How to securely sell your PDFs in 2024

By Susanna read
30 Jan, 2024
How to securely sell your PDFs in 2024

Selling PDFs online can be a great way to make extra income and reach a global audience without needing to invest a large amount of money upfront.

PDFs are easy to produce, and can often be sold for a higher price than physical products due to the low overhead costs associated with digital products.

But, considering how easily and quickly PDFs can be shared, it is important to ensure that you’re taking the necessary precautions to fight piracy and keep your products secure.

Securing your PDFs helps protect both your customers and your products. People are more likely to purchase from a business they trust, so having a secure system can help you generate more sales.

In this article, we’re going to share some tips on how to securely sell your PDFs online. We’re also going to show you how to create, format, design, and sell a PDF file. So, let’s get started!

How to sell PDFs online with Sellfy?

To sell PDF files online, you will need an eCommerce platform that provides a secure and easy way to:

  • Accept payments;
  • Deliver files;
  • Manage customers and orders;
  • Track sales performance.

Also, to protect your PDF files from piracy, you want to make sure you’re choosing a platform that provides anti-piracy tools such as PDF stamping, SSL encryption, password protection, and restricted downloads.

All of these features can help you create a successful and secure online store to sell PDFs. And, one such platform that provides all of that functionality is Sellfy.

Selling PDF files with Sellfy is a great way to monetize your content while providing a secure and reliable platform for you and your customers.

Plus, Sellfy offers a variety of tools to help you keep your PDF files safe:

It provides digital rights management (DRM) which ensures that only authorized users can access your content. It also offers a PDF watermarking feature that adds a visible watermark to each page of the PDF file.

limit downloads

Additionally, Sellfy’s content distribution network (CDN) securely stores and delivers your content, ensuring that only those with the correct access credentials can download the PDF files.

Lastly, Sellfy encrypts each file with advanced 256-bit encryption technology, so that no one can access the content without your permission.

If Sellfy sounds like a good fit for you, then read on to learn more about how to sign up and launch your store.

1. Open a Sellfy store

To get started, sign up for a 14-day free trial or pick a subscription plan. The free trial will let you try out all of the features before committing to a paid subscription. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to accept payments and sell PDFs until you upgrade to a paid plan.

Here are all the subscription plans we offer:

  1. Starter—for creators who want to sell an unlimited number of PDFs, get access to 2000 email credits, and use a custom domain.
  2. Business—for creators who have high PDF sales volumes and want a white-label store, store design migration, cart abandonment, product upselling, and 10,000 email credits.
  3. Premium—for creators who have the biggest PDF sales volumes and want product migration, priority support, 50,000 email credits, and extra tools to promote their PDF products.

sellfy plans

To start a trial, you’ll enter your first name, and a valid email address, and create a password. Once you’ve opened your trial, it’s important to first verify your email address so that you won’t miss out on Sellfy updates, account information, and more.

Next, choose a pre-made Sellfy theme (the easiest option), or design your store from scratch with the Store Customizer tool.

Out of these two, the Sellfy theme is by far the easiest and quickest way to get a beautiful store page with minimal effort. Then, you can fill out the theme with the Store Customizer tool and change colors, buttons, text, font, images, etc.


Optional: embed PDF files on your own website

Do you already have your own website? Connect your domain or use one of our embed options to integrate the Sellfy checkout, specific products, or the whole store into your existing website:

  • Buy now button—allows you to add a call-to-action button that can be paired with your own site design, product images, and description.
  • Single product—allows you to feature a single PDF product along with the description, buy now button, and uploaded images.
  • All products—allows you to add the whole storefront with all of your PDFs to your site.

Sellfy embed

2. Upload your PDF files

Locate the option to create products under your dashboard’s PRODUCTS section. Then, click Add new product and start uploading.

You can prepare as many as 50 PDF files per product—you don’t have to upload files one by one. Or, if you’d prefer to offer your product as single or multiple PDFs, you can create compressed .zip or .rar folders.

Also, there’s unlimited bandwidth and storage, and your file size can be up to 10 GB per product.

digital products

3. Connect payment methods to start selling PDFs online

Now, you can go ahead and connect payment methods to start selling.

