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How I earned mostly-passive income during an around-the-world cruise

“Our last stop of the cruise, at the beach in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain.”
I recently took a four-month-long, around-the-world cruise to more than 25 countries and six continents with my husband and baby. It cost a lot — more than $50,000 — and gave us amazing memories. Our adventure began in sunny Florida and took us through the Panama Canal, then to the beautiful islands of French Polynesia, the stunning landscapes of New Zealand, vibrant cities across Asia and finally to the historical sites of the Mediterranean. Throughout all of this, I ran my online business, Making Sense of Cents, from the ship. It started 10 years ago as a blog about my progress toward paying off my student loans. Today, I earn $40,000 per month in semi-passive income from it, through three different streams: affiliate marketing, sponsored partnerships and online courses. DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to earning passive income online Part of my income also comes from investing: I direct some of my earnings toward personal investing and retirement accounts, and receive quarterly dividend payouts. I spent roughly two or three hours per cruise day on work — excluding port days, so we could fully explore our destinations — totaling 10-15 hours per week. Here’s what those days looked like, and how I built my income streams to be nearly entirely passive.
Affiliate marketing on my blog
I planned my work schedule carefully around our travel plans. During days at sea — around 60 of them! — I focused on work, particularly during my daughter’s nap times. I answered emails, wrote blog posts, brainstormed new ideas, handed accounting, addressed anything urgent that needed my attention and strategized new ways to grow Making Sense of Cents. I built many of my blog posts around affiliate marketing, a strategy that’s responsible for about half of my blog’s revenue. I write about products I like and trust, and add a referral link for my readers to check them out. If someone signs up through my link, I earn a commission. These links can be in posts that I wrote months or even years ago. I can write about a product once, and it can keep earning me money over time. The more traffic I drive to my website, the more even my older posts generate income for me. Aboard the cruise ship, I published one or two new articles for my blog each week. I also noticed a post from 2022 — 31 Best Stay At Home Jobs (#1 Is My Full Time Job!) — performing well, thanks to a boost from social media platforms like Pinterest and Facebook. Tens of thousands of new readers visited that post during my four months at sea.
Sponsored partnerships
Roughly 20% of my revenue comes from advertising, like sponsored partnerships. I team up with a company to promote its brand on my blog or social media, highlighting its products through my writing skills or sharing my experiences with its products. This content can include reviews or educational posts about what the company offers. It’s a win-win situation: the company gains exposure, and I earn money for creating content and reaching my audience. Before I decide to work with a company, I test out the product or service and do as much research as I can. If I don’t like it, I won’t form that partnership. I turn down offers every week: companies I don’t think my readers would like, companies that don’t align with my beliefs and more. Sponsored partnerships are more active income, so I didn’t do many of them during the cruise. Specifically, I worked on some sponsored newsletters, spending maybe five hours on them, in total.
Digital product sales



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