21+ Profitable Digital Product Ideas to Sell Online (2023 Update)
- Emjae Williams
Imagine earning money while you sleep. Sales come in and products are delivered, all without your active input.
With the boom of the digital age, this dream is now a reality. Digital transformation brought with it new streams of income, one of the most popular being the selling of digital products.
In recent years, digital products have grown in popularity as a major income earner for various reasons, the main one being their potential for profit.
Unlike other products, digital products are easier to sell and far easier to deliver, which is a huge advantage for people looking to earn extra income.
In this post, we’ll be exploring some of the key benefits of selling digital products and looking at some of the most profitable types to consider selling.
What are Digital Products?
In case you’re wondering what we mean by the phrase “digital products”, let’s start with a quick definition.
Digital products are intangible resources that are distributed online. Every ebook, online course, or web template you’ve seen is an example of a digital product
Since digital products are relatively quick and easy to sell, they are potentially a great way to earn some extra money online.
That said, if you really want to earn money with digital products, it’s crucial to choose a type of digital product that is scalable, easy, convenient, and affordable to produce.
Why You Should Sell Digital Products
Now let’s take a quick look at some of the main reasons why you might want to sell digital products.
Relatively low overhead costs
Digital products are a great starting point for content creators who want a low investment option. The largest expense with selling digital products would likely be the equipment used to produce them or e-commerce platform fees if that route is chosen. Even so, for every expense you can incur, there is usually an inexpensive or free alternative that is just as good. For example, if you don’t want to invest in an e-commerce platform such as Etsy, you can create a website of your own or sell through social media. If you can’t yet afford expensive content editing software, there are many free or inexpensive alternatives that are beginner-friendly such as Canva.
No need to store or manage inventory
The great thing about digital products is that they exist online, which means there’s no need for additional storage or inventory space. It also makes it easier to manage your products. There are numerous cloud storage options that can store thousands of digital files such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. You can also use external storage devices as a secondary storage option.
Customers receive the product immediately after purchase
The main benefit of digital products for your customers is instant access. Most digital products are available immediately after purchase, though some sellers offer pre-orders as a benefit. This saves you thousands of dollars on shipping and packaging costs. It also allows you to turn this into a passive income stream since you don’t need to constantly monitor orders, spend time packaging or make deliveries.
Many opportunities for digital products with the rise of online learning
There are so many options for digital products you can sell that you are quite literally only limited to your imagination. With the recent changes we’ve experienced as a society, more of our resources have come from virtual sources. More parents are searching for educational resources, teachers are trying to learn how to host effective virtual or hybrid classes, businesses are trying to incorporate employee development classes by offering an education stipend… and they’re all turning to the internet.
From video courses to checklists and e-books, there are more opportunities now than ever before for sellers to start a successful business.
22 Profitable Digital Product Ideas to Sell Online
Now let’s turn our attention to some of the most profitable digital products you can sell online. These items have proven to yield high returns and are growing in demand.
1. Online courses
The online learning industry is expected to be worth over $300B by 2025, and for good reason. Online courses have risen in demand in the last few years, especially in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. This already growing industry suddenly saw thousands of new users joining online learning platforms and course creators responded in kind.
This makes it one of the most profitable digital products to sell. Courses can be delivered in text, audio, video format, or a combination of all three – the choice is yours to make. With numerous free or inexpensive software options available to make course creation easier, it doesn’t require hours of work to get started.
Nothing beats the smell of a new book – except maybe instant delivery! Ebooks have grown in popularity because of the convenience they offer. Not only do consumers get immediate access after purchase, but they’re also able to store even more reading material without worrying about clutter. Ebooks are also extremely easy to tote around which adds to their appeal.
Most authors are now keen to include an ebook option to their physical books or make their content exclusively available in ebook format. It saves thousands in printing costs and with self-publishing now being a viable option, ebooks are much easier to produce than their physical counterparts.
