When it comes to making money online there are a lot of different opportunities and approaches that you can take. Some of the most popular options like AdSense, affiliate programs, and direct ad sales are popular in part because they are not that difficult to set up. Of course, you need a website with some traffic or a mailing list, but setting up these monetization methods is relatively quick and easy.
While there is plenty of opportunity to earn money with these methods, and they are all methods that I use in my own business, selling your own products brings some benefits that you simply cannot get from these other methods.
The downside of selling your own products, and what keeps most bloggers and online marketers from going this route, is that it takes time and effort to create those products. Maybe you are working with a very limited amount of time to spend on your online marketing efforts, or maybe you are worried that you’ll spend hundreds of hours creating products that no one buys. Those are common reasons for not selling your own products, and they’re certainly understandable. But when you look at the bigger picture and you see the potential for selling your own products, I think you’ll see that it is worth the time and the effort.
Regardless of what industry you are in there will be opportunities to create and sell products. Digital products are preferrable because they can quickly and easily be distributed to your customers anywhere in the world for little or no cost. Plus, once you have created the digital product you can sell it an infinite number of times.
For example, if your product is a physical book, once you sell all of the copies you have printed you will need to print more if you want to keep selling them, and that will obviously cost money. With an e-book, you can sell it one time, a thousand times, or a hundred thousand times.
With that in mind, the information that is presented in this article will be with the assumption that you are dealing with digital products. However, some of the information would also be applicable to physical products.
7 Reasons to Sell Your Own Digital Products
1. You Have Full Control
If you are monetizing your site through advertisements or affiliate programs you are limited in what you can do. You can only promote products that already exist, and you can only sell ads to companies who are interested in advertsing on your site. With AdSense you’re limited to making the amount of money that Google decides to pay you for clicks. Sure, you can pick niches and topics that tend to draw larger bids from advertisers, but at the end of the day Google tells you what they’re going to pay, not the other way around.
With your own products you’re in full control. You choose the type of product that you want to sell, and you determine the price. Obviously, in order to be successful with selling the product you’ll need something that people want to buy and the price will have to be reasonable, but you have a lot more control than with other monetization methods.
Maybe you blog in a small niche and the availability of good products to promote through an affiliate program is really limited. Maybe you blog in a niche where there are plenty of good products to promote, but you have an idea to create something unique or more useful for customers. Creating your own product is a viable option.
2. Unlimited Potential Income
In a sense you have unlimited potential income with other monetization methods as well. The best affiliate marketers earn huge amounts of money from selling other people’s products, but that can end at any time. Affiliate program payouts can be changed, a product can be taken off the market, or the company behind the products you’re promoting may drop the ball when it comes to supporting their product or keeping it up-to-date. This goes back to the previous point about control, but it also limits your ability to make money.
One of the first ways that I started making money online was through ad sales. While ad prices are dependant on factors like impressions and click-through-rates, you’re likely to find that prices don’t always increase at the same rate as traffic numbers. For example, with 100,000 impressions you may be able to sell an ad for $200, but at 200,000 impressions you may only be able to sell the ad for $250. So you’ve doubled the traffic but only increased the ad price by 25%. While this isn’t always the case, I have seen it happen a lot over the past few years with my own sites and with those of friends and contacts. For this reason, it’s difficult to keep your income on the upward trend if ad sales is your primary monetization method.
When you are selling your own product there is truly unlimited potential. You can increase your income by getting more traffic, increase conversion rates on a landing page, running promotions, partnering with other site owners, or simply by creating a better product. Regardless of how much money you are making by selling your own product, there is always an opportunity to earn more.
The down side is that there is also the possibility that you’ll create a product that simply doesn’t sell. While that possibility does exist, if you do a good job choosing the right product to create and if you put in some effort to promote it, a lack of sales isn’t something that you should fear.
3. Residual Income
One of my favorite things about digital products is that you can keep selling them indefinitely. You may need to update the product every now and then (as is the case with info products on topics that change from time-to-time), but that product that you create is a major asset. It can keep earning you money month-after-month, and even year-after-year in many cases.
Residual income is money that you earn on an on-going basis without the need for constant effort to earn that money. So you put in a lot of effort to create your digital product and after it is created you could be making money from sales for the next few years. Residual income isn’t a possibility with most other monetization methods. Some affiliate programs have the ability to earn residual income, but they represent a small percentage of affiliate programs.
One of the good things about residual income from your products is that it means that if you have multiple products, not each one of them needs to be a hit. Maybe you have five different products that you sell on your site. Two of them might do really well and make you a good residual income and maybe the other three don’t sell as well. That’s not so bad when you have that residual income from the two products that really took off. But if residual income wasn’t a possibility you would have a lot more pressure to have success with each product.
