11 Years & $5 Million Later: What I Love & Have Learned About Blogging

It’s been 11 years since I started Making Sense of Cents, and I am still completely amazed that this is what I get to do for a living! In August of 2011, when I opened my laptop and started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know that blogs…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 26, 2023

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It’s been 11 years since I started Making Sense of Cents, and I am still completely amazed that this is what I get to do for a living!

In August of 2011, when I opened my laptop and started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know that blogs could make money.11 Years & $5 Million Later: What I Love & Have Learned About Blogging

This blog started as a hobby because I enjoyed reading other personal finance blogs and figured why not start my own.

11 years ago, I had no real dreams or goals for my blog. I was completely anonymous – I wrote with a fake name, and I didn’t even tell my friends or family about my blog. 

For the entire first year of blogging, only Wes and my sister knew what I was doing. 

A lot has changed since then! 

What started as a fun way to share my story has turned into millions of annual readers and lifelong friendships. And, I’ve earned a great income that allows me to retire whenever I want, and I love what I do.

11 years ago, I never would have guessed this for myself!

And, I have never been more grateful, especially lately.

Running my own business and being able to work minimal hours means I can spend as much free time as I want with my husband and our baby girl.

It’s a dream come true.

Because blogging is a remote job, I get to do it all with my family while we travel. That means I can spend time hiking, snorkeling, biking, exploring new places, and more. I also have the ability to sit at home and have a relaxing day knowing that my business runs in the background providing for us.

My blog has grown into a wonderful business that has allowed me to enjoy my work, have a flexible schedule, and earn a great living.

What has always been amazing to me is how little I knew about blogging when I started.

I’m definitely not a techy person, and I’ve never considered myself a writer.

I bring that up because a lot of people assume you need to be both to start a successful blog.

In the past 11 years, so much has changed for me, and it’s all because I randomly started Making Sense of Cents one day.

Blogging was something I started and worked on in addition to my full-time day job as a financial analyst, and around two years after I started this blog, I quit my day job to blog full-time (that was back in 2013).

Some fun stats about Making Sense of Cents:

  • My first blog post was published on August 10, 2011. You can read it here.
  • I have published 2,072 articles on Making Sense of Cents.
  • I have received 134,434 emails (this does not even include the countless emails I have deleted over the years, so the number is probably over 1 million, haha!). I haven’t included promotional emails either – the 134,434 are simply emails from my readers.
  • I have 67,410 comments on my blog posts. This was higher but I recently deleted over 5,000 comments that had broken links.
  • I’ve personally replied to over 21,488 comments.
  • It took me six months to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents.


How and why I started this blog

I say this all the time, but I think it’s worth repeating: I had no idea what I was doing when I started this blog.

So many people think that you must be a tech wizard or have experience to start a blog.

But, that is so far from the truth. Many of the most successful bloggers I know have started on a whim. They learned as they went and made a lot of mistakes.

And, that is true for me as well.

I started Making Sense of Cents after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. It started purely as a hobby to track my financial situation.

I had no clue that a blog could even make money, that people did this full-time, how to grow a blog, or what a blog post really was.

Back in 2011, I was working as an analyst at an investment banking and valuation firm. I had a stressful job filled with lots of deadlines and responsibilities that just didn’t interest me, plus I lacked any real passion or even somewhat enjoyment for what I was doing. I chugged along working the 8-5, Monday-through-Friday grind and didn’t see myself having an enjoyable future there. 

I completely dreaded the workweek, and I knew that the job was not for me.

Blogging was an outlet for my stressful day job, and my interest quickly grew, even though it was just a hobby. It gave me space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, 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 with Making Sense of Cents through sponsored partnerships.

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

That one deal sparked my interest, so I decided to take my blog more seriously and learn how to make even more money blogging.

I now earn a great living from my blog, and it all started so randomly, not even knowing that blogs could make money.

Blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I urge anyone who is interested 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.

And, all of this happened because I started some random blog eleven years ago.

