Hey and welcome to yet another episode of the Simplify Your Sales podcast! I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what MY journey in digital products AND passive income and what that’s looked like and so I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and share some — hopefully– golden nuggets of information along the way.
I haven’t shared a lot of these details anywhere else, so this is the first time they’re coming to light, which is kinda crazy. Some of these things are REALLY embarrassing. But I thought it would be helpful to get an accurate look at the whole picture and not just the highlight reel that’s tempting to share, but not really helpful to anyone.
And I’m going to share some revenue numbers in this episode, too. If that makes you uncomfortable– because money does to some people– that’s totally fine– feel free to skip this episode.
But I know I wouldn’t be doing you any favors by talking bout the products I created without giving you an idea of what I earned/am earning from them just to show you how it all kind of adds up. Definitely not to toot my own horn– but to show you what is possible. Anyways, just giving that disclaimer before we dive in. 🙂
So while I usually talk about how I “officially” got started selling digital products as happening 4 years ago, I actually created my *first* digital product back in 2011, right after I graduated from college and got married.
So I worked as a corporate events planner, but before that, my first job right outta college was working for the federal government. Major yawn. I was actually hired to be the receptionist at the Utah state federal courthouse and it was an interesting experience to say the least. I met a lot of individuals with very unique life stories.
At the end of the day though, it mean that I basically had a lot of free time on my hands. People would come + go in waves and I’d be left for a couple of hours where basically NOTHING happened.
I played Angry Birds on my phone for a while– you know, back when that was a thing– and actually got pretty dang good (which surprised me because I have NO gaming skills) before I decided that it would be infinitely better to actually DO something useful with my time.
I’d been looking into Etsy for a while so I decided I was going to open an Etsy shop. I sold custom stationary and note cards and wedding guest art prints.
And while I didn’t make any crazy amounts of sales, I made some. When I hit over 100, I figured I was on to something.
And so I decided to create an ebook on my knowledge, sharing my experience and some practical tips.
It was 15 pages long, written in a google doc, and– because I was using Etsy to research pricing for it– I ended up charging $15 for the e-book.
I didn’t do a dang thing for marketing except research SEO for the product– which, obviously, was a completely different and much easier ball game back in 2011.
It blew my mind.
And so I decided if one was good, another would be even better. So I decided to take a few lessons from my photographer brother-in-law and then use my newfound “expertise” to create a product photography tutorial ebook, too because I was fed up with having to google a million photography tips trying to find some practical knowledge for product photography on Etsy. There’s a TON of information out there, but it was exhausting to wade through it all trying to find applicable tutorials that didn’t require you to purchase a $300 DSLR camera and 4 bajillion different lenses and lighting kits.
Anyways, so I made this photography ebook with my “limited knowledge” about 10 pages long and sold it for $7. And it sold a few, too.
And yes, I sold both of these e-books on Etsy– under the name “By jove, Watson!” which is a horrible name, but we had just gotten a cat and, being on a Sherlock Holmes kick, we called him Watson. And so I “cleverly” created a shop that de-mystified the challenges and mysteries of running an online business. It seemed very clever to me at the time. Hindsight though, right?!
Anyways, the sales were nothing to write home about, but enough to realize that there were definitely possibilities there. But I realized that if I wanted to replace my income– which had always been this sort of goal in the back of my mind whether I admitted it or not– I was going to need to sell A LOT of these puppies.
I wasn’t charging nearly enough to reach the income level I wanted to reach. Based on what I had created, I don’t think I could have charged more, however, based on my income goals, I should have created a better product and price point around that. And that’s just solid advice whether you sell physical OR digital products– you need to create a pricing structure that aligns with your goals. Earning $100K/year (or whatever your goal is) selling $5 printables just isn’t practical unless you have a TON of traffic. Now, earning $100K/year selling a $47 or $97 small digital education product? Absolutely doable.
And then this whole digital product thing sort of took a back burner position when I switched jobs and landed my dream job– an event manager position at a book publishing company in Salt Lake City. I had interned there a few years previously and had had my eye on this position for so long and when it opened up? I leapt at the chance and somehow got hired.
And then we found out I was (surprise!) pregnant.
I always talk about my kids being insanely big catalysts for my business, and it’s true– finding out I was pregnant made me look into other ways of making money in case I decided I didn’t want to return to work after my maternity leave.
And then when I had my baby daughter, it quickly became apparent that I COULDN’T go back to work as I struggled through one of the darker periods of my life dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety with a dab of postpartum psychosis thrown in because why the heck not.
So that– and a MASSIVE dip in sales from an Etsy SEO algorithm change– are what prompted me to close the doors to my initial Etsy shop selling those custom notecards.
And in other news, it made going back to a corporate gig NOT an option.