4. Cash in on the Authority that You’ve Developed Through Your Blog
If you’ve been blogging in a particular niche for a good length of time you’ve probably built up a following and established a reputation as somewhat of an authority on the subject. If you’re already in this position, selling products is not only possible, but it is likely to be very lucrative. People buy from other people that they trust. If you’ve built that trust already you have overcome the biggest obstacle to making sales.
To word this point as “cashing in” on your authority may turn some people off, and I understand that it can sound a little shady. The truth is, you’ll need to take great care with the product that you develop to make sure that the product is enhancing your reputation and not hurting it. It doesn’t take very much to ruin a reputation, and if you sell an inferior product or something that lets your longtime readers down it will hurt your reputaton.
By wording it as “cashing in” I want to convey the point that by producing a quality product you can now benefit and make money as a result of the hard work that you have put in to establish that reputation in the first place.
5. Helps with Branding Yourself an Expert in Your Field
If you don’t already have a reputation as a leader in the field, or if you want to take it to a new level, creating a product is a great way to increase your profile. Info products like e-books, courses, video series, and membership sites are perfect for this. You know the old saying that someone “wrote the book” on a particular sunject? Well, you literally can write the book, and if you do it well people in your industry will take notice.
Branding yourself as an expert in your field can lead to all kinds of opportunities. It could lead to more product sales in the future, a book deal, speaking engagements at conferences, joint venture opportunities, and the list could go on.
There are no other monetization opportunities that present the same opportunity for branding yourself as an expert. No visitor is ever going to think you’re an expert because you can choose the perfect banner ad to place on your site. And no visitor is even going to think you’re an expert because you promote great products as an affiliate. If one of your goals in online marketing involves positioning yourself as an expert, producing a great product can help to get you there.
6. Opportunities for Promos and Joint Ventures
One of the biggest things that I have learned from selling my own products over the past few years is that there are opportunities everywhere. There have been months where 90% of my sales came from websites other than my own. These opportunities aren’t always obvious, but with some creativity there is plenty of potential.
For example, you could partner with someone who has a large mailing list or blog audience that might be interested in your product, and you could offer them a percentage of each sale in exchange for their promotion. If you want to increase the chances for sales you could even set up a coupon code or give their audience some sort of discount, which makes it an easier sell.
The great thing about digital products is that you have the possibility or reducing the price drastically without killing your bottom line. With a physical product you have costs to create the product, so if you reduce your price too much you will be losing money. But with digital products your only costs for each sales are likely to be bandwidth (for downloads) and maybe some distribution or transaction costs, depenidng on what e-commerce system you are using. In the end you may wind up making a much smaller amount of money from each sale, but you could make a large total because of the large audience that you’re promoting to.
Aside from partnering with list owners and bloggers, another current trend is the daily deal site. Sites like Groupon are hugely popular, and that has led to hundreds, or more likely thousands, of smaller deal sites popping up. Many industries and niches now have at least one deal site that has an established audience of people who choose to receive their deals. You can partner with these deal sites to promote your own product. After the discount and the commission taken by the deal site you’ll earn much less per sale than you would if you were to make the sale on your own, but the volume may be high enough to still result in a large pay day.
One of the industries that I work in happens to have a few daily deal sites with large audiences, and I’ve had a great experience with them. My concern initially was that the sales would lead to more time for customoer service requests and that the lowered price on the deal site would reduce the number of full-priced sales on my own site, but neither has been the case.
7. Explode Your Income with an Affiliate Program
If you want to exponentially increase your income from your own products, starting an affiliate program is a must. With an affiliate program you can get other website owners and bloggers to promote your product, and there is no risk in it for you. If they don’t make any sales you won’t owe them anything, although they will likely move on to another affiliate product.
Affiliate programs are relatively easy to set up, you just need to get people to sign up and start promoting your product. If you already have a popular product or a large following, recruiting affiliates is pretty easy. However, you may want to put in some effort to get some influential bloggers and website owners on board, and your income could really spike. You can even offer extra commission to people who have a higher profile or potential to bring in more sales.
Some e-commerce platforms will include built-in functionality for an affiliate program, but in many cases you’ll need to set up the affiliate program separately. Software like iDevAffiliate makes it pretty easy.
There are plenty of ways to make money online, but creating your own product offers some benefits that really can’t be denied. It’s not easy, but few worthwhile methods are easy.
Here are some great articles for further reading:
- How Being an Authority Can Boost Your Online Sales
- What to Consider Before You Sell a Digital Product
- 16 Digital Products You Can Sell From Your Blog