I made so many mistakes in the beginning, and I still make mistakes today. But, I continue to learn and improve, which has shaped this blog into what it is today.

I was so afraid to quit my job when I did, especially for a blog.

People thought I was absolutely crazy and making the worst decision of my life. 

Today, I’m going to talk about the 11 things that I love and have learned about blogging over the past 11 years. I feel like what I enjoy about blogging and what I’ve learned go hand-in-hand. I add one new thing each year, and I always have fun looking at my annual blogiversary post.

If you haven’t yet – please follow me on Instagram.

Related content:

Here’s what I love and have learned about blogging.


Sailing in the Bahamas earlier this year

1. I love being my own boss

When I first started Making Sense of Cents and realized I could make an income from it, I quickly learned how much I love being my own boss.

I love being in complete control of what I do, and becoming self-employed may give you that same feeling. I enjoy deciding what I will do each day, creating my own schedule, determining my business goals, handling behind-the-scenes work, and more.

I actually have a rule in my life/business about not doing anything unless I really want to. While I still agree to a lot of opportunities, I’m not doing anything that feels like a total drag or is against my beliefs. This has really helped improve my work-life balance, which is great because being able to choose how you earn a living amounts to making sure you love everything you do.

I honestly love each and every service I provide – writing online, promoting, networking, interacting with readers, and more.

Running an online business (and being your own boss) may not be for everyone, but it’s something I enjoy.


2. Having a flexible schedule changes your life

One of the best things about working for yourself and being a blogger is that you can have a flexible schedule.

I can work as far ahead as I want to, I can create my own work schedule, and more.

I love being able to work for a few hours in the morning, do something fun during the day (such as hiking), and then work later at night when I have nothing planned. I can also schedule appointments during the day, and it’s really no big deal.

I can work at night, in the morning, on the weekends – I can work whenever.

But, this can also be something you need to keep an eye on because having a good work-life balance is so important.

3. Being location independent is wonderful

Spending the last few years being location independent has been an incredibly wonderful experience.

I love being able to work from wherever I am, and it’s allowed me some of the best experiences I’ve had, like living in an RV and on a sailboat. All I need is an internet connection and my laptop.

The only problem with being location independent is that it makes it difficult to separate work from the rest of your life. You may find yourself working all the time, no matter where you are, and while that may sound great, being able to take a true vacation can be a hard task.

However, I’m not going to complain because the work-life balance I have right now is pretty incredible.


4. Remember, success takes time

Many bloggers quit just a few months after starting.

In fact, the statistic I’ve always heard is that the average blogger quits after only six months.

I completely understand – starting a blog can be super overwhelming!

But, good things don’t come easy. If blogging were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

It took me six months for me to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents. If I had quit just before then, I would have missed out on everything I have experienced up until this point.

Remember, success takes time.

Recommended reading: Ways To Make Money With A Laptop


5. Don’t write when you feel forced

One thing I have definitely learned about myself over the years is that I write best when I’m not forced, e.g. when I’m on a deadline.

Instead, I always try to write content well before I plan on publishing it.

I used to write things the day before I planned on publishing, but I found that to be super stressful. Even a week in advance was too stressful for me.

I like to be at least a month ahead because I can truly write when I feel inspired, and I’m always happy to write this way.

Currently, I have about four months worth of content written in advance, and I would like to be even further out from that.


6. Get ready to learn

Everything about having a blog is a learning process.

It is still so new, and it’s not like you’ve learned these skills in school.

Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and anyone who tells you that it is (or acts like it is) is lying.

Blogging is not easy.

And, you won’t make $100,000 your first month blogging.

In fact, you most likely won’t make $1,000 your first month blogging.

Blogging is a lot of work, especially in the beginning. The industry is always changing, which means you must continue learning and adapting to the technology around you. This includes learning about social media platforms, running a website, growing your platform, writing high-quality content, and more.

This is something that I love about blogging – it’s never stale. There’s always a new challenge.


7. Stop seeing other bloggers as competition

Okay, so this isn’t exactly something that I’ve learned personally, but I want everyone else to understand it.