And so– like any other sane (or I guess technically in-sane) person would do, I decided to open a second Etsy shop around 3 months postpartum to help me “cope.”
I’ve shared this story a TON– I’m a STRONG advocate for mental health and not being afraid to share about my person struggles with it– because trust me– I have many that I deal with still to this day– but that’s not what this episode is about, so I won’t rehash it right now.
But basically, I opened up LittleHighbury selling baby headbands in November, and by January I was earning $4,000/month and it just kept growing from there.
And so that’s how we made it work– my little family and I. My husband was in school full-time and we lived off of my income from my Etsy shop with a kiddo in tote.
And then a couple years in earning these crazy $20K+ months, I started to get messages on Etsy that were asking BUSINESS related questions. And I’ve gotta be honest– it blew my mind.
People were asking ME for business advice? I was a mom from rural Utah– nobody special. Yes, I’d figured out a way to sell online, but I didn’t think that it was anything special to share.
So I would just respond to these messages and write basically a novel that these poor inquiring people had to read. And then they started replying back and asking me if I could coach them one-on-one. That hadn’t even occurred to me as a possibility, so I said “sure!” without having a dang thing figured out. No contract, no on-boarding sequence– nothing. Not even invoicing– I remember I just set up something very basic in PayPal and crossed my fingers that it would work on the technical side of things. Which, it did, but it makes me cringe now to think about it.
Anyways, I started accepting one-on-one clients in 2016-ish and charged a grand total of $247 for a 60 minute session and detailed action plan. And using the advice of a business coach, every 3 clients I landed, I raised the price by a hundred dollars, so that just a few months later, I was charging $997 for a 60 minute call, which included email support for 2 weeks. But still– that number was INSANE to me.
And I left those calls feeling like yes, I had given them a lot of value that I knew they could turn around and use to grow their businesses, but I had SO much more I wanted to give but didn’t have time to in the 60 minute call. And yes, I could have made them longer calls or had them recurring over a period of time, but that logistically wasn’t an option for me with my daughter at home and only visiting a baby sitter a few hours/week. My time became VERY sacred and while I loved coaching people, I couldn’t do it on a more frequent basis and still fulfill orders AND take care of my girl.
And then there was the fact that I found I was answering the SAME questions over and over and over again. Questions about strategy, product line creation, how to get started with email marketing. Basically, every call followed the same general pattern: optimize your shop, hone in on your traffic, sell to your people, and then scale what’s working.
And if that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the EXACT same framework I teach inside Mastermind Your Marketing to this day because it freakin’ works. And the point is that with each of these coaching clients I was taking one-on-one, I was sharing the EXACT same framework with them. We were covering the exact same things because they had the exact same questions as each other. It was paid “market research” for me– I found out EXACTLY what people were struggling with and how I could help them.
And so I started compiling all of my answers and the things I was teaching into this massive Google doc that still lives on my computer.
And it was around that time when I started to wonder if I could create a way for people to get access to this content WITHOUT me having to show up for a one-on-one call. Not because I was lazy or didn’t enjoy the interaction with sellers– but because I had a kid and my time working on the business was extremely limited– every hour I spent coaching someone was time I couldn’t spend growing my business or with my family. I was tired of trading hours for dollars.
And it was around that time that I stumbled upon my first “real” course purchase– an online program that taught you how to create and launch a signature course of content that you could deliver to your audience over and over again.
I just remember it being a CRAZY investment for me at the time– and having to talk my husband into it. But I took the leap because I knew that I could keep fiddling around on my own, making a crazy amount of mistakes and giving myself more stress headaches than I could count…
And of course, that’s what I did. If you’ve hung around here for a while you KNOW I’m a big advocate for online learning + courses and I contribute a HUGE portion of my business’s success to learning + implementing things quickly instead of wasting months of time researching things on my own and hodge-podging together some semblance of strategy.
Anyways, I used that course to create my OWN course– Mastermind Your Marketing. Or at least, the first iteration of it which looked SIGNIFICANTLY different back then than it does today. Like I talked about last week, it’s all about getting a good enough product up there– your “b-list product” and then building upon it from there. And that’s what I did.
Now, to be completely truthful and to offer some reassurance if you create a product and it DOESN’T resonate with your audience– Mastermind Your Marketing wasn’t my original course idea. My original idea was something quirky like “$1K in 60 days” and I actually poured a lot of time into outlining that program only to watch it fall flat on it’s face when I shared it with my audience. They weren’t interested. And so instead of just giving up, I decided to ask them what they DID want. And here we are 🙂
When it first launched, it was $297 to enroll and included great content, but not a lot of bells and whistles. Today it’s got all the bells and whistles and I am so, so proud of it. But it’s literally been through 3-4 versions since that initial one. Always trying to build and improve things.
