Are you cash strapped? Short on time?
Do you know you need a side gig or separate income stream to make ends meet, and carve out a bit of freedom and flexibility in your life?
A digital product sure seems like the way to go.
You create it once, post it up online, and throngs of people head your way to buy your thing.
You’ll finally be able to make money while you sleep.
What could go wrong?
All you need is to sort through the various digital product ideas that are out there to find the best one, and you’ll be in business.
Maybe. But it’s a better idea to take a step back and think through this in a different way so that you can actually sell the digital products you create.[click_to_tweet tweet=”The foundational elements that you need to understand in order to actually create digital products that will sell… ” quote=”The foundational elements that you need to understand in order to actually create digital products that will sell… “]
So let’s dive in. We’ll take a deeper look at the foundational elements that you need to understand in order to actually create digital products that will sell, and then we’ll look at a huge list of ideas.
Why You Want Digital Product Ideas in the First Place
If you’re searching for a way to earn an income online, it’s probably not just because you’re bored and want something challenging to do.
You’re probably already working hard… but you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
You feel like you’ve hit a dead end. Or you’re not making enough.
Maybe you don’t like your job, or you’re stuck in a role that’s beneath your ability to contribute.
You’re stressed over paying bills & providing, and even worse, you’re unfulfilled.
But you haven’t stopped dreaming.
You realize that digital products are infinitely scalable.
They’re a way for you to put in the work once and then (presumably) make money in your sleep after that.
But when you go out looking for solutions, you end up going down rabbit holes, trying lots of things, and making $5 for every $10,000 you spend. Or so it seems.
But you hold on to the dream, because other people are making money with this, and you’re confident that if you could just hit on the right formula, you’d be making it, too.
You find yourself thinking, “All that’s missing between me and my breakthrough is this one elusive thing, but I don’t know which thing.”
Let’s just acknowledge this. It hurts. It’s scary. It’s frustrating.
Now, let’s boil the question to the essence of what most people want. When you’re searching for digital product ideas, what you often really want to know is simply: “How can I make money selling things to strangers on the internet?”
But you don’t want to sell just anything. You want digital products because you need something scalable, easy, convenient, that you can do from your home, without big startup costs.
So let’s explore that at a deeper level.
The answer to your breakthrough is not to find the biggest catalog of potential digital product ideas, pick the best one from the list, and finally be rich.
The answer is to pick the right category of digital products – ones that suit your capabilities and meet a genuine business need.
And when you do it this way, there’s hope that you, too, can finally start gaining some traction and getting somewhere with your digital product.
We’re going to provide a big list below, but first, here’s how you choose.[click_to_tweet tweet=”How to pick the right category of digital product ideas that *you* can sell” quote=”How to pick the right category of digital product ideas that *you* can sell”]
How to pick the right category of digital product ideas that *you* can sell
First, you need skills. But it matters less what skills you have. It matters what level of skill you have. High levels of skills, especially scarce skills, will lead to high-value products. Low levels of skills, or average levels of very common skills, will lead to low-value products. (Note that it’s not impossible to sell low-value products. You do need to sell more units in order to have a good income, but you can build a business on them, too.)
Second, you need potential customers. These are people who have a need for the item you’re able to produce.
There’s a strange misconception out there that digital products are the exception to everything else in business, as if they were the one thing where it didn’t matter how much skill you had or how many people actually needed them.
For instance, your digital product idea is to create a bunch of wallpapers with inspirational quotes and beautiful photography… so you spend a ton of time creating the wallpapers, posting them in your Etsy store, and then waiting for the orders to roll in.
At the end of the day, even if you do make some sales, you get paid way less than minimum wage for your time.[click_to_tweet tweet=”When you’re thinking about the needs your potential customers have, one other aspect you’ll want to consider is this… ” quote=”When you’re thinking about the needs your potential customers have, one other aspect you’ll want to consider is this… “]
When you’re thinking about the needs your potential customers have, one other aspect you’ll want to consider is this:
Is this something that people want to do themselves? Or is it something that they want others to do for them?
With that in mind, let’s imagine a 2×2 matrix.
- On one axis, you have high-value products versus low-value products.
- On the other axis, you have products that people want to do themselves versus products that people want done for them.
