How I Made My First-Ever Digital Product and Made 3 Online Sales

I made a quarantine-themed PDF Printable Coloring Book for Adults and sold it as a digital product. I only made 3 sales in total, but more importantly, I had fun!

I will give you the steps I took, and high-level compare several online shop solutions for selling digital products with zero start up costs.

My steps I took to sell a digital product:

  1. MAKE a digital product. It won’t make itself. Okay, unless you outsource it and have someone make it for you. This can be an e-book, a PDF printable coloring book (in my case), a video training series in the form of a membership. In the case of an e-book, write it out in Google Docs, and save it as a PDF. In the case of a PDF printable coloring book: Open your Procreate or some other software, choose the right canvas size, draw until your wrists are about to fall off. When done, save as a PDF.
  2. Put it on the internet. On a website, on a platform, in someone else’s shop.
  3. Make sure you have a way to get paid. If you don’t want to build a Frankenstein, there are platforms and marketplaces who take care of handling transactions for you.
  4. Promotion: market it to the moon! In my case, I placed pics and references on all of my Social Media accounts. Even on my LinkedIn. I included a clear CTA: ‘Buy this now!’ Otherwise you’d think: ‘Okay, that’s nice Gracia that you made this’ before returning to whatever you were doing.
  5. Get your first customer and celebrate!

The coloring book was made to reduce my anxiety levels, and those of others. The next goal was to get 1 sale. I got a mind-blowing 3 and I couldn’t be more proud and thankful (YES, proud of a ‘mere’ 3 sales).

Maybe my expectations are just really low. I don’t have a name as an artist. Yet, I thought my creation was good enough to share. I spent many hours on them and felt really happy, satisfied and proúd with the result! But spending time on something doesn’t guarantee any positive outcome, or at least, one that’s valued by others.

With art, what is good enough anyway? It’s only good in the eyes of the observer. The person who looks at it, interpretes it. It’s purely a matter of personal taste. What I find cute, another person may look at, find disgusting and want to vomit. There’s nothing I can do about it.

I don’t expect the whole world to like or appreciate what I made. Then the coloring book is not for them, and there will be plenty of other resources they can turn to to fulfil their creative desires.

Why a coloring book?

Lockdown made me do it. Well, more or less. At the beginning of lockdown (now loosened quarantine), I felt extremely anxious about the situation in the world. The insecurity, what will happen to me, what will happen to the people, what about jobs, etcetera. To calm myself down, I picked up my iPad. Inspired by other people on the internet, I opened my ProCreate and started drawing. Then I thought, what if I tried to make a drawing book for others to use? This’d be a win-win!

As a child, I used to LOVE drawing. In my earliest years, I did nothing other than paint, draw, do handicrafts, cut apart the best photos in the family photo box and make my own collages from them (much to the dissatisfaction of my parents). At times, I still turned to drawing, to relax, calm down or escape. If only for a while.

The Confused.

How drawing is one method that helps reduce my anxiety levels

Drawing is one of those activities that gets me deep in the current moment, and makes me momentarily forget about past events, and what might happen in the future. It helps my mind slow down. Like yoga also does, and meditation or dance.

To be an artist was one of my childhood dreams. I am saying was, because right now I’m unsure about the label I’d give myself. I do not feel attached to one single thing only. My entire identity does not lean heavily on one skill or my fancy job title. If I’d cluster my interests though, they are always grouped in a similar way.

One of those clusters is art and creation. Creative expression, without boundaries.

Ah, writing of course also is one of those! Like I’m doing right here.

When drawing, I’m following the movements of the pen and ‘feel’ where the flow (when I’m in one) takes me. To reach this state of flow, I need to let go and let it be.

Before I go crazy putting my thoughts on (digital) paper here, let’s get back to the coloring book.

One of the things on my bucket list, was to make art, and sell it. I realised only after my second sale, that I had accomplished this bucket list item!!

…And that I eventually will have to make a video about it for the -lately very much neglected- YouTube channel. This particular art piece would be a Coloring Book for Grownups. I made seven different drawings, with lots of lines to keep those who’d buy the book occupied for hours, all on A4 format, so that you could print it directly and start going crazy with coloring it all in.

Choosing an online shop

I roamed the internet and compared online shops to sell digital products in. My prerequisites:

  • Startup costs had to be low, or zero. I didn’t know whether I’d even sell one copy. In that regard, it wouldn’t make sense to build a website or shop for 40–100€, as I wouldn’t cover any of these costs.
  • The shop had to look sleek and pretty. No one will buy if it looks ugly and outdated. Also, I won’t have fun setting it up and looking at it.
  • The shop had to be easy to manage. I’m not selling stocks or bitcoins here. No need nor desire to make it complicated.
  • Customers should be able to pay via Paypal

That’s all.

