This year, business owners, full-time employees, and the unemployed alike faced similar challenges, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world and put many people in precarious financial situations.
Many businesses have had to adapt quickly as they were thrown into uncharted territory with stay-at-home orders and radical changes in consumer spending. Some brick-and-mortar businesses have been forced into closing completely, while others have struggled just to stay afloat.
At the same time, many people have become remote workers virtually overnight, with zoom meetings and digital collaboration replacing what was once a typical 9-5 office environment.
Interestingly, such a period of rapid change with a shift toward working online has also presented the masses with a unique opportunity to dip their toes into the world of eCommerce – particularly digital products, as they don’t necessarily require tangible materials or rely on the normal functioning of physical goods industries to create.
What does this mean for everyone stuck at home or out of work due to the pandemic?
In this post, we talk about 7 digital product ideas almost anyone can create right now, to give you some inspiration – whether you’re looking for ways to make some extra money on the side, experiment with creative ideas, or you want to create your own business.
1. Stock photos
If you have a DSLR camera – or even just a smartphone with a good camera – you can create and sell stock photos.
Stock photos aren’t always fancy, either. People buy them for all kinds of different purposes; you never know what might sell!
For example, Shutterstock has put together this curated collection called “Empty Spaces”, which showcases several photos that were taken on public transportation, at an empty park, and in a deserted parking garage:
The moral of the story? If you have an eye for photography, you can capture something as seemingly ordinary as an empty bus and sell it as a stock photo.
We actually wrote a whole post about selling photographs, so check it out for more information on things like pricing, ongoing revenue, distribution, and licensing.
2. A document or document template
Know your way around a word processor? Then you have everything you need to create a document or document template for sale.
Even people who don’t have internet access or computers at home can use library computers to create using Google Docs or Google Sheets – and it’s 100% free!
It goes without saying that documents are some of the cheapest and easiest types of digital products to make. In fact, people selling them account for nearly 11% of our audience at EDD.
Are you good at formatting resumés? Sell a CV template. Are you a musician who is good at notation and charting? Sell sheet music.
Do other people regularly ask your advice about a certain topic? Write a report or how-to guide. Do you carefully track things like your budget, expenses, or fitness progress? Make a spreadsheet template.
There are tons of document types you can sell. In our post The definitive list of digital products you can sell, we outline some ideas, including:
- EPUB documents
- Case studies
- Informational pieces
- Live documents
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets
- How-to guides
- Printable documents
- Recipes and nutrition guides
- Sheet music
- Quick-start or “101” guides
- White papers
- Budgeting worksheets
- Contact lists
- Data sets
- Formula worksheets
- Business and legal documents
- Company policies
- License agreements
- Privacy policies
- Terms and conditions
- Content / web copy
- Professional templates
- Resumes / CV templates
- Business and legal documents
Even if you decide not to sell documents as digital products, you can still make extra money offering document creation services as a freelancer through sites like Fiverr, for example.
For more information on selling documents, check out our post about it over here!
3. A productized service
If you already do freelance work or you have specialized skills that you can use to make side income, productized services are a good way to go.
Productized services are services that are sold as products. For example, the difference between a copywriting service and a productized copywriting service is that the productized version is sold as a “product”, or “package”; it’s something that the customer can select to buy on your website just like a normal digital product – as opposed to offering services “for hire”.
Often, productized services are really just freelance services that are sold as packages and fulfilled by the service provider. However, the business model streamlines the experience and makes it easy for customers to submit orders and receive a digital product without the back-and-forth of negotiation.
In short, you get to run a digital product store instead of hustling for clients. It’s worth noting, however, that some of the most successful productized services are born from building a customer base with freelance client work first.
If you already offer services, you can easily transition to the productized services model!
A great example of a productized service is Cover Art Factory, a website where customers can buy pre-designed or custom-designed cover art for their music projects:
Graphic designers have been offering this service for years, but Cover Art Factory turned it into a productized service business, and a digital product store. Customers still have the option of choosing custom-made design, but everything is “productized” – that is, sold as a product.
As mentioned with documents, sites like Fiverr and Upwork are great places to try out and fine-tune your services before launching your own website. But, if you’re ready to create your own digital product store, we have a wealth of information to help you out, including posts about common mistakes to avoid, pricing, accepting credit card payments, the anatomy of a digital product website, and much more.
We also wrote a post about selling services, and much of the information included can be applied to productized services, too.
4. An audio sample pack
Behind a lot of the music we all listen to on a regular basis is an often overlooked industry: Soundware. Audio sample packs and synthesizer presets are types of soundware that are great examples of niche digital products with a hungry audience that is always on the lookout for new sounds and inspiration.
