biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: how to create digital products

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl. Tara created Scoutie Girl to empower people to live more creatively and change the world with their money. Tara is sharing tips and reasons for creating digital products for your business. Her insights and know-how on the topic are vast, and she has graciously shared some helpful advice on how to get your own products started. If you’re looking for more help in addition to this post, check out her own slate of digital products and services or get her free mini-course to move from procrastination to accomplishment with creative action! Thanks, Tara, for such an informative post! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

My very first digital product was an ebook on blogging. It took about two weeks of dedicated time to write, publish and prepare for sale. I released it during the first big snow storm of last winter. My husband and I celebrated every single $15 sale. We kept track of sales all weekend, as each got us closer to realizing our goal.

I was generating income while the snow was coming down — no mailman or car trips required.

And at the same time, I was providing information and ideas that my customer base was demanding. It was a win-win. And, with nearly 500 copies alone of that product sold, it has kept on winning for the last 10 months.

I’m no longer a stay-at-home mom with a business on the side. I’m the sole breadwinner for my family — earning enough to allow my husband to quit his soul-sucking job — and a leader in my field. While much of this success was the result of sweat and tears, it was also due in no small part to my success with creating digital products.

Digital products are my number one income stream, making the dream of owning my own business and providing a great life for my family a reality.

Why Should I Develop a Digital Product?
Creating digital products can be one (big) step toward creating a more sustainable business. Digital products allow you to serve more customers, replicate more time consuming work and provide your services at all hours of the day or night.

These products are far from easy money, even if they are referred to as passive income. It is hard work to create a professional finished product, write sales copy and set up sales systems. However, the rewards far outweigh the challenges and, once you get started, you might just get addicted!

Digital publishing and online sales have opened up industries that have long been difficult to break into. You — yes, you, even in your business — can create a successful digital product that provides a valuable service to customers and improves your business model.

Now that you’ve got the bug, keep reading to see what kind of digital product will benefit your business, how to create it and how to sell it.

What Kind of Product Should I Develop?
Tired of the word “ebook”? Good, me too. The best digital products on the market today are so much more than just pretty PDFs. Here’s a list of what might work for you:

  • membership community
  • ecourse
  • paid newsletter
  • webinar
  • conference call
  • group coaching
  • workbook
  • printables
  • digital design templates
  • multimedia ebook
  • ezine

If you have something to teach someone, you can develop a digital product. Because our culture is so do-it-yourself focused, developing an informative product based on a premium one-on-one service that teaches your customer how to create something similar at a lower price point can help you reach an audience you never thought viable.

As the new wave of digital shelter magazines demonstrates, creating a digital product is also a great way to get around traditional publishing boundaries. Got something to say? Say it with a digital product.

Who Will Benefit from My Product?
As with any product, you can’t sell it if it doesn’t have an audience.

Digital publishing has long been the domain of business-to-business sales. Sure, teaching people how to make more money is a great sales tool. But digital products can also be developed for consumers. Think printable stationery, digital scrapbooking resources, the new spate of design magazines and customizable calendars.

When considering the audience for your product, think about who you’re not currently reaching with your existing products or services. Is there a way to translate those products to the digital medium? Can you lower the price to reach new customers?

You can also consider the opposite. Maybe your customers are ready for the next level. Can you develop a premium product to take them there? Can you offer additional features or bonuses that will let you attract more experienced or high-end buyers?

Finally, the easiest way to develop a product and know its audience is to look in your inbox. As a business owner, you no doubt get emails by the hundreds asking you for information and resources on x, y or z. Developing a digital product around x, y and z allows you to capture those emails as sales leads instead of sending them to another business.

Got My Idea. How Do I Create This with Software I Already Have?
Many people would like to get into digital product creation but assume there are many barriers. Well, there aren’t.

I created my first ebook with a demo version of Pages (part of iWork for Mac). Within a few hours of launching it, I had paid for the full version. I love working with Pages for ebooks because of the advanced layout functions. But you can also use Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat Pro, even Google Docs or Open Office to create a PDF suitable for publishing.

If you’d like to create a more interactive product, you can use blog software, like WordPress, to create a private blog or website that only allows access to buyers. Use a free plugin like s2Member and you can integrate payment and registration seamlessly.

