Welcome to Location Independent Success Stories, the newest interview series on The Sweetest Way!
In each new post, I’ll be introducing you to someone who’s using their unique skills and talents to kick ass as a digital nomad and live life on their terms.
This week, I’m pleased to be featuring one of my greatest blogging role models, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. I’ve been gleaning inspiration for earning money online from her site for a long time now, and just finished taking her amazing affiliate marketing course! Her location independent RV lifestyle is fascinating and unlike most other nomads I’ve interviewed so far.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder and writer at Making Sense of Cents. On her blog, she helps readers learn how to make extra money, how to save money, and reach their dream life. Michelle and her husband sold their house in 2015 and currently travel full-time in an RV with their two dogs.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, and what are you doing now?
Hello! My name is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner (mouthful, I know!) and I run the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents. I have three finance-related college degrees and I used to be a financial analyst before I switched to full-time blogging.
In the summer of 2011, I started my blog with the aim of teaching people how to save money as well as journaling my personal finance journey after reading a magazine that featured a personal finance website in one of their articles. I became extremely interested in that website and my interest in blogging just grew from there. This is interesting and hilarious because, before that same summer, I had no idea about what blogs were, that they could even make money, or anything along those lines.
I did not create my blog with the intention of making money blogging. It was all just a hobby and an outlet; I then realized how much I loved blogging and realized that it was for me, so now I am a full-time blogger! I went full-time in October of 2013 and I haven’t looked back once. Blogging has completely changed my life for the better and it’s something that I recommend everyone try if they are interested.
On my blog Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about different ways to make extra money, the best ways to save money, achieving your dream life, RVing (me and my husband RV full-time), and more. I love running Making Sense of Cents and I am very happy that this is now my full-time career, my business, and pretty much my life.#Blogging has completely changed my life for the better. -Michelle Schroeder-Gardner Click To Tweet
When did you realize you wanted to become location independent, and what were your reasons behind that decision?
We were traveling nearly full-time anyways, and spending money on the house we owned yet never really lived in. Having to come back just to maintain every so often was tiring, and it was also a big waste of money. Plus, we’ve always loved to travel–my dad was a pilot so I’ve always traveled a lot. Being able to travel and work just seemed like a no-brainer.
Your style of location independence is a bit different than most–you live and work from your own RV! What made you decide to pursue RV life?
Really? I’ve met so many people who are location independent from their RV–nearly every young RVer I’ve met still works and lives a location independent life. We like RV life because North America has some really amazing landscapes to see, there’s a lot of adventure to be found, we can bring our home with us everywhere, it’s easier on our dogs, and more. For us, it’s the perfect fit and we absolutely love it.
How did you prepare for it, financially and otherwise? How long did it take?
It didn’t take long to prepare for RV life. We thought about it for awhile and one day just decided to make the leap and buy one, haha. We were already location independent at the time–we had just moved to Colorado and were renting a house (after our house in Missouri sold) so that we could see where in Colorado we wanted to move to. We then fell in love with RV life and decided to do that full-time instead.
Where are you now, and where do you plan to travel next?
We’re currently in Mississippi, near Memphis, spending time with family for the holidays. After this, we’re going to head towards southern Arizona and spend a few months of the winter there. Then, we plan on hitting up the west coast and doing some exploring there 🙂
How do you typically choose your destinations?
We follow the weather, for sure. We like to be wherever it’s around 70 degrees and a very low chance of rain or other types of storms. We like to stay places for around a month, sometimes much shorter and other times longer.
Of all the places you’ve lived and worked so far, which one was the best suited for people living a location independent lifestyle and why?
This is hard to answer since we take our RV everywhere with us. Due to that, anyplace works because all we need is Internet.
Tell us about your work. What is your primary source of income?
My only source of income is my media company, which consists of my blog Making Sense of Cents and my affiliate marketing course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
I make money primarily through affiliate marketing, advertising, sponsorships, and course sales. I love everything that I do, and I get to help people improve their life and financial situation. I don’t charge my readers for anything either.
What does the average workday look like for you?
The average workday varies widely for me–and that’s why I’m my own boss and am location independent! Most days, though, start out with me answering emails, then going for a long walk or hike with my dog. Then, I’ll write probably one article, work on promoting my blog, do some blog learning, engage in the Facebook group I manage, manage my course, reply to comments, and so on. I repeat that all day long.
If someone else wanted to follow a path similar to yours, what advice would you give them?
