The Truth About Building Digital Products for Your Creative Business

Quick Disclosure: The Teachable link I share is an affiliate link, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!

Ah, picture this: kicking back, a delicious mojito in hand, while your phone cheerfully pings with each new sale on your platform. 

The good life, right?

But often, the reality of digital products is quite different from this perfect picture.

It all boils down to a buzzword you’ve probably heard a lot: ‘passive income’. 

Sounds dreamy.

In the online business world, everyone and their brother seems to be a digital product expert, promising you the easiest path to making money through workbooks, guides, courses, templates, and tools. 

The idea of cash rolling in, without you having to lift a finger, is super appealing.

But the whole “instant passive income from digital products” spiel is pretty much a myth.

Getting to that sweet spot where your digital products rake in cash on autopilot?

It takes hard work, unwavering dedication, and a significant upfront investment of time, energy, and yes, often money. 

There’s a hard truth that many online gurus don’t tell you about digital products. They’re often touted as the ultimate passive income stream, where you don’t need to be actively involved in every sale. 

However, what’s frequently left out is the gritty reality of setting up this ‘effortless’ system. It’s not as simple as it seems, and I’m here to shed light on the truth behind the digital product dream.

If you’re tangled in doubts about whether jumping into the digital product world is as easy as they say, or if it’s even the right fit for your one-of-a-kind creative business, don’t worry! I’m here to help you sift through the confusion and get to the heart of what’s best for you.

In this week’s blog, I’m sharing my own digital product journey. I’ll give you the lowdown on why I waited to launch digital products and how you can figure out if they are the best option for your creative business at this stage. I’m talking about a no-nonsense, effective, and realistic strategy for handling digital products in your creative business. 

Let’s dive in!

My Digital Product Journey 

For years, launching digital products has been a goal of mine. Not just because it had the potential to bring in an additional stream of income outside of my coaching and outsourced COO services, but also because it aligns deeply with my business values.

My goal is to serve creatives and help them feel empowered with the tools and know-how they need to succeed as entrepreneurs and make a comfortable living doing the creative work they’re most passionate about. 

And while I do this work through my 1:1 services, I’ll be frank– my prices aren’t cheap. 

Let’s face it: there’s a massive group of creatives out there hitting walls because the resources they need – the ones crafted for their unique situations and challenges – are simply not within reach or they don’t exist (yet)!

There’s a clear gap in the industry for resources that are both accessible and tailored to creative business owners at various stages. From those just dipping their toes in the entrepreneurship pool to those navigating the choppy waters of business growth, and right up to the experts who’ve been around the block and want to level up. 

My intention? 

To design more affordable digital products that support these creatives wherever they are on their journey, helping them move forward, every step of the way.

But, like any seasoned business coach, I knew timing was everything. As eager and excited as I was to make these digital products available to my community, it had to make sense for my business and my personal life. 

Here are the non-negotiable factors I decided upfront HAD to line up before I would start selling digital products in my business.

#1 Finances

One of the major (and I’ll be honest, really boring) reasons I pressed pause on my digital products goal? 

Finances and taxes. 

I had long discussions with my accountant and realized that until I was ready to scale, dealing with the tax implications of selling digital products in various states wasn’t worth it. 

This is why, for a long time, my focus remained on my 1:1 clients, who always have and always will receive the best of me. 

When I finally decided to dive into the world of digital products, Teachable became my platform of choice, largely because it handles the sales tax issue seamlessly. 

This decision opened the door for me to step into my “digital product era,” where I could finally offer my tools and resources to a broader audience at more accessible price points while also being responsible with my business finances.

#2 Integrity and Sustainability

In a world that tends to prioritize “fast” over “quality,” I’ve always rejected the idea that digital products could be whipped up overnight. 

Maybe it’s the recovering perfectionist in me talking, but when it comes to selling products, I believe in delivering tools and resources that I have honed before putting my name behind them.

Integrity and sustainability aren’t just buzzwords for me– they’re the cornerstone of my business. 

I’ve seen too many people in the creative community get burnt by subpar products that promise the moon and deliver nothing. 

That’s not how I operate. 

I test and prove my products extensively because my reputation and the trust of my community mean everything. 

Throwing things together never ends well. Your reputation matters. If your products fall short, here’s the fallout:

  1. You’ll lose both customer trust and repeat business.
  2. Negative buzz spreads, damaging your chances for referrals and tarnishing your reputation.

My clients are my BEST salespeople because I overdeliver on value EVERY TIME. That’s what helps build a sustainable business. I won’t risk my reputation or the trust of my people (and therefore the sustainability of my business) over some quick cash and an unproven product!

