January 3, 2022

So, you wanna launch a digital download shop? YAS. Whether you’re wanting to sell a digital product (or maybe even a course) creating an online shop is a trendy thing to do right now, and it’s one of the most popular ways that creatives on the internet can earn passive income.

Ah yes, ~passive income~. That elusive term we hear everywhere.

However, a digital download shop is anything but passive, at least at first. You have to actually create the products, which takes work, experience, and even a little money. But after launching my own (literally today—woohoo!), I’ve learned the two even bigger investments that are far more pervasive—

Well, let’s just get into it.

The Benefits of a Digital Download Shop (for You and Your Customers)

If you’ve made it this far past my scary intro, I’m glad, because now you might be thinking to yourself “well if it’s so difficult, why would I ever want to do this?”

Of course, extra income is always nice, but money alone is never a good enough reason for me to do anything, so I thought I’d provide some context on how I even got here in the first place.

Long story short; digital downloads are often a thoughtful way to offer your expertise to your customers at a lower price than you’d charge to do something custom or 1:1.

In my particular case, something I’ve been struggling with in terms of custom website design is that my clientele ranges from starving actors and artists to thriving online businesses. And as such, it has been incredibly difficult to find ways to satisfy everyone’s needs for a new website, while also making sure I get enough sleep, too.

Now, I know, I know—you’re not supposed to try to satisfy everyone. That’s like rule number 1 of marketing! But the biggest perk of launching a shop like this is widening the net of who gets to interact with your brand. And as someone who cares about economic inclusivity a whole lot, this was super important to me.

Besides being more economically inclusive, there were a few other clear perks about launching my shop:

  • It puts my artist customers in the driver’s seat of their website, which is where most of them want to be. (I’m making speculations so don’t quote me, but also I do think I’m right about this.) As a scrappy actor and vocalist myself, my website was one of the only places I felt like I had control over my own career, so I actually quite enjoyed designing it. (Although, I’m me, so who knows.)
  • It teaches my artist customers a new skill and platform.
  • They don’t have to wait for me to have time to design it for them.
  • And of course, it’s much, MUCH more affordable, which is usually an artist’s first priority.

All of this led to a big, internal “hell yes!” when deciding if I actually wanted to do this. However, I quickly learned that “deciding I want to do this” and actually doing it are two different beasts, because getting a digital download shop up and running is no walk in the park. In fact, it took me a whole year.

5 Things to Consider When Launching a Digital Product

Understanding Your Audience

Creating a digital product (and having the clientele for it) is one thing, but actually understanding their needs for the product is another.

Quick storytime: I’ve been an actor way longer than I’ve been a website designer, but when I started in design, I was quickly frustrated at how boring most actor websites were. And it’s never their fault—showbiz notoriously tells actors to conform, their websites included. Simultaneously, I found a world of incredibly creative business owners online who were all trying to stand out from the crowd and showcase their unique selves, and I was like, actors should be doing this, too! However, not all ideas translate between industries, and it took a while for me to figure out how to strike a balance for my actor clients.

I am so, so glad I waited until I figured that out to launch a shop—because now, they can create something that is as wild (or simple) as they’re comfortable with.

So, the first thing to consider when creating digital products: how well do you know your customer?

Creating a Unique Sell

I won’t spend too much time on this one because I hate when people discourage others from creating something just because the market is oversaturated. But it is worth checking out; how might you make this product uniquely yours? Somewhere people can get nowhere else, but from you?

There are tons of website templates out there from experienced and talented designers. However, I haven’t seen any that are geared specifically towards actors before.

Do you operate in a niche market? It’s okay if you don’t, but if you do, it might be worth exploring.

The Time Investment

This is probably the biggest one, friends. Not only was it 2 years of experimentation and learning about my ideal audience. It was also countless hours of many ideas & designs AND an entire month off from client work to set everything up the way I wanted to.

So much time. So many 5ams. And that’s why I hesitate to call it passive income.

The Money Investment

If you already run a business, this might not be a huge deal. But if you’re just starting, it has the potential to add up. Among my list of expenses for simply launching this thing are:

  • Shopify Lite, so that customers can actually purchase the template from my website!
  • Loom Pro, which is how I made the how-to videos that go along with the templates
  • Flodesk, for email marketing
  • Tailwind, for social media marketing

… and of course, the website hosting fees and other organizational business systems that I already pay for.

Having the Guts

If you know me at all, you know I’m a pretty gutsy lady. A few examples: I moved to NYC at 18. I pursued a career in theatre, which also takes a certain amount of guts (and perhaps insanity). I started a theatre company at 20. However, launching this download shop was one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever done.

What if people hate it? Or think it’s too expensive? Think it’s too cheap? Think it’s stupid?

I’d go so far as to say that launching a product is scarier than launching a service has ever been. At least for me.

So…. A Digital Download Shop: Worth it, or No?

You’ll have to come back for an update someday on this, but for right now, here’s the tea. It’s VERY worth it. Even if I make $0 in sales today, I’m proud to have launched something new, exciting, and affordable for people. That feeling alone is worth every frustration, 5am morning, and dollar.

If you’re an actor looking for a way to DIY your website, check out my new shop! And if you’re a business owner on the quest for a website template, keep an eye out, cuz service provider templates are coming soon.

Hi, I'm Sarah Kleist.

Brand & web designer, personal brand strategist, and marketing educator obsessed with the power of connecting with audiences.



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