How To Transition From Clients to Digital Products, An In-Depth Step-By-Step Guide

Wandering Aimfully Through Running A Business

How To Transition From Clients to Digital Products, An In-Depth Step-By-Step Guide

This guide will help you generate income from digital products while still having clients.
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Table of Contents

1

Section One

Make The Transition From Clients to Digital Products by Making Your Client Business More Efficient

2

Section Two

To Go From Clients To Digital Products You Need To Set Your Lifestyle Vision

3

Section Three

A Digital Product Business Needs An Audience

4

Section Four

Why (Focused) Content Creation is a Foolproof Way To Build a Digital Product Business

5

Section Five

Ready To Validate Your Digital Product Idea? Offer a Pre-Sale!

6

Section Six

It’s Time To Create Your Digital Product, Where The Heck Do You Start??

7

Section Seven

Launching and Continuing to Sell Your Digital Product

8

Conclusion

We Want To Help You Avoid Overwhelm Transitioning From Clients to Digital Products

Jump to a section!

How To Transition From Clients to Digital Products, An In-Depth Step-By-Step Guide

THE WANDERING AIMFULLY MEMBERSHIP

Did you know we have a monthly membership with everything you need to earn more so you can LIVE more. 30+ courses, workshops, software tools and a supportive community waiting for you!

Learn More

Whether you’re thinking about transitioning away from clients completely or you simply want to start offsetting your revenue with a digital product (like an online course or an e-book) this guide will help you.

We, Caroline and Jason Zook, the people behind Wandering Aimfully, both come from a client-business background. I, Jason, started my first business in 2007 called Thought & Theory which was a small web design company. Caroline started a design business focused on branding in 2014 called Made Vibrant.

(Ps. Feel free to watch the abridged video version of this guide here:)

Transition from Client to Digital Product Worksheet

We know it’s unconventional, but we’re happy to give away some of our resources without making you give us your email address first. That said, if you DO find this guide and this worksheet helpful, sign up for our newsletter where we share worksheets like this every Monday.

 
 

We’ve worked with thousands of clients and know how helpful it can be to create a revenue stream that isn’t directly tied to trading time (one-on-one) for money.

But, transitioning your business from clients to digital products can be daunting. Where do you start? What digital product is best? How the heck do you find the time to create a digital product while barely having enough hours in the day to run your client business?

We’ve got you covered! In the next few sections of this guide, we’ll break down the transition from clients to digital products in manageable and practical steps.


 


STEP #1

Make The Transition From Clients to Digital Products by Making Your Client Business More Efficient

Wait, what? We aren’t diving head-first into the digital-product-creation waters? No friend, we are not.

You see, part of making any transition in life (or business) is to do so gradually so that you don’t overwhelm yourself and sabotage your chances of actually completing the process.

Raise your hand if you’ve tried to make a big shift in your life only to fall back into old habits a few weeks later? Yeah, we’ve been there too.

This is why we start this guide with an important foundational task…

To create the time and space needed to move from clients to digital products, your client business needs to be as efficient as possible

Everyone put on your Practical Pants (patent pending), it’s time to get a few key pieces of your client business humming along as smoothly as possible.

Efficiency Step 1: Get a grip on your daily schedule using time blocking.

We can’t stress the value and importance of time blocking enough. The basic principle is to look at every hour of your day (or 30-minute chunk) as a block of time that you can spend on work, life, etc. Let’s say you want to only spend five hours working every day. Your time blocking might look like this:

That’s just one example of how you can structure your day using time blocking. One important thing you might notice is that time blocking isn’t reserved just for working hours.

You want to use time blocks for your life/adulting schedule as well because if that’s not in order it will impact the time you have available to work on client projects each day.

time

How to use time blocking to track your time better

This example image of time blocking shows the hours you block off for client work. It’s also a great way to see how many billable hours you spend each week to ensure you’re getting paid for your time spent work. In this visual, you’d ideally be working 25 hours per week!

time

Efficiency Step 2: Track your time blocking and see if it matches your client estimations.

When you run a client-based business your time IS money. Each hour you work you need to be getting paid for otherwise, you’ll run a business that isn’t profitable. Use a time-tracking app like Toggl.com to actually “clock in” when you start working.

As example, you could start tracking your time using the schedule above at 10am. Did you, in fact, get two hours of work done for Client ABC as you planned? Did the tasks and milestones you had for that client get accomplished?

By actually tracking your time and comparing it to your client proposals/estimates you can find out how efficient your business is currently running.

Efficiency Step 3: Once you start managing your time better, the more you’ll have of it!

Time is a funny thing. When we give ourselves as much time to accomplish a task it can feel like that task goes on forever. This is proven in science by Parkinson’s Law:

Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. If you give yourself three hours to complete a task your brain will think it has three hours even if the task could be completed in one.

By constricting the amount of time you can spend on any given to-do item, you’ll get better at working quickly and efficiently. Both Caroline and I saw this happen firsthand with our design businesses. What used to take us multiple hours could get accomplished in a fraction of the time when we only allowed ourselves a certain amount of time to complete what we were working on (yes, that included getting into “design flow”).

When your working hours are efficient you’ll get faster at accomplishing your work, thereby freeing up hours for… you guessed it… digital product creation!

