Episode Number: 174

Episode 174- Making 6 Figures Online & Living a Location Independent Lifestyle To Work & Live From Wherever You Want w/ Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch Podcast, Making 6 Figures Online & Living a Location Independent Lifestyle To Work & Live From Wherever You Want w/ Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

Recording 0:13

Welcome to the Journey to Launch Podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest, and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom in five, four, three, two, one.

Jamila Souffrant 0:39

Hey, hey, hey journeyers Okay, you're in for a special treat. I am excited to talk to today's guest, Michelle Schroeder Gardner of Making Sense of Cents. It's a personal finance website that helps readers learn how to save more, earn more and live more. Michele paid off $40,000 worth of debt, student loan debt that is in just seven months. And she talks about how to save money and side hustling on her website. She currently travels full time with her husband and two dogs via a sailboat. And I really like this episode, because this really gets you more behind the details of making money online. So Michelle has a really, really successful blog and website, she has courses. But she really started off blogging. And so we get into like how to make money online. So I know I have a lot of aspiring or just people who are already in the space of blogging, or maybe you have an online business. And so she breaks down like what that all is, you know, we talk about affiliate marketing, which is actually a really solid revenue stream. So that's where you refer someone to something that you're doing. So for example, if you give, you know, you get those like emails that Oh, if you refer your friend, you get $10. And your friend gets $10. Right, that's like you are now an affiliate. So it's a really cool way in which if you don't teach something, or have the knowledge of something or the resource, but know someone that does, but you introduce a paying customer to that person, you get a cut of that. I'm actually obviously exploring that and doing that with Journey to Launch right now. But I am doing that with Teri for her course Trade and Travel, which has been amazing because trading is not something that I do. Trading is something that I talked about in Episode 154 and 173. with Teri, because she teaches people how to do that. So it was cool that since I'm not teaching anyone how to do that, I don't know that that's not my wheelhouse or expertise. How can I refer my people, my journeyers, to someone who's teaching that, and then we all win, because you're learning, she's getting paid for her work. And I'm also getting paid for introducing you guys and making that connection. So again, that's just like one small part of how you can make money online. But we'll get more into that. I think this story is also pretty cool, because you'll hear from Michelle that she traveled in the RV full time for years and also traveled on a boat full time. Like, to me those things are so not things in my world. So I'm always loving when I gets to talk to people who do things so different from me are things that I can't see myself maybe doing but then when I talk to them, I'm like, you know what, maybe something we could give a try one day. So I really hope you enjoy this chat with Michelle. And if you are listening to this in real time, today is the last day to sign up to join Teri and I tonight, Wednesday, September 23 for a free class on trading, learning about trading and then also learning more about her course Trade and Travel. Sign up by going to journeytolaunch.com/tradingclass. If you want the episode Show Notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch.com or you can click the description of wherever you listen to this episode to get the full episode show notes. Now if you are a new listener to the podcast or OG journeyer I've created a Jumpstart Guide to help you on your journey to financial freedom. It includes the top episodes to listen to, the stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources to help you, and so much more. Get it for FREE by texting launch to 33777 text launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide for free right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Okay, journeryers I'm really excited because I have on Michelle Schroeder Gardener on the podcast. I've known of Michelle and her work for a long time. I feel like when I first entered into the personal finance space, you're already like chugging along with your brand your blog and making money online. Which I feel like for some people, especially when you're not in this world feels like how is this possible? right and so I'm really excited to have you on to talk more about your journey to growing a multi million blog business online. Plus Michelle, everyone Michelle, like you were living out of an RV, living in a boat full time at one point. I don't know if you're still are you still living on boat now?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 5:16

Yep we're on the boat now.

Jamila Souffrant 5:18

Like amazing. And if you're I'm doing the video recording of this too. So you can also see Michelle, you won't see the whole boat, but you'll see like a little love the inside. So Michelle, welcome to the podcast. I'm really excited to have you here.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 5:30

Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. Thanks for the great intro.

Jamila Souffrant 5:33

Yeah, well, I should have said Welcome to the rocket chair. I've been trying to say that a little bit more in the episode. So welcome to the rocket chair. I talked a little bit in your intro about you making money online. And I feel like we could probably start there for just people who don't know us that way they pay attention to this interview. But can you just like share, like you went from making a couple hundred dollars a month, years ago. To like six figures a month with your blog.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 5:58

Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 5:59

I want to talk about that as just like a starting point for people to realize like this is real. And Michelle knows what she's talking about. And then we can dive more into like your backstory and how you got to this place. So can you just talk a little bit more about you being so open with your income?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 6:14

Yeah, so I started my blog back in August of 2011. And back then it was all just like completely anonymous. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know that blogs could make money or anything like that. And I remember writing on Making Sense of Cents. Like I need to find ways to make extra money. And like that was like a normal blog post for me. Like I was like asking readers and friends because I was anonymous. And I wasn't making money through my blog. So it's basically just like a few people reading it. I was just asking them, like, what ways can someone make extra money? Because I don't I feel like back then, like 10 years ago, no one really talked about, like the things I did on the side. And so readers were just commenting and they were just like, why don't you just make money on your blog, like you're on your blog every day anyways. So it all just kind of exploded from there. Six months after I started Making Sense of Cents I made my first hundred dollars on my blog. And that was through a sponsored post that a blogging friend, they introduced me to an advertiser and just led to a sponsored post. And then it just led to like freelance writing gigs, I started managing social media for websites and stuff like that. But it all really changed when I started focusing on Making Sense of Cents, like entirely in 2015, I like fired all my freelance clients quit all those jobs, and just focused on Making Sense of Cents 100%. So I started making money through affiliate marketing, income, growing my sponsored partnership, display advertising, and then creating my own products. And it all just quickly grew from there. I think it was two years after I started Making Sense of Cents. I left my day job to blog full time. And it's been that was in 2013 when I quit. So it's been almost seven years now. The only seven years and a month. So yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 7:55

