MARIA DIOR DUEGAARD AMDAHL: “I knew the power of a great webinar. I could not allow myself to skip that part, because it would not have been as great as a launch as it was. So I decided to create a five fit-before-birth and a five fit-after-birth challenge, and inside that challenge, on day two, I put a live webinar. And I had a 58 percent show-up rate and a 48 percent sales rate on those webinars.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small–but–mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step–by–step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY PORTERFIELD: Well, hey, there. I'm beyond honored to introduce to you my guest today, because if you're in one of my courses, you likely already know all about her, but I've never had her on my podcast. Her name is Maria Dior Duegaard Amdahl, and she's a mompreneur, a successful business owner, one of my students, and at first glance, she may seem like a unicorn, but the truth is she's just like you and me. While she's created a seven–figure business herself in a very short period of time, that's far from where she started. And in today's episode, she's sharing her journey from being an exhausted personal trainer, hitting the glass ceiling of trading time for dollars, to making a transition to an online entrepreneur, and she's going to share where she is today.
Now, my vision for this episode is that she could take you along with her on her journey, and you could see that she's no different from you and me and maybe even see that you, too, could have a journey like this and create a successful online business for yourself. Maria is also sharing some of her biggest strategies for accomplishing things, even when you have minimal time, her tangible action items for growing an online community organically, and also, when you crash and burn, how to pick yourself back up and keep moving forward.
You're going to love today's interview, and you're going to walk away with the things that you can start doing today to build your business. Let’s get to it.
Maria, thank you so very much for being here. I'm delighted to have you on the show.
MARIA: I’m excited to be here.
AMY: Well, let's talk about your journey, from where you started to where you are now. And to do that, can you share how big your audience was when you were starting? And also, share with me some of your finances. Like, set the stage for me.
MARIA: Okay. So I started three years ago with my own brick and mortar here in Denmark. It was a fitness studio, actually, for moms and pregnant who wanted to be healthy and get in shape and get live class with me. And I started out not focusing on my list because at the time I was pretty much just inviting people inside the studio, and then I asked them to sign up afterwards, like a free–trial class.
MARIA: So my list was, a year later, when I counted the list, I had 1100 people on my list, but I started at zero. So it took me about two years to build that list. So a slow progress. And I nearly kept it going in terms of the finances. It was just I couldn't really pay myself that much. It was a lot of expenses. But then, after a year or so, it really took off, we really started growing, and people were signed up to a waitlist.
So I just hustled and worked hard and trusted myself and my abilities to scale this business and become a successful entrepreneur. But that also meant that I had a lot of live classes. I was teaching early in the mornings for the moms, and late in the evenings for the pregnant, so I was basically working all day, and I had a break in between.
So I reached a point in September, October 2019, where I just thought, this is not working anymore. And so that was kind of how I started off. Started all with a physical, physical thing. I was all into brick and mortar, that I thought I would do that until I retired.
AMY: Okay. So, talk to me about where you are now. Your business has dramatically changed, and we're going to talk about what it looks like today. You are no longer doing—you're no longer doing brick and mortar at all, right?
MARIA: I’m not.
MARIA: My gym closes in April, and right now it's a lockdown, so it's closed. So I will probably never, not at least in the future, I can imagine, go down and do a live class again.
AMY: Okay. So now before you talk about what you do now, what do your numbers look like?
MARIA: Well, at this point so far, since I started, in total my revenue is $3 million.
AMY: Three million dollars.
MARIA: Yes. It’s insane.
AMY: It's incredible. And you didn't start the business you have today until, what was it, 2019 is when you started to make a pivot?
MARIA: Yes. I joined Digital Course Academy in September ’19, and that's where everything just took off.
Before that, I had a revenue but I couldn't scale it. I was stuck because you can only be a certain place at a—you don't have—time is something that you never get back, right?
MARIA: So I reached a wall where I just, I couldn't scale anymore. I was stretched too thin. I was working all the time. I was tired, but I had an income, and I needed to provide for my family. I just didn't want to be the person that I was. I was going home, feeling flat, and I couldn't provide for my kids. I was just not the mom that I wanted to be or the wife I wanted to be.
AMY: I get that. And also, when you were running this brick and mortar, I know you were telling me off camera, or off audio, that you were running out of time and space to take on more clients. You were constantly go, go, go.
AMY: It wasn't an ideal situation to scale the business, right?
