The Ultimate Guide to Selling Digital Products

This post is part 3 of a three part series on how to turn your website into a money-making machine. In the first two parts of the series, we discussed How to Generate Revenue with Ads and How To Create & Sell Your Own Product, so if you missed those, be sure to check them out.

The key to turning your website into a money-making machine is to build a few different revenue streams within your business. Having a few different revenue streams has several advantages including:

  1. Allows you to maximize your website’s earning potential
  2. Balances your business and helps it become more stable.
  3. Less stress. If one revenue stream takes a dip, you’re business won’t go under overnight.
  4. Helps you find the revenue stream that has most earning potential for your site so you can optimize accordingly.

In addition to selling ad space on your site through affiliate programs and ad networks, creating and selling a product of your own can bring in lots of additional revenue for your business without a lot of overhead. Since you’ll be building the product yourself, your main investment will be your time.

The first step to selling products is pretty obvious–you need to decide what you’re going to sell. As we mentioned briefly in part 2 of this series, in addition to physical products, there are many other types of digital products that you create and sell including:

  1. E-books
  2. Stock Graphics
  3. Fonts
  4. Website Templates
  5. WordPress Templates
  6. Plugins or Addons
  7. Web Apps
  8. Online Courses

Next, you need to decide where you’re going to sell these products. So far in this series, we’ve focused on selling products on your own website. The main advantage to selling products on your own site is 100% of the revenue goes into your business. However unless you have a high traffic website, it may be difficult to generate enough revenue from your products to make it worth the amount of time you invest in creating the products. So if this is the case with your website, you may want to explore selling your items on high traffic sites with online marketplaces until you’re able to build up traffic on your own website.

In the remainder of this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at the various types of products you can sell and which marketplaces are best for generating the most revenue in the shortest amount of time from each product type.

Digital Products

Writing E-books

Shopify

Info products, including e-books, can be created and sold in just about any industry, including design and development. While writing an e-book will certainly take some time and effort, it does offer some flexibility since you can work on it whenever you have time. If the e-book covers a topic that won’t become quickly outdated or obsolete, it can be a good source of income for several years to come.

The technical aspects of selling an e-book can be quite simple. If your online store is built in WordPress, you can use a WordPress plugin to handle the e-commerce and product delivery. Or if your online store isn’t built in WordPress, you could use a system like Shopify, which handles the purchase and delivery of digital downloads through its Digital Downloads App. Other e-commerce platforms that work well with digital downloads are DPD, E-Junkie, and Clickbank.

Selling your e-book will require you to get it in front of the right audience. One approach to doing this is to recruit affiliates to promote the e-book at their site/blog or to their email list. DPD and E-Junkie include built-in affiliate programs, and most WordPress e-commerce plugins can be integrated with affiliate plugins. Software like iDevAffiliate can be used with just about any e-commerce platform or shopping cart. To attract the best affiliates, you’ll want to offer a high commission and favorable terms.

Stock Graphics or Fonts

Creative Market

A common approach to making money as a designer is to sell stock graphics (PSD files, logo templates, Photoshop brushes, vectors, icons, etc). If stock graphics aren’t your niche, another option you can design is fonts. No matter what type of graphics you choose to sell, you can set up a shop on your own website or sell at online marketplaces.

If you choose to sell these items on your own website, as we looked at in part 2 of this series, this can be done quickly and easily by setting up your own online shop with e-commerce hosting platforms, which Shopify being our number one pick for ease of use.

The other option is to sell your graphics or fonts are marketplaces like GraphicRiver and Creative Market. Marketplaces such as these allow designers to sell their own creations to a large existing audience. The down side of selling at these types of marketplace sites is that you will need to share the revenue with the marketplace, and in many cases, you’ll also face restrictions related to pricing, the types of products you can sell, and exclusivity.

Of the major marketplaces, Creative Market provides the most flexibility and fewest restrictions for designers. They don’t require exclusivity (you can sell your products at your own site or at other sites), you can set your own prices, and they offer 70% of each sale to the designer.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can achieve success with selling stock graphics, we have an interview in our shop with Ryan Putnam on this topic.

