Transcript: Real Estate Investing Or Art Journaling: How A Digital Course Creates Profit, No Matter Your Industry [Interview with Jaren Sustar & Teresa Merriman]

August 10, 2023

JAREN SUSTAR: “I started my brand with a social-media following. I just started posting my experiences on social media. And then I saw you, and you said, ‘You need to have an email list if you plan on having a business.’ So I said, ‘Well, Amy said I need to have an email list. Probably should do that.’ So now I have a following, and I have an email list, and I said, ‘Well, I probably need to get paid for helping all these people,’ because I'm able to help them only so much through social media and through email. Like, there's only so much value I can give. And I said, ‘Okay. What can I build out to really go deep with these folks?’ And that's where the digital course came for me to add to our portfolio, to say, ‘This is where we're going to take you. Like, you know this space, you know my voice, but let's get to know me for real, and let's take your life to the next level based on the experiences I've had in life.’” 

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the 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 a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY PORTERFIELD: Well, well, well. We're back at it again for another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy, and I, for one, am thrilled that you're here with me. 

Before we dive into today's episode, I just wanted to quickly tell you how grateful I am for you. I really mean that. Thank you for the reviews you've left, every time you've downloaded an episode, for subscribing, for following, for sharing this podcast with a friend. You're the reason I keep showing up, so thank you so much.  

Now, I'm really excited about this episode because I get to talk to two of my Digital Course Academy students, which you probably know is always one of my favorite things to do. And what's even more exciting is that with each of them, you're going to find out exactly how adding a digital course to your business can help you grow in ways that you've never thought possible. This episode goes far beyond just a digital course, and you'll really start to feel that when you hear from both of my guests. You're going to get to hear about the amount of money they make, but more importantly, the number of people they're able to serve and the fulfillment they get on a day-to-day basis.  

So first up, you're going to hear from Jaren Sustar, a real estate investor and founder of Finance Cowboy. And he created a digital course that teaches people how to find, analyze, fund, and manage both rental properties and fix-and-flips.  

Now, if you want to talk about an inspiring story, this is it, because not that long ago, Jaren was working a full-time job as a truck driver, and while it was a steady income, he knew that the money he was making just wasn't going to cut it for him and his growing family. You're going to hear more about Jaren’s story and why he made the jump into business ownership, along with how adding a digital course helped create the freedom in his life that he's always wanted.  

And pay close attention to something that Jaren says, because I think part of the interview—I already got to interview him—one of the things that he said that I just thought, “Yes, that's it,” he said he wanted to own the day. “I want to own the day, Amy,” meaning he wanted to do things on his terms. And I think many of you want to own the day as well. So I can't wait for you to hear from Jaren.  

And then, I got to sit down with my student Teresa Merriman, and holy smokes, I think she absolutely nailed it on the head because she chose something that she was so passionate about, which was journaling, and then turned that into a digital course, but with a very specific focus. Her course is all about travel journaling. So she got to fly across the pond to Croatia to film her lessons because that's what she wanted to do. She said, “Amy, when I'm filming my lessons, I want to feel as though I'm traveling. I want to be in the spirit of that. So I actually film some of my videos while on vacation, while traveling,” and I thought that was really cool.  

Now, you don't have to fly to Croatia to create your digital course, but you do get to choose how you want to do it. And I think that's a theme that you're going to hear from both of my guests. They didn't follow every single thing that I teach in DCA, but instead, they chose what they could do, and then they both said, “When I go back to launch again,” because that's what I encourage students to do, “I'm going to go back to your course, Amy, and go back and choose more strategies that you teach and layer them on with my second launch, third launch, and beyond.” And I loved that.  

So both of my guests are going to tell some personal stories about how their digital course came about and how they brought it to life, and I know you're going to feel inspired when you walk away from this episode.  

Also, pay close attention to what Teresa talks about when she's sharing about how she made a mistake identifying her ideal-customer avatar, her ICA, and what she learned, because launching for the first time teaches you so much about what works and what doesn't, so that your second launch, you can knock it out of the park. She's going to talk about that.  

You're going to hear the nuts and bolts of how and why both Teresa and Jaren added a digital course to their existing businesses. And I know that you are going to get so much value, so I can't wait for you to dive in. We're going to first start with my student, Jaren.  

Well, hey, there, Jaren. Welcome to the show.  

JAREN: Hey, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.  

AMY: I have been looking forward to this because I mentioned this briefly in the intro, but you actually began your career as a truck driver. So that's a first on my show. So can you give us a quick rundown about how you got started in your career and where you are today? 

JAREN: Yeah. So, to all the CDL truck drivers out there, I have to make a disclaimer. I wasn't, like, a big-truck driver, like, the eighteen wheelers, so I don't want to take credit for that, because those guys are pretty awesome.  

AMY: Yeah. 

JAREN: But I came out of college, driving a box truck for Cintas. So Cintas is a uniform company— 

AMY: Okay. 

JAREN: —and I was twenty-two years old and dropping off clean uniforms, picking up dirties, and changing out floor mats. It was crazy. And I quickly realized, I was, like, “You know, I don't know if this ten- to twelve-hour grunt-work day is for me.“ But I really liked talking with people on the route. So I said, “Maybe sales is where I want to go.” And so I quickly transitioned into sales and started in the business, business world, got into pharmaceutical, medical-device world. And then somewhere along the journey, started buying real estate. 

And I reached a point in 2021, I said, “You know what? I've done a lot of real estate deals. I feel like I'm a relatable guy. I got a family. I got a kid. I got a wife. I've been doing this while working a full-time job. I need to go tell people about it.” And then, Finance Cowboy was born, eventually created a course, here we are today, talking with Amy Porterfield on her show. So, crazy ride. 