High value digital products
Now, let’s explore these four elements and how they relate to the four quadrants.
- High-dollar: People will pay you a lot
- Scarce: It’s hard for people to get or find or have done at that level of quality
- Transformation-based: It creates a transformation or an outcome
Low value digital products
- Low-dollar: But it’s easier to build
- Common: You’ll have to rely on selling a high volume of units
- Information-based: You’re sharing your knowledge, but someone could have googled to find the answer
- People want to develop your skill for themselves
- Your customers find value, pleasure, or fulfillment when they participate in the creation process
- If they want to learn how to do it, you can package that up as an online course
- People don’t have time or inclination to develop this skill
- It’s far less efficient and interesting to them to have a hand in creating or accomplishing what you do
- If they want it done for them, you can develop a one-and-done product, templates, or an agency-type service
Quadrant A: High-Value, DIY
Quadrant A represents the high-value skills that people want to learn for themselves. If you have the ability to pass on a marketable skill to someone else, to the level where they can start getting paid doing the same thing, that’s a prime opportunity to create a digital product.
For example, you might teach digital marketing or project management or how to start a drop-shipping business or how to become a virtual assistant. Whatever you do in your industry, there’s probably at least one subset of your skill that you could consistently teach others to do. And if you can impart your knowledge effectively enough that your students can start earning money in your field, you’re golden.
People will not only pay you well to learn something that they can make money at for the rest of their life, they will also give you rave reviews, making it easier for you to attract new students.
The best digital product to create in this quadrant is an online course, but you can also create a whole host of accessory products, such as PDF worksheets, templates, and other downloadable learning materials.
People who succeed in this quadrant are typically experts and professionals who are current in their fields. This works for any industry, and in some cases, it can even be a better option for your students than getting a college education on the topic. Ever heard of college graduates who aren’t actually prepared for the workforce? Maybe an apprenticeship program with you is their ticket to employment.
So assess whether you have knowledge to share, and consider building an online course that empowers others to do what you do.
If you want to learn how to create a successful online course… join our Course Builder’s Bootcamp – FREE!
Quadrant B: High Value, DFY
This quadrant isn’t one that lends itself particularly well to digital products, and here’s why.
If there’s a high-value product or service that people want done for them, it’s almost always customized to each individual. And the minute you make an “all-purpose” version of your product, it ceases to be high-value.
For instance, you’re an accountant or an attorney or an architect, and you can’t just put up a blanket product that applies to everyone, because each customer has a different situation. So you need to customize your service to each customer. If you’re an architect, you can’t just paper the internet with blueprints that you’ve created in the past and expect to sell them for a high dollar. Everyone wants a new design that perfectly fits all their unique needs.
The product or service that you offer your customers may be digital in nature (i.e. your work may be created and/or stored on the computer), but if you have to make a new one every time you get a new client, it defeats the purpose of the digital product being infinitely scalable.
If you’re in this quadrant, career-wise, should you look for a digital product to create in one of the other quadrants? Maybe. But chances are, you’ll make more money per year by focusing on your career than you can by trying to create an online product.
The exception to this is if you can move over to Quadrant A and create a world-class product that specifically targets people in your industry and dramatically increases their marketability.
Quadrant C: Low Value, DIY
This quadrant also isn’t one that lends itself particularly well to digital products, but for the opposite reason from that in Quadrant B. Here in Quadrant C, if people are looking to do something themselves that’s already low value, it probably means that they’re looking to save money and avoid paying someone to do that thing. So while you can create these products all day long, you’ll probably have difficulty selling them.
An example is a recipe. No one expects to *pay* for a recipe. The closest they’ll come is paying for a whole cookbook, but even that is hard to sell anymore, when other people are giving their similar recipes away for free.
Another example is training on a craft like how to knit. You may have this skill and offer to teach it, but it won’t expand your students’ income generating capabilities, and they might just as easily find their way by watching free YouTube videos. So it’ll be hard to charge much.
So if the product that you can create is something of low value that people want to do themselves, you’ll typically have to create dramatically better products than everyone else. Even then, you’ll still have to come up with another mechanism for monetizing your products, such as selling ad space on your site.