I have always had the mindset that there is room for everyone in the blogging world. However, not everyone feels the same way.

So many bloggers see other bloggers as enemies or competition, and this is a mistake.

I mostly see this in newer bloggers, and it can really hold you back because networking is so important if you want to create a successful blog..

Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending conferences, sharing other blogs’ content with their readers (such as on their blogs, Twitter, or Pinterest), liking posts on social media, and more.

Networking can help you enjoy blogging even more, develop your skills, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging, then you should network with others! After all, networking is the reason why I learned how to make money blogging in the first place!

The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren’t genuine, and it’s always obvious.

I’ve made great friends who are bloggers and influencers, and it’s truly a great community to be in.


8. You don’t need previous experience to be successful

As you learned earlier, I did not have previous experience when I started Making Sense of Cents. I also didn’t have the first clue about what it took to become successful.

To become a blogger, you don’t need any previous experience. You don’t need to be a computer genius, understand social media, or anything else.

These are all things that you will learn as you start a blog.

Nearly every single blogger was brand new at some point, and they had no idea what they were doing.

I’m proof of that because I didn’t even know that blogs existed when I started Making Sense of Cents, and I definitely didn’t know that bloggers could make money. I learned how to create a blog from the bottom up and have worked my way to where I am today. It’s not always easy, but it’s been rewarding!

With blogging, you’ll have a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s challenging, but in a good way.


9. You can make a living blogging

This is probably one of the best things I’ve learned since I first started my blog – you can actually make a living blogging!

No, not every single person will become a successful blogger (it’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme), but I know many successful bloggers who started in a similar way as I did – blogging as a hobby that grew from there.

For me, I have earned a high income with my blog, and I have enough saved to retire whenever I would like. I am still working on my blog, though, as I enjoy what I do.


A few years ago on one of my favorite hikes.

10. I love actually enjoying what I do for work

Before starting this blog, I absolutely dreaded the workweek.

But, that is not the case anymore.

Blogging is something that I just enjoy so much, and it is a huge passion of mine.

I wake up and actually enjoy working every day. Sure, there are days when I may be tired or receive a rude message from a stranger (unfortunately, that’s just the online world for you), but, in general, every day has been amazing.

I enjoy writing new blog posts, talking with readers, researching and improving monetization methods, working with companies, being active on social media, finding new ways to grow Making Sense of Cents, and more.


11. The beginning will be tough

When you first start your blog, it will be hard!

After all, starting a new business involves learning so many new things. The difficulty you experience in the beginning is completely normal.

I receive so many emails from readers who tell me that they are afraid to start a blog, afraid to put themselves out there, etc., and they are looking for my top piece of advice about getting started.

My top piece of advice – just make the leap!

Nearly every blogger I know (even the really successful ones) was afraid to put themselves out there.

This is super normal.

However, you won’t know unless you try and finally make that leap.

Perhaps you can do things to motivate yourself, such as create a vision board or write out the long-term goals you hope to achieve with blogging.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t let fear hold you back.


What’s next?

Honestly, my main goal is pretty much the same as it is every year – get everything planned and scheduled for the next several months.

Being a new mom takes up a lot of my time (and I’m so grateful I get to experience it all!), so being ahead on work makes life a lot easier.

I am also working on finding new ways to grow Making Sense of Cents. I have thought about possibly starting a TikTok or getting into Instagram Reels. I feel like those are two great ways to grow right now; however, my time is limited. I also want to continue to grow my SEO traffic and find new ways to help my readers.

Speaking of my readers, I am so very grateful for all of you, and I am happy that you are all here.

If there’s anything you’d like me to write about on Making Sense of Cents, please send me an email at michelle@makingsenseofcents.com or leave a comment below.

Thank you so much for being a reader of Making Sense of Cents!


There are many valuable, free resources for bloggers!

I am going to end this blog post with my favorite list of blogging freebies.

I didn’t spend any money in the beginning in order to learn how to blog – instead, I signed up for a ton of free webinars, free email courses, and more. You can definitely do the same!