It’s about building a sustainable business that grows steadily and deeply, like the old saying goes, “Slow growth, deep roots.”

Today I am proud to say I have several digital products in my shop from a full-blown digital course to specific individual tools. 

Each one has been developed, tested, and refined in the real world, both by me and my clients in our creative businesses. 

Iteration was key. 

I would never dream of selling something I wasn’t 100% confident in. These tools have been shown to work time and time again, and that’s a claim I stand firmly behind.

While my primary focus remains on my roles as COO and coach, I am dedicated to providing resources that offer support and empowerment to those who may not have the opportunity to work with me directly.

#3 Balancing Priorities and Capacity

Lastly, I had to feel confident that I could bring my digital product vision to life without dropping the ball in my professional or personal life!

My clients have always been my #1 priority, and because of that, my roster has been full for over three years. I’m super careful with my capacity so I don’t edge into their time and my commitment to them, or my family time.

This commitment meant that for a long time additional projects, like digital products, took a backseat. 

It wasn’t just about creating the product; it involved the whole package – marketing, sales copy, and funnel creation. It’s a myth that digital products equal passive income from the get-go. 

Personally, I wasn’t willing to spend every night and weekend pouring over my digital product projects. I believe my business should support my lifestyle, not the other way around! I needed to build this work into my workday so that I could still have time with my family and enjoy creative time outside of my work. 

Digital products require hard work, dedication, and a lot of initial effort before they can run passively, especially if you’re like me and currently don’t use paid ads or funnels.

This may not win me many fans, but I wholeheartedly believe just because you build it, does not mean they will come!

Digital products are built up as this incredible passive income stream…and it’s true you don’t need to show up for each sale, but the creation AND marketing of it initially are anything but passive! 

You need to show up and work hard to gain traction. It really only becomes passive after you hone a funnel and put some serious $$$ behind the leads. 

Otherwise, you’ll continuously need to drive organic leads (which if we’re being honest is anything but passive these days).

Side note: I currently do NOT pay for ads, or leads, or use a funnel in this manner in my business. Not saying I won’t someday – it’s effective! But again, takes time to build and get right, and is not something that has risen to the top of my priority list yet!

When I decided to build my course and develop digital resources, I did so at a point where I had the financial means to invest in support so I didn’t overextend myself. 

To safeguard my capacity I…

  • hired a professional course design team to help me fine-tune my curriculum build out the slides and handle the tech side of getting my course live,

  • leaned on my copywriter to build out marketing materials like emails and the sales page so my copy was compelling and resonated with my ideal audience,

  • and double, triple-checked everything with my accountant to make sure the financial details added upselling digital products without being profitable wasn’t an option for me. 
Could I have done these things myself? Possibly. 

But I guarantee it would have made an already slow process even slower and my capacity would have taken a hit. 

Hiring the pros meant I could still focus a majority of my attention on my coaching and COO clients while also prioritizing digital products and the future of my business. 

That being said– even outsourcing requires a heavy lift. Yes, you have experts to guide and develop your products, but you’re still running the show! As the business owner you’re responsible for checking that everything is accurate, making decisions, and setting the vision for your digital products.

Are Digital Products Right For Your Creative Business?

If you’re actively weighing the pros and cons of digital products, lean on my experience. As a business coach for creatives and someone who’s recently navigated this path, I’m here to guide you through. 

Let’s make this journey clear and manageable together!

  1. Get Real with the Numbers. Chat with your accountant and get the lowdown on what it’ll take to not just sell, but profit from your digital products. It’s not all about quick sales, you want these products to be long-term moneymakers that stand the test of time. 

  2. Quality is Queen! Rushed jobs? Big no-no. Your reputation is on the line, and let’s be real – nobody raves about half-baked products. I’m all about packing in the value and making sure every digital offer shines bright. Remember, happy clients are your cheerleaders in the business game!

  3. Balance Is Your Bestie. Take a hard look at what you can handle. Time and energy are just as (if not more) precious than money. It’s all about knowing which balls are “rubber” and which are “glass” – drop the wrong one, and it’s game over. Set your limits and stick to ’em, so you don’t end up letting anyone down, especially yourself.

Lastly, make sure investing in building digital products aligns with the big vision you have for your business and your values as a business owner. 

And hey, if you’re curious about what I’ve been cooking up in the digital product world, come take a peek! You never know, you might just stumble upon the perfect little gem that clicks with where you’re at on your entrepreneurial journey.

Ready to dive in? Check out my digital products here and take your creative business to new heights!


Let's Connect!
Follow Me  @erincantwellco