How I Made $979,321 In One Year – My December Online Income Report and Annual Wrap Up

Welcome to December’s business income report where I show you how I made money online last month. It’s time to look at this month’s update and see how I did. If you’re new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my income report each month. You can simply skip to the next section if…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 16, 2022

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Welcome to December’s business income report where I show you how I made money online last month. It’s time to look at this month’s update and see how I did.

Here's how Michelle made $979,321 in 2016, as well as her December blog income report. 2016 was a great year! - made a great income and learned a lot too.If you’re new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my income report each month. You can simply skip to the next section if you’re not new here.

This all started out as my extra income report because in the beginning, it was all about the money I was earning from my side jobs. In my side income reports from the beginning, I included all of the income I made except for what I made at my day job.

However, I left my day job as a financial analyst in October of 2013 and now my monthly income reports consist of the many ways I earn a living.

Many have asked why I would ever want to publicly post my income each month. Some think I’m crazy, whereas some are glad I’m open about what I’m doing. Whatever you think, I enjoy publishing my monthly online income reports and I share them publicly for three main reasons:

  1. Before I started blogging, I knew nothing about side hustling and making money online. I didn’t think side jobs were worth the effort and I thought the only way to significantly increase your income was through raises at your full-time job. If it weren’t for others publishing their monthly income reports, I don’t know if I would have ever tried side hustling. I want to help show others the positives in side hustling and how it can change a person’s life. There are many different ways to make money online, and I like to share my story each month to help motivate others to improve their financial situation by making more money.
  2. Secondly, I like to publish my income reports because it’s a way for me to look back, learn from my mistakes and actually see what areas need improvement. I use my monthly income reports as a way to track how I’ve done and I treat it sort of like a journal.
  3. Lastly, I like to show others that making side money is possible and that there are many legitimate ways to make money from your home. If you are looking for information on the many ways to make money online, I published the article Monthly Income Report Roundup that showcases many successful bloggers who are kind enough to share their income with the public each month.

I know I say this every month, but it’s the truth. Life is great now that I’m my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day and it’s a wonderful feeling. I truly love waking up every single morning.

Above are just a few of the reasons for why I enjoy publishing my monthly income reports. I like to show others that you don’t have to hate your job and hate your life. You can make changes to your life and make money in a way that allows you to truly enjoy the life you are living. I’m not saying that you have to LOVE your job, I’m just saying that your job should, at least, allow you to do what you like to do outside of work (whether that be spending time with loved ones, painting, hiking, etc.).


2016 Business Year In Review

Before we begin with my monthly business income update, I want to start off with my 2016 wrap up. 2016 was a great year for many reasons and you will read why below.

2016 was a huge year for me and my business. Business income grew significantly:

  • In 2013, my business income totaled $116,519.
  • In 2014, it totaled $163,929.
  • In 2015, I made $320,888.

In 2016, I earned $979,321.

Yes, that means I TRIPLED what I earned in 2015.

2016 was an amazing year too. Not only did I completely smash my income goal, I also traveled full-time, learned how to manage a better work/life balance, started being healthier, tried new things, and more.

I attribute a lot of my business success in 2016 to several specific actions I took.

  1. I tried new things. Instead of doing the same things over and and over again, I finally started trying new things, such as podcasts, webinars, email lists, promoting better, creating a product, and more. This has helped me grow and accept more and new opportunities that before I was too afraid to do.
  2. I diversified my income. In 2016, I finally created my first for-sale product, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. This helped me to diversify my business and try a new form of income. Now, my business income primarily consists of affiliate marketing, a product, sponsorships, and advertising, which is a mix that I’m very happy with.
  3. I started posting less but spending more time on promoting and marketing my website. When I first started blogging over 5 years ago, I was publishing a new piece of content every single day and sometimes even twice a day. However, that was super draining. Now, I write just on Monday and Wednesday, and every other Friday is a side hustle interview. I found that this schedule works much better, as I can spend more time writing high-quality content and more time promoting that content. Before, I didn’t spend much time promoting my blog because I just didn’t have the energy to and I didn’t fully realize the value in promoting. This is a much better system for me now and I definitely think it’s working.
  4. I focused on my email list. I didn’t start taking my email list seriously until around April of 2016 when I switched to Convertkit. Convertkit makes sending an effective and efficient newsletter so much easier and better. I never really understood email marketing before, but ConvertKit makes it so easy and now I feel like I’m an expert! I now have around 30,000 email subscribers. One of my biggest blogging mistakes was waiting years to start my email list. If you don’t have one yet, you should start ASAP!
  5. I spent time figuring out Facebook. I started 2016 with just around 6,500 Facebook followers and ended it with 38,000. I owe a lot of that to the ebook Facebook Strategies Worth Sharing. Growing my Facebook page has allowed me to reach new readers, improve my blogging income, grow my email list, and more.