Sellfy currently offers integrations with two major payment processors to collect payments:

  • Stripe—allows customers to pay with any major credit card, Apple Pay, or Google pay.
  • PayPal—allows customers to pay with a PayPal account, major credit card, or local European payment options.

connect payment methods sellfy

To add payment methods to your store, navigate to STORE SETTINGS > Payment settings. From there you’ll be able to connect your PayPal or Stripe account.

With Sellfy, you won’t have to wait for payouts—your earnings will be immediately transferred to your Stripe or PayPal account after the purchase is made.

4. Your customers will receive an email containing the PDF download link

Once payment is made your customers will be automatically redirected to the Order confirmation page where they can download the PDF.

At the same time, the Purchase Email with the download link will also be sent out instantly after the payment is confirmed. Your customer will then be able to download your PDF file in-store or via the download link in their email.

Read more about how to customize your Purchase Email here.

purchase email

Sellfy generates unique download links for each purchased item which means that each customer gets only a maximum of five download attempts. Automated downloads ensure that your customers can quickly and easily receive their PDF files.

Here’s a quick summary of what your customer gets:

  1. Your customer makes a purchase;
  2. Sellfy automatically sends a confirmation email and takes them to the purchase confirmation page;
  3. The customer downloads their purchase (in-store or via the email link).

Sellfy Tip
With Sellfy, it’s also possible to manually restrict or block product downloads to prevent piracy.

Create your PDF: the complete guide

Creating a PDF file is simple! All you need is a word processor to write and format your PDF, a grammar-checker to ensure proper readability, and, finally, design software to create images. Follow our guide below for detailed instructions.

1. Create your PDF using a word processor

You can create a PDF document in any word processor that you regularly type documents in. Just make sure that you can attach images and also convert the file to PDF format.

Here are some of the best tools for writing a PDF:

  • Canva—a free all-in-one platform with customizable PDF templates.
  • Google Docs—a free online word processor available for all Gmail users.
  • Microsoft Word—a leading paid word processing software.
  • LibreOffice—a completely free open-source Microsoft Word alternative.
  • Adobe Acrobat—another program that will export your work as PDF files.
  • Pages on Mac—a free word processor that offers templates for Mac users.

canva pdf maker

As you can see, there is more than one way to create a PDF. But, my suggestion is to start with Canva. It is by far the easiest solution for a beginner.

Sellfy creator and Excel wizard Emma Chieppor concurs:

I spent many weekends writing my first PDF in Canva. When I finally posted it, the results were so positive that I wanted to do more. So, I came up with my Ultimate Excel Function eBook and then the Excel Dictionary bundle.

excel dictionary store

2. Format the appearance of your PDF to prevent readability issues

When it comes to formatting, readability is crucial—the text you’ve written and the color scheme should be easy on the eyes. Don’t use more than three headings (H1, H2, H3), and try to stick to short paragraphs.

Another factor that determines readability is the body font. Writers normally opt for Verdana or Ariel at size 11 or 12.

But, if you’d rather use something with more personality, you can try Caslon, Garamond, Georgia, Helvetica, Baskerville, or Palatino. These fonts are frequently used in publishing.

google fonts

Also, keep in mind that PDF files aren’t reflowable. This means that PDF layouts are fixed and won’t adapt to different screen sizes, which can make them challenging to read.

Luckily, there are easy-to-use and efficient PDF creator tools like Canva that can help you cut through the tedious process of organizing and editing content.

With Canva’s Free PDF Maker, you won’t have to worry about readability issues as Canva templates are already professionally designed and formatted.

However, if your PDF is meant to be printed and you’re using other tools like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or LibreOffice, then you will have to ensure that your paper size is compatible with standard printer paper (A4 or 8.5″ x 11″).

You should be able to adjust the paper size in the word processing program that you’re using. Alternatively, you can also offer different versions of your PDF document to your audience.

Sellfy Tip
Print out a test copy to check for readability issues (e.g. small font size, large spaces surrounding text or images, bad spacing, etc.).