Anyways, so for that first “launch” of the Mastermind Your Marketing program, I had NO idea what to expect. I had never done anything like this before and I was convinced that NO ONE would want to pay me for this information. Like, can you charge for educating people? Can you actually sell what’s in your brain?
And then, of course, I also had the underlying fear that what if someone DID enroll in the program, take my information, and create their own product from it. I know from talking to people in my audience that this is a VERY real fear for you and I want you to know that it was real for me, too. I thought about it a lot and imagined virtually every worst-case scenario because that’s the type of person I am. I make mountains out of molehills. Drives my husband batty.
But at the end of the day, I KNEW the opportunities and possibilities FAR outweighed any potential copycatting that could happen.
And yes, I’ve totally had people rip my content– and even admit to ripping that content when confronted– and it sucks when you have to deal with that– especially if you’re as non-confrontational as I am– but I’ve gotta be honest: I’ve NEVER seen it negatively impact MY sales. I kind of take it as a sign that you’ve “made it” if people are copying your work, right?! At least that’s what I tell myself.
Anyways, so I created this program over a few months and launched it for the first time in March 2017. I opened the cart, held it open for 1 ½ weeks, and then closed the doors. And earned $28,000 during that time– enrolling around 70 students I believe.
Now, thinking back to my Etsy shop at the time– LittleHighbury— I was selling headbands for $10 a pop. That is 2,800 headbands I would have had to not only sell but also MAKE to make that kind of income. At the time, I was selling about 25-30 orders/day for sets of 3 headbands which is a ton of headbands– I was putting in about 2-3 hours/day just making + completing orders– not even growing my business– just trying to keep up with it.
And going back to the one-on-one coaching aspect at my current $997 rate, that would have been 28 one-on-one coaching calls. 28 hours of coaching that weren’t even close to as thorough as what was inside this program.
But instead, I had created ONE digital product– this marketing course– ran a promotion for it, and made nearly $30,000 in a week and a half.
And that’s when things really began to take off.
I learned that you can’t just create what you “want” to create without thinking about your audience first. This is true for physical AND digital products. You have to create for THEM– not yourself. They’re the ones whose hard-earned dollars you’re trying to earn, and by not taking into account what THEY wanted, of course the initial product idea flopped. I get a lot of people who tell me how scared they are to add a new product line to their shop and waste all this time on something that potentially might not sell. And if you’ve ever felt that way or are wrestling with that problem now, my best advice? ASK YOUR AUDIENCE. For whatever reason, this is super scary for people, but it’s the BEST dang thing you can do in terms of saving you time AND money. And you get that reassurance that yes, you’re creating something they want, which motivates you to get it done sooner!
Another key takeaway? Start small. I started with a $297 digital product and it was too much. I was SO stressed throughout the whole thing with creating content AND trying to market the thing for the first time. I tried to create an all-encompassing program which, yes, it is now, but trying to do that right outta the gate was ridiculous. Just ask my husband. I would not recommend you start as big as I did. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why I JUST sold Mastermind Your Marketing and nothing else those first few years, it was because I was burnt out from creating it and didn’t have the energy left in me to create another huge program. Once I gave myself permission to create smaller, bite-sized programs, which I’m going to talk about next, I realized I’d made everything a lot harder than I needed to.
And after a couple years of selling JUST Mastermind Your Marketing– which, if you’re getting started in digital education, make sure you start with just ONE program so you can really hone in on it and figure out what works and what doesn’t without the distractions of a million other products.
Anyways, I did that solely for a few years and then I started to play around and experiment. I’m absolutely still selling Mastermind Your Marketing because I’ve created it, I’m proud of it, and I actually have my husband downstairs organizing the hundreds of testimonials we have from the program because they were taking over my desktop and he had been laughing about it. So I put him to work. Ha! Anyways, so yes, Mastermind Your Marketing is still a program that I sell passively.
But it’s an EXTREMELY robust done-for-you Etsy marketing program– and not everyone is ready for that or that type of investment in their business. And so I know some people are just looking for small single-topic kind of “one-off” trainings.
And so I created a Black Friday Funnel course because I polled my audience (important!) and found out they were stressing about how on earth they were going to make Black Friday sales. So I whipped that out, complete with the swipe copy, prompts, promo calendar, audience building techniques–the whole she-bang of what *I* had personally done over the years to nail my holiday promotions on Etsy– and made $10,000 over a 4-day period.
And then with that success under my belt, I decided to tackle another challenge. I’d been asked a million times over to create a step-by-step SEO course- Simplify Your SEO. SEO has always been kind of dry to me, which is why I put this off, but I KNEW my audience would benefit from it, and the 14-day game plan I created for the program has been INCREDIBLY well-received. Anyways, I finally bit the bullet and created this program at the end of 2019/early 2020.
