Increase Your Income Using Digital Goods
While I love acquiring handmade physical goods (tiny ceramics are my weakness), digital products and content can be a great addition to an indie business. Digital products can add an affordable price point to your shop, deepen the relationship you have with your customers, and make the most of the assets you already have. Here are some ways that shops in the Big Cartel community are selling digital goods:
The product and the pattern
The joy of your handmade item end up in the hands of a stranger who understands the value of your efforts can’t be beat! But it can be tricky to make a living off your work if it’s especially time-consuming. The price becomes inaccessible for some, and there are only so many hours for making products in a day. So what’s the alternative?
Fiber artist Lori Ann Corelis knows how to make the most of what she has. Her store, The Spotted Hare, features handcrafted rabbits and other cuddly-looking creatures. And for her fans who may be short on cash but are handy with a needle, she sells patterns for some of these same products. And here’s a detail I think is especially smart: the shop also sells some fabrics that are perfect for these projects. It’s materials Lori Ann likely already has on hand, and will ensure an even better outcome for her DIY-ing customers.
Another bonus to this approach: selling patterns is a great way to take control of any aspiring copycats. While this is hopefully an issue that never comes up, selling patterns at least keeps your name in mind, and helps you to generate income from folks who might see your items and say “hey, I could make that.”
The main event
Let’s talk about a shop selling digital downloads only. This is a great option for some creators who have a love of handmade goods, but have thought of a way to share this love without spending even an hour in the dreaded post office line.
Similar to The Spotted Hare, See Kate Sew is a shop where the owner, Kate, focuses on a time-intensive medium: quilting. Instead of selling her handmade quilts, this shop focuses on selling pattern pdfs. The original quilts are not for sale, instead the main product is Kate’s design and sewing skills. In addition to selling patterns, she teaches a class for beginner quilters, and incentivizes signing up for her newsletter by offering a few of her simpler patterns for free.
See Kate Sew uses Pulley, which integrates with Big Cartel shops to automatically email a link to a digital file after an order comes in. This makes it so that Kate only has to log in to her shop when it’s time to add new products or give it an update, but this sort of email could also be sent manually, if a shop owner is looking for a way to save a few bucks a month.
Using software for your service
In 2020, all sorts of service-providing people and businesses had to re-think how to generate income with their services. Chefs sold approachable recipes, barbers and hair stylists sold Zoom consultations, and so much more. If your income comes from your set of skills, rather than physical goods, think about how you might turn your expertise into a digital format.
Energy healer Bridget Ambrose offers her services online by selling tarot readings delivered by email. This offering can’t be auto-completed in the same way as sending off a sewing pattern, but the work can fit around in-person appointments or a tricky schedule and can expand your client base beyond your own city.
Just to be clear: we’re not suggesting that all practices or businesses should be exclusively online. We love the richness of in-person experiences with service-based professionals. But adding a digital component can give you more schedule flexibility and income stability in case of life hiccups (or when you just decide to take a leisurely road trip).
Subscribe for exclusive digital content
Performers, this is for you: do you know you can use Big Cartel’s Subscriptions feature for your fan club?
Take a look at recording artist Noah Schnacky: fans can visit his online shop and become a member of Team Schnacky. Depending on how much they spend each month, they get different exclusive content like access to a monthly team zoom call and exclusive first access to original content.
This works best for shops that already have a strong and supportive fan base, but can be a great way to monetize bonus episodes of your podcast, outtakes from your photoshoot, or an insider look at your process or everyday life.