In this post, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to start a creative side hustle based on digital products and grow it successfully. Whether you’re looking to earn some extra income or turn your passion into a business, I’ll walk you through the key steps of choosing a niche, creating a digital product, building an audience and scaling up your business, to name but a few.
Start a creative side hustle by selecting a profitable niche based on your skills, competitor research and ideas for needed products. Launch your digital products to an existing audience or build one with a website or social media. Maximize your profit by selling on multiple platforms and directly to your audience.
Now let’s get started…
Choosing the Right Side Hustle for You
Your success as a creative entrepreneur depends on choosing the right side hustle. Analyzing your skills and interests, researching markets and identifying profitable product ideas are all key factors in building a sustainable business.
By taking the time to carefully choose your side hustle, you can ensure that you are building a business around your strengths and passions and that you are filling a need in the market. In the following sections, we will go into more detail on each of these steps and give you the tools and knowledge you need to choose the perfect side hustle for you.
For a more detailed look at how to choose a creative side hustle, take a look at my post on the subject here.
Analyze Your Skills and Interests
One of the most important factors when choosing a side hustle is understanding what skills you already have. Having experience in image-editing software is a great example that can form the basis of a lot of great creative side hustles. Spend a significant portion of time considering your skills thoroughly and include secondary skills such as social media marketing or website creation.
Perhaps even more important is to consider what your passions and interests are. Hopefully these align with some of the skills you already have. Make sure that you ultimately settle on a side hustle that includes some of these as this will prevent you giving up when things get hard later down the line.
Something additional to add is to think about your skills in terms of market demand. Having a skill that is particularly in demand will mean that any products or services you create can be charged at a premium.
Choosing the Perfect Niche
Choosing a specific area of focus or “niche” that suits the skills and interests you have, is no easy task. Try to think outside the box and apply your skills to new markets where there may be less competition.
Another way to choose an area that has less competition is to get very specific or “niche down”. For example, you may have some great photography skills and decided to create and sell stock images for your side hustle. One way to “niche down” would be to specialize in stock images of a particular subject such as dogs.
Make sure that this specialism is under-served with little competition or at least competition you think you can beat on quality. That being said, it is always good to have some competitors to prove that there is market demand. As mentioned in the previous section, whatever you settle on, make sure you have an interest in it so you can stick at it in the long term.
Research the Competition
Understanding who your competition is will make the difference between success and failure of your project. Knowing which areas are under-served can reveal gaps in the market that you can take advantage of. Equally, take a look at those that are succeeding and reverse-engineer what has made them successful. You can then replicate or even better, improve on what is currently offered.
Identify who your competitors are and study their products and marketing strategies. Look for areas where you can differentiate yourself and build upon this. Find areas where your competitors are weak or under-serving their customers and do a better job.
Just remember that you will need to regularly assess your competition as they will be also doing everything I have mentioned to you as well. You’ll need to continuously improve to get ahead and stay ahead.
Select Profitable Product Ideas
Once you have you niche selected and understand your competition, you can start thinking about the types of product that would best serve them.
Look for product ideas that solve a problem or meet a need as these will be the most in demand and the easiest to sell.
It may be that solving a problem isn’t appropriate and you just need to come up with cool designs, something particularly important with print-on-demand for example. In this case, keeping an eye on trends is what you should focus on instead. The key to success here will be standing out from the competition visually.
Whatever you decide to pick as your product, make sure that the income you make from your sales more than covers the time and expense of creating it.
A good example of this is print-on-demand stickers. Creating the designs can be reasonably quick and they can be listed in multiple marketplaces and sold almost indefinitely. Since the sale price is low, a larger number would need to be sold to make a decent profit, which is possible if you’ve done your research.
If you need some inspiration on digital product ideas then have a look at my list post on the subject.
Create Your Digital Product
Now that you’ve identified your creative side hustle and have some ideas for your digital product, it’s time to start bringing your vision to life. This stage involves creating a roadmap for your products, creating and then refining your products based on feedback and market research, then choosing the right platform to showcase and sell it.
These steps ensure that your digital product not only meets your creative vision but also resonates with your target audience to generate revenue.
Creation of your digital products is only a section of your launch plan so make sure to read onto the Launching Your Digital Product section later on, to see how it all fits together.
In the following sections, we’ll explore each of these steps in detail.
Product Development Roadmap
Creating a product roadmap will be at the core of your digital product creation. To begin, you should identify the key features and requirements for your products. This includes determining the problem your product will solve, its unique selling proposition and the target audience it will serve.
Once you have a clear understanding of your product’s purpose, you can then determine the timeline and milestones for its development. Breaking the development process into smaller, manageable tasks can help you stay on track and ensure that you’re making progress towards your goals.
If appropriate for the type of product, it’s also important to create a plan for testing and quality assurance.
