This 33-year-old mom makes $760,000 a year in passive income — and lives on a sailboat: ‘I only work 10 hours a week’ – CNBC | Vette Leader

When I started my money and lifestyle blog Making Sense of Cents in 2011, I had no idea what I was doing.

I was a 22-year-old financial analyst making $40,000 a year and struggling to pay off my student loans. But my debt was actually a big part of the reason I started blogging – I wanted to track and share the progress towards my financial goals.

Eleven years later, Making Sense has grown beyond my wildest dreams. For the past five years, I’ve made an average of $760,000 a year in passive income by providing advice on how to start investing, what financial products to use, and how to approach other money decisions.

My husband and I are financially independent and we have saved enough to retire whenever we want. This has enabled me to live my ideal lifestyle: I only work 10 hours a week and travel full time on our sailboat. I regularly go snorkeling, exploring and hiking.

The best thing is that we have a lot of time for our six month old daughter.

Michelle’s passive income allows her and her family to live and travel full time on their sailboat where they have limited internet access.

Photo: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

How I started my finance blog

Making Sense started out as a hobby, but about six months after writing it, my friend put me in touch with a company that wanted me to write a sponsored post for them. They paid me $100 to hit my 50,000 monthly website visitors.

After that, I started studying other bloggers who were making money from their blogs. I posted more frequently and set up display advertising on my website. I’ve also continued to write sponsored posts by reaching out to brands I saw other bloggers work with.

In just two years I was making about $5,000 to $10,000 a month – more than what I was making at my day job. After paying off my student loan in full in 2013, I decided to quit my job and blog full-time.

For the first few years I focused on the blogging element of my business and published new posts almost daily. I’ve also guest-posted on my friends’ blogs.

Then I doubled my social media presence. Now I have 110,000 followers on Facebook, where I post multiple times a day, and 161,000 followers on Pinterest, where I post about twice a week. I also have over 130,000 email subscribers.

Over the years I have used my audience to create multiple passive income streams. And in 2016 I started my first blogging course. Today, I blog and post only once or twice a week and have grossed over $4,000,000 for the past five years.

Working just 10 hours a week has allowed Michelle to spend more time with her family in nature.

Photo: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

How I make $760,000 a year in passive income

Earning passive income from a blog doesn’t mean you never have to work. You always have to manage your company’s accounting, maintain your website and create new content. But you can do a lot of work up front and make money for years with little maintenance.

I have three main drivers of passive income: affiliate marketing, course sales, and display advertising.

Affiliate marketing commissions make up about 50% of my earnings. I get paid for driving traffic or sales to partner brands through links on my blog, including posts created months or years ago that are still discoverable across Google, my social media channels, and my blog.

About 20% of my income comes from course sales. I have two blogging courses that I sell to my blog audience and email subscribers: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and Making Sponsored Posts Sense.

I created my first course on Teachable and did all the planning, writing and recording work. I assigned the graphic design elements to freelancers.

I sell Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing for $197 and Making Sense of Sponsored Posts for $159, both costing a lot less than what my competitors are charging. Nonetheless, these two courses have made me over $1,000,000 over the years.

I also earn passive income through display ad commissions through Adthrive. I get paid when readers see or click an automatically generated ad on my blog.

My top tips for passive income

I’m always trying to increase my passive income. In addition to blogging, my husband and I invest in both individual stocks and investment accounts to supplement our retirement savings.

As I live and travel on a sailboat, reliable internet is not always available. Without passive income drivers, my family and I would not be able to enjoy this wonderful nomadic lifestyle.

Michelle and her husband travel full time with their daughter on their sailboat.

Photo: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Here are my top tips for creating content that will help you earn passive income:

1. Write as you speak.

On Making Sense, I discuss financial topics in language that’s easy to read and understand. People walk away feeling like they’ve learned something, rather than feeling patronized or confused. This increases the likelihood that they will return or share my blog with their friends.

Make sure your language on social media is engaging and personable. A good trick is to write as if you’re casually chatting with a friend over coffee.

2. Diversify your revenue streams.

Affiliate marketing, display advertising, and selling digital products are some of your best ways to generate passive income.

Diversifying your income streams allows you to not just make money from one way or rely on just one of your traffic sources. Instead, you have balanced income streams to mitigate risk.

3. Post regularly.

While you can generate revenue from your old blogs for years to come, it’s still a good idea to keep creating new content. This helps you gain new readers or followers while retaining your loyal readers (who don’t want to see the same thing over and over again).

4. Be as helpful as possible.

The goal is to get people to come back to your blog. You want them to trust you enough to buy a course or related product that you recommend.

Ask readers what they would like to read more about or what questions they have. Research for yourself what fresh ideas are trending. Add actionable tips they can apply right away. Finally, only promote and sell products that you personally believe in.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is founder of understand cents, where she helps readers make smart decisions about how to earn, save, spend, and invest. She paid off nearly $40,000 in student loans in just seven months and now travels full-time on a sailboat with her family. keep following her Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

Do not miss:

Leave a Comment