MARIA: Not at all. And I mean, I could hire instructors, but I also needed the space, and every physical space costs a lot. It’s establishment. It’s new equipment. It was just, I couldn't see myself paying that bill, because it meant that I needed to save up. And I didn't have that option at that point because I didn't have more time, really.
AMY: So, you finally got to a point where you saw you had so much to offer but knew that what you were doing with your one–on–one work or your studio work wasn't going to allow you to reach that potential. So what happened next?
MARIA: Well, I listened to someone's podcast. Her name is Amy Porterfield. And I got inspired by, you know, at first I thought, this could never be me because I have a brick and mortar. People want my live teachings. This could never be an online course. And then I just thought about it, and I thought, what they really want is to see me. They want to see me. They want what I can offer. They want my methods on how to become the mom that they really want. That's the essence of what I'm offering. It's not so much about the fitness or the trainings as it is that we all are moms, and we just want to be happy and healthy for ourself and our kids. So I thought if I can teach that in a studio, obviously I can do that online too. I just need to be creative in the way that I do it.
And so I decided to sign up for Digital Course Academy. And as I went through the course, I decided to try to launch it. I just said, well, I got all these great resources and all this knowledge, and why don't I just try and see if it really works, you know? And it did.
So I had, at that time when I started Digital Force Academy in September, I counted my list because I realized that I needed to pay more attention to this email marketing, that I had no idea I should before I started Digital Course Academy. And I had, I think it was 1100 or so subscribers to that list. And I offered them my course, and I had a revenue. My first–time revenue was of $13,000.
AMY: That's really solid. Other people who are starting a digital course for the first time, making $13,000 with your digital course is incredible. That's a huge success.
AMY: And I know you went on to make a lot more money than that, but I want to pause right there, because what's your strategy for finding time to create your first digital course? I mean, you've got three kids, a husband, a house to take care of, a dog. How the heck did you make the time to build your course and really just get through Digital Course Academy? And please tell me you have some really tangible strategies that people can try.
MARIA: Well, I do. So I think I'm the busiest of my friends. So I just knew that if I am to make this happen while running a brick and mortar, having three kids, and a husband and a dog, I need to be very, very careful of how I spend my time. So I decided to create a system for myself that helps me really be mindful of how I spend my time. So every Sunday, I wrote down everything that I had in my head. It could be, like, a dentist appointment. It could be anything. And then I carefully planned out my time in different time strategy zones. So I have a deep-work time where I knew I will be super productive early in the morning. So I would not answer any emails, or I would put my phone on flight mode. I would just go in my zone and create content. And then, I had my classes in the afternoon, which my energy and my focus was not that great. And then, I actually decided to film the content together with my kids so I could spend the time, when they were home from school or child care, I could spend the time with them, but still creating my course. And I actually put all of my time strategies and how to really plan out for a productive week in a PDF for you guys, that you can take a look at. But I would say that the best strategy is to really decide what's important and when is the best time to do so, because we all have different times during the day where we are either more productive or less productive. And to really keep in mind that the fast work that you will do to answer an email or write out a blog post or whatever would be best spent in a time where you're not as focused as other times. So it's really to be mindful of that and at the same time make sure that you also take care of yourself. So I always put in a workout every morning because I just get so much more productive during the day.
AMY: Ah. So good. Okay. Yeah, we do have a free resource for you all. I'll tell you about it in a moment to kind of dive a little bit deeper there.
But I want to continue on your journey. So you did your first launch, you made the $13,000, and then what happened next along your journey?
MARIA: Then it all exploded. You know, because what is so beautiful with this is that I put in the work during Digital Course Academy, the twelfth week that I’d had you to ask advice and get some structure around, how do I really implement this to fit my business and my needs? And when I created the course, I took the feedback that I got and I tweaked it a bit. And then I learned I liked to look at the analytics of things and the practical part of it. So what worked with the launch we had in September? What did not work? And I started building my list. Like, I started focusing on that list that I have heard so much about.
And that what happened is that I launched again in January. I tweaked my webinar a bit, found a title. I changed email sequences, and I optimized basically everything. And I had another launch in January, which ended in a total of $52,000.
AMY: Okay. That's a huge jump. What attributed to such a huge jump?
MARIA: The course was the same, I was the same, and my ideal customers were the same. But I tweaked the marketing, and I made some changes in the way that I set it all up. So I didn't need to work as hard this time, which was fun because I was pretty tired after recording my first ones. But I think it was mainly the updates. But after January, I figured I need something more. So it was actually my May launch that really took off in a big way.
AMY: Okay. So that's the one beyond that second one you did?
