There were times when it took years to build, nurture and grow a business. Today, turning an idea into an empire takes months, if not weeks, and can be done by anyone who has access to a wifi connection.
The best thing about this digital era is that anyone can jump into it and transform their lives in a matter of months.
Think about it:
Learning to sell online is something anyone can do with the help of the Internet. Selling digital products is a business that’s unlimitedly scalable and allows you to earn high margins while avoiding production costs, the need to rent an office space or store inventory.
Now, if you’re looking for a sign to start your own online business, this is it. Even more – here’s a list of the best products to sell online in 2018:
- Videos and video courses
- Web elements
Before we take a closer look at each of the ideas, there’s one thing you must do regardless of what types of digital products you decide to sell – you need to find your niche.
What is a niche and how to find yours
a specific, narrowly defined group of potential customers that have specific needs and interests.
Besides finding things to sell online, you must also find people who’re ready to but these things from you. In other words, finding a niche means answering the question: WHO is going to buy my products?
Let me explain:
You can find popular products and try to sell them to everyone – to billions of people worldwide. However, things that are created for everyone usually lacks personality and no one really wants to buy dull products.
You can create seriously cool things that speak to a specific group of people and let them express their personality through your products. For example, you can create and sell video game soundtracks to people who’re fans of video games. There are people who won’t understand and will never buy these soundtracks from you, but who cares – they’re not in your niche!
Now, how to find your niche?
- Think of a community you belong to. What you like, what’s your style, what’s unique, special or weird about you? For example, are you a designer who loves sphynx cats? Great, design mobile screensavers with bold cats – there are many other people who love them and would love to have such screensavers!
- Check out Google Trends to see what’s trendy. For example, a search term ”military diet” is trending for some time now, which is a great idea for a cookbook and people interested in this diet is a possibly profitable niche.
Once you know who you want to target, it’s time to decide what you want to sell – here are the many options:
No modern business can afford to ignore the fact that high-quality, compelling photos are important for success. From blog posts to presentations, to social media posts and printed materials, such as flyers or posters – businesses need eye-catching visuals to capture their customers’ attention. Unique photographs are highly requested today, which make them one of the top digital products to sell.
Using third-party websites to sell photos as stock images used to be the only decent option for photographers to make money with their photos. Luckily, that has changed dramatically over the past years.
Today, e-commerce platforms like Sellfy make it fast and easy for any savvy photographer to start their own online stores to sell their art. Now, instead of forfeiting 30% to 70% of their profits to microstock websites, many photo artists have begun to build their own businesses – online photo stores.
Need an idea for your online photography store? Here you go:
- Photos that portray diversity. Photos of people have always been highly demanded, but according to the stock photos website Depositphotos, this year’s trend is diversity. Authenticity, stereotype-breaking, unconventionality – find models that embrace all these characteristics, and start selling their photos online.
- Product mockups. With online retailing growing at lightning speed, product mockup photos are extremely wanted. Offer lifestyle photos featuring different products – from t-shirts to beer bottles – that sellers can quickly customize and use on their online shops or social media.
With self-publishing riding a trend and indie authors and Amazon imprints accounting for over 50% of the market share, e-books have become a goldmine for entrepreneurs who are able to string sentences together. Besides, the emergence of new generation devices like Kindle and Kobo has made buying books online easy and seamlessly.
Because the costs of publishing an ebook are none to minimal. The biggest investment is your time, so creating an ebook is basically risk-free. Apart from that, ebook authors are saved from begging to be published – something many authors willing to publish a physical book have to do.
Atop of all that, selling e-books online is a more profitable business than selling physical books. Digital books allow you to avoid the expenses like printing, storing, shipping, etc. It means that you can sell your product for less, yet still earn more.
So, if you’re considering to self-publish an ebook, here are some niches trending right now:
- E-cookbooks adjusted to different types of diets. Healthy eating has been a steady trend for many years, and so are cookbooks. So, if you know food, you can study popular diets and write an e-cookbook that includes recipes that fit the specific type of diet.
- DIY. Write an e-book that teaches people to do something by themselves, no matter what that is – from making your own cosmetic to coding a website. Do-it-yourself is a growing trend – combine it with another trend, and you can make a profitable ebook (or video course) out if it.
Videos and courses
Videos are a big deal today. Think about it: experts believe that by 2019, videos will be in charge of 80% of the web activity on the planet.
People are not only watching entertaining cat videos, but are also looking for educational content, and that has laid the foundation for e-learning and video courses. In fact, stats show that the e-learning industry is a market on the rise and has grown by 900% since 2000.
With all the free content available on YouTube today, you may think that no one would be willing to pay for online courses. But you’re wrong: thousands of people sign up for new online courses every day and happily pay the price for the knowledge they get. Think online video and course marketplaces like Udemy or Skillshare with over 10 and 2 million users, respectively.