Wow, pretty crazy, pretty crazy. And now your blog and your business is bringing in six figures a month. And I do want to dive into more terms because like I know what affiliate marketing is, and you talk about like SEO is also I think one of your strong suits. And I do want to define those terms. Because there's some people who listen to this, and they're just, they're not in this world, but they may be curious, and they want to learn more. So we'll dive into that. But it struck me something you said when you first started you were anonymous, how long did it take you to start sharing who you are and then what I really like about you? It's funny, I like these things. I'm not I don't actually do much of these in my own content. But I like when other people do it is that you're so open with like exactly how much you were making, like you had monthly income reports that broke down where your income streams were coming from. So how did you go from being anonymous to being able to share all that information.

Starting anonymous definitely helped because I felt like I could share like whatever I wanted, because no one knew who I was my real name, what it looks like or anything like that. So that definitely helps when it came to like sharing my income reports how much money I was saving and stuff like that. And then I want to say was like a year and a half into blogging, I introduced myself publicly and introduced my name and my picture and stuff like that. It was honestly just a lot of work to be anonymous and to like never show your picture. And people are constantly just guessing who you are. So I mean, that just got kind of annoying as well. So I just told everyone who I was stopped being anonymous, and I still went with income reports for a while but around a year or two ago, I did stop publishing income reports that was for multiple reasons. It was just kind of I was just rehashing the same thing month after month and mainly for privacy reasons so just like to be able to do what I'm doing and private and not everyone know exactly what's going on in my life all the time. But it was nice while it lasted and everything's pretty much similar so I mean if you just looked at the old income reports it's all pretty much the same anyways.

Yeah. And you know, I again, I struggled with that like being as open like I do share the numbers, and I wonder if this is same for you, maybe not but when I started to share more of my numbers early on, like how much my husband and I saved and that was when Journey to Launch got more traction. Like when I was just kind of hiding behind. Like, when I first started my Instagram, if you scrolled all the way back, it was just like quotes I never really showed myself. It was more surface level stuff. And then when I started to share, okay, this is what we're doing. We save this much here are our goals, more people paid attention. So did you see a correlation with you making more money or having more traction with Making Sense of Cents when you started sharing more?

Yeah, definitely. I do think people like to see actual numbers. I know myself, I love seeing blogs like and reading their actual numbers. I think it just makes it more like attainable. You know exactly what's going on. You kind of know, like, what you should be working towards as well. So that definitely helped for sure. Yeah.

Yeah. And I know, for me, some of the reservations between some like sharing even more is like I have kids, I feel like you know, even though I live in a big city, I'm still just always careful of what's happening. But I do realize and see like how helpful it is because I even now, as a business owner, I love when other business owners share what they're doing or how they're earning income, or that they just signed a six figure contract. Like it just inspires me in that way. So I did make a commitment that no, I don't have to share everything. But there are certain parts that it would be helpful to share with my audience, because I know part of it too, is they're rooting for me to like succeed. So. So when it comes to you, though, now, right? Like, let's like hop into the different ways that Making Sense of Cents makes money, because you first started out just to kind of journal wasn't your debt payoff story or how you are handling money at the beginning?

Yeah, it was like my debt payoff story, living paycheck to paycheck, stuff like that. Yeah.

Right. Like, I feel like I saw most people start out there, like, I just want to, like get this out, or maybe just have like a journal, you know? And accountability.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 11:46

Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 11:46

And then you started making money. So what were the so you already said you had like a sponsored post, which I think is pretty self explanatory. But you basically someone paid you, for you to write an article on your site, and they just sponsored it.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 11:59

Yep.

Jamila Souffrant 11:59

What are the other ways that you started to make money?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 12:01

Next would probably be display advertising. So there's like Media Net, Mediavine, back then I used AdSense. Now I use Ad thrive. And that's basically just like those little banner ads that you see within a blog post or on the side, no one really pays attention to them anymore, but they do make money. So.

Jamila Souffrant 12:18

But with that stuff, you have to like have a certain amount of page views for them to accept you into their network. Is that true?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 12:24

Yeah, so AdSense is pretty much like anyone can join. So it's great for newbies. And then same goes for media.net. Next would be mediavine, and ad thrive. And that's I don't know, like what their minimums are right now. But I think it's like 25,000, or 50,000 pageviews per month, those are two really good options, once you get to that level.

Jamila Souffrant 12:42

Right. Which, you know, it's kind of crazy, because I'm not optimized at all on Journey to Launch, don't even go depending on when this comes out. Hopefully, my new site will be up. But like, don't even my site is not that good and is not optimized. And I'm like, wow, I should probably like be trying to do more of this. Because it could be a nice way to earn money in supplement.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 12:59

Yeah definitely.

