How I’ve Earned $434,698+ From One Online Course Without Webinars Or Spending Money On Advertising

I launched my first and (so far) only online course in July of 2016. After only one year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. This was without a single webinar, any guest posts, a “launch” period, or anything else. It’s an evergreen course that has mainly spread through word-of-mouth. While it’s been incredibly…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 4, 2023

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.

I launched my first and only online course in July of 2016. In the first year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. Here's how I did it!I launched my first and (so far) only online course in July of 2016. After only one year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698.

This was without a single webinar, any guest posts, a “launch” period, or anything else. It’s an evergreen course that has mainly spread through word-of-mouth.

While it’s been incredibly successful, that doesn’t mean that creating an online course has come easy to me.

I was very nervous when creating Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. It’s my first and only product that I’ve ever sold, and like all online course creators, I was afraid that no one would want it.

I knew that creating this online course would be a lot of work – it still is! I was also afraid of what I was getting myself into because creating a blogging course was such a foreign concept to me.

PLUS, I had numerous people tell me that your first product usually ends up being a dud. I really didn’t want to waste a ton of time creating something that could basically fail.

But, I still knew I wanted to create this online course that would help others understand and benefit from affiliate marketing. And, I knew I wanted it to be the best thing ever.

I wanted to share my knowledge of affiliate marketing with others. And, instead of helping bloggers one-on-one, I knew that creating an online course would be a way to reach a wider audience, help more people, and (of course) bring in a new income source with a product of my own.

Online blogging courses are great because you can offer more than just an ebook by creating something extremely informative that helps your students in all areas. Online courses can include workbooks, lessons, a community group, bonuses, and more.

After encouragement from others and hearing stories about successful online courses, I finally decided to create one of my own.

And, it’s one of the best business decisions I have made!

Here’s a screenshot of my income through the online course.

I launched my first and only online course in July of 2016. In the first year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. Here's how I did it!

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Many of my students from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing have emailed me to say how much the course has helped them, which is always great to hear. Affiliate marketing is something that I love because it allows me to live a life that I enjoy, so I’m glad that I’m able to share my affiliate marketing knowledge and success with plenty of other people.

With my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course:

  • One student went from making $272 to $4,400 per month.
  • One blogger, who received just 10,000 page views a month, made over $1,000 through Amazon in just one month by taking my course.
  • One blogger went from $87 a month in affiliate income to over $1,700 one month after taking the course.
  • 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.

Related: How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog

Income from my online course now makes up around one-third of my business revenue.

And, that is just from one course.

I plan on creating more products and helping more people, so I expect this income stream to grow further in the future.

I see this online course as a great success. Like I said, I didn’t take part in any webinars, guest posting on another website, and I spent less than $100 on advertising and marketing the course.

So, how did I earn nearly half a million dollars from my one and only course in just the first year?

 

First, a little background.

I created Making Sense of Cents almost six years ago, and since then, I have earned over $1,500,000 with my blogging business and around $979,000 in just 2016 alone.

Related: Learn how to start a blog by taking this FREE course.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

The funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. At first, it was just a hobby to track my own personal finance progress. And, when I started in 2011, I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

My interest in blogging quickly grew, but like I said, it was all just a hobby. I wanted a space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, to keep track of how I was doing, and more. I did not create Making Sense of Cents with the intention of earning an income, but after only six months, I began to make money through my blog.

A friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.

It wasn’t a lot of money, especially considering the amount of time and work I put towards my blog. However, it was very motivating to see that something I absolutely loved to do could actually make money. Remember, I had no idea that blogs could even make money when I started mine!

After that first $100, the income I earned from blogging quickly grew from there.

By the summer of 2012, just one year after I started my blog, I was earning around $1,000 a month, and I was making around $10,000 monthly by the following summer.

My income only grew from there. In 2015, I earned over $320,000 from Making Sense of Cents, and I earned $979,000 in 2016.

That first deal sparked my interest in learning more about how to make money blogging and to take my blog more seriously.

I now earn a great living from my blog, and I started it all on a whim without even knowing that blogs could make money. I was even featured on Forbes here – How This 27-Year-Old Made $1 Million Last Year!

Like I’ve said, blogging completely changed my life for the better, and if you are at all interested in blogging, I would urge you to learn how to start a blog as well.

