Selling Digital Products: From Zero to 2 Million Dollars in Sales

The ways I have made the very most money online specifically is selling digital products. More than 2 million in sales on Udemy, now tens of thousands of dollars of sales on my own website, since Udemy this current month should be close to $10,000 in sales with me paying out co-instructors approximately 2 to 3 thousand dollars of that.

On top of that, this month on Audible is over 150 sales already, which should be over $600 in sales. What’s really exciting is that it is just with 2 books with one primary seller that has sold all but one copy.

I have 27 of my own video courses and if you count all the things I have with other people, I have more than 40 different products that you can buy in the form of video course and video course bundles on my website. If I had that many on Audible I would likely be making more from Audible than I would be making on my website with the same number.

Selling digital products: From zero to 2 million dollars in sales

Selling digital products on Udemy was fantastically profitable for me, it is by far the best venture I have ever made in my five years of business online resulting in more than $600,000 in payments for me as you have probably heard 8 or 10 times now because why wouldn’t I like to toot my own horn?

Selling digital products: From zero to 2 million dollars in sales

With selling digital products, you might think, okay Jerry that’s great, but how did you know what products to start with?

I didn’t.

What do you mean you didn’t? You have to know what products you should make to start, right?

No, that’s not what you need first. You don’t need to even think about making your products before you have products. What you need before you make products are people to sell your products to and I don’t mean an email list for that, I mean people you have built a relationship with, people you have done something very useful for, likely for free, but if you have a place that you have done existing work such as you have worked with a lot of people already through your current job or through everything else you have done online, then you may be able to go straight to a product.

Most of us though don’t have anyone to sell a product to, therefore making a product is usually not worth the time.

What do you mean making products not worth the time? You mean if I just go put a course on Udemy it’s not worth my time?

Yes, 99% of the time that’s what I mean. Now if you are the 1%, which I don’t know, if you think you are special like I always thought I was the 1% for most of my life, but deep down I was pretty afraid that I was the 1% worst rather than the 1% best.

Selling digital products:

I’m guessing, 99% of the time, if you go just make a product it will be nearly a complete waste of your time and that’s the most difficult thing about selling digital products. You very often can make a product, you can write a book, you can make a video course or any other kind of product and most of the time it is a total waste of your time. You get nothing out of it. That’s how my Udemy courses were for the first year. My first Udemy course called Udemy was published on August 2013, it did not make one dollar for at least 6 months and I tried to sell it.

At first I couldn’t even get it approved, so if it is your first time making a product you may have issues with things like approval, especially if you go put a video course on a new website or put an audio book on Audible. My Facebook book got rejected because the volumes weren’t right, I had to go back and edit all the volumes and change my software to have a software that can actually fix the problem. I was using GarageBand and I didn’t even know how to fix the problem, so now I have moved over to Adobe Audition CC, which costs $800 a year to have all the Adobe products together.

That’s another thing that happens when you are building your digital products, you may get rejected and you may have to realize that you need to invest more money in things like different kinds of software.

“Well, Jerry you didn’t have to buy that you could use Audacity.”

I know, I like stuff that’s a complete all-in-one package where I don’t have to download a bunch of extra plug-ins. Anyway, before we go too far off on that tangent, very often with selling digital products you are likely to run into a bunch of problems, spend a bunch of time and money doing something that makes you no sales and guess what?

When it makes you no sales you will say, “We need to advertise this, let’s get Facebook ads up, we’re going to make a YouTube channel,” and waste more and more money to make no sales. That’s what I did on my Udemy courses.

Selling digital products:

There is a big difference with my Udemy courses, I already had people following me online. I already had an audience online before I tried selling digital products and I still had a hard time selling it. I had thousands of views on YouTube, hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook and all kinds of clients.

Guess who the first $100 I made on my Facebook ads course was to?

I sold it to a client for $150 in exchange for taking that much off when they ordered a campaign with me. They never did order a campaign with me and I didn’t think much of that sale because then, out of spending all the money I spent on ads to sell my course, all the time and energy to learn how to get a course approved on Udemy, build a better studio, all the time and energy I spent to make $150? I didn’t even think anything of it.

For about 8 months after I made my Facebook course on Udemy, about 4 months after I sat there and went through, built a whole studio, invested in all kinds of time and money in ads, then it finally made a few hundred dollars on its own, and somehow, out of frustration I just started giving it away for free.

I was running all these ads, spending all this money on this Facebook course that no one would buy, I said, “Fine, if no one will buy this stupid course I might as well give the damn thing away for free.”

I ran Facebook ads giving my Facebook course, which was brand new with hours of video, where it seemed to me other people were charging thousands of dollars, if not hundreds for the exact same kind of a product not nearly as updated.

I had what looked to be the best Facebook course for a little while on the Internet and here I just gave it away on Facebook because I was that frustrated with selling it. Some really good things happened from that. I gave it away so much that thousands of people took the course.

