Many entrepreneurs are building entire businesses around digital products—such as ebooks, online courses, music, or custom templates—due to their popularity and ease of distribution. Other companies are launching them to complement physical items and services.
Learning how to sell digital products offers the potential for passive income, since they can be created once and sold repeatedly to different customers without needing to replenish inventory or deal with order fulfillment. That makes them ideal for creatives, bloggers, educators, and freelancers looking for efficient ways to make money online.
If that’s you, here’s how to create, market, and sell digital products online—including examples of the top digital products.
What are digital products?
Digital products are intangible goods that exist in a digital format. These include ebooks, music, digital art, software, online courses, and virtual goods in video games. They're typically delivered to customers via download or email, and offer businesses a way to provide value without physical inventory.
Why sell digital products versus physical goods?
There are many advantages to selling digital products, which makes them uniquely attractive to entrepreneurs:
- Low overhead costs.You don’t have to hold inventory or incur any shipping charges.
- High profit margins. There’s no recurring cost of goods, so you retain the majority of your sales in profits. Calculate your profit margins ahead of time.
- Potential to automate. Orders can be delivered instantly with no oversight.
- Flexible products. You can offer free products to build your email list, monthly paid subscriptions for access to exclusive digital content, or licenses to use your digital products. There are many options for incorporating digital products into your business.
- E-learning is increasingly popular. Online educators have a massive opportunity to expand their business and impact with e-learning, an industry expected to be worth $840 billion by 2030.
But online digital products also come with specific challenges you’ll need to watch out for:
- You’re competing with free content. With digital goods, consumers will usually have access to free alternatives to what you’re selling. This necessitates careful thinking about your niche, the types of products you sell, and how to write your product descriptions.
- You’re susceptible to piracy. You'll need to reduce the risk of content theft by employing tools to protect your products.
Where to sell digital products
There are three main channels for digital products: self-created online stores, social media, and digital marketplaces.
- Build your own online store using an ecommerce platform like Shopify, then integrate a digital product app for seamless selling and management.
- Promote your digital products to your audience via social media. Use native shopping features or connect your Shopify store.
- Create a profile on an established digital marketplace within your niche and access a pre-established audience.
Remember, in exchange for exposure, some marketplaces can take up to 50% commission for every sale. Avoid seller fees by building your own online destination for trending digital products.
💡 Learn more: Trending Products to Sell.
10 best digital products to sell online
- Online courses
- Licensed digital content
- Premium content libraries
- Digital templates and tools
- Product photography
- Music, art, and entertainment
- Digital services
- Printable digital products
- Digital memberships
1. Online courses
Online courses are the best way to present in-depth content in a monetized digital format. You can create a presentation, record a video walk-through, or develop a course featuring the voices of subject-matter experts.
Once created, your course can be taken by thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of students. You only need to make updates when your content becomes outdated or loses relevancy.
When ideating your course, begin by visualizing learner outcomes: what do you want your learner to know or be able to do when they have completed your content?
Online courses can include quizzes, knowledge checks, and other interactive activities to break-up passive learning content and boost engagement. To learn more, check out Shopify's guide to creating an online course.
If you are the source of knowledge for an online course, you could also package your expertise as an ebook. How to Cake It, for example, sells digital cookbooks alongside their courses for easy scrolling and bookmarking while you bake.
Ebooks are a familiar digital format across audiences and can be accessed via an ereader, computer, or mobile device. You can write an ebook on anything—but before you commit to a topic, research the availability of free content on your subject.
If there’s already an abundance of blog posts or YouTube tutorials that your readers can access for free, you’ll need to differentiate your content with a unique selling proposition (USP).
Your ebook’s USP could be your reputation as an expert or successful person within your niche. Alternatively, your book could promise to delve deeper and further into your topic than existing free online content. Or, position your book as the essential resource for readers hoping to progress within your discipline.
Also, bear in mind that most ebooks are priced competitively and may include free downloadable sections in the hopes of selling a high number of copies.
