Supplement Your Professional Fees by Offering Digital Products

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One of the downsides of any business based on fee-per-service is that your income is limited to the number of billable hours you can work.

With stay-at-home orders preventing you from providing on-site services, you’ve probably been feeling this limitation more than ever. Even once restrictions are lifted, if your clients have also experienced reductions in their income, they may not be able to afford your services right away.

To address the realities of today’s economy, you need to offer alternatives for lower budgets.

One such option is to offer virtual organizing or coaching services. Another is to package your expertise into digital products.

Types of Digital Products

E-books are a popular choice as they’re generally easiest to create and sell, but you can also offer audio or video recordings or even entire courses.

To get your product on the market quickly, I suggest you look at material you’ve already created.

  • Have you written blog posts or articles that could be worked into an e-book?
  • Have you delivered teleclasses of which you could sell the recordings?
  • If you’ve ever prepared a presentation, seminar, or workshop, how difficult would it be for you to develop that material into an e-book or online course?

If you don’t have anything to repurpose and you’re not up to creating something from scratch, look into PLR (Private Label Rights) content, which is pre-written material you purchase the right to use. It’s usually not very expensive, and in most cases, you tweak it to make it your own before packaging it as a product. Here are a few examples:

Online courses will generally bring in a higher price than standalone e-books or recordings, but may be harder to sell. They’re also more work to put together, both in terms of developing your material and setting them up. For those reasons, I won’t be covering this topic in this post, but plan to revisit it in the future.

Ecommerce Solutions

Shopping cart software allowing customers to purchase items online has come a long way since it emerged in the mid 1990s. There are now countless tools and services available to completely automate the sale of digital products, so you don’t have to process orders manually. Here are just a few.

Shopping Cart Services

Some of the simplest solutions are standalone services where you create an account, upload your products, enter your prices and other details, and you’re good to go. In most cases, you can embed your online shop right on your regular website by adding some HTML code.

I’ve used the following systems on a number of websites.

E-junkie has been around since 2004 and is now more powerful and easier to use.

It has a lot of great features, including:

  • shop-wide or product-specific promotions, discounts or gift cards
  • affiliate program, so you can offer an incentive to others to promote your products
  • customizable thank you emails and pages

They’re currently offering a free account for one year, where you can sell up to 10 products sharing up to 200MB of download file storage. There are a range of paid plans available, with the top tier allowing unlimited products and storage for $40.00 per month.

If you have multiple products, you’ll have to copy and paste HTML code for each one to your website.

Ecwid (short for Ecommerce Widget) is even easier to use, as you only need to insert the code for your store and all of your products appear on your site, neatly organized into whatever categories you assign them to. If you have a WordPress website, you don’t even have to work with code – simply install a plugin, enter your store ID, and you’re done.  And it’s just as easy to add the store to your Facebook page!

There are many other systems out there, some of which offer advanced features such as email marketing, client management, integration with other apps, and much more – but those capabilities carry a much higher price tag and may be more than you need right now.

eCommerce Plugins for WordPress

If you have a WordPress site, you might prefer to manage your online store from within your website dashboard, and there are plenty of plugins that will allow you to do just that.

Easy Digital Downloads is a plugin I’ve set up for several of my clients. It’s free, but offers a number of paid add-ons for more features and functions.

The free version is all you need to get started, but there are premium extensions available for added functionality, such as:

WP eStore is another WordPress eCommerce plugin that’s worth looking at. It’s not free, but it’s fairly inexpensive and doesn’t require yearly renewal like most premium plugins. I haven’t used it but have used other plugins from the developer, Tips and Tricks HQ, and am pleased with the level of support they provide.

WooCommerce is probably the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress sites. It’s developed and supported by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. The basic plugin is free, and there are hundreds of free and premium extensions available for enhanced functionality. This makes it very powerful, but it can be tricky to work with if you’re not tech savvy.

