Minnie: Hi, everyone. This is Minnie with a brand new episode of our podcast uSpeak. I hope all of you are enjoying fall and are ready for the festive season and shopping. In the past month, I was busy traveling to India, which I always look forward to as I meet all my friends and family there. On our way back, we went to Europe, which is always fun. Though I must add, it rained everywhere we went, which dampened the mood a bit. But overall, it was a good trip. Anyhow, I can’t tell you how excited and happy I am to introduce my guest today.
I have been meaning to interview her for so long. She is a perfect guest for all my work-from-home audiences. She worked hard and smartly to reach where she is today in her career and found success at a very early age. And, as a result, now she is living her dream life. I must add here she bought her first home when she was only 20 years old. Yes, you heard me right, only 20 years old. So, how on earth did she achieve success at such a young age. I can’t wait to hear from her. So, let me welcome founder of Making Sense of Cents, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.
Hi, Michelle. How are you?
Michelle: Hey. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m good. How are you?
Minnie: Good, good, good. I am so happy to have you finally. So, you just finished touring the US in an RV, how fun. How was it, and how long ago was that?
Michelle: Well, we haven’t finished. We still have an RV, but we did start in 2015. We’ve had a few RVs since then. And we definitely haven’t been everywhere yet. The United States is a big place, but we’ve been to a lot of places. And we really love RVing. It’s a lot of fun.
Minnie: I can imagine that. So, would you like to share your most unique experience with us?
Michelle: I really love everything. I love everywhere about RVing. What’s great about traveling full time is that you have all the time in the world to explore the most random places, so places that you probably never imagined spending time in. What’s great about RVing full time is that you can extend your stay whenever you want. If you really love somewhere, you can stay there a few weeks or months, whatever you really wanna do. And just RVing lets you explore those little places that you probably never really ever knew about. But for the most part, we do love being out west. We love all over Utah, Colorado, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest. But we also love anywhere else. We love Florida, being out East. We love exploring National Parks. We love just all the different kind of people you meet and all the different restaurants and food that you get to try, too.
Minnie: Okay. So, any particular place that you thought that “Oh, my God. This is the most beautiful place I have ever been to,” – or places rather?
Michelle: Yeah. I would say my favorite is definitely the high Rockies in Colorado as well as the Red Rock and Canyon areas of Utah.
Minnie: Mm-hmm. Those are pretty. So, you went to Sedona, right?
Michelle: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Minnie: It’s so pretty.
Michelle: Yeah, it’s nice there.
Minnie: Yeah. And what do you think about the food? Which city or town has the best food, and what was it?
Michelle: That’s a hard question. I would say I really love the food in Tucson and in Arizona, in general. I love all the tacos, and I love Sonoran hot dogs and stuff like that. I also love Florida. South Florida has really good food as well from Central, South America, Cuba, stuff like that. Food in South Florida’s really good.
Minnie: Yeah. Yeah, I like that too, all their plantain fries and –
Michelle: Yes, exactly.
Minnie: Yeah. And then I really loved that tres leche cake. They are so yummy.
Minnie: Okay. So, that was so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your experience on that. So, on a more serious note, how did you achieve so much success at such young age?
Michelle: Where to begin. So, I graduated college early at the age of 20. I took a lot of college classes in high school, so that allowed me to graduate a year early in college. I graduated with two college degrees, business and management. And, then, I got my first job at the age of 20 that allowed me to buy my first house at the age of 20. And then soon after that, I went back to school for my MBA. Around that time, I started Making Sense of Cents, and 2011 is when I did that. And I just really came to love Making Sense of Cents and running a personal finance blog. And soon after that, I left my day job as a Financial Analyst and started blogging full time. I started blogging full time in 2013, and I’ve been doing that ever since. And it’s allowed me to reach financial independence. I can retire whenever I like. I have a flexible schedule. I just really love running Making Sense of Cents and all that it encompasses.
Minnie: Yeah. And I was in awe when I saw that you have been featured in almost all platforms, including CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Motley Fools, Times, and Huff Post. I mean, the list is just endless. And, on top of this, you have also earned many awards like the Plutus Award among many others. So, anyway, many congratulations on that.
Michelle: Thank you so much.
Minnie: Yeah. And tell me briefly, what is your business model?
Michelle: So, on Making Sense of Cents, I make money through affiliate marketing, sponsored partnerships, display advertising, and, of course, sales. Those are the four main ways that I make money on my blog.
Minnie: Okay. And tell us, in short, about your early entrepreneur days, your struggle if any.
Michelle: Yeah. So, in the beginning, I was blogging on the side of my day job. I would say that was a pretty big struggle in the beginning. Between my day job and blogging, I was working a constant – about 80 to 100 hours a week between the two of them. So, that was a big struggle trying to manage work/life balance between the two. That’s eventually why I left my day job in order to blog full time. And there was only so much time, so many hours in a week, and I needed to sleep and still have a life outside of work as well.