AMY: Finance Cowboy. I love the name. When I saw that in my notes, I was like, that's badass. I love it.  

JAREN: Thank you. 

AMY: And I also love that you've had a lot of different jobs, because I, too, have had a lot of different jobs. And some people that are listening feel like there's a little shame between “I flip flop from this to this to that.” It all gets you to where you're supposed to be. It's all meant to be. And so for those of you who still haven't really landed exactly what you want to do, you are exactly where you're meant to be. And hopefully, this episode will inspire you.  

So I want to drill down a little bit and rewind back to 2018. At this point, you were working in pharmaceutical sales and had all of your student loans and debt paid off. Congratulations. That is not easy. So you were in pharmaceutical sales, you were debt free, what was it that appealed to you about real estate? And also, did you have any fears about jumping into a totally new industry and owning your own business?  

JAREN: I don't really know exactly the path of real estate other than I think I just have always enjoyed the thought process of owning my day. I really have wanted to own my day ever since I came out of college. Like, when I was in college, I was playing college baseball. That was what I wanted my day to be. But then you start working, and you're like, “Is this really what life's about? That's all I got.”  

AMY: Yeah. 

JAREN: And so I started exploring, “Okay. What can get me out of this?” Not that, like, I hated what I was doing, but I wanted to be able to wake up every day and decide. And so just being the simple guy that I am, I looked at history, and it looked as though people who had bought real estate over time and held it tended to get wealthier, to grow wealth, and be able to live their life by design. I said, “Well, it seems simple enough. It's not speculative. It's proven itself over and over again. Let's do it.”  

And so we dove all in, didn't really know what we were doing, but we said, you know, “If all these other people can do it,”—it’s like I told my wife when she was pregnant with our first kid, which she about smacked me upside the head, I was like, “Billions of other ladies have done it. You're going to be okay.” So that's how we were with real estate. 

AMY: Not what you’re supposed to say to a pregnant wife, but at least you’re still alive. 

JAREN: Well, it did not go over well. Obviously, we have a great relationship, and we laugh about it now. But yeah, guys, do not say that to your wives. Not a good choice.  

But, you know, that's how I felt with real estate. And so we took the plunge, and we went all in. And here we are five years later, and it's completely, completely changed our lives, and it has led to, like you mentioned earlier, the decisions we make early in our lives set us up and lead us to where we are going. And we're at one of those destinations today.  

AMY: You are at a great place today. So, in just three years you scaled your real estate business to a portfolio of over twenty-three properties. That's wild. And you were a millionaire by—get ready for this—age twenty-nine, which is incredible. Like, I think about my son, Cade. He's twenty-one, and I think, “If he's a millionaire by twenty-nine, I will be so proud of him. That’ll be such a big deal.” So congratulations on that.  

But you still wanted more. What was it that you were looking for? 

JAREN: I believe that you need to have a purpose. When you start on an endeavor, a lot of times, whether this is right or wrong, I think you have a financial or time goal in mind. Like, I want to be financially free. I want to have my time freedom. And then when you achieve that, then you're learning this throughout the journey, but it really, then, comes to, “Okay. What is my passion? How can I help other people do this?” Because you realize what a beautiful thing it is for your life, and you’re like, “I want to bring as many people along with me for this ride as completely possible.” And that's where I switched, and I said, “Okay. How do I do that?” 

AMY: And I love that. That's how I got into courses. It was so good for me that I thought, “I've got to tell other people about this. I feel like I've got this little secret that could change lives, and I got to get it out there.” So I 100 percent understand that sentiment.  

So you did List Builders Society, which is my list-building course, and you grew your email list from seven hundred people to over fourteen thousand people, which is incredible. Then, you decided to take Digital Course Academy and add a digital course to your business. So my question is, what was the why behind adding a digital course to your business, at a point when you were already doing really well in real estate?  

JAREN: Great question. So number one, I plugged the List Builders Society. I had seven hundred followers. I think I bought it in July. You guys can go look at my name, probably, in your system, see when I bought it. We grew to seven thousand within—it had to be, like, three months, after taking that.  

AMY: Wow. 

JAREN: And then now we're at sixteen. Just implemented all the stuff that you've taught. So plug there. Fantastic. I cannot preach enough. I make everybody on my team, like, at it because I'm like— 

AMY: Ah, love it. 

JAREN: —this is crazy. So it was awesome.  

And so I'm like, okay. I started my brand with a social-media following. I just started posting my experiences on social media. And then I saw you, and you said, “You need to have an email list if you plan on having a business.” So I said, “Well, Amy said I need to have an email list. Probably should do that.” So now I have a following, and I have an email list, and I said, “Well, I probably need to get paid for helping all these people,” because I'm able to help them only so much through social media and through email. Like, there's only so much value I can give. And I said, “Okay. What can I build out to really go deep with these folks?” And that's where the digital course came for me to add to our portfolio, to say, “This is where we're going to take you. Like, you know this space, you know my voice, but let's get to know me for real, and let's take your life to the next level based on the experiences I've had in life.” 

AMY: It's so cool. It's that idea of wanting to serve and wanting to spread the wealth in terms of your knowledge and what you know. And I love that you did it with such an open heart like that.  

And also, I'm curious. Did you know anything about how to create digital courses before you joined Digital Course Academy? Like, where were you at that point?  

