How to Create Digital Products in 2024

Learn how to find or create your own digital products to sell online

Becoming a content creator has surprised me. It hasn’t just made me a better writer (and reader). It has opened doors and forged new contacts and partnerships while rewiring my brain to think differently. And when it comes to making passive income, learning how to sell digital products online and then how to create digital products of your own can be two of the most profitable time investments you can make.

You have two choices:

  1. Sell other people’s products
  2. Create your own

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Which is the best option for your online business?

Selling other people’s digital goods is a great way to begin, while you find your feet in the online world – and there are lots of high-quality options to choose from. It can also be a shortcut to making money because you can focus on the selling part without having to worry about how to create digital products for the first time. Spending a long time making something that doesn’t sell is not the easy win you need to keep going with something new.

The obvious drawback is having to split the revenue. But that’s the big upside of creating digital products of your own to sell online, alongside the control it brings. You get to rework them into different formats later (e.g. turning an eBook into a video course or online course) and grow your brand as well as your revenue. It’s true that digital products do require a large time investment at the beginning, but once you’ve created them, you can go on selling them – potentially for many years (and take 100% of the profit). And the upfront financial investment is minimal.

Digital product formats displayed side by side

Option 1. Find a digital product using the best affiliate sites

This is where you’re going to find quality digital products to sell. But you’re going to have to be choosy because there are hundreds of thousands listed on the sites below. Bear in mind that you will mostly have to split the revenue you generate from each sale with the product’s creator. The split will be different for each product. And the affiliate site will also charge a commission for making the transaction. (Also, the customer usually has 60 days to request a refund, so be prepared to lose a few sales afterwards.)

Amazon

Let’s start with a name we all know – one of the first online marketing networks.

The bad news is that commission rates are comparatively low: between 1% and 10%. The good news is that Amazon is highly trusted among consumers, with 100 million users every month, which means that when the product link takes your potential customers to Amazon to fulfil the payment and shipping, they are more likely to buy.

There’s more good news: if your customer clicks on your online product link and then decides to buy something else at the same time while they’re on the Amazon site (e.g. a new TV), you also earn commission on that, too.

ClickBank

One of the best-known affiliate sites, ClickBank, specializes in digital products. They take a 7% + $1 transaction fee from the total purchase price – the remainder of the money is then split between you and the product creator. You can get paid when you want, though – even weekly. People like it because the commissions are generally higher on digital products, and the checkout experience is really easy.

Clickbank website digital products page

ShareASale

Another company that has been around for over two decades, representing products from almost 4,000 companies (1/4 of those exclusive to ShareAStar). While the majority are physical products, there are plenty of great digital offerings. Commission rates vary between 1% and 20%, and they pay out on the 20th of each month, as long as you hit the threshold of at least $50 in sales. (Not bad – Amazon Associates, for instance, only pays out after 60 days.)

FlexOffers

Unlike the others listed here, they will assign you a dedicated account manager, which is great at the beginning, because they can recommend products to you and help you find your feet.

CJ (formerly Commission Junction)

This is not the easiest platform to navigate for a beginner. They will also deactivate your account if you go 6 months without a commission and are quite choosy when it comes to whether or not they accept your application. However, they do have partnerships with some big brands, like Nike, CNN, Klarna and BuzzFeed.

PartnerStack

This is an affiliate site built primarily for software. Commission can be as high as 50%, and because software is often paid for monthly, your commission can be a recurring monthly fee for the duration of the customer’s contract (often years).

You can join as many as you like – and you should, in case one of them goes out of business or cuts their commission rates, as Amazon Associates did a few years ago.

Option 2. Sell digital products you create

Learning how to create types of digital products was the best thing I ever did. It can be a fun, rewarding and creative process. And digital product creation has endless choices to suit everyone’s strengths.

Woman studying an online course on her laptop

Online course

This is a great format because education is increasingly taking up more space online, so people are used to learning on the Internet, or at least open to the idea of it.

Creating any digital product will lend you credibility in your chosen topic, but there’s a cache to video because most people find it difficult to do – and do well.

The income is passive, though there’s a lot of work upfront.

