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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder of Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance blog about learning how to save and make more money. She started her personal finance website in August of 2011 when she realized she needed to improve her financial situation and take control of it.
Michelle has her Finance Masters and used to work as a financial analyst before running her personal finance blog full time. Michelle and her husband sold their house in 2015 and now travels full-time in an RV while earning upwards of $100,000 a month from her blog.
In this interview, Michelle shares how she started her blog and turn it into an extremely profitable business. She also shares what her typical day is like, how she handles time management and what it’s like to travel full time. Enjoy! – T$C
Can you tell our readers about yourself and your blog?
Hello! My name is Michelle and I run the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents. I have three finance-related college degrees and I used to be a financial analyst before I quit my day job to blog full-time.
My husband and I sold our house in 2015 and we’ve been traveling in an RV full-time ever since. We absolutely love RVing full-time!
On my blog Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about how to make extra money, the best ways to save money, achieving your dream life, being location independent, 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.
How did you get the idea for Making Sense of Cents? What did you believe you could do better than those already blogging about personal finance?
In the summer of 2011, I started my blog 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 entertaining because before that same summer, I had no idea about what blogs were, that they could even make money or anything along those lines. I literally did not know a single thing about blogs.
I did not create my blog with the intention of making money blogging. I never thought I would grow up and become a full-time blogger, haha. 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 a decision that I’m very happy that I made.
At what points did you KNOW that you could do blogging full time? When did it turn into a business?
I realized I could possible blog full-time around 1.5 years into it. I really, REALLY dreaded my day job as an analyst and I could not imagine myself in that position for even another year, let alone a few more decades.
So, I started to take my blog more seriously. I made a big attempt to diversify my blogging income, to treat my blog more professionally, and more.
I left my day job around 2 years after I started my blog. My husband left his day job at the same time as well.
Your blog has impacted our lives quite a bit, really a driving factor in starting our own blog. Did you ever think you would have this much reach and ability to help others?
In the beginning, I definitely did not think that. That is because I started my blog all as a hobby and didn’t know anything about blogs.
Today, it still seems crazy as well. I’m so glad that I can help so many people manage their money better, start their own businesses, and more. It’s always a great feeling to hear what you just said!
What would be your best advice for others who want to start an online business? Where should they start?
My best piece of advice would be to look into the various ways to have an online business. There are tons and tons of different online business ideas – so pretty much everyone can find something that will interest them. I do have a quick list of 9 work from home and travel careers that you may want to start with as well.
Once someone has a business going, what is your best advice to help it grow quickly?
I definitely recommend that a person network as much as they can. Through networking, you can make friends with those in your industry, learn new tips to improve your business, stay motivated with your business (because you’re surrounding yourself with other successful people in a similar business as yours), and more.
What are some of the most important traits that a successful blogger/business owner need to possess?
The willingness to learn. Running a business is not easy, no matter what type of business that you have. There are always things to learn and tasks to complete. You have to be willing to learn as much as you can.
How do you stay focused every day? What do you use to stay organized and productive?
I never force myself to work – that’s always my number 1 rule. Forcing myself usually leads to me producing lower-quality work and, most of all, just sitting there staring at the screen. Due to this, I always work ahead. I am currently around 2 months ahead in blog content and this helps me to stay organized, productive and focused.
Running an online business comes with some difficulties. It’s hard to “draw the line” sometimes as work never really ends. How do you maintain a good work-life balance on a daily basis?
Ahhh yes, this is one of the things that I struggle with the most. Usually, my husband just makes me stop and that’s how I end up stopping! Haha.
What is your typical day like? What routines do you have that have really benefited your business?
Usually, I wake up and work from my bed for a little bit. Then, I try to use the daytime hours to enjoy the day – go for a hike, mountain bike, etc. Then, I’ll work again at night time when there’s nothing else to do 🙂
You get most of your traffic from Pinterest. What is your best piece of advice for someone just getting started on Pinterest?
I get around 30% to 40% of my traffic from Pinterest, but I also get a lot from Facebook. For Pinterest, my best piece of advice would be to learn how to create great images because that’s how you’ll get Pinterest users back to your website.
Your blog has seen incredible achievements! You are making a full time living and traveling full time in an RV, it’s incredible. Besides the obvious how has your successful online business changed your life, good and bad?
Thank you! Yes, life is really great. Life is really, really good – we get to travel full-time, be our own bosses, have a flexible schedule, we’ll be able to retire before we’re 30 (if we want to!), and more. Not too much bad has happened since we’ve created the business either.
Our slogan on our website is “Living Frugal & Free”. You are doing just that! How did you make the decision to sell your house and travel full time in an RV?
We don’t live in an RV to save money. Our RV actually cost 3 times the amount of the house we used to own. That being said, we do love RVing! 🙂 We love being able to travel, to explore new places, have a great view, and more, so living in an RV is a no-brainer for us.
Give our readers your BEST personal finance tip that has helped you the most in life?
My very best personal finance tip would be to find ways to make extra money. When I had student loan debt, I worked multiple jobs so that I could pay off my debt, and this helped me be able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in just 7 months! There are tons of things that a person could do such as starting their own business, finding a part-time job, asking for more hours at their current company, and more. Plus, nearly everyone has extra time – the average person watches over 30 hours of TV a week!
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What is your best personal finance tip?