3. PDF downloads
Yes – you can sell PDFs! In fact, due to how versatile they are and their compatibility with almost all devices, PDFs are a great option for new sellers. You might be thinking only of text documents like essays but some popular PDF downloads include:
- Home management checklists
- Activity sheets for kids
- Daily planners
- Powerpoint presentations
- Resume templates
- Digital invitations
These items are easy to create and can appeal to a wide audience or be created for a narrow niche. PDFs can be bundled based on a theme or sold individually. You can even offer customers the option to create their own bundles at a discounted cost .
4. Membership sites
Membership sites are subscription-based platforms that give members access to exclusive content. They are usually educational in nature and there is an expectation that new content will be shared on a regular basis. The main benefit to this type of digital product is that you are guaranteed a consistent income. Subscription plans are typically offered on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, though there are sites that offer lifetime memberships at a higher cost.
5. Digital templates
Digital templates differ from PDF templates/downloads in that they are meant to be used solely in a digital format. These types of content include social media posts, web banners, email banners, and digital ads. They require more technical skills than most forms of digital products as you need to have an understanding of design concepts, and ensure compatibility with various platforms and editing software. This product has the bonus of being a great way to launch your design service as you can offer personalization to drive sales.
Making software from scratch can be expensive and time-consuming which is why this is a great product to capitalize on. If you have a background in coding, you can start in no time! You can create software that users can customize based on their specific needs. For you, it’s a one time investment that you can sell numerous times and they’ll have the benefit of a comparatively less expensive software.
Some sellers offer the option to own the source code for an additional cost so developers can do more customizations, while others offer more restricted access. The software can consist of website live chat plugins, mobile apps, web apps, or even video games.
7. Mobile apps
While these technically fall under the category of software, mobile apps can be a profitable niche all on their own. There are numerous types to choose from – time management to fitness to reminders and games. You can add your personal touch to make your apps stand out or include features that other developers might not have considered. For instance, you can create a time management app specifically for neurodivergent users who tend to require a different approach than neurotypical users.
8. Video and stock footage
Content is king and content is pricey. Sites like Shutterstock and Pexels exist for exactly this reason. They offer content creators an inexpensive way to create personalized and diverse content without spending hours or thousands on shoots. Turn your videography skills into your passive source of income. Out for a hike? Get a timelapse of the scenery. Watching fireworks? Capture a few minutes of it. Think of the most common moments depicted in digital content and start there. If you want to protect your intellectual property you can offer restricted usage so users can’t resell your unedited content.
9. Music and audio
In the same vein of stock photos and videos, you can create generic sound effects or music that can be added to video content to add an extra bit of pizzazz. There are popular sounds you can focus on like the sound of a stream, the rain, a noisy cafe, a doctor’s office – these are sounds widely used in digital content that content creators might not always easily be able to capture themselves.
Your audio content can also be audiobooks. Audible is a booming platform but even that has its limitations. Find your niche, look at what they’re missing and find a way to fill that demand.
10. Stock photography
If you have a smartphone with a great camera or camera equipment and an eye for photography, you’re well on your way to getting into stock photography. Similar to stock videos, you want to think about the images most frequently used by your target market. Then focus your attention on those that might be hard to capture without planning an expensive shoot. Sunsets, snowy landscapes, gorgeous food shots, popular events like Mardi Gras or caroling services – these are always in high demand, especially by digital marketers.
11. Web-based applications (SaaS)
Unlike software that is installed on devices, web-based applications run directly in your browser. With these applications, users pay a regular subscription fee to retain access rather than make a one time purchase. Examples of web-based apps are Google Drive, Spotify, MailChimp, or Asana. You can develop new ones or create plugins that enhance existing applications. Over time you can offer additional features to make the subscription more appealing to offer different tiers with unique features at each price point.
12. Graphics and digital art
Graphics and digital art are in high demand because they are the centerpiece of most content. Entrepreneurs and business owners who want to establish a brand identity but who might not be able to afford to hire a dedicated graphic designer typically invest in graphic art bundles. Logos, brand kits, fonts, icons – these can all be created in just about any editing software. Whether you provide done-for-you artwork or editable templates, this is a lucrative niche. If you’re an artist, this website has a great guide on getting started selling your art online.
