Today on the show, I’m talking with Michelle from Making Sense of Cents. Michelle and her husband sold their house in July of 2015 and now travel full-time in their RV. Some of their more recent adventures include a 2-week sailing trip to explore the possibility of sailing full-time in the future. Michelle is a blogger who shares income reports on her blog. If you take a look at her latest Income report, you will see that she earned over $100,000 on her blog in the month of August alone, while working less than 10 hours per week. That’s how she can afford to travel full-time.

Michelle and I are talking today about affiliate marketing and Pinterest. You’ll quickly find out that she’s a genius on the subject and has a lot of wisdom to share.

Laptop, notepad, plant, lamp and text overlay "How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing".


Switching to Full-Time Blogging

Michelle began her career as a financial analyst and started her blog as a hobby in August of 2011. At the time, she actually didn’t know that blogs could make money. She wanted a place to talk about paying off her student loans and a platform to be active in the personal finance space.

She was able to leave her job two years after she started the blog and has been blogging full-time ever since. It was difficult to make the decision, but she built up an emergency fund and diversified her blogging income so that she had a large cushion before she took that step.

Discovering the Value of Affiliate Marketing

About a year into her blogging journey, Michelle realized that other bloggers were making money through affiliate marketing. But she really didn’t think it was possible for her. She thought you needed a huge following in order for it to work.

She decided to to try it and set a small goal to earn $100 in a single month from affiliates. Once she met that goal, she just kept growing that amount every month. During the process, she discovered that it required only minimal work to increase her earnings.

Michelle readily admits that she is not a blog that receives millions of pageviews per month. In fact, she isn’t even at one million views per month. This serves as proof that it’s not the numbers that bring the income.

Related: How to Use Amazon Affiliates to boost your blogging income

Putting Systems in Place

Because Michelle is more focused on passive income, her affiliate strategies reflect that focus. She hasn’t changed her strategy from the beginning because it simply works so well. I asked her to share that strategy with all of us.

She starts by creating a piece of free content — it could be as simple as an email or as complex as a full course. Her content is extremely detailed. She attempts to cover every possible thing a reader could want to know about the topic.

For example, part of Michelle’s affiliate income comes from blogging tools and resources. Every month in her income reports, she shares all of the details on how to get started blogging. By the time Michelle’s reader finishes with her post, they know exactly how to get started and what products are necessary to purchase. All they have to do is click on the affiliate links she has included in the posts. She follows this model for every piece of affiliate content that she produces.

Two Tips to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

If your blog is still really tiny and your pageviews aren’t anywhere near what you think they should be before starting with affiliates, what can you do to get started?

According to Michelle, you should not even think about affiliate marketing until you actually know what your readers want. Affiliate marketing doesn’t equate to just slapping some links in every post you write and hoping readers will click through and make a purchase. That is actually a great way to drive your readers away.

You need to first offer your readers tons of value through well-written content, helpful emails, free courses, or information that will be beneficial to them. And only after you’ve built this relationship with them can you ask them what they actually want and need from you.

Second, you need to nurture your email list. Michelle didn’t even start an email list until she had been blogging for 2-3 years and only began focusing heavily on it last year. Those email subscribers are your loyal followers, your tribe. They are the ones who want what you have to offer and will become your customers when you are ready to sell something, whether that’s through creating a product or through affiliates.

Related: Email Marketing is Alive and Well & How to Build Your Email List Using Pinterest

Laptop, notepad, plant, and lamp.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to Engage Your Email Audience

I hear from so many bloggers who say that their email subscribers don’t respond to their emails and they never click links within those emails. I asked Michelle how she has built relationships with her emails subscribers.

Her #1 tip is to make your emails as personable as you can. Don’t fill your email with tons of images as they can be glitchy. Don’t link to every single thing you talk about in the email unless you want to come across as spammy.

You want your email to sound like it is coming from a friend when your reader opens it. And just like you wouldn’t rave to a personal friend about a product you’ve never actually used, don’t do that to your email list either. Make sure what you link to is a good fit for your audience.

Another tip that Michelle shared is that she links directly to the Pin for the post she references in her email so that the reader can save it to Pinterest directly with no extra steps. Listen in at 12:20 to hear how she does this.

