Is sharing income reports on your blog necessarily a good thing? Joe and Michelle Schroeder-Gardner make a combined 6-figure income from blogging, affiliate marketing, and course sales. They have been consistently reporting their income for years and their readers love it.
Today we speak with Michelle from Making Sense of Cents about:
• Posting income reports on your blog
• Important first steps for first time bloggers
• Focusing on affiliate links instead of display ads as a part of your income strategy
Intro – Michelle Schroeder-Gardner–blogger, full-time traveler, affiliate marketing expert
1:35 Living the dream–full-time RV and sailboat living
4:40 How Making Sense of Cents got started
6:22 Making the decision to share income reports
10:35 Tips for beginning bloggers
12:30 Michelle’s earliest income streams
13:50 Pricing sponsored posts and freelance work
16:40 Breaking down the income streams
20:45 Making Sense of affiliate marketing, the course
The Early Days of Making Sense of Cents
Michelle began her blog in the summer of 2011 as a hobby. She had never heard the term “side-hustle” and had no clue that a blog could actually be a business. She was on a personal finance journey and she used the blog to connect with others who were also on that same journey.
About 6 months in, she discovered that other bloggers were sharing income reports and she got her first introduction to working with ads on her site. She made her first $100 on her blog 6 months after she began it.
Michelle’s goal when she began blogging was to be involved in the personal finance community for her own benefit. Once she had built that community though, they taught her about side hustling and just making more money in general. Before she got involved with blogging, Michelle thought that people just went to work every day from 9-5, went home, and started all over the next day.
Should You Share Income Reports on Your Blog?
Michelle started her blog in order to have a journal of her own personal finance journey so it made sense to her to begin sharing income reports since that was a part of the journey. Sharing the income information publicly was not only a way to prove to others that it could be done but also to prove it to herself.
She not only shares her income in her reports; she also shares her goals for the next month. This has allowed her income reports to be more than just financial information for her. They also provide her with accountability. It’s easy to see what she set as her goals and whether she met them. Having over 5 years of reports is a great incentive for her as she sees where she has come from and the things she still hopes to accomplish.
Sharing income reports has also given Michelle a place to talk about blogging. She made the decision early on not to talk about blogging on her blog except in the income reports.
Michelle actually considered stopping with the income reports a while back and asked her readers what they thought about it. Why would she stop? Well, she wondered if maybe sharing month after month how she was making over $100K a month was actually helping anybody. Her readers quickly let her know that they definitely didn’t want the reports to stop. They feel motivated to keep working on their own blogs when they see what Michelle has been able to accomplish with hers.
Tips for Beginning Bloggers
Because Michelle has been at this for over 5 years now and because she has grown her income to over $100K per month, she has some great insight on what to do if you’re just getting started and some potholes to look out for.
Michelle receives tons of emails from people who want to start a blog but they’re facing a few hurdles: what to blog about, how to get people to read it, getting comfortable with putting themselves “out there”, and how to be successful with it.
Michelle has just 2 words for those people–just start! You’ll never know if you like blogging if you never try. Everybody has to start at the same place–the beginning. You won’t know if people want to read your content until you have content. Starting a blog is super affordable so if you start it and decide you don’t like it, you haven’t invested a huge amount of money.
Once you’ve started your blog, it’s important to not view other bloggers as competition. Not only is it bad for business, it’s harmful to look at the world in general with a “me vs. them” attitude. See those bloggers as people to learn from and friends to make, not as people who are trying to “steal your secrets.”
Michelle’s Earliest Income Streams
When Michelle started blogging, she was making the majority of her income through sponsored posts and freelance work. She did social media and blog management for other bloggers. This is the type of work that allowed her to leave her day job and come home to work full-time.
Around a year and a half in, Michelle decided to fire all of the clients she was working for and work only for herself. This was a scary jump, as you can imagine, but the very next month her income tripled due simply to the fact that she could dedicate all of her working hours to her own blog.
Previously, she had spent the majority of her time helping other people grow their business; now she was focusing on growing her own business. And it felt good.
Pricing Sponsored Posts and Freelance Work
One of the hardest things about doing sponsored work or freelancing for others is knowing what to charge. The rates can vary wildly depending on your audience and how long you’ve been blogging.
Michelle advises that you price yourself higher than you think you can get. If you think you can get $50, ask for $100. The worst that anyone can say is, “No.” Again, you have to start somewhere so pick a number and see what happens. As you do more and more sponsored work and you grow your audience, you can increase your rates for sponsored posts. You can also change the rate depending on what all you’re offering–a post vs. a post and social media mentions.
Michelle got started doing freelance work when others would see her blog and enjoy her writing. Some of those folks reached out to her and asked to hire her to write for them. She also answered a few ads for freelancers. She especially found conferences like FinCon helpful for finding freelance jobs.
How Michelle Changed Her Income Streams
The whole reason that Michelle stopped working for others was so she could focus more on her own business and blog. There were a few key things she did that made her income absolutely skyrocket in a fairly short amount of time.
- She focused on specific ways to grow her traffic.
- She purposely grew her email list from zero to flourishing.
- She focused on growing her social media accounts.
- She created products.
The main thing that changed for Michelle is that previously, she was busy working in her business but not on it. Getting back the time she had been spending working for others allowed her to really focus on the things that would help her to grow.
Breaking Down the Income Streams
Because Michelle makes her income public, you can see for yourself how the previous month’s income breaks down. In May of 2018, she earned $136,807.97. Let’s see how her income streams play out.
- Affiliate income was $50,664.97
- Michelle’s Affiliate Marketing course made $67,069
- $16,500 came from sponsorships and advertising
- Display ads made up the remaining $2,574.
The most interesting part about those numbers is the fact that the display advertising amount is so low. Wouldn’t you expect it to be much higher for a blogger making over $100K every month? The thing is, Michelle doesn’t like display ads and she especially doesn’t like them distracting her readers from her affiliate links.
For the past couple of years, Michelle has really wanted to launch a couple of new products. That hasn’t happened yet but she’s hopeful that 2018 will be the year to launch her course on sponsored campaigns.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
Michelle’s course teaches her exact strategies for affiliate marketing and currently has over 5K students. She launched the course a little over two years ago and she’s received so many testimonials on how helpful the course has been.
You can find out more about the course at Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
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