But – whether you have musical expertise or not – you, too, can create audio sample packs! Here’s why:
Audio samples don’t need to be musically impressive to sell. A lot of producers are looking for unique sounds, or common everyday sounds that can be manipulated or inserted into their productions in unique ways.
Sound effects and long recordings of ambient environments can be created with zero musical experience. Ever recorded audio on your smartphone? The quality is surprisingly good. iPhone voice memo recordings are – quite frankly – good enough for these purposes.
You can also buy a portable field recorder for under $100, if you want to take it up a level!
If you do have musical know-how, consider creating and selling things like instrumental samples, vocal samples, more complex samples that combine multiple sounds, and music loops.
In terms of equipment, you can set yourself up with a condenser microphone and USB converter for under $100 combined. Of course, an industry-standard audio interface (another $100+) is ideal instead of a converter if you can afford it, but the point is that you can really get away with very little if you want to get up and running on a low budget.
In fact, I used an M-Audio Nova condenser microphone (less than $100) and an Icicle XLR to USB converter / mic preamp (less than $50) to create an audio sample pack that generated thousands of dollars and continues to sell every month. Was the quality absolutely perfect? No. Did customers love it? Yep!
Plus, free software like Cakewalk, GarageBand, or Audacity is really all that you need to record and export audio samples.
5. 4K drone footage
Just like stock photos, stock videos are big sellers in the digital product marketplace. However, drone footage in particular has a competitive edge, quite simply because not everyone has a drone.
Plus, it’s an in-demand type of footage for all kinds of video production projects, large and small. In fact, many big companies actually purchase drone footage from independent creators, or license it from stock marketplaces like Getty Images, Shutterstock, or Adobe.
If you already have a drone license and an aerial camera drone, you’ve got everything you need to create and sell drone footage. If you don’t, you can always rent a drone for this purpose!
Here are a few popular types of drone footage you can capture:
- Nature footage such as coastlines, forests, and mountains
- Urban city landscapes, including infrastructure, architecture, and industrial footage
- Travel locations
- Sports events
If you already have a drone for fun, you could be making side income doing the same thing you’re already doing! Cool, huh?
6. A crowd-sourced spreadsheet
Nomad List has grown into a successful membership site, but it all started with one simple crowd-sourced document.
Founder Pieter Levels wanted to collect data that would help inform digital nomads about the best places to live and work remotely, so he called on his Twitter followers to contribute to a Google Sheets spreadsheet that he created:
“I was slightly stunned by the response. Apart from filling in all the data, people started adding columns for different indicators, like level of safety, coffee shop density and LGBTQ-friendliness,” Levels says in this post.
While it’s up to demand and marketing whether a crowd-sourced spreadsheet will grow into something more, it’s certainly a type of digital product that anyone can create right now.
7. An eBook
The eBook is one of the longest-standing digital product types out there, and for good reason – eBooks are easy to create, sell, and consume!
Just check out our post about selling them here.
If you have passion for a certain subject, you can create an eBook with very little; All you really need is access to a computer with a word processor.
Some eBook topics to consider include:
- Creative nonfiction
- Do it yourself (DIY) books
- Recipe books
- Reference books
- Scientific writing
- Travel guides
Often, eBooks are sold in EPUB or PDF format, but you can either export your book in PDF format using your word processor (you can even do this with Google Docs), or you can use various online conversion services to convert it to EPUB or PDF.
If you decide to sell your eBook on a popular marketplace like Amazon, you will have specific file type requirements. If you self-distribute, PDF is a safe bet, although you might consider offering multiple formats.
eBooks might seem a bit boring if you think about the different, more eye-catching types of media out there (such as video), but the reality is that they continue to sell year after year!
If you’re unsure as to whether you can create an eBook of your own, try sitting down and brainstorming topics. Then, do some research to see what kind of competition you have and the pricing they’re using.
You can also create a short eBook (or PDF guide) as a lead magnet if you’re trying to create your own store based on a different digital product type!
Turning a challenge into an opportunity
Difficult times can certainly test us, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of that. So many people have had to adjust to entirely new ways of life, and it’s been very challenging for people and businesses all over the world.
But often, these kinds of challenges force us into new arenas that we might not have previously explored. While not completely immune, the fact is that – in comparison to physical goods industries – digital products are relatively unaffected by lockdowns and social distancing measures, since they exist entirely online.
Hopefully this post illuminates some of the opportunities that can be created from this time of hardship, and gives you some inspiration for creating your own digital products! At EDD, we recognize the benefits of selling digital products, and hope to enable our audience to make money with their skills and improve their lives!
Have you tried out any digital product ideas during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have some advice to share? Join the conversation in the comments below!