MARIA: Yeah. So I did two launches, such great success, and then I had my breakthrough in me, I would say.
AMY: Okay. So tell us about that.
MARIA: Yes. I thought you would ask. So what happened in May is that, this was post COVID. So, January, no COVID. September, no, either. And I thought that this will change everything. And I didn't think it would change it for the better. But I decided to do a five days’ challenge. And what I feel is so great is that I decided to put a webinar inside that challenge because I think here in Denmark, with the moms, they could relate more to a challenge than a webinar at first I see. It was just easier for them to grasp the meaning of that. But I knew the power of a great webinar. I could not allow myself to skip that part, because it would not have been as great as a launch as it was. So I decided to create a five fit–before–birth and a five fit-after–birth challenge, and inside that challenge, on day two, I put a live webinar. And I had a 58 percent show–up rate and a 48 percent sales rate on those webinars.
AMY: What?! Okay. So I just want everyone to know that typically 30 percent show–up rate, you're doing really good. So the fact that you had over 50 is crazy.
AMY: And when you nail a really great webinar, you might hit 15, 20 percent, and you’re, like, really high. And you hit 48 percent, did you say?
AMY: That’s insane. Why do you think it worked so well? Do you think it was partly due to—well, first of all, it was your third launch, right?
AMY: So everyone listening, it gets easier. The first launch is the hardest. It's the most work. You just kind of want to cry and laugh and feel like you might be going crazy in the beginning, like all the emotions.
AMY: And then it gets easier because you're not reinventing the wheel. I teach people to create a digital course and launch that same course over and over and over again. And that's precisely what you did.
And number two, you added an element by your third launch. And I always tell my students, adding some really cool things as you get going is great. You don't want to add it all to the first launch or second launch. It's overwhelming. But the third launch, you added a challenge. And do you think that that challenge contributed to such a loyal audience of people showing up and then also converting?
MARIA: Yeah, because, you know, a webinar is a great value. But for my audience, they wanted something more practical, I think, because I'm teaching how to become healthier both throughout pregnancy and postpartum. So there's some different elements in that because it's just not pregnancy workouts. I have a degree in this. So I wanted them really to feel what these workouts felt like, how they would experience the energy after, and that's hard to just talk about. Your content is great because it's for business owners and what we need to know. But what I wanted to know, too, was how do I convert this into something that's related to me? And that was something that I learned throughout DCA, that, you know, I have this audience. I need to know what their needs are. And when I figured that out, I felt like this would be a great supplement for my launch period.
So they got a workout, a ten–minute workout, every day for five days. And most of the people would probably wait with the sales pitch until the last day. But what I figured is that when it comes to workout and motivation, you're not motivated for that long. So I wanted to sell to them when they were motivated to continue, and that is the first two days. That's what our rate shows, that going into day three, the engagement would just take a fall.
So they got content together with their webinar, meaning that instead of me just teaching them about all the things they need to know about relaxing and rectus abdominals, which is a thing when you give birth, they also wanted to feel, how can I even manage to work out ten minutes a day? Is it even possible for me with this tight schedule and a baby in my arms? Can I even do this?
So I wanted to give them a win, like you teach. Give them a win so they want to come back for more. And giving them these workouts and some recipes, they really had the content in their hands that they could use at once. And then when I had my by webinar inside that challenge, they understood the basic behind and the secret in how to keep this emotion going, even when I don't feel motivated. How can I continue to take care of my body and be the mom that I want to be, even when I’m not motivated to go out and do a workout? And those two things together was just the perfect combination for my audience.
AMY: And did you charge for your challenge?
MARIA: I did not that time, but I did in September.
AMY: Okay. Talk to me about that.
MARIA: Yeah. So in September, I decided to make my challenge a paid challenge because I got 13,000 people signing up in May, and most of those people—
AMY: That a lot.
MARIA: Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot because here in Denmark, there's 65,000 people that's pregnant a year, so I don't have a huge base as you do in U.S. So it was a lot of people. And I found that there were so many questions that I couldn't answer, and so I just decided to make it a paid challenge so that they could have their questions answered, and make it a small one. And so I charged, I think it was thirty–nine dollars or something. Nothing, nothing of significant—
AMY: Good, yeah.
MARIA: —but enough to keep someone away that was not even interested in doing the workouts. I just wanted them all to feel powerful.
AMY: That's an interesting way to look at it: charge just enough to keep people away that if they're not going to do the work, they're not interested, then they're not going to get into the challenge. And I really love that.