Looking to create some pretty printables? Use your photo or design program of choice to create PDF files that include easy instructions for printing and assembly. Don’t assume they have intimate knowledge of their printer settings like you do.

There are also a host of online applications that allow you to create magazines, webinars or conference calls for little or no upfront cost.

It’s Done. How Do I Sell It Online?
To sell a digital product, all you really need is a PayPal account and web space.

Using a service like e-Junkie or Clickbank can also automate your product offerings. Big Cartel offers an application called Pulley that does something similar and integrates with your existing shop. Any of these services will dramatically reduce the time involved in selling and distributing your products.

Not only do these services handle check out, they provide automatic and secure downloads for your products, redirect customers to your private website, compile newsletter lists, and make it possible to update your product for customers in the future.

I use e-Junkie and have been very pleased with its integration with peripheral services (for me, Mail Chimp and PayPal), its flexibility and most definitely its price, which starts at just $5 a month.

Whatever you choose, you’ll need to set a space on your website or blog where you’ll describe the product, offer testimonials, show images, etc. This is your product landing page or sales page. It’s where you send readers who might be interested in purchasing your product. It’s where you describe their needs, detail your solutions, answer their questions and make the offer.

How Do I Get the Most Bang for my Digital Buck?
As with the any online sales, selling a digital product is not a matter of “if you create it, they will come.”

Having a strong, interactive email list is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your digital product. You can use your list to build excitement about the product as you create it. Ask your subscribers what questions they’d like to see you answer. Get feedback on your ideas. Being a part of the process means your subscribers will be more likely to buy on launch day.

You can do the same thing with your other social media networks. Start building buzz early. Detail your progress. Let them know what you’re struggling with. Tell them about your successes. When you involve your customers in the process of product creation, you’ll feel more confident in the finished product.

If you haven’t built a large following on social media or a big email list yet, don’t despair. You can build buzz about your product by guest posting on other blogs about related topics. You can also submit your product (for free) for review to other bloggers in your niche.

Just about anything you can do with a physical product you can do to promote your digital product, including advertising, giveaways and sales.

But the Holy Grail of digital publishing is affiliate marketing. Now, no squirming at that term. Affiliate marketing is a natural, profitable and intuitive way to sell your new product.

Affiliate marketing is the means by which your friends, customers and colleagues promote your product for you and receive a cut of each sale they generate. It’s really no different than selling a physical product at wholesale. If you go with a service like e-Junkie to sell your product, you can set up your affiliate program in just a couple of clicks. Each affiliate will also sign up through your service and will receive a unique tracking link to use when they promote the product.

You should supply them with banners and ideas for promoting the product. You might offer to do interviews, send them a sample, or answer related questions about your product.

With affiliate marketing, you have the opportunity to activate a whole sales force around your products. You’ll reap the benefits while helping to support other business owners at the same time.

So Do It Already!
Still here? It’s time to start creating your first digital product. Whether it’s the premium ecourse you’ve been dying to create or a free ebook you’ll use to start building your email list, the only way to get the rewards of developing a product is to just do it.

Your first offering may not feature the latest in ebook design or the freshest multimedia but working through the process of brainstorming, development and launch will help you become more comfortable with creating products. As with anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll become.

Creating digital products isn’t just the latest craze; it’s the perfect way to build a more sustainable business, a broader customer base and greater authority as a business owner.

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  • Thank you for this post! I like all the ideas for alternate formats. My sister and I put together ebook of craft projects for the holidays and I am really thinking about how to promote our project, especially because we don’t have a huge blog following. I think you have some really good tips for that as well, thanks!

  • Perfect timing, ladies…I’m starting to produce printables that I want to include in my site’s shop. And I’m looking into starting a mailing list/newsletter for my far-flung customers. Thanks :)

  • This is such a timely, helpful post! I was at BlogWorld last week and left with the sense that I needed to be doing more of the exact kinds of “digital product” activities you describe. Your post has helped me put some context around how to execute some of these ideas. Greatly appreciated!!


  • I was saying last night that I wanted to create a blog on how to draw, paint, sew, ect. This post gave me some inspiration on how I could make it create some income as well. Thanks!

