Part 3: Passive Income with Creative Educational Digital Products
In the third part of our ‘Passive Income For Creatives’ series, we’re lifting the lid on turning your skills and knowledge into digital products that teach. That’s right, we’re talking about all-things education and how they can create passive income and scale your business whilst creating a positive impact.
It’s no secret that the online education sector is booming, with more people than ever starting their own online businesses and in need of the knowledge on how to do so. Millions of people are turning to the Internet, looking for new skills to learn and how to grow their business. One of the ways to share and monetise your knowledge and experience is by becoming an educator and creating value packed resources. Creating educational based digital products can come in a variety of forms, namely e-books, webinars and courses. Something you have already created could become a passive income generating asset.
Heads up, passive income requires work.
Creating educational based digital products can range from something as simple as repurposing content you’ve already created to summiting the mountain of all digital products that is creating a course. Now, before we delve into these specific products we wanted to make it clear that as with all digital products, it does require work to initially create the asset. If you’re creating an e-book based on existing blog post content, then it may not take too long to create. On the other hand, if you’re creating an online course from scratch, well that’s a task not to be underestimated.
The truth of it is that customer service will be ongoing and depending on the subject matter of your product, you may need to occasionally provide updates. However, once your assets (in whatever form) are created they have the potential to earn you revenue long after you created it.
In our first post, we discussed how creating digital assets can help you scale your business, without you having to directly trade your time for money. Unlike client work, where you receive a set sum for the completion of a project, with digital assets there is the possibility for these to be sold hundreds, possibly thousands of times.
The success of just how ‘passive’ they are depends on the systems you have in place, which we’ll go into greater depth later.
What are you going to teach?
First and foremost, you’ll need to explore and decide what it is you want to teach and identify who your target audience is. As with all digital product creation, the sweet spot is combining your own strengths and skills with a product that isn’t yet available and that solves a problem. How will your product fill a need and help your ideal customer? Will it be teaching them a new skill? Will it help them to grow their business? What differentiates your product idea from others out there and crucially, will it be something that people will be willing to pay for?
Validate your idea
Prior to committing to creating the content for your educational resource, it’s always worth validating your product idea by conducting your own market research. Ideally, try and get feedback from the audience you are creating the product for. This is great for making sure you’re on the right track, plus it’s also a valuable way to gain insight into the type of topics people are wanting to learn about.
So, how do you go about getting this market research? Fortunately, this has never been so quick, easy and less daunting. When we say market research, don’t think that this means standing kerbside with a clipboard but instead reaching out to your audience and engaging with them in the ways that you already do. Your social media apps already have some built in features that makes this super simple.
If you have a following on Instagram (no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’) you could informally ask your audience by asking questions or conducting a poll in your Stories. If you interact in Facebook groups, why not gauge possible interest or ask questions in the groups where your ideal customer would hang out. You could always incentivise more detailed responses by offering some sort of freebie in exchange for filling out a survey either via your website or your mailing list.
Chances are, your ideal customers are more than happy to spend a little virtual time with you, as they’re the ones looking for answers or solutions for certain questions and problems. Don’t be tempted to skip this part, as it’s often in this discovery phase where you uncover exactly what type of specific information your audience is looking for. Once you have this, you have clarity. Once you have clarity, this makes creating the content that much easier for you and ultimately more valuable to your ideal customer.
First up, let’s start with e-books. E-books are a great launch pad when venturing into creating educational digital products for the first time. They are one of the simplest products to create, with the main investment of time being the content inside and the final formatting of the product.
With an e-book, you could simply re-purpose some of the existing content you’ve already created and aggregate it into a single resource. The pricing of an e-book is typically lower than courses, although naturally that’s entirely dependent on the amount of content and information it provides. Mini e-books or guides, are typical opt-in freebies. Therefore, to create it into a product that people will be willing to pay for, you’ll need to go into much greater depth into the subject matter.
An e-book can be as simple as a PDF, that you create in your software of choice such as InDesign or Canva. Once created, they can be listed permanently on your website or to get more eyes on your product and to attract consistent sales, you could create a dedicated sales page that you send people to via pins you post on Pinterest. You could also create an ever-green sales funnel, marketing your e-book on autopilot to anyone who subscribes to your mailing list.