Blogging has allowed me to take control of my finances and earn more money. It means I can work from home, travel whenever I want, have a flexible schedule, and more! It’s all because I learned how to make money blogging.

And, my course was created to help others build their own successful business, hopefully providing them with the same freedom and opportunity mine has offered me.

Here’s how I earned $434,698+ from an online course.

 

I networked with others.

Networking is something I always bring up here on Making Sense of Cents because there are many, many positives of doing so.

In fact, if it weren’t for networking with other online business owners, I probably never would have started my course!

Last year I was in a mastermind with Jessica Larrew and Abby Lawson, and they convinced me to start a course on affiliate marketing. I owe a lot of my success to them, because they helped me learn the best way to create and launch a course. They were both already selling several great products of their own, so networking with them was extremely helpful for me.

 

I hit a specific market.

There are all types of online courses out there. In fact, the online course market is a multi-billion dollar industry that just continues to grow.

Affiliate marketing is an area that I continue to do well in, and it was a topic that I was asked about nearly every single day. Due to that, I knew the focus of my course needed to be affiliate marketing.

But, I also knew that I could niche it down even further.

So, I made my affiliate marketing course for bloggers and online influencers.

There are other affiliate marketing courses that exist, but there aren’t really any like mine that exist solely to help bloggers. By creating a niche, I can hit a specific target point for bloggers and online influencers who want to increase their affiliate income. It also means I am able to get rid of all the extra fluff that doesn’t pertain to their business.

And, this is exactly what my readers wanted, which means I was able to create a course just for them.

 

I have real results.

There are tons of courses out there. Some are great, whereas others are clearly taught by teachers with little experience in the area they are teaching, often for the sole purpose of making money, not necessarily helping others do the same.

That obviously wasn’t the intent for my course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I was seeing real results from my affiliate marketing strategy and I wanted to share it with others.

You see, the majority of my blogging income comes through affiliates, and I don’t have a ton of page views either.

I’ve been able to figure out how to correctly promote affiliate products to my readers.

And, in case you’re wondering…

Affiliate marketing is a blog monetization method in which you place a link to a product or company on your website or a social media platform in an attempt to make an income from followers purchasing the product through your link (this is called an affiliate link). Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money blogging because if there is a product or company that you enjoy, all you have to do is review the product and hopefully others will be interested in buying it as well.

Affiliate marketing is my absolute favorite way to make money blogging. I love it because it can feel quite passive. It starts by just creating one blog or social media post that has the potential to earn you money years down the line. Now, you will have to maintain the post and keep generating traffic to it. However, with affiliate marketing, I have found that I am able to relax a little and enjoy life more, all while knowing that I am earning a great living promoting products that I use and enjoy.

I regularly earn around $50,000 a month through affiliate marketing, and it’s all done fairly passively through blog posts and email sequences. For the most part, all the work is done and the traffic that is generated to my email list and blog posts passively converts people into buyers, with minimal work required from me.

Due to my real results, readers and bloggers were constantly interested asking me to share my knowledge of affiliate marketing.

So, then came the course!

 

I give tremendous value in the course.

By purchasing Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, students not only receive a great, informative course, they also received a lot of high dollar bonuses.

I’ve heard from many people that the course should be priced higher, and that’s exactly what I want to hear.

I want students to be happy that they purchased the course, and I want them to feel like they are gaining more value than they paid to sign up.

I created my course to include more than just valuable information about affiliate marketing as it also includes over $500 in free bonuses. My online course teaches my students how to improve their affiliate marketing strategies, while also learning how to create a better and more well rounded blog.

And, I’m always adding new lessons and more value to the course. I have added a few new lessons and a few more bonuses (for example: one is from an affiliate marketing manager so that students can see affiliate marketing from the eyes of the person on the other side). There is also a community group for the course that has great reviews.

In fact, many (MANY!) people have said that the community group alone is worth the price of the course!

Making sure to provide a high value course is key. This has led to many, many students becoming affiliates for the course (discussed further below) because they love how much the online course has helped them improve their own blogging business.

 

I launched my first and only online course in July of 2016. In the first year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. Here's how I did it!

I chose a great platform to host my course.

I’ve taken a few other online courses, and my favorites always happen to be on Teachable. As a student, I have always enjoyed how easy their platform is to use, and this made my decision to use Teachable for my course an easy one.

Teachable is also great because they make it easy to create your own course. I don’t consider myself super knowledgeable with technology, but I was able to do almost everything myself.