JAREN: No. It was a life saver because I couldn't wrap my mind around “How do I structure this?” That was number one for me. Now, I learned so much more within Digital Course Academy, way more than just that. But for me it was like, “Okay. How do I choose what type of course this is going to be, whether it's going to be at my lower end, mid-tier, or high-end course. How does it look like? Like, how do I even map this thing out? How do I get it launched? What do email sequences look like?” I still go back to DCA and look at, like, “Okay. What's the best way to do my email sequences for webinars?” 

AMY: Yes. 

JAREN: It's like this ever-living resource for me. And so, no, I was so green, and it was able to take what I call, like, my spaghetti brain. I couldn't get my mind wrapped around it, and it just let me take a deep breath and say, “Okay. This is a road map that I can follow.” And I followed it, and it's worked. 

AMY: Well, you've done a great job. And I love that you said ever-living resource. I'm going to use that, because we give lifetime access for that exact point. Jenna Kutcher was at my house this weekend, and we were doing some mastermind thing, and she said, “Oh, I went back to module five of Digital Course Academy before I did my last batch of webinars.” I'm thinking, “How cool is that, that people are going back into the archive just to refresh when they're doing something new?” And so that was always my goal. So to hear you say it and Jenna say it, I just, I can't thank you enough for that. Such a huge compliment.  

So okay. So let's get into you. Let's not talk about my courses anymore. Let's talk about you and your huge success.  

So first of all, I want to kind of jump into the nuts and bolts. Your course launch, the very first course launch, was the name of the course—what was the name of the course?  

JAREN: So it’s the Rental Academy, which it still is today. 

AMY: Cool. The Rental Academy. And how much did you charge for it?  

JAREN: We charge three thousand dollars. 

AMY: Got it. So you were on the higher end— 

JAREN: Yes. 

AMY: —which is really cool. A lot of my students come in, and they start with, like, a hundred dollars or two fifty, which is totally cool. But some of them are like, “Screw it. I'm going for the mac daddy, three thousand dollars.” That’s higher than my course is, so I am always impressed by that. So that’s really cool. 

And what did your course launch entail? Like, did you do webinars, email marketing, social? Like, what did you do? 

JAREN: Great question. So I think I kind of did a hybrid of a few because I wasn't— 

AMY: Cool. 

JAREN: —exactly sure. It was like, what's the best way? How do I reach the most people? You know? And you refine stuff as you go.  

But the first launch we did is we built up a waitlist, who was interested; this is what we have coming. And I think we built it to twelve hundred people. And I was like, whoa, I feel good about this. This is great. I only had seven, eight thousand people on my email at the time, and twelve hundred were on a waitlist. It was like, okay, this is pretty awesome. I have no idea how many of these I'm going to close.  

And so we launched, and I just launched through email to the waitlist. I didn't even launch the webinar. I did, like, a three-part series and open cart, and it was like, what? 

AMY: Time out. Okay. This is what I love, because I tell people, “Look. You can follow everything I teach in DCA or take what you want and just start to build on it.” You didn't do webinars, is that right? For this first launch you did not do webinars.  

JAREN: Well, we did to the public. So now, we've got it all refined. But I did waitlist, I did prerecorded videos, because I felt like they were engaged enough, and then, I promoted a public webinar and launched to the public. It was kind of a hybrid. It was weird. 

AMY: Okay. That's cool. So you did it your way in terms of, “I've got this waitlist. I'm going to put together a three-part email series for them,” right?  

JAREN: Video series, yeah. Recorded, though. We did a recording. 

AMY: Okay. Cool. A recorded video series. So you got them, which is very personal. You could talk to them. You could mention, “Hey, you signed up for the waitlist. You're interested.” Then, you also did people that did not sign up for the waitlist, you did webinars for them.  

JAREN: Exactly. Yeah.  

AMY: Perfect. Okay. So you used email marketing. You used webinars. I'm assuming you used your social media.  

JAREN: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. And you give a great roadmap for that,  by the way, on how many posts to lead up and what you should do. It was fantastic. And so we had all the tools, and we just did it, just rocked it.  

AMY: I love that.  

Now, with the price point of three thousand dollars, I have two questions. One, did you do a payment-plan offer? And two, did you get on the phone with anybody if they felt like they weren't ready or on the fence or anything like that?  

JAREN: One hundred percent. So we did both.  

AMY: Cool. 

JAREN: We run our calls. Our course has grown in price since then. We run it through calls. And so we have a team who will field the calls. And then, one hundred percent, we offer a payment plan. So we break it up. We give up to four months for folks to be able to pay to join the program to, hopefully, allow more people to get in.  

AMY: Do you remember—and it's okay. When I get on podcasts and people talk to me about numbers, and if I don't have the notes in front of me, I will not remember anything. So if you don't know this number, that's okay—but do you remember how many people percentage wise took you up on a four-payment plan, four-month payment plan versus paid full price?  

JAREN: I don't know. I would say that it was probably around 10 to 15 percent. The majority of— 

AMY: Oh, pretty low. 

JAREN: —people actually pay. Yeah.  But we were all calls with them, too. I think that's a little easier to get the full price when you're sitting there just like this, looking at each other, talking. 

AMY: Absolutely. I can't remember what episode I did this, but I did an entire podcast episode about how we took calls with our launch, I think last launch and the launch before that. I break it all down, how we did it without a sales team, and we used our own employees. This year we're trying to beef it up even more, but we started super grassroots. So if anybody's listening, and they're like, “Well, how would you do sales calls?” I did an episode on that. I’ll link to it in the show notes.  

