When I first started my stationery shop, I declared a technology revolution. I only planned on selling handcrafted goods. An ode too the past.
It was 2011 and designers were just entering the Etsy shop scene with digital offerings. I proudly set up my shop with handcrafted goods – ONLY.
And then the requests started rolling in.
“My party’s this weekend and I love your design. Can you send a digital version? Please?”
These conversations popped up in my inbox – usually around Wednesday or Thursday – multiple times a week.
But I was determined to only sell handcrafted goods.
My decision wasn’t without reason. I liked controlling the quality of my designs. Customers sometimes printed with terrible quality printers and incorrect paper types. I thought the quality was better when I printed for them. And I was probably right.
I was also a bit lazy when it came to digital products. Others who sold them were reporting back spending hours not designing, but fielding customers questions. They needed to know how to print, why it wouldn’t print and why the colors didn’t match the screen.
But as the kids grew, there was a romance with the idea of not being stuck in the studio for at least a portion of the day completing orders.
Suddenly the idea of introducing digital products became alluring.
What is a Digital Product?
A digital product is something that is digitally created and sold exclusively online. No physical product is sent and many times this kind of product requires customers to perform an action to use it. For example, they might have to download it and print themselves.
Digital products offer freedom. The freedom to explore. They give you passive income so you can spend your precious time on other things. You can also sell an unlimited number.
So, a few years later I took the leap and introduced digital designs to the shop called printables. Printables are one type of digital product where I sell my designs to customers digitally. They then download the designs and print whereever they are located.
Why Digital Products are Important to your Online Shop
I love the art of handmade. I am a big supporter of our local creators and other Etsy sellers. It’s the first place I go for gift giving needs.
But I also know how much work really goes into making a handmade product. Handmade means people power. The creator has to be completely involved in the process. And this takes time. And when the process isn’t set up correctly, this business model isn’t easy to scale.
For me, to create a set of handcrafted invitations takes a number of steps. I have to complete the proof, get it approved, print, hand cut and package. It’s exhausting. And it isn’t a process that I easily get a break from unless I completely shut down my shop. Which is really bad for SEO.
More importantly, though, I discovered that I can only do a certain number of handcrafted orders a day without completely tiring myself out. There’s little energy left to be creative. I am guilty of not setting my shop up as a scalable model.
Selling digital products changes all of this. So, I started offering all of our party designs in digital format as well as invitations and holiday goods.
It turned out my audience really wanted digital products. I enjoyed customizing the designs since I could do a lot more in an hour.
If you haven’t explored the idea of digital products yet, I recommend considering it. Even if you already have a shop selling handcrafted goods.
Digital offerings will differentiate your income stream and give you another way to earn money. You can also sell as many as you want. There are no limitations to your growth since you aren’t relying on physical labor to make them.
When thinking about digital goods that will work for your shop, get creative.
How can you take your current product offering and transform it into something that can be sold as a digital product?
If you run into difficulty, consider asking your current audience what they would like to see. You’d be surprised how many ideas they have.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of digital goods in my shop. Here are my favorites (and most popular) that I recommend trying.
What do party designs, signs, art prints, coupon organizers and hospital bag checklists all have in common? They’re all printables. And they are all digital products that you can sell in your shop.
Printables are one of my favorite types of digital products and something that we sell in my stationery shop. Customers want convenience – especially when it comes to kids’ stuff – and printables deliver.
But what kind of printables should I design?
That really depends on your interests and audience. I recommend creating things that they’ll find useful. I work in party stationery, so our printable designs are for kids birthday parties, baby showers and holiday celebrations.
Before starting your printables adventure, figure out the things that your audience wants to buy. You could make a couple of designs to give away for free on your blog. See which ones they are most interested in. Let this popularity drive your product creation.
Most importantly, have fun. Designing printables has been some of the most fun I’ve had with graphic design.
Do you have expertise in an area others would pay to learn about? And you like to write? You might have the makings of an e-book author.
An e-book is just like a regular book, but it is sold digitally and read on an electronic device.