Jamila Souffrant 13:00

Okay. But how do you get pageviews? Right, because that's the other thing. So newbies listening. And you know, okay, I have a story to share, whether it's money or not, it could be any topic, how do they start getting people to come to the site?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 13:12

So there's a ton of different ways for me. And if I was a new blogger, I would go for Pinterest, because I feel like it's so easy to just like, make a nice little Pinterest pin for your blog post and then just pin it on Pinterest. And you don't need a ton of followers, like follower numbers don't really mean anything on Pinterest anymore. It's all about how engaging your image is. It's a really great way to get traffic to a blog. Other than that, I'm also all about like SEO, that's I'm definitely not an expert in SEO, but it's something that I definitely want to work on and grow with. And then there's also Facebook pages, Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram. Instagram is something that I'm working on as well. Growing your email list is super important. If you have a blog, and you don't have an email list yet, you definitely want an email list.

Jamila Souffrant 13:55

And I want to jump in. So SEO stands for search engine optimization.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 13:59

Yep. Right. Yeah. So that's basically just Google so when someone Google's something like you want to take them to your blog, so that's just something that you need to optimize for.

Jamila Souffrant 14:08

Right right. And then you just mentioned all these other ways in which you're building community so I know that building community and meeting people was really helpful in getting Journey to Launch out there and going to conferences and then meeting the other podcasters bloggers in the space and I always say this one of the first I feel like hits I would say hits meaning how my name I feel like started to come up on search engines was my friend and you know I feel like you know but someone I look up in the business space Bola from Clever Girl Finance. She actually she was so smart when I first I always say this because when I first started I had like a couple hundred like followers and she had like at the time like 30,000 I think she's up to like a couple hundred thousand now. And she we she listed me like she had a blog post or a article on her site, like top personal finance people you should follow and she listed me as one and I remember just getting listed as that helped, I guess, with rankings with my name. And then so it started to come up. So I'm saying all that to say, but that happened because I knew Bola and we created a relationship, a genuine one. And that's the kind of stuff where it's, it's also helpful, right? Where people will you know, people in the space that help you kind of get your name out there.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 15:20

Yeah, that's probably the best one networking and forming genuine relationships. So whether that means like you're going to blogging conferences, or attending local media meetups, or just like sharing someone's article on social media, that's like a great way to make friends in the blogging world. And I always tell people, if you're a new blogger, so I feel like new bloggers do this, especially they see other bloggers as competition. And I feel like that really, really hurts them, there's plenty of room for everyone to have their own voice. So you might as well just make friends because making enemies is no fun. So just make friends.

Jamila Souffrant 15:51

No, make friends. And I do think I don't know how you feel about this. But there's a certain point. I know, in the beginning, I was more heavily focused on like networking and meeting people. And then I started to find mine my own voice, I did want to make sure like I wasn't tapping in or looking too much at other people's content. So it's not that I became less friendly with those people. It's more just like, I wanted my ideas to be my own and not to be in a bubble. So I think that's also important, because it's also about creating good content. If your content is not good, and people don't read it and stay or come back.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 16:22

Yeah, high quality content is super important. That's for sure.

Jamila Souffrant 16:26

Right. So you talk about quitting your job. So I do want to go back a little bit into your backstory and your own money journey to where you are today. And so you talked about leaving your job. What did you do in your previous corporate life?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 16:38

So as a financial analyst, when I quit my job to blog full time, I did that for about three and a half years. And it was an OK job. It just definitely wasn't for me. I wasn't happy. I was working like 45 to 50 hours a week, which I mean, I know that's normal, but it's it wasn't enjoyable is really stressful job. And I was blogging on the side. And I just loved blogging and coming home every day to blog. So I mean, it was kind of a no brainer, although it was very, it was a very stressful decision to decide to leave my day job to blog full time.

Jamila Souffrant 17:08

Yes. So what made you feel comfortable to do that? What financial or what things did you put in place for that to happen?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 17:16

So one of the main things that we did was I paid off my student loans. So I made a goal to pay off my $40,000 of student loan debt as quickly as I could. And my goal was, I paid it off in seven months, it was a crazy amount of time. And that's because I was side hustling like crazy at that time. So between my day job and all of my side jobs, and I had a ton of side jobs. I was working like 100 hours a week. So for side jobs, I wasn't just blogging, I was also mystery shopping, taking surveys, selling items on eBay, I had, I had roommates, basically any side job that you thought of I probably tried it and that time frame. Doing that helps me to pay off my debt as quickly as I could. So once I paid off my debt, I felt a lot more free, because I didn't have like that huge monthly payment hanging over my head. So that was definitely a huge relief when it comes to quitting my day job to blog full time. I also built up an emergency fund so that I would have like that stability as well. And even after that I still I think I like wrote about it a ton of my blog, I was still like every day, I was like, should I do this? Or should I not like is this an awful idea? Because I did go to school full time. And I have three college degrees, and none of them are in blogging. So it makes you kind of nervous to think like, Oh, I just like wasted all that time. And now I'm just going to go blog. But no, it was a great decision. Definitely don't regret it at all.

