Ashley Fox was a Howard University grad who’d landed her first job on Wall Street. She was making six figures, but something wasn’t right. “I felt like I had hit a ceiling,” she says. “I did everything I could to work on Wall Street, but I wasn’t fulfilled.”
Ashley’s journey would take her away from Wall Street, back to her parents’ basement in Philly. From there, she launched a new vision – to bring financial empowerment to people Wall Street wouldn’t reach.
After creating programs and events for over 20,000 people and seeing her financial education brought to 50 schools and organizations, Ashley launched her first product: an online class. She sold it for $10, and to her surprise, 400 people bought it!
That led her towards a journey of building a community, Wealth Builders, where she could bring courses and community together. And in the first two weeks, the business generated over $100,000!
If you’re thinking about building your first digital product, sometimes the options can be overwhelming. There are so many different ways you could go. But what did Ashley do? She built a movement, learning and growing, fueled by her passion. And over enough time and iterations, that $10 course turned into six figures in two weeks.
In this article, we want to give you some ideas for building digital products. Obviously, there are a lot of options out there. We’ll talk you through some of our top digital product picks for this year and give you some ideas about how you could use them.
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In this article…
What are digital products?
Digital products are created and distributed on digital platforms. They are extremely scalable, and can usually accommodate high numbers of users without difficulty. With their low cost to create and lots of good software options to do so, digital products can be really lucrative.
So if you're thinking of developing a digital product this year, here's why you should do it!
Advantages of digital products
- Scalable. Adding another customer is often as simple as giving them access.
- Easy to create. The advent of online platforms means you don't need to code to build them.
- Integrated. The buyer's journey can be really simple, with one platform handling everything from delivery to fulfillment.
- Common. Most of us use digital products every day. We are used to paying for them.
- Recurring. Many digital products create a recurring revenue stream. Think monthly or yearly payments. This makes them lucrative.
- Long lasting. Digital products have a long shelf life. You could sell the same product for years with minimal upgrades.
A few examples of digital products we all use
- Streaming services (e.g. Netflix)
- Software (e.g. Microsoft, Adobe)
Who should sell digital products?
Um, can we say everyone? Digital products run the gamut, so even if you're not going to create the next Netflix, you can start a newsletter pretty easily. In fact, the flexibility and number of digital products out there really just go to show you how common they've become.
And the more we spend our lives online, the more we're going to see digital products. When you jump on Roblox and have the option to buy an outfit or access a world, that's a digital product. NFTs are a digital product. Online courses are, too. They're all around us.
Okay, but down to the brass tacks. Here are some rough guidelines to figure out if you should be selling a digital product.
- You have IP or knowledge to share
- You have software that solves a problem
- You're creating something digitally you want to sell
- You are gating access to premium content or events
16 Digital product ideas
1. Online Community
We might be a bit biased, but we’re betting big on online community this year! An online community does something MAGICAL. It lets you build a viable digital product out of a group of people coming together online.
Humans love community. Heck, we need it! So online communities help us fill some of that need for human connection.
Here's how an online community works. You bring together members who all share a Big Purpose. Chances are you do this on a great community platform.
The community could be paid or free, but it becomes a digital product, and you can offer upsells, or other types of products within it. We'll talk about some of these below.
Communities can be super viable, built on a membership business model. And, as you heard from Ashley’s story in the intro, some communities on Mighty have made six figures in their earliest weeks.
- Super scalable
- Sell something humans are already looking for
- A great platform makes it easy
- You benefit from the network effect, the more people in your community the more valuable it becomes
- Communities thrive on user-generated content
- You can mix a community with other digital products like courses, events, or premium content
2. Cohort Course
Asynchronous courses aren't done yet. But you know what type of course we are super bullish on right now?
A cohort course is basically a course that's taught to a live audience. Rather than pre-recording it, you show up and do it live. This gives you lots of time for breakout groups, questions and answers, and space for creativity.
We love cohort courses for a lot of reasons.