While you can create online courses with just text, you’ll be at a disadvantage because video courses have a higher resale value and are more appealing to the consumer. That said, you don’t have to be on camera – you can record your computer screen and talk people through what they see.

Price

If you host your own course on your own website, you can charge what you like. Somewhere around the $100-$300 mark is typical for a premium course – though I recently took one for $3,000, so it depends on how much value you’re giving, the quality/amount of competition, market pricing, and what the subject matter is.

Do your research and see what your competitors are charging.

If you’re using a third party platform, like Udemy, a more realistic price is $10-$30, of which you only see 50%. However, they have a lot more visitors to their site than you get at yours.

Tools

Camera

You could probably get away with using your phone to start with, before later investing in a DSLR camera (from $300 to $5,000). The picture quality is increasing all the time.

Microphone

A USB mic ($30 to $100), like the Logitech Blue Yeti, or a lapel mic ($60) will do the job initially. Later, you can invest in a shotgun mic ($300) or dynamic mic (from $250).

Screencast Software

You’ll need to record your computer screen. Screenflow (Mac only) starts at $169, or the more feature-rich Camtasia (PC & Mac) is $300.

Lighting

Initially, you could get away with using natural light (sitting near a window) or a ring light ($30), but there are some great softbox or umbrella lighting options starting at around $100.

Structure

Video content should typically be recorded in 2-10 minute bite-size chunks to keep people focused and interested.

Group your videos into sections for each topic. Each topic should have an introduction and a conclusion video (or wrap up each topic within the last video).

Where to sell your course

 You can either do it yourself or use existing solutions, like an established e-commerce platform.

Marketplace pros + cons

– There’s a lot of competition

– Most sites cap prices, prohibiting higher fees

+ You benefit from their marketing

+ There’s a ready-to-buy audience

Examples

Udemy

SkillShare

StackSkills

Self-hosting pros + cons

– You have to do all your own marketing to attract an audience

– You need to pay for access to self-hosting tools (e.g. Teachable)

+ You have control over pricing and chosen topic (some marketplaces have rules)

+ You have direct access to your students (marketplaces don’t give you their signup details)

Examples

Teachable

Thinkific

Kajabi

Coaching written out with wooden blocks

Coaching/Consulting

You can choose one-on-one coaching sessions, group coaching sessions, or consulting sessions. They’re all a great way to make money if you have specific knowledge. You just need to work out a way to teach or guide others on what you know. You can do this on a phone call or, more commonly, on a video call (e.g. Zoom or Teams).

It’s a premium product because you’re offering 1-to-1 advice (or close to it, in small groups), which is a higher perceived value, meaning you can charge a higher price per customer.

It’s not passive income, but you can systemize it to make it easier. This can be a great way to make money and still give up your day job, while you spend time developing passive income streams. And what you learn from your customers’ pain points may give you the material to record an online course or video course later.

You’ll still need to market yourself as an expert, which will involve growing a brand – but that will help other areas of your business in the future, like developing other digital products such as courses to generate passive income – and help increase your fees.

Price

This is a much more valuable digital product than other offerings, so you can charge more for your time. But, how much? This will depend on many things, like the subject matter, your expertise, your clientele, your competition, your target audience, and your brand recognition.

Taking all of that into account, another place to start is deciding how much you want to be paid per hour.

Look at what your competitors charge and undercut to get initial traction.

You can always increase your rate later, for instance, if you begin to pick up too many clients.

Tools

Camera

You want to look professional if people are paying a significant sum to talk to you, so you’ll need a webcam ($30-$100). Remember, you want people to recommend you to others.

Microphone

Similarly, you want people to hear every word you say, so invest in a USB microphone ($30-$100).

Lighting

It depends on how much natural light your room has. But, you can pick up a pack of video lights on tripods for $50.

Online Meeting Apps

You can use free apps, but you might want to invest in the paid options for more features.

Zoom

Skype

Google Meet

Payment

You need to get paid, and there are several options.

WordPress plugins

Integrate these into your website, so that when they book, they pay at the same time. PayPal and Stripe are free to use, though they take a percentage of each sale (2.9%).

Shopfronts

If you use WooCommerce or Shopify as your online shopfront, they have integrated payment options.

