Selling documents Everything you need to know about selling documents

Selling documents

Of all the different types of digital products, documents continue to be one of the cheapest, easiest, and one of the most potentially lucrative to sell – and they last forever!

At EDD, we encounter just about every kind of digital product out there, but documents make up our third largest segment – about 10.8% of our audience. If you already create content, or you have some knowledge and expertise in a given field, creating downloadable documents can provide you with extra income, or even a basis for developing your own digital product business. From supplemental worksheets, guides, and sheet music, to reports and customizable templates, you can sell documents to add value to your existing digital products, diversify your content, or make a living – it’s all up to you!

If you’re ready to get started with selling your documents, read on for some tips and considerations that can help you put it all together.

Pricing

When deciding how to price your digital documents, you’ll want to look at some standard variables and competitor prices, but the biggest question is: What is the value you’re offering? To figure it out, consider some of the following questions:

  • What type of document(s) are you selling? Templates for resumés and stationery, for example, can be anywhere from $10 to $30, while reports and informational pieces containing legal, medical, or specialized expertise can range anywhere from $20 on into the hundreds or even thousands in some cases. With more sections to cover, software-as-a-service (SaaS) business documents and templates can be priced on the higher end, while documents like fitness and nutrition guides commonly sell for between $15 and $50.
  • Are you selling a single document or bundle? Consider selling collections of documents (such as complementary industry reports, data sets, contact lists, or stationery sets) in order to charge a higher price and deliver maximum value. Just like with any other digital product, single documents sell for less than bundles containing multiple documents.
  • Are there any bonus materials? Does your document come with an audio version, extra worksheet, or access to bonus content? Factor this in when calculating your price.
  • What are your competitors charging? Peruse marketplaces like Envato as well as the individual digital product stores of your competitors to get a rough idea. Keep in mind that marketplaces tend to have lower pricing in general.
  • Do you have clout within your industry? People will often pay a premium for the expertise of a trusted source. If you have a large following or established industry authority, you can factor that into your pricing.

Ongoing revenue

With the easily replicable nature of documents, they are already particularly well-suited for generating ongoing revenue as more and more copies are sold over time, but there are some additional options to consider, such as recurring memberships, cross-promotion, affiliation, regularly updated documents, and alternate formats.

The membership model can be employed to give customers regular access to specialized documents. For example, a membership could include access to all relevant legal templates for starting a new digital business, all resumé, cover letter, and other professional templates for job seeking and career advancement, or unlimited access to sheet music or industry-specific reports and data sets. Whichever types of documents you create, you can generate ongoing revenue by starting a membership site around your products.

Cross-promotion and affiliation are other routes that can produce significant long-term recurring revenue. Both methods allow you to expand your reach and get more sales (potentially indefinitely) by partnering up with content creators, influencers, and other figures or service providers within your industry. Maybe you write luxury yacht maintenance manuals and you decide to partner with a blogger in the luxury yacht niche. As a result, your products are exposed to a larger audience and niche mailing list full of people who are more likely to be interested in purchasing them.

You might also sell access to “live” documents that are periodically updated, such as contact lists, website lists, or data sheets. In this case, you could charge a subscription fee to your users, adding new subscribers regularly, without increasing the amount of work involved.

Consider creating alternate formats, such as audio, video, or infographic versions of your documents to multiply their earning potential. This could include audio guides, podcasts, video tutorials, as well as versions in other languages and variations on colors, layouts, etc. You could repurpose your document content into smaller segmented products, or use certain documents as lead magnets for gated content!

Distribution

Channels

Overall, documents are typically accessed one of two ways: They’re either downloaded and opened with compatible software, or accessed within the customer’s browser (including web apps). One advantage that comes with selling documents is that they often have a smaller file size, making it easy to host them on your own server and deliver them to customers via download links, or link to them via cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Various marketplaces exist to allow you to get up and running quickly with selling documents, managing the entire process from start to finish, including file delivery. However, selling through your own digital store gives you more freedom and flexibility when it comes to how you price and market your products.

Format

Common formats for documents haven’t changed much through the years; here are a few of the principal standards and some examples of their uses:

  • .PDF (guides, white papers, reports, manuals, printables)
  • .docx (resumé and professional templates)
  • EPUB (guides, case studies, other informational pieces)
  • .xls (budget worksheets, data sets, lists)
  • Google Docs / Sheets (“live” documents, any of the above)
  • .ppt (PowerPoint presentations)
  • .key (Keynote presentations)

Looking for ideas for types of documents you can sell? Here’s a brief list to spark your creativity:

  • How-to / PDF guides
  • Resumé / CV templates
  • Industry reports
  • Manuals
  • White papers
  • Printable stationery
  • Case studies
  • Informational pieces
  • Data sets
  • Manuscripts
  • Contact lists
  • Sheet music
  • Budget worksheets
  • Formula worksheets
  • Journaling templates
  • Self-help workbooks
  • Legal document templates
  • Presentation templates
  • Live documents
  • Content / web copy packs

Other considerations

File previews

In order for customers to have enough confidence to purchase your products, they will want to know what they’re getting! Creating a digital product demo is essential; it can boost sales, minimize refunds, and create customer confidence in your products and brand. When it comes to documents, a demo can come in several forms. Giving away a preview or downloadable sample excerpt of longer documents allows the customer to verify that the contents are what they’re looking for, while watermarked screenshots can effectively showcase more visually-oriented documents like letterheads, presentations, worksheets, and sheet music. You might decide to include demo text in your document previews – templates, for example – in which case you could call on lorem ipsum text generators like Lipsum or Lorem ipsum to help you fill out your documents for demonstration.

Piracy

The unauthorized use of your products can be anywhere from a mild nuisance to a staggering, demoralizing drop in sales, but at the end of the day it can be extremely time-consuming to fight it. Nevertheless, file protection software does exist to help dissuade pirates, requiring a password or other types of authentication in order to access the file. This may or may not be desirable for you, depending on the kind of documents you produce and their price tags; the choice is yours. The reality is that piracy is an unfortunate part of selling digital products – and it probably won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

Physical versions

Certain types of documents like stationery, sheet music, resumes, and other printables are particularly good for selling in physical format – and this can expand the reach and accessibility of your work to a wider audience. Some people simply prefer physical copies, or may be willing to pay a premium for printed versions that save them the hassle of doing the printing themselves!

Physical versions also enable you to sell your products at events and in stores and libraries – something that can help to further strengthen your industry authority. Of course, shipping and inventory are some additional considerations you’ll have to be aware of if you want to go down that road.

The final word

Selling documents can really be worthwhile, especially since they are still one of the most popular types of digital products available. They can be extremely low-cost to produce and have the potential to bring in high earnings – when done right! Documents come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is for sure: Many people, from best-selling authors, personalities, and gurus, to specialists, connoisseurs, writers, and designers experience increased success from adding to their existing businesses with, or creating entirely new businesses out of documents.

Do you sell or are you considering selling documents? Or do you include documents as a part of your digital product business? Be sure to let us know if you have questions or comments!

Illustration by Jessica Johnston.

Comments

I’m loving selling documents. I sell teaching resources which are PDF’s and PowerPoints.

Reply

That’s awesome, Sarah! Keep it up!

Reply
Pam

I am considering selling documents but don’t know where to start. I have so much PLR and I have re-written lots of it but don’t know the next step.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. If you need technical assistance, please open a support ticket.