In 2021, creating a digital product is one of the most convenient kinds of businesses you can maintain. You don’t need to worry about all the logistical problems that accompany physical products, like manufacturing, product inventory, storage, and shipping.
Plus, once you create the product, people can buy and receive it instantly.
When most people get into creating digital products, they often confine themselves to a handful of product types. It’s time to broaden your horizons! There are so many things you can make (and make money off of).
Here’s a list of the top digital product ideas we’ve compiled for you:
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1. Online courses
Most of us have heard of online courses by now. You might have purchased one or come across an ad on Facebook or Instagram. Online courses are popular because they cover a wide variety of topics from content marketing to video creation to dog training.
There are so many courses that it may seem like the online education business is oversaturated and can’t go any further. But the good news is, there’s always room for more, as online education is likely to grow into a $319+ billion industry by 2025.
People love online courses because of their convenience. Usually learning something new involves reading several articles and books or hiring a specialized coach. Reading books takes a lot of time, and hiring an expert costs a lot of money. But by watching courses on demand, users can learn skills quickly from wherever and whenever at an affordable price.
If you create a course, make sure it pertains to a subject you specialize in and are passionate about. It should also be on a topic that captivates your audience’s interest.
If you already have an audience, whether it’s blog readers, email subscribers, or social media followers, you can simply ask them what they want. Then create that course and launch it on your website as Mari Smith does here.
Mari is one of the top Facebook marketers, and she’s built an audience over several years through blogging, social media content, and webinars. In doing so, Mari is able to use her website to reach a lot of people.
But if you don’t have an audience yet, you can launch your course on AppSumo.
Once your product is listed, you can reach a sizable audience of established entrepreneurs, founders, and marketers. One example of an awesome online course is this Customer Experience 101 course from CX Academy.
Listing your course on AppSumo Marketplace will generate some quick income and build your email list.
If you’re not an expert on a particular subject, you can invite experts on other subjects and get them to create the content for these courses while you sell them. That’s what Lynda Weinman did with Lynda.com.
Lynda.com got so successful that LinkedIn acquired it for $1.5 billion.
Quick tips for creating an online course:
Find out what people want: People will only buy your course if it solves their biggest problems. A straightforward way to find out what those are? Ask your audience directly. You can create a survey with a tool like Qwary and share it with your email list and social media followers. In the survey, ask what your users’ major challenges are and create your course from there.
You can also conduct research with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to see the problems and corresponding solutions people search for online. Also, try social media platforms like Twitter. If you add your keywords followed by a question, Twitter will show all the questions with the keywords that other people tweeted.
Another tried and true method for gauging audience interest? Create polls.
Find competitors: When researching course ideas, most people like to look for topics that their competitors haven’t addressed yet. This is usually a mistake. Yes, if your competitors haven’t created a course on a topic you’re interested in, it may mean that you’re sitting on a golden egg. But more often than not, it means that people either aren’t interested in that topic or feel that it’s not worth paying for.
It’s better for you if others have created successful courses on a topic. You can read the testimonials to see what problems the course solved and what the course contains. If you have the budget, you could buy the course and try it out. Instead of buying the course straight away, I recommend that you sign up for a lead magnet or another point where the funnel commences. This will give you some ideas on how to promote the course.
Build a plan for the course: After you complete the research and have a course idea, you can create a plan. Here, you should list out the modules you’ll include, the number of videos in each module, cheatsheets, and other downloadable items you’ll offer with the course. Then plan out how you’ll promote it. Aim to curate the highest quality content for your courses. That’s how you’ll beat out your competitors while creating courses on the same topics.
Create the content and set up the course: Now, you can finally create the content. To record the course, you’ll need either a video camera, a screen recorder like Camtasia, or both, depending on whether you plan to record yourself or the screen. Once the content is completed, you can set it up on a course platform.
Set up the funnel and promote: People won’t automatically buy your course just because you made it. You’ll need to set up a funnel and promote it through SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and ads.
Not everyone wants to purchase online courses because of the cost. Plus, some people prefer reading over watching videos. If you’re going to target this audience, then e-books are your best bet. As a bonus, they’re much easier to create than online courses. You just need to write one e-book and format it with illustrations and graphs. Courses, on the other hand, require hours of videos with checklists, workbooks, and other components. Making one can take weeks to months.
