How to sell Digital Products as an Artist

Although we cannot touch them we all got used to consume them. No matter if you enjoy binge watching on Netflix, eBooks on your Amazon Kindle, music or online art courses - you get them all digitally. 
No question, this is definitely a great thing when we think of sustainability (less packaging, less waist, less production costs, etc.). It also means that we have what we buy only on our computer or sometimes "just" online on a website.
But that's from the customer's point of view.
From the creator's perspective it is definitely great. We create something once and sell it forever. Sure we might need to update the one or other product from time to time but often we don't even have to do that because it is evergreen.
Beside that we have no production costs anymore. We simply deliver everything digitally, in best case embedded in a website. This means that your work cannot be stolen but still has no production costs. CDs and DVDs are no longer wanted, we want things on our tablet, phone or on the computer.

Having said that many people make a great living from selling digital products. When you think of musicians they can sell their songs over and over again. They are just one example but a good one to see that digital products can make a great business model!
So let's explore them further if they are something for you as well.

The Jaguar looks like he might like to have passive income as well! How nice is it if he doesn't have to go for a hunt for each meal? ?

What are Digital Products?

As mentioned above digital products come in many different ways. And we all can hardly avoid using them nowadays. 
While some years ago we went to a store to buy a CD to listen to music today we just grab our mobile phone, go to the iTunes store and download it from there. And the song just costs a few cents because you don't have to buy the entire CD anymore but just the song you like. Great thing, isn't it?
The same applies to books. Why should you buy a physical book if you can download your book - often much less expensive - right away? 
If you want to join an online art course, no problem - you can do it in minutes!
So yes, you need to accept that you cannot touch the CD anymore but at the same time you have the product you want with the click of a button. And while this is common for the big players in the industry like the music and film companies today it is also for us.
We all can create digital products and sell them in our own store. And it won't even cost us an arm and a leg to set that up! These are for sure great advantages.
So we can say that these intangible goods found a place in our every day life. And we got used to them. While a few years ago we had to explain people in detail that they do not get anything physical shipped today it's common.
But not just music and books turned into something intangible. So did movies, courses, brushes for Procreate or Affinity Designer, textures and graphics. And there are many more examples.

Why you should sell Digital Products

Selling digital Products comes with many advantages which are attractive for artists who have a small business.

  • You'll have no or low overhead costs because you don't need to store inventory or ship anything anywhere.
  • You'll have high profit margins and no recurring costs for your goods. 
  • Selling digital products also has the potential to automate. With the help of the right online shop software products are delivered automatically just after payment has been made.
  • If you offer digital products you also have a flexible business model. You can offer the one or other product you create for free and use them to build your email list.

What should you sell?

The answer is easy: Whatever you can produce in high quality! If you can draw it makes sense to draw digital graphic sets and sell those. If you enjoy creating Adobe Lightroom Presets - go for it! There are endless digital products you can sell. The main point is that you choose something you enjoy creating.
When I was working here at Digidesignresort as the admin who could decide which designer could sell here and which not I usually looked for uniqueness and high quality. If a product consisted of extracted photographs then it should not just contain the single elements but at least clusters and a designed alpha. Of course the elements shouldn't be blurry and in high resolution without any stray pixels. Actually we had a bunch of further quality requirements but just to give you a short overview of what is necessary. If you don't look for quality it usually redounds upon you. Quality products mean that your customers are happy and come back and/or recommend your designs to their friends. And this, of course, results in more sales.

I highly believe in selling digital graphic sets or so called clipart. You can create clipart for any occasion. No matter if you create birthday clipart or Christmas clipart there are clipart for any occasion throughout the year. 

I'm also a huge fan of clipart sets because they can be used for many different hobbies (for example for scrapbooking) but they are also perfect for other designers who want to create POD products or work as freelancers. If you have to design a menu you need food clipart to support your message. Another reason why I love selling clipart is definitely because they are evergreen. I have never seen a clipart set which needs an update. 
So if you think about this: An eBook might need an update from time to time (if you sell non-fiction books), an online course about Affinity Designer needs an update because Serif comes up with a new version. The same is valid for other software companies. But you never need to update clipart sets. Maybe you want to add more value over time but you never really have to.