And, countless students have told me how much they love the Teachable platform, so I know it was a great fit!

 

I’m always growing my email list.

After deciding to develop a course, I realized that I needed to start spending more time creating and growing a professional email list. Up until that point last year, I wasn’t really doing anything to grow my email list.

I also wasn’t regularly emailing my list, and for the longest time, I didn’t even have an email service provider!

However, around April of 2016, I decided to start taking my email list seriously. Since then, with just minimal work, I have grown my email list to around 65,000 subscribers.

Now, I don’t regularly promote products to my email list, or even my course, but I do have an email sequence in place that makes it easy for people interested in blogging to hear about my course.

This email sequence was very easy to set, and I’ve hardly even touched in the past year.

This makes everything extremely easy and lets me enjoy other aspects of my business.

 

I direct traffic towards the course.

But, I do so casually.

If you look at Making Sense of Cents, you won’t see my course plastered all over the place. In fact, it’s actually a little hard to find (I’ll have to change that).

To promote Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, I haven’t done any guest posts, webinars, etc. It has all been through word of mouth, occasionally mentioning it here on my blog and emailing my subscriber list.

While some would say that I’m making a huge mistake by not pushing my audience harder, this is the approach I chose to sell my course, and it’s what fits my personality and business best.

Here are some examples of how I casually lead my readers to Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing:

  • Mentioning my course in my monthly income reports. Because people are coming to my income reports to see my advice, it was only logical to include a link to my course. The information in my course is what people are there to find.
  • Using Convertkit, I added an email to my email sequence. This means that anyone who signs up for my How To Start a Blog free course will eventually receive an email from me that promotes Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. There is no hard sell, just a simple email about it.
  • When the course first went live, I sent several emails detailing why affiliate marketing is something for all bloggers to look into, the positives of the course, and so on.
  • Whenever I have a coupon code, I will email my subscribers and let them know. Since the course is evergreen (always for sale and not on a limited time launch basis), having sales can drive up interest in the blogging course.

Now, this isn’t saying that this is the only way to sell a course. There are many great and successful course owners who do more of a hard sell, and there is nothing wrong with that, especially for a great product.

However, this is the path I took, and it has worked out well and has led to course income being more of a passive income avenue for my business.

As you can see above, I don’t do much to promote the course, so there is a lot of room for improvement! If I wanted to ramp up my income from my blogging course, I could host webinars, guest post on other websites, create an email course specifically about affiliate marketing, and more.

 

I launched my first and only online course in July of 2016. In the first year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. Here's how I did it!

I know the value in affiliates.

It wouldn’t make much sense to have a course on affiliate marketing and not have any affiliates.

I know how valuable it is to have affiliates promote a product.

Due to that, anyone who takes my course is allowed to be an affiliate – after all, they have learned the correct ways to promote an affiliate product by taking my course, which means I know they will do it correctly!

I also encourage anyone who wants to be an affiliate to interview me for their website, this allows me to answer any questions their readers may have and to help them write the best possible affiliate review. Many students have taken me up on this offer, which is a win-win for everyone.

In the image above, you can see an example of one affiliate review – How My Sister Went From $0 Affiliate Income to $50,000+ A Month.

I give a high percentage to affiliates who successfully promote my course, as I understand the hard work that goes into being an affiliate.

Affiliates comprise a significant percentage of the amount of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing courses each month, and that is wonderful!

Are you interested in creating an online course? Why or why not?

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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. Thank you for sharing the background story of your e-course! The course has definitely become a hit among bloggers. I see personal finance bloggers mention Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing often with such praise that must pique a lot of people’s curiosity.

    I look forward to your future products! πŸ™‚

    1. Anne from weird hacks

      Ms. FAF, you’ve done well with growing your blog without ads or promo threads, If you ever decide to create a course, I think a ‘how to start and grow a blog course’ would be great. I’m just sayingπŸ˜‰

    2. I second what Anne says Ms. FAF. Hehehe.

      If I ever have a course I want mine on Teachable. The layout is so streamlined and neat. I’m glad Michelle used it to host her course when I got it.

  2. Anne from weird hacks

    You have done so well with the online course Michelle. I was reading this pro-blogging book that said selling your own products as a blogger is the best way to go. Creating online courses can be very scary and intimidating, especially if you do not know what to create and how people would react to it.

    You have done so well with your first product launch, so maybe you can create a mini course for people who want to launch their first digital product?

