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Creating Digital Products: 5 Surprising Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner

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Two years ago this month I released my highest paying client ever.

While the money was fabulous (not to mention the luxury travel), I knew that at the end of every day, I was working to build her business and not my own. It wasn’t sustainable, and let’s face it. I had a job.

I’d kind of dabbled at product creation before, but when I let go of that regular paycheck, I had a choice to make. I could either find new clients to replace the one I fired, or I could go all in on creating training products and rebuild my business with a whole new focus.

I knew I didn’t want more clients. I wanted to create a different kind of freedom, so I pivoted my business and took everything I learned as a virtual assistant and turned it into training products for other online business owners.

Now, two years later, business is thriving. I love what I do. I only wish I’d done it sooner.

Here’s what I wish I’d known earlier about creating and selling digital products. If I had, I don’t think I would have waited so long to take the leap.

How Easy It Can Be to Get Started

I have incredibly high standards. I know that about myself. Maybe it comes from working with 7-figure coaches and getting an up-close-and-personal look at the content they produce. Maybe it’s my own inner perfectionist. Either way, I let those high standards get in my way for far too long.

What I didn’t know was how easy it is to create something that truly serves my community without investing a fortune in expensive sales platforms, training portals, and brand photo shoots.

Microsoft Word documents created from my own internal processes and procedures have formed the framework for the dozens of products I’ve released in the past two years, and I would encourage anyone to get started that exact same way.

Creating digital products key takeaway #1Key takeaway: There is beauty and usefulness in simplicity, and my community appreciates that I keep it simple.

How Much I Already Knew

I heard a story one time about why the early VCRs (remember those?) had such poorly written user manuals. The problem isn’t that VCRs were difficult to use. The problem was that the people writing the manuals were so close to the product that they couldn’t see it from the end user’s point of view.

It simply never occurred to the writer that they needed to tell people to hit the stop button before hitting eject. Or that the cables had to be connected to the television in a specific way to make it work.

They wrongly assumed that what was common sense to them was equally common for everyone.

I’m often far too close to my work to see the knowledge there, too. I assume that because I know in my very bones how to connect an opt-in form to an email marketing platform, that everyone else does as well. It’s so simple for me to do, it takes literally seconds.

Surely it’s that easy for everyone, right?

The truth is, not everyone does understand exactly how lead forms work, and what’s more, they often appreciate a step-by-step plan to follow.

Creating digital products key takeaway #2Key takeaway: Everyone—you, me, the choir director at church—holds a unique wealth of knowledge that others simply do not possess.

How Much Demand There Is for Simple Digital Products

When I released my very first digital product, my Operations and Management Checklists, I was not expecting the number of sales I got. I sent a couple of emails to my list of 629 people, and in the first couple of days had made 60 sales.

I was blown away.

I had anticipated that this simple little product would sell maybe a handful at best, because I mistakenly assumed that all digital products have to be multi-module courses with flashy sales pages and Facebook group support.

More of my perfectionism and ridiculously high standards at play, right?

It gets better though. Turns out a friend of mine happened to be on my mailing list, and she asked if she could promote my checklists, too. Two weeks later, and we’d made 226 sales for a total of $6,888.

The result of creating a digital product

And you know what? That product continues to make sales every week, even now.

Creating digital products key takeaway #3Key takeaway: Sometimes the best solution to a pressing problem is the simplest one. Don’t overcomplicate things.  

The Critical Importance of Multiple Streams of Income

When I released my biggest client at the start of 2018, I also released a huge chunk of my monthly income. Like about 50% of it.

Ouch.

I was well prepared though. We had a financial cushion and a plan to move forward on a different business path. While at the time all of my income was directly tied to service work, I knew that—in theory—real freedom comes from not being dependent on any single income stream, and that was what I was setting out to create.

I was starting from scratch though, and it took me about six months to recoup that income.

In the last part of 2019, I released another client (my then largest) rather unexpectedly. They also made up a huge portion of our overall income—this time about 20%—and while it wasn’t a catastrophe, it was definitely uncomfortable.

Here’s what surprised me this time around though. If you looked at our month-to-month profit-and-loss sheets, you wouldn’t know I left that client. There’s not been so much as a ripple in our cash flow because of it.

That’s how quickly multiple streams of income work to fill in the gaps.

Creating digital products key takeaway #4Key takeaway: Multiple streams of income smooth out the cash flow, which means no more feast-or-famine style bookkeeping.

How Much Value Those Small Products Really Have

There’s a philosophy I hear people repeat from time to time that claims it’s somehow better to sell ten $100 products than to sell 100 $10 products.

To me, it sounds like they’re dismissing the actual value of those tiny products.

What I’ve found is that not only are small (sub $50) digital products a good fit for the community I serve, but they’re a good fit for me, too. I don’t feel the need to create a $2,000 course. To me that sounds a lot like work, and selling something with that high of a price tag takes a great deal of planning and intention as well.

For now, I’m happy with the plan I have, and my audience responds positively as well.

Creating digital products key takeaway #5Key takeaway: Small price tags do not equal less value.

How to Leverage Your Skills as a Freelancer or Service Provider to Create Digital Products

Now, I’m not saying that every freelancer and virtual assistant and service provider everywhere should drop all their clients and start creating digital products.

What I am saying is that creating digital products as a secondary income stream is a smart business move that everyone can make. Here’s how to get started.

Click the link below to download my Digital Product Ideas for Freelancers cheat sheet. I’ve rounded up 39 easy and profitable product ideas for writers, designers, project managers, social media managers, administrative assistants and other service providers. I know you’ll find something on that list that will spark your creativity and help you add another income stream to your bottom line.

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  • I agree with all of your points and feel especially strong about the low-priced products. I’ve seen too many would-be entrepreneurs be seduced by the high-priced product argument and fail to sell it, then give up.

    • Cindy says:

      Exactly! It takes a lot of work to sell a high-ticket product – especially when you’re new.

  • MamaRed says:

    So love your point of view Cindy…on multiple counts. I’ve got the perfectionist gene in spades and the “oh, everyone must already know that” conversation ringing in my ears all the time. I’m shifting those convos in 2020 and am shifting the mindset to “someone might need it” instead of “everybody knows *that* already.

    I’ve struggled with having the energy it takes to create and promote one of those 2000 courses with all the fancy rigging and dismissed the “low ticket, simple products” as, well, too simple!

    • Cindy says:

      That “everyone knows this” thinking will hold you back for sure! Glad to hear you’ve recognized it in yourself and that you’re taking steps to overcome it! 🙂

  • Dana Mills says:

    As always, you are spot on, Cindy! I appreciate the reminder. Bigger and fancier isn’t always better!

    • Cindy says:

      I love the “one problem, one solution” line of thinking. No need to include the entire kitchen–sink and all–when the problem is a simple one. 🙂

  • Cindy, I totally agree! You can pack a TON into $37 products that peeps eat up on Pinterest if you know your niche market! Love your philosophy and your style! Just signed up to apply for your affiliate program. Looking forward to hearing from you! You’re a ROCKSTAR!

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