It sold $15,000 during its initial launch over a 4-day weekend at a $97 early bird price point. It now sells itself and is always available for purchase on my site, which, if you’re looking to get a complete in-depth SEO training that won’t make you pull your hair out and will leave you with a completed, implemented strategy 14 days from now (as in, you won’t have to touch your SEO again for a very, VERY long time), be sure to check it out– I’ll link to it in the show notes.
And then regarding other digital products, over the years, I’ve just created a bunch of little one-off courses or trainings for various promotions and collaborations I’ve done with people. The awesome thing about creating these digital products is that you can re-purpose and reuse them. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used the same digital products for different collaborations with different audiences. No additional work on my end, but everyone benefits from a single, really great product. Ah, I love digital products so much!
You can still make an INSANE amount of money with a $97 program. Sometimes going small and getting something out there is key to getting the ball rolling and building up your confidence. Like I said, if I could do it over again, I would have started smaller and worked my way up. You can always add more and raise prices later.
The longer you put something off, the more revenue you miss out on. If I had gotten Simplify Your SEO up and out there YEARS earlier, I can’t even imagine how much that program would have earned me to date.
While I feel like I’ll jinx something by saying ANY of this, given the year we’ve already had here in 2020, I want to also talk about what the future holds for me in terms of digital products and passive income as well.
I am keeping passive income streams open through my Mastermind Your Marketing and Simplify Your SEO programs. Both of those are my business babies and bring in regular recurring revenue and help me serve Etsy sellers in a more in-depth way that I couldn’t do one-on-one with limited time.
And fun news! I’m also taking things one step further and am creating a semi-passive high-level group coaching program in August this year that will focus 100% on building out passive income streams for Etsy sellers that are ready to play bigger than just selling physical products on Etsy. This is something new for me– I’ll be doing weekly coaching and critique sessions and giving extremely high-level support in the program to walk students through every step of creating and automating passive revenue streams in their own businesses.
It’s not 100% passive for me– although the curriculum is– but I’ve gotta admit, I’m excited for the challenge and to engage at a higher level with an intimate group of students– it’s going to be by application only– where we can build out their entire passive income empire. Anyways, that’s coming in August, so be on the lookout for that if you’re ready to take things to the next level in the digital product realm.
And then beyond that, just creating more resources for digital product sellers because I’ve seen them transform my own business over the years and I want to help others experience that transformation, too.
Anyways, kind of a different flow of episode instead of the usual strategy sessions, but hopefully you gained some insight and it was fun to see a kind of “behind-the-scenes” look at how I progressed from where I started in 2011 to here, today, in 2020. Sometimes it just helps to see where someone has been and what they’ve done when you’re trying to figure out your own path. And whether yours looks anything like mine or not, hopefully the insight was helpful! 🙂
And I guess the key takeaway for all of this that I shared today? Don’t be afraid to just experiment and put yourself out there. It’s SOOOOO easy to over-analyze and keep putting things off because you’re “scared” or don’t have everything figured out.
Guess what? Neither do I!
Get used to being a bit uncomfortable. Get used to trying new things and adapting and moving forward with your business. It’s when we become stagnant and aren’t working on or towards anything that things start to slip away.
So keep moving forward, know you’ll make mistakes and that that’s okay. I am still– on a DAILY basis– making mistakes. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret– the key to being a successful entrepreneur is 100% of the time that you get back up when you fall down. You don’t have to be insanely clever or talented or charismatic– I definitely don’t consider myself to be ANY of those things. You just have to keep doing and trying and then trying again when that first thing didn’t work out the way you wanted it to because it very rarely ever does.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Simplify Your Sales podcast and I hope you enjoyed it! I’ll see you next week, same time, same place. And if you enjoyed this episode– or any episode of this podcast, I would LOVE it if you would head over to iTunes and leave it a review so that MORE people can learn from it. In the meantime, keep working for it– your dream doesn’t give up until you do. You’ve got this!
Catch ya later!
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I’m happy to say that my little shop is more successful than I ever could have imagined, especially after implementing the MYM [Mastermind Your Marketing] course last year. I went from getting 1 sale every 2-3 weeks to 1 sale/day and now AT LEAST 2 sales/day. I am barely keeping up!”
Loving the course. It’s making EVERYTHING click in my overcrowded brain and I can actually see the dots connecting. You really have simplified SEO. Thank you so much!”
40+ orders so far TODAY and 200+ orders this month. This may be small for some, but for me, this is a new record! I’ve never seen numbers like this in my Etsy shop (it’s even busier than Christmas!).
I’m a former six-figure Etsy seller turned online business strategist who believes in my core that you CAN build a business that supports YOU— whether you’re full-time momming, working that 9-5, or just looking for flexibility + freedom.
You don’t have to sacrifice your time to build a profitable business that you love— you just need to build it strategically (and I’ll show you how!)