This is an interview with Michelle Schroeder-Gardner from Making Sense of Cents

Today we are going to be talking to Michelle about how she managed to convert her hobby blog into a business in its own right. 

Michelle took her first step into the world of personal finance when she graduated from college and got her MBA. With almost $40,000 in student loan debt, she realized the only way to pay it off was to start saving every spare penny and making extra cash through numerous side hustles.

One of those side hustles was blogging. She used her blog, Making Sense of Cents, to share her journey while she paid off her debt and took a step closer to financial freedom.

This blog quickly became a source of income through sponsored posts and affiliate marketing commissions.

Today, Michelle makes well over $100,000 every month through her personal finance blog as well as her course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. Here is how she did it:

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is making sense of cents all about?  

My name is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the owner of Making Sense of Cents. My website is all about personal finance, life, travel, small business, and more. I pretty much talk about whatever interests me and the topics that have helped me improve my life.

Some info about myself:

  • I am originally from a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.
  • I paid off $40,000 in student loans in just 7 months thanks to side hustling and earning extra money.
  • I bought my first house at the age of 20 (without any parental help).
  • I sold that house around 5 years ago, and have been traveling full-time ever since. First by RV, and now by sailboat.

How did you come up with the idea of starting a blog? What motivated you to begin?  

I started Making Sense of Cents completely randomly. I had no plans of ever becoming a blogger, and when I started my blog, I had no idea that they could even make money. It all began one day when I was reading a women's magazine and in it they featured a women's financial website. I started reading their articles, and eventually their comments. I noticed that many of their comments were from other blogs. One day, I decided to start my own.

I was completely anonymous for a long time in the beginning. My blog was solely for my own fun and I treated it as a hobby.  

When did you start making a dependable income from your blog?  

I made my first $100 after 6 months of blogging. Like I said, it was all just a hobby, so I wasn't trying to make money from it. But, then a blogger friend of mine connected me with an advertiser, and it all quickly grew from there. Around one year after I started my blog, I think I was earning around $1,000 a month. After two years of blogging, I was earning around $5,000 to $10,000 a month. And, it all quickly grew from there.
I have now earned over $5,000,000 from Making Sense of Cents over the years. 

You can learn more about how Michelle earns money blogging hereHow I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog

Do you think your academic qualifications play a role in the success of your blog? Did your degrees do anything to aid your growth?  

I think that my MBA helped, in that I learned a lot about how to run a business from the classes that I took. I don't think it helped me when it came to the personal finance topic, though, if that is what you are asking.  

Are there days where you dread work? What advice would you give bloggers that are lacking the motivation to keep going?  

Not really. Sure, there are days where I wish I had more hours so that I could explore wherever we are, as well as work. But, I've never dread running my blog as I only do tasks that I enjoy when it comes to my blog. Oh, I guess there is one thing - compiling everything for tax season! haha!  

Do you outsource a lot of your work? Do you think it’s better if bloggers keep their blog self-run?  

I don't outsource a lot. 

  • I have an editor who helps to improve the content that I write.
  • I have a virtual assistant who helps me a lot with the day to day. This is especially great because I do not always have internet.
  • I also outsource the technical side of my blog. So, if my website goes down, I have someone who will help to fix that. 

I do pretty much everything else myself.

I don't think there's a right or wrong way to run a blogging business. They are all different.  

What is the biggest mistake you see newbie bloggers make?   

One big blogging mistake that I've noticed many other bloggers make is not making the effort to network. Networking is so important as a blogger. You should see others in the blogging world as your colleagues and friends, not your enemies or competition.  


When did you create your first digital product? What motivated you to create it?  

I launched my first digital product in July of 2016. That is Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

I was motivated to create my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course because I was always being asked about the topic of affiliate marketing for bloggers. What seemed normal and easy to me, isn't easy for others, so I knew I had to create this course so that I could get my knowledge out. Affiliate marketing is great, and I want others to benefit from it as well.

Do you think every blogger should create a digital product at some stage or is affiliate marketing enough to keep going?

I think there are plenty of different ways to run a blogging business so there is no right or wrong answer to how a blog wants to monetize 🙂

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