But hold on, we’re not quite ready to jump into digital product creation. Let’s tackle one other big foundational topic…


 


STEP #2

To Go From Clients To Digital Products You Need To Set Your Lifestyle Vision

You know those people that say, “describe for me your perfect day – what does that look like for you?” and you just want to slap them? We get it. We want to slap those people too at times. However… they bring up a really valid exercise.

What does your ideal life look like when you factor in your work?

It can be easy to dismiss the perfect day question as impossible. No one has a perfect day, right? Well, just because no one actually HAS a perfect day, doesn’t mean we can’t set ourselves up for the best day possible.

Part of transitioning from client work to digital products is understanding what your life looks like during the transition and after (depending on what your specific goals are).

Let’s use an example scenario: You make a full-time living as a web designer, but in 6 months you want to offset half your income with digital products and in 12 months be full-time with digital products only.

Your Lifestyle Vision for the 6-month part of the transition could look something like:

  1. Half of your monthly income is from digital products (let’s say you were making $4,000/month so that’s $2,000 in digital product income)
  2. Half of your workweek would be spent on your digital product side of your business (you work 40 hours per week, so 20 hours are spent on the digital product side)
  3. With half the amount of clients, you feel freer, more relaxed, and don’t feel the stress to constantly be under the pressure of someone else’s deadlines
  4. With half of your income coming from digital products, you can be pickier with what clients you take on

Now, obviously, those 6-months milestones aren’t going to happen just because you envision them happening. That’s what the rest of this guide is for! But before we jump ahead, let’s also outline examples for 12 months.

Your Lifestyle Vision for your business in 12 months:

  1. Your entire monthly income is coming from your digital products (yay, you!)
  2. Every hour you spend working each day/week/month is for your digital product customers
  3. You have a growing audience of fellow web designers who are happy to learn from you
  4. You are thinking about your next digital product and are excited by all the possibilities
  5. You may take on the additional client if it’s an absolutely perfect fit (but you don’t need it!)
  6. You are happier, you feel like you control your time more, and you look forward to Mondays for the first time!

Now that you have your Lifestyle Vision, are you ready to put in the effort to make it a reality?

It’s great to imagine your perfect life. It’s wonderful to think about your work days filled only with work you love doing. But these things don’t happen because you simply think about them.

Your ideal life happens when you prioritize making it happen.

What are the steps you need to take to get yourself from where you are right now in your transition to digital products?

Use your Lifestyle Vision to write out a plan of action to get you where you want to go in the next 6 or 12 months. Break it down month by month or week by week to give yourself an action plan.

Write your own Lifestyle Vision


 


STEP #3

A Digital Product Business Needs An Audience

Odds are if you run a client business right now you may not have an email list of any kind. You might have social media accounts but they’re used more for photos of your dog and your food adventures than anything business-related. Unlike digital products, having an audience isn’t a necessity when it comes to landing clients and working with a handful of people each month.

If you want to transition to selling digital products, building an engaged audience around your product topic is an absolute must.

Fear not! Building an audience doesn’t have to be scary and intimidating. You also DON’T need to build a big audience. What you need to focus on is building the right audience of people, people who will become customers of your digital products.

I’m going to highlight some high-level audience building tactics in the next few paragraphs but we also have an accompanying guide devoted to Audience Building if you want to bookmark that for future reading: The Ethical Guide To Building An Email List Without Sleazy Tactics

Who is your ideal customer?

For the rest of this guide let’s pretend you’re a web designer (haven’t you always dreamed of pushing pixels around??) You currently offer your web design services to clients and that’s as far as you’ve gotten. This is you and this is the example we’ll focus on going forward. Cool? Cool.

As a web designer who works with clients you know what it takes to run a web design company, or just work as a freelancer, or however you want to describe it. The person you KNOW you can help is a previous version of you!

Helping a previous version of yourself means you already have the knowledge you need to be valuable!

So often people want to embark on a completely new journey with digital products, forgetting that they’ve spent years honing a skill they can teach other people (read: previous versions of themselves).

One example customer: Someone who is just getting started as a web designer.

Okay, great. We have a customer in mind, but let’s define a few more things about them to make them your ideal customer. Some questions to think about (and answer):

  1. What values does that person have? Do they value their time? Flexibility?
  2. Do they have strong morals of who they want to work with?
  3. Do they use humor or some other personality trait to stand out from others?
  4. Do they work with certain programs or using certain web design skills?

By answering those questions and adding more texture to your example customer you create your ideal customer. Now you might talk about your ideal customer like this:

I help web designers who want to work a flexible schedule, who won’t work with companies that harm the environment, who aren’t afraid to make jokes about The Office, and who predominately build Squarespace websites.

Holy moly, that’s specific, right? Do you immediately think that feels limiting? Well, guess what? It’s not.

It’s unlikely that you will always be talking to your ideal customer but your goal should be to try to so you can attract the RIGHT people and push away the wrong people.

By getting specific with who your ideal customer is you can speak more clearly to the things that resonate with them. Trust me on this one, the more you can create a connection with customers, the easier it is to help them AND get them to purchase from you.

Idea Customer Exercise

You are not going to build your digital product (ideal customer) audience overnight (#realtalk)

Remember that Lifestyle Vision exercise where we said 6 months and 12 months were the milestones? Well, that’s on purpose because it takes time to build a digital product business while running your existing client business.