And last but not least, it’s important to proofread and spell-check the content before you format and publish it.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in grammar checkers. Canva doesn’t, but you can easily fix that by adding the free Grammarly extension to your web browser (it will automatically fix spelling mistakes, punctuation, and grammar, and even provide suggestions).

eBook creator software - Grammarly

Other useful proofreading tools:

3. Use design software to create a kickass cover & add images

When it comes to PDF cover design, it’s important to first have an idea of what you want your cover to look like. So, think about the following:

  • The title of your PDF and the author’s name. Displaying the title and the author’s name is essential because it gives your readers an idea of what your PDF is about.
  • A font style that matches your brand. Different fonts have different personalities. Think about what sort of style you want to go for.
  • The cover image. The visuals you use on your PDF cover can make or break your success. It’s important to choose an eye-catching image that will reinforce the purpose of your PDF.

tahlia skye

To create your design, you can use free or paid design programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Procreate on iPad. The drawbacks of some of these programs are the price tag and the steep learning curve.

So, if you don’t have any of the above-mentioned apps or software, or you’d rather use something free and simple, then Canva is your best bet (some alternative options are Beacon and Microsoft Office).

Thanks to free tools like Canva, creating a PDF cover is literally a piece of cake. It’s an easy-to-use graphic design tool that allows you to create anything you need in a matter of minutes.

create pdf cover in canva

In addition to helping you save time and money on complicated design software, Canva also offers a library of stock elements, photos, videos, and templates for every need.

The best part? Canva can be used by anyone. A lot of Sellfy creators like Emma Chieppor, EfikZara, and Ashley Renee use Canva to create PDFs. So, if you aren’t tech-savvy, then you can just use Canva’s drag-and-drop builder to create a professional-looking PDF in no time.

messy eats

In short, here’s why I would recommend Canva:

  • Hundreds of customizable PDF templates
  • Cloud storage for all designs
  • You can customize your own images
  • Access to a library of over 1 million copyright-free images, graphics, and illustrations
  • You can download your eBook design as a PDF file

3 proven tactics to drive more sales for your PDFs

To help you find a way to drive more sales, I’ve put together a list of three different tactics with real examples. You can use this as a source of inspiration, or put your own unique spin on monetizing your audience. Regardless of the way you decide to go about it, remember that the key to conversion lies in providing value.

1.  Drive traffic to your store by sharing the contents of your PDF on TikTok

A large amount of successful Sellfy creators sell PDFs. Take Emma Chieppor.

Emma is an educational influencer who has always had a passion for online content creation. But, it wasn’t until she ran into a hurdle at her new job—advanced Excel projects—that she started putting out content on social media.

Emma’s strong determination to learn Excel led her to master the software and, eventually, share her knowledge on TikTok. After creating her first Excel guide for her audience, she started sharing the contents of her PDF.

Sellfy creator — Excel Dictionary

The more consistently she posted, the more her TikTok following grew until, one day, one of her videos reached a million views. That one viral video was a huge game changer for Emma as it drove a crazy amount of traffic to her Sellfy shop.

So, why not use the same tactic? TikTok’s unique algorithm has made it possible for anyone to reach thousands if not millions, of people in a short period—Emma’s success story is proof of that.

Sellfy Tip
Unless you’d rather use your own voice in your videos, be sure to follow TikTok trends by adding viral music to your videos!

2. Generate leads with a free PDF giveaway

One of the most effective ways to grab your audience’s attention is to announce a viral giveaway. People love free stuff! Giving out something for free is an amazing way to generate leads (which you can use later to push products).

For example, you can create two different PDFs: a free version that contains less information, and a paid version that has everything. Then, promote both on social media, but use the free version as a way to collect people’s emails and push the paid version (e.g. “get access to the complete PDF”).

If you have a Sellfy store, then you can easily do a giveaway with Sellfy: you can either upload freebies to your store or use Sellfy’s coupons and discounts feature to launch a time-sensitive giveaway.


Not only will this boost your store traffic, but it will also encourage people to buy more digital products from you (or the full PDF version) and tag you in their social media posts.

For instance, Sellfy creator Kaiwan Shaban managed to drive an enormous amount of traffic to his store by giving out freebies on social media:

I collected around 100,000 emails by giving out freebies. This helped me get more than 1.3 million visits to my Sellfy shop, so I think that’s a great marketing strategy.

Another Sellfy creator, Jack Cronin, has successfully used the same marketing tactic. He recommends giving out freebies to easily grow your business:

Don’t be afraid to post stuff for free! I’ve gained thousands of emails from just sharing free stuff over the years. Later on, you can always start pushing products that cost more money and get some sales.