But one of the main ones is the connection! There are so many online courses out there that are pre-recorded. Many people are looking for something more, something deeper. A cohort course often gives you this.
Traditional, pre-recorded online courses suffer from a couple of drawbacks.
- No accountability. If you don't show up or don't do the work, nobody really knows.
- No help. In many cases, there's no one there to help you if you get stuck (although mixing an asynchronous course with a community can fix this).
- Lonely. Yeah, it's lonely! You sit there by yourself, talking to no one. Depending on your personality, you might prefer to be in a group.
A cohort course fixes literally each of these problems. And there's one more huge advantage to cohort courses.
You can pre-sell them!
No more building a course only to realize that nobody wants to buy it. Presell the cohort course. If you don't get enough people signed up, you can always offer a refund and not run it. Then try something else!
Cohort courses have validation built in, and that's pretty great.
- Teach to a live audience
- Answer questions and problems as they come up
- People have accountability to actually finish
- Students won't be as lonely
- You can pre-sell it
- You can always sell a recording after the fact, turning it into an asynchronous course
3. Asynchronous Course
Okay, so we talked about a cohort course. But there are times when an asynchronous course – that's a pre-recorded course – really does make sense.
If your audience for the course is busy working parents or executives, for example, it can be hard to get everyone lined up on time.
In this case, teaching an asynchronous course while adding a community can be an amazing option. The course gives them the material at their own pace via an LMS. And the community lets them get accountability and get their questions answered, basically addressing the challenges we mentioned above.
For people who have challenges learning or disability, asynchronous courses let them slow down and go at their own pace, which can be a boost.
And you don’t necessarily have to choose. The best online course platforms will let you do both!
- Unlimited scale - You can sell it again and again
- You can keep selling access for years
- Users can go at their own pace
- If mixed with community, you can address the challenges of accountability, getting questions answered, and loneliness
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous -- How to choose
Are your students self-directed and autonomous?
Does your material ever change?
Do students require live feedback and support?
Do your students have limitations in joining through a live session, either because of learning style or lifestyle?
Will the students need to workshop ideas, have discussions, or work together?
4. Paid Events
Another type of digital product that doesn't get much love is a paid virtual event. You might be thinking, "Wait a minute! Is an event a digital product?"
Sure it is! You share knowledge or IP and it's delivered on digital platforms.
You can do a lot of different types of events. But in general, an event needs to demonstrate a clear purpose and value proposition for an attendee. Once you do this, you can sell tickets and you're off to the races!
You may or may not choose to compensate speakers, but either way, if you get your business model right, an event can be a very viable digital product. And rather than doing it all the time, the rhythm of your business could slow from event to event.
- Fun 😊
- Platforms make it easy + we all have phones to join in with
- You can bring different speakers and formats to add more value
- Virtual events are accessible in a way that regular events aren't
E-books have been around for a while, but they are still an amazing digital product. After all, most of us still access Amazon daily, and plenty of us are reading. In fact, the e-book market n the U.S. is a billion-dollar industry (and they don’t count many of the self-published books).
Writing an eBook can take some time and effort, but it can really pay off. It has the benefit of being timeless, it can keep generating passive income for you for months and years to come.
As far as a business goes, you would have to publish a lot of ebooks to make a full-time living off it. Most creators who earn from eBooks mix other things from this list.
But e-books are still a tried and true digital product!
And for those of you who are thought leaders, publishing a book can do even more to cement your credibility and open up opportunities. It was part of Aliza Licht's journey – which you can read about here.
- Super accessible
- Build credibility
- Long lasting
- Totally passive
You can find our CEOs eBook on amazon! Gina shared her story about starting this company and her love for communities.
If writing is your jam, maybe you'd be better suited to a newsletter. Paid newsletters are having a moment right now, in part thanks to platforms like Substack that make it really easy to create and sell a subscription.
Newsletters have some great positives as a digital product business. They can create recurring revenue, and there's no limit to how big you can grow your subscriber base.