As you can see, these specific actions all changed my business significantly, and for the better. I’ve learned a lot over the past year and have been applying everything that I’ve learned towards my business.

And, I know that 2017 will be even better. I am learning more and more about improving my blogging business, so I have a good feeling that 2017 will be great as well.

My business income goal for 2017 is to earn $1,000,000 from my business.

I want to thank all of you for making this possible. Without my readers, I don’t know where I would be. Again, thank you!

My business-related goals for 2016:

  • Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I figured since I am currently two months ahead, I might as well work even further ahead. Being ahead in content makes life much more enjoyable because I can focus on other things knowing that the majority of my writing work is already done.
  • Grow Making Sense of Cents to 1,000,000 monthly page views. I would love to help more readers, see even more engagement, have higher traffic, and so on. I love my blog and I would love to see it grow! I’m hoping to see at least 1,000,000 monthly page views by the end of 2017.
  • Start doing more live interviews, such as podcasts and webinars. I’m not as shy as I used to be, but living in an RV and not always having an internet or a reliable schedule makes podcasts and webinars are a little more difficult. I hope to find a way around that (perhaps planning out a better schedule?) and dedicate more time to this area.
  • Create one more product to sell. In 2016, I created Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, and that has completely changed my life and my business. I want to think about and create another product to sell in 2017 so that I can continue to diversify my income.

Now, here’s my December income report!


How was my business income in December?

I earned $91,764.63 blogging and online in December, before expenses.

December was a great income month. I didn’t spend much time writing for Making Sense of Cents (directly) in December, since I was already over 2 months ahead in content. Instead, I used the majority of my time to write guest posts for others (discussed further below), network, improve my blog, and, lastly, take some time off for the holidays.

I’m very excited for 2017. I know it will be another great year! The business is doing well and I’m very happy with it. I’ve been catching myself saying “Life is really good” a LOT. And, I truly mean it. Life is really good!

My business is growing, income is increasing, I have tons of amazing ideas for 2017, and I am very excited about everything. I really love my business and I don’t know where I would be without it.

Anyway, December was another great month. It was great on all fronts – blogging, course-wise, life, and everything else.

My Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course is still doing very well and I had many new students join the course last month. I think a lot of this has to do with all of the amazing reviews that I’m hearing about my course such as:

  • One blogger went from $0 in Amazon affiliate income to over $1,500 after taking the course.
  • One blogger went from $87 a month in affiliate income before taking the course, to over $1,700 a month after!
  • One blogger received their first affiliate sale just two days after taking the course (and they were a brand new blogger too!).
  • Another blogger doubled their monthly affiliate income from $2,500 to $5,000.

Plus, I’ve heard and read many other great reviews about my course.

If you’re a blogger, I recommend checking out my blogging course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I share my exact strategy and tips in this very informative online course. If you’re a blogger, then you need to check out this course.

If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, I created a tutorial that will help you start a blog of your own for cheap, starting at only $2.95 per month (this low price is only through my link) for blog hosting. In addition to the low pricing, you will receive a free website domain (a $15 value) through my Bluehost link if you purchase, at least, 12 months of blog hosting. FYI, if you are asking yourself “can you make money blogging?” – my top tip is to be self-hosted. This is essential if you want to monetize your blog as you will appear more professional and this will help you monetize your blog tremendously. My blogging income did not take off until after I switched to self-hosted WordPress.