Okay. So now let's talk about the good stuff. So three-thousand-dollar offer. You did a payment plan; most people took you up on a full pay. You did some webinars, email marketing, social media. You got on some calls with people. How much did you make with your first launch?  

JAREN: We brought in, it was somewhere between two hundred and two hundred twenty-five thousand dollars. So it was insane.  

AMY: I mean, come on.  

JAREN: It was crazy.  

AMY: That is so good. 

I always like to ask this question because I remember how fun it was when I told Hobie: what did your wife say when you said, “Hey, babe, I made two hundred thousand dollars on my first launch”? Like, what does she think of that?  

JAREN: She was, like, “What are you doing?” I was, like, “I don't know.” I was, like, “Hopefully, these people have success now.” 

AMY: Right? 

JAREN: No, I mean, she’s my biggest supporter. She's very involved in our lives, in all aspects, real estate, Finance Cowboy, everything. 

AMY: So cool. 

JAREN: And I think she knew. Like, I'm the one who—you may be like, this is like, “I know I'm putting in the work. I know I'm doing everything right, but you just don't ever know.” And then people from the outside looking in—like my wife. She's very smart. She's like, “You're fine. It's going to work.” You know?  

AMY: That’s— 

JAREN: And she was supportive. 

AMY: —best partner to have. I know everyone listening, not everyone gets that with their partner. But you and I are very lucky, where our significant other’s like, “Duh. You're going to hit it out of the park, like nothing else.” That's very helpful.  

But actually, I wanted to touch on something that I love that you said. I know you were joking, but there's got to be a little truth into it because I know I feel it. You said, “I hope I can get these people results.” And the thing is, you created a course where you know you've gotten results, and you've worked with people, and you know that it works. But there's always that fear, “Oh, my gosh. People paid me three thousand dollars.” You care deeply that it works for them. And I think that that question or that little bit of worry or fear or just like, “Oh, gosh. I got to start seeing results,” that is very normal.  

So anybody that's feeling that with their first launch—heck, I'm way into it. I have thousands of testimonials. Here you are, a huge, great testimonial, and I still worry that, “Are people going to get the results that I'm promising?” It's very normal. So thanks for sharing a little vulnerability there even though you didn't know you did. 

JAREN: Yes. And I've never felt like an imposter my entire life, but this was, like, I actually had to fight that. I’d never felt like that before, and there’s still a little bit of that. Now I have so many people having results where it kind of mitigates that feeling.  

AMY: Yeah. 

JAREN: But it is something you have to work through, and you have to trust that, “Hey, I have done something that worked, and I'm going to teach these people how to do it and go for it.” Just overcome that fear.  

AMY: There is absolutely imposter syndrome that's going to rear its ugly head, very, very normal, especially when people are paying you top dollar for something.  

Now let's talk about your students. Have you heard from your students from your digital course, and have they gotten results? How has it impacted their lives? Tell me about a few. 

JAREN: One hundred percent. One of the first students we had, Erica, she just did a flip, and they made gross a hundred thousand dollars. So they'll take home probably sixty—five.  

AMY: Come on. 

JAREN: I know. 

AMY: That's life changing. You helped them do that. Like— 

JAREN: Yep. 

AMY: —I feel good, Jaren.  

JAREN: Oh, it's awesome. That's one deal. And since then, they’re in the middle of two more flips, and I think they bought three rentals. So she has now become a coach because she gets it. And she's really good, so she helps our people, and she's very active in our community.  

And then, we got a gentleman, Sean McCloskey did his first midterm rental crush. And Jason Slaniker bought a duplex within his first three weeks in, and his cash flow in three hundred bucks. Man, I could just go down the list. People are just buying and changing their lives. And I don't even know how to explain the feeling. It's just like you have this child, this little baby, and now it's doing all the things you want it to do, and you're just like, “Man, this is so awesome. It’s so awesome.” 

AMY: Ah, it really is.  

How has having a digital course now—now that you have your real estate. You have your properties—but having a digital course, how has that changed either your business or your life? Like, what does that look like for you? 

JAREN: It's changed everything for us. It has grown our business. So what started as a hobby for me, as a passion, has turned into an actual business. It was me with my cell phone and me typing emails for two years, and now I have four full-time employees, outside of myself. And we have coaches in our course and community. It has allowed me to empower not only my students to change their lives, but because we have people working for the brand, now we're able to change their lives, the people who are working for us and employ them, and create a great culture. And now we're able to impact more people because I'm not having to do everything. I'm not my own bottleneck. Even though I'm still probably the bottleneck the majority of the time, I try to get out of the way when I can. But it has been amazing.  

And it's funny because real estate totally changed our lives, you know. That was the first, like, life-changing experience, outside of getting out of debt. That was great. And then buying real estate. And then, the brand and the digital course we have has taken it to another level, and it’s the best thing I've ever done.  

AMY: I bet. I can't even imagine. Just all of it has been so cool.  

And also, you were saying about having people on your team that are coaches. And what I'd be curious to know, so your business, you have your properties, now you have a digital course, and you have a coaching side of your business? Tell me a little bit about that because some people listening, they don’t just want a digital-course business; they want a few different entities or assets. So what does that coaching look like?  

JAREN: Yeah. So it's actually built into the Rental Academy, so we did it backwards.  

AMY: Exactly. 

JAREN: You mentioned it earlier. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. We did it backwards. So most people start with a ninety-seven-dollar course, two ninety-seven, four ninety-seven. We went all in. And so it is our course and mentorship. So I built an entire course out, and then, we also coach within that.  

