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How to sell digital downloads & online products for passive income

This guide will teach you how to create and sell a digital download from end-to-end, whether it's your first time opening an online store or you're a seasoned creator.

Great things start from small beginnings:

The electron becomes part of the atom.

The atom becomes part of the molecule.

And the molecule becomes part of the compound -- so on and so forth. 

Dipping your toe into digital selling works the same way. Is selling online courses and memberships a great way to make a profit online? For sure. Are they the easiest digital products to sell, though? 

They can be if you have the time and experience to make the hustle work for you. 

If it's your first time to start a business, however, or you've never created content to sell online before, they're not always the best fit.

Why? Because they take time. A lot of it. Too much of it for the millions of creators who are still juggling a day job on top of their side-hustle. 🤹‍♀️

That's where digital downloads come in, and that's what this guide to selling digital products will help you with today. 

Digital downloads are easy to produce, cost-effective, and a great way to make a name for yourself without taking on a ton of risk as a first-time creator. 🙌

Plus, whether your first digital product is a free digital download, an ebook, or somewhat else, you can get up and running in one week or less . . .  without sacrificing every waking hour to it.

Sounds great, right? We think so, too. Over the next nine chapters of this guide, we’ll walk through every step to create and sell a digital download, including ideation, prep work, publishing it, and profiting from it.

Before we dive into that, though, let's make sure we're all on the same page: what exactly is a digital download, anyway? 🤔

What is a digital download?

A digital download is an electronic document, file, or a software package that can be downloaded, whether for free or as part of a sale. Users download through a digital device (i.e., computer, phone, or tablet) without having to physically install anything.

Digital downloads come in many formats including audio files; video tutorials and files; ebooks; software apps; printed products like checklists, workbooks, and templates; and creative assets like fonts, graphics, and PSD files. 

But . . . along with those opportunities come a mountain of questions. 😨

Confusing questions, at that, such as:

  • Which type of digital download should I create?
  • Will my audience be interested enough to pay for it?
  • Should I set up a Shopify site, a WordPress site, or neither?
  • What about using a marketplace -- what are the pros and cons of selling on Udemy or a similar marketplace? 

And it just gets more complicated from there as you consider:

  • Where do I put my buy buttons and how do I include a download link to my product?
  • Should I offer discount codes or run special sales?
  • How do I upload my content so my customers can download it?
  • Which payment processors do I need to work with to get paid on time? 

These are all great questions to think about, but they're even better questions to get answers for -- so without further ado, let's start breaking them down in Chapter 1. 👇

Table of Contents

  1. Chapter 1

    Digital vs. Physical products: Which should you sell online?

    Is creating a digital download right for your business? In the first chapter of this guide, we'll show you why selling digital products may be better for you than selling physical wares with an ecommerce store or WordPress site plugins. We'll look at the ins-and-outs of selling digital goods, why selling on your own site is better and more cost-effective than using online marketplaces, plus the many other benefits of creating digital files for a paying audience.

    Jump to chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2

    19 examples of profitable digital products to sell online

    Want to sell digital products but need some inspiration? Drum up your best and freshest ideas with these 19 real-life examples of digital downloads from entrepreneurs like you. In this second chapter, we’ll look at the five categories of digital product examples, including printed products, ebooks, apps, video and audio files, and creative assets, plus give you the dirt on the state of the market for each product type.

    Jump to chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3

    Digital product ideas and tips for creators in need of inspiration

    After inspiration naturally comes ideation. In the third chapter of this guide, we’ll go in-depth on how to come up with your first digital product idea. We’ll start with choosing the best format for your skills and interests to the potential options with each file type. Then, after that, we’ll go step-by-step through how to validate your idea with grassroots social media market research. Finally, we’ll show you how to bring it to life with a quick tutorial on using Podia's platform.

    Jump to chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4

    How to sell digital downloads from your own website

    Whether you've laid out all the prep work from the previous chapters or still need help coming up with an amazing digital download to offer your audience, the fourth chapter of this guide will help you start selling today. Over the course of nine simple and straightforward steps, we'll take you from proof to profit with your digital download, and we won't skip any of the nitty-gritty details along the way.

    Jump to chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5

    The comprehensive guide to pricing digital products and profiting

    In this fifth chapter, you’ll learn the best way to price one-time digital downloads. From sales tax to transaction fees and beyond, we'll start by walking you through two popular pricing models: cost-based pricing and value-based pricing. After that, we'll provide actionable tips on doing pricing research and testing, and then we'll top it all off with three best practices for generating more revenue with discount codes, promotions, email marketing, and more.

    Jump to chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6

    5 UI tweaks to boost trust on digital download sales pages

    Trust is the ultimate make-it-or-break-it factor for selling digital downloads, and if you’re not doing your best to make your sales page as trustworthy as possible, you’re leaving money on the table. In the sixth chapter of this guide, we’ll dive deep into five data-backed, proven user experience strategies to make your digital download sales pages so trustworthy it’ll get invited to the next neighborhood shindig.

    Jump to chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7

    4 steps to launch your digital download from scratch (+ Free checklist)

    Whether you’ve opted to sell your digital download year-round as an evergreen product or to launch it for a limited time, you’re going to need some hype to make your sales soar. In the seventh chapter of this guide, we’ll take you through four easy steps to get your audience excited, find new customers, create a community around your brand, and build a pre-launch sales funnel.

    Jump to chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8

    4 ways to prevent digital product piracy and theft

    Piracy and theft are concerns for every type of creator, no matter what type of digital product they sell. Whether it’s music tracks, ebooks, or even a free digital product, your business could suffer some serious blows if someone gets unauthorized access. In the eighth chapter of this guide, we’ll look at the reality of piracy prevention for homegrown creators and entrepreneurs and then give you the tools, tips, and tricks to protect your bottom line against theft.

    Jump to chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9

    3 tips to get more sales & downloads for your digital products

    If you want recurring payments from repeat customers and passive income with digital downloads, you need automated marketing funnels that can run without you. In our ninth and final chapter of this guide, we'll look at what you need to appeal to people on search engines, how you can bring in even more revenue with strategic linking, and how to create drip email campaigns around your digital downloads.

    Jump to chapter 9

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