By creating a product roadmap that includes these key steps, you’ll be well on your way to bringing your digital product to life.
Create and Refine Your Product for Success
To ensure the success of your digital product, refining it based on feedback and market research is critical. Getting feedback from potential customers and your target audience can help you identify any issues or areas for improvement. Based on this feedback and testing, you can make necessary changes to your product.
It’s essential to continuously iterate and improve your product to stay ahead of competitors and meet the evolving needs of your target audience. If necessary, consider adding new features or pivoting to a different product. A good example of this is print-on-demand clothing designs where high competition can mean switching onto new trends is critical to success.
By consistently refining your digital product, you’ll increase its chances of success in the market.
Choosing the Right Platform
With a multitude of options available, it’s important to select a platform that aligns with your product and target audience. If your products are art or graphics-based, platforms like Etsy or Creative Market may be a good fit. These platforms have a built-in audience for creative digital products and offer features like easy payment processing and storefront customization.
If you already have an audience then setting up a storefront on your own website is the way to go to maximize your profits. Platforms such as Shopify can either host a storefront for you or be integrated into your existing website.You can also use a social media following to drive traffic to your sales pages or market certain products directly such as on YouTube’s merch shelf.
Ultimately, the platform you choose should provide a seamless buying experience for your customers and help you achieve your revenue goals.
The key factors to consider when selecting the right platform for your digital product include:
- Target audience: Consider the platform’s user base and whether it aligns with your target audience. Are your potential customers likely to be using this platform to search for and purchase digital products?
- Product type: Different platforms may specialize in certain types of digital products, so it’s important to select a platform that caters to your specific product type.
- Payment processing: Look for a platform that offers easy and secure payment processing, including the ability to accept a variety of payment methods.
- Fees: Consider the platform’s fees and commission structure, as these can impact your revenue and profitability.
- Customization: Look for a platform that allows you to customize your storefront and product listings to help your product stand out.
- Marketing and promotion: Some platforms offer additional marketing and promotion features, such as email marketing and advertising, to help you increase visibility and sales.
For lots of ideas for side hustle products that use your creative skills, take a look at my in-depth post.
Build an Audience
To effectively reach and engage with your target market, it’s important to establish a strong online presence. There are many ways to do this but to achieve the biggest impact you should adopt several of them rather than just sticking to one. That being said, while you’re learning, it’s fine to tackle one at a time and move onto the next once you have mastered it.
Create a Website for Your Side Hustle
One of the most effective ways to build an audience for your creative side hustle is to create a website that showcases your work and promotes your brand. The first step in building your website is to choose a domain name and hosting service that aligns with your brand and is easy to remember. Once you have secured your domain name and hosting, you can design a visually appealing and user-friendly website that highlights your skills and talents. It should promote your digital products whether they are hosted on marketplaces or on the website itself.
To ensure that your website reaches your target audience, it’s important to optimize it for search engines (SEO) by incorporating relevant keywords and other techniques. Additionally, including a clear call-to-action (CTA) on your website will encourage engagement and prompt visitors to take the desired action, whether that’s signing up for your newsletter or purchasing your products or services.
For a more detailed run-through of making a website, check out my post.
Grow an Email list
Another effective way to build an audience for your creative side hustle is by creating an email list. To get started, you’ll need to choose an email marketing platform that suits your needs and budget. Aweber is a good example for beginners as they offer a free tier packed with features.
Once you’ve selected your platform, create a lead magnet or incentive to encourage sign-ups. This could be a free e-book, discount code, or exclusive content that your target audience will find valuable.
Use automation to welcome new subscribers and deliver content, so they feel engaged and supported from the beginning. Once you’ve built your email list, make sure to regularly send valuable and relevant content to your subscribers. This could include tips and tricks related to your niche, updates about your products or services, or behind-the-scenes glimpses into your creative process.
By consistently providing value to your subscribers, you’ll build trust and establish yourself as an authority in your field, which will ultimately lead to more engagement and sales.
Utilize Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for building an audience for your project. To get started, you’ll need to choose the right platform(s) relevant to your audience and your goals. Consider which platforms your target audience is most active on and which ones align with your brand and content. Once you’ve selected your platforms, create engaging and visually appealing content that showcases your work and promotes your brand.
Use hashtags and tagging to increase visibility and reach a wider audience. Engage with your audience by responding to comments, asking questions, and participating in relevant communities. This will help you build relationships with your followers and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
By consistently providing high-quality content and communicating with your audience, you’ll attract more followers and increase engagement. This will ultimately lead to more opportunities for growth and success.
Publish a Blog
Blogging is a great way to build an audience. While a blog is really just a website, it is more tailored to posting content in the form of articles or “blog posts” that are informative in nature. This could be tutorials, reviews and recommendations on relevant topics to your niche. Some of these posts can link over to your digital products or portfolio to either gain exposure or sales. The great thing about a blog is that, if done well, they are great at capturing visitors from search engines such as Google that you would otherwise struggle to engage with.
