Are you looking to sell digital products? Great idea! Digital products—like eBooks, courses, and downloadables—have become immensely popular, and for a good reason. Online competition can be fierce, but digital products are easier and less time-consuming to create and sell. Creating and launching an online course consumes 90% less energy than face-to-face training.
In this article, you’ll learn the most popular types of digital products to sell and why digital is (often) better than selling physical goods. Plus, we’ll teach you how to sell your products and which marketing tools to use!
Let’s dig in.
What are digital products?
Digital products are items that can be sold and distributed digitally. Examples include eBooks, software programs, online courses, and audio.
Nowadays, many freelancers and entrepreneurs take their (side)business online. You see photographers selling online courses, writers offering their eBooks, developers creating mobile apps, and designers offering logos and custom fonts.
The business opportunities for selling digital products seem endless, and anyone (you included) can create a successful business entirely online.
Digital products vs. physical products (and why digital is better)
It’s much easier to get started selling digital products than it is to sell physical items—and it usually has much higher margins.
With physical products, there are a lot of upfront costs. You need to deal with inventory, packaging, shipping, taxes, import, and many other factors that can become roadblocks. Setting up your own brick-and-mortar shop? That is a big, time-consuming undertaking that can get you overwhelmed before you’ve even started.
With digital products and online stores, none of those troubles apply.
Digital goods are also easy to create and distribute. Since you’re selling virtual products online, it is also more scalable. With the right skills, you can create your digital product from A to Z, all by yourself—no staff, middleman, or partners needed.
In short, the digital products benefit from:
- Easier creation process than physical products
- Profitable products with often a high-profit margin
- Recurring revenue
- More flexibility in product range and pricing options
- Potential for evergreen content
- No shipping costs and restrictions (more sustainable)
- No storage space
- No international taxes and import challenges
- Better scalability
- Often fewer people needed
The question is: “What is the best digital product to sell?” Let’s list the most popular digital goods ideas.
How to decide which digital product to sell
Deciding which digital product to create and sell is a process. Unless you already have a clearly defined product or service, like photography or marketing tips, it takes time to identify the right niche for you.
By investing your time and putting in the research, you can develop a valuable product that the right audience will want to buy.
Start with these four steps:
- Pinpoint a problem that you could solve with a digital product: Will your solution save your customers time or money? Will it teach them a valuable skill? Consider pain points in your own life that could be solved with a digital product.
- Do research to define your target market: Develop a persona for your ideal customer, so you can niche down and personalize your future marketing efforts to the people who will resonate the most.
- Validate your idea: Use a keyword tool to see how often people search for topics related to your product. Ask for feedback from friends, family and customers.
The key to developing a winning idea is authenticity. Consider a product in an industry that you’re truly passionate about. If you’re stuck for ideas, try looking for product ideas in one of these places:
- Online communities. Search for a topic you’re interested in and search for pain points (e.g digital nomads or working moms)
- Existing brick and mortar businesses. Is there a business you like that could be reimagined for eCommerce?
- Your competitors. Find someone that is successful in your chosen industry and look into which products performed well and why.
You might not get it totally right the first time around, but by starting small, and asking for feedback and continuing your research you can tweak your idea so it improves with every iteration.
Start your search for the perfect niche right now by discovering popular digital products people are already selling. →
Popular digital products to sell online
Do you know a lot about a topic and are you great at putting down words on paper? Capture your readers with eBooks. eBooks are a great digital product to sell. They’re relatively easy to create—just turn your knowledge into words and save your text as PDF!
You can make your eBook as visually appealing as you want, either designing just the cover page or going all-in with custom-designed pages and illustrations throughout.
eBooks can fit into many different business models, because they’re easy to promote. For example you can share or sell them as a whitepaper lead magnet, through marketplaces, or even ads on social media. Some say: I want to sell digital downloads on my website.
Customers enjoy eBooks as they can read them on their e-reader, tablets, kindle, laptop, or any other device.
eBooks aren’t just for novelists. Many people successfully sell eBooks covering a wide range of topics like health, self-help, finance, interior design… You name it!
2. Online courses
The e-learning industry is consistently growing, with platforms like Podia, Udemy, and Skillshare giving people the opportunity to share their knowledge via online courses.
Digital courses give you the flexibility to market in a way that fits your strategy.
- Ask a price for one-off course,
- Bundle courses together or add them as part of a product, or
- Create a membership model with ongoing subscriptions
With an online course as key to a membership, your subscribers pay for courses, the community, and ongoing access to content.
If you are serious about giving your own training course and marketing it by yourself, you might want to use a professional online course platform or Learning Management System (LMS).
As a trainer you determine how interactive a course is. You can offer the course as an on demand training, or go the extra mile by making it an interactive experience for students.
Live lectures, exclusive webinars, Q&As, feedback, or coaching can make your course more valuable and allow you to add a higher price tag.
Many courses include some type of assessment and certificate at the end.
3. Audio and music
When you think of audio, you might think of artists selling their albums and songs online, but there’s a lot more than music tracks that fall under this category.
