How to sell your digital assets online. Get paid while you sleep.

Australians are a creative bunch, but when we think about selling products online, we immediately think about physical products. What about digital assets that we create, like photos, videos...

Credit: Canon Australia

Australians are a creative bunch, but when we think about selling products online, we immediately think about physical products. What about digital assets that we create, like photos, videos and documents. If you haven’t already considered the commercial opportunities for the hundreds of ours your pour into making content, then its time you did.

The process has a number of steps you need to work through to achieve this digital marketplace for your online goods, but none of them are beyond you. While there’s plenty of services that allow you to use their platform, they often take a decent cut of the profits, something you can potentially avoid by rolling your own solution.

 

Step 0: Setup an email account

While it’s tempting to use an existing email, you’re essentially setting up a different property, like a hobby or a small business, so come up with a brand name and an email address to match. Don’t pay for email, use free online providers like Gmail, Outlook.com.

 

Step 1: Setup a website

There’s plenty of website hosting available, the simplest solution is to visit WordPress.com and signup for an account. While the free account is tempting, if you’re planning being successful, you’ll need to spend money to make money. You’ll need to select a tier (business on WordPress.com) that allows plugins to be installed. This business plan costs $25pm, billed yearly. This means you’ll need to make $300 per year to break even, then start making profit from your work.

Alternatively you can setup hosting at a different site. Their prices and features will vary, some also include an SSL certificate for your site which highly recommended. Some also throw in a free domain name. Here are some alternatives, but by all means, Google for more options:

The setup process is simple, guiding you through the required steps by simply posing questions and you fill in the blanks. One of the hardest decisions you’ll have is what to call your site. If you chose a name for your email during step 0, this step should be easy, as long as the name is available.

You will have to decide if you’re ok to use the hosted name like {website.wordpress.com} or if you want to buy your own domain name like website.com or website.net. If you had in mind a .com.au then you should know there’s restrictions in registering those websites and would need to prove you own a business under that name, usually by providing a letterhead and an ABN. For starting out, the website.wordpress is fine.

Note: You will need to upgrade your WordPress plan if you want a customer domain name, but this can be done in the future.

Once your website is setup, you’ll get a quick WordPress Tutorial on how to add content and customise settings.

 

Step 2: Install E-commerce plugin (WooCommerce or similar)

In the WordPress Dashboard, find the Plugins section, then use the search box to find WooCommerce. This is the most popular commerce engine for WordPress.

Note: Not all themes support WooCommerce, so make sure you head to the Themes page and select one that does. This means it understands what products and prices are and can enable your site to accommodate them accordingly. Make sure you disable anything related to physical distribution of goods, as everything you’re selling is being made available for download electronically, you won’t be shipping product.

WooCommerce changes your site into a marketplace for commerce, adding many options to your Dashboard menu. These allow you to add product items that you want to sell, in our case, they’ll be the digital assets you create. Each can contain a thumbnail, description and price, as well as a link to the actual raw content files people would get access to, should the hit the buy button.

 

Step 3: Configure PayPal

In the settings for WooCommerce, you’ll need to tell the plugin how you intend on accepting payments. Usually this is PayPal so you don’t have to worry about security and your buyers will have confidence in paying you, remembering your new site will have no reputation at first. You need to have people feel confident their payment is secure and you do that by using a service like PayPal. Yes PayPal takes their fees, but this is not negotiable if you want secured payments with built-in credibility (you do).

To accept payments through your websites (and to configure Woocommerce with a PayPal email, you’ll need to have a PayPal Business account. While anyone can signup and connect credit cards and bank accounts to pay with PayPal, receiving money requires a business account. This is a multi-day process which is a bit painful, but again, should be worth it if it allows you to make money while you sleep. Follow the details here to signup for PayPal Business, then configure that in WooCommerce.

 

Step 4: Batch process your media

If you’re selling photos because you’re a photography enthusiast and believe you’re creating content of value people will want to download, print and put on their wall, then you need to decide what sizes you want to make available (original is easiest, although some people do charge different prices for different resolutions (maybe someone just wants your photo for a desktop wallpaper (72dpi) rather than printing (300dpi) or JPG vs RAW formats.

Handling the originals should be easy enough, just name the files, upload them into the WooCommerce item. For the thumbnail you need to do some batch processing as full images here won’t cut it.

What you want to do is provide people a sample, enough of an idea so the customer knows what they’re buying, but not the whole thing unobscured to protect your creation and make sure someone is encouraged to buy the full thing.

What you want to do is to create a watermark and decide on a thumbnail dimension. You’ll then use a photo editor application like Adobe Photoshop (or similar) to batch resize the images, while also applying your watermark. It’s a good idea to organise your photos into folders so you can simply process the folder of images.

If you have other media you want to sell, like videos or premiere templates or even software applications if you’re a developer, you’ll still need a relevant thumbnail, so keep that in mind when you’re completing this step.

 

Step 5: Create products and set prices

Its now time to create your store items known as Products in WooCommerce. Simple add your items 1 by 1, you should aim to add a representative sample of your work, this means if you have 4 categories of photos, you should have 9 or so in each category to enable people to understand what you’re selling. You can always add more and it’s a great idea to continue to add content over time. If you build up a fan base, they’ll need something new to buy.

When adding each item, you need to set a Title, Description, upload the associated thumbnail we created in Step 4, along with the actual content the user is able to download after buying. The final item will be price, this is hard because you often have no historical context for valuing your own work. You can have a look online at what similar content is being sold at, but ultimately its up to you. Generally you have the age old business decision to make, low price, high volume (more people can afford smaller prices) or high price and lower volume of customers. Because you’re not spending time shipping anything, the transactions are completely hands-off, then you have the freedom to choose between the two, while those shipping physical goods have much more to worry about, like scaling up manpower to meet shipping demands.

 

Step 6: Tell the world

With your site setup and your products loaded, its time to tell the world about your website / storefront. You can approach this in two real ways. The most inviting is organic traffic, that’s word of mouth and people sharing your content with their networks, often via social media, there are WordPress plugins like AddThis orShareThis to make it easy for customers to do this. Posting new blog posts about what’s happening with your products (like what’s coming up, that you’ve heard the feedback, customer surveys on what they want etc) on your site will help your ranking in search engines like Google and Bing. As you build reputation, other sites will begin linking to you, also helping building your search reputation. In 2018, social media shares from friends and even creating a Facebook page and Twitter account are also great tools to drive traffic and build community, but does require active engagement from you.

The other option for driving traffic is to buy advertising on Google or Facebook etc. Once you have some sales coming in, you’ll understand how much money you have to spend. You could pocket 100% of the income (minus PayPal fees and tax), but if you portion say 10% to marketing and advertising, it opens the possibility of many multiples of your audience learning about your creations and a percentage of those will go on to buy.

 

Like I said at the start, there are a number of steps involved in pulling this off, but once setup, you can focus your energy on creating new content to make you more money and the site will largely look after itself. Importantly, your market for sales is global and your distribution costs are zero. If you manage to pull it off and people like what you do, then you’ll make passive income, that’s money rolling in while you sleep and the opportunity to do that is worth the price of admission.

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Technology

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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