Click here to learn more about ConvertKit (the email service provider that both Michelle and I use)

Affiliate Marketing and Pinterest

Michelle knew that other bloggers were having some real success by using Pinterest, but she didn’t know of any financial bloggers who were experimenting much on the platform. So she decided to give it a go about 2 years ago.

Michelle doesn’t put a lot of direct affiliate links on Pinterest (where you share the affiliate link in the pin itself). She prefers to have the pin direct her followers to the blog post where they can find the affiliate link.

Be sure to go to Michelle’s site to get more info on her course on affiliate marketing! She has been testing these strategies for over a year and is always tweaking the course to be better and better. Use coupon code SIMPLEPIN10OFF to get a $10 discount!

What to Do If You’ve Avoided Affiliate Marketing

Michelle has offered so much value today for those bloggers just starting out and wanting to test out affiliate marketing. But what if you’ve been blogging for years and yet you’ve been afraid to try your hand at affiliate marketing because you think it won’t work for you?

First, remember her advise to not just slap links everywhere. Find out what your audience wants from you and then link in a natural way. Use a call to action (several words), as your link. Don’t use a small word like “here” for your link, as some people can’t click on a tiny word while they’re reading your post on their phone.

Nurture that email list. These are your most engaged and most loyal readers (and they’re the most likely to purchase from you). There’s no reason not to have an email list. It’s not expensive, it’s not time-consuming, and it’s the best way to reach those people who want to hear from you!

Why You Should Start Today!

When it comes to affiliate marketing, a little bit of work now can bring a lot of income later.

This episode has been absolutely packed with good stuff, but I gave Michelle the chance to share any last tips she had for someone wanting to get started with affiliate marketing.

If you aren’t doing anything with affiliate marketing right now…if you think it’s too hard or your website isn’t set up well...try it. Put in a little bit of effort and you could be earning affiliate income for years down the road.


Connect with Michelle-

Making Sense of Cents blog
Her course – Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
Making Sense of Cents on Pinterest
Making Sense of Cents on Instagram
Making Sense of Cents on Facebook


Time Stamp

 2:30 Switching to Full-Time Blogging
 4:15 Discovering the Value of Affiliate Marketing
 6:00 Putting Systems in Place
 7:15 Michelle’s 2 Big Tips for Getting Started in Affiliate Marketing
 9:50 How to Engage Your Email Audience
12:35 Using Pinterest for Affiliates
17:45 If You’ve Avoided Affiliate Marketing
24:00 Why You Should Start Today!


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  1. Hello Kate,

    Great to know about Michelle here on your web site.

    No, doubt affiliate marketing can end up in making some huge money but it sounds easy, guys do get into this field and end
    up in depression. Affiliate marketing needs to be done in right manner so that it get us the right result out of it.

    Michelle seems to done this whole set up very effectively. I am not much of affiliate marketing guy, but I am looking forward to get down
    to this and hit the deck hard. This article bangs me on the right time so that I can take some important lessons from this.

    Thanks for the share.


  2. Hi Kate!
    I’m still new to this whole Pinterest thing, I was wondering can we legally pin anything from stores like Target or clothing companies like H&M?

  3. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the post on Affiliate marketing and how it should be done correctly, what is to be done, if we have avoided that till now,

    Personally speaking I am still new to affiliate marketing and still learning about it before stating.

    Thanks for sharing a vital post on affiliate marketing.

  4. You need to be very patient with affiliate marketing. It is not an overnight success kind of business model. With enough time you can begin earning consistent commissions and I believe SEO is the best approach.

  5. Thanks for the tips! I think it is very easy to side track these days with so much marketing noise about Affiliate Marketing especially if there’s too much focus on selling the product instead of promoting a second opinion or solid content.

  6. First to say thanks for sharing this great article. Affiliated marketing is good way to make money online. I am just start my blog and make my first affiliate with Michael Cheney. Hope I am doing the right thing.

  7. A side hustle is definitely a good thing to have on the side as far as a business, as entrepreneurship is the key to financial freedom. 🙂

  8. whoah this weblog is fantastic i like reading your posts.
    Stay up the good work! You know, many people are looking around for this information, you can help them

  9. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment
    (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted
    and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too
    am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing.

    Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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