Welcome, and congrats! The fact that you’re researching how to start a digital business means you’ve caught on to the fact that economics are changing, and changing fast.
Within the next decade roughly 70% of human-centric jobs will be outsourced to tech, so setting up shop and building revenue streams digitally is a really smart hedge! In this guide we’ll explain why starting a digital business is a great idea, and teach you about great digital products and online platforms—and don’t worry, it won’t take long. Enjoy!
You can also check out the best events for digital entrepreneurs here!
1) Why to Start a Digital Business
Let's start with the undeniable benefits of starting a digital business:
1) Far Less Hassle
Digital businesses require very little effort to set up and manage. Once you’ve created a product, all you need is an order-gateway so people can click a link to purchase and the rest is done automatically.
e-Junkie is a cheap ($5/month) and reliable program for automating your sales. If you’re using a service like this, once you put your digital product up on a sales page there’ll be absolutely nothing left to do.
2) Far Lower Costs
The cost of running a digital business is super low. The main expense you’re looking at is the time you’ll spend creating your digital product— for instance, if you’re putting together a guide or a piece of software.
Actually creating a file to sell, like a PDF, is free, and you won’t have to worry about manufacturing, storing and shipping costs. Needless to say, selling digital products is a financially savvy move.
3) Easy to Get Paid for Sharing Knowledge
Producing and selling digital products makes it easy to get paid for your knowledge. For example, many bloggers create eBook guides on how to master certain activities.
If you’re someone who loves to share knowledge with the world, blogging and selling digital products, such as eBooks, is a great way to go. So, instead of dedicating your time to crafting short articles, put in some extra effort and create an in-depth guide in your area of expertise. Charge a small fee for people to download it and boom! In comes the money.
4) You Don’t Need Your Own Platform
You don’t actually need your own website to sell these products. There are tons of existing platforms you can use. Many people make a living by using Amazon’s Kindle platform to promote and sell their own eBooks.
Whatever it is you’re looking to sell, there’s probably an existing platform you can use instead of building your own!
5) Very Little Risk
There’s virtually no risk involved in starting a digital business. If it doesn’t work out, the main thing you’ll have lost is time. The only real money you could lose would be from your sales-automation software, but most of those only charge a small monthly or per-transaction fee. GoSpaces doesn’t even charge you until you’ve earned $50 each month!
2) How to Create a Digital Product
No one wants to buy from someone who has no authority. People are much more likely to buy from an industry leader— someone they can trust.
While it takes time to establish that kind of brand image, creating a digital product is a great way to speed up the process! Videos, eBooks, ultimate guides, checklists, tutorials… whatever it is, as long as it showcases you as someone who knows what they’re talking about, it’ll help you build up your digital presence and credibility.
Sure, becoming an ‘author’ sounds scary, but it really doesn’t have to be. No one’s saying you need to write the next bestseller. We’re just suggesting you create a unique digital product on a topic you know a lot about! Sharing your wealth of knowledge is one of the best ways to create new profit streams.
Step 1: Choose a Topic
Choose a topic that showcases your expertise. Look around and see how your competitors are creating authority products, then make something unique to your knowledge and skill-set. You’re only limited by your imagination here.
Ann Readon, founder of How to Cook That, sells recipes and guides on how to make a wide variety of baked goods. Jessica Sepel of JS Health sells tons of digital products on healthy-eating, including guides, shopping lists and meal plans. Think about what you want to share with the world. The topics and product types are endless!
Step 2: Create Your Masterpiece
This is where you actually share your unique talents. Create your digital masterpiece!
Keep in mind it’s very important for your end result to look/sound professional. If you’re creating a video series, have it professionally edited. If you’re creating a PDF or eBook, have a professional cover designed. Remember, you can track down any specialist you need at competitive rates on sites like UpWork or Fiverr.