Jamila Souffrant 18:36

Yeah. So as you're talking, I'm just like, same, same same, because it's also the idea of like the sunk cost fallacy, like where you put in so much time and effort into this thing that you thought you were going to do. And then there's like a shiny, possible option that you could pursue that would make you in that moment, feel like you'd be happier, more fulfilled. So do you walk away from the stability and the potential like income, right, because you're a financial analyst. So you're probably potential for income growth is huge. And then to jump ship to, you know, do that. So at the time, were you replacing your income through Making Sense with Cents?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 19:12

Yeah, I actually was replacing my income. So and I think I actually was making more through my blog than I was at my day job. So I mean, I definitely made it easier. But like you said, I mean, it's like such a hard decision. And then I also had, like, everyone in my life telling me that I was making a mistake. So, what everyone was telling me like, what are you thinking like, you're crazy. So, I mean, that was definitely something that was like in my head. But I was thinking about too.

Jamila Souffrant 19:36

Can I ask about how old you were when you made that decision?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 19:39

I was really young still. So I actually graduated from college when I was like 19 or 20. So then I worked at my day job for three and a half years. And then so i think i was like 24 when I finally blogged full time. So I know that sounds super young, but before then I've actually been working full time since I was like 14. So I mean, it was actually like a lot longer than it sounds. But no, I was 24. So I was still pretty young.

Jamila Souffrant 20:05

Okay, and now I have just more questions about like, your teenage years and growing up in terms of how you managed to get such a head start because I view that as like a real head start, like graduating early working. So that means you are handling money and getting income from early age. What prompted or led you to that kind of track?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 20:26

So I've never been like super great with money. But when I was I was 14, and like, there was like a community bulletin board. And someone was like looking for a nanny full time. And I was only 14. And she must have been pretty desperate because she hired me and I was only 14. So I took care of her eight month old, like all year long, and she was a nanny. So I mean, it was mainly on the weekends or whatever, I would work like really long shifts on the weekends. And that was my first like, real full time job or whatever. I mean, it wasn't 40 hours a week is 36. But I mean, that's pretty. That's a long time for a 14 year old.

Jamila Souffrant 21:01

Yeah.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 21:02

And then after that, yeah. And then after that, I started working at Plato's Closet, which is like a retail thrift shop. And I did that from the age of like, the day I turned 16 until I was 20, until I had my first real job or whatever. And there I was a manager. So I mean, I've been I was working a while before I actually blogged full time.

Jamila Souffrant 21:24

Yeah, but you are working. And then you said you graduated at 19 from college. So were you always really good at school that you skipped grades, or how did that happen?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 21:34

So in high school, I managed it because you were able to do like a half day off. And I used that half day to work instead. So I got out of school early. So that was really nice. So during the first half of the day, I took like college prep classes. And then the other half I just went to work. So it was it was pretty nice. I mean, I didn't have to go to school the whole day, and I got to make money. So Wow, it's a nice little bonus if your children are in school, and they have that option.

Jamila Souffrant 21:59

Yeah, what prompted you to be so motivated at that age, because I know, you know, a lot of like people at that age, like we're not thinking of that I know my motivation. I got my first job at 14 and that was coming from an immigrant family and like hard work and wanting money. So that prompted me but what for you was that driving force? Because it seems like you were very ambitious.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 22:18

I guess I just had other friends who were doing half days as well. And no one was really in school everyone was doing half day. So it was kind of just like, Oh, I guess I'll just take a half day too. And I already had all my credits finished for high school. So there was really it would have just been like empty electives I would have chosen so I just decided to do a half day instead.

Jamila Souffrant 22:36

Nice. And and so with that you said you though you weren't really that good with money? So are you doing what? Because not you're making money at like 14 like so what are you doing with that money? Where were you spending it?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 22:46

I was spending it on clothes and food. I was awful. I liked it didn't save anything. I was not smart.

Jamila Souffrant 22:53

So now you're like an adult? And you're working full time. But you had mostly was it student loan debt? Did you have credit card debt?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 22:59

It was all student loan debt. And then I also had the mortgage to so...

Jamila Souffrant 23:03

A mortgage. So you bought something that also.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 23:05

We bought the house when I was 20. I think it was like right before I graduated from college. So yeah, so I was 20 when I graduated from college, and then I bought the house right beforehand.

Jamila Souffrant 23:15

Did you pay off the mortgage too, as before you left your job without something you did later?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 23:19

No, we did not ever pay off the mortgage. We just sold the house instead when we started traveling full time.

Jamila Souffrant 23:25

Alright, so you quit your job. And now you're able to blog full time? What changed for you then? Because I know that for some people, you know, they're thinking, well, if I had more time to focus on the blog, or the side business that I'm doing, I can earn more or have more resources, because I'm only focusing mental bandwidth, I would say to focus on this one thing. So how did that affect or impact how you earned and your trajectory to freedom.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 23:52

So for me, it was hard. I definitely did see an uptick once I actually left my day job. But that transition. Basically, I had to make the choice if I wanted to blog full time, or if I wanted to work my day job as a financial analyst, because I was basically I just wasn't getting any sleep, there was no time to continue to do both. So I had to make a decision. I had to lose one or the other. So I figured I'd have more fun with the blog, I was making a really good income. And I kept hearing about everyone else making such a good income. And I figured, well, if they can do it, why can't I? So I figured I would just make the leap and go for it. And I figured I had enough of an emergency fund no student loan debt. So I mean, I had stuff I had a little bit of savings to fall back on in case it didn't work out. And it definitely worked out. So once I left my day job, I had a ton more time of course, and just focused on trying different things to make money through Making Sense of Cents. And it worked out pretty well. I want to say I was making 10,000 in 2013 when I first left my day job, and now it's like definitely grown crazy from there. So yeah, it's a good decision.