Here is my blogging income chart that displays my income for the past 2 years.
This chart only goes back to 2015. You can find all of my income reports here.

Breakout of December 2016 income – $91,764.63:

Total: $91,764.63

The income amount above is for the month of December and before any fees or expenses (some fees and expenses that lower the amount above total around $3,500 (rounded up), which include virtual assistants, Teachable course platform fee, technical assistance, newsletter expenses, PayPal fees, Stripe fees, etc., however, this does not include taxes) being taken out. I also had expenses for the affiliates promoting my course, which totaled $7,569.05. After expenses and fees, I made approximately $80,696.

Please keep in mind that I work for myself when you read my monthly income report. This means I have to cover taxes (which are over 30%), health insurance, and all other benefits/expenses that an employer may provide.

Check out The Ultimate Guide To Making Money Blogging for all of the different ways you can make money through a blog.

Below are some of my other monthly online income reports. I publish an online income update every month but only included some of them below as it would be a very long list. If you head on over to my income page you can find all of my monthly income reports from the past few years.


Comparisons and 2016 online income total:

  • Total income in December of 2016: $91,765
  • Total income in November of 2016: $106,384
  • Difference from the previous month: -14,619
  • Total in 2016: $979,321


Blog news 

Making Sense of Cents is doing very well and I’m happy with everything.

I’m starting to guest post on other websites in order to promote my blog better and reach new readers. I think I’ve only guest posted once or twice ever since I started blogging in 2011, so this is something that I’m looking to change. I submitted around 5 or 6 guest posts to other blogs in the past few weeks, and I’m excited to see them live! It was a lot of fun writing them as well – I think it was just nice to mix things up a little bit and try something new.

Overall, traffic slightly increased and I received around 400,000 page views. Pinterest traffic increased last month after several months of it falling, and organic and Facebook traffic each increased as well.

Below are several business-related updates:

  • I released my How To Start A Blog FREE Course a few months ago. If you’ve been wanting to start a blog, then check this out. I created this email course for those who are interested in starting a blog, but haven’t done so yet. The course is free, and over 9,500 people have already signed up just in the past few months. Thank you to everyone who has sent me kind emails about how great the course is. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!
  • Due to how well my first free course went, in August I created the free Master Your Money email course. It’s full of great money management lessons and financial worksheets (such as a free budget template), and I’m loving the positive response from this email course as well. What topic should I turn into a course next?
  • This month, I will hopefully be creating a free personal finance support group on Facebook. I’m extremely excited for this to be live! This would be a place where everyone can talk about money freely, seek support and help, and so on.

Also, I have received many questions recently about how I’m staying connected to the internet so that I can work and travel in my RV at the same time. I use a Verizon Mifi and I am able to stay connected pretty much anywhere with it. It really comes in handy because you can’t always trust free wifi. Sometimes free wifi is slow, hard to find, or not safe. I don’t know what I would do without this device!

Popular new posts on Making Sense of Cents last month:

Where do you get your photos from for your blog? Here's a great stock photo site so that you can get beautiful pictures for your blog!

Featured Question: Where do you get your photos from for your blog?

Where do you get your photos from for your blog? Here's a great stock photo site so that you can get beautiful pictures for your blog!I feature one question from a reader in each monthly income report. Please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer. 

One question I receive a lot is about where bloggers can get photos from.

After all, photos are usually used a lot on a blog, such as within a blog post, on social media like Pinterest, on a homepage, and more.

I use three main areas for my blog photos:

  1. My own photos. These are usually found in my RVing-related content and Instagram. Photography is an area that I’m still looking to improve, so usually I use the two forms below for the majority of my pictures instead.
  2. Unsplash. Unsplash is great for landscape and other photography.
  3. Haute Chocolate. For my Pinterest photos (like the one to the right) and horizontal Facebook photos (like the one above this section), I primarily use Haute Chocolate.