So, that was a pretty big struggle, but it was a really good decision for me to leave my day job in order to blog full time. Of course, there were other struggles that you might have as well such as – I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. I was trying to figure out what would work for my blog, what was not working, what I was wasting my time on. There’s a lot of struggles, but I wouldn’t say any of them were bad struggles. They all got me to where I am today.
Minnie: Okay. May I ask, what was your day job? Was it in a corporate?
Michelle: I worked at a small financial firm as an investment analyst. So, I analyzed investments and helped with mergers and acquisitions.
Minnie: Okay. So, no wonder you were spending 100 hours per week. Geez, that’s a lot of hours.
Michelle: Well, I was only working at my day job about 50 hours a week, but the other 50 was working on my blog and trying to grow it.
Minnie: Right. Right, I mean combined together. So, how did you gear towards blogging?
Michelle: So, I started my blog completely randomly. I started by reading other personal finance blogs, and then I decided to start my own. I just really liked the people talking about their personal finance journey, paying off their debt, trying to reach early retirement, side hustling. And I just thought that was really interesting, and I liked reading the comments in the personal finance blogs. It seemed like a really nice community to be in.
I didn’t start my blog to make money. It was just to have fun, just as a hobby. I ended up really, really loving blogging, which is funny because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And it’s all been a really great decision for me. I really love blogging. I’m so glad I’ve been able to do it for these many years.
Minnie: Mm-hmm. So, let me ask you one thing. So, in your early days while you were doing blogging, did you ever take a look at transcription? Did you do any transcription work in your early days?
Michelle: No, I have not done any transcription work. I didn’t even know that was really a thing back then. I didn’t know really about work-at-home jobs or anything like that when I first started. I’ve always thought it sounds like a great option. I share it on my blog all the time, and it sounds like a great way to work from home.
Minnie: And so, how do you rate transcription as a work from home job?
Michelle: I really – I haven’t really looked into it too much further than what I talk about it on my blog through an interview I did. But it sounds really, really good. I’ve heard great things. Being able to work from home – if you can find something that fits your skillset and what you think you’d like to do, I always think – I would rate it a 10 then.
Minnie: Yeah, I’m glad to hear this. I wanted to tell you what we do here at TCI briefly. We offer an online training program in general transcription. And we have a job board that matches transcriptionists and translators with transcription companies with their unique requirement. We have quiz and accuracy assessment tools for someone to test their transcription skills. So, anyway, coming back to the blogging topic. I know you are one heck of a very successful blogger. So, how long it took you to generate money from it? So, you started writing in 2011?
Okay. And when did you start to monetize on that?
Michelle: So, in the beginning when I first started Making Sense of Cents, I didn’t know that blogs could make money or anything like that. So, it took me awhile because it wasn’t something that I was trying to do. It was all just a hobby in the beginning. But around six months after I started Making Sense of Cents, a blogging friend emailed me and asked me if I wanted to partner in a sponsored post with a company that she was working with. So, it took me six months to make my first $100. It was a $100 sponsored post. But after I realized that I could make money blogging, it quickly grew from there.
I wanna say around one year in I was making around $1000 a month. And, then, at the two-year mark, I was making around $10,000 a month. And, then, it just quickly grew and exploded from there once I realized that it was something that I could do. I was pretty much addicted to finding ways to make money blogging because I loved what I was doing, and I really wasn’t liking my day job. So, it made sense for me to try to grow my blog as much as I could.
Minnie: Okay. And you quit your day job in 2011? When did you say you quit?
Michelle: I quit my day job in 2013. It was about a little over two years after I started Making Sense of Cents.
Minnie: Okay. And by then, you were established, and you could totally support yourself with your blogging and your side gig, right?
Michelle: Yeah. So, I made a little goal for myself. Before I wanted to quit my day job, I wanted to pay off my student loans in full. So, I paid off $40,000 in student loans in 7 months, and that was through me just funneling all of my income from my blog towards my student loans. And then I felt a lot more comfortable leaving my really stable day job in order to blog full time because remember, at that point, I was still really new to blogging. And there wasn’t a lot of information out there about making money blogging, turning it into a career or anything like that. So, I wanted to pay off my student loans and build an emergency fund.
Minnie: Good. I think you started at the perfect time where blogging was just taking off and there were not so many competitions. Nowadays bloggers are everywhere, and they’re – and it’s such a good field. Anybody – if you good are writing and you can write on any topics, so it’s really good that you can generate some money from it also.
Michelle: [Inaudible-crosstalk] [00:13:00].
Minnie: Yeah. And how many blogs do you write in a month?