Jamila Souffrant 24:56

Yeah, yeah. Now talk a little bit more about you sold your house was that to help prepare for traveling full time in the RV and the boat? Because I want to get to that to that location independent traveling the world lifestyle?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 25:10

Yes. So we sold the house so that we could move to Colorado actually. And we were going to move to Colorado and find a house there. We didn't want to have like two houses at the same time. So we wanted to sell the one in Missouri. And then we moved to Colorado, and we got an RV while we were there. And it's just supposed to be like a weekend thing and then got the RV and like never went back to the house. So we had to get rid of that one as well. And it's pretty crazy. Yeah, we were, we're, uh, we've been in the RV, or on the boat or whatever, traveling full time ever since 2015. So it's been a little over five years now.

Jamila Souffrant 25:45

Wow. And so you, you're saying we so I do want to like, say or mention. So you have a husband that's on this journey with you, right? Yes, I do. So is he in the online space too? Does he have a location independent job?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 25:57

No, he does not. He basically just does everything else on the boat or the RV. It's full time Captain on our boat.

Jamila Souffrant 26:04

Nice.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 26:04

And we have two dogs too.

Jamila Souffrant 26:05

Right? Right. Okay. And was he How was he with this? Was he? Was he always adventurous and in line with kind of your vision and how things unfolded? Or did it take some convincing for this lifestyle change?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 26:18

People are always like, well, how do I convince my spouse to RV or boat or whatever. And I always say like, the first thing you have to do is there's always one person that needs convincing. It's usually one person who really wants to do and other person needs convincing. I was the one who needed convincing. He was actually always showing me like small RVs and stuff like that were basically just like empty boxes. So we actually just went to an RV dealership one day, I said I need an RV that has like a bed and a bathroom. And then it just like grew from there. The first RV we walked in, we just really liked and that's the one that we actually lived in for about like eight months. And then we decided we needed something that was more full time. So we got something bigger. Then around two and a half years ago, we moved on to the boat. And that's what we're in now.

Jamila Souffrant 27:02

Wow. Wow. So I got to talk a little bit more about the RV life and then we can go to the boat life. Because in my head like I'm just like, well, both my husband and I would need convincing. Like, I'd love to do like a road trip though with the kids like and rent an RV and try it out. I think that would be fun. And then you have two dogs. I don't know if you have two dogs back then two. But how did you manage like having being in a smaller space, and then running your business and life out of that all workout?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 27:28

So it was pretty crazy. In the beginning. I remember I had like a lot of questions that I think are crazy now when someone asked me them, but I remember I had the same questions when I first started, like how do you do your laundry? How do you get your mail? How did the dogs use the bathroom? How do you eat? I remember I asked someone that when I first started thinking about RVing, I was like how do you cook food? Most RVs have kitchens. So it's a pretty easy question to answer. But I remember I asked all those questions before I started. And it's all pretty easy. Once you start things really aren't too different from like a normal home. I mean, they are different. It's definitely a lot harder to like plan your day by day when you're in something that moves. But every almost every question has an answer. Internet was probably the hardest thing in the very beginning. But I mean, that's not that bad today. There's tons of options probably like 100 maybe on 1000 different internet options this these days. So I mean, it's not as bad. So yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 28:24

And you also traveled around the United States. Can you talk a little bit about like that journey?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 28:28

Yeah, so we are RVed full time for about three and a half years and we mainly stayed like Mississippi River and then west. So we did. We spent a lot of time in like Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, the Pacific Northwest and stuff in Arizona especially. And we just did a lot of hiking, mountain biking we love to like just like park the RV like right next to a trail and then just like walk out and go for a bike or hike. I definitely think that's like one of the best things about RV because you're just like open the door and it's like amazing outside. Everything was really great about it. When we're done boating, I definitely see us RVing full time again.

Jamila Souffrant 29:06

Yes. So you mentioned in the beginning late your family was like what are you doing? Why are you quitting your job? How do they feel about you like doing this new thing like traveling full time in RV and now a boat.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 29:17

So it really wasn't family? It was like mainly friends who thought we were crazy. Friends and co workers and stuff like that. They never really said anything about the RV or boating thing I guess now they're just like, well, are you guys gonna live on a plane next or a submarine? So nothing negative ever came out of it. I know other people have heard like negatives about like living in an RV or stuff like that. But for us it's been pretty positive people join us all the time friends and family. So yeah, it's been fun.

Jamila Souffrant 29:44

Yeah. And now what made you then go to the sailboat because you have this and if you want to check out Michelle's Instagram, because you post all these really pretty pictures of the boat and like you had a video of dolphins like recently that you like sometimes wake up and see dolphins outside your boat. So I just can't imagine like that view and that feeling like each time you're there. But can you talk a little bit about what made you transition to that?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 30:09

So we just wanted to try something new learn a new skill, just like seek new things and do a different form of travel. So we were arguing for a long time. And while we really loved it, there was no negatives about RV. That's not like why we left it, although that's it. Some people like to say but no, boating is just like it's completely it's completely different, but also very similar. So it's just something new to try. When we figured we're young now, why not just give it a try while we're able to. So.