The things you’re going to need extra time for while you make the transition from clients to digital products are:

Right now we’re just talking about the third bullet in that list, so you can see how thinking you’ll build an audience overnight might not be a practical idea.

How to build an audience of ideal customers using a slow and steady approach

We do have another in-depth guide that goes into audience building, but we won’t leave you high-and-dry here. The quick hits of what you need to think about when it comes to building an audience of your idea customers are:

  1. Be laser-focused in what you write about, share, etc
  2. Be helpful and/or entertaining as it relates to your ideal customer
  3. Be consistent and show up for them often
  4. Be authentic and don’t hide what makes you, you! Be weird!
  5. Make it easy for someone to join your audience (sign up for your email list, etc)

Now, granted these five items all have their own bit of nuance and tactics, but they are the most important things should focus on.

Two items of additional reading if you want to dig deeper on building an audience:

The Ethical Guide To Building An Email List Without Sleazy Tactics – Our in-depth guide I mentioned on building an audience. This is the way we’ve built email lists over 25,000+ people who support us and have been the main source of our income since 2013.

Define Road Runner Rules To Create A Foundation For Your Business – To go a bit deeper into identifying your ideal customer you can use this Road Runner Rules article to create a set of rules for your business.

The most important thing you can do when it comes to building an audience is to show up for them in a helpful way consistently.

We’ve watched it happen time and time again: Someone puts up a website, has defined their ideal customer, starts creating content, has an email list, and then two months later completely stops showing up. Why does this happen so often? Because people’s expectations about how many audience members they’re going to attract in a short amount of time are never clearly defined (and if they are, are unrealistic).

What size audience do you need to meet your digital product business transition goals?

It’s time to work your way backward from your 6-month Lifestyle Vision and see what needs to be done in the audience building part of this transition process.

Let’s bring our example back of having $2,000/month in digital product income (6 months from now)

When it comes to digital product sales, a really good email list will convert at 3-5%. To be honest, if you’re starting your audience from scratch right now, you’ll probably see a much higher conversion percentage because you’re going to build an audience around a specific topic and digital product offering.

For our example, let’s assume you’re selling a $100 online course. Quick math would tell us that you’d need 20 customers per month to reach your 6-month goal of $2,000 per month in revenue.

(Feel free to adjust these example numbers with your own estimates to get the most realistic idea for your situation!)

With 20 customers being your estimated number, if we go back to that 3-5% conversion metric and pick 5%, you would need to grow an email list of 400 subscribers in 6 months (400 * .05 = 20). That doesn’t sound too bad, right? It shouldn’t! But remember, you’re trying to make $2,000 per month, so you may need to set your sights a bit higher by the end of 6 months if you want to get 20 customers per month.

So, let’s recap:

These numbers are ABSOLUTELY doable! The key is going to be establishing realistic numbers for yourself and then making sure you’ve built a content funnel to attract and help the right customers.

Speaking of content, ready to talk about that?


 


STEP #4

Why (Focused) Content Creation is a Foolproof Way To Build a Digital Product Business

There’s one simple thing I want to ask you to kick off this section on content:

Where do you go when you need to find the answer to a question?

You answered Bing, right? It’s totally Bing! Okay no, you probably said Google (or maybe even YouTube).

The way you think of searching for answers to questions is the way you should think about creating content to grow your digital product audience!

While social media can be important, we believe digital product businesses need searchable content FIRST. Sure, an Instagram and Twitter strategy can be helpful, but those platforms don’t readily offer up answers to people’s questions (unless, you know, that question is how many cute puppies can I scroll through in the next 4 hours??)

Creating searchable content is a critical step in building a digital product business

If you guessed that we had a separate guide dedicated to content creation and search engine optimization (SEO), then you would be correct! I’m not going to leave you high-and-dry in this guide, but you may want to bookmark our SEO Guide as well.

Bookmark this sucker for future reading: Everything You Need To Know From My Experience With SEO

When I say “searchable content” I’m explicitly referring to written posts/articles or videos. Seeing as Google and YouTube are the #1 and #2 places people go to search for answers to their questions, it makes sense to focus your content creation efforts on one of those platforms first.

Wandering Aimfully Google Search Results

That image shows you two articles that are the #1 result in Google and drive significant traffic to this website. But, and this is important, those articles were never written to be the #1 result in Google, they were written to be helpful and to answer a specific question we knew people were searching for (because we searched for it ourselves!)

You don’t have to be a great writer to create helpful content

One of the biggest myths when it comes to creating content is that you have be a “writer” in the sense that most of us think about that word.

Raise your hand again if you have imposter syndrome when it comes to writing. It’s okay if your hand is up, we’ve been there too!

I was most certainly NOT a writer when I started my previous website JasonDoesStuff that shared a helpful entrepreneurial article every week from 2014 – 2018. Each week I set out with the intention of writing a helpful article about taking more action in your life and business (a topic that, admittedly, was a bit too vague). From 0 website visitors and 0 email subscribers in 2014 my articles started to gain some traction in Google search results and through my own promotion efforts. At the end of the first 6 months, I’d written 26 articles, my website was consistently getting over 10,000 visitors per month, and my email list had grown to 2,500+ people. This was without having a guide like this to help me speed up that process (or have any concrete plan of action!)

