What To Sell Online And How To Quickly Validate Your Idea

what to sell online

Businesses that have previously taken years to build, nurture and grow into powerful empires, can now be established in months by anyone with the right idea and a wifi connection.

Browse the web for ten minutes and you’ll quickly stumble upon one of the many empowering success stories currently circulating the net. They are almost making the whole journey of taking an idea from zero to a 6-figure business look too easy. That must be something, right?

The best thing about this new era of digital business is that anyone can tap into it and transform their lives in a matter of months. Compared to physical stores, online businesses enjoy some huge advantages, like not carrying any inventory! The ability to scale as well as the potential to earn very high margins make selling digital products a much more attractive option for entrepreneurs seeking fast progress and big gains.

If you’re looking for a sign to start your own online business, this is it. Here’s a list of the types of digital products you can sell to kick off your digital venture.

Types of products to sell

types of products to sell

Photographs

No modern business can afford to ignore their content strategy these days, and high-quality, compelling photos make up a large chunk of it. From blog posts to guides, to social media messages, to any printed material – everything must have an eye-catching visual to capture the customers’ attention. That makes unique photographs one of the top digital products to sell.

Using a third-party microstock website to sell your photographs as stock images has historically been the only decent option available to photographers. However, that has changed dramatically in the last few years. The simplicity and ease of creating an online store has prompted savvy photographers to branch out on their own and, instead of forfeiting 30% to 70% of their profits to microstock websites, they began building their own photography-based business.

To run a successful digital photography business, you need to consider the three main factors:

  • Discovering your niche;
  • Building a following/audience;
  • Establishing several streams of income.

Like in any business, finding your niche is the one factor that will determine how quickly and easily your business picks up. For a photographer, discovering what style or theme resonates with the audience is a key part of building a successful online store. Whether you decide to go with travel, lifestyle, nature, food, or fashion photography, the next step is building an audience. Photographers, like bloggers or Instagram influencers, need to invest time and effort into building a brand and a network of keen followers.

Then, what’s left to succeed is simply finding a way to diversify your portfolio of alternative income strategies. For instance, if you open your own digital photography store, you can start selling other popular products, such as online courses, eBooks, or services.

eBooks

This brings us to another hugely profitable digital product – eBooks. With self-publishing riding a trend and small presses, indie authors and Amazon imprints accounting for over 50% of the market share, eBooks have become a goldmine for entrepreneurs who are able to string sentences together. Thanks to the emergence of new generation devices like Kindle and Kobo, buying books online has become a seamless experience. The costs of publishing an ebook are minimal, so self-published authors are not only saved from having to beg to be published, but can also benefit from a risk-free solution.

e-publishing global sales

Opening an online store to sell your own eBooks could be an amazingly profitable business. You could tap into the almost cult-like following that’s forming around self-published authors and keep most of your profit. Forget the old myth that there is no money in books; if you write for business (not pleasure) and treat your eBook like you would any other product, then the potential to make money is far greater than you can imagine.

Videos and courses

Who could have thought that people would be willing to pay for an online course, when YouTube is bursting at its seams with free video content? Thousands sign up to new online courses every day and happily pay the price for the knowledge they get. From drawing to coding to eCommerce secrets – online shoppers are bravely embracing the new world of digital.

self-paced e-learning global sales

However, online video and course marketplaces, like Udemy or Skillshare, are taking a big cut of the profit you make on their site. Opening an online store could give your content the chance to stand out, and you could put whatever you earn into your own pocket. Having your own site also contributes to raising awareness about your product and allows you to position yourself as an expert in the field.

Music

iTunes is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions downloading a song or buying an album online. And Spotify is the number one choice for streaming music online, for free – that is, if you don’t mind the ads. As consumers, we turn to these giant brands for convenience and peace of mind they offer, but musicians, who are trying to make a living from their music, aren’t the ones benefiting from this new digital marketplace. Digital retailers like iTunes, Google, and Amazon will take a big cut of your sales if you choose to sell your music through their marketplace. The upside of making your music available in these stores, however, is that many fans prefer to buy from the sites they trust and perhaps, already have their credit card details saved.

But opening a digital store to sell your music online could be an effective solution, too. Many benefits come with being the sole owner of an online store: you can collect data about your fans and continue engaging them through email campaigns, you have the chance to really showcase your personality and vision and build a personal brand over time, plus you get to keep 100% of the profit you make from your music sales. Building your own professional website is crucial for the long-term success of your career and your business.

Web Elements

Graphic and web designers are living the golden age of digital business. With thousands of new websites, blogs and personal portfolios popping up every day, the demand for all kinds of web elements – from themes and patterns to logos and icons – is soaring daily.

