How I Made Money in One Year With My Blog – Annual Wrap Up

Welcome to my annual business report where I show you how I made money online. If you’re new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my business report each month. This all started out as my extra income report because, in the beginning, it was all about the money I was earning…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 10, 2024

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 my annual business report where I show you how I made money online.

If you’re new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my business report each month.

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 business reports consist of the many ways I earn a living with my business.

Many have asked why I would ever want to publicly talk about what I’m working on 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 business 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 business blogging 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 blogging reports as a way to track how I’ve done and it helps to keep me accountable.
  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.

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.).

This is what an average month’s income looked like (chart from September).

Business Year In Review

Here’s what my income has looked like in the past:

  • In 2013, my business income totaled $116,519. This was the year that I quit my job to blog full-time.
  • In 2014, it totaled $163,929. This was my first full year of being self-employed with no day job.
  • In 2015, I made $320,888. I think this was the year where I fired all of my freelance clients and started just working on my blog. This helped me to grow my income significantly because I was FOCUSED!
  • In 2016, I made $979,321. This is the year where I created my first product (Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing).
  • In 2017, I earned $1,536,732.
  • In 2018, I earned over $1,500,000 (I stopped disclosing exact numbers in 2018).

It’s crazy to think that I have now been blogging for over eight years now. What started as a fun little blog with no goals (I was even anonymous!), has turned into a great business for me.

I never thought that I’d run my own business. I always just thought I’d work a day job, live in a house, and so on and so on. Nothing wrong with those choices, but it’s so funny how life has changed in just a few short years and I attribute a lot of that to my world opening once I started a blog.

2019 was a different year for me.

I took most of the year off from working.

Yes, I was still writing throughout 2019, but it was a lot less. I was still fully active with my two courses and my students, replying to comments, answering reader emails, and so on, but I slowed down in most other areas.

I didn’t take part in many interviews (I turned down almost all of them), didn’t release any new projects, I was barely on social media, I skipped all networking events (even FinCon!), and so on.

And, after several years of blogging full-time and spending 100+ hour weeks on my blog, it’s been nice to relax and focus on other areas of my life.

I wasn’t feeling burned out or anything with Making Sense of Cents. I still love running this blog, but I knew that I needed to be more mindful of how I use my time online. I no longer want to be hooked to my laptop and phone for both personal and business social media browsing/blogging.

I was also kind of curious to know how things would change with Making Sense of Cents if I slowed down and simply focused on just a few things and what I had currently on my plate.

I will be completely honest – income did not grow in 2019 over 2018 – but it was still a great amount. Traffic was near identical from 2018 compared to 2019.

Thankfully, all of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past several years has paid off.

In case you are new to this blog, the main areas I earn a living from include:

I regularly earn over $100,000 a month blogging, and I have earned over $5,000,000 from my blogging business total over the years.

At the end of 2018, I decided to stop publishing exact numbers for many reasons, which you can read about here.

I have many plans for 2020. I have a very full to-do list that I am very excited to start crossing off and accomplishing. I am wanting to grow Making Sense of Cents in many areas – income, readers, more helpful blog posts, and so on.

Since I took 2019 off, I have had a ton of ideas running through my head and I am super excited to grow in 2020.

Over the next year or two, I’d love to find ways to double 2018’s levels (both income and readers).

Two posts that I recommend reading:

I attribute a lot of my business success in 2019 to three specific actions that I took in 2018 (yes, the year before 2019!):