13. Online services
Google Docs, Skype, Time Doctor, Grammarly – all examples of online services that are in high demand. Remote work has increased the need for time management and co-working tools. While it is a competitive market, there is always room for more innovative services that cater to specific niches. There are various categories to get into – educational, financial, e-commerce and networking.
With an area like this one, the key thing is to lead with research to ensure you understand your market’s needs before creating the services. This will give you an idea of how worthwhile it is, how long it might take to get off the ground and the ideal pricing structure to use.
14. Coaching packages
While services might not be considered a digital product, there are a few exceptions – like coaching and consulting services. This is because they’re the perfect addition to other products. If you offer guides, tutorials, courses, or e-books on a particular subject, you can also offer one-on-one or group coaching for those who want to delve even further. Thanks to the many communication tools, you can maintain a connection and sense of intimacy even when coaching from a distance.
15. Craft patterns
There are a lot of crafters out there – some do it for leisure, others for profit. What most crafters don’t always enjoy is creating patterns for their work. It’s tedious, it takes artistic skill… it’s tedious… Which is why selling craft patterns has become so profitable. These designs are downloadable, easy to print on transfer paper or fabric and then crafters can do what they do best because you just saved them time! Craft patterns are another great bundle product as you can create combinations based on themes or craft type.
16. Downloadable guides
People want to feel empowered to do things by themselves. This is why they turn to tutorials and guides. With downloadable guides, you can offer a quick, inexpensive way for them to learn a new skill or improve on one. These guides can focus on so many areas – personal development like better time management, professional development such as accounting or hobbies like knitting.
They’re easy to create from scratch and you can create done-for-you guides or templates that users can personalize.
Have a knack for cooking and an eye for design? Creating recipes just might be for you! Cookbooks are one of the top-selling categories of books and with the convenience of digital files, you can produce themed e-cookbooks or digital recipe cards for significantly less than printed ones. While there may be many free options online, people consider paid cookbooks and recipes to be of a better quality. If you’re a professional chef or native of a particular culture, this further adds credibility to your skills and you can include cooking videos to create bundled offers.
18. Swipe files
A swipe file is essentially a collection of valuable assets such as copy, icons or graphic art. Because of this versatility, your only limit is what you can create. Consider what your niche needs. If you’re targeting teachers, they would be interested in worksheets and activities for students, if you’re targeting start-ups, they might be more interested in social media content. The big advantage of swipe files is having a bank of content that has a cohesive look.
19. Self-assessment tools
Self-assessment tools are used for personal or professional evaluation. These can be questionnaires, multiple choice quizzes, workbooks with prompts. They’re usually paired with other items or services such as courses or coaching services. They’re the launching pad to help users identify their needs or areas they could improve on.
Think about Coca-Cola, Tesla, YouTube – can you picture their font? A brand’s font is essential to their brand identity and most go for exclusive fonts to solidify this. Creating fonts and typeface brands can have exclusive rights to is another profitable digital product to consider. You can create bundles with complementary fonts or simply sell them individually so business owners can create their own combinations.
21. Website themes
While website themes take time to create in the beginning, it pays off handsomely in the long term. These themes can be a one-and-done typeof content with occasional minor updates to ensure they’re able to work with any changes in content management systems. You can go further by offering bundles – themes, images, fonts, and other web elements that give a more cohesive look to the site.
Sites like YouTube and SkillShare have proven that people are interested in learning just about anything. From how to cook to how to improve their writing to how to garden. If you have experience in a particular field, you can use that to produce tutorial content to guide others as they learn. The great part is – you don’t need a degree or formal credentials. Your years of experience in sewing, or the amazing art you’ve created over the years can be enough to make you a credible source.
How to Start Selling Digital Products Online
Though selling digital products is fairly straightforward, there is still some groundwork that needs to be done in order for this to be a successful venture.
