How We Launched An Online Course And Helped Over 8,000 Students

Published: February 5th, 2021
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner
Making Sense of C...
from Living on a Sailboat
started August 2011
Discover what tools Michelle recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Michelle recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hey again! My name is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, and I run Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance and lifestyle website that helps readers earn more, save more, and live more. I also run Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, an online course that teaches bloggers how to make affiliate income.

I travel full-time, currently by sailboat. I and my husband have been living on our sailboat for almost 3 years now. Before this, we traveled full-time in an RV for several years.

I created my personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents back in 2011, completely as a hobby. I did not know that blogs could make money, how they made money, or even really what a blog was. I started it just for myself so that I could talk about my personal finance journey and talk to others who were interested in personal finance as well.

Two years after I started my blog, I decided to leave my job as an analyst to blog full-time.

After becoming a full-time blogger, I started receiving email after email from other bloggers asking me to help them monetize their blogs. At first, I coached bloggers one-on-one. Not too much later, I realized that I should create a course. This way, I could help many people all at once, instead of slowly helping people one by one.

I now have over 8,000 students in my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course.

I have made over $5,000,000 from Making Sense of Cents and Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing over the years. Much of it is profit, as my expenses are extremely low. I am the only full-time employee of my business, but I do outsource some work. I have a virtual assistant, an editor, and a technical manager.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I also have a free How To Start a Blog course that you can find here.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

My business has remained stable over the last couple of years.

I took a lot of time off over the past 2 years to focus on sailing and enjoy the life that I have created for myself. Living on a sailboat and sailing to new places is a full-time job in itself, so it can be hard to manage both at the same time, especially when I was just a newbie a few years ago!

Take a course! There is probably something that you can learn, especially if you feel stuck. A course can help you figure out what you may be missing, learn new ways to attract customers/readers, grow your business, and more.

I have still been working the past few years, but I have mainly been just on maintenance mode and keeping my current readers and customers happy. I still publish new content at least once to twice a week, reply to all emails, add new content to my course, am active in my community groups for readers and customers, and so on.

But, I’m getting ready to get back into it, so that I can see growth in the future and because I love helping people improve their financial situation.

Lately, I have been focusing on new strategies to grow my traffic, mainly through SEO. I have seen an increase in traffic through SEO and I am hoping to increase that well into the future.

I am also hoping to be featured more in 2021 as well. I have been featured in the past in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader's Digest, Oprah, and more, and I’m hoping to see more features this year. It’s a great way to attract a new audience and share your story.


What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

I have learned that a blog can be somewhat passive, especially if you’ve been doing it for many years and have a ton of content! Even though I took a lot of time off over the past 2 years, my income has still been pretty stable.

One thing I have learned from this is that having good assistants is extremely valuable for any business. Thankfully with my editor and my virtual assistant, my online business has been running very smoothly. This way, I can focus on the tasks that I enjoy the most - mainly writing content!

Also, one other thing that I have learned over and over again, but I continue to forget, is that getting ahead in content is so important! Although I do LOVE writing, it can be easy to fall behind. Last year, I fell massively behind when it came to writing content, and that can be very stressful. Writing content at the last moment is not something that I enjoy - instead, I prefer to write content when I am in the writing mood. Thankfully, I am ahead in content again, and I am currently around 2-3 months ahead. I would like to be, at a minimum, 3 months ahead in content. Since I travel full-time and don’t always have super reliable and stable internet, being ahead in content makes everything much more enjoyable.


What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

For the future, I hope to simply continue to grow Making Sense of Cents in terms of both page views and income.

I plan to do this through SEO, Pinterest, growing my email list, media mentions/publication features, and more.

After taking the past couple of years off from growing Making Sense of Cents and Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, I am planning on going full steam and growing like crazy! I have been taking a few blogging courses and I’m excited to watch my online business grow.

I hope to grow my blog to 1,000,000 page views a month by the end of 2021. Wish me luck!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

If you are struggling to grow your business, I have two things to say.

1) Don’t give up. Too many people quit way too early. It took me 6 months to make my first $100 from my blog. If I would have given up before then, I would have missed out on so much! I now have enough money to retire whenever I’d like, and I have a wonderful business that I absolutely love. Good things don’t come easy - you will have to work hard. That being said, a great way to grow a business is on the side of your full-time day job. If you still have a day job, then try to save as much money as you can and build your emergency fund. If you don’t have a day job and you are 100% all-in on your business, then still save in an emergency fund! This can make a bad month much more doable, as you’ll have money to float your expenses.

2) Take a course! There is probably something that you can learn, especially if you feel stuck. A course can help you figure out what you may be missing, learn new ways to attract customers/readers, grow your business, and more. For me, I am always taking courses as there is always something to learn.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!