Nathan Barry is an excellent example of someone who’s had great success with e-books. He’s written books like Authority, which has sold over 15,000 copies.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to creating either e-books or courses. Sometimes, the best thing to do is create both. You can make courses for people with a bigger budget and e-books for those with tighter budgets. Some people use e-books to help sell their courses. The e-books act as a sample of what the courses contain.
Many businesses also make courses and e-books only a small part of their business. They’ll combine them with other products such as one-on-one coaching and done-for-you services to generate much more revenue. Jessica Thiefels does this with social media coaching!
Jessica creates top-quality courses but prices them low, so more people are likely to purchase them. After buyers attend the course, they’ll have a higher chance of signing up for her coaching services.
You could also give out courses and e-books for free and use them to grow your email list and credibility.
Quick tips for creating ebooks:
Start with extensive research: Just like with courses, you have to begin with extensive research. You can follow the same steps I listed above. One extra step I recommend is to head to Amazon, buy the bestselling books in your niche, and read them. You should also read the reviews to see what people like and don’t like about the books.
Plan the content: After you collect the data, you can plan the contents of the ebook. Here, you can list out the different chapters you’ll include and how long you’d like the book to be. Also, decide whether you’ll just be selling an ebook or if you’ll include bonuses.
The aforementioned ebook, Authority, has three versions.
One is simply the ebook itself, while the others include bonuses like audiobooks and case studies. This method of anchor pricing your products can help you sell more.
Create the ebook and promote: You can simply write the contents on any writing tool you prefer and get a designer to put together the finished product. You can also use these ebook templates if you’d like to create your ebooks by yourself quickly. After that, you can set up the funnel and promote the ebooks.
3. SaaS products
SaaS (software as a service) products are part of the reason why people can easily create and sell products like e-books and online courses. Using SaaS products, you can conjure up membership sites without designers, automate email and social media marketing, and so much more.
Many other businesses, from e-commerce shops to brick and mortar stores, use SaaS software to execute several tasks. SaaS products are in demand now more than ever because they help businesses cut costs and save time.
For some inspiration on the types of SaaS products you can create, check out the AppSumo store. We’ve got scores of lifetime deals waiting for you!
AppSumo is the best way to launch your SaaS product and generate sales. Some top SaaS companies like Crello, MarketMuse, DepositPhotos, and Paperform have listed their products with us and achieved great success.
One such success story is Lemlist.
It’s a SaaS product that businesses use for outreach. Lemlist was featured in the AppSumo store in 2018, shortly after it launched. As Guillaume Moubeche explains here, it made $160,000 in two weeks! On top of that, the software got extra exposure and feedback, which was instrumental in developing a roadmap to improve its features.
Of course, if you do go the SaaS route, you’ll have to do plenty of research before you start. SaaS tools require a higher investment of time and money and there’s more risk to this product idea. Make sure your product can solve problems that a large number of people have.
Quick tips for creating SaaS products:
Research and map out a plan: As expected, you should start with extensive research here as well. Map out the features of your SaaS product on a whiteboard or mind mapping tool.
See if you can bootstrap it: Most often, people like to look for outside investment when starting a SaaS business as it requires more money and time. But before you proceed with this route, try and see if you could bootstrap the product. It might take longer to start by yourself, but you’ll have full control of the company and the direction you will take it in. Only look for outside investment if you have to.
Create a beta version and invite users: You can then create the product and invite beta users to test it out. Take their feedback and improve upon your product.
Launch the site and list it on AppSumo: After the product is ready, you should launch the site and list it on AppSumo. Listing it here will not only get you a quick cash injection, but also plenty of valuable feedback. As you might guess, the AppSumo community has experience using a lot of SaaS products.
One of the issues many people have with purchasing SaaS products is the pricing. Outside of the AppSumo store, many SaaS businesses tend to function with a subscription model or licensing fee where users must continue paying every month or year.
It can be expensive for people who are just starting. For some people, such as WordPress users, plugins offer an excellent alternative. On top of many products in the AppSumo store, plugins allow people to pay a one-time fee and use the software for life.