Selling audio and music as a digital product also contains jingles, sound effects, instrumentals for karaoke, background music for working, meditation or tutorial videos, lectures, audiobooks, ringtones, samples, language lessons – the list is endless.
If you have an affinity with recording and editing, and you can find the right target group, you can sell any type of audio product online.
4. Paid newsletters
Ever thought of monetizing your newsletter? Another way to earn money online is by running a premium paid newsletter service.
Especially when you’ve already grown your email list, it’ll be easy to pitch your newsletter membership to readers and convince them to sign up.
It’ll take effort to come up with and deliver a concept that’s valuable enough to monetize, but the reward is having a recurring income that’s easily scalable.
Podcasts are also audio products but they deserve a paragraph of their own. Podcasts have been on the rise for a while now. Many entrepreneurs have changed from blogging to starting their own podcasts, where they’ll talk solo or invite guests (expanding each other’s reach).
With platforms like Patreon—a subscription service made for artists and creators—you can make your podcast (or any other digital product) profitable. Your members, also called “Patrons”, can sign up for different subscription tiers, and get different perks depending on their tier. There are multiple Podcast platforms that host and take care of most of the technical bits.
Photographers have a lot of options when it comes to selling digital products and services. During the pandemic, virtual photoshoots became way more popular—with celebrities like Demi Lovato posting pictures from her virtual video chat photoshoot.
Apart from this service, you can also sell digital photography products. Think high-quality stock photos, presets for Lightroom, and filters for apps. You can sell your photographs through platforms like Etsy, JUNIQE, Zazzle, or Big Cartel.
7. Software (SaaS products)
Though a SaaS (Software as a Service) product takes time to develop and launch, it can offer the biggest ROI from all the digital product ideas mentioned. These products can be anything from apps, plugins, snippets, etc.
Think of email software tools like MailerLite, project management tools, and file storage services like Dropbox or whitelable marketing software (saas).
You’ll need to be able to code yourself or work with a team on this project. It’s the most challenging and time-consuming idea of this list, but also the one that can generate serious cash and long-time success when executed well. Alternatively you could rebrand and find white label software products to sell.
8. Memberships and subscriptions
Memberships and subscriptions are a great way to scale up your business. It also allows you to maintain an ongoing relationship with your customers.
If you have a website, you might consider offering additional, high-value content for a small monthly fee. For example, a job board could adopt a membership model by offering new job opportunities to paid members first—before advertising them on their main website.
Many one-time purchases, like e-books, can be converted into a subscription service by offering exclusive digital content to members. Consider offering free trials to allow users to test out the service, or adopt a “freemium” model that sees paid members receiving additional features, downloads or content.
One-off purchases that can be converted into memberships or subscriptions include:
- Fitness and meal plans
- Online guides and courses
- Access to online communities
The best digital downloads to sell
Downloadables are digital products that can be downloaded and printed, such as:
- Printables (journal questions, calendars, invitations, etc)
- Meal plans
- Excel spreadsheets
- Workout plans
Downloadables are also an excellent way to entice potential customers to sign up for your email list. If you offer a free download when subscribers sign up, you can then market your paid products to subscribers who have already shown a genuine interest in what you have to offer.
10. Themes and templates for websites
If you know how to design and code, website templates and themes are a great thing to digitally sell. There is already a lot of interest in WordPress themes or templates for website builders and ecommerce platforms like Magento Commerce, Shopify, and so on.
11. Custom fonts and logos
With so many websites and landing pages created daily, there is always a need for new exciting fonts to make an online business stand out from the crowd. Custom fonts can both be used for website content, logos, and other digital marketing materials.
If you’re a graphic designer, you can also design logos and sell these. If you need to build a client base, you can use creative platforms like 99designs to get your first gigs.
12. Photoshop and Lightroom presets
Presets are customizable filters that can be used in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. People use them to give their photos a coherent style. They’re particularly popular among social media users and photographers.
If you have an eye for detail, or trending aesthetics on social platforms like Instagram, you can create your own presets and sell them on your website or platforms like Etsy, Sellfy, FilterGrade, or Creative Market.
How to sell digital products, downloads and expertise online
Now we have a great product idea, the quest becomes how to sell digital products.
As with each promotion, you need to start making noise. Where can you talk about your business? Start with friends and family, your immediate network and then move to your online channels.
The more often someone sees your brand and products, the higher your chances of converting. Research has shown that on average, it takes 6-8 interactions before people purchase a product.
13 ways to sell digital products and downloads
1. Create a website or landing page
A website or landing page is like your virtual storefront. It gives you an opportunity for organic traffic, much like foot traffic. If someone is searching for a product or service like the one you’re offering, having a website gives credibility to your brand.
You don’t need to be an expert designer to create a beautiful website. No-code or low-code website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress come with multiple free templates that you can use to build a well-designed website.
You can also use integrations and WordPress plugins to integrate payment platforms like Stripe so you can quickly and easily start selling your digital products.