Offering Affiliate Products

Even if you’re not ready to develop your own products, you can earn commission by promoting other people’s. Here are just a few of the many organizing products with affiliate programs:

Whenever you find a product you like and you think would benefit your clients, blog readers, or website visitors, check to see if they offer an affiliate program. You’re probably going to recommend it anyway, so why not earn some extra income for your time and effort?

Let’s talk!

In this post, I’ve only scratched the surface of the possibilities when it comes to creating and selling digital products.

Do you already sell products through your website? What type of technology do you use? What do you like most/least about it?

Photo Goodluz / Depositphotos

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar Seana Turner on May 6, 2020 at 11:13 am

    This is very tangible and practical advice. Thank you, Janet! One caution to everyone is to remember that the tax implications for an ecommerce product may be different than those for on-sight services, so make sure you are collecting the correct sales tax. It’s always good to keep your eyes open for alternative income streams, though, so this is quite timely!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 6, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      That’s a very good point, Seana. I didn’t go into any detail about that side of it, but it’s very important to know what tax you should be charging and to ensure that whatever system you use calculates it automatically. For example, in Canada, tax varies from province to province and we have to charge based on the location of the purchaser, so that all has to be set up from the beginning.

  2. Avatar LISA GESSERT on May 11, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Awesome info, I do sell a product called “Our Map” it is for passwords and important information to leave with your family/Financial Advisor, etc but I would love to learn how to publish an e-book! Thanks!


  3. Avatar Diane Quintana on May 11, 2020 at 8:53 am

    I love these ideas, Janet.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 11, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks, Diana! Are you thinking of developing a digital product, or do you already offer them?

  4. Lucy Kelly Lucy Kelly on May 11, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for all this practical information Janet, I’m very grateful to have it all in one place to go through. The learning curve on this brave new digital world just keeps climbing, so having you break it down like this is a lifeline.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 11, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      That is so nice to hear. To be honest, this started out as two old posts that were so outdated I’d taken them offline, but with what’s going on right now, it seemed like a good time to update them and flesh them out. I’m glad it’s helpful.

  5. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on May 11, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for sharing, Janet! This post is beneficial. It’s essential to do your research before using these Plugins. Asking your support team will give you some guidance. If you are in the U.S., remember that some digital products are taxable in the various U.S. States. This means you will need to collect the tax and then pay the state. Contact your accountant/lawyer for more specific details about your situation.

  6. Avatar Janet Barclay on May 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Seana mentioned something similar. Next time I update this post, I’ll be sure to mention taxes.

  7. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on May 11, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    All great ideas, Janet! I remember pulling together some freebies when I set up my e-newsletter, but it’s been a while since I thoughts about offering sellable downloads. I certainly have a lot of content that I could use, so it might be time to start considering this as another revenue stream. Thank you for the inspiration and advice.

  8. Avatar Janet Schiesl on May 11, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    This is very timely. Thanks. I just started a project using old blog posts and will use this post as reference. I have never set up e-commerce, so I’ll need your help.

  9. Avatar Ronni Eisenberg on May 12, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    These are such great ideas! I’ve seen quite a few on websites and on Instagram. I wonder how well they do and why some do better than others. I love the options.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 12, 2020 at 12:44 pm

      You definitely need a good marketing strategy, and the price point needs to be right too. If it’s too costly, people might not see the value in it, but if it’s too cheap, they might figure it’s not very good.

  10. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on May 13, 2020 at 1:26 am

    I’ve been looking for a push to leave Payloadz, which went from taking a small cut to taking a larger cut and having a hefty monthly fee. In all these years, I’ve only put effort into selling three of my ebooks, but I’ve got so much content, it would be easy to ramp up an empire. (I wish I’d read this kick-in-the-butt post two months ago, when the whole pandemic started!)So now, it’s a matter of choosing between something like the plugin for Ecwid or really-and-truly going for a full-on e-commerce plugin. You’ve given me so much to think about! Ack! 😉

    And how did I not know that Hazel had an affiliate program?

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 13, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      At least now you know what your options are!

      You’ll have to ask Hazel about that. 😀

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