This is why there is a massive market for WordPress plugins. There are over 54,000 of them. If you can do the research to see what SaaS products WordPress users want but don’t want to pay the high fees for, you will be on your way to developing a successful plugin. Thrive themes did this, and now they make a million dollars annually.
Another example is the WP Scheduled Posts plugin. People want to purchase it because they don’t want to pay a SaaS company like CoSchedule a monthly subscription fee.
I took advantage of affordable plugins when I was starting out. When I wanted landing page software for my blog. I couldn’t afford to get a fancy landing page builder like Leadpages or ClickFunnels. Instead, I purchased Premise, a landing page plugin from Copyblogger. (Which sadly no longer exists.)
You could also try a plugin like MailPoet.
It’s an email service provider for WordPress users. Many bloggers use it because it costs less than regular email service providers like MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Hubspot.
Plugins are cost-effective because the company that made them doesn’t have to do a lot of the heavy lifting—instead, the site that users install the plugin on will need to handle most of the load. This is great for you as a plugin creator. You can save on some of the fees associated with running the software.
You can also start your business with a plugin and later upgrade to a SaaS model like OptinMonster did.
In the beginning, OptinMonster was a WordPress plugin that only worked on WordPress sites. Users paid a one-time fee to get the plugin and had to pay an extra amount every year if they wanted updates. But later, OptinMonster shifted to a SaaS model. You can now install it on any website without a plugin, and you must pay a subscription fee (annual or monthly).
Quick tips for creating Plugins:
Check what plugins people like and don’t like: Visit the WordPress plugin store and read reviews to see what plugins people like and don’t like. You can also visit the WordPress forums to see what users post about plugins. You might even want to post one of your own to learn what people want.
You can follow this with the extensive research practices I shared earlier.
Create the product, test, and launch: After you have sufficient data, you can create the product, test it with beta users, make improvements, and launch. Then launch the product on your website or even AppSumo.
Running a business, whether online or offline, takes up a lot of time. Entrepreneurs and employees constantly need to learn new skills and execute a mountain of tasks. As a result, they’re always on the lookout for templates that offer shortcuts and help accomplish goals swiftly.
That’s where you come in. You can create templates for websites, social media visuals, contracts, invoices, and so many other things.
For example, check out this bundle of 50 Ad Creative Templates from Rfs Digital Media.
These templates are tailored to people who want to create images for ads quickly.
Like Rfs Digital Media, you can set up a store directly on your website, or sell them through an existing community like AppSumo Marketplace. Here’s an example of a Presentation Template listing from Graphue.com.
There are so many other niche-specific sites where you can list your assets. One of them is CreativeMarket, where designers list design assets for businesses and other designers.
One of the users, Nicky Laatz, generated over a million dollars by selling design assets on the site.
Quick tips for creating templates:
Figure out the tools your audience uses: You need to make digital templates for specific software, like Word or Photoshop or Canva. Find what templates your audience wants and which tools they would like them for.
Master the software: To create templates, you’ll have to master the tools your audience uses. So get as much information as you can on these tools and take the time to practice with them.
Create the templates and publish: You can finally create the templates and publish them on your site, AppSumo, or a third-party store like CreativeMarket.
Templates are a B2B product mainly made for online businesses to execute designing and marketing tasks. But if you want to target offline businesses and even individual consumers directly, you can create printables.
These are things like checklists, templates, games, calendars, art, and labels that people can download from your website, print, and use.
An example of a printable business is ActiveLittles.
You’ll find printables mainly for children here. You can either buy them individually or get an ActiveLittles membership.
You can make a good income with printables if you’re able to keep creating fresh content for your audience. ActiveLittles generates $6,000 every month.
There are also marketplaces like Etsy, where creators sell printables.
You can even create bundles that contain both templates and printables like Freesumes did on AppSumo Marketplace.
You can follow the same process you follow for creating templates here. The only difference is that you’ll need to print them out to check for quality before releasing them.
7. Photos and videos
Businesses and bloggers are constantly looking for stock photos and videos for their organic and paid marketing campaigns. Right now, the demand is higher than ever because of the rise in visual social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok.
There are different types of stock photo and video sites you can run. These include sites like Unsplash, where you list photos from various creators and offer them for free.
