Start Your Own Business Fast by Creating Digital Products
Last updated: September 3, 2021
Did you know that almost 75% of all online purchases are for digital products? Digital products like eBooks, online course, music, patters and Lightroom presents are in high demand today, and because selling these items doesn’t require a lot of startup costs, budding entrepreneurs can start a business fast by focusing on creating digital products.
Ease and the low cost of entry aside, let’s take a look at more reasons digital products are the ideal commodity for a new business and explore the steps required to get your venture off the ground.
8 reasons to sell digital products
Digital products are anything that exists in the digital space: goods like ebooks, courses, music, and sewing patterns. There are many benefits to starting a business that specializes in these items.
1. No inventory
One of the greatest barriers to entering the ecommerce space is the cost of manufacturing, storing, and shipping inventory. But none of these is an issue with digital products. You won’t need physical space to store these items, other than the original file, and you’ll never have to worry about ordering or producing enough units to meet demand.
2. High profit margins
Digital products have low overhead costs and are typically inexpensive to create. Plus, as noted above, you won’t have to store them or ship them, so very little will cut into your profits. Once you’ve recorded your music, written your ebook, or designed your photo preset, you can sell it countless times, meaning your profit margins can be quite high.
3. Independence from suppliers
The autonomy of a business that sells digital items means you won’t have to rely on suppliers or manufacturers, so, unlike many ecommerce businesses recently impacted by the pandemic, you’re not at the mercy of the market.
4. Instant “free” delivery and immediate access
Online shoppers often expect fast, free delivery, and with digital products, you can offer it. Customers can download goods immediately, so there are no shipping costs for you or the buyer. Plus, there are no long lines at the post office, no missing packages to track, and no risk of items breaking during shipment.
5. Low product-return rate
Because they’re downloadable, these products aren’t damaged during delivery, and there’s a very low chance that customers will receive a faulty product. This means an extremely low product-return rate. If an unsatisfied customer does require a return, you can issue it immediately without having to wait for them to ship the product back.
6. Infinite scale
Digital products can be scaled much more quickly than physical ones. Plus, it typically won’t require additional investment, storage space, or staff to upgrade your offerings or expand into additional items.
7. Passive income
Most of us wouldn’t turn down the opportunity for a little extra cash — after all, 45 %of Americans have a side hustle. Selling digital products is a great way to increase your income, because once you create the product, you simply automate the selling process and start bringing in cash.
8. Personal freedom
When your products are digital, you’re not limited by geography or by traditional business hours. You can sell your creations anytime from anywhere and to anywhere.
What kinds of digital products can you sell?
The term “digital products” is a broad one that can encompass a wide range of creations. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones to sell online.
With the multitude of self-publishing tools available today, anyone can share their ideas and expertise and become an author. And there’s serious profits to be made in the ebook business. In fact, ebook sales revenue is $1.1 billion annually, and half of those sales come from self-published authors.
Author Joanna Penn, pictured above, has even turned her writing into a full-time pursuit, and she uses Payhip as one of the avenues to sell her variety of fiction and nonfiction titles.
But no matter what kind of book you write, there are several steps to creating a high-quality ebook that people will want to buy and read. Check out our guide to writing an ebook, and learn how to convert your readers into longtime customers.
Monetize your experience and expertise by creating online courses for purchase. Courses can be created with video, through text, or with learning platforms, and there’s no limit to what you can educate customers about. For example, Payhip users offer courses on everything from how to to become an author to how to win at poker.
And now is certainly the time to create these educational materials. With more people confined to their homes because of the pandemic, it’s not just school children who are turning to online learning. More people are continuing their education online, and even companies are relying on online courses to train and teach employees.
Whether you’re recording your own hit single or making royalty-free music for other creators, you can sell your MP3s online.
In fact, revenue from digital music downloads amounted to $319.5 million in 2020.
Quilters, knitters, and other creatives are often on the lookout for original designs they can’t find anywhere else, so it’s no surprise these digital products have taken off.
And with the community aspect of this niche, socializing with fellow crafters is not only essential to a seller’s success but also part of the fun for both creators and customers.”Sewists now want connection,” writes Abby Glassenberg, who teaches sewing and sells her own patterns. “They want to know the pattern designer and feel connected with her company, and with her as a person.”
Photographers, videographers, and social media influencers often rely on presets for Adobe Lightroom to save time and give their creations a consistent look. And fellow content creators can purchase these presets to emulate the look of their favorite pics and create their own content faster.
Here’s how to get started selling Lightroom presets.
Any item you print out — such as calendars, meal plans, worksheets, day planners, and coloring pages — can be sold as a digital product. Payhip seller Pen to Publish has even created a career out of selling printables and coaching people how they can do the same.
Check out our guide selling printables.
Illustrators and designs sell downloadable graphics, fonts, templates, and more online. Eric Miller of UXkits.com sells flowcharts, sitemaps, and other digital products in his store, and Payhip user Peeely offers a variety of graphic templates and vector icons for purchase.
You can also sell memberships, which give subscribers regular access to new content — no matter what you create!