One hugely helpful tactic I used to go from what the heck do I write about to cranking out thousands of words every week, was to start every article with: “I want to help you…”

Those five little words were an amazing jolt to my writing muscles. All I had to do was fill in the rest of that sentence with something I wanted to help people with and I had a topic to expand upon.

Now, for you, we’re going to take that tactic up a notch and go back to the focus on searchable content. I’m using a web designer for the examples below, feel free to replace with your current focus and come up with a few “I want to help yous…” for your ideal customer/audience member:

On and on and on. My guess is you can probably rattle off 10-20 “I want to help yous…” in the next 5-10 minutes. And the beauty of that is you just came up with your first 10-20 articles!

Consistency is almost as important as quality at the beginning of your content creation journey

When you’re just dipping your toes in the content creation waters it can be easy to think an article isn’t good enough. Yet, unless someone emails you and tells you that, there is no reason you should think it.

Now, I’m going to be 100% honest with you: Your early content is probably going to suck. This is OKAY!

Every couple years I go back and read through my old articles and I’m embarrassed by them. How the heck did people not cringe at what I wrote? But then I remember that most people are just looking for answers to their questions, they don’t really care about how well something is written.

The important thing to focus on is showing up consistently so your growing audience builds trust with you.

Consistency will prove to your readers that you’re going to deliver helpful information to them and on a schedule you’ve promised. You are delivering value directly to them and they will thank you for it by continuing to give you their attention (and hopefully eventually some of their money for your digital product).

We, humans, love consistency. Our brains enjoy repetitive patterns. Rather than letting perfectionism or thoughts of self-doubt keep you from hitting publish on your writing, remember that consistency is more important than quality early on.

Further reading: Afraid to start writing? Give yourself permission to start ugly.

Create content for places where people are already hanging out

If you’re new to the content creation and audience building world, it can feel like you’re talking to absolutely no one. We should know, Caroline sent her first weekly email newsletter to just FOUR subscribers (yes, 4, and two of them were her email and my email).

One way to avoid feeling like you’re talking to no one is to go where people are already spending their time. This is known as “guest posting” in the content creation space.

Important Note: We want it to be clear you should be creating content for your website and audience FIRST before doing guest posting. It’s important to have your own content and audience building stuff in place for when you direct people from other sites to you!

 

Guest posting secret to success: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

You aren’t going to be awarded a guest post on someone else’s website just because you want it to happen. You’re going to need to pitch yourself and your content so it makes sense for someone to let you get access to their audience.

There are a couple important things to think about when it comes to pitching an article to someone:

  1. First things first, make sure they accept guest posts (we get emails all the time from people and we’ve never had a guest post, it’s frustrating and we immediately mark those emails as spam)
  2. Find a unique topic that hasn’t been written about on their site yet (yes, you will need to do some research so you don’t pitch an article idea that’s already on their site)
  3. This should go without saying, but, make sure you’re guest posting on a site with an audience relevant to the audience you want to be building (you don’t want to guest post on a food blog if you’re trying to attract web designers)
  4. Be prepared to follow up with people if you don’t hear back and be okay with people telling you “no thanks”
  5. Make sure you can have some sort of call to action to your email list in your guest posted article (it doesn’t do you any good if you aren’t allowed to promote yourself a little bit to their audience)

Think of guest posting as one segment of your Totem Pole of Content (also patent pending). You don’t need your entire totem pole to be devoted or reliant on other people’s websites, but it is helpful to tap into existing audiences now and again.

Wherever you’re creating content, make sure it leads to an email list so you can grow your audience

This may seem like a no-brainer, but even on your own website, it should be extremely clear that someone should join your email list after reading an article. Heck, you may even think about having an email signup form in the middle of an article if that feels right.

Remember, you want to help people, but you also want to reach your goal of transitioning away from a client-focused business. Having an audience gives you people you can help and promote your digital products to. Whether that’s on someone else’s website or your own, be sure to have an easy way for people to get on your email list for more helpful content and updates around your specific topic of focus.


 


STEP #5

Ready To Validate Your Digital Product Idea? Offer a Pre-Sale!

We looooooooove pre-selling around these parts. In fact, I believe we’ve pre-sold every single digital product we’ve ever created (and we have around 30+ products under our digital belts!)

Pre-selling your digital product does two things really well:

  1. It validates your idea with more than someone giving you their email address
  2. It shows you that you’re building a highly qualified audience of customers

Idea validation is wonderful, especially when there is money associated with it.

Someone giving you money just for your idea is all the proof you need to know you’re on the right track to running a digital product business!

How do you create a pre-sale page for your digital product?

You may be thinking this is going to be a long section, but truthfully, pre-selling does not have to be very complicated. In fact, all of our pre-sales pages have been simple and straight to the point.

Use the P.O.P.P. method for the content on your pre-sale page (Problem, Outcome, Product, Purchase)

In these few paragraphs, we’re going to keep up the web designer example and pretend you’re selling a course that helps web designers get more clients.

Problem: The first thing you want on your simple pre-sale page is a headline that grabs your potential customer’s attention and addresses the clear problem you’re solving for them.

Example: Is finding your next web design client stressing you the heck out? Do you wish you had a system you could follow to land clients consistently?

Outcome: Next, after you’ve stated the problem, you’ll share your solution to that problem and the outcome your customer wants for themselves.

