2020 Business and Life Review

Welcome to my 2020 Business and Life Review! Usually, I separate my travel and business annual review content into two separate blog posts, but this year I’ve decided to combine it into one. 2020 was a different kind of year, and I’m sure nearly everyone would agree with that statement. It was a tough year…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 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.

Welcome to my 2020 Business and Life Review!

Usually, I separate my travel and business annual review content into two separate blog posts, but this year I’ve decided to combine it into one.

2020 was a different kind of year, and I’m sure nearly everyone would agree with that statement.

It was a tough year for a lot of people, and I completely understand.

I feel very grateful for the life that I get to live, but it was a hard year for me as well. I lost two important family members in my life, my grandma as well as my dog who was my best friend for almost 14 years.

 

Family

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this section in this life update, as I’m also talking about travel and business, and honestly, it just seems odd to have it all in one.

I went back and forth so many times, and I’m still unsure of it.

But, it just doesn’t seem right to me to not include it, as this is all a part of my life.

Good and bad things happen, and will happen throughout a person’s lifetime.

I do feel guilty writing about the passings of two of my favorites, and at the same time also writing about business and travel. Anyways…

Me and my grandma around 4 years ago.

My grandma passed away in the summer of 2020. She passed away at the age of 97.

I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, as she watched us everyday after school when we were kids and lived in Chicago.

She lived in the building just behind us, so I saw her all the time.

She didn’t speak much English (and I don’t speak Korean), although she took daily/weekly English classes even in her old age so that she could at least make hand gestures and talk to us as best as she could.

I remember as a kid, she would make me plain ramen (with no seasoning!) and I was always so confused as to why she would throw the seasoning packet away and make it taste bland. But I couldn’t tell her easily because I didn’t know how to tell her in Korean. After months of eating noodles in plain water, I figured out how to tell her. She thought it was weird that I liked watery noodles but she made it because she thought I liked it, haha. That is a story that always makes me laugh.

She was also a world traveler, and went to so many amazing places.

Also the kindest woman ever, and she was so great to us. I will forever miss her.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

This picture was taken about one week before she passed away.

My favorite girl passed away – Sailor. My best friend, the sweetest sweetie pie, the best adventure buddy, passed away in December of 2020.

We adopted Sailor when she was just two months old. I had just turned 18 about a week earlier, and just graduated from high school. Wes and I were moving in together (we were crazy kids), and decided to adopt a puppy that a friend was trying to find a home for.

Shortly after, I found out that my dad had brain and lung cancer, and that he did not have much time left. Sailor was there through all of the tears and sadness (I leaned heavily on her), and always brought me joy.

She has climbed some of the tallest mountains in the U.S., sailed to many islands, and been to some of the most scenic spots around.

It was very sudden, and before she could get to a vet (the vet was actually on her way to the boat). The vet thinks it may have been a fast moving cancer, as she didn’t show signs of it when she was just at the vet shortly before.

I’m still processing what this means as she was such a huge and beautiful part of my life for the past almost 14 years.

I am heartbroken and miss her so much. I was dreading this time for awhile, as I knew she was getting older, and it’s been much harder than I could have ever imagined.

Now, I’m not really sure how to transition to the next section, but below I will be switching to my travel and business review for 2020.

Like it was for nearly everyone – 2020 was a weird year, full of highs and lows.

 

Hanging out during lockdown on the boat in Puerto Rico.

Travel in 2020

2020 started with us in the Exumas in the Bahamas. We have spent a decent amount of time in the Bahamas the past couple of years on our boat, and it’s an amazing place to be, especially on a boat!

We then sailed to the Dominican Republic in February and spent around a month. We saw whales, went up the only cable car in the Caribbean (and it goes up around 2,500 feet!), rented a car and drove around the country, and more.

Then, we sailed to Puerto Rico in March. Shortly after we arrived, the lockdown started, and it was very strict. It has loosened since, but the first several months they had some of the strictest rules in the world. You could only grocery shop on certain days according to your license plate, you weren’t allowed to go outside (not even to let your dog use the bathroom), and more.

We had planned on hopping down the island chain and spending hurricane season in Grenada, but everything changed.

We stayed in Puerto Rico for around 3 months, pondering our next move.

Since we live on a boat, we had to figure something out, as hurricane season was approaching and we are not allowed to stay in the “Hurricane Box” during hurricane season because of our boat insurance policy.

So, we had two options, sail to Grenada or sail to the U.S. The sail to Grenada would have been about 3 days.

We decided to sail to the U.S. as we weren’t sure what the state of the world would be like, especially after being in such a strict lockdown for 3 months in Puerto Rico. Plus, we wanted to be outside of the Hurricane Box, and if you’re going north then that means heading all the way back to the U.S. Also, we had a lot of boat work that we needed to get done, so going to Annapolis seemed like an easy choice.

