How did you first learn to do math?
Did someone sit you down, walk you through the process of writing a number, and start teaching you basic functions with a pencil and paper?
I’m guessing the answer is no. Some parents like to use fruits, but my parents were old school: I got an abacus.
(The multi-colored thing you see this adorable critter playing with below.)
Why do we put off teaching kids how to add with written numbers from the first day?
Because when something is foreign, you aren’t ready to conceptualize it. It’s only once you’ve felt a thing in your hands and seen it up close that you’re able to make the transition from theory to practice.
The same logic applies to digital products.
Obviously, you can’t hold it in your hands, but when you’re just starting to scratch the surface of digital product ideas, being able to see and experience real-life examples is the difference between a dream and a deliverable.
To make that process go a little smoother, we’ve put together 19 examples for you to check out and divided them between five categories to make it easy to find the perfect inspiration-sparking example for your business.
Let’s get started.
What kind of printer do you have in your home? In your office?
Not all that long ago, I could’ve guessed the answer:
- In your home, you’d probably have an inkjet model, those printers that take small cartridges and make a sound not unlike a dial-up internet connection while pages roll out slowly. (For the youngins, they sound like moderately mellow dubstep.)
- At the office, you’d have a laser printer. It spits out papers so quickly that they’re hot to the touch and certified technicians are required for anything more complicated than a paper jam.
Nowadays, those aren’t safe assumptions anymore. Why?
Heck, I’ve printed off entire textbooks on a cheap laser model, and some people even have the good fortune of owning 3D printers that make full-fledged sets of armor.
My point in this examination of printers is that it’s far from the days of consumer printing yore.
Where ink and paper were once cost-prohibitive and you’d have to think carefully about how much you really wanted to print something, that’s not the case anymore.
(In fact, the average American office worker goes through one sheet of paper every 12 minutes.)
Which means there are more opportunities for digital product creators than ever before to produce printer-ready consumer goods.
But that’s a little vague: what exactly is a printable resource?
Among other things, printable resources might include:
- Sewing patterns
- Charts and signs
Basically, if it can be put on paper, you can package it as a printable resource for sale.
Printable resources aren’t a one-pony show, either.
If you’re an online course leader or trying to educate people with your products, paper mediums actually fare better for learning outcomes. An older, but still valid, study found that the effect of scrolling reduces total comprehension for those with lower working memory.
I.e., children, older adults, and people otherwise occupied with the thousand little distractions of modern life.
Similar studies with college students have found that performance -- particularly detail-oriented performance -- goes up when a reader is engaged with print rather than text.
So creating printable resources isn’t just an easy way to start a digital product business: it’s a science-backed way to help your customers get more out of your online courses (and reward you with more revenue for the effort, of course).
But okay, that’s enough about the virtue of paper. Let’s look at some examples.
4 examples of printable resources
#1. Finding purpose journal by Justin Lee
#2. In her head - The ideal client workbook by Melissa Camilleri
#3. Being calm and feeling fantastic by Cheryl Kennedy
#4. Printable sign language charts (Deluxe bundle) by Tiny Signs
Now, let’s change directions completely and talk about going back -- rather than off -- the digital screen with ebooks.
Ebooks can be a divisive topic at dinner parties, and a misplaced word can easily spring a long-winded sermon by bibliophiles on the tactile advantages of print books.
Fortunately, there’s no such schism about how profitable they can be, nor how much they’ve helped authors forge their own financially lucrative paths outside of the big publishing world.
Before we go any further, I should clarify that ebooks can come in any size -- from a short five pages to a full-fledged textbook -- and are as fantastic as premium digital products as they are as lead magnets.
Don’t believe me? Check this out: this is a graph of HubSpot’s most shared lead magnets in 2017.
40% of them were ebooks, so the public is definitely receptive to this type of product.
That said, I have to make a caveat about citing statistics for ebooks as a market. While I reported that they outsold print and audio books in 2017 in our article about side-hustles, it turns out there’s a massive, gaping hole in the data.
Or rather, there’s a gatekeeper.
Because much like SEO, the majority of the data is held in a titan-like grip by a single entity, Amazon, and what outsiders -- even those within the publishing industry -- can see is limited by the tech company’s willingness to share data.
Which is not, it turns out, ample.
And thanks to Amazon’s tight-lipped policy, you can’t go very far on the internet without encountering an article that talks about the death of the ebook and rise of the printed page.
The problem with most of those articles is that they’re looking at numbers reported by publishing houses, which overlooks self-published books.
And, of course, Amazon has a significant hold over the data around those self-published books.
When you look at ebooks within the scope of both those published beneath traditional houses and by the authors, the “death of the ebook” isn’t quite so definitive.
So, let’s put that headline to rest. The ebook is not dying today, was not dying yesterday, and isn’t likely to succumb soon, either.
Now, let’s check out some awesome examples of ebooks that are selling today (and will be tomorrow).
4 examples of ebooks
#1. Clean eating, healthy living by Sally Twellman
#2. My first logo by LogoInspirations
#3. Create better thinking/Cognitive distortions by Laurie Dwyer
#4. Mastering digital wedding photography by Paul Gero
Next, let’s take a gander at software and applications.