Unsplash earns money by monetizing its traffic with ads.
Another option is to run a premium stock photo site like DepositPhotos, where users can buy premium photos.
You can either sell the photos individually or offer them as part of a membership plan.
There are also freemium stock photo sites like Freepik, where people can use the free photos by just crediting the site.
Those with a paid plan on Freepik don’t need to credit the site and also get access to premium photos.
You can also create a personal site where you only sell photos you create. Alternatively, list your self-created media on graphic design sites like Canva and earn royalties when people use your photos or videos.
Quick tips on running a stock photo site:
Choose a niche: Amassing a vast collection of photos takes a long time. This is why it’s best to start with a niche and add in more over time.
Ask your audience what they want: As your site grows, you can observe the behavior of your audience, run surveys, and begin introducing visuals for other niches or stick to the current one.
Monetize: At the beginning, you should avoid monetizing as it will help your audience grow quicker. After you have plenty of subscribers, you can monetize the site with ads or premium (paid) photos.
8. Lightroom presets
While editing photos on Adobe Lightroom, people can apply effects and styles by changing things like color, contrast, and exposure. After you’re happy with the way the photos look, you can save not only your photos but also the Lightroom presets containing all the effects you’ve created. If you’ve created a pretty wonderful combination, you can sell these presets to other photographers and businesses to use on their photos.
Buyers can download your preset file and add it to their photos. These presets are high in demand because they save people a lot of time. The plus side for you is that every individual can create unique effects.
Again, you can sell these exclusively on your website like PresetPro, list them on a marketplace, or do both.
Another similar product is an add-on (similar to the aforementioned plugin). You can make these for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator. People can download the add-ons and add them to their software. Add-ons help users quickly implement effects that usually take up a lot of time.
You can take the same steps you take with running a template or printable business when selling presets and add-ons. You’ll be reaching a similar audience here.
A popular digital product is a paid newsletter where the creator emails you premium tips on a subject that they specialize in every week, month, or even daily. It’s similar to an online course, but it’s delivered via email on a regular basis.
10. Paid communities
You can run paid communities on apps like Slack or Telegram, or Facebook groups. Here, people get access to you and other experts that specialize in a topic your audience is curious about. They’ll ask you questions, and you can give them the answers.
If you’re creating a group that consists of you and your team answering questions, setup will be easy. But if you want to bring in more experts, you’ll either need to pay them or offer other benefits. Some are happy to do it for free if they can get exposure from your audience.
An example is the Adskills Pro League community.
It’s a forum on Slack where you will find some of the best media buyers. Not only do they provide you with the latest developments in the advertising industry, but they also answer questions members have.
11. Paid webinars and online conferences
Most of the webinars you attend are “free.” You don’t pay anything to attend, but there’s usually an offer to upgrade at the end if you want to pay for something more advanced.
Some people like to go the opposite route and create paid webinars where you have to pay upfront to attend the webinar. This is usually a small fee of less than $100. After the webinar, attendees can access the recording on-demand. Some creators even sell the recording to attendees who couldn’t make the live recording at a cheaper rate.
The setup for webinars is similar to a course, only you’ll present it live.
Another version of the paid webinar is an online conference where several people who specialize in various or similar topics run several webinars over a few days to a couple of weeks. You can charge attendees more for this since there’s more content. An example is the Search Marketing Expo.
People could attend the live online conference initially, or pay to access the recordings after.
Online conferences became more popular over the past year as many regular conferences got canceled, and people switched to the online version. They’ll remain popular this year, too, as social distancing continues.
12. Membership programs
Some infopreneurs package online courses, webinars, group coaching, a community, and other tools into one product. Kate Ahl does this with Simple Pin Collective.
This is a product for people who want to get the most out of Pinterest and want something more complete than an ordinary course. Products like these are membership programs where you pay a monthly subscription.
Which digital product idea did you like most?
Most people assume that online courses are the only digital product they can create. But as you can see, there are various digital products in high demand that you can create. So reflect on what you’ve got to offer, figure out the best way to package and sell it, and choose the best route you want to take. Then brainstorm and begin creating your digital products.
We hope this list gave you some inspiration to get started!
For even more ideas, check out the AppSumo Store. These are always excellent places to launch your products.