Jamila Souffrant 30:35

Yeah, where are you boating from?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 30:37

So we started out in Florida, in Fort Lauderdale. And from there we went to the Gulf Coast of Florida. And then we went to the Bahamas, and then back. And this past year, we did Florida to the Bahamas, to the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. And then because of everything that's going on in 2020, we had to come back to the US. So now we're in Annapolis. I don't really know what our future plans because we don't really know. I mean, what's the future in 2020? I don't know. So we're just kind of seeing what comes and then we'll decide what to do in the future. But we're on the boat and just making little improvements here and there to make it good for when we can travel again,

Jamila Souffrant 31:13

Right. Now did you buy the RV and boat outright? And I would imagine your overall living expenses are much lower than if you were living in an apartment.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 31:21

We don't have any RV or boat loans. A question I get all the time is is RV being or boating cheaper than a normal house. And I it really depends just like how you can like go on vacation, you can stay in like a motel or you can go stay at like a really nice hotel. I don't know what the names would be, I don't ever go to a really nice hotel. But you know what I'm saying like you could say like a $50 highway motel, or you could probably stay at $1,000 plus per night, nice hotel. I mean RVing is very similar to that. You could be arguing at a campground and your neighbor to the left is in like a $5,000 RV and then your neighbor to their to your right could be in like a $2 million RV. So I mean, it really just depends on how you want to travel, you pretty much all see the same stuff. Like I just said, left and right, they're literally 20 feet apart. So it's all just how you want to travel how much what your budget is. So there's definitely room for everyone.

Jamila Souffrant 32:12

Right? So preference, basically, lifestyle preference. Did your husband know how to drive a boat, be a captain before all this? Or did he learn?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 32:20

So he knew a little bit before I did, he's gone on like many longer trips than I have. But we both took classes, I was definitely a lot newer than he was it's definitely a huge learning curve. But it's a lot of fun. It's nice when you succeed.

Jamila Souffrant 32:33

So you're both co captains. I always like to be open. So I joked before that, like I need a lot of convincing to do that. But I cannot deny when I do see and hear about like this lifestyle. And I don't know if it's something I would do, I could do full time. But I'd love the opportunity to show my kids you know something different because we don't know anyone that does that in real life. I only know like people like online that do it. And so I think about okay, so if we wanted to learn how to drive a boat, how hard is that? How expensive is that. So any tips for someone who's like thinking of this and is like, you know what, maybe I want to try this out.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 33:04

There's a few different ways you could get started. For me, I actually my first time on a sailboat for more than like a day was we went to the BVIs. And we did like a 10 day charter with some of our friends who also knew how to sail it was actually just less than one of our friends who know how to sell everyone else is like brand new. So that's what we did. And we were on that but for 10 days, and we like just sailed around to different islands and stuff like that. And it was a ton of fun. If you're brand new to sailing, if you don't know anyone who knows how to sail to go with you, you can just use one of their captains at the charter base. So you can just rent a boat. And then like, you can just hire a captain to go with you. So he'll drive the boat. But he'll also he can also teach you at the same time. So I mean, I think that's a really great way to like go on vacation and also see if like boat life is interesting to you. Or you could also if you have like a lake or something near you ocean, just take like a sailing class and see if that's something you're interested in sailing classes are all over. Definitely a lot cheaper than attend a charter. So I mean, it just depends on what you want.

Jamila Souffrant 34:01

Yeah, and it's about like the resources, because even living in Brooklyn, like there are actually dots and those resources available to us. It's more about just calling and finding out about them. Right. So I'm sure like if you're listening, maybe if you do live somewhere, you have somewhere that probably shows you how to do that. Yeah, definitely. Now when it comes to running your business, because you do a lot for your business, right? Like you're very involved, like I went to your blog and you like answer like a majority of the comments, you're so like in there and I think you probably have like a lot of people on your email list like this a lot to run your basic business. How are you managing that and then still like enjoying the moments and life on the boat or on the RV when you are doing it?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 34:43

So I do have help, but I do so one thing I do pride myself on is that I always answer all of my own emails and I answer all of the comments so people know that they're hearing from me personally. So I guess I should say I don't answer all of my emails. If there's like a tech support email that goes to my virtual assistant. So I do have a virtual assistant who happens to be my sister financials.com and Lexis handles like a lot of the little day to day things that I wouldn't be able to do just because I might not have internet that day. Or I might have like something might have popped up that day. So she like handles some of the emails, tech support the different Facebook groups, I have stuff like that makes some of the graphics for me. Then I also have an editor who is my sister in law, and she does all of my editing. And she's really, really great. She also edits for a few other blogs like Millennial Money Man and stuff. And then I also have Grayson, which I'm sure you've heard of Grayson, but he does like...

Jamila Souffrant 35:37

He's helped me a little bit on my son with my stuff.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 35:40

Yeah, he's amazing. So and he does like all the tech support and backups and stuff on Making Sense of Cents. And so those three people like really helped me run the day to day so that I don't have to, like go in and do all those small tasks that I just don't have time to do.

Jamila Souffrant 35:54

Right. That's excellent. And I think when you first started making money, what was your first thing that you did spend money on to help you grow your business?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 36:01

So I started out on Blogger, so my domain was like senseofcents.blogspot.com or something. So I think the first thing I did was I bought that the actual domain. The second thing was eventually I switched to WordPress, and that was self hosted WordPress. And that was like the best decision I made. And then third was I actually spent 100, I think it was $100. On like, my first blog design, like wasn't the greatest, but I mean, there's $100, and I wasn't making money blogging. So I mean, it was definitely like a lot of money to spend. And those three things I definitely think were super helpful.