3. Licensed digital content
From stock photos to video footage, music, and sound effects, there’s a global ecosystem of licensable digital assets uploaded by creatives for other creatives to use in their work.
Licensing your content for use by individuals and businesses is a way to generate passive income from your creations. Invest your labor in creating some top-quality video transitions or background music, then receive revenue from their use, for as long as they remain popular.
When brainstorming asset ideas, work backward from the needs of your target audience. Start by thinking about what kind of content is in demand—and where existing creators are not fulfilling market needs.
Be sure to protect your digital products with watermarks and other security measures, especially if you’re selling photos online.
4. Premium content libraries
If you’ve had success selling an online course or ebook, or from licensing content, one way to evolve your offering is to bundle your creations. You can provide full access to your entire catalog of digital products for a monthly or yearly subscription—or a one-time fee.
Snowboard Addiction, for example, is a monetized destination for all things snowboarding. Customers can shop for physical snowboarding gear as well as download tutorials and sign up for live online courses.
One advantage of a subscription-based business model is that it generates a motivated, active community. Your subscribers are your best prospects for any new content you create, and may be a great resource to consult when considering your next move.
Since your library will only be accessible to paying subscribers, you could also consider hosting exclusive content, such as livestreams and AMA sessions.
You can sell digital product subscriptions with Shopify by using a subscription billing app.
5. Digital templates and tools
Digital products also come in the form of tools, equipping professionals to do tasks more quickly or competently. You can sell digital solutions to common pain points within a role or common online task, such as video editing.
Tools can be standalone apps or items that combine with other digital software. For example, RetroSupply Co sells brushes, textures, and templates for designers to use in popular programs such as Procreate and Photoshop. (Note how they also offer online courses and ebooks.)
Other digital tools and template products to sell online include:
- Digital marketing strategy templates for entrepreneurs
- Resume templates for job-seekers
- Mobile apps for businesses
- Graphic design templates for brochures, flyers, posters, etc.
- Adobe Photoshop filters and plugins for media editors
- Icons, fonts, or UX Kits for web designers
6. Product photography
If you’re a photographer, selling your services online can be a lucrative business. Thanks to the rise of ecommerce, professional product photos have never been in higher demand.
The best product photographers can identify the features of an item that shoppers are most interested in and use their photos to emphasize those aspects. Other tips for taking high-quality product photos include investing in a good tripod and learning how to construct the right lighting environment.
Like other digital products in this list, you can sell product photos via your own website, with an agency, through a marketplace, or all three (unless you sign an exclusivity agreement). When selling your services, consider offering different packages based on number of photos, types of products, or specific styles and setups.
7. Music, art, and entertainment
Digital product ideas don't have to be purely functional. If you’re a musician, artist, or content creator, chances are you’ve explored these or similar ways to monetize your talents online:
- Crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon allow fans to support creators in return for exclusive content.
- For artists, online galleries like Saatchi Art are a good place to find buyers for your work.
- To build your following, upload or stream content on social media in return for a share of ad revenue, sponsorship deals, and audience tips.
Beyond artistic and entertaining content, there’s a whole world of merchandise and branded digital products. If people enjoy a particular podcast or album, for example, they might be interested in items carrying designs that reference the art.
Often, this form of digital product selling works best with niche target markets. For example, Materia Store sells digital sheet music for popular video game soundtracks.
8. Digital services
Services pair well with digital products. A designer can offer a logo-creation service alongside downloadable templates. A personal trainer might offer live personal training sessions to their workout plan subscribers. Likewise, you can position services—digital or in real life—as add-ons to your online products.
For example, you might sell consultations along with a personalized report or Excel spreadsheet. Or, you could offer a free downloadable product to generate leads for your email marketing list, a tactic that many online businesses employ.
If there are tasks you commonly complete as part of your service business, you can consider separating and productizing them to create additional revenue streams.