1. Come up with a digital product idea
Your first step of course is identifying a viable digital product to sell. There are several factors to consider here:
- How interested you actually are in this product. If you have no genuine interest you’re less likely to be committed to it
- How long does it take to get started? Is this something you need to plan months ahead for? Are you able to dedicate the time needed to get it going or do you need something more immediate?
- What expertise or skills are needed. Is this something that requires design skills? Copywriting expertise? If it requires a skill set you don’t have, can you afford to pay someone to take on this area or invest time to learn it yourself?
Once you’ve decided on the ideal digital product you need to ensure that it’s actually a profitable one.
2. Research and validate your product ideas
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already at the ‘research’ phase! You’ll want to do research to find out:
- How profitable your idea is
- What your target market is actually interested in
- Who your competitors are and how well they are doing
- The amount of initial investment needed (money and time)
- The best ways to sell and promote your digital goods
- Special considerations you need to make (licenses, contracts, policies to put in place)
3. Create an amazing digital product
And now for the fun part – creating the actual product. Take advantage of templates where possible, and don’t be afraid to get inspiration from similar products but always add your personal touch. You want a product that will stand out so find something that makes it uniquely yours.
Chances are your first try won’t be where you want it to be – and that’s fine! Take notes as you go along to see where you can improve. Maybe you want to reduce the time it takes to create your digital downloadables – take note of the process and try to identify ways to spend less time on specific steps.
4. Choose or create an online store
- How easy it is to set up and maintain. The last thing you need is a complicated site that takes months to set up or needs special skills to manage. The simpler, the better, which is why dedicated online stores like Shopify and Etsy are so appealing
- How much it costs to add products and make sales. Stores like Etsy charge a small fee to have items added to their site and take a percentage of each sale. Think about the long-term cost and what limitations this presents for you. These fees are something you can eliminate by setting up your own site
- Security features to protect your customers’ information. You want to ensure your site is secure, especially since customers will be inputting payment information. If you’re creating your own site you’ll need to have an SSL certificate and consider including trusted payment portals such as PayPal or Stripe.
5. Add your digital products
Think of your online store like you would a physical one and imitate that setup when adding your products. You want to include:
- Appealing product images – this is the first thing they’ll see and you want it to grab their attention
- Clear descriptions – here is where you tell your potential customer what they can expect from your product. Be detailed but economical with your words. While you want to answer all the questions they might have, you also want to keep the information brief enough that they can skim it
- Cost of the item inclusive of tax – because no one wants to have to play the guessing game when it comes to cost
Additional information you can include are links to your FAQ page, customer reviews of the product, links to your terms and conditions, and a clear way for the customer to contact you.
6. Promote your digital products
Now that your store is up and running you need to get customers! It’s time to put on your marketing hat and put yourself out there. Our guide on successful sales funnels is a great resource to utilize but here are three key ways to start promoting your business.
- Social media – setting up social media pages are free and you can run ads on Facebook or Instagram for a few dollars per day. If you’re primarily targeting businesses, you can focus more on LinkedIn and Google ads. You can use regular content to engage with potential customers and begin to create a relationship with them. People are more likely to purchase from brands they know, trust, and relate to.
- Email marketing – have an email list? Now is the time to utilize it! Send an email introducing your subscribers to your store. You can continue growing this list by collecting contact information from people who visit your store in addition to those who purchase. This way you have a pool of potential customers you can reach out to periodically to remind them about your store or give them updates on new products or promotions.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – using certain words can help you appear higher in search engines. If you’re selling e-books about marketing for new entrepreneurs you’ll want to include those specific words and others related to them on your site.
Ready to Design Your Own Digital Products?
We’ve shared a few digital product ideas you can consider if you intend to make this a source of income but the options are endless!
The main advantage of selling digital products is that it is one of the easiest forms of passive income to set up and maintain.
With systems that allow customers to access your goods at will, your online store practically runs itself! The low overhead, ease of storage, and numerous product options make this a viable option for new entrepreneurs.
In no time you can turn your areas of interest into moneymakers.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and uncover your amazing digital product idea today!