  1. I made sure to improve and grow my email newsletter. Social media is a great way to grow a website, but an email list is even better because it is yours and you own it! I highly recommend spending time on your email list as that is YOUR list and it’s not impacted by any algorithms or anything like that. And, growing an email list does not have to be hard. I’m sure it seems like it is, especially to a new blogger, and that is exactly why I put it off for so many years. 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 over 100,000 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!.
  2. I emailed my list about affiliate products more. So, I have always emailed my list, however, it wasn’t until 2017 when I did my first major launch for an affiliate product. Instead, I’ve always just passively emailed my list and occasionally mentioned products. That first major launch was like a lightbulb going off for me, though. I earned five figures from one affiliate launch to my email list and it was just by easily promoting a product that I used and thought was great!
  3. I increased my sponsored post rate. In order to work less and manage a better work-life balance, I increased my sponsored post rate. I did this so that I could focus on higher quality/more meaningful sponsorships, and to also have less of them. I earned a great amount from sponsored partnerships still, and that was with doing significantly fewer partnerships. So, if you are afraid of raising your rates, I highly recommend that you do it! I found that almost everyone still said yes, even though my rates increased.

I’m hoping to continue all of the above in 2020, and I have a feeling that it will be an amazing year!

Thank you to all of my readers for being here with me on this journey! I’m so glad that I can share everything with you.

What am I working on?

Some of the things that I plan on doing to grow Making Sense of Cents include:

  • Getting more media mentions. I just finished taking a course on this topic. You can learn more about it here – How Susie Grew Her Email List By 29,000+ In 9 Months. I was also just featured on Reader’s Digest and Business Insider!
  • Focusing on SEO. I am learning as much as I can about SEO so that I can grow my blog this way.
  • Learning about Pinterest advertising and Facebook advertising. I would like to use social media advertising to grow traffic as well as to grow my email list.
  • Creating new optins. I don’t have many optins for my email list, and haven’t added a new one in a very long time. This is currently on my to-do list so that I can reach new readers and gain more subscribers.

Below are some of my 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.

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 $2.75 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 for the first year (a $15 value) through my Bluehost referral 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.

Exploring the Dry Tortugas in November of 2019

Blog/life news

You can read about my whole 2019 here (what I did, where I went, and more info on my personal life) – My Year In Review – Where I Went And What Happened in 2019.

Overall, traffic for the year was around 5,000,000 page views.

Below are several other business and blog-related updates:

  • I’m currently around one month ahead in blog posts. I would like to be around 2-3 months ahead. I do have several months of blog posts planned, though, I just need to finish writing them and hand them to my editor. I have so many good ideas, but now I just need more time, haha!
  • My community group for Making Sense of Cents is continuing to grow. This is a Facebook group in which you can seek advice from other readers on all sorts of topics such as finance, blogging, travel, running a business, and so on. There are over 15,000 members!
  • I released my How To Start A Blog FREE Course. 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 60,000 people have already signed up. Thank you, everyone, for the kind emails about how great the course is. Glad everyone is enjoying it!
  • Due to how well my first free course went, 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.
  • Other freebies I have include 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income and 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.

Featured Question: Is it too late to start a blog in 2020? Can newbies learn how to 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. 

Can new bloggers learn how to blog?

I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately, and honestly, it makes me laugh a little. Nearly every single person who starts a blog is brand new. I was completely new and had no idea what I was doing.

It’s not like blogging is taught in high school or college.

Blogging is a learning process. If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

It requires hard work, long hours, lots of learning, and more.

If you’re feeling defeated, please just remember that pretty much every single blogger has felt this way at some point. The beginning is the toughest and you just have to push past it.

And, this then leads me to the second most common question that I have been hearing lately.

Is it too late to start a blog?

2020 is a great time to start a blog.

Whether you want a blog like Making Sense of Cents, or if you are interested in starting an Instagram account or Youtube channel, having a website is a great idea.

Trust me, people were saying the same thing when I first started Making Sense of Cents – that people who started in 2011 were starting too late and that no one would ever be successful with it.

However, that’s definitely not the case.

The online world is still so new, and there are new ways to monetize and to grow that come up all the time.

I’m still finding brand new blogs that I absolutely love – new blogs that are growing and earning an income.