Example: Years ago when I was doing web design the bane of my existence was wondering where I’d get my next client from. Every week it would weigh on me and it effected my ability to work without stressing out about where the next client would come from. That all changed when I created a simple process that carved out actual time with practical tasks to help get more clients. In just a few short weeks of work, I was able to go from stressed out about where my next client would come from to being booked 3-6 months in advance! I can help you have the exact same results!

Product: You addressed the problem, you shared your own outcome, now it’s time to show how the product you want someone to purchase is the answer to the problem.

Example: I’d like to introduce you to Web Designers Who Get Booked, my step-by-step online course that walks you through the exact processes I created to go from stressing about clients to booking my web design services months in advance. In Web Designers Who Get Booked, I’ll share the client outreach tactics that actually work, my non-complicated system for staying ahead of my client schedule, and a few pointers on how to feel more confident when it comes to selling your web design skills.

Example Part Two: You may also want to share a bulleted list of the lessons included in the course (doesn’t matter if you’ve created them yet) and if you can get some social proof (testimonial) from someone who’s used your processes, include that as well.

Purchase: Finally, you stated the problem, your own outcome, you described your digital product offering, and now it’s time to let someone pay you in advance!

Example: You’ll obviously have a buy button and connect that to a payment processor of your choosing (Gumroad is really easy to use for this, or if you’re building an online course my software company Teachery can help you pre-sell your course). Alongside the buy button, you want to make it 100% clear that the online course/digital product isn’t quite ready yet but will be delivered in X amount of days (or on a specific date). Let your customer know they are getting early access and maybe even offer them a discounted price on the course since it’s a pre-sale. It’s also a good idea to only offer a pre-sale for a short amount of time so you can get out of sales/marketing and actually make your digital product!

Click here to view the example pre-sale page 👍

Example Pre-Sale Page using P.O.P.P. Method

How long should your pre-sale last and should you offer a discount?

These are two great questions to ask yourself, but as you can imagine we have some advice and personal experience with both.

How long should a pre-sale last? We think 48 hours minimum and 1-week maximum.

If you have a larger audience and you’re not trying to hit some huge financial goal (remember your Lifestyle Vision from Step #2!), you may want to constrict your pre-sale to a shorter amount of time (48 hours). Why? Having fewer customers, in the beginning, is actually better because you’ll have fewer people to get feedback from and manage.

If you have a smaller audience you might need one full week along with multiple emails to convince your customers to jump on your pre-sale.

Whichever audience-size category you fit into, we recommend at least sending this many emails and on this schedule for your pre-sale:

This may seem like a lot of communication with your email list but remind yourself how often you launch and create digital products. Especially if this is your first product, you’ll need more touch-points to get your audience warmed up to buy.

Should you offer a discount with your pre-sale? Our vote is YES.

A customer purchasing your product from you before it actually exists is a really awesome thing. If you can afford to offer a discount and can make it reasonable (a 5% discount is dumb, don’t do that), then we firmly believe in offering a pre-sale discount.

You can position this in your emails and on your pre-sale page by saying something to the effect of: Web Designers Who Get Booked will be $100 when it goes live, but for this pre-sale, you get 25% OFF and only pay $75!

Offering someone a discount during a pre-sale doesn’t devalue your product. If anything, it rewards a customer for taking action and proving to you that your idea is worth paying for.

Don’t forget to clearly communicate with your pre-sale buyers

Remember, these folks are taking a chance on you. They’re buying something from you that doesn’t even exist yet and you owe it to them to communicate effectively and honestly.

During my previous pre-sales, I’ve sold a product that would take two months to create. During the two months after the pre-sale was over and leading up to the release of the product, I communicated with my pre-sale customers every two weeks. Not only did this make them feel at ease and that they knew I wasn’t going to move to a tropical island and never deliver the course I promised, but it gave me a chance to get some feedback on content within my product and to get customers excited by showing behind the scenes photos and screenshots.

If you want to avoid angry or complacent customers, plan to reach out to your pre-sale buyers and they will thank you for it by sharing your digital product for you once it exists for other people to buy it!

Bonus pre-sale tip: Can you plan a little surprise and delight for your pre-sale customers?

Yes, your pre-sale customers probably got a discount on your digital product, but you should think about planning to surprise them with something else along the way.

When I pre-sold my Get Sponsorships For Podcasts course back in 2015 I had a digital book called One Week To Profit (priced at $99) that had seven helpful tips for online business owners. To me, it felt like a nice surprise to give them this digital book for free and it felt like a good fit since most podcasters own their own businesses. When I surprised my pre-sale customers with this added bonus people were shocked and excited. Many of them went to Twitter and Facebook to talk about how happy they were and how other people should look into buying stuff from me.

What is something you can surprise and delight your pre-sale customers with? It doesn’t have to be a full-blown digital book, it could be as simple as a few extra worksheets, templates, or even a group call once the course is live to answer Q&As.

Keep something in your back pocket and your customers will thank you for it by using word of mouth to promote you and your products!


 


STEP #6

It’s Time To Create Your Digital Product, Where The Heck Do You Start??

Now, there’s a lot to unpack here and we aren’t going to pretend we can walk you through the digital product creation process in just a few paragraphs.

Shameless plug, if you’ve read the majority of this guide and have found it helpful but you’re looking for some step-by-step processes, accountability, and want to transition from clients to digital products without burning out in the process our Build Without Burnout Academy is perfect for you!

