Design your own wall-art, planners, invitations, and cards—all for a profit.

By Roxanna Coldiron
August 10, 2020
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fashion designer working in studio with swatches
Credit: valentinrussanov / Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

Artists have many ways to monetize their talent. From artisanal markets and craft fairs to livestream videos and virtual classes, creatives can now reach their customers from anywhere in the world. But they don't always have to work with physical materials to create and sell a commodity. Digital products provide a new way for crafters to turn a profit. "Etsy sellers offer a variety of digital downloads," says Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy's trend expert and a judge on NBC's Making It. "Everything from art prints to sewing patterns to party supplies to beautifully-designed resume templates."

Here, we tapped our expert for an introductory guide on digital products, what they are, and how to get started in the design and sale of those products.

What is a digital product?

A digital product is an intangible asset or piece of media that can be sold online—often in the form of downloadable files such as PDFs, videos, patterns, and templates. Many entrepreneurs build their entire business around these goods due to the low overhead costs, ease of distribution, and high profit margins. "Selling digital downloads can be a low-maintenance way for sellers to explore their creativity and expand their listings," says Johnson. "Etsy makes it easy for them to do so while reaching shoppers from all over the world." When you sell your digital products on trusted sites like Etsy, Amazon, or Shopify, you will have tools and resources available to you for offering digital downloads.

Create digital products.

Just like you would plan any hands-on craft or art project, you want to make a plan for the digital products that you want to sell. "Some of the top-searched digital items [in the last 12 complete months] include wall-art, planners, invitations, seasonal cards, and knitting patterns," says Johnson. Can you turn some aspect of your business into a digital product? For example, knitters and crocheters can sell their patterns or ideas online.

How you create these digital products depends on your available resources. You can use online tools like Canva for making designs or make them in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop if you have the software. Digital products that are meant to be printed off can be made in Microsoft Word, Publisher, Google Docs—or any software that has tools for page design.

Sell digital products online.

Once you've made your digital products, decide how to market and sell them. Online, you have a massive opportunity to expand your business with e-learning, an industry expected to be worth $331 billion by 2025; try hosting a livestream class or podcast series. It is possible to sell digital downloads from your own website with the right setup, but for many people, sites like Etsy provide a built-in, ready-to-use platform for selling their products. You can also utilize apps like Digital Downloads by Shopify, SendOwl for transferring files, Photolock for visual products, and Sky Pilot for building membership programs.

You'll also want to keep your tax responsibilities in mind. In addition to your self-employment and income taxes on your earnings, you might be responsible for sales taxes. Some states, like Alabama and Ohio, require sales tax on digital downloads so it's worth consulting a financial advisor. You may even need to apply for a vendor's license to sell digital products in your state. There may face some restrictions. For example, you must sell physical products through the Facebook and Instagram sales channel, according to their commerce policy.

As with most products, you're susceptible to piracy. Therefore, it's in your best interests to take precautions by consulting with a lawyer on understanding trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets, and how to use them in protecting your intellectual property. There are some restrictions on how you sell.

Once you have everything you need to start selling, you can begin marketing your new digital products. Post on your social media or sign up for advertising on other websites to let people know what you are offering. You can easily increase your outreach and earning potential when you create and sell digital products.

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