    Most of the successful bloggers that I follow make 40% of their income from selling their own product. Right now, I am of the opinion that selling your own product is the best way to monetize your blog.

    1. I’ve thought about creating a guide or a mini course on this subject. I’ll have to do that one day!

  3. Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle

    I am definitely interested in creating an online course of some sort one day. I’m still establishing my platform and blog, but my purpose it to help people. And to do that, I want to be able to take it a step further than the blog itself and create something that they can use in their life and situation to make a difference.

    I admire all the work you have put into your business. Your pride and heart show through the blog and the success it has become!

  4. In the future, I would love to create an online course also. In the meantime, I want to grow and build my readership and offer as much value as I possibly can.

    Your course has helped me immensely!

  5. I love reading how you started off with no real expectations, just a love for writing about personal finance. I think that’s the essence of your success – a love for what you are doing, that flows through and out of your writing.

  6. Mrs. Sense

    I just found your site today… your success is very inspiring! This approach to “casual marketing” speaks to me as I consider my future in the world of blogging.

  7. Thank you for this post. I think I have created a great online course in my niche. However, my problem is knowing how to promote it.

  8. It seems like every week you and an EPIC post come out. This post was one of them.

    Congrats on your success and thank you for the guidance and motivation. We will be publishing our first income report on Friday. Exciting and nerve racking at the same time.

    Looking forward to creating our down product in the near future.

  9. Chloe

    You’re inspirational! Keep on doing what you do best πŸ™‚

  10. I’m always so tempted to take your course, but I signed up for another Affiliate Marketing course back in January and I have yet to do anything other than create a login for that site. I’ve got to stop procrastinating and just start already! I’m probably missing out more than I expect!

    1. You need to at least take the other one πŸ™‚

  11. I started a blog that I created mostly for me, but with the hopes that others would be interested in interacting with as well. It is nice to see the “possibilities” a blog can give you. For now it is all fun for me, but maybe one day I will try to follow in your footsteps.

  12. I think it’s awesome that you picked the marketing and promotion that fit your personality and business style best! And it’s obviously working great for you! Congrats!

  13. Network with other bloggers as much as you can πŸ™‚

  14. I am a graphic design Student and I was suppose to be mobing 2 weeks ago I already quit my job and now I sm looking for a way to support my family.
    I have been reading your blog for a year and I would love to learn from you.

  15. Christine Wilcox

    I absolutely adore you and your blog – I’ve been following you for about a year now and have been very impressed with your desire to help others. You keep doing things with the philosophy you possess and you will only keep growing. I’ve followed other blogs and the difference is that you are not trying to outprice your subscribers. Money doesn’t grow on trees and you realize this – good for you Michelle!!!!

  16. M

    I second what Christine Wilcox says above – you are money savvy but don’t make your money ripping other people off! I haven’t actually checked how much your course is…(*sidles off to find out*…) aha! $197 – that seems to be very good value (without obviously knowing the content). I have signed up to three online courses this year (yet to finish any of them…eek!) and they are at three very different price points. I shan’t name them, for obvious reasons, but in essence the first was $400, and for what you learn, I think it is actually very good value; the second was 12 x $79 (!!!) and quite honestly, I’m not loving it…! And the third is $197 and it is by far and away the most valuable course out of the three of them. So it just goes to show, pricing a product high or low isn’t necessarily a reflection of the quality of content. If I ever get off my butt and launch my blog (it’s there, it’s ready to go, it’s just a bit scary hitting “publish” because I can’t see anyone would actually be interested in reading my ramblings…!), then I will have to check out your affiliate marketing course. I just need to do it, already!! I’m being thoroughly indecisive about what to do next and lack the focus needed to sit down and do it.

    Thanks for your continued inspiration, Michelle. I actually first discovered you via Pinterest about 18 months ago – that’s how long I’ve been mulling over online entrepreneurship – and I keep coming back to your site, drawn back by your inspiring posts.

    Wishing you every continued success.

    M

    1. Thank you for your kind words. You just made my day! πŸ™‚

  17. Mao

    This is definitely very impressive. I started my blog for the fun of it, but down the road I would be interested in monetizing it.