 

Let’s chat about three different digital products you can choose from and the pros and cons of each

Online courses are our favorite digital product

Pros to online courses: Online learning is a humungous industry and people don’t want to go to physical buildings or crack open long boring books to learn anymore. People want to learn from people who’ve been where they want to go and online courses are the perfect medium for that. One of our favorite parts about online courses is the blend of teaching content, written word, and a contained space for knowledge that’s easy to access.

Cons to online courses: It can be difficult to limit yourself on how much you want to teach in an online course. It can also be hard to price your online course, especially if you’re creating your first one. There are some technical abilities needed, but that’s really dependent on the complexity of your course (does it have videos, timed components, worksheets, etc?) And, you typically need to pay for an online course software, you can’t easily host a great online course on your own website with a few clicks.

E-books are wonderful… when they don’t suck

Pros to e-books: E-books are a great way to give someone an in-depth look at something. Heck, we could’ve turned this guide into an e-book and it would probably sell on its own. Unlike paper books, you can update the info in an e-book easily and it doesn’t have to “go to print.” Plus, e-books can be sold easily through other marketplaces (think: Amazon, iBooks, etc).

Cons to e-books: Designing and laying out an e-book that doesn’t suck isn’t something all of us have the ability to do (I know I don’t!) Prepare to invest money and pay an e-book designer to help you make your e-book easy to read and fun to page through. E-books can get a bad rap but that’s mostly because people phone-in the production quality and try to charge a lot more than the knowledge in the book is actually worth.

Membership communities

Pros to membership communities: Creating monthly recurring revenue with a membership community is a great way to have a consistent income. For us, having a paid membership community (shameless plug!) is also personally fulfilling because we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who are on a journey we know we can help with (and are on ourselves). Membership communities are great because they’re flexible and can evolve over time.

Cons to membership communities: The technical logistics of a membership community can be challenging depending on what you’re trying to do/build. Also, churn. Churn is the term for people canceling their membership and this is something that’s bound to happen. Fighting the good fight against member churn takes effort and can give you some mental hurdles in the beginning.

There are many other types of digital products you could create. We simply wanted to highlight the three we have the most experience with that most folk (like you!) can create on your own.

No matter what digital product you choose, start with a basic content outline

Cool with you if we bring back our Web Designers Who Get Booked online course example? Great. Let’s do that!

Creating an outline as the first step in your digital product creation process is mandatory. You may want to dive into the more fun aspects like design, video recording, etc, but your product outline is your foundation and you NEED a solid foundation.

Keep it simple with your first outline and use a bulleted list

Okay, I think you see what I did there, yeah? But that’s exactly how you want to think about the outline for your digital product. Let’s look at an outline example for Web Designers Who Get Booked:

Hopefully, that outline example gives you food for thought on how you might structure the content of your digital product. The great thing about putting together a simple outline is that you can move different parts around easily and it sets you up for…

Make your digital product creation process less daunting by re-utilizing time blocking

If you put on your to-do list, “make an online course” you will never get it done. Ever. That’s a really big task. Instead, you want to use your digital product outline as your guide and then pepper in all the ancillary things it takes to bring your digital product to life.

Remember the Time Blocking exercise we brought up wayyyy back in Step #1 of this guide? Use it again and block time off on your calendar each day for your digital product creation process.

Here’s an example for you:

To make the time blocking process even easier you may want to do a separate bulleted list of every single task you can think of related to creating your digital product. This may seem like a waste of your time, but it’s actually really helpful when you want to start time blocking!

We know it’s unconventional, but we’re happy to give away some of our resources without making you give us your email address first. That said, if you DO find this guide and worksheet helpful, sign up for our newsletter where we share worksheets like this every Monday.

 

It’s time to build your digital product!

If you’re a go-getter, read the previous section, and started writing your outline, you’re on your way to building your digital product! YAY YOU!

We like to think about building digital products in these phases:

  1. Do all the writing for our product (outline, lessons, etc)
  2. Turn the writing into actionable teachings (Keynote, Powerpoint, Adobe inDesign, etc)
  3. Do all the recording for our product (videos, audio, whatever production is needed)
  4. Put together the home for our product (where does it live, how do people access it, etc)
  5. Sales page and sales emails (write this stuff, test it thoroughly)
  6. Customer communication (welcome email, file delivery, expectations, etc)
  7. Some sort of surprise and delight

After we’ve completed building our digital product we do our own simple testing:

  1. Sign up for our digital product in a different browser so we get the real experience
  2. Send our product to a few friends or pre-sale customers for them to test
  3. Fix whatever went wrong (something always goes wrong, that’s why you test!)

This list of things may seem daunting. Remember, you want to break all of this stuff down into smaller pieces that you can tackle in different time blocks.

Is your digital product going to be an online course? We can help with that!

Out of all the digital products we’ve created we have the most experience with online courses. We actually have TWO How To courses about making online courses.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to creating an online course (or e-course) as your digital product, please read this article: How To Build And Sell Your First E-Course

Say it with us: Iteration is OKAY!

Before we wrap up this section on creating your digital product we want to remind you of one important thing: Digital products are digital. Yep, mind-blowing info, right?