It was a 1,300 nautical mile sail and took us 9 days. It was our longest passage, and it was just me, Wes, and our two dogs. Our highest speed was 14.5 knots, and we hit 12 and 13 quite often. We caught fish, saw a submarine, dealt with Tropical Storm Bertha, and more. Our dogs did amazingly well on the passage, and it was a wonderful time.

We spent several months in Annapolis, Maryland for hurricane season and got a ton of work done on SV Paradise, including a major electrical refit. We can now run everything off of our lithium batteries and our solar, including running the watermaker, our washer/dryer, water heater, and more. Since I know I’ll be asked, the company we used for our electrical refit was Marine Electric Systems in Annapolis, and I highly recommend them.

Hurricane season ended in November, and then we’re required by insurance to head south to avoid winter weather on our boat. We did some offshore hops and we’re now in sunny Florida!

We’re not sure what we’ll be doing in 2021, but decisions have to be made eventually because hurricane season comes every year. We have a few ideas but I won’t be sharing anything just yet – you’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

Fortunately, we’re fairly off-grid and self-sufficient on SV Paradise, so we can safely live on our boat, even in a time like this.

Note: If you want to follow my travels and life more, please follow me on Instagram. 

 

2020 Business Year In Review

2020 was definitely a weird year for businesses.

Many businesses failed, while many others thrived. Working from home and/or starting your own small business is now at an all-time high as well.

I am very grateful for the business that I get to run, and I am excited to grow it well into the future.

While I no longer disclose exact income numbers due to privacy reasons (and so that I, as well as others, don’t feel the need to “keep up” with others), income was at a good level in 2020.

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 nine years. What started as a fun little blog with no goals (I was even anonymous!), has turned into a great business for me.

If you want to start a blog of your own, I have a free How To Start a Blog Course.

2020 was a weird year, as we all know.

Even though I had a ton more free time due to lockdowns, I didn’t get as much work done as I had hoped. My mind was all over the place a lot of the time, which led to me wasting a lot of time.

But, I have heard that was normal for a lot of people for 2020. So, if you experienced the same – do not feel bad about yourself!

I didn’t take part in many interviews, didn’t release any new projects, and I was barely on social media. I really don’t know what I spent so much of my time on, to be honest.

Luckily, around 2019, I slowed down significantly when it came to working, and it helped tremendously. I wasn’t feeling burned out or anything with Making Sense of Cents. 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.

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 will be completely honest – income did not grow in 2020 over 2019 – but it was still a great amount.

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:

Three articles that I recommend reading:

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.

 

Anchored in Puerto Rico.

Affiliate marketing results in 2020.

Affiliate income was at a great level this past year.

Not much changed from the previous year, and everything is fairly passive when it comes to affiliate marketing income on Making Sense of Cents.

I am hoping to start ranking for more blog posts through SEO, which will hopefully increase my affiliate income further and grow my audience on Making Sense of Cents.

The areas that I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:

  • Planning out 2021 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a big planner, so this is something I’m always working on. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
  • Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has made me super interested in taking SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
  • Continuing to improve and build a high-quality funnel. I want to have 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 blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
  • Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what else my audience is interested in.

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.

 

Sponsored partnership results in 2020.

Sponsored partnerships were great in the first few months of 2020. But, when the world’s events hit in March, things slowed down drastically. This is because companies were waiting to see how everything would play out.

But, in the summer of 2020, it all picked up like crazy.

I had so many offers in my email inbox that I actually had to turn good offers down.

I believe that 2021 will be a great year for sponsored partnerships, and I already have many lined up for the year.

Plus, 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.

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

 

Hiking in Puerto Rico (before the lockdown).

Goals for 2021.

I’m hoping that 2021 will be the year of growth for both myself and Making Sense of Cents.

After taking much of 2019 off, and a lot of 2020, I’m ready to get back to it for 2021.

My goals for 2021:

  1. Grow Making Sense of Cents. I’d like to grow in terms of readers and income, and there are two main things that I plan on doing in order to help with that (see #2 and #3 below)
  2. Get featured in the media more. I’m currently taking a course on this subject and I’ll be sharing more information on it soon! In the meantime, you can sign up for the freebie –  2021 Publicity Calendar – This contains 179 story ideas, dates, and hooks to help you create endless media attention and buzz! If you want to get featured in magazines and popular websites, this is something that you will definitely want to sign up for.
  3. See growth from SEO. I took an SEO course that I really enjoyed, and ever since then I have been soaking up all of the SEO knowledge that I can. I am hoping that 2021 is the year of explosive growth from SEO for Making Sense of Cents. The free course I recommend taking is The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training).
  4. Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I’m currently around 3 months ahead in content, and I’d like to continue the streak that I am on.
  5. Be more present. My main goal in 2021 (just like with previous years) is to be more present.
  6. Read 5 books. I have only read one book lately 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.
  7. Start learning a new language. I know I won’t be fluent, but I’d love to learn a new language. I took 3-4 years of French in high school, and that’s the one I’m trying to learn right now through Duolingo. It’s a good language to learn when sailing about the world, so wish me luck!
  8. Learn how to dive. We would possibly like to add scuba equipment to our sailboat so that we can explore the water further as we sail about the world. So, that means I actually have to learn how to do it. This is definitely a huge goal of mine for this year!