Lately, I’ve been using Haute Chocolate the most. The pictures from this website are clean looking, appealing to the eye, and are perfect for what I’m looking for when it comes to my blog.

I have been searching for a good stock photo site for quite some time, and just a few months ago I found Haute Chocolate. This site has lots of photos for entrepreneurs, bloggers, and creative professionals.

With Haute Chocolate, you receive:

  • New images each month
  • Around 1,000 images to choose from
  • Instant access to their past photo collections and any new ones for the time of your membership
  • Unlimited downloads – this is a GREAT feature as you pay one price and can download an unlimited amount of photos for the time period of your membership

The price is great too.

The smallest package is $75 for three months. That means that you can download as many photos as you want (yes, you can download ALL of them), for just $75. This is the package I have and I know I have received a great value for it.

Where do you get your blog photos from? Please share in the comments below.

Past featured questions:


My plans for my blog and my business.

Plans and goals can help you to run a successful business. I believe that working towards a goal can help keep a person motivated too.

Below are some of the areas I am currently working on:

  • Promote the blog and business better. I am doing much better at promoting my blog and content, and I’m noticing an improvement. I started focusing more on improving my traffic from Facebook, and I’ve been very pleased with the results. I used to only see around 100 visits a day from Facebook, but in the past month, I have been seeing anywhere from around 3,000+ visits a day from Facebook.
  • Diversify traffic sources. A lot of my traffic comes from Pinterest, due to this, I would like to spend more time diversifying my traffic. This is why I’m starting to spend more time on Facebook and learning more about SEO.
  • Continue learning and improving. I currently have a few blog courses that I’m working through, such as one for Instagram and an SEO course that I’m finishing up.
  • Take part in more interviews.  I took part in several interviews in December as well as one webinar which went well.
  • Earn $1,000,000 from my business in 2017. This is a brand new goal for the new year.
  • Increase my page views to 1,000,000 each month. I realize this is a superficial goal, but it’s quantifiable and that’s what I like about it. I would like to hit one million page views a month by Summer 2017. My plan is to focus even more on Pinterest, Facebook, and SEO. Wish me luck!


Affiliate income results.

Overall, I earned $55,878.63 in affiliate income in December of 2016, as outlined earlier in this blog income report.

I’m a very big fan of affiliate income, of course. It’s something that I enjoy due to how passive it can be. It makes full-time traveling much more enjoyable when I know I can bring in an income while having fun seeing new areas.

As I always say, blogging income is not dependent on page views. Even brand new bloggers can make money through affiliate marketing. If you know the correct way to promote a product, you can succeed at affiliate marketing. This is one of the main things I teach in my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course.

My affiliate marketing course went live in July of 2016. I’ve already had over 1,000 people purchase the course, and I’d love to have you as a student too!

In Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, there are 6 modules, over 30 lessons, several worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful and exclusive Facebook group, and more. I go through everything that you need to know about affiliate marketing, such as:

  • A quick introduction to affiliate marketing and how it works
  • The benefits of affiliate marketing
  • The exact steps I’ve taken to earn over $400,000 from a single blog post
  • How to correctly pick affiliate products to promote
  • The steps to increase your conversion rate
  • How to build trust with your readers (this is a MUST!)
  • The required disclosures you need to know about
  • The major tool you need for affiliate marketing
  • The many different strategies to promote your affiliate links

My course is anything and everything about affiliate marketing. This course is perfect for you whether you are a new blogger or if you’ve been blogging for years, no matter what topic your blog is about, what country you live in, and so on. I wrote this course so that it would benefit everyone, and there is so much to learn from it!

How was December for you? Are you interested in earning blogging income?

How To Start A Blog Free Email Course

Want to see how I built a $5,000,000 blog?

In this free course, I show you how to create a blog easily, from the technical side all the way to earning your first income and attracting readers. Join now!

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. shailesh

    I’m so delighted to know the fact that one can make this much money from blogging. I’m so inspired.

    Keep it up!