There is big money to be made selling digital downloads. For many freelancers and home business owners, these opportunities not only provide a nice passive, side income but a full-time living. The earnings may not always come immediately as they do with an hourly gig, but you can create your product in your downtime and use it to supplement your finances until it takes on a life of its own.
Why Should I Create a Digital Product?
Outside of a secondary income opportunity, there are several other great reasons to get involved digital product arena.
If you are creating a product around your expertise, you can immediately position yourself as an authority figure. This can lead into speaking and coaching positions. It could also lead to a book deal.
There are no limits. You can sell one product over and over and over again. And because downloads are usually delivered instantly, you can make money while you sleep.
What Kinds of Products Can I Create?
Bailey Richert used her experience traveling the world to mold her digital product endeavor, “Publishing a book was an item that was always on my ‘bucket list'. I also knew it could be a great passive income stream, so that was the impetus for starting out in the writing business. The subject of travel was a natural choice for me because of my experience and passion for the matter. People are always saying “write what you know,” and when it comes to generating digital products quickly enough to start making income from them, that is incredibly good advice.”
Kristin Berry came up with a cool idea to help increase her monthly income and pay off student loans. As an Etsy seller specializing in wedding designs, she had this to say about deciding on the idea, “I came up with the idea because I am a designer, and I had started seeing designs being sold on Etsy that made me think “I can do that, and I can do it WAY better!” I also think that it helps that I have a very fun, quirky style, and there is not a whole lot of stuff out there in the wedding industry that breaks the mold from the traditional flowery stuff, so I think I found a niche that was untapped.”
Perhaps one of the most popular options to make money selling digital downloads is the eBook. Platforms like Amazon Kindle have made it easier than ever to get your works available to the public. Cristin Harber is a New York Times Bestselling Author. She had this to say about her introduction to the industry, “I’d pitched manuscripts to traditional publishers and agents for years, and while they were interested, it was a very slow process. In 2013, I attended a conference (RWA) where I heard authors discuss their starts in indie publishing. Around that same period, I had transitioned from weekly trips to my bookstore to using a Kindle. Using that device, I could buy ebooks at half the cost and get a new title to read as soon as I was done. Put those ideas together—a shifting marketplace with the adaption of ereaders, a backlist of strong manuscripts, and a community of writers willing to share business experiences—and I knew there was a business opportunity.”
Other Digital Products to Consider
- Membership sites
- Private Label Rights (PLR)
- WordPress themes & plugins
- Stock photography
- Fonts & vector images
- Mobile apps
- Educational materials
- Sewing & knitting patterns (read how this couple is earning $600,000 per year selling doll patterns)
It’s Still Work
I mentioned above that the income may not come instantly or automatically. You’ll still have to hustle. As Bailey said about aspiring to make a full-time income from her products “I hoped I would, but that turned out not to be the case. As I learned more about the self-publishing industry, I realized just how competitive it is. As I learned more about business, I realized it was a wise decision to have more income streams anyway. It helps you reach those financial goals faster, and you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. One day someone might come along and write a book that is similar to mine, and people will start purchasing it because it is just newer. You have to plan for the future and diversify the sources from where your money is coming.
“I started marketing my books to study abroad students because the content was about “how” to travel: passports, visas, customs and those topics. What I quickly realized, however, is that I was missing out on the market of travel readers that was already there, browsing the Amazon Kindle store looking for new material. I had to find ways to get them more interested in my work. Now, I primarily focus on marketing efforts that I can use within my books, which is something that a lot of writers don't consider. The methods I'm referring to include creating a series of books or a serial novel instead of just one work, selling box sets, and making sure to include references to my other books at the end of each new book I write.”
And knowing where your target market hangs out is key as Kristin tells us, When I first started, I had NO idea how to reach people other than on Etsy, where I was listing and selling my products. Over the years I have tried many different marketing strategies, some free and some paid, and I have found a few that have paid off. The biggest marketing tool I currently use is Pinterest because its full of brides-to-be looking for wedding ideas. Beyond that, I have found some great wedding blogs that I advertise with, and of course, word of mouth.”
Tools of the Trade
All of our guests were more than happy to share their favorite tools and resources with those aiming to create digital downloads.
Kristin: “To be honest, the greatest tool you have is just dedicating time to your business. The more time you put into it, the more results you will see. Even if I have 10 minutes waiting for the train, or 15 minutes while I am waiting in line, I will go on Pinterest or post something to Instagram, or whatever else I can do in that short time. I always think about the fact that each step you take to get yourself out there is one more potential client, which means one more potential sale.
“Beyond that, I think that Google Analytics has been super helpful because it helps me see all of my streams of traffic, which in turn helps me determine what marketing tactics are paying off, and which aren't. Also, I recently started using Pinterest Paid Pins, and that has upped my Pinterest game, allowing me to reach a lot more potential clients on a very affordable ad budget.”
Bailey: “If you're looking to self-publish, I like using the free program Calibre for managing my ebooks and converting different ebook file types. I also love Canva.com, which is a free online design program I use to design all my ebook covers. Those interested in creating an online course, like I did with DontDieAbroad.com, should try Fedora.”
Cristin: There are two books that I think are very helpful for indie writers or those considering self-publishing. The Naked Truth of Self-Publishing by the Indie Voice, and Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. There are several yahoo groups where business and writing advice is exchanged. Marie Force’s Self-publishing loop and IndieRomanceInk are jammed with great info. BookBub and Draft2Digital both have blogs packed with actionable business advice.