2. Engage in online forums and ask for advice about your product
There’s Quora, Reddit, Yahoo and then there’s an entire world of online communities, like Facebook groups. Wherever people get together to virtually chat is a great destination to ask for advice on your product.
This way you collect feedback, and raise awareness for your product. You can narrow down which communities to target by looking for specific niches or topics. For instance you will often see people asking for input on what would be the best eBook cover.
3. Build hype on social media
Building a following on social media gives you a captive audience, already interested in your topic, ready to pounce when your product finally drops.
With new social media formats like TikTok and Instagram reels, it’s easier than ever to build a loyal audience fast. Tiktoks and reels are automatically promoted to users who view similar content. If you follow trends and post consistently, you’ll find yourself gaining a steady stream of new followers.
Engage with these followers, invite them to join your email list for exclusive content, drive traffic to your website and build hype around your upcoming product.
4. Invest in paid advertisements
Paid advertisements require a small investment, but they’re a great tool to spread awareness fast. Opt for long-tail keywords without too much competition to avoid burning your money all at once.
The better targeted your ads, the more chance of success. You will see that SEA, banners and social ads to promote your product all have their own pros and cons. Re-targeting is an option as well.
5. Guest blog on a website with the same target audience
If you don’t have an audience of your own yet, a good strategy to raise awareness about your brand is by guest blogging on a website that does have a following. Especially when these followers are people that could be interested in the digital products you sell on your website.
We recommend doing research on blogger outreach and to invest in building authentic relationships before you ask for a guest blog spot (unless the website offers this service on their page, of course).
6. Use influencers to promote your product with their fan base
Just like guest blogging, influencers can also be a good tool to raise awareness within a specific target group. Nowadays there are many influencers for many different niches. Though this is good (more options to choose from), make sure to check their engagement stats so you can make a realistic evaluation of your return on investment.
7. Promote your digital downloads with email marketing
When you use your own landing page or website to register/purchase and deliver your digital file via email, you need an email tool to automate this process. By allowing customers to opt-in to receive newsletters when providing their email addresses, you can build and nurture long-term relationships with your customers.
Email is also beneficial when you’re selling via a platform like Etsy. In this scenario, you can automatically trigger a follow-up email after someone completes their purchase, using email automation. By nurturing the relationship between you and the new client, you can build trust and upsell other products.
8. Give away lead magnets to get people to sign up for your email list
People love freebies and discounts. When you can offer value, it’s much easier to convince visitors to leave their email address with you. Make sure your lead magnet resonates with your audience, is valuable and gets them excited about receiving more content from you.
9. Host a contest
Who doesn’t love a contest? Setting up one can be challenging, after all: You want as many people to join! Good tactics are to team up with another brand, or an influencer, and to ask participants to tag a friend or share the contest to higher their chances of winning. And of course, make sure the prize is worthwhile!
10. Offer your product for free or lower-priced for a limited time
Remember Harry’s? This razor blade manufacturer created all the hype with their pre-launch marketing campaign, where they sent out free products to everyone who would promote their product with friends. You can create a snowball effect and collect many new leads by offering your product or service for free, or for a small price.
11. Create a launch event, either virtually or in real life
Nowadays everyone knows how to handle Zoom, and virtual events have become very popular. So why not host an event of your own to promote your product? Event invitations can be sent via email and via channels like Facebook and LinkedIn you can easily invite people to join the party.
The launch event can easily be named a webinar where you talk about the topic of your digital products. During the event you can promote your digital products.
Especially evergreen webinars are a great way to promote your online courses. Automate the follow up to to your on-demand session and you have yourself a lead funnel.
12. Send out press releases
It’s an old trick, but one that can still work and help you to get more exposure. Look for online directories that can help you find the right destinations and distribute your press release en masse to save time.
13. List your product on review websites
Reviews are an essential part of selling digital products online. 93.4% of potential customers rely on customer reviews when buying a new product or dealing with an unfamiliar retailer.
On review websites like TrustPilot, it’s free to create a product page and start collecting reviews. You can also encourage existing customers to leave reviews on your Facebook page, Instagram or on product pages on e-commerce sites like Etsy and Amazon.
The best tools to sell your digital goods
Now that you’ve selected and created the best digital product for your target group, it’s time to sell and promote your goods. What platform you pick depends on your product. If your product is a downloadable list, you can quickly create your own website or landing page. If you’re creating a course, one of the online course platforms in our list might be right for you.
Here’s a variety of tools to advertise your digital products.
- Big Cartel
- Blurb and Aerio for eBooks
See our complete review of ecommerce platforms here.
Website and landing page creation
See our complete overview of the best landing page builder here.
Online course/membership site
See our complete review of online course platforms here.
Conclusion: How to sell digital products and downloads online
As you can see, there are many options to sell digital products from your website or other channels and create a passive income stream. The key is to find a product that fits with your existing audience or target a new market with a valuable product.
Once you’ve found that winning formula, it’s relatively easy to create digital downloads to sell and get started with your new online business. All the tools and platforms are available, it’s up to you to take advantage of them!