There is a lot of room for new bloggers, and there is plenty of room for growth well into the future. I believe that companies and advertisers are only recently starting to realize the value of blogs and social media accounts, which means that the blogging world will continue to grow well into the future and that opportunities for making money from a blog will continue to increase.

More and more companies are starting to advertise with online influencers on their blogs, social media accounts, and more, and I expect this to just continue to grow well into the future. Whereas in the past, it was mainly celebrities that companies advertised with, but now, it is actually shifting to bloggers and other online influencers (such as Youtubers and Instagrammers!).

The world is a huge place and the online world is just going to keep growing. Every blogger earns a living online in a slightly different way, and everyone has a different message and story. Plus, there are so many different ways to make money through a blog, and I expect this to keep growing.

Of course, blogging is constantly evolving, and there are always new things to learn, which will probably always be the case for managing any business.

So, if you are thinking about starting a blog, today is the day. Don’t let your fears hold you back any further! You can find my free How To Start a Blog Course here.

Past featured questions:

My plans and goals for my business.

I have so many plans right now for my business that sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I want to start! But, that is a good “problem” to have.

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

Below are some of the areas I am currently working on and my 2020 goals:

  • Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I fell majorly behind in 2019 as I took an unexpected break from a lot of things in life, haha. Being ahead in blog posts makes life much more enjoyable because I can focus on other things knowing that the majority of my writing work is already done. This is one of my major 2020 goals!
  • Work less than 40 hours per week. For the most part, I am working less than 40 hours per week. However, there are some weeks when I spend all day and night on my laptop, not even sure where the day went. Due to that, I would like to continue to work on a better work/life balance.
  • Be more present. My main goal in 2020 (just like with 2019) is to be more present. I’m excited for the year of travel and sailing we have ahead of us, and I want to enjoy it as much as we can. I’ve been so focused on the business the last several years, that I want this year to be focused on life outside of the business. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE running Making Sense of Cents, and that’s what makes it so hard to break away and be more present outside of work.
  • Read 5 books. I have only read one book in the last several years that wasn’t work or sailing/boat-educational related. I would like to get back to reading books that have nothing to do with trying to learn something, haha.
  • Have fun. Okay, so this isn’t really a goal that is quantifiable or something that I’ll track, haha, but I am really looking forward to 2020!

Affiliate marketing results in 2019.

As stated earlier, I took most of 2019 off from most business-related tasks.

Even with that, I still earned a great affiliate income throughout the year, which made it feel super passive!

I believe that it will be increasing in the next several months as I will be promoting a few affiliate offers to my readers. I have most of 2020 already planned for affiliate promotions, and I’m excited about all of them!

I’m also hoping to improve my affiliate income by growing my traffic through SEO, as well as advertising on Facebook and Pinterest. The media course that I mentioned earlier will be super helpful too.

Some of the areas that I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:

  • Planning out 2020 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a huge planner, but I changed about a year ago, haha. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
  • Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has me super interested in taking SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
  • Using Facebook ads to my affiliate marketing advantage. This past guest post also has me interested in growing in this way as well – How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year.
  • Creating a high-quality funnel. Funnels are something that I have never really spent any time on, but I would like to change that. I want to create a high-quality funnel where I continue to give valuable information to my readers, and keep them happy for the times when I may not have the greatest wifi.
  • Continuing to grow the reach of Making Sense of Cents. Traffic has been a little stuck lately, and I want to change that! I want to see what I can do to grow the traffic, as that will help me to reach new readers.
  • Analyzing popular affiliate blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
  • Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what my audience is interested in.

And more!

Earning affiliate income is something that I’m extremely grateful for, especially lately. We have been so busy lately and I haven’t spent as much time on the business as I would normally like.

Even though I am spending less time on the business, I am still earning a great income each month and this allows me to focus on a better work-life balance.

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.

If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend getting the free guide 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.

I also have a course too!

