The business of work camping – Contracts for labor: What to include

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By Sam Suva

My wife and I work for pay and site, but that is not the only work out there. If you are considering light-duty work to allow for greater freedom to explore, other work exchange options are available. If you have a marketable skill, you may be able to contract at a much higher rate.

Remember, the contract protects you!
The campground is hiring labor that lives onsite. In fact, this position shares some of the same tax definition as a helper living on a farm in many states. That can be the mentality of campground owners and managers: We are there, we are convenient and we are being paid to be there, just like they are. So we need to make sure that the compensation of the work is on par with the requirements for the campground. We make sure to let the campground know if there are times we will NOT be available and we stick to them, except in extreme cases, e.g., fires and water mishaps.

What am I going to be doing?
We may not have mechanical or electrical degrees, while the position of maintenance can include having to work with commercial wiring, large plumbing or sewer issues, and lawn equipment that has extreme use. Our origins could be as sales people, computer software technicians or bank tellers, hence there will be a learning curve for other types of work. What if I cannot resolve an issue? Who can I turn to for ideas and help? These are good things to understand before accepting a contract and driving into a campground.


What do I need to know?
Working in the office is what we expected: Answer the phone, give information about the campground and directions to it, take money and relay any issues to the correct department. Outside help can be anywhere, doing anything, both for the campground and the guests. I had to manually let the jacks down on a motorhome that had suddenly lost power. Thankfully there was a video online that showed me most of what I needed to know!

Be specific about what you will be doing
What will we be doing? Is it limited to lawn or grounds maintenance or will it include working in the office, or sales, or activities? This is a great time to let the campground know of our experience, limitations and our interests.

Supervised role or self-starter?
How many workers are there in the field I am applying for in the campground? Is there experienced staff in the campground I can take issues to that are beyond my ability to repair? How about outside help? If the manager or owner in the interview doesn’t really know, it may be a good idea to look for work elsewhere.

How long to stay?
Knowing when we get there as to when we are leaving is comforting and helps keep us on our toes. If the manager or owner wants us to stay beyond that date, we negotiate out of contract, or we simply decline the invitation. Remind the owner or manager that you are leaving in 30 days, and again a week before, because they are busy.

How much to ask for compensation?
This is what makes the work and the extras that may be asked of us more palatable. We ask about what is included at the site for our hours of work, like electric and sewer dump. RV electric can be expensive – make sure they include it or, if they do not, understand that it could be as much as $200 per month. For pay, it is minimum wage usually, but can be a dollar or two more depending on what you offer the campground. If I designed campgrounds and the owner is looking to expand, I would be in a position to negotiate for a much higher rate. Campgrounds offer work in many forms – make sure you understand what they are offering before pulling in. When we pull in, we are theirs!

What about the extras?
Can I use the pool? The spa? The recreation areas? The activities hall? Do I get a golf cart?There are places that do not want their work campers using the amenities during peak hours, for example. If that is the case, we are usually working during those times anyway, so it’s not an issue. If there are no amenities, like golf carts, it can be difficult to do the assigned tasks.

What if friends or family drop by?
Make sure the contract states that you can give them a place to rest for a few days, or maybe get a discount on lodging if it isn’t booked up.

This is not an all-inclusive look at the contract and negotiations – it is an attempt to help you get an idea of what to expect when considering a campground position. It is usually minimum wage and can be hard work, but the payoff of living where you want to be is very rewarding.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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TravelingMan
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TravelingMan

Greetings Sam, Regarding contracts, are you drafting your own or is the campground supplying a contract? As long as work camping has been around, it would seem that there would be a formal contract somewhere on line or maybe others have already drafted them. I would likely be unique to each situation, but all negotiable items and work expectations could be available to check off or initial on the generic contract. What has been your personal experience when negotiating? Have you received a lot of push back when you did not want to perform a specific task? What percentage of… Read more »

Sam
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Sam

My apologies TM, for the delay. These are really good questions and comments. In our experience, CGs with about 100 sites or less do not generally know work campers and are used to just employing seasonal help. We negotiate a contract based on our experience and what we observe at the CG, it’s our idea, not the CGs. If a work camper doesn’t put limits on tasks, the CG will assume there isn’t any, and that can create friction. Push back? Not really. Cooperation can be a struggle, some owners just do not understand labor and materials to do a… Read more »