3. Don’t just sell a single PDF—create a subscription-based community! 

Instead of selling PDFs individually, you can bundle them together and lock them behind a paid subscription to generate recurring revenue.

So, if you have a decent number of followers, creating a membership site or selling subscription-based products can be a great way to monetize your audience.

For instance, you can film behind-the-scenes PDF creation videos and showcase the whole process, or combine it with another digital product like keto food blogger Ashley Renee did. She created a subscription course on how to master social media and monetize your TikTok.

ashley renee store

The good news? It’s also possible to sell subscriptions with Sellfy! Your subscribers will be able to access their own pages, view all their files, and manage subscriptions effortlessly.

Selling subscription-based products gives you the following opportunities:

  • Collecting recurring revenue vs. one-time revenue
  • Establishing a more foreseeable cash flow
  • Increasing profit per customer vs. growing a customer base
  • Building customer loyalty by providing regular & engaging content
  • Monetizing your community-building efforts
  • FAQs about selling PDFs

FAQs about selling PDFs

What is the simplest way to sell PDFs online?

We recommend selling digital downloads through your own website or an online store like Sellfy so that you can have full control over your business (marketplaces like Creative Market and Etsy tend to be oversaturated with competitors).

Plus, you’ll be able to customize your site and pick a store design that matches your brand. Sellfy was specifically designed for creators who hate complexity but want results. So, if you’re looking for a simple way to sell PDFs online, then Sellfy’s your answer.

Can I sell a PDF as an eBook?

Yes, you absolutely can sell PDF books! Thanks to the rapid rise of digital publishing, the number of eReaders is expected to hit 15% by 2026. So, if you’ve been looking for a way to make money online in 2024, then selling eBooks is a great way to get started.

Although PDFs are digitally printed documents and not proper eBook files, they can still be sold as eBooks. They’re also compatible with all devices except Kindle and are very easy to distribute. Also, if you sell with a platform like Sellfy, you can even use PDF stamping to protect your intellectual property.

How do I sell a PDF online with PayPal?

Sellfy integrates with PayPal, so you can easily do that with Sellfy. To set this up, sign up with Sellfy, go to STORE SETTINGS > Payment options and then add your PayPal username in the field (the email address you used to register your account), and you’re done! You can now sell PDFs with PayPal.

How do I stop PDF piracy?

Your business is in good hands with Sellfy, so don’t let piracy discourage you from selling! Sellfy has an automatic IP-based security system that will help prevent fraudulent transactions. Plus, we host everything on a secure cloud server and provide SSL encryption.

Here’s how to fight piracy with Sellfy:

  • Password-protect your PDFs. For example, you can send an email with a password when someone purchases your product, or change the password for each buyer (e.g. use a purchase reference).
  • Restrict downloads. With Sellfy, download attempts are limited to 5 per purchase, which means that your customers won’t be able to share the download link with multiple people.
  • Use PDF pre-ordering. With this feature, you can offer a PDF product that isn’t on sale yet but will be available at a pre-determined date in the future. This gives your potential customers the chance to reserve it before it’s available in your store.
  • Use PDF stamping. This feature will add your buyer’s email address (a watermark) to each page of the PDF they purchased. The watermark cannot be edited or removed.

What types of PDFs sell best?

Educational PDFs such as workout guides tend to sell best. This is evident by the fact that more than 60,000 Sellfy creators have sold at least one educational PDF, and have earned more than $100M in total revenue.

However, the key to success is not to sell PDF files that cater to the masses but to sell educational products to a specific niche market. That way, your market will be much more saturated and you’ll have less competition.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular educational PDF niches:

  • Fitness and weight loss
  • Dating and relationships
  • Health and lifestyle
  • Self-care and self-improvement
  • Wealth building and finance
  • Beauty and fashion
  • Parenthood and prenatal care
  • Beliefs or spirituality
  • Cultural integration or relocation
  • Travel, wanderlust, or digital nomad culture
  • Food and nutrition
  • Blogging or vlogging secrets
  • Art and graphic design
  • Music and musical instruments


Susanna is Sellfy's Content Guru with a genuine passion for copywriting, storytelling, and eCommerce. With years of content marketing experience behind her, she helps to create the best possible landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other types of copy. She also keeps close tabs on social media trends and enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology.