How to sell digital downloads in 2024

Content Marketer and Writer
Updated 27 February, 2024
Julia Moore
Content Marketer and Writer
We are sure you can make wealth from selling ebooks, snapshots, designs, or other virtual products. We are happy to share the best way to sell digital downloads with you, which we found out in our special research.
Reading time — 13 minutes

If you want to know everything about the ways to sell digital downloads online, then read our research below. It explains what are the ways, their advantages and disadvantages.

If you only want to know what is the best way to sell digital downloads, then go straight to the part about it.

Why sell digital downloads

If you want to run your own business, then consider selling digital downloads. When you sell them, you avoid most difficulties that you face when you sell services and physical products.

Here are the main advantages of selling digital downloads:

  • Quick start. You don't even have to leave the couch to start selling digital downloads. Create a download and launch it right now from the phone in your hands.
  • No investments are necessary. There are free apps and software for creating your files for sale. There are also free options where you can place and sell your digital downloads.
  • Virtual storage. Digital downloads are stored in cloud storage. You can upload them there in a couple of clicks. You don't need to rent a physical storage and transport your products.
  • Unlimited stock. You only need to create downloads once. Then, you can sell them as many times as you need.
  • Last forever. Digital downloads do not deteriorate — they do not have an expiration date, and they can't get damp or be gnawed by mice.
  • Wider market. There are no delivery issues, which means a person from anywhere in the world can buy and receive your product.
  • Higher profit. Expenses on selling digital downloads are lower than expenses on selling services and physical products. Therefore, you save more of your revenue.
  • Automated sales. You can automate almost all the business tasks you have when you sell digital downloads. For example, presenting your digital downloads — product cards can do this. The delivery — files are not transported, users download them instead.

Below you can read examples of digital downloads and how to sell them online.

Types of digital downloads to sell

If you want to sell digital downloads online but don't know what exactly yet, then here are a few ideas for you, read and choose:

  • Educational materials. These can be courses, guides, etc. on what you know well. You can sell educational materials for both beginners and advanced users. Thus, customers buy several courses — one more each time they level up.
  • Templates. These are, for example, planners, trackers, documents like CV letters or contracts, and so on. They can be either general or specialized. For example, you can sell a universal planner and a planner for the Christmas holidays with a relevant design theme and attachments.
  • Software, apps, plug-ins. These digital downloads can be either for entertainment or work. For example, you can sell games and game add-ons, or a grammar-check extension.
  • Media files. Sell a license for using your photos, videos, digital art, and other media. You can take photos or generate pictures using AI.
  • Designs. These include icons, fonts, layouts, presentations, and themes. Sell a license to use them.

Read 180+ specific digital product ideas for different niches if you still don't know what to sell.

When you've chosen what digital downloads to sell, it's time to think about where to sell them. Below we describe several options and explain which is the best.

Where to sell digital downloads

There are many options where you can sell digital downloads. All of them can be divided into three categories.

  • Marketplaces.
  • Your website.
  • SaaS.

Online marketplaces

Marketplaces are e-commerce platforms. These include Etsy, Creative Market, Envato Market, Amazon, eBay, etc., and you can sell digital downloads on any of them.

It's easy to start selling digital downloads on a marketplace, you just need to create an account and product cards. However, do not rush to choose a marketplace, there are many disadvantages stand opposed to the simplicity of the launch.

The screenshots show how users see digital downloads when searching a marketplace:

Pros

  • You can quickly create your online shop. You only need to create product cards to start selling digital downloads.
  • You don't need to integrate payment systems. A marketplace is who makes sure that everyone can pay for your downloads.
  • There is already traffic on marketplaces. Users come there with an intention to buy.
  • A marketplace helps resolve disputes between you as a seller and your customers.

Cons

  • A big cut of your revenue. You have to pay for everything when you launch and sell digital downloads — for using a marketplace, for listing a product and for selling it, etc. For example, the selling fee for Fine Art products on Amazon reaches 20%.
  • You have to follow a marketplace's rules. A marketplace has the right to change the prices of your digital downloads, selling policies, etc.
  • High competition. Search results on a marketplace are both your and your competitors' downloads shown together. Moreover, your product page suggests "similar" offers from your competitors, they grab the attention of your potential customers.
  • No customer loyalty. Customers do not remember you, and they do not return specifically to you for new purchases. Yes, they are not your customers, they are Amazon's customers.
  • Same shop design. You can't customize the design of your shop, product cards, etc. You are no different from your competition. So, customers don't remember you and don't come back again.

Your own website

You can sell digital downloads on your own website. You can create it, for example, on WordPress.

Your website gives you more settings and overall control than a marketplace. Unfortunately, it also means a much more complicated process of launching sales.

