What would you do if you had studied for years to become a professional in your chosen field – you finally scored a great job in the area you’re interested in – but then you get there and realise you have absolutely no passion for it.
After university, when you finally get into the workplace, you’ll find that there are buildings full of disenchanted zombies just going about their business. For some of us, something inside you says, “is this it?”
I experienced a very similar feeling to our next affiliate interview guest. I studied my butt off, achieved great grades, slipped into an envious corporate job but after a few years, I just found that it wasn’t what I wanted out of life.
When I came across Michelle a few years ago her story really resonated with me because I felt pretty much the same way. I watched as she grew her blog readership, mastered affiliate marketing, and busted out of student debt to turn her passion into a full-time living.
Nowadays she’s actually not that far from the industry she studied to belong to (finance), just probably not in a way she thought it would end up when she left school.
I’m really excited to share our interview with Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of the well known personal finance/lifestyle blog Making Sense of Cents.
1. You started your personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents around 7 years ago, just after the financial crisis, with a ton of student debt and yet even with the odds stacked against you, you managed to turn it into a very successful blog and full-time income (and beyond!). Congratulations on that, it’s an amazing effort!
What were your motivations, in the beginning, for starting the blog? Was it filling a need you saw missing or was it more like passion writing? I think a lot of people would love to hear how you started!
My website started 100% as a hobby.
In the summer of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents with the aim of teaching people how to save money as well as journaling my personal finance journey after reading a magazine that featured a personal finance website in one of their articles. I became extremely interested in that website and my interest in blogging just grew from there. This is interesting and hilarious because before that same summer, I had no idea about what blogs were, that they could even make money, or anything along those lines.
It was definitely a passion project. I did not create my blog with the intention of making money blogging and I had no long-term goals for it. 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.
On my blog Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about different ways to make extra money, the best ways to save money, achieving your dream life, RVing (me and my husband RV full-time), and more. I love running Making Sense of Cents and I am very happy that this is now my full-time career, my business, and pretty much my life. And, I love all of it. I definitely never thought I would become a blogger, and it’s always funny/interesting to think about how much life has changed in just a short amount of time.
2. You’re able to draw a great income from it now, but I imagine in the beginning it would have been pretty scary leaving your full-time financial analyst job to do this. Did you have any fears about doing this full time?
Yes, I definitely had some fears. Since I started my blog entirely as a hobby, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I learned a lot through trial and error, and boy, was there a lot of error! I had a good full-time job, but I had no passion for it. Absolutely dreaded nearly every single day, whether it be Monday or the weekend. That job just wasn’t for me, but it was stable, so it was hard to leave it. Plus, I went to college and had three college degrees, so leaving a stable full-time job just seemed crazy to everyone around me!
3. What are some of the advantages of being a blogger in your niche vs. disadvantages of the niche?
I don’t really see any disadvantages. I don’t ever force myself to write a specific topic on Making Sense of Cents – I write about anything and everything that I want to. Yes, you’ll find lots of personal finance articles on my website, but you’ll also find lots of travel, blog, pets, and other types of blog posts there.
4. How do you use affiliate marketing on your site?
I use affiliate marketing in many different ways on my website. The top way is simply to provide high quality content for my readers, and carefully linking to affiliate products and services from there. I publish high-quality articles, interviews, reviews, tutorials, and more, which all allow me to naturally link to affiliate products and services. I also strategically promote to my email list, but also provide more non-promotional content to them through my email list than promotional content.
You cannot, I repeat CANNOT, just slap affiliate links on your blog and hope to make affiliate income. You have to have some sort of strategy. So many bloggers make this huge mistake and usually lose followers or waste their time because they don’t realize that there is a correct way and a wrong way to approach affiliate marketing!
I definitely recommend signing up for my free 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income cheatsheet. 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.
I also teach all about my affiliate marketing strategy in my course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
5. What is one thing you can point to that you’ve done in the past that really had a positive and lasting effect on your affiliate marketing and made your income take off?
I’ve been interested in affiliate marketing nearly since the beginning of when I started my website, 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.
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. Now I 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.
I love affiliate income because it can feel quite passive. You can create just one blog post or social media post, and potentially earn money from it years down the line, 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?
Getting over this hump greatly changed my affiliate marketing income and has helped me get to where I am today.
6. I know you’re currently in the process of scaling back your work hours to enjoy more of the good life you’ve created. How much time do you invest in your affiliate marketing strategy now compared to when you first started?
I’ve never really ever dedicated too much time to affiliate marketing, even in the beginning. My strategy has always been almost passive, and it’s what I like about it. However, I do still spend a lot of time on my blogging business overall.
7. What’s your number 1 tip to new affiliate marketers?
My best piece of advice would be to just try! I waited so long to try my hand at affiliate marketing, and I regret waiting so long. Even if you have a low amount of followers or if you are a brand new blogger, you can still be successful at affiliate marketing if you put some work into it.