What courses to sell online? Here are two ideas:
- Teach people how they can make more money. People will be more willing to pay for your content if you promise to help them earn that money back with positive ROI (return-on-investment). If you don’t have the experience and knowledge, you can find someone who does and sell their lessons learned – just like the Foundr magazine does it by interviewing successful entrepreneurs.
- Record book synopsis. Remember when you were a student and ”didn’t have time to read all books from your academic book list”? When exams are approaching and nothing’s read, your online book synopsis may be their last-minute salvation. Help them quickly catch up everything they’ve missed by watching your 15-minutes synopsis, and they’ll be more than willing to pay the price.
iTunes is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions downloading a song or buying an album online. Spotify is the number one choice for streaming music online, for free (if you don’t mind the ads.)
As consumers, we turn to giant brands like iTunes, Shopify, and Amazon, as they’re convenient and give us peace of mind. In the meantime, musicians trying to make a living from their work have little financial benefit from these marketplaces, as they take a big cut of the sales musicians make through them.
Instead of giving most of your hard earned money to the giants, you can sell your music on your own store. You’ll not only be able to make a bigger profit but also take your marketing to an entirely new level – engage your fans through email marketing campaigns, offer discounts, use retargeting, etc.
Here’s what music is in demand today:
- Background music for explainer videos. Since more brands today are making explainer videos for their products, the demand for background music for these videos is growing as well. Short (approx. 15-90 seconds) pieces with an attention-grabbing beginning are what brands are looking for.
- ASMR sounds. It’s not really music, rather recorded sounds ”that feel good”. ASMR stands for ”autonomous sensory meridian response”, which is pleasant feeling that arises from listening to some kinds of sounds or into someone’s voice, often accompanied by a tingling sensation. Oddly satisfying – listen to some for yourself here.
Graphic and web designers are living their golden age. 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 a lion’s share of their salary through selling web elements online. Textures, stylized design elements, fonts and background images among other things are time-consuming to create, thus especially popular among designers working on a tight deadline. For you, on the other hand, that’s a great business opportunity.
Here are some popular products – web elements – you can sell online:
- Witty illustrations. Brands today prefer illustrations that are not only functional but also help them stand out and show their personality. Users are not interested in boring websites, and using playful illustrations is a way to catch and keep their attention. According to Creativebloq, that’s exactly the reason why playful illustrations are in high demand today.
- Web animations. Integrated animations are one of the biggest web trends of 2018. People like moving images, as they’re more engaging and eye-catching. To ensure a better and more pleasant user experience, increasingly more websites today are replacing static images for animations, which is a great business possibility for you.
One of the reasons why Instagram became one of the world’s dominating social media platforms was that it allowed anyone to make their photos look more professional with the help of filters. Pros created these filters – or presets – that regular people could use.
Presets are basically any settings that are adjusted and then saved for later use. If you know photo processing tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other, you can create presets and sell them to others. People and brands who care about their online presence, as well as professionals simply looking for ways to save their time, are often looking for such shortcuts.
What presets to sell online?
- LUT stands for “look-up table” and is 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.
What to sell online & how to decide what type of product is right for you
Let’s put it this way:
You wouldn’t consider opening a hairdressing salon if you didn’t know how to cut hair, right? The same applies when considering which type of digital product to sell online. Start by asking yourself these questions:
What’s my expertise and what I’m passionate about?
Products that sell best are usually made by people who are all-in in the industry and know their thing inside out. However, knowing something very well might not be enough if you don’t have the passion – without that, you’ll soon run out of motivation. Try to find something that you both know a lot and are passionate about. If you can’t find anything that checks both boxes, go with the passion – things can be learned, passion can’t.
Does your work create any by-products?
A by-product is something that you create in the process of working on something else. For example, as a designer, you most likely create a number of variations of web elements, such as patterns, icons, fonts, vectors and other digital assets to show to the client. There is only one winner, and you’re left with all the runner-ups that you can make use of. Same way, fitness coaches can bundle their training plans and tips into an ebook, music producers can package their best loops, beats, and drum kits into digital packs, etc.
How to quickly validate your business idea?
Various strategies exist for validating a product idea, here are three ways we’ve tested ourselves:
One: build an audience.
Grow your social media followings or email list before you launch the product to see if people are generally interested in your idea. For example, if you plan to sell vintage fashion photos, create an Instagram account and start posting the type of photos you want to sell. If you realize that attracting followers is difficult, people don’t like your photos and never leave comments, this might be a sign that your idea may not be that good for business.
Two: create a mini version of your digital product.
It’s a way to give your prospective customers a taste of your product. Before you ask for money, gain user’s trust by offering a mini version of your product for free. For example, if you’re planning to sell an online course, create the first introductory lesson and let people watch it for free. Then, ask people to become your followers if they’re interested in more. Once you get enough people to commit, you proceed with the full course.
Three: experiment with pre-selling.
The strategy of asking people whether they would be interested to buy your product does not work. People think completely different when they’re asked theoretically, and when they’re actually asked to spend their money. Therefore, while the product is still in its idea phase, try to do a pre-sale to see how many are actually ready to pay.