Now, you had 13,000 people join you in a challenge. So you have become an expert around building a community organically. So give us some details and some of your secrets. What has worked best for you? Something that maybe other entrepreneurs can try out for themselves.
MARIA: Well, I don't know if this is secret, but it's at least my take on it. I just want to be myself because I think most of the course creators are creating a course on either something that they are interested in and, therefore, have a lot of knowledge about, or a pain point that they have experienced themselves and that they have solved and now want to teach others how to solve as well.
And so I'm a mom. I have been overweight and underweight and losing weight and gaining weight and having periods of high–intensity workouts and no workouts at all. And in the end, what's really important for me is that I don't want to work out because I want to look a certain way. I just want to work out because I want to live for as long as I can and still be able to play with my kids and help them move out when the time is—that they’re going to go move out and run with them and go out and explore the world with them. And I can't do that if I am tired or overworked or overwhelmed or stressed out. And fitness and health keeps me balanced.
And so when I talk about that, I talk about it in a way that I'm not a sacred person. I don't have it all together. And sometimes I skip workouts too. Sometimes I eat junk food too. Sometimes I sit at the bathroom for five minutes and just cry because I can't handle the three kids that's outside screaming. And at the same time, I'm building this business. So I’m not perfect, but I know the steps to take to become a person that's happy and that allows themselves to have bad days without that meaning I am not worthy or I can't do this. So I'm just really trying to speak to people from my heart, and I do that when I create content too.
So the content that I put out is content that it could be me cleaning the floor and working out at the same time, or it could be me with my kids playing in the snow instead of working on this project that I was supposed to, because my kids tell me, I haven't been in school in six months. I miss my friends. Will you please come and play? It's just me from a vulnerable perspective, and that has helped me gain followers that feel connected to me, I think they can relate to me, and that is what's converting.
AMY: I mean, that makes sense. They say the more real, the more raw, especially during COVID and coming out of it, hopefully, that people just want the real stuff. And I think that that's what you're really good at. We’ll link to your social in the show notes so people can really follow and get a taste of what you're talking about here. But I love that you share that. You share the good, bad, and ugly, all of it, and that really does build an organic community. And from someone like me who, that doesn't come natural, I definitely have gotten so much better at it, but sharing my personal side and the little mundane things I do that I think nobody would care, they care. People like that stuff, and people like you that get that quickly, you got it quicker than I did, you can build a community around that much faster than if you just share the work stuff. Would you agree?
MARIA: Yeah. And I think, also, just showing up, because there's no secret—I can't put out a vulnerable photo of me once every other month. You know, that would not make it happen. So I am consistent in posting on social media. Actually, I don't like it that much, but I do it because I know people will gain value from it. But for me, it's important to just give, and I don't feel like there's nothing I wouldn't give, because even if I put it like this, sometimes I get asked, Why are you putting up exercises for free? Well, it's the same that I do in my course, but they don't get me, they don’t get my support, they don't get my [unclear 26:05], they don’t get my coaching calls, they don't get any of that. All that I give them is something that they can take right now and take action on right now. But if they want more, they will come back to me because I already gave them so much free resources, right? That's what you've been teaching us all this time.
MARIA: So I think that's such an important part of it. If you want to create a community, don't be afraid to give them all the love that you can, because your course will be the high level no matter how you look at it.
AMY: Mm. I love that. That's so very true.
You have a resilience to you, and you're flexible in terms of trying new things. Like, I've watched you build this business, and you're not afraid, even though you say you're afraid. You wake up in the morning, “What if it all goes away? You also are the queen of just saying, “Oh, no. I'm not going to go there. I'm going to get the work done.” You take action. You experiment. You try new things. I've seen you do it from the get–go. You simply pivot, and you use your own lessons to move forward So do you have any strategies, like, specific strategies, that other people can use as well?
MARIA: Yeah, I do. So, first of all, don’t fall into the habit of telling yourself, “I need to learn this first,” because there is value in content, and especially, I could never have done this without Digital Course Academy. Hands on heart, I couldn't, because I wouldn't even know where to start. But then, you could often, you know, “Oh, I need to read this book,” or “Now I need to watch this movie or this video about someone telling me something about Instagram.” You know, you can fall into those rabbit holes where you're just consuming, consuming, consuming, and nothing will ever change if you don't take action.