The downside to newsletters is that you have to keep producing. Unlike an e-Book, which you write and forget about, a newsletter needs to be pumped out every month or you'll lose subscribers.
- Easy with platforms like Mighty or Substack
- Still low market saturation
- Create a thought leadership profile
Digital downloads really have been losing their popularity lately. A decade ago, they were all the rage. Basically, you could pay and download some sort of valuable thing: a pdf, a slideshow, a guide, or a template.
Digital downloads do still exist. But they are slowly and surely being replaced with gated content that exists online.
In part, this probably shows the evolution of how we think about digital products. We used to think about them in terms of ownership, we wanted to get something on our hard drive. Now, we tend to think about digital products in terms of access, and we don't care much about where it's stored.
We'll include it on this list to make sure we're comprehensive. In some cases, people do download printables – which we’ll talk about below.
- Relatively easy
8. Premium content
If the lowly digital download has been dethroned, premium content has probably taken its place. If you are writing something, that is.
With a great platform, content gating is easy. So for example, with a community built on Mighty, you could create a unique space and sell access to it. In this space, you can put premium content.
Premium content can be a lot of different things, from your thoughts, live streams, extra help, to bonus guides.
- Modern platforms make it easy to gate content
- You can use different types of content (live streams, blog posts, etc.)
9. Social tokens
One of the new darlings of Web 3, social tokens are a type of digital product built in blockchain. A social token is usually a way to invest in a brand or creator. They "mint" a token, and you can purchase it. But the cool thing is, social tokens can be resold. And if the creator’s stock rises, the social token might be worth even more!
Social tokens are often used with some of the other products on this list, giving access to communities, courses, premium content, and other cool things.
- Can be resold and increase in value
- Can be used with most things on this list
- Very secure (blockchain)
With the vast majority of brands we use every day moving towards a SAAS model, software is probably the most common digital product any of us engage with.
This includes things like your social media feeds, file sharing, cloud backups, word processing, and more.
Whether or not creating software is a viable business model for you probably depends on your capabilities! If you know how to code and build something people need, it could be a cool idea.
There are also a lot of white-label software options out there. Basically, you would buy or rent some sort of white-label software and put your own brand on it. It can be a feasible option for building software too. You can find personality tests, calculators, and all sorts of good digital products that are premade – just search Google for “white label (your product).”
- More accessible than ever
- We ALL use software all the time
- Works well with recurring revenue
11. Mastermind group
How about a mastermind group? It's not what you normally think of when you think about digital products. But it's so easy to create and host a mastermind, even mixing it in with pre-made courses or other content.
You can do the scheduling and hosting for a completely virtual experience of bringing people together to learn from each other.
- Can mix well with other products (courses, premium content, events)
- Really easy to schedule and run
- A viable business with a small number
12. High-ticket coaching
If you're a coach looking at building a digital product, why not create a high-ticket coaching package? High-ticket coaching can be an awesome business model. And, sort of like mastermind groups, it can be mixed with a lot of other things on this list. You could mix one-on-one sessions with a premium course and access to a private community.
The best part about high-ticket coaching is probably that it's lucrative. If you charge enough, you don't have to sell millions to make money. Many high-ticket coaches can earn their living from a dozen or so clients.
- Very lucrative
- Mixes well with other products
- Can be delivered totally on one platform (e.g. Mighty)
Another digital product that is still fantastic is the app. Now, when you think about building an app, you probably think it takes somebody with some serious software development skills.
And in some cases that's true. So if you have the chops to do it, kudos.
But apps are getting more and more accessible to build thanks to a whole fleet of modern technologies. We build amazing, white-label apps here at Mighty. You can add your own brand, plus content, courses, community, and commerce. Book a call with us and we'll show you what you could build.
- Accessible (most people use them)
- Mix well with other products (e.g. courses, communities)
- Costs to build are coming down
- Great white-label options
One digital product we associate with file downloads is printables. Like it sounds, a printable is a file that you can print!
Who would pay to print stuff?