If you want to start a blog, my top piece of advice would be to take my free How To Start and Launch a Successful Blog Course. It’s completely free and it shows you exactly how to start it, the technical aspects of blogging, my best tips, and more.
Other than that, my top tip would be to just start a blog. You won’t know if you like it or hate it unless you start.
How much could someone expect to earn when just starting out? How much do you earn now?
Blogging income can vary so widely, so there’s no way to really say how much a person could earn from it. I know bloggers who made $500 their very first month blogging, and others who have blogging over a year and have only made $100. It all really depends on how much work you put into your blog. If you’re willing to put a lot of hard work into it, I’m sure the average person could see success with it.
You can find all of my blogging income reports here. It took me around 6 months to make $100, around one year after I started blogging I was earning $1,000, and just a few months after that I was earning around $5,000 a month. Like I said above, I didn’t start my blog with the intention of earning money, so I do believe that I could have earned more even sooner if I would have had that as my goal. Now, I earn around $100,000 from my blog and my course.
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about living a location independent/RV lifestyle?
There’s not really anything that is too hard about the location independent/RV lifestyle. If I could change one thing, it would probably to have a personal chauffeur drive our RV from place to place. Ha, just kidding–sort of!
What are some of the things you like about it the most?
I love everything about it. I love going on new adventures, exploring new places, meeting new people, trying new restaurants, and more. Being able to travel and work is amazing. Being able to do the two and bring my home and dogs with me everywhere is even better.
Do you have any great money-saving travel tips to share?
My top money-saving travel tip would be to churn credit cards for bonus points if you trust yourself enough to not go into credit card debt. I’ve earned over $5,000 in cash just in 2016 just for using my credit card just like how I normally do. You can also use it for plane tickets, hotel stays, and more.
What do you think are some of the necessary traits or skills someone should have if they plan to pursue a location independent/RV lifestyle?
I don’t think there’s really anything that’s needed except for a love of travel. Not everyone likes to travel, and that’s completely fine. However, the location independent and RV lifestyle isn’t easier than owning a house, so you need to love travel in order to do it full-time.The #RVlifestyle isn't easier than owning a house. You need to love travel to do it full-time. Click To Tweet
Productivity is a major challenge for many location independent nomads. Share with us one of your best tips for staying motivated and getting sh*t done.
One of the things I do to stay motivated and to be productive is that I’m always working ahead. Currently, I’m around two months ahead when it comes to evergreen content for Making Sense of Cents, and that helps me to be able to take a day off or a break whenever I need it. This way, I’m never really under any pressure because my work is already done for a few months.
Another way to stay motivated is to think about your end goal and what you need to do in order to reach it. Thinking about my goals always helps to keep me motivated and working, even when I feel like procrastinating.
Tell us about one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made and how others can avoid it.
I’ve made tons of blogging mistakes! These mistakes include:
Managing a bad work-life balance. This is something that I’m still working on, but what I’m doing now is working ahead as much as I can, so that I can stop and take breaks whenever I need to. I’m currently over 2 months ahead when it comes to evergreen content on Making Sense of Cents.
Spending too much time creating content instead of promoting it. I recommend spending at least 50% of your time promoting your blog and content and less than 50% writing content
Not starting an email list. I recommend switching to a professional blogger email company, such as ConvertKit. It’s who I use and they significantly helped me to transform my email list.
One big blogging mistake that I’ve noticed many other bloggers make is not making the effort to network. Networking is so important as a blogger. You should see others in the blogging world as your colleagues and friends, not your enemies or competition.
Finally, if you could offer one piece of actionable advice to someone who is just getting started building a location independent lifestyle, what would it be?
My top piece of advice would be to think about what your skills are, what you enjoy, etc., and figure out how you can turn that into a business idea or a location independent lifestyle.
I recommend starting this business or job idea on the side first, to see if you even enjoy what you’re doing for an income. This is much better than selling off all of your stuff, such as your house, and realizing that you don’t even like your business idea. It’s much less stressful to test it out first.
Want to know more about Michelle’s location independent RV lifestyle? Leave her your questions in the comments below!
Read more interviews in the Location Independent Success Stories series:
- How to Travel the World as a Freelance Social Media Manager
- Working from Anywhere as a Self-Taught E-Commerce Marketing Specialist
- How One Couple Turned Their Travel Obsession Into a Lifestyle
- Living the Digital Nomad Lifestyle as a Professional Translator
- Freelance Your Way to Location Independence: A Copywriter & Copy Editor Tell All
- From Aspiring Actress to Remote Worker: In Search of Flexibility