Opinion: How to Create and Sell Digital Products (That Actually Make Money)

Ryan Shannon

Disclosure: This story contains affiliate links to my eBook, from which I may earn a small commission.

First, I wanted to point out an important distinction between selling physical products online and selling e-Products: Physical products require a financial investment while e-products require an investment far more valuable: your time. 

You can’t just throw something invaluable together and call it an ecourse or ebook. 

You need to put real sweat equity into what you do. 

While creating a physical product also takes time, and developing an e-product may take money, in general, you’re going to put way more effort into creating an e-course than you are a physical product, since, after all, you’re selling knowledge.

The good news is e-products require little to no upfront money to create.

Turning My Thesis Into a Digital Product

Take my ebook, Laptop Entrepreneur, for example. The ebook was originally my thesis required to graduate from my Business and Management program in Italy. It was supposed to be 15 to 20 pages anyway, so I told myself: why not spend a little more effort and time and create something that could (potentially) pay off forever? 

Why not create a little ebook and sell it on Amazon and my own website? 

And so, killing two birds with one stone is exactly what I did.

But, what did I have to sacrifice to create my book? My time of course. I was working 45 hours per week for my required internship and instead of tuning out and watching Netflix after working long hours, I forced myself to write something for my eBook. 

I also spent several hours skimming other blog posts, research reports and acquiring data to plug in to the book. This meant spending some of my Saturdays and Sundays hunched over my desk writing instead of hanging out with friends or being a couch potato. 

Setting Realistic Expectations

Will my efforts pay off? Hopefully. 

But even if they don’t and I don’t make crazy profit (which I’m not expecting to become a millionaire from the quick eBook anyway), at least I have something to show potential clients who would like to use my marketing or copywriting services.

That’s something to keep in mind before you begin creating your digital product: there’s no guarantee it’ll be a success. There’s a chance that all your time and efforts can lead to no financial gain. But, there’s also a chance that you’ll be successful, too. 

Research, Research, Research

The key to increasing the chance of success is researching! For example, with my book Laptop Entrepreneur, I didn’t blindly choose it because I’m passionate about creating a living online and traveling the world. 

Instead, I realized there were several articles being published about how the workforce is shifting from a traditional in-person one to one that is remote. I read an article entitled ‘Why working from home should be standard practice’ from Ideas.Ted.com that talked about the benefits of allowing employees to work at home. 

The article reported that a company, Ctrip, found that they, “‘saved $1,900 per employee over the course of the study on office space…But to [their] amazement, the work-from-home employees were far from goofing off — they increased productivity by 13.5 percent over those working in the office. That’s like getting an extra day’s work from each employee.’ 

The people working from home also reported shorter breaks and fewer sick days and took less time off.” After reading this, and other sources, I knew that the modern workforce was changing and that there’s potential demand for an ebook like this.

Also, I looked on Amazon Kindle and noticed there were other books out there, but none that gave realistic, concrete strategies to making money online while traveling and living cheaply abroad. 

And so, my eBook was born! I did my proper research and realized there’s a market for the content I created. In summary, before you start investing your time into your digital project, you need to find there’s a market first.

Passive Income 101

One thing you may notice about all of the above is that they’re all mostly passive income strategies. In case you’ve never heard of passive income, it basically means making money while you sleep. You’ve put in the effort to create a product, carried out proper marketing strategies and have a platform to accept payments and deliver the product automatically. 

After that, all you need to do is sit back and relax! 

This is different from active income, contrastingly, where you trade your time for money. And, there are varying degrees of ‘passivity’. For example, with this eBook, I may choose to simply upload it on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), gather a few reviews, and call it good. 

Or, I may write a monthly blog post on high-authority websites and add a link to my eBook there to continue to gain traffic. You can be as hands-off or laissez-faire as you wish.

Focus on Creating Value

As with the other strategies, you want to ensure your product is valuable. Whether you teach something from a unique perspective or create a customized plan for customers or have a great app you’ve developed, it needs to be worth your buyer’s time and money. If not, you’re going to earn a poor reputation, be left with negative feedback and deal with customer complaints. 

Don’t go half-way in your efforts. 

Try not to hold back and share as much valuable information as you can. And again: you need a website or a third-party selling platform to sell your products.

Chase Feedback

After making a sale, you don’t want to keep your buyers hanging! Be sure to collect feedback from your valued customers and make changes to your course, website template, diet plan, etc. to improve it for others, if necessary. 

Creating digital products is always a game of trial and error. 

On top of receiving — and acting — upon feedback, you want to collect buyer reviews, just like physical products. Another strategy to implement is using a satisfaction guarantee. 

Chances are, if you’ve put in your blood, sweat and tears into creating your digital product, you won’t have many returns (you should expect less than 1% if you’ve created value). 

But, there are always those customers that are hard to please. Instead of fighting with them, realize it’s not worth the stress (nor is it worth jeopardizing your reviews and reputation). Instead, just give them their money back and let them go — you’ve got other customers who value what you’ve created, anyway! 

Hopefully, difficult customers are the least of your concerns when implementing this Laptop Entrepreneur lifestyle. Selling digital products can be a great way to supplement your income — or even be your main source of income.

Examples of Digital Products You Can Make

  • eBooks
  • eCourses
  • Printables (calendars, planners, coloring pages, etc.)
  • Data
  • Guides
  • Apps
  • Software
  • Premium Memberships
  • Premium Newsletters
  • Templates
  • and tons more! (A book that will help you create digital products is: “Selling the Intangible” by Meera Kothand)

Where to Sell Digital Products

After picking a digital product to sell, the next logical step would be selecting a digital marketplace to sell your digital products. You’ve probably already heard of Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, but there are plenty of other lesser-known marketplaces (such as Gumroad, Flippa, and Redbubble) where your digital goods can be sold.

To find out more on how to become a Laptop Entrepreneur, read my book here.

Thank you for reading my story. Follow me for more stories & updates. 

Click here for my socials, website & books.

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Digital nomad, I/O psychology student, entrepreneur. Visited nearly 30 countries. Author of 5 books on freelancing, travel, mental health.

Bellingham, WA
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