The most unbeatable advice I have ever heard about making money (And I ignored it for a long time)

The best advice you will ever hear will probably pass you by.

You’ll hear a phrase that sets you up for life and ignore it. You’ll think you know better. Or worse, you’ll think the advice is too cliche.

That’s what happened to me. My friend from Perth gave me this advice back in 2014: “Create a digital product and sell it.”

My big ears didn’t hear what he said. It seemed obvious. Selling a digital product online is obvious — and most people never do it.

This is what I mean by a digital product:

  • An eBook
  • An online course
  • A paid newsletter
  • Digital 1–1 Coaching via video chat

These ways of making money are extremely obvious. You’ve heard of them before. Yet you probably don’t sell any digital products. Not because you’re stupid, but because you don’t think you can.

I fell for the delusion that you needed a million fans, or a high-traffic blog, or a slick personal brand. It was all a lie.

My mentor, who taught me about digital products, had none of that. He was a freaking snake handler in the desert. The digital products he made were put together in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. He met his dream girlfriend because they both cleaned the toilets where he worked.

See the pattern here? The lifestyle you think you need to create a digital product is not the one you see on social media.

Average people are creating digital products every day.

Some are making millions, sure. Others, like me, are making enough to have a side-hustle income so they don’t have to bet everything on black and have a 9–5 job control their life forever.

Creating a digital product is a way to de-risk your income and your life.

Thanks to the idea of making money from digital content — I have released several eBooks, online courses, and paid written content over the last six years.

I’m surrounded by 55 other digital content creators in a Mastermind group who all do the same and we exchange proven strategies that work (backed by data) with each other.

So why can’t you do it? You can. Here’s how.


Getting started

This is going to be dead simple as always.

You need a topic you can teach

People find this the hardest part. It’s not. Let’s solve it with one simple question:

What do you know that I don’t?

Now you have to be creative here. Don’t say “nothing.” There is a skill you have or something you know about that I don’t. Look at your typical workday. What do you do at work? Sales, leadership, answer phones, run meetings?

All of those are potential topics for digital content. Because digital content about everyday things we suck at will make you a lot of money. “How to run superstar meetings and get promoted in 2 years” is an awesome digital product people will buy. You have hobbies too.

Do you read comic books or are you into gardening? Fantastic. That’s a digital product waiting to be launched. Look at what you do at work or in your hobbies for the topic you can create a digital product from.

Test the topic

You can test topics using social media. For example, when I share content about what I learned working in finance, people seem to find it extremely helpful. I thought my knowledge was obvious. Turns out it wasn’t and people were dying for simplified financial education.

Take a topic and share it as a status update on social media. Come to this platform and share the topic as a short blog post. See which topics people want to hear about from you. Look at the comments section for the part people found most helpful in your story/advice.

Going in blind with a topic is a bad idea.

Social media driven by analytics makes collecting data about what topics to choose child’s play.

You need a schedule

  • Pick a regular time slot where you’ll work on your digital product
  • Schedule the time in your calendar and set a reminder
  • Write down the process you will follow

You need a ridiculously simple process

Digital products require a process in order to create them. You don’t need a perfect process, but you need a back-of-the-napkin plan.

Here’s a sample process for creating an eBook that you can copy:

  1. Come up with an eBook title
  2. Write a subtitle
  3. Get a book cover design from a design marketplace website
  4. Write the intro
  5. Write the first three chapters
  6. Finish the eBook
  7. Edit the eBook
  8. Get two friends to review and suggest changes
  9. Do one final round of edits based on the feedback
  10. Set up a landing page to sell the eBook
  11. Market the eBook via social media, your website, and blogging platforms

You can copy and paste this process for an online course too. See how easy creating digital content is when you break down the process? It’s not a lot of work.

Huge shortcut: Runaway from creating a perfect digital product. It will never be perfect. My latest eBook has a massive error on the first page. It gives the book a patina. Perfect content isn’t appealing, and we often don’t know why.

Let the first digital product fail badly

I can almost guarantee you that your first digital product will fail. It’s supposed to. I found it took about three digital products before I learned how to improve my content creation skills. Getting paid money to learn as you go is still pretty fun.

The mistake people make is they want an awesome first product. I want your first product to be ‘okay.’

Intentional errors are good too.

Some of my digital products have intentional errors in them to put the human back into content creation. I make errors on purpose to prove a point.

Iterate your digital product

The way to think about iteration is like this: How do you be even more helpful the next time around? What would delight the customer?

In my case it’s giving people a behind the scenes look at the platforms I use and the tools I love.

Many digital content creators never iterate their work. They share the same stale, boring, repetitive crap over and over. Or worse, they copy and paste other people’s digital products. This is the worst idea.

If you don’t iterate you’ll get bored, and then you’ll give up and complain it’s all too hard. Iteration keeps your mind ticking.

Iteration advances the flow states you unconsciously utilize to produce digital content.

Expand into new digital products

I’ve always been an eBook guy. I recently plunged into the world of online courses again because I love teaching.

Once you master the creation of one digital product it’s time to spread yourself out across a few different formats. There’s audio, video, writing, and images to choose from. You can even produce the same digital product but publish it in two different formats. For example this blog post could also be a video and an audio interview.

Digital domination starts with one product and expands from there. You could even create an academy for your niche that contains a library of paid content.

Years in the game compounds the money you get

The number one hack to creating a digital product is to keep going for as long as you can. As you create more digital products you unlock the magic of momentum.

After a few years of creating digital products you’ll figure out what works for you and make more money than you perhaps thought.

The answer to every question I get about creating digital products could be answered with this line: “work away at it for 5+ years and you’ll get there.” This is the advice I wish I understood early on.

Five years at anything can change your life.


Alternate strategy —

You can generate royalty income from digital content.

My mentor didn’t know everything. He has never earned one dollar from royalties. I have, and that’s not a humblebrag. You can create a digital product and sell it or you can join a platform like Youtube that pays you money for your content.

Royalty income from digital content is still in its infancy online. But that will change. More and more platforms will pop up over time that pay content creators royalties in return for their content. Here are a few:

  • Youtube
  • Vocal.media
  • Wattpad

Find platforms that pay royalties for content and add them as an additional income stream.

For the love of lamb, sell a digital product.

It pains me to see everyday people who don’t think what they have to teach is valuable.

We’re all teachers deep down. A parent is a teacher. A manager is a teacher. A person who posts on social media is a teacher.

Your life, experiences, hobbies, and day job have tremendous value. They can be turned into digital products — eBooks, online courses, paid newsletters, content that earns royalties — people will happily pay for.

The sooner you realize your life has value, the faster you can tap into your limitless potential.

The fulfillment you get from teaching will change your life.

This article first appeared on Medium.