Now, based on your teaching, we're actually working on our mid-tier course now, focusing on just one niche part of our business, because I feel like I'm missing a lot of people who aren't quite ready to take the jump into the full-time coaching-course mentorship. And so we're going to nail down more to just the course. But we did a hybrid from the get-go. So we did things kind of weird from the start, but, you know, it's worked out, and now we're working our way backwards.  

AMY: I love it. You're such a great example. I tell my students all the time, “You do not need to follow exactly how I teach you. Use me as a framework, as your model, and then do what works best for you.” Having coaching inside of a digital course, that's beautiful. There's so many people listening right now, where they are coaches, and they want to have a digital course. You can have a hybrid and offer both with one price point. And like you said, you could do a spotlight course where you just focus on the course and get a little bit more specific, and people could then eventually get into your coaching. There’s so many opportunities. 

So tell me this. For your last big question, what would you say to somebody who has a business, and they're thinking about adding a digital course to that, but they're on the fence about it? They're just really nervous. A digital course takes a lot of time to create, and you got to learn it, and all that good stuff. What would you say to them?  

JAREN: Dive headfirst. Start today. Don't wait any longer. I sat because I didn't know the exact things that I wanted to do. I didn't have it perfected in my mind. And so I sat on the sidelines too long, and I missed out on opportunity because of that. So dive in, go all in. It's going to take some time to build out, but once you've got it done, it is the greatest thing that you will ever do. It's 2023. It’s the digital age. I don't know the numbers. Amy’s probably got them. People are learning online more than they ever had before, and they are starving for information. The messages and emails and direct messages that I get of people almost begging me for me to work with them because they're, like, “I need what you have.” And if you have something like that, you need to give it to the world. It's almost an injustice. It's not, but you just got to— 

AMY: Yes. 

JAREN: —set the pride aside and go for it because people need you, and they're just waiting on you to say yes.  

AMY: So beautifully said. 

 Jaren, where can people find out more about you and about your digital course?  

JAREN: So the best place to find me is on Instagram, @financecowboy. And then at our website, You’ll be able to find everything about us, information about the digital course, and then I'll keep you updated with tips and tricks about real estate, should you care to learn, on the Instagram and social side.  

AMY: Perfect.  

Thank you so much my friend. I so appreciate you being here, and congrats on all your huge success. 

JAREN: Thank you so much, Amy.  

AMY: Hey, Teresa. I'm so glad to have you here. Thanks for coming on the show.  

TERESA: Hi, Amy. Thank you for having me. It's so wonderful to be a part of your community.  

AMY: Oh, thank you.  

Well, let's kick this off with you sharing a bit about what your business was like before you created your digital course. So tell me a little bit about your business and where maybe some challenges might have popped up.  

TERESA: So since 2005, I've been an exhibiting artist at various different juried arts festivals all over the U.S. So every year I would do twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five shows full time. It was amazing. Loved it. Met lots of people. I love to travel, so it was fantastic.  

I make leather-bound journals so I would go home, make a whole bunch of really ornate, beautiful, one-of-a-kind journals, and then take them out to the shows and see if they can find their forever homes with people.  

AMY: Okay. I love that because I am a sucker for a journal, especially a leather-bound journal. And so I thought you did really well, because people love their journals.  

TERESA: They do. They really—they're pouring their heart and their souls and their lives into these. And so I always felt like I should make a really awesome, sweet-looking journal to honor that, you know? It has been wonderful.  

AMY: Okay. So then, at what point did you think, “I need to create a digital course”? And how did you think that would actually fit into your business or help your business?  

TERESA: Well, when the pandemic hit, we couldn't go out and do shows anymore. So I was very lucky. I was one of the lucky ones because I already had a social following. I already had an email list, already had a website, and all of that. So I started just to do limited-edition series online. Operating online like this full time gave me so much that I never knew I was missing out on, you know? I was actually able to connect with people more frequently than just one time a year at their local art shows, and I got to know intimately well, much better, all the different people in my audience. And so through this experience I was like, “Well, when the shows go up again, how am I going to continue my online momentum?” I never could figure it out. So it was going to have to be one or the other.  

AMY: Gotcha. And when you had online momentum, that's before you started creating a course, right?  

TERESA: Yeah, yeah. 

AMY: So what did that look like? What were you doing online to make money with your journals? Just selling your journals online? 

TERESA: I would do a limited-edition series.  

AMY: Got it.  

TERESA: And so there were a finite amount of journals, and I would launch them at a specific date and time. People would, like, log on and be ready to grab up the journal that they wanted before anybody else did. Every month, like this. And then I would do social-media lives, and I would write, I called them Sunday Sentiments. And so it's kind of like a blog. And I would send those out and just basically nurture and communicate with my audience like that. Yeah, months and months.  

AMY: Okay. So that was working well for you. I bet those journals sold out so fast with that kind of urgency and uniqueness. I'm guessing that did really well. 

TERESA: It did do well.  

AMY: Yeah. 

TERESA: Like I said, I consider myself lucky, you know? I mean, I was getting by. I wasn't worried about keeping a roof over my head. You know, for a minute there, when the pandemic hit, I was like, “Oh, gosh,” you know? 

AMY: I bet. When your business is traveling to actual shows that people show up and buy your goods, that can be very scary. So I love that you were innovative and courageous enough to take it online. And the limited series, brilliant. I mean, my marketing heart just burst with that one, so it's fantastic.  

But then you decided, “I'm going to create a digital course.” What gave you the idea? Why did you think you might go that route? And tell us, before we get into all the details, what was the topic of your digital course?  