Michelle: So, I publish at least one blog post a week. I used to do around three blog posts a week. But now I have around 2,000 blog posts on Making Sense of Cents, so there’s a lot of content on there to help readers. And I’m able to refer readers to old blog posts all the time instead of trying to pump out new content all the time. One is what I aim for each week.
Minnie: Okay. So, did you say you have more writers, or you are the only one who is writing it?
Michelle: I’m the only one.
Minnie: You are the only one. Okay.
Minnie: All right. Good, good. So, what is the secret of your growth in acquiring new customers?
Michelle: I don’t know if there’s any secrets really. I would say high quality content. So, I like to write content that my readers want to read. That could be maybe a reader sends me an email with a question about personal finance like “How do I create a budget? How do I make money – how do I find a stay-at-home job,” stuff like that. So, I turn those reader questions into high-quality content, but answers every question that they could think of when it comes to the question that they had, and then also being active on social media, replying to questions from readers, replying to comments.
I always like to help my readers with as much as I can. I reply to every single email personally. So, I would really say it’s about those two things, high-quality content and helping my readers as much as I can.
Minnie: Okay. So, do you have a team or you are just alone – you just take care of all the things like replying to emails or replying on social media?
Michelle: So, I have a small team. I do reply to all emails myself, and I do write all my own content. But I do have an editor, for example, who really, really helps me with all of my content. I can send a really rough draft to her. She makes it perfect, so that saves me a ton of time. And then I also have a virtual assistant who helps me schedule, post on social media. She helps me answer more support, technical emails through my course. She also creates some of the social media images for me. So, I do have a team who helps me through the day-to-day tasks so that I can still have a very flexible schedule.
Minnie: Okay, great. And what advice would you like to give to budding bloggers?
Michelle: My top piece of advice would be to not give up. So many bloggers quit so early in the game, and I think this is because they think they should be making a $1000 a month in the very first month, or they expect blogging to be super easy. But that just won’t be the case. Blogging is a lot of work. Things won’t always come easy. And just like with any business or job that you start, it’s not for everyone, or there are things to learn. If it was easy, then it would be a get rich quick scheme, which is – that’s definitely not something that you want. Blogging does take work and time, and I just wish more people would know that so that they didn’t quit so early.
Minnie: That’s a great advice. Okay. And so, you are also big in affiliate marketing and sponsored partnership and have a course in those. Could you tell me more about that and how a blogger can benefit from it? So, let’s start with affiliate marketing.
Michelle: Yeah. So, affiliate marketing is definitely my favorite way to make money on Making Sense of Cents. So, affiliate marketing is when you try to earn money by placing an affiliate link on your website, your blog, your social media accounts and then have people purchase a product through your [audio cuts out] [00:16:41].
Minnie: Hello? I lost you.
Michelle: Sorry, I had a cough.
Michelle: I have bad allergies right now.
Michelle: But I do love affiliate marketing because it is passive income. Affiliate marketing is great because you can create a blog post or a review, and you can earn money from that years down the line with minimal work needed to maintain it. So, for example, I might have a blog post on Making Sense of Cents from maybe five or ten years ago, and I’m still able to earn money from today because of how passive it is.
Minnie: Yeah. We also – at TCI, we also offer affiliate marketing. And anybody can go who – we partner with other transcription companies. We give them free internship with our interns. We can give you like 25% off our course price. So, yeah, we’ll actually send you the link. I would love to be affiliated with you.
Michelle: Yeah, I’ll have to check it out.
Minnie: Yeah, please do that. I will do that. And also, sponsored partnership, what is that?
Michelle: So, a sponsored partnership is when you work with a company and you might be sharing in a blog post or an – maybe an Instagram post a product that they sell. So, maybe it’s a book or something, and you try to just share what you know about the book, what you like about it, maybe what you don’t like. I do like sharing pros and cons of items that I talk about on my blog. And then you’re able to just partner with brands that you like and help your readers with maybe something that they’re wanting to buy.
Minnie: Okay. All right. Okay. So, you are already so successful. So, tell me what keeps you going, and what measures do you take for your company’s growth?
Michelle: So, I really love Making Sense of Cents. So, I don’t really need a lot to keep me going because I do love what I do, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I am constantly learning new things about blogging so that things don’t get stale, and that really helps me continue to grow my blog. Other measures are continuing to consistently post new blog posts, just consistently helping readers, finding ways to help them with new personal finance topics to tackle. It’s pretty much never ending when it comes to running a blog, especially after you’ve been doing it for over 10 years.
There are always new things to learn, always new things to do. But I do love pretty much everything about it. I love writing about personal finance. I love having a flexible schedule. I love deciding the work that I do. I enjoy being my own boss. I enjoy helping readers with personal finance topics. And that all really helps to keep me going.
