Skip to main content

How To Sell Files Online (Best Way + Comparisons)

Illustration: a file being purchased on a website

Want to sell your files online? Fantastic idea! This is a great way to package up your unique skills and knowledge to help others and make some money.

In this article we’ll show you how to easily sell your files online, for free, with WordPress. We’ll also compare some pros and cons of other platforms.

Let’s get right to it! ⏭ Skip around if you’d like to:

Terms:
People use many different words/terms for selling ‘digital files’ online. You’ll also see (and might want to use on Google searches) these terms: digital products, downloads, downloadable products, digital content, and virtual products.


Step 1: Install Your eCommerce Plugin

The best way to sell your files online is with WordPress and the Easy Digital Downloads plugin.

WordPress + Easy Digital Downloads Logos

Why WordPress? 👍🏽

WordPress powers more than 40% of websites on the internet! It has the largest ecosystem of themes, plugins, web hosts, and service providers in the world, by far. You never really know what you’ll need in a few months, or a few years, but you can trust that WordPress can handle it. It’s also free!

Why Easy Digital Downloads? 👍

Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is one of the most trusted eCommerce plugins in the WordPress ecosystem. It’s been around for 10 years and powers more than 50,000 eCommerce websites. It’s backed a dedicated support team.

➡️ Click here to get Started with EDD

Installation

First, if you have never installed a plugin on your WordPress site, it’s really easy. Here is a great tutorial.

To install EDD log in to your WordPress dashboard:

  • On your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New.
  • Then click the Upload Plugin button.
Screenshot: Uploading EDD eCommerce Plugin
  • Locate the Easy Digital Downloads ZIP file you just downloaded and click Install Now.
  • After that be sure to click the Activate button.
Screenshot: Activating EDD eCommerce Plugin

🎉 Just like that, you’ve installed a full featured online store!


Step 2: Get Your File Set Up to Sell

After you install EDD you’ll have a new left-side menu item called Downloads on your WordPress dashboard. This is where you’ll manage your new store.

Screenshot: new Downloads menu item

On your WordPress dashboard, hover over Downloads and click Add New. We’ll be uploading a video as an example.

Give the Download a name/title. Then add a description.

Screenshot: Create Download - Title and Description

Next, give your Download a price under Download Prices.

Screenshot: Create Download - Download Prices

Now, we need to configure your Download Files. This is the file link that the customer will be given after purchase.

  1. First, look under File URL click Upload a File and upload your video file. It will automatically be protected from search bots and unauthorized file downloads by non-customers.
  2. Second, under File Name type in a phrase that describes the product. It can be the file name or even something like ‘Download now’. This is the clickable link text that will be used on the confirmation page and email.
Screenshot: Create Download - Download Files

Last, you need to add a Download Image. This image important. It’s the product image that potential customers see when shopping. It needs to look appealing. Click here for a guide to making good images (it includes Canva, Photoshop, and Affinity templates!)

Screenshot: Create Download - Download Image

🙌 Good work so far. You’re almost ready to begin selling digital products.


Step 3: Set up A Payment Method

We recommend Stripe to accept credit card payments on your website. It’s easy to use and has great features. You can even add buy-now buttons with Apple Pay and Google Pay.

➡️ Click here for quick step-by-step guide for setting up Stripe

If Stripe is not available in your country, we suggest PayPal as another great option. Or check out one of our other many payment gateways (some of these require an Extended Pass).

🙌 Almost done. Once you have a way to accept payments, you can view your file for sale on your website as a customer will see it.


Step 4: View Final Results

When you have hit ‘Publish’ on your Download a preview link will appear. Click View Download.

Screenshot: View download

You’ll see the video Download page (product page) ready to sell on your website. In the example below we are using the Astra theme. Your site will look different depending on your theme. EDD will work fine with any theme. Click here for suggested and free theme options.

Screenshot: Video product on the frontend

Potential customers click on the Purchase button, add their credit card and personal info and check out.

They will be taken to a purchase confirmation page that looks like this. There is a link to download their video file (in our example).

Screenshot: Purchase confirmation page

Your new customer will also get a purchase receipt email. This email also has the download link.

This link expires after 24 hours with the default setting.

File Downloads and Email Settings

Under Downloads > Settings > Misc > File Downloads, you can control link expiration and other settings.

A customer can log in to their account to get a new download link. You (or a site manager) can also resend the purchase receipt on the Orders screen.

The default text works fine, or you can customize the purchase receipt email under Downloads > Settings > Emails > Purchase Receipt (learn more on this Doc).

EDD Extensions and Integrations

Purchase an EDD Pass to add features or integrate with your favorite platforms and services. What does your store need to do? EDD has it covered:


12 Best Platforms To Sell Files Online Compared (2022)

Here is a quick comparison chart of top eCommerce platforms / apps for selling files.

Pro tip: Millions of smart entrepreneurs start with a WordPress site and add eCommerce plugins. The advantage to this is you have single powerful platform as your base. In the future, you can add any functionality needed.

Note: many WordPress plugins have annual pricing instead of monthly pricing.