TERESA: Well, the topic changed. My original topic was something else, but the way I started doing this was your beloved alum Jamie Trull.  

AMY: Ah, Jamie. 

TERESA: I was one of her students. I love her. And I was, you know, as a female entrepreneur, I was like, “Oh, yeah. I should probably know more about financial literacy.” And so I took her course, and then I remained on her emailing list. And she said, “Hey, do you want to make your business recession proof?” That was all I needed. And I was like, “Uh, yes. Yes, please. How do I do that?” And she's like, “Well, you need to create a digital course, then.” And I was like, “Okay. Well, that sounds like fun. I would absolutely love to do that. I've been kind of doing online stuff anyway. Why not step it up a notch,” you know?  

And so then I bought your course. And my original idea was to do an art course, teaching art journaling, but in a totally different concept than what I actually landed on. 

So the name of my course now is Mastering the Art of Travel Journaling. When you said to niche down, I was, like, travel journaling, because my heart is with travels as well as journals. So it was a nice little combination.  

AMY: I love this. I love the specificity. For those of you who are in Digital Course Academy or thinking about joining one day, I do talk about getting a little bit more specific so you don't get lost in the sea of online noise. So journaling is one thing; travel journaling, that's a whole other ballgame and very specific and grabs the attention of a very specific audience, which I love. So that's fantastic.  

And I want to talk a little bit about your experience with Digital Course Academy, because something you did that I loved is that in your process you created each module just a week before it was delivered. This is the first—when my first course came out, this is exactly how I did it. So a week before, you'd get your video ready, your module ready, and you'd get it out there. What did you like about doing it this way?  

TERESA: Everything. Everything. Really. And you're the one who said, “Do it this way,” you know? And so I was like, “Okay. I'm going to trust this process, and I'm going to do it this way.” It was great. You know, every morning I would wake up enthused. I couldn't wait to get started on the next thing to do. Each module has a bunch of different components to it, and so, you know, I would hack at it every day like this. And literally, I think it was on module three or four, I literally finished seven minutes before I promised that the module would be released. Seven minutes. 

AMY: Okay. I have so been there. Okay. That’s a little stressful, for sure. But you had to feel so good that you did it.  

TERESA: Oh, it was the most amazing feeling. Truly, creating this digital course has really kind of ignited my entrepreneurial spirit, my creative spirit. I wake up still, even though I'm not creating a course right now, you know, I still wake up every day going, “Yes, I get to work on this now and that and the other thing.” So I would, if anybody is thinking about creating the whole course before they even sell it or deliver it, I just don't think that you should do it that way. I don't. I trust that you know what you're talking about, Amy. And now that I've had an experience with it, what the best thing was, my audience got to give me some feedback on, “Hey, maybe you could tweak this and do that,” and I would do that. And it made the course that much better as well as attended to their specific needs. And so these students were completely happy with that individualized attention and felt honored that I would absolutely listen to what their feedback was and implement it.  

AMY: Okay. That is beautiful. So those of you who don't know my model, I do teach it in two ways. One, exactly what Teresa just said, where once a week you're going to create a module, and you're going to get it live. That means you get to make money, you get to sell your course before it is completed. And why that's so important is a lot of first-time course creators, they're going to put way too much thought, way too much worry in it, think everything has to be perfect before they launch, and they never launch. Teresa’s a perfect example of she's going to do it imperfectly but still do it. She's going to figure this out. She's going to finish one of her modules seven minutes before she promises it to her audience. But she got it done, and now she has a digital course. So she created it as she went along. She got to listen to her students’ feedback. That is huge. And people felt like the course was catered to them, and that is a customer for life.  

So I absolutely love that you did it that way. Like I said, that was my first course as well. So you're a good student, my friend, and I always beam when I get to talk to my students. They’re like, “Amy, you told me to do it this way, and I did it, and I had success.” So it's always great. 

TERESA: Yes, you're a good teacher, you know? 

AMY: Well, thank you, my friend.  

Tell me a little bit about your launch and the results. So first of all, did you do webinars and email marketing and social media, or did you tweak things? Like, I just talked to Jaren, who came on right before you, and he kind of made up his own rules a little bit and did a hybrid kind of launch. So what did yours look like?  

TERESA: Okay. Well, I'm so glad that you asked this because, you know, you have been my North Star on a lot of different things, But I did not do a webinar.  

AMY: Normal. 

TERESA: Right. But I felt like the reason why I didn't need to go that route is that I already had an existing audience. Some people are starting from scratch, you know, but I already had an existing audience. So I was like, “You know, I'm going to kind of do a soft launch.” Maybe next time, and yes, definitely next time, I'm going to go for it more with webinars and workshops and things like that. But I just said, “They're going to love this course. They're going to totally like this course. I'm going to tell them about it and market it like this on social media and emails.”  

However, I should have done a few more things the way that you recommend because—and this is very important—when you talk about your ICA, and you say, “Don't skip that part,” what I discovered was the ICA that buys my journals, my handmade journals— 

AMY: Ideal-customer avatar, just in case someone doesn't know your ideal customer. Okay. 

TERESA: —the ideal customer who buys my journals, you know, they're on my mailing list. They know how to use these journals. Maybe they travel, maybe they don't. But they already are in active journaling. The people who didn't join my emailing list, those are the people who need my course, for sure. So I totally skipped that, thinking, “Oh, I've got my ICA. Yeah. No big deal.” But it was a mistake to ignore that I could have reached more people, impacted more people had I taken more steps and more effort into finding them, for sure.  

