail to raise enough, postpone (indefinitely) the project - and find you can't pay back those people who did believe in you.
In this phase crowdfunding, project sponsorship, and brand ambassadorship are likely to be your focus. But you also want to do preparatory work for what you hope will happen on your return.
On the adventure
This is a short (probably) very intense period where you are fully focused on completing the adventure and everyone else is focused on you - just when you don’t have the time to take advantage of their interest.
If your project starts to catch fire with media and/or followers you want to be maximising that moment, but you’ll almost certainly need help from someone at home with better internet access to do it. A business manager (or savvy friend) back home can be a huge help. But who is paying for their time given to your project?
Now is the time for crowdfunding for your charity to take off, and for your social following to start growing. For that to happen, you need to have done the planning before you left. If it’s really going well, you (or your support team) should be reaching out to speaker bureaus, literary agents and media while you are away.
Immediately after your adventure
Despite being tired from your project (and possibly heartily tired of your project), now is the moment to hustle for speaking engagements, book deals, media articles. This is your classic 15 minutes of fame, and the clock ticks down fast! This moment of attention and opportunity can be intoxicating but it won't last. The flood of money will soon dwindle unless you work to sustain it, and many adventurers find they are terrible at managing cash flow.
Too many adventurers retreat to a quiet place to reconnect with family, or become paralysed by very common post-expedition depression, or are alarmed by the surge of interest and want to step back until it calms down. The problem is that when you step forward a few months later, refreshed and re-engaged with your adventure, the interest has moved on.
This is the time to give back to brands and sponsors who helped you. (Of course the money they gave you has been spent, so how are you paying your way while you give back to them?) If you want an ongoing relationship or good references to take forward, now is when you make your best impression. It may also be the time to give back to crowdfunding supporters. Supporters who feel they got shortchanged will haunt you in years to come.
This is also the time to sell articles and photographs, sell your book, launch your speaking career, sell your film. Oh yes, and then get down to writing that book and editing that film. It’s a busy, busy time.
(Of course, you can have a helper ready at home for when your project catches fire and have a post-project optimisation plan all worked out - and find that it all just fizzles. Whether bureaucratic snafus stop you reaching your goal, or urgent world affairs distract the media, or it just turns out that no one was that interested - the 15 minutes of fame is never guaranteed.)
In the downtime between adventures
Unlike travel bloggers (who face their own kind of relentless pressure to produce great content daily), adventurers are hard-pushed to keep doing it day after day. You are likely to have long fallow periods between trips. Really big adventures may need months or years of planning. You have to pay your living costs during these times.
You may choose to do adventures back-to-back, in the belief that you are only as good as your last project and it is new material and publicity that keeps your brand alive. But that leaves you little time to maximise the possibilities that come from each adventure. You can (maybe) write the book of the last adventure while travelling on the next one, but you certainly can’t give speeches if you’re not available on the dates they want.
You may stay home for a while to write the book, give the speeches, make the film, but that’s not giving you new content for your personal brand. And you may find you are making some money but never quite enough to pay your living costs, let alone to save up for the next adventure.
Each adventurer is different in the path that they choose, just as each adventure is different. But for everyone it’s worth taking the time to think about funding each of the different stages of your adventure life, and to set in place the people / knowledge / systems that will help you stay afloat financially while taking maximum advantage of each opportunity .