The shop options I looked at

I looked at solutions such as Thrivecart, Samcart, Clickfunnels, Sellfy, Podia, Gumroad, Etsy, and eventually a blog post on the wild wild web, I found out about Payhip.

Thrivecart and Samcart offer impressive funnels (like Clickfunnels), but this comes with a price tag that I’m not willing to pay at this stage (Samcart 49$ monthly, Thrivecart and Clickfunnels at 97$ monthly).

These also seem more appropriate for more complicated products that require a lot of explaining, convincing and highlighting product benefits from different angles.

Narrowing it down

Sellfy pricing starts at 19$ monthly. You can build a storefront here and sell physical and digital products, and subscriptions. Podia starts at 39$ monthly. For a course I’d personally dabble between Podia and Teachable (29$), as they both offer all-round solutions for subscriptions, memberships and courses. And they look nice.

My final choice(s)

By chance I reached a blog article of a designer called Nick who spoke well of Payhip. I checked out their platform and features. You can start for free!

You only pay a transaction fee of 5%, and Paypal’s regular transaction fee. If you upgrade to a monthly subscription, you get a lower Payhip transaction fee, but this makes sense once you start selling more. Of course there is no ‘Discover’ section like you have on Gumroad and Etsy (there’s a community behind those), so all the traffic has to be generated by yourself.

First impressions

Top menu bar has all the sections where you can adjust stuff. We’re now in the Products tab. There’s no clutter, you have a perfect overview. Straightforward right?
In the top bar you can see we’re in the Marketing section. Within, there’s Coupons, Social Discounts, Affiliates, lots of things to play with. Again, it’s easy to use. It couldn’t be more straightforward. Each of the main menu bar tabs look simple and clean like this.

I’m really, really happy with my choice for Payhip! The interface is dead easy to use, everything is neatly divided into sections. Maybe half an hour of playing around, and you’ll know how to navigate, and you’ll have set up your entire shop with products! It’s so straightforward and nice to look at. The only downside I’ve found so far, is that there’s no possibility for customers to leave reviews. I do ask mine to tag me on Instagram if they had fun with the coloring book and want to share it with me.

I also published on Gumroad, just to test things out. And I posted a freebie in both shops (word search puzzle with quarantine-related words — go get it on Gumroad or Payhip if you want). Etsy will follow soon!


Ok, cool! You have a shop now, and uploaded the product there. How to get customers?

I made some pictures of me holding my worldly creations, photoshopped the background away and gave it fancy colors. Some of these I saved as mesmerizing gifs. These images I published on all my Social Media accounts:

Self-made from A-Z.

The responses have been overwhelming! I will quit my day job and become a full-time creator.

Nah just kidding. Maybe one day.

I wrote out this piece, because I want to show you that you can also ‘just start’ if you have an idea, an itch, or are curious about something. Just try it out, test the waters.

Worst case scenario, you will sell 1 or no copies at all. But at least you will not regret having tried! No one roasted me, or replied with nasty comments (the internet is WILD, it could’ve happened). Even if someone did, then I still would regret nothing.

I had FUN doing this. It gave me joy, and now someone else too. Who knows what will happen next.

On that note…

  • Looking for something to calm your anxiety?
  • Lost for ideas on what to do with your time at home?
  • Or maybe you want to spark your creativity, but not sure where to start?

Start safely, with my Coloring Book for Adults — The Lockdown Edition’ or Quarantine Edition. Either way, we’re still at home most of the time, so. Check out the PDF Printable Coloring Book for Grownups on Payhip. Or if you think Gumroad is more trustworthy, go there!

You can try both shops if you need your startups costs to be zero! With each sale, all fees are deducted from your sales and whatever is netto, you receive directly on your account! On Payhip, you receive netto sales money instantly!

(Side note: on Gumroad you don’t get your proceeds immediately. First you must reach the threshold of 10 dollars before you get your money. They payout weekly).

My question to you: What digital product have you thought about creating? If you executed on your idea: How did you go about with this?

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Writing for progress. Personal Growth, Relationships, Mental Health, Tooling, Google Sheets & *Failed Ventures. Work with me:

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Gracia Kleijnen

Gracia Kleijnen

Writing for progress. Personal Growth, Relationships, Mental Health, Tooling, Google Sheets & *Failed Ventures. Work with me:

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