Minnie: So, how do you choose any topic. I know you know so much about finance, so you can write about that. But do people also ask you some question and that tells you that “Oh, this is a good topic. I should write something about it.” So, how do you choose any topic of blogging?
Michelle: That is a great question. So, if a reader will send me a question in an email, I will turn that into a blog post. Because typically, if one person has a question, then a lot of people do. If I come across an interesting topic on – maybe I’m scrolling on Facebook and I come across an article, if there’s a question that I have about it, I might turn that into a blog post. If there’s a question that comes up in my day-to-day life that I have, I might turn that into a blog post.
So, for example, right now I’m learning about – I just had a baby 10 months ago, and I’m learning about how to invest for children. So, I might do a lot of research on that and turn that into a blog post. So, just things from day-to-day life, reader questions, just – I have a Word doc on my computer that has a thousand different ideas for blog posts, so I’m definitely not gonna run out of ideas any time soon.
Minnie: That’s so great. Okay. You know, then, I was talking to you about affiliate marketing and sponsored partnership. I sort of blanked out. What I wanted to ask you was – in my interview, I did not write about how much you really made in your early days and then a little later. I want to hear all that from your mouth. So, tell me how much money really made by blogging, and then affiliate marketing, and then sponsored partnership because it’s all on your website, right. So, it’s okay.
Michelle: Yeah. So, I have made over $5 million through the years from Making Sense of Cents. The biggest portion of that is through affiliate marketing. I don’t know the exact percentage over the years from that, but I would say affiliate marketing is – I don’t have that number off the top of my head. It’s a significant portion. And, then, the next big portion of my income through my blog would be through course sales, so that would be Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, Making Sense of Sponsored Posts. And then next would be sponsored partnerships, and that’s still a pretty good percentage. I usually make around $10,000 to $20,000 from sponsored partnerships a month.
And I think those are all really great ways to make money through your blog. My big favorite’s definitely affiliate marketing. Like I said earlier, there’s less work than creating your own product. You don’t have to worry about creating and selling and customer service. You’re really just trying to help your readers through a simple blog post or a review when it comes to affiliate marketing. And I really like that because there’s always things to share if you’re already writing on your blog, so there’s tons of things that you can promote.
Minnie: Perfect. I’m in awe. Okay. So, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start their business?
Michelle: So, my top piece of advice if you wanna start a business is to find ways to make it happen. So, that might include starting your business on the side so that you’re still earning a stable income, so you still have health insurance and other benefits. It’s a lot easier to start a business if you don’t have to worry about making money every single month. Of course, some people don’t have a choice, maybe you’ve been laid off or something like that. But if you’re really able to, starting a business on the side I think lowers a lot of the stress because that way – I mean, you might not even like the business that you’re starting. If you start it on the side, you can kinda test out a few different things until you find something that you really like while still earning your full-time income. And then my other piece of advice would be to take a class on the topic if you can. If you can afford you to do so, it allows you to skip many common mistakes that people make. And then there’s also lots of free webinars and stuff that you can take. So, if you can’t afford it, try to take as many free webinars and free email courses as you can.
That’s actually how I started Making Sense of Cents. I didn’t spend any money in the beginning. I just took as many free webinars, free email series that I could sign up for, and I learned a lot about blogging that way. Sure, it took me a lot more time to kinda compile all the different resources that I wanted to take, but it allowed me to start really, really affordably that way.
Minnie: Okay. So, did you write a blog about it like how you started, where to find all these free webinars and all the tips that – from your experience, did you write it? Is it on one of your blogs that anybody can read?
Michelle: I have a lot of blog posts that will help you with starting blogging. I have a blog post about how to start a successful blog. I have a free blogging email course. I have a blog post that’s all about the different blogging courses and free resources that I recommend. So, yeah, I have a lot of different resources out there that will help someone start a blog.
Minnie: Well, perfect. Perfect. Okay. Well, it was so nice chatting and picking your brain, Michelle. I am sure my work-from-home audience is empowered with your entrepreneurial journey, tips, and advice, and will be more motivated to excel in their career. I wish you continued success in all your future endeavors. And before I let go of you, please tell my audience where to find you.
Michelle: Yeah. So, you can find me on Making Sense of Cents, which is my blog. And then I also have an Instagram, which is Instagram.com/MichelleSchro. And, on there, it’s mainly just my travel pictures and life at home. Then I also have a Pinterest, Facebook. I have a free Facebook community. You can pretty much find me on every single platform that you can think of, and I’m pretty active on all of them.
Minnie: Great. Great. Thank you, Michelle. Take care and stay healthy. It was so nice talking to you. Bye.
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me. Bye.
Minnie: Thank you. Bye. All right, everyone. I look forward to our next installment of uSpeak. Please share this with anyone who may find it interesting. Please check out our website at www.transcriptioncertificationinstitute.com. And remember to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. See you next time. Bye.
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