To get started, I strongly suggest you look into using WordPress as your platform and a hosting service that suits your needs and budget. If you are looking to keep your initial costs down then a shared hosting plan will be the cheapest. Migrate to dedicated hosting once you’re bring in some revenue to achieve a faster and more stable site.
Once you’ve set up your blog, identify relevant topics and keywords for your niche. This will help you create content that resonates with your target audience and is more likely to be found by search engines. Create valuable and high-quality content on a consistent basis to keep your readers engaged and coming back for more.
Promote your blog through some other methods on this list such as social media by sharing your posts and encouraging your followers to sign up for your email list. This will help you reach a wider audience and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
Showcase Your Work Using a Portfolio
Creating a portfolio can be a useful tool for a creative side-hustle. If you’re creating digital products with a storefront on a marketplace, for example, then this will already be a portfolio to a certain extent. However, what I mean by the term is a curated page of your very best work to get people interested in browsing your storefront.
A portfolio can be useful for capturing certain types of visitor that search engine traffic does not. For example, a portfolio would be great to showcase your work on a digital art forum whereas posting direct links to your storefront would likely get you banned for spam.
To get started, choose the right platform to showcase your work. Consider which platforms are most commonly used in the industry you’re operating in and which ones best highlight your skills and niche. Include a variety of high-quality samples that demonstrate your range and expertise. A popular portfolio site for creatives is Adobe’s Behance so I suggest heading over there to take a look at some examples.
One thing to note however is not to post high-resolution images since these can be stolen by unscrupulous individuals and passed off as their own, even if you do use a watermark.
Launch Your Digital Product
Now that you know how to build an audience, it’s time to launch your first digital products to them. You can have the best digital products on the internet but if you don’t launch them well, nobody will ever know they exist and all your efforts will be wasted. Don’t worry though as it’s not too difficult – read on…
Planning Your Launch
Planning and preparing your launch will maximize the chances of it being a success. This involves setting a launch date that gives you enough time to complete all necessary tasks, such as creating your product and building your website.
Creating a launch plan that outlines your goals and objectives is also key, as it will help you stay focused and on track throughout the process. By establishing clear targets, you’ll be able to measure your success and make adjustments as needed.
Generating a Buzz Before Launching
Generating a buzz ahead of a launch is not always appropriate for every type of product. However, where relevant, you’ll see that it is essential to building excitement and anticipation among your audience. This can be achieved through a variety of strategies, such as creating teasers giving a sneak peek of your product. Send these out to your email list and post them on your website in advance with a clear countdown or release date.
Leveraging social media and other influencers are other powerful ways to generate buzz, as they allows you to reach a wider audience and tap into existing communities that may be interested in your product.
Preparing for Launch Day
Prepare for launch day by testing your product and website to ensure they’re functioning properly and free of any bugs or errors. Creating a launch announcement can also be a good idea, as it allows you to communicate your product launch to your audience by email or social media for example.
Finalize your marketing and advertising campaigns to help you reach your target audience and maximize your chances of success.
Launch Day and Beyond
Launching your product is just the beginning of your journey as a creative entrepreneur. Once your product is live, it’s essential to monitor your launch performance and track metrics to measure your success and identify areas for improvement. Responding to customer feedback and reviews is also necessary, as it allows you to address any issues or concerns and improve your product for future customers.
Follow up with customers and nurture relationships to build a loyal customer base and generate repeat business.
If you’re creating great content then you really want to make sure you’re efficient at extracting all the financial compensation out of it that you can. There are many inventive strategies that focus on where and how you sell your products to your audience to make them as attractive as possible. Let’s go through some of these now…
Sell on Multiple Marketplaces
Selling your digital product on multiple platforms can significantly increase your reach and revenue potential. However, it’s important to understand the various options available and the pros and cons of each platform, whether it’s a marketplace or self-hosted.
To choose the right platform(s) for your product and target audience, consider factors such as fees, audience demographics, and features offered.
Once you’ve selected your platforms, optimize your product listings by using effective titles, descriptions, and images to attract potential customers. By effectively utilizing multiple platforms, you can expand your customer base and increase the success of your creative side hustle.
Sell Directly To Your Audience
Selling your digital products directly to your audience through your email list and website can provide a range of benefits, including greater control over your sales process and the opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers. To successfully sell your products this way, you’ll need to first build an email list and create a website that showcases your products in a compelling way.
Once you have a website in place, focus on creating effective product pages and sales funnels that guide visitors towards a purchase. Promote your products through targeted email campaigns and website content. Also, consider offering incentives such as discounts or exclusive access to your products.