Look at the examples of real websites where people sell digital downloads:

Pros

  • You set the prices, selling policy, etc. For comparison, on a marketplace, they are controlled by the marketplace.
  • You don't have to compete. There are only your digital downloads on your site. There are no competitors' downloads that could grab the attention of your potential customers.
  • Cross-sales. You can offer relevant fields to users and so sell more digital downloads on your website.
  • Customer loyalty. Customers on your site interact specifically with you and with no one else, and therefore they remember you. In the future, they return to you for more downloads.
  • Custom shop design. You can design your shop website in your brand style. This way users are more likely to remember you and come back again.

Cons

  • Launching sales on your own website takes a longer time than launching on a marketplace or SaaS.
  • The cost of creating a website. At least, you have to buy a domain and pay for the server to sell digital downloads on your website.
  • You need to integrate at least one payment provider by yourself in order to accept payments.
  • You need coding and design skills. This is the only way you can make a website that is beautiful, convenient, and working.
  • Fees. Although WordPress itself does not charge a fee on sales, you may need to pay for using an e-commerce plug-in or add-on.
  • There is no built-in CRM system. You can't view the list of orders and information on them without installing plug-ins and setting up tools.
  • You are responsible for maintaining your website. As the owner of the site, you need to make backups timely, pay for your domain regularly, watch the servers work, etc.
  • You are responsible for securing your website. You need to get an SSL certificate yourself, and update plug-ins, passwords, etc. to protect the site from hackers.
  • No initial traffic. You have to generate traffic on your site yourself to sell digital downloads.

SaaS

SaaS are software designed for specific purposes. SaaS for selling digital downloads have ready-made tools for product presentation, accepting payments, and delivering downloads to customers.

You can sell digital downloads through such SaaS like Shopify, Gumroad, Taplink, SendOwl, Sellfy, etc. Below we explain which one to choose. But first, look at examples of two different SaaS solutions:

Pros

  • Quick start. On most SaaS, you only need to create product cards to sell digital downloads online.
  • Free domain. You do not need to buy a domain and pay its renewal fee.
  • No coding or designing skills are required. SaaS is a ready solution for selling digital downloads, the work of coders and designers has already been done.
  • Easy payment connection. Payment providers are already integrated into SaaS, including PayPal, for which you likely have got an account.
  • Customer loyalty. Customers interact with you specifically, they remember you and come back to you.
  • No competition. Potential customers see only your digital downloads. So, your competitors' downloads do not distract your customers, as they do on marketplaces.
  • You set the prices, selling policy, etc. For comparison, if you sell digital downloads on a marketplace, the marketplace would set them.
  • Cross-sales. You can sell relevant digital downloads to users and thereby sell more. 
  • Custom design on some SaaS (for example, on Taplink). You can design your website in your brand's style.
  • You are not responsible for maintaining your website. SaaS does all the backups and server maintenance work.
  • You are not responsible for securing your website. SaaS takes care of the SSL certificate, updates, and more.

Cons

  • No initial traffic. You have to generate your shop traffic to sell digital downloads.
  • Fees. SaaS may charge a transaction or selling fee. More on this below.
  • Same shop design on most SaaS (for example, on Gumroad). Your shop looks the same as your competitors' shops on the same SaaS.

As you can see, SaaS is the best way to sell digital downloads. It includes the advantages of marketplaces and your own website. At the same time, it has fewer disadvantages than a marketplace or your website.

Next, we explain which SaaS to choose to sell digital downloads. Let's compare the options that we mentioned as examples above and choose the best one.

What SaaS to choose for selling digital downloads

All SaaS give you the same great set of tools for selling digital downloads, more or less, however, they charge you differently for this. This means that by making the same revenue, you get a different profit. And the whole thing is about your profit! So let's figure out which option gives you the highest profit.

Compare the cost of a monthly subscription and the selling fee that the SaaS charge (based on information from December 2023):

Monthly subscriptionSelling fee
Shopifyfrom $92%
Gumroad$010%
Taplinkfrom $60%
SendOwlfrom $95%
Sellfyfrom $190–2%

   

And now an example to make it clear for everyone. The table below shows the profit on each SaaS that you get with the same monthly revenue of $1,000. The results are ranked by profit.

As you can see, you get the highest profit on Taplink when you sell digital downloads. 

Taplink has several more advantages for you:

  • 50 payment providers. This is more than any other SaaS has. You can connect to any of these providers and accept payments from all over the world.
  • Customization. Compared to other SaaS, there is phenomenal customization on Taplink. You can choose ready-made themes and design templates to create a stylish page in a matter of minutes. You can use the detailed settings to make the page exactly what you want it to be.