9. Printable digital products
This category of digital products spans a wide range of print-at-home possibilities, from personalized wall art, planners, and greeting cards to specialized models for 3D printers. Customers can download and print your designs for personal use or as part of their own craft.
For a younger audience, printable coloring pages and worksheets are an in-demand mix of fun and learning. For example, digital download brand Caravan sells coloring posters as downloadable files or shipped prints.
10. Digital memberships
Digital memberships are golden tickets to an exclusive community centered around your brand or content. Joining your digital club could bestow members with access to premium content, the opportunity to purchase limited-edition merchandise, or tickets to events.
Other digital members clubs grant access to networking benefits. Nomad List, for example, is a global network for digital nomads, offering memberships that connect users with other nomads, as well as providing city data and trip planning features.
As the trend for token-gated projects has shown, however, digital communities needn’t be centered around a tangible item or service. Membership to an open-ended collective can be valuable in itself. Digital projects such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club use blockchain technology to provide proof of membership and grant access to perks without a central raison d’etre.
When crafting your digital membership experience, focus on creating a sense of exclusivity. The goal is to provide continuous value for members—and to make prospective clients feel like they’re missing out.
How to create and sell digital products
1. Find or create a digital product
Find a digital product to sell. You can create your own digital products or become an affiliate partner for an existing creator. Popular digital products include:
- Entertainment content
- Design assets
- Photoshop presets
- Software and plug-ins
- E-learning courses
- And other online services
When generating ideas for your digital products, don’t be too critical—the key to brainstorming is to avoid overthinking. If you’re looking for ideas of downloadable products to sell online, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Can you teach customers how to use your products? For example, if you sell knitting products, you could offer appointments to teach advanced knitting techniques.
- Are there things you can help your customers with related to your overall industry? If you sell surfboards, you could create a workout program to help your customers stay in surf shape at home.
- What are the values you’ve built your business on, and what are topics related to them? For example, if you sell sustainable apparel, you could create a course teaching your customers how to live a more sustainable life.
- In what ways could you bring your community of customers together? If you sell kitchen supplies, you could run a virtual guided wine-tasting event.
- What are you good at? If you’re really great at product photography, you could teach other people how to get better at product photography too.
💡 Learn more: Finding Your Niche: 8 Niche Market Examples to Inspire You.
2. Product validation
Validate your idea before committing too much time to it. The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time or money in a new venture without knowing it has a good chance to be successful.
Here are some ways to validate your idea as you figure out how to sell digital products:
- Keyword research. Use a keyword research tool to see how many people are searching for your topics. This will give you an idea of the opportunity size of each one.
- Google Trends. Search your topics on Google Trends. Look for topics that are growing in interest. This means the opportunity size will keep growing.
- Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups dedicated to every niche and audience imaginable, making them a great place to learn what your potential customers care about.
- Industry forums. Forums dedicated to hobbies and communities in your industry can help you learn more about what people want and need in your broader industry.
- Product reviews. Read both the reviews for your products and competitors’ products to get ideas. These could come from the reviews on product pages as well as standalone reviews on blogs and other websites.
- Start small and iterate. Sometimes, the easiest way to validate an idea is to experiment with a smaller version of the idea with room for growth. The goal is to get something out into the world as soon as possible so you can put your idea to the test and improve it from there.
No matter what industry you’re in, you have unique strengths and knowledge that would be valuable to your customers and selling digital products.
3. Create an online store
Once you validate a digital product idea, you’ll want to get an ecommerce platform to sell on.
Make a website to sell your digital products and get up and running in a few hours. Pick from a catalog of website templates, populate with your logo, copy, and images, and you’re ready to get selling.
Shopify is the easiest and most reputable way to create an ecommerce store for online digital products. You don’t need any tech skills or a big budget, and you can choose from more than 100 templates with built-in features to get set up quickly.
There are also over 4,000 free Shopify apps you can use for managing your store and selling more digital products online. Apps make the delivery of digital products easier than ever. Browse the App Store to find apps that plug into your store and do everything from hosting course content to delivering PDF purchases.