I put together an entire course about what kind of digital products I believe one could sell. If you are interested check it out here.

In the course you'll also learn that I highly recommend to mix different passive income streams. It's never a good idea to put all eggs into one basket and the same is valid for your business. If you heavily rely on one passive income stream and it dries - for any reason - you have no income. Therefore, in my eyes, the best option is to diversify. We'll talk about this in the class in detail.

Where should you sell digital products?

That really depends on the kind of digital product you've chosen. If you sell clipart sets my choice is Etsy, CreativeMarket, DesignCuts, DesignBundles and other platforms who sell digital clipart sets. But in case you sell eBooks selling them on Etsy can be hard. 
If you think about it: When people come to Etsy would you say they look for books or eBooks? Or would you say that they look for something handmade or a digital product they can play with? 
If you guessed the second thing you are right 😉 
Just to round it up: If you think of eBooks you most probably think of Amazon, don't you? Amazon is the place to sell books, after all that's what they have been known for. Beside that they have KDP and the Amazon Kindle so they really love selling eBooks.
On the other hand if you sell online courses you might not want to choose Amazon or Etsy. You maybe better sell them on Skillshare, Udemy or simply on your own website.

I know it's tempting to only sell your products on the big sites. But don't forget: Amazon sets the requirements for Amazon and Udemy will work in a way that works best for them and their revenue. It wasn't long ago that Udemy changed their pricing structure completely and their teachers lost income on their changes. The same is valid for Skillshare and other platforms - you name it. 

Let me give you a few examples from people I appreciate and know they do business with integrity. Lisa Glanz for example sells on DesignCuts but also on CreativeMarket, then a few other things on Etsy - and: on her own website:

You see: Someone well-known as Lisa Glanz also doesn't put all her eggs into one basket - just in case. I see her selling her online courses on your own website and some are still on Skillshare but I guess she does not update there anymore (maybe because of their payout-changes?). 

Another example is Pretty Little Lines:

Kris sells her products not just on her own website but again, also on DesignCuts and CreativeMarket. You see, again, she is not willing to rely on a single source of income. She sells graphic sets and online courses and she does that on different sites.

Let me give you a quick third example: Cory Huff. He is the author of the book "How to sell your Art Online*" and has a highly frequented website, TheAbundantArtist. He sells his book on Amazon and some other online book stores but not on his own website. Still, on his own sites he does not just talk about his book but also sells online courses and coaching. Again, you see, he diversifies his income and the places where he sells. Here is the book I'm talking about to give you an impression:

My guess is that he doesn't sell his book* on his own site because on Amazon he can offer the book as a Kindle and Paperback Version. So in my eyes it doesn't make sense to offer it there. 
He could actually do it "just" in a PDF format which would leave many users behind! If you are interested in his book check it out:

There are endless more examples. Artists, Designers and Illustrators choose the one or other business model and mix it by selling a few different digital products. Please check out the website of your favorite designer. You'll see that you find a similar business model for the one or other reason.
Build your own business model with the products of your choice from these examples.

My Recommendation... Wrapping Things up

Have an online store on your website. A basic one is just fine. There you cannot just sell clipart sets but also eBooks, online courses and/or Lightroom Presets (just to name a few options!). Nobody can close your store and nobody except you changes the requirements.

On the other hand you of course need to keep in mind that Amazon, Etsy and whatever other platform you name already have a build-in customer base. Additionally, they work hard to find even more customers and often give you the change to turn on ads for a few bucks a day!
That's why I recommend to have your own store and sell on sites like Amazon and Co. as well - then you have a backup plan handy! Beside that: If someone purchases your eBook on Amazon they might also follow the link to your website you have added to your book, subscribes to your newsletter and becomes your forever-fan!

If you want to start building your own business selling digital graphics (aka clipart sets) you can by joining my free online class! You learn everything you need about Procreate to get started, it's FREE of course!

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