    1. I started my blog for fun too πŸ™‚

  18. Michelle, as I get ready to relaunch my course as evergreen after a very difficult 5 months of creating it… and an $11k “beta” (test) launch back in June, which I flubbed up in a million ways I’m surprised I even made $… this is SO inspiring!! I LOVE reading this! I don’t like gimmicks, webinars, and being salesy. So I’m doing my course without all that. And I aspire for success like this. My course launches tomorrow, so this couldn’t have come out at a better time. I’m on your email list. I look forward to following you πŸ˜‰

  19. This is absolute, iron-clad proof anyone from anywhere with a visionary business mindset can achieve this. All they have to do is strive daily to get organized across the board and create lots and lots of content. Most importantly, build and sustain meaningful relationships with their target audience, and she or he can pretty much sell anything online 24 hours a day, even while they’re sleeping. This is the beauty of affiliate marketing, blogging, and evergreen content marketing.

  20. Till

    So inspiring! I’m writing from Sweden and your blog inspired me to start blogging this year. I’ve always worked with online website, but never really blogged until I got to YOUR blog. Completely love how transparent you are! Keep up the good work! Might join your Affiliate Program in a few months, once I’ve written a few more articles. πŸ™‚

  21. Lyn McNamee

    Michelle I’m always pleased to see that an email from you has landed in my mailbox. There are so many blogs to follow that it can be difficult to tune in to them, so I really appreciate it when an email lets me know about a new post.
    I have every intention of taking your course when I get my own blog up and running.

  22. Jalpan Dave

    Congratulations Michelle! This was a very helpful and inspiring post. I am very curious to know how you built an e-mail list of 65,000 people in such a short time! I am looking to start blogging very soon and will start building a list from Day 1.

  23. Lindsey | Hazel Haven

    Michelle,

    When you wrote, “It’s an evergreen course that has mainly spread through word-of-mouth.” I was nodding because that’s EXACTLY how I heard about you and your course through
    Brittany Berger and Elna Cain. Thanks for sharing the breakdown and insights! I’m so excited for you and your students! I’ve finally started to gain income through affiliate marketing through doing how to tutorials on youtube and it’s so exciting.. nothing like this though so your course is definitely going on my need to purchase list! πŸ˜‰

  24. This is so inspiring! And what’s better is that you approached this in such a unique way and STILL had success. You’ve proven you don’t have to be pushy or salesy to make money from your course

  25. I came across your blog for the first time 3 months ago. I’ve been very inspired by how you started and grew your own blog and started making money from it and now living a very comfortable life. I honestly wish I could get to a point where I don’t really worry that much about financial matters and be able to earn more fore my family.

  26. Hi Michelle,
    I love your course and am inspired by the success that you have had with your blog. I think sometimes you have to do what you love because that really shines through. I tend to overthink things and then I just get in my own way. :-/ Congratulations on all your milestones!

  27. Michelle, look at the question you are asking if I’m interested in creating an online course…. Of course, I am. I’m planning on launching one soon to mark the one year anniversary of my blog.

    Thank you so much for inspiring me with this write up. I so dearly appreciate it.

    Looking at your blog success inspires me to keep working harder, soon it will be my testimony.

    Emenike

  28. Maryjane

    I am not a blogger, but a teacher. I have a passion for kids with dyslexia. I am a specialist in this area. Would it be successful to create a course on how to remediate and help you child at home. Something like “30 minutes a day to help dyslxics inprove reading.”
    How would I even promote the course?

  29. Hi Michelle;

    This is very encouraging to read. I’m thinking about developing a course, and it’s nice to see that the hard work really does pay off.

    Peace πŸ™‚

  30. This was so inspiring to read. I have a French food blog and created an online course that teaches how to make French breads and pastries…I launched this to my email course with okay results, but I still feel the course is missing that “I need this” element to it that would make the course really sell itself. I struggle to find what is is that I can offer that people would need and want to learn from me :/

  31. Cortney

    I am strongly thinking about creating an online course. I’d like something simple, sweet, and to the point, which is what I needed when I first started out as a freelancer. I didn’t even know that’s what I was, but I knew the work I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I’d like to help others who want the same. I was thinking an evergreen course for $197 might be just right.

  32. Aislenn

    Hi! I am so motivated by your post, I’ve been wanting to start a blog but i honestly have no idea where to begin. Can you help me figure out how to start one, or at least give me some steps on how to begin?
    Keep up the amazing work!
    Thanks
    Aislenn

  33. When I hear success stories like this, I become more inspired and confident. I will also create a course one day.