Here’s where the Quadrant C digital products can be a viable part of your income strategy:
If you have a Quadrant A offer, your Quadrant C products can act as “top of the funnel” items to introduce people to you. Going back to the recipe example, the free recipes you share can be a way to earn organic traffic, but once people are on your site, you can show them a relevant premium training product that they *will* pay for.
Quadrant D: Low value, DFY
Items in Quadrant D are things that people don’t want to (or can’t) do themselves, but they also won’t pay much for the solution.
For example, lots of people don’t want to entertain themselves. They want to be entertained without any effort. But that doesn’t mean that Netflix can charge $100 a month.
There’s plenty of opportunity to create digital products in Quadrant D, but it’s important to note that the ability to make good money in this quadrant relies on selling a high volume of products.
Examples of digital products you can create in Quadrant D are things like software apps, artwork, ebooks, or design templates. The more common the need your product fills, and the higher your quality, the easier it’ll be for you to hit the volume metrics that will bring you a good income.
A word of warning: It’s hard for most people to make this work. Imagine creating Netflix and then finding only 100 customers. You’d be seriously in debt. So give careful thought to weighing the costs and benefits of creating a really high product that you’ll only be able to sell for a low price. Know the minimum number of customers you’d need to attract to break even.
Realize that you’ll probably need to have either (A) a big marketing budget upfront to get the product to “catch on,” or (B) a relentless work ethic to bootstrap a product and continually re-invest the product’s income into marketing until it takes off.
3 levels of digital product delivery
There’s one more nuance to explore as you come up with the right digital product idea for yourself.
In every quadrant, you can break down the digital product ideas into three more categories.
- One and done – Example: ebook or recipe, you pay for it once, that’s it
- Fixed term – Example: a course, there’s a starting point, an ending point, and a transformation that happens in the middle
- Open ended / continuous – Example: a membership site
Keep in mind that the same digital product may be able to be sold under more than one pricing model. For instance, if you are creating digital artwork, you could price your items by the piece (“one and done”) or you could offer a monthly membership package where the customer automatically gets a copy of everything that you’ve created that month.
As you explore the digital product ideas in the following list, think through which model can make you the most money.
The Ultimate List of Digital Product Ideas
|Complete List of Ideas||Category||Term||DIY/DFY|
|3D printer design files||Design files||One-and-done||DIY|
|Academic research, papers, findings||Research||One-and-done||DFY|
|Architectural plans||Technical Skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Audits (accounting audits, content audits, etc.)||Career skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Blueprints and Plans||Technical Skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Board game printouts||Creative||One-and-done||DIY|
|Business card design||Creative||One-and-done||DIY|
|Car/equipment repair manuals||Technical Skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Career consultations||Career skill||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|CD Covers||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Clip art||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Coaching/mentoring sessions||Coaching||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Comics||Art||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Custom consultations (e.g. beauty/style/skincare, salary negotiation, etc)||Coaching||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Custom planning (e.g. vacation/travel)||Convenience||Fixed-term||DFY|
|Design||Creative||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Design & Graphic Templates||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DIY|
|Dispute letters (with banks, attorneys, clients, etc.)||Writing||One-and-done||DFY|
|Document templates||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Downloadable Workbook Or Printables||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Ecommerce product descriptions||Writing||One-and-done||DFY|
|Email campaign templates (upselling, cross-selling, re-engagement, etc.)||Writing||One-and-done||DIY|
|Email Course (any topic)||Courses||One-and-done||DIY|
|Financial consultations||Financial||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Financial planning||Financial||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|House, Garage, and Cabin Plans||Technical Skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Icon sets||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Infographic design||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Lessons (e.g. drawing, language, crochet, music, sound recording)||Courses||Fixed-term||DIY|
|Live Paid Virtual Workshop||Coaching||Open-ended / continuous||DIY|
|Logo design||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Magazines||Writing||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Membership Site||All||Open-ended / continuous||DIY|
|Mockup images||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Online course (any topic)||Courses||Fixed-term||DIY|
|Paid Newsletter||Writing||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Patterns (sewing, knitting, etc)||Templates||One-and-done||DIY|