Selling digital products: the best Facebook course

Even though it was very hard to get reviews on Udemy at the time, I got some people who absolutely loved it and those reviews got the attention of Udemy back when you had to get manually included in the daily deals.

They put my Facebook course on the daily deals and as soon as they did that, it started pulling in a thousand dollars a month from about $100 or $200 a month before, and that’s when I could see that after almost a year I now had a viable product. That course went on to make over a $100,000 for me and I would guess probably $200,000 plus for Udemy in sales. That was my second bestselling course on Udemy.

The first one came another year or so after that collaborating with another instructor. The point of this is that even though I had a really good course, it took me a year to get anything to happen with it and that was back when Udemy was really low competition. Now, there is all kinds of great Facebook courses on Udemy.

What I just told you wouldn’t work if I tried to do it right now especially since I’m banned from Udemy, but if I was just starting off, in other words you deleted the whole Jerry Banfield, stack me in some other fleshy body and I went to work doing the same thing, if I just put a Facebook course on Udemy it wouldn’t go anywhere. There are already too many other good courses on Facebook now on Udemy.

I hope this is giving you a clear picture of the downside of selling digital products and what I hope to provide now is how you get through that.

You do it first by making a lot of things for free, especially what I like is YouTube. My basic strategy right now, I put up tons of free videos on YouTube, which I use to sell my courses on my website and sell books on Audible. Here is the key part of that system, the YouTube channel and its organic free traffic. I’m grateful that I get hundreds of thousands of people who find me through YouTube search for free every month now.

Selling digital products:

I have been doing my channel for 5 years and I have an entire audio book on how to do a YouTube channel so we are not going to go into that in this book. The point is that having a product these days is not worth anything. Having an idea is worth absolutely nothing, in fact, having an idea often is worse than having no idea because you at least might be open to doing whatever idea is in front of you.

If you have some great idea that actually can be worse than nothing because what you are likely to do is get stuck in the always having an idea trap. The shiny eye syndrome where you are always chasing after the next idea and you are never actually fully executing one idea.

If you will notice that little Facebook Udemy course story I told, that’s a fully executed one idea. I didn’t get that idea. If you are sitting here thinking, “Man, you’re brilliant, you thought to go on Udemy.” I didn’t get that idea, no, I didn’t think of that. I was putting out free video tutorials, getting clients at the time, so I was doing the work I’m suggesting to build your free audience up. I was doing that work trying to get a bigger free audience on YouTube so I could get more clients.

I was trying to get clients and someone came along after seeing one of my tutorial videos and said, “Jerry, where is your course? I want to go buy it.”

I said, “I don’t have one.” Then someone linked me over to Udemy because I said, “Not only I don’t have one, I didn’t even know you could sell video courses online.”

Yes, I was that ignorant. I didn’t even know I could sell video courses online and three years later, millions of dollars in sales, isn’t that ridiculous?

The one good thing is that I had an open mind. I didn’t have an idea of what was going to work specifically for me and someone literally told me what I should do.

If you have got an idea that’s so good, you can’t accept other people giving you ones that are better that you could actually execute because if you are like me, you often get into fantasy mode and you get these ideas. I frequently hear friends and other people I work with talking about these ideas: “Well, I’m going to do this.”

After I got banned from Udemy a bunch of instructors said, “Jerry, you should make your own website like Udemy.”

I have a little bit of an idea of the work that go into that and I’m not interested in doing it. That is a gigantic huge project that will require collaboration among hundreds of people to successfully pull off. A lot of entrepreneurs get the scale of their ideas all messed up, and to start at least you need an idea that you personally can execute along with a little bit of help.

Selling digital products:

Now, once your idea is proven to work, then you can keep adding on from there. Ultimately if you are going to sell a product though, it needs to generally be something you have the ability to execute preferably just you, but maybe with a friend or two for best results.

Like I said, my best selling course was really a collaboration, initially between me and Ermin Kreponic and then it also expanded to include Joseph Delgadillo to run the backend, get all these subtitles done, answer questions, and several more paid staff from Ermin, then it became a collaboration among many people.

Making a product and selling digital products is hard and yet it is by far the most profitable. If I think about all the time, energy and money I put into my Facebook ads course, and then I look that I got $100,000 out of it, that’s one of the best deals I have ever made in my life. I got over $250,000 with the hacking course and Ermin got over $100,000, that’s by far probably one of the best deals he will ever make in his whole life and one of the best deals I might make in my whole life too.

An amazing deal and the set up for it was incredible with the amount of money invested in online ads, the time, the energy, the buying new equipment, the collaborating, the use of another website to find Ermin. These things are not what you want to start off with. You want to start off with something easy that you can sell to the people who are already following you.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about selling digital products and I invite you to learn more about how I made money online in my book:

100 Ways I Made Money Online

100 Ways I Made Money Online

Available both in Kindle and Paperback format.

You may also enjoy listening to the audio version on Audible

100 Ways I Made Money Online

… or take the course on Skillshare.

100 Ways I Made Money Online