Step 3: Choose an eCommerce Platform
You need to decide whether you want to sell directly from your website or from an already established eCommerce platform. Keep in mind that regardless of where you’re selling from, you’re going to want to showcase your digital product on your own site (to build authority).
That said, there are many easy and affordable eCommerce platforms that can be embedded in your website, like Selz. Selz a great option as it specializes in digital downloads. Your product can be sold from a Selz store and promoted anywhere on your site. Selz handles the entire sales transaction, from checkout to customer download. It’s affordable, easy to use, and works with most website platforms, like WordPress and Blogger.
Tara Gentile uses Selz to sell her multimedia pack “Quiet Power Strategy,” which teaches business owners to cut through the noise and design a plan for success. This is exactly the kind of digital product that can make someone an authority in their industry!
Step 4: Market Your Authority
Now that you have an awesome, professionally crafted digital product, it’s time to market your authority. There are many ways to brand yourself as an expert, but here are a few ideas for getting started:
- Guest post on authority sites, promoting your digital product in your bio.
- Add your digital product to your LinkedIn profile.
- Add a link, picture, or summary to all your social media profiles.
- Make sure it’s prominent on your blog and website.
- Acquire testimonials about your digital product.
Step 5: Work on Becoming an Industry Leader
You won’t become an industry leader overnight, but you can start building credibility now. No matter what industry you’re in, creating a unique, informative digital product will increase your authority, no doubt about it.
3) Platforms to Build Businesses On
Typically, people build up their online businesses by simply creating a website and promoting the heck out of it. However, some folks have creatively shaken things up by using fan pages, social accounts, and other tools to build a massive following (hundreds of thousands of followers) before even extracting income. Now that’s impressive.
FaceBook and Instagram are two major platforms you can use to take advantage of this method, while Fiverr, Ebay and Etsy are also incredibly popular sites that produce new success stories on a daily basis.
Let’s take a quick look at each!
Instagram is progressively becoming a super popular platform for people to run businesses through. By posting popular photos, quickly progressing their following, selling shout outs and promoting affiliate products, people are making bank through this mobile-operated app.
While Facebook and Twitter’s engagement levels have been declining in recent years, Instagram’s are on the rise, making it a powerful tool for entrepreneurs. There’s simply no reason not to start using it, if only to promote your business.
If you’re interested in creating a business Instagram account, check out foundr’s guide on attracting new followers. The strategies they describe allowed them to gain over 194,000 followers in just 7 months.
Nothing radical here. eBay’s always been a popular platform for running a business, but it still deserves a mention. As long as you pick a decent market and design your listings well, you’ll receive tons of visitors from all across eBay’s massive pre-existing audience.
Of course there are still disadvantages to be aware of:
- High competition
- No real branding for your business
- Living by eBay’s terms
These things are important to consider, for sure. But as far existing platforms go, eBay is a great option that’s already done all the hard work for you.
It’s amazing how successful some entrepreneurs have been by using a single Facebook page. No website, no store, no background—just a Facebook page they add quality content to every now and then.
Ever heard of Lad Bible? How about Gym Fails?
These pages were started by people with passion for the content they were posting, and their pages caught fire. They hit millions of fans, and eventually started their own websites.
Just like popular Instagrammers, Facebook page owners gain income by selling shoutouts on their pages or creating websites/stores to direct their fans to. If this is a route you want to head down, check out Shopify’s tools for starting a business on Facebook!
Fiverr is fantastic for buying and selling. The only problem with Fiverr is that it’s more difficult to get paid handsomely, since many people offer extensive services for only $5. Nevertheless, it’s a great platform that’s produced many success stories.
Etsy is a super popular option for the artistic/crafty community. Just like eBay, it allows you to tap into a vast marketplace and take advantage of a pre-established audience. If you’re selling vintage or handmade products, Etsy is a great way to create an online business quickly and easily!
This guide was co-created by Dan Western and Liesha Petrovich, both successful online entrepreneurs who love to share insight on creating successful digital businesses.