It’s so easy to get stuck in the weeds trying to create a perfect digital product out of the gates. There’s no doubt you’re going to obsess over some part of the creation process (we know, we’ve been there). However, it’s incredibly important you remember how easy it is to update a digital product!

Your digital product is not etched into a slab of stone, so be okay with an imperfect product that you iterate on and improve over time.

Customer feedback should help guide and improve your digital product

You’ll most likely have a list 20 bullet points long with new things you can add to your digital product but odds are you may only need to add 3-4 of those things.

Pro-tip: Build the smallest, best version of your digital product and then survey your paying customers with questions about what could be added to it.

Don’t ask strangers on the street. Don’t ask your friends. Ask the people who paid you money for your digital product and then add the stuff that gets asked about the most.

This mindset of starting with an imperfect digital product and being willing to iterate on it over time is the BEST way to keep your sanity in the process. Plus, when you do add new stuff to your digital product and you give that new stuff to your existing customers, they’ll love and appreciate you for it!


 


STEP #7

Launching and Continuing to Sell Your Digital Product

If you recall, this guide is about making the transition from clients to selling digital products. The last part of that transition is going to be the part where you launch your product and continue to sell it.

There’s a lot that goes into launching and selling but we’re going to break down the bigger parts in five separate topics.

Launching and selling mindset (it’s time to get realistic)

Okay, let’s rip the band-aid off a few important things:

Defining your own success is important

It’s impossible to avoid the trappings of a “big launch” or a “six-figure launch” or any of the other headlines and success stories you read about in the digital product space. But… there is so much context to those stories that we don’t have. Instead, you need to define a realistic measure of success that matches your Lifestyle Vision.

Your first launch is not your last launch

Time and time again we’ve watched fellow entrepreneurs gear up for a big first launch, have less than amazing results (mostly because they didn’t define their own success), and then never launch again. Ugh. You should think of your first launch as your next starting line. It’s not a finish line in your digital product journey, it’s an entire new marathon you opt in to run.

Selling feels uncomfortable for all of us

It’s just a weird thing to do! You’re asking strangers on the Internet to buy a thing from you that you created out of thin air. That’s bizarre! Accept this. Understand it. Embrace the fact that you’ll feel uncomfortable but don’t count yourself out and NOT sell your digital product.

Creating a great sales page happens over time, not overnight

You’re seeing a recurring theme in this guide, aren’t you? Iteration. Tweaking. Testing. Using an experimenter’s mindset is part of the game, especially when it comes to crafting a sales page for your digital product.

Remember the P.O.P.P. method (Problem, Outcome, Product, Purchase) we told you about back in Step #5? It’s time to bring it back around, but expand it to: P. O. P. S. E. P.

You already know the Problem, Outcome, Product, Purchase part, you can almost copy and paste from your pre-sale page for your main digital product sales page (maybe expand slightly if you have more to share in those topics). The two new things are:

(S) Social Proof, and why it matters on your sales page

Take a minute and remember the last thing you purchased that was recommended by a friend. It could be anything. The purchase was a no-brainer for you due to one important factor: You trust your friend!

Social proof on a sales page is how you show strangers on the Internet that other strangers on the Internet trust you. It’s as simple as that.

Do you have customer’s who have experience with your digital product? Send them an email and ask for 2-3 sentences about what they liked (make sure to get their approval to share their response). Boom, easy peasy.

If you don’t have customers yet? Get a few! Even if they get your digital product at a steep discount, or for free, spend the time to have someone actually use your product and give you a testimonial about it.

Add at least 2-3 pieces of social proof to your sales page and use photos of the actual people if you can (again, trust!)

(E) Examples: It’s time to play show and tell

When your digital product is ready to be sold you shouldn’t be afraid to play a little show and tell. One of the most frustrating things for me when I’m looking at sales pages is when I can’t see the actual digital product in any shape or form.

Are you selling an e-book? Give away the first chapter or two. Don’t be afraid to share what’s inside, if someone loves it, they’ll purchase the rest.

Are you selling an online course? Show people a screen recorded video that walks through the lessons, the content, and gives people an exact look at what they’re getting into.

You get the idea. Share visual examples of what you’re selling to instill trust in your prospective customers (and remove any guesswork on their part of what they’ll get).

No matter what digital product you sell, keep the P. O. P. S. E. P. method handy (Problem, Outcome, Product, Social Proof, Examples, Purchase)

Once your sales page is ready, it’s time for an email sales sequence

Whether you’re selling your digital product on an ongoing basis (“evergreen product”) or your doing a couple launches per year (“open and closed cart”) you are going to need a series of sales emails that convince someone your digital product is worth spending money on.

Our tried-and-true 7-email sequence for selling digital products

We really like doing open and closed carts for our digital products. We choose this method because it puts us in control of when we have to be in sales and marketing mode. Selling things as evergreen is fine, but we don’t like having the thoughts of sales and marketing in the back of our minds at all time. Plus, experience has shown us that an open and closed launch provides the urgency many people need to make an actual purchase.

That being said, here’s what our 7-email sequence looks like:

  1. Opening the doors next week, get ready! (Monday before launch)
  2. Launch day, go to the sales page (Monday of launch)
  3. Social proof and case studies (Tuesday, day after launch)
  4. Future outcomes you can expect (Thursday)
  5. Reply with any questions (Saturday)
  6. Share common objections people have (Monday)
  7. Last call, doors are closing (Same Monday, a few hours before close)

Wandering Aimfully 7-Email Sales Sequence

If you’re interested in getting a thorough walk-through of our 7-email sequence, we recorded an entire workshop about selling and our Wandering Aimfully Members get it included in their membership. If there’s one thing we have down to a science, it’s the process of selling and launching!