Calendly

This is primarily a scheduling calendar that customers can view to choose a consultation time that suits them (you can block out times in advance). It’s free and integrates with your website. However, if you choose one of their premium plans, Calendly can also take payment. This is the simplest way to charge your customers.

Structure

Two options: Will your coaching session be a one-off or ongoing?

If it’s a one-off, you need to structure all your material into the time you’ve scheduled for each session.

If it’s ongoing, decide how many sessions are required and how often they will occur.

You want to under-promise and over-deliver. So, don’t make promises you can’t keep, and think of areas where you can add value that’s unexpected. Perhaps there’s a free information sheet or bonus material you can send after your session has ended.

Create templates for all your worksheets, forms and emails to keep things consistent and systemize your workload. For instance, you might want to create a questionnaire to be filled in before your session, or a feedback form afterwards so you can improve your coaching.

Try and set goals or markers for later, so that your clients know that they’re on the path to success later. This gives them added confidence that they got value from your coaching.

E-reader showing ebooks

eBooks

Nothing lends credibility like being a published author (albeit self-published). It can open up opportunities in the worlds of public speaking, interviews, guest-posting and broadcasting.

It’s a great way for people to find you, and it’s a digital asset you can sell (maybe via a few updates) forever. Aligned with other digital products, it’s a great way to grow your income.

After the initial upfront work, sales are entirely passive.

Pricing

The easiest way to work out what price to charge is to look at similar books selling on Kindle. Go to the same category on Amazon and search for similar titles.

If you’re selling on your own site, you can charge a higher price, as there’s no competition from other books and visitors have already bought into you in some way, or they wouldn’t be there. If you choose another e-commerce platform, you have to decide why you’re selling the book. If it’s as simple as making money, you’ll aim for the top end of your price window. If you’re doing it to gain credibility or to get reviews quickly, you might want to price it low, at least to begin with. Many authors initially launch at $0.99 to get reviews and appear higher in the best-seller list, before raising the price later.

Tools

Writing App

Whatever you prefer to use – Word, Google Docs or Apple’s Pages.

Scrivener ($59) is something I use and like a lot – designed specifically for writing projects.

Formatting Software

You can do it yourself on something like Word, but it’s difficult to do. Scrivener has this function built-in, or you can buy a specialist tool like Vellum ($199). Kindle Create is free but prohibits you from using it with formats other than Kindle.

Outsourcing

There are areas of the process that you might want to get someone else to take care of. Unless you have experience in this area, I would recommend having a proofreader ($0.01-$0.03 per word) and/or editor ($0.01-$0.05 per word) read your finished manuscript. At the very least, ask a friend to proofread (perhaps in exchange for a thank you inside your book) – there WILL be things you didn’t spot. You don’t want a bad review, just because of some typos or lines that don’t make sense to other people.

People do judge a book by its cover! Unless you have experience using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, get an expert to help drive your sales with a great cover. For a book cover specialist, this will cost $100-$300 using a service like Fiverr, Upwork or 99designs. Bear in mind that most people will see your book as a small thumbnail on Amazon.

Sales

You can choose to sell this on your own website, but if you don’t yet have an audience, you might want to consider someone else’s in addition. There are lots of options, like Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

The most obvious option is Amazon’s Kindle bookstore because it’s the biggest book marketplace. Royalties (for books under $9.99) are fixed at 70% of the purchase price, which you are free to set. This gives you access to a huge ready-to-buy global audience, though the competition is fierce. If you enrol in their KDP Select program, your title must be exclusive to Kindle, but you get access to promotional tools and Kindle Unlimited.

How long?

A rough rule is 10,000-40,000 words for non-fiction.

Your title needs to convey one thing: how your book benefits the reader or solves their problem. It should aim to be 1-5 words that are attention-grabbing and benefit-driven. Then add a subtitle with a further pithy benefit or supporting claim.

Man interviewing a woman while recording a podcast

Podcasting

There are many revenue streams for podcasters, but often people use it as a marketing tool to grow their audience and enhance sales of other digital products. It’s a way for other people to find you – perhaps different demographics – and to make a deeper connection, because they get to know you through your podcast personality.