It turns out, lots of people! Printables can be anything from coloring pages to planners to stationery. So if you’re creative and your audience can benefit from a physical product they can produce with their printer, this might be the one for you!
Oh, and there’s a new frontier: 3D printing! Plans for 3D-printed digital products are going gangbusters, and in the future, it stands to reason you’ll be able to buy 3D printables for everything from furniture to houses!
- Create once and forget it (passive)
- Accessible and easy to create
15. Stock photos or videos
If you’re a photographer or videographer, stock photos or videos are always an option! Basically, you bring your art to the internet, and users will find it and adopt it for their own purposes.
As far as good digital products go, these are near the bottom of the list. It's tough to make much money off of selling licenses. Most photographers and videographers end up giving a lot away.
But, if you want to see your art out in the world instead of sitting on your hard drive, why not?
- Easy to share
- A lot of people need them
It’s still a brave new world, but there’s a good chance that some of the future of digital products will be in the metaverse. If you have kids, you might already know this instinctively as you watch them disappear into virtual worlds like Roblox.
We don’t know much about this new realm of digital products, yet, but Meta’s avatar store lets you create premium avatars, customizing and dressing them. Expect to see more of this stuff in the future!
How to launch your own digital product
We've covered a lot of ground above. And we've talked about a lot of different types of products.
Obviously, each one will have a different journey and process to bring it to fruition.
But as we close this article out, let's talk about the steps that are required in any digital product. And to do this, we'll use some of the principles that we teach here at Mighty.
1. Find a Big Purpose
When we launch online communities, we use something called a Big Purpose Statement. A big Purpose is basically the reason why a community comes together. But it also applies to courses, events, and just about any other type of digital product.
Most products offer their user some sort of benefit or transformation. And a Big Purpose helps you map that out.
Here’s what a Big Purpose looks like:
2. Find your ideal user
Whatever digital product you wind up creating, you are going to need to find somebody who wants to use it. For that, you need an Ideal Member, ideal student, ideal user, or ideal whomever.
One of the best practices in product design is to figure out who your product is for before you build. You can start to map out your ideal user:
- What demographic are they? Where do they live?
- What do they care about? What are their hopes and dreams?
- How much do they have to spend on your product?
Don't forget, there's no need to guess here. You can absolutely go and talk to a bunch of potential ideal users to find out if you're on the right track with your product. Then start building your avatar!
With some products, you can even take the validation a step further and presell the idea! If people are willing to shell out their cash for your product, even before it's built, you know you've got a winner. This is especially possible for things like cohort courses, events, and masterminds, but if you play your cards right you could pre-sell most of the things on this list.
3. Pick the right product
Unless you have a burning desire to build a certain product on this list, you can go through and pick the one that you think fits your ideal user AND your skill set. There's a bit of a balancing act here. If your ultimate skill is presenting on camera, don't sell a printable. That goes without saying.
But otherwise, you want to pick the product that's going to give your audience what they need. How do you figure that out? Well, you can always ask them. But think about the transformation we're trying to walk them through, and how product design will intersect with that.
- Community - People looking for connection and learning in a group
- Printable - People looking for something they can use themselves
- Social tokens - Your audience knows and is excited by Web3
4. Start building!
Once you've decided what type of product you are going to create, the next step is to start building.
Get something off the ground. And get some users!
5. Learn and iterate
Not every product takes off right away. But that doesn't mean it's a flop. Pay close attention to what's working, and don't be afraid to learn and iterate. Adapt as you need to, and change what needs to change. That’ll help you make money selling a digital product.
We hope this article gives you the confidence to get your own digital product launched. It's a great time to do it, there's never been more help and more software to grow with.
And that's where we come in. Mighty is a cultural software platform that lets you combine community, courses, culture, content, and commerce. And our flexible Spaces mix in live streaming, live events, community discussions, private groups, chat and messaging, and more. And you can sell access in 135 currencies or monetize with token-gating.
Mighty will help you build a bunch of the products on this list. So come get started! It's free to try for 14 days.