So although my launch and pre-launch runway looked very different than I think a lot of people did, it still was a successful course and everything else. But next time, it’s going to be even more successful because I'm not going to ignore that huge segment that is definitely needing to be served.  

AMY: Absolutely.  

Okay. So a few more questions. How much was your course? 

TERESA: Four ninety-seven. 

AMY: And I know that you didn't hit your goal the first time out, but I'm going to talk about that. That’s very normal, especially if you don’t do webinars in the beginning. And I get why you didn't do a webinar. We're going to talk about that. But how many units did you sell?  

TERESA: Thirty-two. 

AMY: Okay. So thirty-two people said yes. What was the price point again? 

TERESA: I actually had three different price points.  

AMY: Okay. 

TERESA: I had three twenty-seven for my VIP. These are my collectors that’ve been collecting journals from me for years. I had three ninety-seven for those that bought a journal but years ago. And then, there was a cutoff date, and anybody who wanted to join at last minute, were paying the four-ninety-seven price point.  

AMY: Nice. Nice. I love that. I have done that in my early launches, where the price went up the longer they waited. Like, early-bird pricing is fantastic. I teach that in DCA.  

So you did great, and I know you wanted to go bigger the first time out, but the biggest gift you gave yourself is understanding who you're selling to. And if you didn't go out this first time doing it your way and maybe not doing all the elements that I teach in DCA, you wouldn’t have realized, “Wait a second. I have to get a little bit clearer on who I'm selling to and knowing I probably need to do a few more things to really help them understand the value of the program, why they need it, why they want to learn from me, all of that.”  

And webinars are a great way to do that, and there's some other elements in DCA. But I am totally fine with someone saying, “Amy, I've got to take baby steps. I need to do it my way this first time, where it might be some social media, might be some emails.” But then you realized, “Okay. I didn't hit my goal, but I know that I'm capable of doing this.” So your second launch, you're going to have more confidence. You're going to have more knowledge. You’re going to add your webinar, and you can blow your mind.  

I always say that first launch is as much for you as it is for your students. You learn so much, and now you have this whole new skill that you didn't even know you were capable of until you tried it. Would you agree?  

TERESA: One hundred percent. One hundred percent, I agree. And you know, when I go the second time around on my second launch, I now am more intimately involved in my course, so I know how to better talk about it. I know how to better describe it and answer questions. Before, people would ask a question, and I’d be like, “I don't know yet, but I will figure that out, and I'll get back to you.” 

AMY: Good. 

TERESA: But now I know, you know? And so, yes, you just got to get out there. And I'll say, too, you know, I'm, again, so glad to be part of your community. I listen to your podcast. I listen to Jasmine Star. I listen to a lot of different people that you've brought to my attention. And the one that really—there was a phrase that really spoke to me, and it said, “Focus on the gain and not the gap.” 

AMY: Uh, yes. 

TERESA: So, yes, I did not hit the goal that I had, right? However, I had thirty-two awesome students, and I said, “You know what? That's who I'm going to serve, and that's how I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. I'm going to focus on that, right there.” And I delivered the best course that I possibly could have, you know? So it was fantastic. 

AMY: Ah, that’s what it’s about. These are beautiful souls that gave their cold, hard cash to learn from you. And no matter if it's five people, thirty-two people, or thirty-two hundred, we have to show up for each of them and remember that they matter. And so I love that that's the way you did it. That's how you win the game. Absolutely.  

And I'm curious. What’s some of the feedback you received from your students about your course? 

TERESA: Oh, you know, my course, you know, I said, “If you want to learn how to quickly and easily and artfully capture those moments when you're traveling—and, you know, you could be traveling the world, you could be traveling in your own hometown, whatever—if you're nomadic and you're out there, and you want to capture that into your journal quickly, easily, and artfully, then that's what you're going to get from my course.” Every single student who gave me their testimonial said that that's exactly what they achieved.  

They had other goals with my course, too, that I didn't know about. One person said they wanted to get over the fear of the blank page and that that happened for them. One person said, “I usually sketch with a pencil. I've never used wet media before, so I want to learn wet media.” Well, they did. So more benefits than what I promised came through for these students. It was really cool to hear.  

AMY: That's always the best feeling ever.  

I'm curious if you have plans or if you would ever think about upselling one of your journals once they buy your course. Was that ever kind of part of the equation on your mind or anything like that? What if they want one of your journals but they don't have one yet?  

TERESA: Well, I'm going to have to figure that out. What I did on this last launch was the VIPs buy this course and you get a journal. And so I gifted them a journal.  

AMY: Oh, I love that. Love.  

TERESA: Yeah. But that way I can control—because I can't wake up tomorrow morning and go, “Oh, my gosh. I have five hundred students, and now I have to make five hundred books.” 

AMY: Good point. 

TERESA: I make all these by hand myself, with no team. 

AMY: Wow. 

TERESA: So I'm like, yeah, I'm going to have to control the quantity, right? So yeah, I think I'll do, like, a limited edition like this on my next launch and say, “The first x number of students to sign up and also want a journal, here's the price, and you've got it,” you know? 

AMY: Oh, that is brilliant, and it's exclusive, and there's only so many people, so that's going to sell out quickly. I think you're on to something so freaking good.  

TERESA: Well, thanks. 

AMY: So I love that. And it's so personalized and specific in terms of you make these all by hand. I feel like you have something beautiful.  

So tell me this. Now that you have one launch under your belt, I'm guessing you're going to launch again. 