Tools

Microphone

You could use your phone, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Investing in a USB mic ($30-$100) will pay dividends in retaining your audience.

Editing

You’ll want to remove any gaps, false starts or mistakes from the final cut. Audacity is completely free to download for PC and Mac, as is GarageBand, which comes free with a Mac. Adobe Audition is a professional-quality editor for $21 per month.

Hosting

You need a place to store all your audio files and then distribute them to wherever listeners get their podcasts, e.g. Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Buzzsprout is one of the easiest hosts to use for beginners and has a free plan. Podbean will also get you started for nothing and has an advertising marketplace for monetizing your content.

Format

You’ll need to decide whether to do it solo, do interviews, co-host with a friend/colleague – or mix it up.

Income Streams

I used to work for a media company that makes podcasts, so I’ve seen first-hand that revenue comes slowly. That’s because you need volume – first, in terms of audience, which in turn comes from consistently publishing new episodes of engaging content. Plenty of people make a living solely from their podcasts – it just takes time.

There are lots of ways to monetize a podcast, and you should be looking to use as many as possible to diversify your earnings. A (very) rough rule of thumb is that you can make $1,000 per month for every 1,000 digital downloads.

1. Direct Support

This is the simplest way to make money at the start because you’re simply asking your audience to support your podcast. It’s easy to set up using Patreon, creating a page that explains why you need support and collects donations from your loyal listeners.

A lot of podcasters use Patreon to monetize a premium offering with bonus episodes or material like newsletters, downloadable content, and exclusive membership groups, e.g. private Facebook groups.

2. Sponsorships

This is the most common and lucrative way to earn, but probably not until you hit 5,000 downloads per month. Typically, the host promotes the sponsor by reading out an ad, with average earnings between $10 and $30 for every 1,000 downloads. (The really famous podcasts can earn far in excess of this, though.)

Once you’re growing, advertisers in your space may well come to you. Until then, you can find sponsorship deals here:

Ad Results Media (ARM)

Authentic

True Native Media https://truenativemedia.com/podcasters/

Podcorn

3. Affiliate Sales

Instead of being paid by the download, you earn a commission for every sale you make for another company. You’re given your own affiliate link to their website, for example, Sony.com/Richard. When you publicize their digital product(s) and mention this link, you earn money every time someone uses it to make a purchase.

4. Products

You can sell complementary digital products, like courses, merchandise, consulting services, ebooks, access to live events, etc. If you’re selling digital products you created, you can use a drop-shipping or print-on-demand service to keep it simple or read out a link to a page on your website where they can buy from.

Man recording a webinar

Webinars

This is an event held online, used to teach or share knowledge or ideas (or sell digital products). The benefit is that you have a highly engaged audience (they’ve put the date in their diary, made sure to turn up online and then watched you speak). To register, they need to give you their name and email address, so you will automatically generate new and high-quality leads. A webinar is also the perfect selling tool.

Tools

Webinar Software

There are lots to choose from, depending on the size of your audience, cost, and the features you need (registration payment, automated recording of your webinar, live offer displays, email marketing and SMS text notifications, pre-recorded video presentations, and more).

Livestorm (free for 20 mins per session, up to 30 attendees)

LiveWebinar ($17.99/month for up to 100 attendees)

Webinar Ninja ($29/month for unlimited attendees)

WebinarJam ($39/month for unlimited attendees)

Microphone

You can see how often this product seems to pop up! Once again, you’ll need a USB mic for professional sound quality.

Webcam

And for a more professional picture quality than your computer’s built-in camera, invest in a webcam ($30-$100). As you can see from reading this page, you’ll get plenty of use from a USB mic and camera.

Income Streams

Registration Charge

If you’re sharing information that has a high value, you can charge for joining your webinar – although it’s online, it’s still an event. Look at your competitors to see if (and what) you should charge a fee. I would recommend doing a free one first, so you can get any mistakes or missteps out of your system.

Product Sale

Once you’ve gained your audience’s trust and shown yourself to be an expert in your field, you have the option to sell a product – perhaps one of your very own digital products at a special discounted rate.

Shared audience

A very popular option is to co-host a webinar. You will be introduced to a new audience via your co-host’s following. You could join forces and, together, create a new digital product, or sell one of their existing profitable digital products and split the profits.