In the course 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 exact steps I’ve taken to earn over $500,000 from a single blog post
  • How to correctly pick affiliate products to promote
  • The steps to increase your conversion rate
  • 80+ affiliate program ideas for different niches
  • How to build trust with your readers (this is a MUST!)
  • The required disclosures you need to know about
  • 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.

Sponsored partnership results.

2019 was one of my best years for sponsored partnerships.

My email inbox was actually a little overwhelming in 2019 with how many companies and advertisers were looking for sponsored partnerships.

So, sponsored partnerships are definitely going well! And, I think that they will just continue to do better and better. The first few months of each year are usually the best for me, as that’s when advertisers tend to be looking for a lot of bloggers. In 2019, though, it seemed like nearly every single month was quite busy, except for the school summer break months (which is normal – people like to enjoy their summers off).

For some reason, sponsored blog posts and sponsored social media ads seem to scare bloggers, whether they are brand new or have been blogging for years.

What do I charge? How do I find companies who will want to work with me? What are the rules?

There are SO MANY QUESTIONS when it comes to sponsored posts.

I started Making Sense of Cents in August of 2011, at the age of 22, without any hopes of ever earning an income from it. It started as a hobby – just a way to journal my life and talk about my personal finance situation.

Then, around six months after I started my blog, a blogger friend of mine connected me with an advertiser and I earned $100 from that advertisement.

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

After that first $100, my blogging income quickly grew.

I now charge, on average, around $5,000 per sponsored post.

You can learn more about sponsored partnerships in my free guide 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.

What questions do you have for me about 2019? Leave a comment below.

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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. Maria @ Handful of Thoughts

    Wow this is super inspirational Michelle. As a fairly new blogger I constantly feel like I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days I’m super motivated and others I feel lost or overwhelmed with imposter syndrome. Your advice to just keep going and everyone has their ups and downs when blogging was very timely today. Thanks for being so transparent.

  2. Wow, those are some impressive results.

    When focusing on working on SEO, is that something you are going to do first hand or is it something that you will be researching, testing and then hiring some of the work done? Looking through your list, and trying to keep a good work-life balance, that looked like the area where there are experts who are great in that field that you could still get a high ROI on their time and keep focus on building more courses and content.

    1. I’ve already started with SEO and the things I’ve learned from the course a little. Plan on continuing too! 🙂

  3. Thanks Michelle for sharing this article on how you made income in 2019. It was wonderful reading it and would be great if you can share more details on how you learnt and increased traffic through SEO

  4. Joseph

    Thanks, Michelle for sharing this blog post. I am anticipating to see more of this in the coming months to come. And as always thanks for being so honest to your readers.

  5. That’s amazing that you worked less but made about the same. That actually means your effective hourly rate increased. I’m sure it was huge for your peace of mind as well.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, it’s pretty crazy that even page views were nearly identical.

  6. Brittany

    I remember those early income reports and how the extra income was so helpful. Thanks for recapping 2019! I hope 2020 brings continued success and more time for leisurely reading!

  7. Michelle, congratulations. I think our big challenge is to stay motivated to achieve great results like these. You look and must be a very organized person and professional, and that contributes to these numbers. Success!

    1. I wish I was more organized, haha!

  8. This is so inspirational. I really enjoy reading about your posts like these. I’m feeling kind of stuck right now, and this helped!

  9. Susan

    Hi Michelle, I chanced upon your blog and really find value in the topics that you have shared. I have seen your course page as well. However, as a totally newbie in this blogging arena and given that I lived outside US, will the course be beneficial for me to start with? Or what advice can you give? I have yet to start any blog but would like to start one which I can share information on what an entrepreneur needs and some affiliate programs. Another thing is that, I am worried about the usage of English as I might not be able to write well. Hope to hear from you soon! 😀

  10. I think this goes to show how SEO and if you have some really popular blogs on pinterest you can still get a lot of traffic to older things without constantly writing new blogs and being so active on your site. I recently read about another blogger that took 2 years off to focus on some health issues and she was still making affiliate and adsense income the entire time. People thought she was on welfare/food stamps but her income was about the same even though she wasn’t updating things regularly.

