So you have a nice shiny new blog, website, or whatever. It’s money time. You want to make some cash. So where do you start?
It’s not quite as easy as you might think.
When I was interested in the digital sales market, I thought it would be easy to drop in a couple of quick plugins and start raking in dough. It didn’t exactly work out that way. What I’m going to outline in this article is a clear way to sell stuff on your website — from square one to the ding of the digital cash register.
You can always go the mainstream route — Shopify, Bigcommerce, etc., But what if you’re just a lil’ ol’ merchant, not a full on e-commerce store? What if you don’t want to pay the big fees? What if you just want to, say, sell your ebook, a sweet WordPress theme, or a picture or two?
This article was written for you. If you’ve ever wanted to sell anything, but prefer to hold on to your sanity, this is the reading material that you’ve been waiting to get your eyes on.
1. Have a website.
The first cog in the selling wheel is having a place to sell. Don’t get too worried about this. Chances are, you already have a website or a place on the web that you can call home. Making a website is pretty much free.
WordPress is a great place to start.
You don’t need a website, but you should be on social media.
The selling method that I’m going to share with you doesn’t require that you have a website. I know that sounds absurd. What you need is a digital presence of some sort — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, these all count. As long as you’re online in some way, you can sell.
The bigger your presence, the better you’ll do.
The more exposure you have on the web, the more money you can make with your product. It’s a simple numbers issue. If you have a Twitter following of 11.9 million, you’ll make more sales than if only 21 friends follow you.
The way to gain a bigger web presence is a science, an industry, and a world all to its own. We’ll leave that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that the more presence you have — website, social, etc., — the more successful you can become.
2. Create something digital.
It’s time to make something. This is where a lot of money-making dreams wither and die. Most people want to sell something, but they don’t have anything to sell. It’s time to make.
Make it digital.
I could spend a few thousand words extolling the virtue of digital products. You have unlimited inventory, unlimited storage, and zero shipping hassle or costs. Here are a few of the products you can sell:
- Your knowledge in e-course or ebook form
- Your genius bits of code
- Your research book. People pay a lot of money for quality research
- Your novel
- Your clipart or illustrations
- Your photographs
- Your music
- Your software
- Your beat tracks
- Your WordPress themes
- Anything else that can be downloaded.
It’s time to make something. Here are three bits of advice for creating something worth selling.
- Make something that you enjoy. I’m convinced that you can make a living doing what you’re passionate about. Whether it’s traveling, parenting, eating (maybe), writing, or speaking, you can find a way to monetize your passions without selling your soul. When you set out to create your sellable product, choose something that fulfills you. If you’re going to sink a good portion of your time and energy into this, you want to make sure that it’s fun. Besides, your joy tends to get expressed in your quality of work, and that makes it all the more appealing.
- Make something that people want. At the same time, keep your business head on. People are only going to spend money on something that they want, with the exception of your relatives who are only making a purchase to make you feel better about yourself. Stay informed about what people are willing to purchase, and cater to those desires.
- Make something that’s good. Finally, do good work. Don’t just create a piece of junk and con people into buying it. That’s the quickest way to short circuit a lucrative online career. Make something that has quality. If you write an eBook, hire someone to proofread it, format it, and illustrate it. If you create an e-course, photograph it with something better than an iPhone, use a green screen and a lapel mic. Quality is essential.
Once you’ve created something, you’ll be able to smell money.
3. Decide on a price.
Figuring out how much your product is worth is a tough decision. On the one hand, you want to make as much money as you can, while at the same time, getting as much sales as you can. Can’t charge too much. Can’t charge too little. Catch 22. You can read all the articles you want about this topic (some are good), and you’ll probably end up confused or crying.
My suggestion is to err on the side of high pricing. This is a psychological trick combined with good marketing sense. A high price suggests high quality. The right people are willing to pay for quality. Your high prices are justified in the buyers’ minds. Cheap prices, on the other hand, suggest a cheap product. You may have the world’s best eBook, but if you sell it for $0.99, customers will associate that low price qualitatively with the book, which devalues it.
Brett Kelly wrote a book on how to use Evernote. For an eBook it was expensive. I paid around $25 for it. People were willing to pay for it, and Kelly made a ton of money. He wasn’t afraid of asking a high price, because he knew he had a high quality product that people would spend money on.
Take the plunge, and price higher rather than lower.
4. Provide an easy way for customers to buy and for you to get paid.
This is where I discovered the biggest hurdle in my pursuit of easy sales. All the platforms that I looked for were either too complicated, too expensive, or too buggy. But this is the kicker. With no place to make sales, you have no way of making money.
Rather than spare you my jeremiad, let me just cut right to the chase and share the two easiest ways I discovered to get your product out there and get the money you deserve.
As the world’s most popular payment platform, PayPal is a top option. With a PayPal account and just a bit of HTML savvy, you can be up and running in a very short amount of time. The upside of PayPal is obviously its reputation and universality. Who doesn’t know about PayPal?
To get information on selling via PayPal, check out their guide.
The platform that I chose to solve all my life’s problems (slight exaggeration) is Sellfy. Sellfy is very simple — much easier than PayPal, if you can believe it.
A few of the upsides of Sellfy
- You don’t need a website. You can just use a link posted on social media, or a Sellfy profile page.
- They provide secure hosting for your product (which is unlimited).
- They support multiple currencies so you can sell to a wider audience.
- They provide some sweet marketing tools like affiliate programs, discounts, etc., without any extra attached cost.
Sellfy is simply for selling digital products. So, if you’re interested in selling physical products — crafts, shirts, stuff like that — you might want to move over to PayPal or Etsy.
5. Make the announcement.
When you’ve made your product and tested a way to get paid, it’s time to announce it to the world. Assuming you’ve made something worth buying, you’ll have no shame with your grand opening. Spread the good news on social media, your website, and wherever else you go.
Now is the time to think about harvesting email addresses. The best way to keep up your marketing with warm leads is to send them emails. Use Aweber or even the built-in tools from Sellfy to start a mailing list. You can buy mailing lists, of course. These are usually pretty expensive and aren’t as effective, but it’s something to keep in mind if your product has a well-defined niche.
Don’t be ashamed to ask others to spread the news, too. The more exposure you get, the better you’ll do.
6. Do marketing.
I realize that “do marketing” is pretty vague, so I’ll break it down into a few actionable points:
- Send emails to your audience. Use those email addresses that you’ve gained to update your audience with news, tips, advice, and anything else that pertains to your product.
- Offer discounts. People love a good deal, so give them the chance to get your product for less. Create coupon codes or special promotions at times to drive sales higher.
- Create an affiliate program. Rather than do all the marketing yourself, you can create a marketing campaign that lets other people get rewarded for selling your product. Affiliate marketing allows other people to sell your product, and get a percentage of each sale.
7. Keep your head up.
What happens if you fail miserably? All that work, all that effort, all that time, all that energy, all those hopes?
Keep your head up.
Most entrepreneurial efforts don’t turn into billion-dollar industries overnight. It’s going to take some time to get some traction. Plus, you may have to tear down and start from scratch.
If you don’t make a single sale, welcome to the endless ranks of web merchants who have been there and done that. Bailing out is the most reliable way to make zero money. But pushing through the slump will let you make bank on the other side.
8. Learn, and do it again.
Online sales is an incredible learning opportunity. The more you do it, the more you’ll learn about fascinating things like conversion rate optimization, effective calls to action, color psychology, social frequency, and other nerdy things that make you more money.
Once you’ve launched and sold a product, gather up the knowledge amassed from your epic mistakes (which you will make, by the way), and do it again. You’ll get better. Then you can do it again. And get better still.