I hope you enjoyed this 2020 year in review blog post. It’s always interesting putting these types of blog posts together so that I can reflect on the previous year.

And, it’s nice to take a look at it once this next coming year is over as well.

How was 2020 for you? What questions do you have for me? Share in the comments 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. Alexis

    I always enjoy reading these! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m so sorry for your lose. (Losses?)

  3. Sorry for your the losses, may they all rest in peace. Congradulations for your continued success. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I know these types of posts probably don’t make you as much money, but I enjoy the personal side of your story.

    Sorry about the loss of your pup and your grandmother. Glad they both lived long and eventful lives!

    1. Thank you!

      How was 2020 for you?

      1. Overall, really good thanks. We simply made the best of it. Started out by leading a group of other motorhomes out of Mexico, then spent four months making our way through the U.S. as we tried to figure out what was going to happen. We finally made it into Canada where we quarantined for two weeks and then visited with family as best we could. Have spent the last three months in Turkey, a country which has very positively surprised us! Next up, hiking Kilimanjaro in Tanzania…

        1. Wow, sounds like a great year for you! I hope 2021 is good as well 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing with us about your 2020. It was a year of struggles for so many. Thank you for your vulnerability and openness. Wishing you all the best in 2021!

    1. Thank you Shay! I appreciate it.

  6. Anna

    I’m sorry about your losses.
    I think your review was interesting to read as well as your plans for 2021, so thanks for writing this!
    Hope you have a good 2021!

  7. Hi Michelle,

    I am so sorry for your losses. You wrote a lovely tribute for your grandmother. Stay healthy in 2021.

  8. Hi Michelle,

    I’m so sorry for your losses. It must have been terribly hard.

    I love the sound of your goals for 2021! So varied and interesting! All the best.

  9. Hey Michelle,

    Stopping by to check up on you again. Hope all is well. So sorry to hear that you lost family members last year. I lost my good uncle in 2018, so I know the feeling of losing someone dear to your heart. And now, my mother is struggling with some issues concerning hello a leg and ankles that she’s been dealing with over two decades. Don’t feel guilty about writing about the passings of your 2 favorites. At least it’s a good thing to know that you’re getting these issues off of your mind and out of your heart. And to talk about Ramen noodles, I just had some yesterday.

    Nevertheless, you still hear him moving forward which is a good thing. 🙂

    1. So sorry to hear about your uncle and your mom.

      I hope 2021 is a good year for you.

  10. Gerri

    Warm hugs (Wes included). Here’s to a better 2021!

  11. I always enjoy reading these updates. I appreciate you posting them. 2020 was definitely a year full of ups and downs. Revenue increased for me and I even put myself on payroll. Yay!
    I always think about taking off with Romeo on a sailboat when I see your posts but then I wonder how I will have my alone time when we are in the same space. Sometimes I am even too introverted for my own marriage hehe
    This year I’ll be looking at more affiliate based income sources, likely through YouTube.

    1. You should definitely take off on a sailboat with Romeo!

      For alone time – we try to have different hobbies. I usually hike and Wes bikes, and many times we’ll go alone or with friends so that we can have separate time.

      But, we still do spend around 99% of our time together, haha.

  12. I really love this post so much. We also lost our pup this year and when I read that part of your post, I felt that GULP feeling. They really are such a big part of our lives. It made me smile to read that Sailor had been on amazing hikes and traveled the world! What an amazing adventure he had! I always appreciate your down-to-earth nature in your writing! Thanks for always being you and sharing yourself so vulnerably. Your transparency has definitely inspired me in my blogging journey, as I’m sure it’s inspired so many! Thanks again and much love!

    1. Ugh I’m so sorry Mandy. It sounds like 2020 was an awful year for dogs. I have had so many people reach out to me about their pups.

      Glad you enjoyed this blog post. I enjoyed writing it 🙂

      I hope 2021 is great for you!