How to start a digital products business
Ready to start selling your creations? Follow these steps to launch your very own ecommerce business.
However, if you’re new to content creation and aren’t sure where to begin, first check out our content creator playbook, which will guide you through how to find your niche, do competitor analysis, and more.
Name your business
Your brand begins with your name, so use the following criteria to select a brand name that’s memorable and effective:
- Keep it simple. Whether you’ll be launching your own business site or setting up a store on a marketplace like Payhip or Etsy, it’s important that your name be memorable and easy to both spell and pronounce.
- Make it relevant — but not limiting. Your business name could be your own name, or it could be related to the types of products you sell. However, it’s a good idea not to limit your name to the types of products you can sell. For instance, if your store name is “Lightroom Presets by Nathan,” it won’t encompass all of your offerings if you later branch out into selling photography courses or ebooks.
- Be unique. The name of your business should be completely original and not too similar to any potential competitors. A unique name will always make it easier to optimize your business for search. (More on that later.)
- Do your research. In addition to making sure your business name isn’t already in use somewhere else, you’ll also want to ensure that you’ll be able to obtain a domain name and relevant social handles, because social media is one of the chief ways sellers market their products.
Determine where you’ll sell
There’s no shortage of ways to sell your creations online, and many entrepreneurs opt to sell their digital products across multiple sites and platforms.
Build your own website. You don’t have to be a web designer to put together a professional-looking web page. You can use tools like Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, and Shopify to get your site up and running fairly quickly.
And even if you plan to primarily sell your products on an ecommerce marketplace, you can still sell from your own URL, like Lea does in the screenshot above. Payhip makes this easy by allowing you to link directly to your products and even embed a button on your site so customers can make purchases.
Use a digital-products platform. Sellers can quickly and easily create an all-in-one digital storefront on Payhip. It’s free to set up an account, and the platform takes just 5% per transaction. And Payhip reports and pays EU VAT on behalf of its users.
Another benefit? Payhip users get paid as soon as a purchase is made, unlike marketplaces such as Amazon, which issues payments monthly. “The one thing I love about Payhip is that there’s no waiting around to get paid,” writes user Fabrizio Van Marciano. “You sell an eBook and the money is right there in your PayPal account instantly.”
Sell on an online marketplace. Digital items can also be sold on many popular marketplaces, such as Etsy and eBay. You can even sell certain items, such as ebooks and music downloads, on Amazon.
Make your products easy to find
Nearly half of online shoppers begin their purchasing journeys on search engines, so it’s essential to make search engine optimization (SEO) a priority so customers can find your products.
SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility in search. And whether you’re selling on your own site or on an ecommerce platform, there are steps you can take to make your products more likely to appear in potential customers’ search results.
New to SEO? No problem. Check out this guide to search engine optimization for beginners.
Market your business
When your products are ready, you’re all set to start selling online. Now you just need to tell the world that you’re open for business. Here are a few ways to get started.
Get social. Content creators must be active online to build community and share their products with potential buyers. In fact, more than 80% of shoppers have found an item they were interested in on social media, which is up from 58% in 2017, according to Curalate research.
“Marketing for me is mostly through social media,” says Lea, who sells quilting patterns. “Quilters are such visual people that Instagram is a feast for the eyes. It’s a great way to find new patterns, designers, quilters and inspiration.”
And Melissa Raimondi of Raw Food Romance relies almost entirely on social networks to promote her offerings. “I market my books with Instagram, YouTube, Facebook. and other social media platforms. I have a fairly large following of 50k on Instagram and 47k on YouTube. They are growing steadily from 500-2000 new people a month, so I find there are always new people who are interested in the recipes that I have to offer. I share images and stories about my recipes, and people get excited and curious and they want to try them.”
Rely on social proof. Social proof includes product reviews, customer testimonials, referrals, and more, and it’s a powerful way to build trust among consumers and persuade them to click “buy”. In fact, 92% of consumers trust recommendations more than other types of advertising, and 87% of them trust product reviews as much as reviews from friends.
This is particularly important for digital products, because while there are similarities in marketing physical and digital items, there are also some key differences. For instance, customers can’t pick up your product and test it out for themselves, so it’s important to integrate social proof where you can. Encourage customers to post reviews or ask repeat buyers if they’d be willing to write a testimonial for your site.
Partner up. It’s easy to find a community around your particular products. Whether you sell sewing patterns or printable day-planner pages, you’ll no doubt find groups of people who blog about their hobby, post about it on social media, or discuss it on forums.
So get active and make connections with the players in your industry. Contact bloggers about reviewing your products, or team up with a fellow seller or Instagram user to do a joint giveaway or promotion.
You can make a living selling digital products
Some sellers of digital products get started to indulge a passion, while others are looking for a side hustle to bring in extra income. Regardless of your reasons, launching your own online business has the potential to become a full-time job.
The internet is full of success stories from sellers whose ventures took off. And Penn, who makes her living writing and selling ebooks, is proof that selling digital products can become a career.
“It is absolutely possible to make a living with your writing,” she says. “I know this because I make a multi-six-figure income from my writing these days.”