  • well this is perfect timing, we just launched a printable area of our website, starting with some kids masks. i love all these ideas :)

  • yay! So glad this post was helpful & timely for many of you. It’s something I believe very strongly in and with the digital publishing revolution, it will only become MORE important to incorporate into our businesses.

    Please keep me posted on your idea & your success!

  • I blogged for 2 years on wordpress.com and built up a large following-then I burned out because my topic was too narrow-so I went offline. Now, I’m blogging on a private domain. For those who are just starting out: I would go to wordpress.com. You will get more traffic and once you have a large following-DON’T take a break like I did-but import your old blog to your new private domain and redirect your readers. That’s the most economical and practical way to grow a blog. Try not to narrow your blog’s focus too much-burnout might happen. I didn’t see too much on this site that would benefit anyone-maybe I missed something?

    • carolina

      i don’t think i understand your comment. this post is talking about using a private wordpress blog as a way to give paying customers an e-product like a book, daily advice, or consulting. it’s not about regular personal blogging or building traffic from the ground up, but rather using that private feature to facilitate a specific business (e-products) need.

      i’m not sure what you mean about not seeing anything on this site to benefit anyone. i think this article is full of great ideas so i think perhaps you did miss something. unless i totally misunderstood your comment.

      *also- i think it’s worth nothing that niche blogs are often some of the most successful on the web (food, photography, mom blogs, etc) so if you are interested in doing a narrow topic, it’s important that it’s a topic you genuinely love. every blogger gets burnout, niche or not. it’s about creating a schedule and topic that feels natural to you.


      • Thank you so much for the advice! I recently started trying to sell my photos of Cuba online and I’m a new to Etsy and the whole notion of selling digital designs online for passive income. Keep up the good work ladies!

  • I’m such a huge fan of Tara’s writing because it always motivates + empowers me to grow my indie business! I’m currently in the process of building my mailing list to start offering digital products really soon + this article has been really helpful to start nailing my dream + begin converting it into a real thing! Thanks! Perfect timing!

  • great post, Tara! I have working on making digital patterns to sell, but your list of other types of products has given me lots of new ideas. thanks so much for sharing all of your practical “how to do it” info as well! i had not heard of E-junkie – it looks really cool!

  • Wow. This was so timely! I have been seriously considering developing some premium digital downloads for my particular niche topic (sewing/vintage fashion), but wasn’t sure where to start or how. Thank you so much for this piece!!!

  • Tara- you always inspire me! I have had an ebook in my mind and partially done for a while…this gives me great tips and motivation to get it going. Thanks so much!

  • I’m going on my third year doing pdf printables and it’s such a win-win for the designer and the customer. I get to be creative without spending a lot of money on materials/inventory and customers get a low-cost product that can be reproduced many times over.

    I got several emails last year over the holidays from people that had lost their job or were struggling financially and they told me my products saved their Christmas. When I started selling digital products, I didn’t realize the impact it could create in people’s lives.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Definately one of the most useful biz lady posts that I’ve read so far! Thank you so, so much for this – very timely and helpful to me.

  • Hello Tara!
    I am from Argentina and loved this post. I am actually looking for a business where I can sell without spending a lot of time and money on packaging, mail and everything that doesn’t seem so easy when you are overseas. I have to read carefully and take some notes and go for it!
    Thanks a lot!!! ;)

  • Heather, that’s such a great story! Thanks for sharing. It can be so easy to make self-centered biz decisions (out of necessity mostly!) but when our needs & our customers needs line up so beautifully, you know you have a sustainable and joyous business!

    Seems like this is perfect for you then! There are so many ways you can take these ideas – be creative & make them work for you!

  • Love this detailed and inspiring post! My first experience creating digital products was printable stationery and invitations. I got hooked! That experience made me realize that I’m a minimalist at heart and having a lot of inventory weighs on me. Now I’m redesigning my creative business to focus on digital products in a different niche.

  • I have been thinking about how to generate even some tiny little funds from my blog… this is a great idea. I put up my first printable digital item (a freebie) this morning. I’ll see how that goes, and perhaps make others for purchase when I get into the commerce sites you mentioned. Thanks for the great advice!

  • Tara, your wisdom in this area continues to feel helpful and insightful. Thank you for doing what you love and sharing your talent with all of us!