If you’re familiar with creating webinars, you may already have a passive income earning product ready to go! If you’ve created a webinar before, you’ll know that it requires both effort and planning to create these (often free) training sessions for your audience. One pretty smart way of extracting more value from this content is to record the webinar and to repurpose it into a product. This can turn a free webinar into a value-packed masterclass, which you can market to your mailing list. What’s awesome about this is that your audience can enjoy your webinar teachings no matter when they discover you.
Creating impact with courses
Working with individual clients or working 1 on 1 as a mentor is an incredible way to pass on your knowledge and empower business owners directly. With courses however, you have an amazing opportunity to spread your message and share your expertise with a much wider audience. The same knowledge you pass on to an individual, you can translate into a course and make a positive impact on a much wider scale. Courses enable you to channel the skills and knowledge you already have and pass these on to an infinite amount of people.
What to teach
Great courses aggregate and distill information into easy to understand and (most importantly) practical and actionable steps. So if you’re just starting out in your creative career, don’t feel as if you’re not yet in a position to create a course. As with all digital product creation, explore ideas that offer solutions to people’s problems. What knowledge, insight or experience do you already possess which translate into course content that inspires students to take action and complete the course with a new skill.
Creative course idea examples:
- If you’re a designer you could develop a course on how to use Adobe or Canva to create graphics for their business.
- If you’re a photographer you could show people how to use Lightroom to develop an Instagram theme, or how to take self-portraits.
- If you’re a web designer you could develop a course on how to code or how people can transform their website to convert visitors to sales.
- If you’re an illustrator or artist, you could create a drawing class or teach how to sell your art online.
- If you’re a font designer, you could teach people how to properly pair and choose fonts for their brand or how to customise fonts in Illustrator.
- If you’re a copywriter, you could teach people how to create an email funnel that sells or website copy that converts or how to attract dream clients.
Courses are the Goliath of all digital products and require a lot of effort, not only in creating the curriculum but also in delivering the content as effectively as possible to your students. One thing to consider when creating a course is how are you going to host it? For example, will the resources be accessed via a password protected page on your website? Or will the content be hosted on a third-party platform?
This may also be dictated by how you intend to deliver the content. Will it be via video, audio, text, images or a combination of them all? Fortunately, there are an increasing number of platforms that make the course creation process easier and more accessible. These platforms do all the heavy lifting in terms of software, so you can focus your efforts on content creation.
Some of our favourite course platforms include:
If you’re wanting to create an online course Teachable is a firm favourite for creative educators. This is thanks to its simple setup and ability to support a variety of media such as video, audio, text, images and PDFs so you can deliver your content across a variety of formats. With Teachable, you control how much your course costs and for a monthly fee, you create your own website where you can create sales pages and host the entire course on the platform.
Teachable handles all of the tech, such as payment processing and includes some advanced features like support integration, data analytics, coupon creation as well as being able to create your own affiliate programme for your course. It has a user-friendly interface, which you can customise so that it matches your branding and so you can deliver your content in a way that looks great, too.
If you’re wanting to sell a variety of digital products, Podia is a fantastic all-in-one platform that makes this easy. With Podia, you can create a website that hosts all of your products including courses, webinars, digital downloads and even memberships. You create your own website and storefront and Podia handles all of the software and logistics like payment processing, downloads and delivering your content etc. For a monthly fee, you get your own website which you can customise with your own web and sales pages and can host your products plus also offer customer support via the platform.
As well as being able to host all of your products in one place, another plus is that Podia doesn’t charge any transaction fees. The platform is user friendly, easy to navigate and unlike other all-in-one platforms is easy on the eye too, which is especially important if your product is aimed at fellow creatives!
Skillshare is an amazing platform, where teachers deliver educational content via video. If you’re a fan of creating video content, love creating on Youtube or IGTV, then Skillshare is definitely a platform to consider for sharing your knowledge and expertise. Business related and creative content is especially popular on Skillshare, with ‘classes’ covering everything for marketing, design, photography, freelancing calligraphy and everything in between.
With Skillshare, you do not set a price for your class and instead how it works is that you’ll earn money through monthly royalties based on the amount of minutes watched in your classes. Unlike creating an in-depth course across a variety of media, Skillshare video classes typically range from 20 – 60 minutes with the most popular courses sitting comfortably in the middle.