|Photoshop services (airbrushing, touch ups, etc.)||Photography||One-and-done||DFY|
|Photoshop/illustrator templates||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DIY|
|Powerpoint / Keynote presentation templates||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Printable calendars||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Printable colouring book pages||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Printable journals||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Professionally edited short videos as a service (wedding, travel, etc.)||Videography||One-and-done||DFY|
|Research||Research||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Resume touchups||Career skill||One-and-done||DFY|
|Setup for online stores, blogs, websites||Computers||Fixed-term||DFY|
|Short films (entertainment)||Videography||One-and-done||DFY|
|Social media marketing||Marketing||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Spreadsheets & Trackers||Computers||One-and-done||DFY|
|Tech Training Tutorials||Courses||One-and-done||DIY|
|Translations||Language||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Turn images into vector files||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Tutorials||Courses||Open-ended / continuous||DIY|
|Tutorials (painting, business skills, etc)||Courses||Fixed-term||DIY|
|Tutoring||Courses||Open-ended / continuous||DIY|
|Video animation intros||Videography||One-and-done||DFY|
|Video tutorials (ex. How to use a DSLR camera, follow along yoga, learn to code, edit a vlog, etc.)||Courses||Fixed-term||DIY|
|Voice overs (as a service)||Audio||Open-ended / continuous||DFY|
|Voice recordings for podcasts and ads||Audio||One-and-done||DFY|
|Website Themes||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Wedding invitation templates||Graphic Design||One-and-done||DFY|
|Worksheets (educational curriculum ideas)||Training||One-and-done||DFY|
|Writing cover letters||Writing||One-and-done||DFY|
Implementing the Digital Product Ideas that *YOU* will Sell
Now that we’ve talked about how to choose the right digital product for your unique combination of gifts, talents, and skills, it’s implementation time.
If you’re really good at something that’s of high value…
The best path for you is to do your own thing and create premium digital products.
If you have the skills and knowledge to offer a digital product in Quadrant A, what are you waiting for? There’s probably some low-hanging fruit and a very profitable opportunity waiting for you if you package your knowledge and share it. Ideally, build a course, because that’s where you get the most value.
In planning what to create, focus on the greatest transformation you can create for your students. If you’d like help with online course building, including finding the best idea for your course, setting the right price, and choosing a strategy for how you’ll enroll students, check out our free, one-week training called the Course Builder’s Bootcamp.
If you’re not sure you have high enough levels of skill…
You can still create and sell digital products. Here are some ideas of how to do it profitably:
If you truly don’t have any viable skills of your own, you can always sell somebody else’s offer.
But what if you have a very common skill or a degree that’s not getting you anywhere? Before you conclude you *don’t* have a high-value skill, ask yourself, is there a niche or subset of your skill that *is* valuable? For example, if you have a degree in English, copywriting is where the money is at. Look for the subsets of your skill that are profitable, and create products in that niche.
Also, keep your eyes open all the time for where the problems are.
- Look for the pain points, the frustrations that people share, the little annoyances of life.
- Look for the places where people are wasting time or losing money.
- What are the things that you hear people constantly complaining about?
- What are the things everyone wishes they didn’t have to do?
Could a digital product start doing those tasks? These are the biggest opportunities to create something. Look for something that will sell enough to make it worth your while to invest your time in building it.
Lastly, don’t confine yourself to your “official” career or degree field. Look at your skills and identify any of the areas that are easy for you to do, but hard for everyone else. For instance, maybe you’re the person that everyone always seems to magically open up to, even complete strangers. Could you package that and offer a training to show introverts how to get better at having conversations? Or maybe you’re someone who instantly sees how something could be organized. Could you use that insight to open up other people’s eyes to a new way of seeing the world so that they end up less disorganized?
You may see these topics as irrelevant or not lucrative enough, but we’ve seen people make money on topics as diverse as animal massage, dream interpretation, and happiness counseling, where you might not think there was a lot of money or enough interest for someone to make money.[click_to_tweet tweet=”The important thing is to take action. Imperfect action is better than no action at all.” quote=”The important thing is to take action. Imperfect action is better than no action at all.”]
The important thing is to take action. Imperfect action is better than no action at all. Start executing, and you can always pivot. Your first digital product might not be a slam dunk, but on the flip side, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So if you’re attracted to creating your very own digital product, get out there and start making a ruckus.
It’s time to move from ideas to action
What digital product will you create first?
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