Photographs

iStock

If you’re an experience photographer, you can sell some of your photographs. Most likely, you already have hundreds if not thousands of photographs that you’ve taken in your files, so the plus to this product option is that, depending on if the photographs are already edited to your liking, you may be able to sell this product with little to no additional time investment other than the time it takes to set up your product page online.

The process of selling professional photographs is very similar to selling stock graphics or fonts. You can sell them on your own website or in an online marketplace. The most popular photography marketplaces online are iStock and Shutterstock. DepositPhotos is another good pick–while it’s not quite as large of a marketplace as the previous two, fewer sellers means fewer competitors for photos, so your photos may perform better on that site.

Website Templates and WordPress Templates

Themeforest

If you design websites for clients, a possible alternative source of income would be to create and sell website templates. You could sell static HTML/CSS templates or templates for a specific content management system. The WordPress theme market has been huge for several years now, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

If you do client work, creating templates is something that you could do between projects or whenever you happen to have some down time. You could even use your templates as a starting point for client projects or offer the templates to clients that are working with very limited budgets.

Again, the process of selling templates is a lot like selling stock graphics or stock photographs. You can either sell them on your own site or sell at large existing marketplaces. The most popular marketplace is ThemeForest, but sites like Creative Market and Mojo Themes also offer excellent opportunities.

Plugins or Addons

CodeCanyon

If you’re more of a coder than a designer, you may prefer to create and sell plugins or addons as opposed to the other digital products. The market for WordPress plugins is huge, and there are countless opportunities for possible plugins that can be created. Aside from WordPress plugins, some platforms like Shopify include a shop where developers can sell their own addons. Your plugins could be sold at your own site, or you could sell at a popular marketplace like CodeCanyon.

Creating a Web App

Another more techy product opportunity involves creating a web app. There are obviously endless possibilities here, even though plenty of apps already exist in the design and development industries. There are web apps for invoicing, accounting, getting design feedback, creating proposals, designing websites without coding, and the list could go on and on.

In order to make money with a web app, you need a good idea and a well coded app, but the potential income is huge.

As with plugins or addons, you can sell your web app on your own site or again, you can sell them at online marketplaces such as CodeCanyon.

Offering Online Courses

Udemy

Another type of info product that offers plenty of earning potential is the online course. There is plenty of demand for online training related to design and development, and sites like Udemy allow you to sell your own courses to a large, established audience. Alternatively, you could set up the course on your own site and sell access to it.

Creating an online course will require some time and effort, and you’ll obviously need some expertise on the subject at hand, but the potential is there. With so many sites offering online education in the industry (Treehouse, Learnable, Tuts+), there is plenty of competition, but there are also plenty of people looking for this type of training and education.

Looking for More Selling Opportunity?

In addition to selling your products on your own site or on typical online marketplaces, you can also sell any of the products I’ve listed here on online discount marketplaces. Discount marketplaces typically sell in high volume quantities at deep discounts (80%+ off the retail price), and  sell lots of resources bundled together in one bundle. So in order to participate in discount marketplaces, you’ll need to have a large quantity of items to sell and be willing to accept less revenue per item in exchange for hopefully selling at a higher volume. There are lots of discount marketplaces around the web, but Mighty Deals has one of the largest email lists, and therefore they produce some of the highest sales volume that I’ve seen with discount marketplaces. A few of the other large discount marketplaces that I’ve had good success with include InkyDeals, StackSocial, and DesignCuts.

Wrap It Up

As you can see, the products that you can sell are endless, so choose a focus and concentrate on growing that product to it’s fullest potential. If you’re still pondering what to sell, make a list of which products inspire you most. Then, after you have a complete list, figure out the products that will show the most return in as little time as possible and that require the least amount of time and effort to create. Then start ramping up your promotions, and you’ll be pulling in the revenue in no time!

So after you have your website set up, your marketing efforts honed in, and your revenue streams optimized to their fullest earning potentials…. now what? We’ll show you what’s waiting for you around the corner. Stay tuned…