A lot of illustrators are making more than the lion’s share of their salary through selling their artwork online. Besides being an awesome way to market your work and get new commissions, an online portfolio with an e-commerce functionality could easily grow into a sustainable business. If you don’t feel like commercializing your work to generate more sales, you can always create and sell graphic elements for designers. Textures, stylised design elements, backgrounds, ink and similar things that are quite time-intensive to create are usually particularly popular among designers working on a tight deadline.

Opening an online store could help you profit from the digital elements you have sitting on your hard drive. Establishing a brand from day one and gathering momentum for your products is essential if you are looking to build a long-lasting online business.

Digital Files

Similarly to web elements, digital files and downloads are an exceptionally profitable digital product category. It is slightly more niche than fonts or vectors, but still demonstrates a growing demand among digital buyers. An online store selling LUTs color grading packs is a great example.

LUTs

Image Source: luts.iwltbap.com

LUT stands for “look-up table” and is simply a file with .CUBE or .3DL extension, containing math instructions to replace a color (based on RGB value) by another one. This color grading preset can be used to edit images or videos shot with any camera.

IWLTBAP Luts on Instagram

Image Source: luts Instagram

With the right marketing strategy in place, digital products like this can grow into a stand-alone business, generating a stable stream of income every month.

What to sell online & how to decide what type of product is right for you

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Let’s put it this way – you wouldn’t consider opening a hairdressing salon if you don’t know how to cut the hair. Deciding what type of digital product is right for you rests on the same sort of reasoning. A digital business venture will require a lot of your time, effort and energy to fully take off and generate money. Your evenings, weekends and even your holidays might be spent on planning, strategizing and nurturing the business. So you must either be really into it or it should be a by-product of your work.

Passion attracts others. Pursuing something with passion always attracts others to your cause. It’s infectious and sincere; people love that. That’s why choosing to sell a digital product that plays to your strengths and interests is a smart decision. You might already have a following or audience, or at least know where to find the people that are interested in your offer. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by picking a category that you know little about. To be successful, you must have your heart in it.

Do you have by-products? A by-product of your work is something that you create in the process of working on the main project. For example, as a designer, you most likely create a number of variations of web elements, such as patterns, icons, fonts, vectors, or other digital assets, to show to the client. Once the winner design is selected, the other files could be sold as digital products. Sometimes, you might spend days working on a project that never sees the light. If you had an online store, you could easily upload those items and start selling instantly.

But designers aren’t the only ones able to monetize the by-products of their work. Fitness coaches can bundle their training plans and tips into eBooks, music producers can package their best loops, beats, and drum kits into digital packs, and anyone with a particular expertise could share their knowledge in the form of an online course or a podcast.

How to quickly validate?

Various strategies exist for validating a product idea, but I’m only going to mention two that work well for digital products: creating a mini version of your product and experimenting with pre-sell.

Create a mini version of your digital product first. This is a simple way to give your prospective customers a taste of your product. Online buyers are increasingly more picky about what and where they buy, so earning their trust and building a brand before you launch the product and ask for their credit card details, is a great workaround for beating buyer objections. For instance, if you’re working on an online course, create the first lesson only to gauge the interest and collect the feedback first. Once you get enough people to commit, you can proceed further.

Pre-sell: sell before you build. Instead of asking people whether they would buy your product at some point in the future, let them answer this crucial question by paying upfront. If you get people to pay for a product that you haven’t even created yet, you have the only product idea validation you need: money in your bank account.

Conclusion

The success of your digital business will rest on your ability to recognize and follow your own passion, because the energy and hours these ventures demand are far beyond a simple interest. If you’re lucky enough to be able to sell by-products of your work, all you’ll need to do is find the right route to market and build a following. Whether it’s ebooks or web elements, the potential to make money online is enormous. Just get cracking.

Thank you for reading!
Justas Markus

Founder/CEO GetFoundXL and a blogger at Entrepreneur.com, Observer.com, Influencive.com and others. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.

Load comments
  • Akvile

    Good stuff. Didn’t know LUTs was a thing.

  • threepointplay

    Does Sellfy offer pre-selling option?

  • Ingrida Bajoraitytė

    The best product is the one that helps buyers earn more money one way or another. That’s why hobby-related ebooks are basically doomed.

  • Juste Semetaite

    I think it makes most sense to just sell the by-product of your work. If you have a day job, there’s almost always something.

    • Justas Markus

      I meant here is that the trick is to accurately evaluate if that byproduct actually has a large market potential. The tips at the end are helpful for that.