Ever heard the phrase “there’s an app for that?”
I’d like to recommend an additional clause for it: “there’s an app for that -- and if there isn’t, there’s an untapped market.”
Increasingly, our lives are reliant on applications -- they keep us connected to coworkers across the world, provide the bridge between customer and customer service, and so much more.
So if you’ve got the skills or the want, creating an app as a digital product is definitively a viable path.
And don’t sell your skills short too quickly. Even if you don’t have a lick of development, you can create an application with prototyping software like InVision (free) and Principle (paid) as long as you have an eye for design and a passion for creating great user experiences.
I’ve created three in the last twelve months. The extent of my coding knowledge wouldn’t make a thimble overflow.
But let’s back up. I said selling applications is a viable path, but just how viable is it?
Very. Consider this: smartphone ownership is at its highest ever, and our palm-bound devices are becoming a major hub for gamers. More so than desktops, even.
As for how much money, you only need to take a glance at the two biggest app stores to get an idea of the scope.
Global app installs grew by 11.1% in 2018, exceeding 105.3 billion between Google Play and App Store.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. “I’ve downloaded a ton of apps -- most of them were free, how is that profitable?”
Methods for monetizing free applications vary depending on what the app does and who it’s for, but don’t worry, ads -- you know the kind, obtrusive screen-interrupters -- aren't the only game in town.
“We haven’t changed our strategy since,” explains designer Christian Perez of their journey to 500,000 users, “The only thing I can foresee is adding more affiliate links, but only if it adds value to our users.”
OK, but enough talk. Let’s check out some examples of apps that are thriving under entrepreneurs’ hands.
3 examples of software applications
#1. Pixel vision 8: Tune by Pixel Vision 8
#2. Thumbnail generator by Alex C Barr
#3. Dentalelle academy app by Andrea Majewski
Next up, let’s switch gears and look at video and audio files.
Video and audio files
Online courses definitely fall into this category, but in the interest of shaking things up, let’s look for something a little off the beaten path.
(Want to learn more about online courses? Swing by our case studies section to learn about how our creators are enriching students’ lives -- and their personal income -- with online courses. It’s pretty exciting stuff.)
Starting with video, not all educational videos need to fit into the online course model.
Sometimes, they’re just one-off events -- maybe from a recorded webinar or demo -- that resonate well enough with the audience to turn a profit or generate leads.
In fact, this type of video is among the most consistently produced businesses trying to drum up and engage with customers.
So if you’ve got something to teach but don’t want to commit to an online course, packaging your videos as downloadable files is an easy alternative and outlet for your passion.
It also allows users to take their videos on the go, which makes it significantly easier for them to use educational videos to train their staff or share with a group.
(If that’s not your ideal arrangement, you may want to consider sticking to the online course format, particularly if piracy is a major concern for you.)
As for audio files, I have one word for you:
They’re popular for many of the same reasons that podcasts are beloved -- they’re portable, don’t require the sum of our limited attention to enjoy, and location-independent.
At least, that’s what over 1,000 survey respondents said.
But I know seeing is believing, so without further ado, here are some real-life examples.
3 examples of video and audio files (that aren’t online courses)
#1. The first ten by Alex Hillman
#2. GMAT quant mastery guided audio by Rowan Hand
#3. Professional ready to animate rig: Run cycle by McCoy Buck
Incidentally, our last example makes the perfect segue for our final section of the day, because it’s not just an educational video -- it’s also a creative asset.
Do you know what the beauty of the side-hustle economy is?
With so many new entrepreneurs and businesses entering the online market, there’s a growing need for yet more businesses and entrepreneurs to support them.
It’s a wonderful cycle, and it isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
As for what falls into a creative asset, the limits are pretty loose: branding assets, fonts, design templates, stock photography, and slide-decks are just the top of the iceberg.
Did that last one surprise you? It shouldn’t.
Consider this: creating a slide-deck takes over eight hours for almost half of the people who create their own.
That’s a full work day spent in the auspices of a presentation program, and even if people enjoy the process (I don’t), if you can provide them an affordable, attractive solution that gets them those eight hours back, you’re in a good position to sell.
In fact, if you sell enough templates and creative assets, you can do more than just deliver products for one consumer: you can potentially create a marketplace for others to sell their assets, too.
That’s what FilterGrade did, going from no audience to over 50,000 unique monthly visitors in three years.
Alright, let’s roll out some examples and finish strong.
5 examples of creative assets
#1. Blocs templates by Eldar Gezalov
#2. Graphic vaults by Kenz Soliman
#3. Wireframe & userflow UI kit by Mackenzie Child
#4. Workbook template by Allison Burns
#5. Boho chic workbook by Vanessa Ryan
As you can see, creative assets can take as many forms as you can dream up, and when you produce assets like this, you’re serving the best community in the world:
Other small businesses.
And there’s few greater rewards than that.
(The revenue still holds the top rank, though.)