Hey everyone! I recently had an amazing interview Michelle Schroeder-Gardner from Making Sense of Cents. I’m so excited to share with you her story on how she got started blogging and how she was able to start making over $100k a month!
Michelle is honestly a pro at affiliate marketing and growing her reach for her blog. So definitely check out this interview and head on over to her site!
1. What first got you started with blogging? What was your goal at first?
I never thought I would grow up and become a full-time blogger, haha. I graduated from college in 2010, and again in 2012 for my Masters with an emphasis in Finance. I started out as a financial analyst, and worked in that position for 3 years. In
August of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents with the hopes of teaching people how to save money after reading a magazine that featured a personal finance website in one of their articles. Due to that website, I became extremely interested in personal finance blogs, and my interest in blogging just grew from there.
Before August of 2011, I didn’t even know that blogs existed. I didn’t know what they were, I didn’t know that they could make money, or anything like that. I did not create my blog with the intention of making money blogging. It was really all just a hobby. But, I came to really love blogging (and I still do!), and eventually left my financial analyst job so that I could blog full time. This is one of the best decisions I have made in my whole life!
2. When did you first learn that blogging for profit was possible?
I did not create my blog with the intention of making money blogging, as I said earlier. It was all just a hobby and an outlet I then realized how much I loved blogging and realized that it was for me, so now I am a full-time blogger! I went full-time in October of 2013 and I haven’t looked back once. Blogging has completely changed my life for the better and it’s something that I recommend everyone try if they are interested.
I earned my first income through my blog through a sponsored advertisement. I earned around $100 from that advertisement and that was after around 6 months of blogging. Like I said above, though, I didn’t start my blog with the intention of earning an income and never pursued that while I was blogging in the beginning. So, earning that first $100 was super exciting even though I had poured hours and hours into my blog before that, haha!
It’s funny because when I first started my blog, I talked a lot about finding ways to make extra money because we were living paycheck to paycheck. I honestly did not realize that I could make a living with my blog and I was asking everyone for ideas to help me out. Eventually, I realized that I could make money with my blog and I’m so glad this all happened.
3. Did you have to convince your partner that this was something you could do? If so, what did it look like?
I don’t really remember even talking about the blog a ton with my partner in the beginning. I think he thought I was a little crazy because I was already working a full-time job and getting my MBA full-time as well. There wasn’t much time for a non-paying hobby back then but I really wanted to do it.
4. What were some of your biggest challenges when you first started?
I didn’t really have any challenges when I first started because I didn’t have any goals with my blog. It was all just for fun!
5. Can you please describe one of your biggest breakthrough moments in your blogging career?
About a year after I started my blog, my income was growing very quickly. I started to realize that I completely hated my day job and that I absolutely loved blogging – and I started to think about how one day this could possibly be my full-time job.
Realizing this really made me think about turning my blog into more of a business, so that I could earn more money and actually turn this into my full-time career.
6. It’s clear that you’ve mastered affiliate marketing in a huge way. What inspired you to go after this? Where did you first learn? You’ve definitely honed your affiliate marketing skills far beyond almost all your pears. Could you describe this journey for us?
I love affiliate income because it can feel quite passive. You can create just one blog post or social media post, and possibly make an income from it years later, as long as you maintain it and keep generating traffic to it. With affiliate marketing, I can enjoy life more and know that I am still able to earn a great living promoting products that I use and enjoy.
Think about it this way: If you already enjoy a product, why not get paid to promote it?
I’ve always been interested in affiliate marketing since sometime near the beginning of my blogging career, but I never thought it was possible before. I always thought that you had to have a huge following and a ton of page views in order to be successful with affiliate marketing. I saw other bloggers making affiliate income and I just thought they were lucky in the beginning, so I never really gave it a chance in the first few years of my blogging career.
Well, one day I decided to give myself a goal of earning affiliate income, and I worked towards achieving that goal. I started by making a little bit each month, and then it just continued to grow month after month. I now know that you don’t need a ton of page views or a huge following in order to make a great income through affiliate marketing.
7. Where can others people new to blogging learn to sell affiliates on your scale?
If someone wants to learn more about affiliate marketing, I definitely recommend that they sign up for Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
In Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, students will learn:
- The basics of affiliate marketing, what it is, etc.
- The positives of affiliate marketing and why all online influencers should be doing it
- The exact steps I’ve taken to earn over $400,000 from a single blog post
- How to pick the correct affiliate products to promote
- How to increase conversions
- How to build trust and not lose followers
- Required disclosures that you need to know about
- The one major tool you need for affiliate marketing
- Different strategies to use to promote your affiliate products
- How to use Pinterest to succeed at affiliate marketing (yes, this includes the newest Pinterest affiliate rules!)
I also have a free cheatsheet – 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
8. What was one of your biggest mistakes on your blogging journey, and how can others avoid it?
The worst thing I did was starting Making Sense of Cents on Blogspot. It’s so unprofessional and your blog can be deleted at any time for no reason. In fact, Blogspot decided to delete my blog one time and I had to beg for it back. It was a scary thing to think that everything was deleted for absolutely no reason!
After that happened, I decided to switch to the WordPress platform. I highly recommend that everyone have a self-hosted WordPress blog, and to also keep backups of their website.
9. What are some of your biggest tips for growing loyal following?
My best tip for growing a loyal following is to be very personable on your blog. Not many people want to read a blog that contains generic advice and is boring. Tell people about your failures, your successes, include lots of detail, actionable tips, and more!
Also, start an email list today if you don’t have one yet. I waited years to start an email list and that was a huge mistake of mine. People who subscribe to your email list are usually your most loyal followers. Plus, you don’t have to worry about weird social media algorithms not showing your social media shares to your audience.
10. What is your favorite thing about running a location independent business?
My absolute favorite thing is being able to explore new places all the time and having my own schedule. I can be near the beach one day and in the mountains the next if I want to. I can hike new mountains in new places, go for fun bike rides, bring my dogs paddle boarding, and more.
We sold our house in July of 2015 and have been traveling full-time ever since, and it’s been really amazing!
11. What was the transition to a full-time blogger like mentally?
It was scary to leave my full-time day job in order to blog. I have three college degrees and I also had a very stable day job that paid well and had great benefits. Due to that, it was tough trying to make the leap, and I was absolutely terrified to do it.
One day, I decided I just had to do it. I wasn’t happy with my old day job, so it didn’t make sense to keep it any longer.
This wasn’t so bad because I was earning enough from my blog in order to blog full-time, and even my husband was able to leave his job as well.
12. What does your daily routine look like now that you’re a digital nomad?
We don’t really have a daily routine, which is great! We have a very flexible schedule. Some days may be travel days where we are trying to get to our next destination. Other days may be days where we hike or bike for 8 hours straight. Other days may be full of work. And other days (most, in fact) are entirely devoted to our dogs, haha.
13. Did you have any mentors or heroes that inspired you when you first started?
When I first started my blog, it was entirely a hobby as mentioned earlier. Due to that, I didn’t really look up to anyone because I didn’t have any goals with my blog. Eventually, when I realized that I wanted to earn a living through blogging, I started reading tons of income reports such as ones from Smart Passive Income.
14. And lastly, where are you now and what are you doing?
As I’m typing this, we are currently in St. Charles, Missouri for one last night. This is where me and my husband used to live and we came back to see friends and family since we hadn’t been back in around one year. We are leaving tomorrow and heading to Dallas for FinCon, then to Austin, and eventually to our winter destination, which will probably be Tucson
I hope you liked this interview and got a lot of great info out of it! Now, if you have any questions about blogging, affiliate income, or anything else, feel free to ask them in the comments down below!