So what has helped me a lot has been to get some coaching, either from a business coach or in Momentum, to really strategize my day and take action on the things that I feel like it's the most important part right now. And that could be anything from creating a solid–content creation calendar and getting to work on that or structuring my day so that I am sure that I don't put too much on my plate, because what I've learned in this online business is that whenever I'm focusing on either my launch or help serving the people that I need to serve or building communities or going into other people's networks and just getting new acquaintances and helping out other people who also are in DCA or in Momentum or something, it really gives me time to reflect on the things that I already know that I can and how I can make those things better.
So I don't try to figure out anything new unless I'm in a problem, because I think most of us entrepreneurs are always thinking, “Oh, how can I do this better? Should I add a Facebook group? Should I do a podcast? Should I do lives? Should I talk to this person?” or whatever. And sometimes the only way to have success is just to really focus your time and energy in what's really moving the needle. And for me, it's been showing up every week with consistent content, being myself, and continuing improving the course that I already made, now, almost a year and a half ago.
AMY: Wow. It feels like a lifetime ago when you talk about it. It feels like you've gone through so much—
MARIA: I know.
AMY: —in such a short period of time, and, really, you have. So I just want to say congratulations for your success. There are so many big opportunities and possibilities still waiting for you, and look at all the things you've already done. So I hope you're excited about this future of your online business and feel really proud. I hope you have been celebrating each of these milestones because there are tons of them. So have you been celebrating?
MARIA: I have. I celebrated—the last launch that I had was in September last year. Was a $713,000 launch.
AMY: Oh, gee.
MARIA: And I will tell you this. I celebrated two consecutive weeks. I did not stop—
MARIA: —putting my hands in the air. I was just thrilled, not because of what I made, but the impact that I would—the revenue is just a bonus for me. I just want to help. There were so many moms on my wall of fame here in my living room, and I couldn't wait to see what they would achieve being on my course. And that's the true value of this.
AMY: It truly is. It's so exciting when you start to see people transform based on the content that you've put into your digital courses.
AMY: So thank you so very much for sharing your journey. And where can my listeners learn more about you? And also, tell them about the freebie you created.
MARIA: Well, I just decided recently to start a mom mastermind, so a mompreneur mastermind for other moms like me who wants to stay healthy and in shape and at the same time be successful in their businesses. And I also decided to expand my course to business moms as well, that's on a maternity leave or not but who has a kid who wants to get in shape. So I created a freebie for you guys on how to first and foremost prioritize your time the best way so that you actually get the work done in a busy schedule. And then secondly, how you can improve your health by small steps at a time. So I included some dietitian recommendations and some workouts that you can do at your office, with your computer on your one arm and the baby on the other and still manage to get your workout done. And it's because I know that I'm so much more productive and I'm so much more happy in my everyday life when I get to prioritize my own health, so I wanted to give that to your followers as well.
AMY: Ah, so cool. So thank you so very much for doing that. Again, you guys can find it on the show notes of this episode.
Maria, thank you so very much for your time.
MARIA: Thank you, too. It was happy to be here.
AMY: Oh, my goodness. That was fantastic, right? I really think we got to see inside of Maria's world and really start to understand what that journey looked like for her.
My favorite part of this interview was when she said that she still worries that it will all go away. She still feels scared. And I wanted to point something out. I think it's so great that we admit those things. And although you might be sitting here thinking, “Well, I don't want to start an online business and then have this huge success, make seven figures, and then worry every day I'm going to lose it.” I get that. I think the realness that I loved in the interview and what I shared also—I still have those fears—is that when you've had success, that fear and doubt does not go away. However, you're able to move past it quickly and realize, oh, that's just normal. That's my lizard brain talking, and I'm going to keep moving forward. So you don't live there. You might still have those thoughts and feelings, but they don't overtake you. They don't paralyze you from moving forward in your business. I think that's what's most important for you to hear that when you start your online business, when you build your digital courses, all the scary stuff, doesn’t go away. It's just easier to manage. You get stronger in your mindset. You have a track record to look back on and think, “Actually, I've got success behind me that I can model and continue to see that success moving forward.”
So, I wanted you to hear from me personally. It's a different ballgame now. Now that I have a very successful business, when the doubt, when the fear, when the crushing scary feelings come, they don't stay here long. And I recognize them and think, “Oh, I know what you're doing. You’re just trying to protect me. And I’m good,” and then I get my work done, and I keep moving forward. So I just wanted to point that out because I loved Maria's honesty in this episode.
Okay. So, I hoped you loved it too. I hope you're inspired to start your journey no matter how scary it might feel. And I can't wait to see you same time next week. Bye for now.