You can write an e-book about practically any topic. Just make sure you choose a topic that you’re knowledgeable about. It makes it easier to write an e-book when you know at least a little bit about the topic.
Once your e-book is written, you can sell it on many different channels. Do some research to see which one is best.
If you have knowledge that others are willing to pay for, but don’t want to write a book, you could create a course instead. I love taking online courses from experts on subjects that I need to learn more about. It’s the perfect alternative to having to go back to school and sit in a classroom.
The downside about making a course is that it can be time consuming. Courses have many different moving parts. They usually include videos, workbooks/printables and other elements to make them beneficial to the course takers.
To get started creating your own course, check out Teachable. They offer resources, advice, a free e-book and lots more to help you create a successful first course.
Creating the course might not be your problem. Launching it might be. If you are looking for ideas to help you launch your course, check out this course from the Six Figure Blogger. I recently finished it and learned SO much about creating a course and launching it to my audience – the RIGHT way.
Don’t think courses are for you? Many artists and handmade business owners are not fully convinced that creating a course is the right direction for their business. I get it.
But, think again. You can charge a lot more money for a successful course – more than any printable design. And you can teach you audience about something new – most likely skills they really want to learn.
The best part – after you create the course (minus some occasional updating) – your income is completely passive. You don’t have to do too much more beyond selling it. So, start brainstorming and see what course topics might work for your shop.
A template is a design that the buyer fills in on their computer. If you think back to the beginning age of computers, you used to find templates in word processing programs. You would power up Microsoft Word and choose a template – say for a flyer – that worked for your event.
Unfortunately, since everyone used the same word processing program, all of our templates looked the same minus a couple of graphics.
Fast forward to today. You can go onto Etsy, Creative Market or any other website that sells designers work and find a template that fits your needs. Everything from invitation designs, photography layouts, wedding guest seating posters and flyers for the next school event.
If you are a designer, templates are a great way to make one design and let others customize it. You can make it and forget it.
When customizing the template, you used to need Adobe Acrobat Reader. These days, though, you can use other template editing programs such as Corjl and Templett that allow customers better fonts, color choices and other design elements to make their template design their own.
Guides and Tutorials
This digital product idea springboards off of creating courses. You might even want to write a guide or tutorial to include in your course. You could then sell it separately too.
If you have an expertise that others are interested in, you could write a guide or tutorial about it. This type of product is different than an e-book because it’s usually shorter, includes a series of how-to steps and lots of graphics such as infographics.
One way to write a guide is to transform a blog post that you’ve written into a longer form tutorial. You can add more diagrams, information and other elements to make it worth the price.
Guides and tutorials can be written for many subjects. I’ve seen them for photography, design, decorating (a successful interior designer wrote an amazing guide to how to pick the right paint color), sports/fitness and health.
So, find your subject expertise and brainstorm different things others might want to learn about it.
And remember, nothing’s too easy when someone is starting from scratch. Hence, the interior designer that wrote a successful guide on choosing colors for your home.
Remember Sewrella? Ashleigh is the crochet designer who transformed her business from selling handmade crochet products to patterns. Now she runs a popular crocheting blog and digital products shop selling crochet patterns.
If you have a handmade shop that creates products using your own original designs, consider transforming them into patterns others can purchase to make themselves. Our society is in a DIY movement right now. We want to have a part in the making process. Digital pattern sales take the “you” out of making and let’s others explore their craft.
Still enjoy crocheting? Coming from someone who doesn’t do any of those handicrafts, think about offering your customers both options. They can purchase a pattern or a handmade final product. That way they can buy the piece that fits them best.
If you’ve been in business for awhile, you probably have scripts or templates that you use for communication. These written templates, if you’re still in business, have probably been pretty successful.
Believe it or not, these templates are very valuable to those who lack business communication skills. Many businesses are unsure what to write in their weekly newsletter, newest sales pitch or email subscriber onboarding.