New Leads

Once attendees have registered to access your webinar, you have the means to contact them later and offer other webinars or digital products.

People holding a sign that reads "join us"

Membership Site

This is a gated section of a website that contains members-only exclusive content. A membership site can be free, paid or tiered (offering different levels of membership for different values, perhaps including a free tier).

Tools

1. Self-hosted membership site using a plugin, like Memberpress or WooCommerce. They allow you to convert your website into a membership site. You’ll need to pay for that plugin and also for a video hosting service, like Amazon AWS, Wistia or Vimeo.

2. Pre-built membership site. This is the easy option, e.g. Teachable, Thinkific, or Kajabi (more expensive, but offers more marketing options). You just sign up with a few clicks (no worries about hosting, design, administration, or collecting payments). The downside is that they are more expensive.

You can share any kind of content with your members, either just to view or to download: PDFs, PowerPoint slides, audio, video, audiobooks, and your blog.

Pricing

If you offer value in what you share, people will be prepared to pay for it. You’re going to need to research your competitors because you can charge anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month.

Options:

  1. One-time payment with lifetime or fixed-period access
  2. Monthly or weekly payment plan
  3. Or free, of course
Woamn entering her credit card details online to sign up to a subscription service

Subscription Service

This is a digital product or service that you offer access to for a recurring subscription fee, either monthly or annually. Think Audible and Netflix. The benefit is that you don’t need to constantly spend time finding new customers in order to earn income – you just need to retain your existing customers. Of course, adding subscribers grows your monthly income even further.

Use any of the digital product ideas listed in this article.

Tools

1. Payment processor

Eg. PayPal (click on ‘Subscriptions’ in the Pay section and create a plan). You can copy and paste the HTML code for the payment buttons on your website.

– Or try a shopping cart platform like Thrivecart ($495 for a lifetime deal)

2. Website or membership site

You can use the same platforms I mentioned above in the Membership Site section: Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi (more expensive but offer more marketing options). Choose the ‘Subscription’ option when creating your payment plan.

Pricing

As always, you’re going to need to do some research into your competitors. However, here are a few factors to bear in mind. You can charge more…

  • …the more well-known you are in your field
  • …the narrower your chosen subject/niche (e.g. sports vs golf putting)
  • …the higher the quality of your material vs your competitors
  • …the greater the financial value your subject brings (e.g. financial investments)
  • …if there is a scarcity of this kind of information
  • …if your content is unique
  • …if your audience is more affluent
Dictionary showing the word 'mastermind'

Mastermind Group

This is a selective group of your existing clients who are willing to pay a higher price to get exclusive access to you. For instance, if you teach people how to sew, a small section of your audience may be prepared to pay a premium to accelerate their learning with additional coaching from you – either 1-on-1 or as part of a small group.

It’s something to think about for later when planning what content you’re going to create and sell. You would only want to upsell this option to your existing audience because people will need to have already experienced the value you bring.

Tools

Online Meeting Apps

You can use free apps, but you might want to invest in the paid options for more features.

Group Platform

You’ll want to create a private members’ area where your clients can connect and form a community and where you can share news, ideas, and information.

Your Offer

Start by working out your membership’s goal – what will members want to achieve? Then work backwards to get a structure for your mastermind meetings. Next, you’ll want to create an agenda for each meeting. You will need to decide how often to host them (weekly, bi-monthly or monthly) and how big the group will be (I would recommend no more than 10 – the more exclusive, the better).

Pricing

This should be expensive! The exact price you charge will depend on the benefit you provide (e.g. if you’re offering to double people’s income in 12 months) and how affluent your target audience is. Your group can’t be too big, so your price should exclude most people. And remember, they will also get access to YOU – which is normally something money can’t buy.

If nobody enrols, you can always drop the price or offer a limited-time sale price.

Stock & Template Products

Be warned that this market is highly saturated, so you’ll need to try to carve out an individual niche within your sector. Alternatively, try to ride the early wave of a new trend or product, e.g., create templates for a new social media platform that’s just been launched.