1: Easy Digital Downloads✅ Free plan / version

💲 199 / 399 / 599 per year for Passes that add features
💻 WordPress plugin

🟢 Pro: Focused on selling digital files, powerful software licensing tools, unlimited products

🔴 Con: May take more time to set up than some SaaS options (but it’s more flexible)
2: MemberPress🛑 No free version

💲 25 / 40 / 50 per month
💻 WordPress plugin

🟢 Pro: Great for membership sites, subscription content, or online courses (with quizzes)

🔴 Con: No free version or free trial

💡 Good solution if your digital content is your product

Alternatives: Thinkific, Payhip, DPD and Podia
3: WPForms✅ Free version

💲 399 per year (Order forms requires Pro license)
💻 WordPress plugin

🟢 Pro: A powerful form builder that you can also use to create order forms for selling a few items

🔴 Con: Not a full-featured eCommerce store, not well suited for selling a large amount of products
4: WP Simple Pay✅ Free version

💲 99 / 199 / 399 per year
💻 WordPress plugin

🟢 Pro: An easy way to sell a few products or services with Stripe, with no checkout process or shopping cart

🔴 Con: Not designed for selling lots of products

💡 A good solution for selling a few products, services, or accepting donations
5: WooCommerce✅ Free version

💲 Free with paid Extensions
💻 WordPress plugin

🟢 Pro: Very popular and well-supported, customizable with lots of extensions

🔴 Con: Designed primarily for physical products

💡 Good solution if you’re selling both physical and digital products.

SaaS Solutions (Software as a service / platforms)

6: Sellfy🛑 No free version (for digital products)

💲 22 / 59 / 119 per month, billed annually
💻 SaaS

🟢 Pro: Provides a storefront if you have no website, or embed on your existing website

🔴 Con: No software licensing tools, free version doesn’t do digital products, has sales caps in each tier

💡 A good solution if don’t have your own website yet (but we suggest WordPress), or selling digital goods and physical goods
7: SendOwl🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 9 / 15 / 24 / 39 per month (more for self-hosted or subscriptions)
💻 SaaS

🔵 Pro: Sell digital products and physical products as well as content/memberships

🔴 Con: Each pricing tier has a limited number products
8: Shopify🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 29 / 79 / 299 per month
💻 SaaS

🔵 Designed primarily for physical products, selling digital files requires an add-on, also offers point-of sale (retail)

🔴 Con: No software licensing tools without third-party add-ons
9a: BigCommerce🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 Requires custom quote
💻 SaaS

🔵 ‘Headless’ solution can work on WordPress sites and other sites, designed for larger businesses, also offers point-of sale (retail)

🔴 Con: No software licensing tools
9b: BigCommerce Essentials🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 29 / 79 / 299 per month
💻 SaaS

🔵 ‘Headless’ solution can work on WordPress sites and other sites, designed for small and medium sized businesses, also offers point-of sale (retail)

🔴 Con: No software licensing tools
10: Gumroad💲 Instead of monthly fees, they take a fee, it’s 9% + 30 cents when you start, it goes down to 7,%, 5%, then 3% as you grow💻 SaaS

🔵 You can use their storefront builder or embed on your own website

🔴 Con: They take almost 10% of sales when you first start out (but the number goes down)
11: SquareSpace🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 23 / 27 / 49 per month
💻 SaaS

🟢 Pro: A website builder that can also sell products

🔴 Con: You pay monthly fees and 3% per-transaction fees on base plan, not designed primarily for selling files, no software licensing tools
12: Wix🛑 No free version (free trial)

💲 27 / 32 / 59 per month
💻 SaaS

🟢 Pro: A website builder that can also sell products

🔴 Con: Not designed primarily for selling files/digital products, no software licensing tools

Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I sell digital products? / Should I use marketplaces?

The best place to sell your own digital files is on your own website. You’ll have more control of the customer experience, direct communication, and keep more of your revenue.

  • Marketplaces are easy to get set up on, and may offer an existing audience and traffic.
  • However, marketplaces usually charge high fees (+ transaction fees), the more you make the more they take. You also have no control over customer experience, are surrounded by competitors on a busy page, and have little or no direct communication.

🔎 Read our guide on marketplaces vs. your own website


What types of digital products can I sell?

Here is a short list of digital product examples you can sell.

eBooksAudio booksPodcasts
VideosMusicSound effects
Graphic templates (like Photoshop)SpreadsheetsDocuments
3D Graphics and AssetsEmbroidery PatternsSoftware templates
PresentationsResume templatesPrintables
Guides or checklistsFonts+ Anything you can dream up!

🔎 Check out our complete list of digital product ideas


How do I market my products and increase sales?

There are lots of ways to increase sales, build awareness, and market your products. Here are some proven tips and marketing tools:

  • Your Blog – An important way to increase sales is to explain to others how your files and products can solve their problems. Potential customers are using Google and Bing search to find answers to their questions. Your blog posts can be the answers they find.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Your Download pages and blog posts need to actually appear in search results. How? There are lots of things you need to do.
  • Lead Magnets – Give away a free resource on your website to build your email list.
  • Affiliate Marketing – Get your happy customers and like-minded bloggers to share your products on their websites, blogs, and social media. Pay them a small commission for referring paying customers. It’s a proven way to increase traffic and sales.

Conclusion

Nice! You just learned how to sell files online with WordPress and EDD. We’ve also looked at other platforms and their pros and cons.

We trust that Easy Digital Downloads can power your online business. If you choose another platform, best of luck!

We have a lot more resources for all digital creators like you. What do you want to learn about next⁉️

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get our latest resources for digital creators.

Joe Wells

About Joe Wells

Joe is a Marketing Specialist at Awesome Motive. For years he’s been helping people and organizations succeed with WordPress. He is also the founder of an alternative accounting solution for your side hustle called HustleBooks (powered by Easy Digital Downloads). He and his family live and play just outside Detroit. A busy dad, he enjoys running, watching and creating films.

@thisisjoewells

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]