If you have a series of very successful business scripts, you could turn them into a digital product to sell to other businesses. They can use your script to write their own communications or even as a guide to get started.
A stock photo is a photo that is already created (and usually styled). Stock photos are used by businesses, shops, websites and others for their graphic design work. The benefit of stock photography is that it keeps the costs of creating images down for businesses. These days, with a such visual environment, stock photography is in high demand.
So, if you are good (or at least decent) at taking photos, you might find selling them successful. You could use a photo site to sell your images. Some include Shutterstock, Fotolia and iStock.
The best part about selling stock photography is that you load your photo, enter the metadata and then collect your paycheck when it sells. You will need to research the different commission each stock photography site pays since it varies greatly.
Another option for selling your photography is to open an Etsy shop for digital images. Here you can sell individual photos or bundle them into a series. You will need to set your own licensing rules and be clear with customers how they can use your photos.
Any interest in web development? I will be the first to admit that programming and web design is NOT my field. I leave these things to the experts.
But if coding and building web designs for others to use is something that you enjoy creating, selling WordPress themes would be perfect.
My only request is to make sure they work. I’ve purchased many a WordPress theme from ThemeForest only to load it and have it not function. So, before jumping into WordPress Theme design take a course, read an e-book and really understand what you’re doing. Your customers will thank you later.
Graphic Design Elements
If you’re a digital artist (or want to become one), there’s a huge need for graphic designers who can create beautiful art and are willing to let others use it in their designs.
Go on Creative Market or Etsy and you’ll find an assortment of graphic design elements for sale. These include clip art graphics, digital patterns, specialty fonts and Photoshop overlays. If you have an expertise in design, this might be an area that you want to explore.
What if I have a lot of Digital Products and want to Sell Them Together?
At some point in the design process, you might find that you have created a TON of digital products. Don’t worry, it happens.
You’d be surprised, once you get started designing digitally you might not be able to stop.
One idea if you have a lot of product offerings is to create a membership site. A membership site is an exclusive section of your website where members pay a monthly fee to have access to all of your digital goodies.
This is a great idea if you have a lot of printables, graphic design elements or stock photos. It works really well for those of us that love to design, but don’t always have time to list them in our shops. (I’m not referring to anyone I know…)
It’s also a great way to establish more community with your business and brand.
Creating a membership site can be difficult at first. You need to load all of your downloads into a section of your website that is password protected from everyone else. This will require a great deal of coding knowledge or hiring a professional web designer.
To make your membership site successful, you need to be consistent about adding new content. Members get a little crabby when the amount of new content doesn’t equivocate to the monthly fee.
If you don’t want to create that much content, you could have a one time membership fee. Sadly this does take away from the recurring income stream. But, you don’t have to create as many designs. Then, you could add a new design here and there, which would be less stressful.
How do I start Selling Digital Products?
So, now you’re sold. Adding at least one or two digital products to your shop will bring more success. But now you’re wondering how do you get started selling digital products.
Start by brainstorming different digital products you could sell. How can your current expertise translate into a digital form?
Next, decide on the platform you will use to sell your digital products. When Sarah Titus decided to create her first printables binder, she looked at all of the selling platforms out there. In the end, she decided to create a Shopify shop. This platform gave her the most freedom to control what and how she sold.
If you already have a shop started, it might be best to add digital products as its own category instead of starting a completely new store. This will make it easier for your customers to find the digital options.
After your digital products are set up, time to market them. Remember just sticking them in your shop doesn’t guarantee any sales. You can sign up for our free First Steps to Marketing course.
So if your online shop doesn’t sell digital products yet, it’s not too late. These days there are lots of different digital products that you can create in any niche. It’s just a matter of getting creative.
And remember, adding digital products is important to developing passive income for your shop. Passive income will free you up to create, sell and market your business more. All things I hear shop owners tell me they never have any time to do because they are making products and managing customers.
If you’re interested in adding a digital product to your shop, why not make it a goal next quarter. The sooner the better when it comes to generating passive income. Three cheers for your first (or next) digital product creation!