Jamila Souffrant 36:33

Yeah, I'm sure like, hopefully, if you are thinking about starting a blog that was helpful in terms of the quickstart to get started. Now, in terms of just like your financial journey, so you're debt free now. And the path of the journey to financial independence. So I talk about financial independence on this podcast, but I try to break it down so it's accessible. And like the different steps and layers to get to the ultimate goal. Would you define yourself as someone who is financially independent, where like, literally, if you said, You know what, I don't want to do this anymore. Like you could literally walk away and not ever work again or not?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 37:07

Yeah, we have enough saved to retire whenever we want. But I blog because I still have it. And it's my business and my baby. So I'm still here.

Jamila Souffrant 37:16

Yeah, and I just I love talking to people. I know. I had Teri on the podcast and Trade and Travel, she teaches trading. And she's the same way. Like she said, she reached her financial independence number, and she literally is doing this, because she wants to, and she actually has a lot of family members working for her. So she's like, I'm just trying to make them financially independent now and like help them but like, literally, like she's good. So I just love actually talking to people, because so often, like, we'll play around with these questions in our head, even me, I'm just like, if I had all the money in the world, would I still do Journey to Launch, like the same way? What would be different? And then I try to operate backwards? Well, let me try to like do it that way. Like, no, no, I actually have to get to a point where it's like making a sustainable income first. But people think about that all the time. Like, what would they do? Would they really do what they're doing now? If they had all the money? And so it's nice to hear from someone who's like, actually, yeah, cuz I don't have to do this.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 38:06

Yeah. So I mean, there are things that I've changed. Like, I don't write as much as I used to, like, when I first started Making Sense of Cents, I was blogging, like every single day. And that was, that's crazy when you think back about that one person writing something every single day. So now, like, my content is a lot more mindful. I publish something like one to two times a week, mainly just once a week, I'm more mindful of, like, the time I spent answering emails, I've definitely hired help. Just a little things like that have really helped over the years, for sure. And I guess the main thing is, is if I don't like something like if I don't want to do a sponsored partnership, I definitely don't do it. So I mean, I'm only accepting things that I like I truly believe in and really enjoy. So things have definitely I wouldn't I don't I wouldn't say that they've changed because I've always been that way. But I definitely am more that way now.

Jamila Souffrant 38:54

Right? Does it also take the pressure? Because you do have um, definitely like a lot of helpful resources and courses on your site. Does it take away the pressure of like, if you launch right, launching it or selling it?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 39:05

It definitely takes the pressure off that is for sure. Yeah, I just like off it'll sell it'll sell but I'm not gonna like go crazy. And I've never been like one who's done like a ton of like webinars or anything like that. Like I don't really do a huge launch process and said, I just focus on the content, and what I'm teaching and like everything that goes into the course and stuff and just hope that there's good word of mouth, which there has been for my two courses, thankfully.

Jamila Souffrant 39:28

Yeah, yeah. Okay, so what are your future plans? If you could foresee yourself in five years, what do you see yourself in terms of goals for the business and blog slash just your personal lifestyle?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 39:39

So that's a super tough question, because I just I can't even imagine what like 2021 is going to be like right now. I guess I would just hope that if I am still blogging, which I probably will still be that it's still just growing I'm helping people. Mainly that I'm just still getting those emails from readers who are like, oh, I paid off my debt because the you like I just hope I'm still publishing like quality, helpful content. That's pretty much my only goal was Making Sense of Cents. Just that high quality content and helping readers outside of the blog. I'm not like super like, I don't like write down goals or anything like that. I've always just been like, do what makes me happy. Like, I don't know what I'll be doing in five years. I have no idea. Just continue doing what I'm doing until it no longer makes me happy. And then I'll stop. But I think I'll still be sailing sailing or RVing for sure.

Jamila Souffrant 40:25

That's wonderful. And and just another question back to kind of blogging. So for people who are maybe working full time, and they're like, okay, I want to earn extra money. Blogging may be a way, can you really still make money like blogging because I know back now, a few years ago, like there was a rush to blogging, and I feel like people made money that way can do people really still make money? If they're just starting out? And what separates someone who does make money like you, you know, or who fizzles out and just like, doesn't work for them?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 40:55

So I definitely think you can still make money blogging, I still get emails from new people who have taken like my affiliate marketing course and stuff like that, who have told me like they started this year, and they're already making money. So I know it's possible. I definitely think that so for me, I started as a hobby. And I definitely think hobby bloggers can still make money blogging, or if you're starting just to make money, I think you can make money blogging, I think it's more about like, what exactly, you're doing blogging. So there's like a lot of different mistakes I've seen over the years. One, this is like a no one particular order or anything like that. But one is probably quitting too soon. Like, I see people who are one month in and they're like, I'm not making money blogging, like, what am I doing wrong, and it's like, well spent a month. So there's probably a lot of things you're doing wrong, because I did a lot of things wrong the beginning too. So just quitting too soon. You just don't know if things are gonna work one month in, or even six months. And for me, it took six months to make that first hundred dollars. So I mean, it really just takes time. Other mistakes I've seen. I've talked, I talked earlier about the seeing other bloggers as competition, not networking, stuff like that. Three would probably be not caring about your content, content, not everything you do need to promote it and stuff like that. But content is super helpful. Four us probably the most important and that would probably be thinking about your own voice. So while there's like a ton of different money bloggers, if everyone said the exact same thing and the exact same way. I mean, that would just be super boring. You just need to have your own voice, your own angle, what are you bringing to the table? Like what's separating you from everyone else? I think once you realize that, like you, you have a good idea of what your blog direction is. So I would probably say that last one's probably one of the most important just having your own voice.