Examples of products:

  • Create stock photos (though stock photography is a huge market), videos, music, sound effects and graphics
  • Create presets for software, like Adobe Photoshop (e.g. make your photos look like Polaroids with one click)
  • Digital templates, e.g. Google Sheets, website templates, website themes, e.g. for WordPress website, design templates, presentation templates

Selling Platforms

Two options:

1. Self-host on your own website using a plugin, like WooCommerce – or on another platform, like Shopify, Sellfy, or BigCommerce.

2. Use marketplaces for your chosen product, e.g. Shutterstock for stock photos. They all have different revenue share options and rules (e.g. they must be exclusive on their site), so you’ll need to research your particular product.

Pricing

If you’re using a marketplace, each has its own pricing structure depending on its business model, e.g. a subscription service vs a pay-per-download model.

If you’re self-hosting your digital products, you’ll need to see what the competition is doing. But if you have any sort of profile within your chosen market, you’ll be able to charge a premium over other marketplaces.

How to create digital products using a printable school timetable

Printables

This is a great option for making money online because downloadable prints are often easy to create, and the entry cost is low. However, competition is high, so you’ll need to put in some work at the beginning to gain traction. A printable is anything that can be downloaded online and printed by the buyer. Digital product ideas:

  • Calendars
  • Checklists
  • Fitness and habit trackers
  • Planners
  • Worksheets
  • Coloring pages
  • Stationery
  • Greeting cards
  • Party banners
  • Signs
  • Recipe cards
  • Menu templates
  • Resume templates
  • Games
  • Sewing patterns
  • Digital art (or analogue art captured in a digital format)

Tools

Design app

Ideally, you’ll be using something like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Canva.

However, you can often get away with using Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or Google Docs.

Alternatively, you could just come up with the idea and then pay someone on Fiverr, Upwork or 99designs to do it for you.

Where to sell

Again, two options:

1. Self-hosting on your own website using a plugin, like WooCommerce, to create your own store online

2. Using marketplaces like Etsy, Sellfy and Creative Market online store for digital downloads

Pricing

How much to charge depends on the complexity of your design and how much your competitors charge.

Very roughly, for a one-page printable, you’re looking at between $3 and $8. If your printables are editable by the customer, you can charge around $5-15.

Man holding cell phone displaying all his apps

Software & Apps

If you’ve ever had an idea or thought of a solution to a problem (and nobody’s beaten you to it), you could consider creating an app for mobile/tablet or software for the computer. Competition is high, though, and there are many big companies with big marketing budgets.

An easier route might be to create something you wish had been available in your old job or something you can integrate into an existing/future business and sell additionally to your clients. This way, you already have an audience to sell to that will hopefully spread the word further and do your marketing for you.

Design

You have 3 options:

  1. For the cost of a course and some of your free time, you can learn to build your app. It means that you can launch any other ideas you have in the future, and all financially risk-free.
  2. Hire a developer. You will get your app to market faster, and it will be professionally made.
  3. Partner with a developer. You agree on a revenue share so that the developer creates your app for free, and then you split all future revenue.

Developer

You can find developers on sites like Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr (usually a bit cheaper) from upwards of $100.

Selling Platforms

Often, the developer will submit your app to the Apple iOS and Google Play app stores for you as part of the deal, or for a small additional fee. Alternatively, click the links below for instructions on how to submit:

Wooden blocks displaying the letters FAQ

FAQs

What are digital products?

Digital products are goods that exist in a digital format. Anyone can have a digital product idea. These include ebooks, music, digital art, online courses, and computer software or apps. They’re typically delivered to customers via download or email and offer businesses a way to provide value without needing physical inventory. If you have specialized knowledge, it has value.

Why create and sell digital products?

A digital download has many advantages over a physical product. There is no need to hold physical inventory, there are no shipping costs, and once you have created one, you can start selling it – and resell it repeatedly. As a result, startup costs can be low, and profit margins can be high.

How do I sell digital products?

The challenge of selling digital products is finding your audience. Selling on a third-party platform or online store does not guarantee that your potential customers will find you among many other competitors. Relying on Google search won’t be enough. You may need to deploy your own content marketing and digital marketing strategies.

Click on another of the 4 modules in the Butterfly System to learn more…