  1. If you don’t have a blog created yet, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
  2. Affiliate Marketing Tips For Bloggers – I launched this free 36-page ebook to teach you all about affiliate marketing for bloggers.
  3. How To Increase Your Google Traffic (FREE Video Training) – This is my favorite free, SEO training, and it teaches you how to improve your content so that you can rank through SEO.
  4. The Free Blogging Planner – The Blogging Planner is a free workbook that I created just for you! In this free workbook, you’ll receive printables for starting your blog, creating blog posts, a daily/weekly blog planner, goals, and more.

I also recommend reading Best Blogging Courses & Resources That Helped Me Make $100,000+.

Are you interested in starting a blog or your own business? What questions do you have for me?

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. This is sooooo inspirational and informational at the same time, the fact that you spoke about EVERYTHING even though there’s bits where some wouldn’t want to add to the public eye, fairplay to you! GoodLuck for that future!!

  2. It’s nice to see how much you have learned and grown over all the years, Michelle. In the beginning you inspired me to create online content as well about building wealth. And I’m super grateful for the knowledge you share with your readers.

    I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve learned as much from engaging with my audience as they’ve learned from me over time. 😄 I think Instagram reels would be a natural choice for you. Keep up the great work.

    1. Yes, I have learned so much from readers as well! I love the community.

      Thank you 🙂

  3. Thanks, Michelle and happy blogversary to you! I love your point 4 in particular about creating as much content in advance as possible, so that you feel you can write without the pressure to hit a deadline. I will definitely try that and get ahead with a few posts. At the moment I literally only manage to publish a post and then get started on the next. But because life happens that also meant that I didn’t get to publish a post on time. Great tip, thanks!

    1. I’m now around 5 months ahead in content. I’ve been writing a ton lately, haha. But, I have to do this because I know that once boating season is back on, that it will be much more difficult for me to get anything done.

      Highly recommend being ahead in content!

  4. Jim

    Thanks for sharing your story Michelle, its very uplifting, as I am about 4 months into my blogging journey. I have made the decision to stay the course through thick and thin though. Posts like this just validate the efforts, thank you!

  5. Greg

    I wanted to start a blog too, so I bought a domain and some web hosting. I setup an account at wordpress.org. I am pretty computer literate, but I had no experience with page builders. I found myself somewhat over my head in trying to build the pages and to get them properly formatted. None of the articles on blogs ever mentioned the technical problems one can encounter in selecting a page builder and getting the pages to look like you want. There is a sidebar that appears that I cannot format/edit and I don’t know where to find the settings for it. Any suggestions? I am considering going with Wix because of this problem. Did you just pay Swoon & Co. to create your page templates?

    1. Hey Greg,

      If you’re having difficulty with the design side, I highly recommend purchasing a premade design or theme. You can find premade designs on Etsy, for example. There are premade themes too, you can find at the bottom of this tutorial – https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2014/08/how-to-start-a-wordpress-blog-on-bluehost.html

      Yes, Swoon and Co designed my blog.

      1. Winnie

        Can you provide the link for Swoon and Co? Thank you!

        1. Swoon and Co isn’t who designed my current web design (I just had a complete redesign last month). Do you want the new person’s info or the last? If the new, then her contact info is at the very bottom of my blog.

  6. Your post are so motivational. You have inspired so many. I started reading your blog in 2017 and I enjoy your interviews as well as you talking about your experiences. Thank you for talking about your journey.

    1. -correction – (Grammar correction) *posts*

  7. Agree on the being location independent and creating your own schedule, nothing like it until you experience it. And don’t see other bloggers as competition, so true as we’ve all collaborated on numerous occasions!

    Maybe one day you can do a “Day in the life” of living on the boat to give us a glimpse into the reality and the mindset!

  8. Thanks for sharing this. It’s so motivating to hear your success story! I just started earlier this year, and I am excited to learn all there is on making money blogging. I dream of quitting my job and traveling the world- I love to travel.