    E-courses have recently taken the place of online classes for those of us at Red Velvet Art and seem to fit into that natural progression of things. They’re more work up front but then they’re done. I’m finding it frees up more time to breathe in between deadlines and it is SO fun to ‘make money in your sleep’!

  • I hope I’m not too lte in submitting a question but I got really excited about this post and am in the process of developing products to sell via Pulley.

    Just one burning question: Is there any way to protect your digitals from file-sharing. My mom pointed out last night that once someone downloads the art onto their computer, they’re free to share it for free with someone else. Aside from legalese that you can put on your shop’s site, is there a way to protect yourself from this or is this just part of the territory?

  • Jaimee, such a good question. Each of the services offers protection of the download link. But once the actual file has been downloaded, there’s no protection that I’m aware of.

    Funny, it’s not a real common concern ininfo product circles. I think that people take the price they pay seriously and don’t want to devalue the things they buy.

    That may be naive of me though ;)

  • Tara, I think many of us have been on the fence about creating digital products, thanks for the push, especially the links to help automate the process.

    Jamie, I too, have been wondering about how to handle sharing the love (digital files) too freely. Is it OK to add a copyright mark or discreet logo to artwork? Anyone?

  • I am very inspired. I hope that I can take the steps needed to be successful like you one day without having to battle rush hour every morning!

  • brilliant, thank you tara! i’ve just done a couple of ecourses and found them to be an excellent way to learn and make connections. i’ve also started downloading sewing patterns, knitting patterns, it seems like a great way to do things. so inspiring. x

  • I think the Biz Ladies articles would be a GREAT digital product! I would love to be able to download all of these articles in one fell swoop. =)

  • Wow, this was a very helpful article as we have an ebook (on how to become a professional pattern print designer) coming out soon but were not sure how we were going to sell it. I just tried Pulley and it works wonderfully! Thanks so much for the tips!

  • Thanks for this. I’ve posted a few free downloads I made for fun on my tumblr. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this though.

  • Thank you for this great series. Often I think we get so caught up in the competitive factors of business that we forget to support one another. Many thanks for sharing the info!

  • I’ve had this bookmarked in my browser for the last 6 months and finally got around to reading it… And I have to say, perfect advice and perfect timing! I’ve been feeling shy about creating a buzz before my product is out and shop is up because of fear it’s not going to work out! But it’s all part of the process and part of making it a success. Thanks! xx

  • Hi Thanks great article and added value!!! Thanks, I have a question who can help me to develop my own digital product, and who do you suggest in case you know to make the layout of the written part? Do you think also interactive products mixing videos, and PDF and a lots of good added value material can be designed with one company that is expert in this niche? I have the idea the subject but do not have the graphical abilities to do something professional so I need kind of help of experts , any suggestion?
    Thanks and best regards, Ricardo S. G

  • Hello,
    I am a nurse who would love to learn to create printables to sell on Etsy or a lil shop. But, the software programs I’ve seen with templates and designs to create cards, menus, banners, tags, etc. all have copy laws and say they are only for personal use. Can anyone suggest a brilliant software program for tags and cards and other printables, which allows the sell of the creations? Thanks so much in advance. Alicia J.

    • Hi Alicia

      You typically need to pay for rights of licenses to do things like that. I don’t know of any free resources that let you profit from other people’s work.


  • Great article Grace! I’m a self taught digital designer but still have lots to learn. Once my digital copy is saved in pdf form(would that be the only option I offer)? what service would i use to store and send the download to the customer from my selling platform (Etsy) I also see shops offering “instant downloads”
    Thanks so much for your time!

  • Its been over five years of this post and is still relevant to so many markets out there, especially in Latin America. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  • I use a system not mentioned here, MadBeeTech at http://www.madbeetech.com. It’s designed for the automated selling of digital downloads. It’s a complete website that has a site builder and shopping cart. When a visitor adds an item to the cart and checks out, he ends up at your PayPal page where he pays by PayPal or credit/debit card.

    The best part I like about it is that once a visitor makes a purchase, he is automatically emailed a message with a link to instantly download the purchased file or files. And I automatically get emailed from PayPal saying the funds are in my PayPal account. I don’t have to do anything regarding sending out the purchased files. It’s only about $3 per month. Works for me.