To manage orders and payments, consider using a payment gateway and customer support tools that integrate with your website. By selling directly to your audience, you can build a loyal customer base and maximize the profitability of your side hustle.
Offer Tiered Pricing or Product Bundles
To optimize your direct sales even further, consider offering tiered pricing or product bundles. By creating different levels of access or bundling related products together, you can offer greater value to your customers while also incentivizing them to spend more. This strategy can be particularly effective for products with multiple features or complementary offerings.
Additionally, offering tiered pricing or product bundles can help attract customers who may have been hesitant to purchase at a higher price point, while also appealing to those who want the most comprehensive or customizable options.
Offer Up-Sells and Cross-Sells
Another direct-sales tool is to use up-sells and cross-sells to existing customers. Up-selling involves offering customers a complementary product or upgrade that enhances their original purchase, while cross-selling involves promoting related products that may interest the customer.
Making these available when customers are in the middle of making a purchase can be the most effective time to do this.
Advertising and Affiliate Marketing Opportunities
There are two main ways to use advertising and affiliate marketing opportunities:
- Marketing your own products using paid ads or other influences
- Marketing other people’s products: Earn affiliate commissions or ad revenue from your website, social media or email list.
The first method to improve monetization of your side-hustle is to focus on increasing sales of your own products is to run paid ads on platforms such as Facebook or Google. If done right, this method will gain you instant access to your target audience without you having to have first gained them as a follower or visitor to your website.
Additionally, partner with other businesses or influencers who have a similar target audience to yours and offer them a commission for promoting your product. This then makes them an affiliate.
The second method of using advertising to improve monetization is to promote other people’s products by becoming an affiliate for them and earn commissions on sales. It is important to keep products you recommend authentic and closely related to your niche to maintain trust.
On top of this, you can incorporate display ads through companies like Ezoic, into your website to generate additional revenue. These pay per view so you’ll get a steady income the scales with the number of visitors coming to your site. Keep in mind that you’ll need to strike a balance between the number of ads on your site and keeping a good user experience and also avoid distracting from selling of your own products.
Subscription-based models are a great way to generate recurring revenue and maintain a steady stream of income from your digital products. By offering a subscription service for access to your product or creating a membership program, you can incentivize customers to sign up for a recurring fee. This of course relies on you continuing to produce high-quality content so can be very time-consuming but extremely profitable.
Consider also offering exclusive benefits and perks to your subscribers to incentivize ongoing membership.
Scale Up Your Business
Scaling up your business essentially revolves around doing more of what is already working but can also mean expanding into other connected areas. To achieve this it can require streamlining processes, expanding your team and diversifying your revenue streams.
Once you have some income to play with, a great way of achieving these efficiencies involves leveraging technology to automate repetitive tasks. You may also need to strategically hiring talented individuals to delegate responsibilities to since ultimately you will be limited by your own time as a solo entrepreneur.
Exploring new markets and opportunities can be a good idea but don’t forget that drifting too far from what grew your side-hustle in the first place can lead to failure if you try and move too quickly.
For a more in depth look at scaling up your side-hustle check out my post.
Identifying time-consuming tasks and automating them, can free up valuable resources that can be used for growth activities. Investing in software solutions can help streamline processes and reduce manual labor, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Data analysis tools can also be used to optimize business operations and identify areas for improvement. By automating processes, you can create a more efficient and effective business that can scale up with ease.
Expand Your Team
As your business scales up, it may become necessary to hire additional team members to manage the workload and support continued growth. A great first step can be to hire a virtual assistant to take care of admin tasks and free you up to focus on creating valuable products and content.
You may also decide you need to hire team members with specialist skills such as a video editor which can be found through gig marketplaces such as Fiverr, if you’re not ready to hire somebody full-time.
Diversify Your Revenue Streams
To scale up your business and increase your revenue potential, you may be able to diversify your revenue streams. This involves exploring new markets, offering complementary products or services to your existing customers and potentially entering into partnerships with other businesses or brands. This may be necessary if you feel that you have already exhausted your primary income stream.
An additional benefit of doing this is to make your business more stable and resistant to external factors. For example, if all your revenue comes from selling digital products through a single marketplace then you are at the mercy of their search algorithm showing your products to their customers. Also, what if they decide to kick you off their platform or just stop trading altogether? Diversifying your income helps minimize this type of risk.
Building a successful side hustle takes time and effort but it is fully possible if you stick at it. It’s important to choose something that you find interesting and have some skill at so you can continue to create products and content over the long-term.
Building an audience to promote to will ultimately come with sales if you stay authentic and build trust with them. Effective monetization techniques will turn your hard-earned efforts into the financial rewards that you’re looking for. These can then be reinvested to grow your business further if that’s something you desire.
If you found this post helpful and are thinking about starting a digital art side hustle then head over to my post on the topic.
Featured image: lembergvector / stock.adobe.com