When you create your video class, there is no cost to you to host it which means you can try a variety of content ideas with the only investment being your time to create the video. If you produce innovative and valuable video content, Skillshare will market your course and support you as a creator with top earning teachers making $100,000+ each year. The success of your class depends on keeping your audience captive and by ensuring the content of class can maintain relevance.
Whilst it’s possibly harder to make a substantial income from Skillshare classes versus your own course, out of all of the options this is the most ‘passive’ as once you’ve created and uploaded your class you can ‘leave it running’, with the only requirement from your end to respond to students if they had any questions or if you set ‘challenges’ or activities for your students.
Your own website vs third party platforms
One of the major benefits from hosting your educational products on a third-party platform is that rather than handling all of the logistics that come with delivering digital products, you get to concentrate on content creation. You don’t have to worry about plug-in maintenance, payment gateways and making sure your SSL certificate is up to date as these platforms handle all of this for you.
If you’re tech savvy when it comes to building and managing websites, then this is potentially a very cost effective way of hosting and managing your digital products as you avoid the monthly hosting costs associated with these platforms. It’s worth bearing in mind though that some plug-ins that you’ll need you may need to pay an annual fee for, and depending on your website shop set up you may also be charged per transaction for any sales made through your site. These costs may add up, and so it’s worth considering all of these factors for when you want to decide where to host your products.
First and foremost however, is making sure that you put the user experience first. What is going to make the whole process as simple and enjoyable for the student so that they can easily access and navigate the content.
How to display your digital product
As with any digital product, once it’s created you’ll be wanting to market it and for that you’ll need to showcase it as effectively as possible. With your marketing imagery, you want to quickly convey what you’re selling and in what format. To do this, you can display your products in mockups, giving your audience a glimpse into the content you’ve created.
For example, with an e-book PDF, you may wish to display the front cover or a sample spread of the contents with a magazine mockup. With an online course, you could use a laptop mockup to display a screenshot of what your course will look like. You can even create a video that scrolls through the different modules, so that potential customers can visualise how they’ll be presented with the content. Showing enough content (but not all of it!) is a great way of transforming a digital product into something tangible.
Make it ever-green
Once your product is all wrapped up and ready to go, now’s the time to launch it. With big ticket items like courses, these tend to coincide with big launches propped by strategic marketing and hype building. Courses generally require a big investment of time and energy, which is why it’s often the practice to create a launch strategy so that you can see a quick return for your creation efforts. However, it’s perfectly possible to market and sell your products long after they were initially created by implementing systems that require little or no maintenance.
The key factor for these products being a ‘passive’ income revenue stream is making sure that you have an ever-green sales funnel in place. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, an ‘ever-green sales funnel refers to an automated system that continuously sells your product day in, day out.
Typically, this would entail you offering a freebie as an ‘opt-in’ to get subscribers on your mailing list. Once they’re on your list, you guide subscribers on a sales journey until eventually you present them with a tempting offer for your product. Once you’ve created this sequence (also known as a sales funnel), anyone who opts-in to your mailing list will be taken on the same journey, whether that’s today, next month or in six month’s time. If you make this funnel ever-green, it can continuously run on autopilot helping you to create a passive income stream from your digital assets.
When you have your ever-green sales funnel in place, all of your automations are working for you so you can continue more of the work you love to do, whether that’s working with clients or creating more content for your audience.
The idea of creating an educational digital product may seem daunting, or if you’re wrestling with imposter syndrome you may think that you don’t yet have anything to teach. Always remember, that you only have to be one step ahead of someone else to be able to teach. Whilst you may be just a few months into your business journey, remember there is someone who’s at the very beginning of theirs. Whilst having years of experience is an amazing asset to have as a teacher or mentor, it’s by no means a necessity.
As business owners and creatives, we’re constantly evolving and always learning. There will never be a time where we ‘know it all’, so when it comes to course creation don’t dwell on the things that you do not yet know, but focus on the things that you do. Your unique knowledge and insight has the potential to empower others and to make a positive impact in their life and business. Not only can you share your knowledge and message at scale, but as far as all the feels go, the rewards and the sense of fulfilment from teaching are pretty unbeatable.
Coming up next:
In the next part of the series we discuss how to create passive income by turning your creative talents into creating real products with print on demand services.