4. Market your digital products
With a digital product and an online store sorted, it’s time to find your customers. If you’re selling fonts or design templates, build an audience of designers and creators on the social platforms they use most. Also consider influencer marketing, social ads, or lead magnets.
8 apps for selling digital products on Shopify
- EDP ‑ Easy Digital Products. EDP is a popular app for selling downloadable files and license keys from your online store
- Filemonk. Filemonk is designed to make it as easy as possible for Shopify merchants to brand and sell digital products.
- SendOwl. For more complex digital product businesses, SendOwl comes with a variety of automation features.
- Courses. This Shopify app lets you create lessons, tutorials, webinars, and manuals and sell them online.
- Single. If you’re a musician selling music, Single bridges the gap between physical and digital music sales.
- FetchApp. FetchApp is another digital download delivery app with a free plan available (five megabytes of storage).
- Sky Pilot. This app for building a membership program. Sell files and exclusive video streams to customers.
- BookThatApp, Tipo, or Sesami. Use these apps to schedule consultations or coaching sessions with customers. All three have a free plan available.
Beyond these digital product delivery systems, there are other Shopify apps to power and protect your digital goods, such as:
- RecurrinGO!. This is an app for weekly or monthly subscriptions. Use it to automate recurring orders, invoices, and digital subscriptions for online memberships or programs.
- Disable Right-Click. When your content is your product, this app helps you protect it from theft. You can lock images and text so they can’t be saved or copied without your permission.
Note: When creating digital products in Shopify, be sure to uncheck “This is a physical product.”
Sales and marketing tips for selling digital products
Whether you’re a new business owner or adding online digital products to your existing store, keep these tips in mind:
Create a great digital product
The first criteria for creating digital products is to add value to your customers’ lives. Since you’re competing with free content on the web, invest in building a product people can’t find anywhere else.
Promote a free lead magnet
Regardless of how much your product costs, create a light version of it for free. A free product can help you build an email list you can sell to in the future. It also opens the door for upselling and retargeting potential customers with different promotions. Free products can build trust between your business and potential customers.
Start an affiliate program for your product
Affiliates are a huge source of traffic and sales for creators selling digital products. Find influencers who are established and trusted in your industry and offer them a commission for each sale they make. You can create different percentages for different affiliates, so if someone has a large audience, you can give them a higher commission rate to promote more and attract customers.
A great way to get early sales is by giving a discounted “early bird” price. If you’re releasing a new digital product, you can offer a 50% discount for the first 100 buyers, then 25% for the next 100 buyers, and then release the product at full price after the 25% discount runs out.
Offer a money-back guarantee
If you’re hesitant about offering a warranty on your products, it makes sense. Some people could buy and use your product then ask for their money back. But it’s all a part of running an online business. The rewards of higher conversion rates outweigh the small percentage of people who may abuse the policy. A money back guarantee shows potential buyers you’re putting the risk on you, not them.
Creating the best digital products for your business
Without the need to hold inventory or the overhead associated with selling physical products, all types of digital products can be profitable online business ideas.
There are countless ways you can create the best digital content to sell and resell and incorporate them into your business. With a little ingenuity and upfront investment of time, you can serve up irresistible value that can more than pay for itself over time.
Digital products FAQ
What are some examples of digital products?
- Online courses and webinars
- Kindle books
- Software programs
- Web elements like Shopify or WordPress themes
- Membership sites
- PowerPoint templates
How do you create a digital product?
- Brainstorm digital product ideas.
- Research buyer pain points.
- Validate ideas through keyword and trend research.
- Produce your digital products.
- Create a Shopify store.
- Build an audience and market your digital products.
What digital products are in demand?
- Educational products like ebooks and online courses
- Exclusive membership communities
- Digital templates and tools
- Repurposed music or art
- Productized services
- Licenses to use digital assets