Jamila Souffrant 42:34

Right? And because everyone's has a unique point of views. And while you may agree with other people, the way you say it, how you say it like matters.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 42:43

Yeah, well, everyone has a different background too. So I mean, not everyone grew up the same way, or did the same things as an adult or anything like that. So I mean, everyone has their own story to tell, and people want to relate to you, especially when it comes to like finance or travel or lifestyle or whatever people want to relate to you. So they'll find people that they can relate to.

Jamila Souffrant 43:02

Right and what I find like hopeful about blogging and blogging, I you know, we never really like to find it again. This is really for people who are just like, What are you talking about? So yeah, we waited to the end of the interview to define it. But can you can you define like what blogging is?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 43:17

Yeah, I get this question all the time. And it's like kind of hard to explain. I always just kind of say, like, Oh, it's kind of like a newspaper or a magazine. But it's like, you usually start out a blog. And it's like you're writing articles. And your articles don't really have to all be the same. Like it could be like more like a journal entry, like a diary entry. Or it could be more like you're teaching people something. So basically, blogs, just like written content, or it could be video content on your own website. I think that would be the best way to explain it.

Jamila Souffrant 43:47

No, that's good. And also, even though we both while you started out, you talk about money, and ways to make money. And I started our Journey to Launch as a blog, I don't blog as much or write as much as usually now it's the podcast as my main source. But it was sharing personally and writing the blogs about my journey is that literally, it could be about anything. So if money is not your thing, like you might be listening to this, because you want to get you know better with your money. But you have other interests, right? Like you talk about gaming, clothes, food, anything like literally anything.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 44:18

Yeah, there's so many different things that you could write about. It's definitely not just money.

Jamila Souffrant 44:22

And the cool thing about it is it opens up so many avenues. So I feel like maybe, so you could be looking for a creative outlet, right? So I always encourage people on this path to financial independence, to enjoy themselves along the way and to find like the little things in life, and so maybe it's getting back to your creativity, if you like puzzles and things like that, like maybe zoning in or gardening, right, like, you can maybe start something around that idea. And then that opens up other avenues that you never thought about before. Like for me podcasting. And then a couple years later, I was able to like quit my job. So not saying that's happened for everyone. But I think following your passion following what inspires you even though it's a little like, you know, I know for some people, like they want the numbers and they want to know that it's gonna be worth their time. But I do think there's something to be said for just like following what feels good sometimes, especially if you have a job right like that can support you.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 45:14

Yeah, so I think that's definitely what helped me. Since I was working my day job so much. I feel like pursuing like more of like a hobby blog, like how Making Sense of Cents first started definitely helped me. Because I mean, if I was working 100 hours a week, and they were both something I didn't really want to do. I mean, that would have been really difficult to stay motivated.

Jamila Souffrant 45:33

Yeah, I hope this inspires someone who maybe never thought about blogging as an outlet or a way to possibly make money to like try it out. But Michelle, please let everyone know where they can find more about you and all the amazing offers you have.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 45:46

Yeah, so if you go to MakingSenseofCents.com, you'll find my website in the top right hand corner you'll find like my Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and everything. If you want to follow my travel adventure stuff, I go to my Instagram which is instagram.com/ MichelleSchro. So those two are definitely be perfect.

Jamila Souffrant 46:03

And I will link all of that in the episode show notes. Thank you so much, Michelle, for chatting with me and the audience of journeyers today.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner 46:10

Yeah, thanks so much for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 46:16

Okay, journeyers. I really hope you enjoyed that episode with Michelle, maybe it's inspired you to try online, an online business or blogging, or maybe traveling full time on an RV or boat who knows whatever. I love bringing you stories that just challenge what you think you can do and what's normal because you define what's normal in your life, you can make the rules. Once again, if you're listening to this in real time, meaning you heard this the date came out in the morning or in the daytime September 23. Today's the last day to sign up and join Teri and I tonight on the Trade and Travel free class you can go to journeytolaunch.com/tradingclass. If you want to check out the episode shownotes that's where you can get links to anything that's mentioned, find out more about our guests and even get a transcribed version of this episode that you can read. Go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode.

Now you can also still grab your free journeyer jumpstart guide by texting, launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart. If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers there. Three support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl. Four and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of Journey to Launch. Alright, that's it until next week, keep on journeying journeyers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

(This post may include some affiliate links)

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents started her journey to financial freedom by paying off almost $40,000 in student loans in seven months. She shared her journey on her website and turned her blog into a six figure online business. Today, Michelle helps others with their money while she and her husband travel full time on a sailboat.  

Listen to this episode to learn more about how to; make money online and have a location independent lifestyle where you can work and live from wherever you want.

In this episode you will learn:

  • 3 things to do to get started with an online business and blog 
  • How Michelle turned her blog into a six-figure online business
  • Several ways to make money online
  • What life is like if you travel full time on a RV or sailboat
  • The power of networking with other bloggers and more

You can watch this episode on youtube by clicking here!

I'm listening to Episode 174 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, Making 6 Figures Online & Living a Location Independent Lifestyle To Work & Live From Wherever You Want w/ Michelle Schroeder-Gardner Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

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