Selling your digital product is never completely set it and forget it

As much as some online marketers and entrepreneurs want you to believe, it’s pretty damn difficult to create a hands-off passive income digital product.

Myth: Creating passive income isn’t as passive as you think.

We’ve created over 30 digital products since 2013 and none of them have been 100% hands-off. Even the digital products that have sold consistently we’ve spent time:

Remember the example 12-month Lifestyle Vision from Step #2? It’s okay if you don’t we’ll remind you of what those things were:

  1. Your entire monthly income is coming from your digital products (yay, you!)
  2. Every hour you spend working each day/week/month is for your digital product customers
  3. You have a growing audience of fellow web designers who are happy to learn from you
  4. You are thinking about your next digital product and are excited by all the possibilities
  5. You may take on the additional client if it’s an absolutely perfect fit (but you don’t need it!)
  6. You are happier, you feel like you control your time more, and you look forward to Mondays for the first time!

As “passive” as you hope your digital product business to be, it will require time and effort. Just remember, you chose to transition away from client work for a reason!


 


CONCLUSION

We Want To Help You Avoid Overwhelm Transitioning From Clients to Digital Products

If you’ve read this far into this in-depth guide we have to imagine you are willing to do the work it takes to transition from clients to digital products. We also realize you might be a tad bit overwhelmed as there’s a LOT to unpack and implement here.

We’ve got your back with a 6-month guided program called Build Without Burnout Academy.

Within our Wandering Aimfully Membership is our cornerstone program Build Without Burnout Academy. It’s a six-month program to help client-based business owners transition into selling digital products —without burning out in the process.

This isn’t some secondhand knowledge we Googled, this is our exact experience as we transitioned from designers doing client work to creative entrepreneurs selling digital products.

Build Without Burnout Academy

How is Build Without Burnout Academy different from other programs?

The first and most important thing is it’s a 6-month long program. It’s not 6-weeks. It’s not a 6-month program you can cram into 1 month. It’s a program that forces you to stick to the timelines we’ve set to ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up on transitioning from clients to digital products.

If you nod your head in agreement to any of these statements Build Without Burnout is for you:

You currently have clients but you know you want to create a digital product (like an online course, membership community, e-book, etc) and feel like you’ll never have the time.

You’re tired of trading time for money and feel like you’re always scrambling to find your next client to pay yo’ bills.

You’ve experienced burnout before due to overworking and you want to avoid it at all costs while still having a plan of action moving forward.

You’ve been sold the “you’ll make 6-figs with an online course!” dream and you aren’t having any of that (you’re okay with making fewer figs and enjoying your life in the process).

You’ve read nearly every word of this massive in-depth guide and thought, “I wish Jason just had this stuff as a guided program that I could follow because it seems kind of overwhelming just reading all of this.”

Build Without Burnout Academy is going to give you the step-by-step process as outlined in this guide, but in a format that you can stick with and be accountable to.

You’ll have weekly action items and to-dos, but the entire goal is to make it manageable with your current client business.

If you’re excited and ready to learn more, check out our Wandering Aimfully Membership page (remember: Build Without Burnout Academy is our cornerstone program within our membership).

We hope this guide was helpful for you!

We put a ton of time and effort into these guides. This one could have been twice as long and three times as thorough but we had to draw the line somewhere.

If you took our advice in this guide, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know what was most helpful.

And if joining our Wandering Aimfully Membership feels right so you have a group of folks who are on a similar transition from clients to digital products, we’d be delighted to have you!

How To Transition From Clients to Digital Products, An In-Depth Step-By-Step Guide

(Big Fat Takeaway)

Making the transition from working with clients to creating and selling digital products should be done slowly, methodically, and with an experimenter's mindset.

IT IT

This article written by

Jason Zook

Co-head-hancho of this Wandering Aimfully thing. I used to wear t-shirts for a living, now I just wear them because I'm not a nudist. You can usually find me baking vegan biscuits, watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, or reading Calvin & Hobbes comics. Also, I miss my GeoCities website that was dedicated to Dragon Ball Z.

Continue the conversation:

Now What?

Join “Wandering Weekly,” a newsletter to help you live, work and create with more intention.

Each Monday we’ll visit your inbox and share a lesson we’ve learned on our own entrepreneurial journeys. We keep it real and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, honest, and 100% transparent when it comes to working for yourself.

Wandering Aimfully Through Wandering Aimfully: The Show

What To Do When You Experience Burnout

Don’t Need Video? Listen Now Episode Summary We’ve had the DISpleasure of dealing with creative burnout on more occasions than we’d like to admit. It simply seems like experiencing burnout is a right of passage when you work for yourself. But… We have a few tips on how to avoid burning out. How to (hopefully) […]

Wandering Aimfully Through Productivity

Time Management Tips for Client-Based Business Owners

Do you feel like you’re ALWAYS working? Is time management your nemesis? If your client projects often seem to take longer than you think and time feels like it just slips away every day, we have some tried-and-true time management tips for you. Do you wish you could carve out time to work on projects […]