TERESA: Oh, yeah, for sure. But I have also—and by the way, I did a lot of this work myself, but I hired a team as well. Tuba Sapanli from Strinx Digital, she's amazing. And if anybody is thinking about launching, wanting to take DCA, and they want to do a, create a digital course, I would say, make sure you surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you. You know, my partner Shane, he's been unwaveringly supportive through this entire process. Tuba and her team have been absolutely 100 percent wonderful and dependable, proficient. Everything is excellent and smooth with them. 

So what we've done now, since the course has been delivered, is we've created a membership. So now I have a membership. 

AMY: Yes. 

TERESA: And we have also created an in-person destination art retreat to Istanbul this fall. 

AMY: Oh, my goodness. This is what I love about digital courses. They open up your mind to opportunities beyond the courses of, what would be fun? What could I do with this? How could I build off this? I love hearing this. Congratulations on that.  

TERESA: Thank you. 

AMY: You don't just just  need to create a digital course for your business. There's so many other things you could do. But that digital course can be that consistent revenue every single time you launch. And I could absolutely see over time you putting this launch on evergreen, a travel-journal-type digital course is a beautiful evergreen program, so something down the road you might want to look at. 

I know I'm going to get questions. Can you say the name of that company you used to help you launch? 

TERESA: Strinx Digital. And its S-T-R-I-N-X Digital. Strinx Digital.  

AMY: Got it. I'm not familiar with them, but if you're recommending them, I know other people might want to check them out. So, totally worth it, for sure. You don't have to do it alone. You're a one-woman show. Why not get some extra help when you're going to be going bigger and doing bigger things? So I love that.  

And my last question to you is, how has your life or your business or both changed since adding a digital course and looking forward to saying, “Okay. Launching again,” having this as part of your business? 

TERESA: Well, freedom, for sure. Freedom of time. Freedom of—I mean, as an entrepreneur, and I've been so since 2005, but when you have an art show, you've got to be there on a specific date, rain or shine. Rain or shine, it doesn’t matter. Mother Nature can rain on your show; it can be a hundred eight degrees outside, whatever, you have to be there on that time. With online stuff, whatever you're selling online, you can do it on your own time. I sometimes would just wake up at three o’clock in the morning because I wanted to, you know?, because everything's nice and quiet. So time freedom, for sure.  

Personal growth and business growth. Personal growth as well because I think that if you are going to be an entrepreneur, in order to grow your business, you have to grow yourself. You know? You are where you are today, and then tomorrow you'll be one step and another step as we go on and on. Continue to nurture and grow yourself, and your business will grow with you. So lots of personal growth on this journey, too.  

And the third thing that I really enjoy about after having added a digital course to everything was that I've been able to impact more people, you know? 

AMY: Yes! 

TERESA: When you're at an art show, whoever shows up that day, that's who you get to interact with. Online, it's limitless. It's limitless. And I can see that. And I'm like, “Wow. I get to make more connections. I get to share what I know and see if it can help and impact somebody else's life in a positive way.” So those are the three big things for me.  

AMY: Such a beautiful thing when you know you can impact lives on a deeper level. I love that.  

What would you say to someone who's listening right now and they're thinking, “I really want to create a digital course,” or “I want to expand my business, but I'm on the fence. I'm a little scared. Maybe I’ll venture out next year,” what would you say to them? 

TERESA: I would say, if you're thinking about it now, then you've already done it. You're going to do it. You know, if you're thinking about it now, then you've already done it in your head. You've already gotten there. All you have to do now is just walk the walk. You know? Some of it's easy, some of it's hard, but if you're thinking about it, you're already on Amy Porterfield’s side of the fence. You're already there. You know?  

AMY: I love that. Yes, yes, yes.  

Teresa, it's such a pleasure to talk to you. And I know some people are going to be very interested in your journals and your digital course about travel journaling. Where can people find you?  

TERESA: So, my team and I have created something very special for your lovely podcast listeners. 

AMY: Okay. 

TERESA: You can go to, and on there you can find three different goodies. You can join the waitlist for my course for the next time I launch, if you'd like. There is a freebie there, “25 Souvenirs to Put In Your Travel Journal,” freebies— 

AMY: Fun. 

TERESA: —and a beautiful PDF that I can send out to you. And I also have a link to my free Facebook group called Art Journal Avenue, so you can click on that link, request to be admitted, I'll let you in and welcome you into the family. 

AMY: All the freebies. Wonderful. We'll make sure to put that link in the show notes as well.  

Teresa, thank you so much for being here. I truly appreciate your time, and congrats on your amazing success.  

TERESA: Thank you, Amy. Thank you for everything, truly. I'm so glad that our paths have crossed. 

AMY: I am, too. I am, too. Thanks, again. 

TERESA: Have a good day. 

AMY: Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed hearing from Jaren and Teresa. They had very different launches. They have very different personalities, very different skills. And they both had success. And this is just their first launch. I cannot even wait to have both of them back to talk about launch number two and launch number three.  

When you are in my world and you start learning how to create digital courses and how to launch digital courses from scratch, one thing that I will always encourage you to do is launch several times—maybe twice a year—and every single launch, you can get better and better. You grow as an entrepreneur; your bank account grows; your confidence grows. It's not just a one-and-done kind of thing. I want to be on this journey with you for many, many, many years to come.  

And when you think about Jaren and Teresa, it just goes to show you how creating a digital course can open up new opportunities in your business, opportunities that not only help you earn more money and help more people, but also create meaning and fulfillment in your life. Creating a digital course might even encourage you to check off some of your bucket-list items, like Teresa has done, traveling to Croatia to film her course. Now, that's extra fancy. I've never done anything like that, but I kind of like it.  

So thanks for joining me for another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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