  11. Wow, you’ve got some amazing progress and thanks for sharing this with us all. It’ll inspire us all to work hard like you. Great work keep it up.

  12. REally interesting and rich of tips also for have a better blog, if is possible earn extra money is a plus!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  13. Wow thank you for the in-depth information on your progress throughout the years.

  14. I love these posts from you!

    They are packed to the brim with information, and I end up with five extra tabs open after reading through them.

  15. Chris Kosto |

    This article motivated me so much to keep on blogging! Thank you for sharing your insights!

  16. Chloe

    So impressive and inspirational, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your amazing experiences. Wish you a more successful year.

  17. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!I have always found your income reports to be very motivating. It’s incredible to see your results since 2013. And you offer so much practical advice for bloggers here. Looking forward to what’s in store for 2020.

  18. Ghani Mengal

    it’s a very, very inspiring post for me cuz I’m dead broke and want to build the same that you did,

  19. Holy crap, this is SO inspirational! Thank you for sharing!

    Since affiliate revenue is such a large chunk of your overall pie, can you break this down further? Which programs/products convert well with your audience and which networks do you use (CJ, etc)? Any advice would be helpful!

    1. Hey Ryan!

      If you look at my income reports from before 2019, you’ll see breakdowns of income 🙂

  20. Jared @30Sum

    I just found this post and website, I saved it for reference and to go through your site some more. As a new blogger this is a great resource to find. Thanks for taking the time to publish all of this!

  21. Ahmed

    It’s really cool, nice contents. Can I know how long would takes to finish off a post? Thanks Michelle.

  22. Great article and was spent hours reviewing your side when I stumbled across it. I think I followed your other path, ” I always just thought I’d work a day job, live in a house, and so on and so on…”

    I started my blog about 8 years ago and did it part time. never really pushed it as was focused on my corporate job and kids! But you did what I hoped I would. Congrats!

  23. Mike Masters

    Thanks for sharing so much useful info, Michelle! Just the stuff my wife and I need to help with our new blog!

  24. Tara

    HI- recently found your blog and it’s great! Can you explain your comment below more in depth? I was about to create a site on Squarespace but definitely want to monetize my blog. Now I’m nervous I’m making a mistake
    “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.”

    1. Jordan Parker

      Hi Tara – I hope you’ve received the info to your question and have switched over to WordPress! For those wondering…with WordPress you’re self hosted, meaning that you own your content. Now, with platforms like Wix or Squarespace that may host your site for you, they have the control. They can remove your content at any time and there’s nothing you can do about it. You also may run into issues with monetizing your blog if you’re not self-hosted. If it’s just a hobby you should be fine, but if you have goals of monetizing and making the big bucks like Michelle in this blog post, you will want to move to a platform like

      Think of your Instagram account, you can post all the pictures and videos you want, but if Instagram wants to remove your content or suspend your account, there’s really nothing you can do about it. There’s much more to all of this, but I hope this helps you understand what Michelle was referring to.

      Have an AWESOME day!

  25. Quite inspiring! Great to see much less work but similar numbers. That’s the goal for any business 🙂

    Hope 2020 isn’t bad so far. Some posts should be doing even better due to this weirdness going around now.

  26. Jordan Parker

    I have a similar background in financial services and have recently started a blog as well. Really glad to have stumbled across your blog and congrats on your current and future success!

  27. Leilani

    When you say you did an affiliate email launch, what do you mean? How is this different than just emailing your subscribers about affiliate products? I assume you created a series of automated emails regarding one affiliate partner?

  28. […] her 2019 annual income report, Michelle says over 60,000 people have signed up for this free […]

  29. This is SO SO SO inspirational!!! I’ve had my website up for about a year but I’m just now starting to take it seriously so this is really amazing to read about your journey and success with blogging.