  13. dima

    Love this report. Full of insights to learn. Wish you all the best in 2021

  14. I love your personal posts. I’m glad you were still able to have a good 2020 with everything that went on. My 2020 wasn’t that bad. I took an SEO course and have been focusing on that the last few months. I erased a lot of old content and have been updating some old posts. I have a feeling that 2021 will be the best year ever for the site.

    1. Thanks Jason! What SEO course did you take?

      1. It’s called Make Traffic Happen, SEO the Easy Way.

  15. Carolyn Tinch

    Hello,
    Really enjoyed rèading your blog.
    Lost my little dog this yesr also.She was 22 years old.I firmly unferstand
    Your grief.She has been gone about 4 months and I still miss her terribly

    1. Wow, 22! I am so sorry to hear that – must have been heartbreaking.

  16. nicholas smith

    2020 is really bad for many people but for online freelancers it may be good.

  17. Wayne

    Sorry to hear of your losses Michelle.
    Enjoyed reading your post, and wish all the best for 2021
    Take care.

  18. Hey Michelle! Thanks for sharing your year in review. I am saddened to hear about your Grandma and dog. Both horrible losses.

    Congrats on your 9 day passage. That’s huge. My longest has been 3 days. I have to admit I don’t enjoy overnight passages yet. Maybe one day, haha.

    Also that’s great about your new electrical system! We also run everything off solar. It’s a great feeling to be off grid. Cheers to your next adventures!

    1. Hey Kristin!

      I think the passages get a little easier when they are longer than just a few days. One night sails are always really tiring for me and I think that’s because I get like no sleep because I’m so amped, haha.

      Where are you currently?

      I hope 2021 is a great year for you!

      1. We are in Bahia Santa Maria, about 170nm north of Cabo! We plan to head to Cabo soon and the round the cape to head north to the sea of cortez. I’m excited for calm waters, although we are enjoying surfing smalls waves here 🙂

        1. Amazing! Sounds like a great place to be.

  19. Yuwanda

    Sorry to hear about your grandmother and your dog Michelle. 2020 … I’ve dubbed it “The year that took!” So many losses on so many levels for so many peeps.

    Love the travel stories; I’m a sucker for anything travel related. Here’s to a better 2021 — for all of us.

    1. I hope 2021 is great for you Yuwanda!

  20. Julie Young

    Such a great post, and very inspiring! I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable about your difficulties this year and I love hearing about your grandma. You should consider writing a journal of all your memories of her because time seems to rob us of memories as we age. One author I would recommend to you is Lisa See. Ive read almost all of them and I love that they are stories which include history of Asian culture. Ms. See does an exhaustive research of history to stay as correct as possible. She is also of Asian decent as well. Lastly, I appreciate how genuine you are and that comes thru in your posts!!

    1. Yes, I write down memories of people close to me who have passed. It is a great way to keep the memories alive.

  21. Thank you! I hope 2021 is great for you.

  22. Bridgette

    My heart aches for you. Losing loved ones is never easy. In 2019 we lost two of our fur babies and my aunt died of cancer at just 54. When losing both fur baby and a loved one so close together it feels like the weirdest yo yo. I felt guilty when cried for one of my dogs when my Aunt had died too. Grief is messy.

    Sounds like wonderful goals!

    In 2020… we reached a huge milestone of having saved for past two years (as well as increased investments) and bought our RV. Debt Free is our goal for renovation too! Woot!

    Just gotta work on student debt and will truly be debt free.

    2021 is the year for so much.

    Good luck on your goals.

    1. Thank you Bridgette, I appreciate your comment.

      I hope you have a great 2021!

  23. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for your losses — especially that of your beloved pup. I very unexpectedly (much the same was as you) lost my 11-year-old boy nearly two years ago, and I knew it would hurt, but I never expected it to be this hard. I still mourn him deeply, and while his sister is still with us, it makes it difficult because I find myself dreading her loss now ever day. Anyway. The grief is something I have to work actively to let go of, and it’s difficult when your dog was your daily shadow. I get that. And I’m very sorry.

    Also — Duolingo is great for learning vocabulary, but terrible for learning language. I live in Italy and have had much success with 3 Minute Languages by Kieran Ball. Look him up! He frequently offers discounts. Duolingo is a great supplement, but not fantastic for learning useful phrases.

    1. I’m so sorry Katie. It is so hard!

      Thank you for the language tip. I appreciate it.

  24. Hi Michelle,

    I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for sharing information to help others.
    You are a kind soul! You are so smart. I wish I could chat with you.

    Marilyn

  25. Really sorry to hear about the loss. Wishing you a great year ahead.

  26. StarsTell

    Hi Michelle,

    I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for sharing information to help others.

  27. Lore

    I am so inspired by you, such a wonderful determined woman who had the guts to LIVE her life her way… I am saving up to buy at least one of your courses, i just started my blog aprox 2 months ago. love, lore!