Here is an example of the main page and a page of a specific digital download on Taplink:

How to sell digital downloads through Taplink

As we found out above, the best way to sell digital downloads is to sell them through Taplink. You need to set up your shop on it, let's see how to do this.

Sign-up

Go to the Taplink website and sign up. You can quickly sign up with your Google, Apple, or Facebook account.

Next, you need to upgrade to the Business plan. Then, you can add digital downloads for sale.

Please note that the duration of the subscription determines the pricing. Subscribing for the longest duration of 12 months costs you the least per month. But even if you choose the shortest duration, which costs the most per month, your monthly profit on Taplink will still be higher than on the other SaaS. See the table above.

If you have a promo code, use it.

After switching to the paid plan, you can create an online shop where you will sell digital downloads.

Creating a shop for digital downloads

Templates make website creation more convenient and less time-consuming. Taplink has templates for different niches that are divided into 20 categories. Among them are templates for designers, musicians, athletes, nutrition specialists, etc. So, you will definitely find the option for selling your digital downloads.

You can edit the site you've got — change the template's photos, texts, links, and other, as well as add new ones. You can read more about all this in the tutorial on creating a Taplink page.

Taplink has 50 integrated payment providers, which you can connect to in the settings. Read detailed instructions here. The variety of payment providers allows for accepting payments from different countries. So, you can sell digital downloads all over the world.

Adding digital downloads

You need the Digital products block on your website to sell digital downloads. You create product cards in this block to show your virtual products. You can choose how the product cards are displayed. Read a step-by-step guide on how to set up the block.

One product can be either one digital download or several downloads. You can also add and sell links.

You can upload multiple images and write a description for each product. In addition to the current price, you can specify a compare-at-price to make your offer look more profitable.

The product page design is customizable. You can change the content and theme.

Publish your Taplink

You can publish the website where you will sell digital downloads:

  • On the taplink.cc or taplink.ws domain. You can choose any free name.
  • On a custom domain. You can easily link a domain to your Taplink site.

In both cases, you do not need to pay anything extra to Taplink on the Business plan you've chosen.

That's all, now you have a website where you can sell digital downloads. Below you can read how to drive traffic and other ways to increase sales.

How to sell more digital downloads online

Your Taplink site is a place where users can buy your digital downloads. In this section, we explain how to get more users to come and buy.

Build your social media presence

On social networks, you can tell millions of users about your digital downloads. Many of these users will subscribe to your social profile, and some of them will even buy your downloads. 

Here's what exactly you should do to sell digital downloads:

  • Add your Taplink link to your social bio. Then, each user can follow the link and buy your digital downloads.
  • Add a call to action. It should be in the captions of selling posts, next to the link in your bio, and next to the purchase button on your Taplink site.
  • Post about your digital downloads. Regularly tell users in posts and Stories why they need your digital downloads. In posts, suggest following the link in your bio to buy downloads, and in Series, add a clickable link for this.

Launch a sales funnel with a lead magnet

Give users a free lite version of the digital download you sell in exchange for their mail. You need to add an opt-in form to your Taplink website for this. Thus, you will receive email addresses of users who are interested in your downloads but for some reason not ready to buy yet.

Launch a newsletter to work with the reasons and get users to buy. Emphasize the advantages, tell them more about your downloads, send discount promo codes, and more.

☝️ Don't send emails too often, otherwise users can get annoyed, and they will not want to deal with you in any way.

Benefit from cross-selling

Pitch related offers to your customers to sell more digital downloads. If a user has become your customer, apparently, they liked your offer. Most probably, they would like your other offers too. So why not try getting them to buy more? For example, if you sell a PDF course about creating commercial posts, you can offer to buy post design templates.

You can cross-sell both before and after a user goes to checkout. For example, send an email about relevant products to a user who has just bought a digital download from you. Make sure you add the links that users can follow to buy the products.

Run targeted advertising

Targeted advertising allows you to reach more people from your audience. You can do this in your Google Ads, Meta Ads, or TikTok Ads account, etc. Such advertising is an additional expense, but it is a reasonable expense that pays off. It increases your revenue and helps build your brand faster.

Create different advertising campaigns for different products to sell more digital downloads as a result.

Ask for reviews on social media

You can sell digital downloads to more users if you prove your downloads' value. Social proof works great here. If people see others like your downloads, they believe the downloads are good.

Ask your customers to write reviews on your digital downloads. You can ask it for a "thank you" or for a discount on the next purchase. And if there is money left after launching paid advertising, then buy reviews from influencers.

Show the reviews of your current customers to your potential customers. Repost them to the feed and Stories, add them to your Taplink site, and so on.

The bottom line

Now you know the best way to sell digital downloads. Create your website on Taplink and design the website in the style of your brand. Upload the files and start selling them.

Promote your digital downloads on social networks, launch a sales funnel, and targeted advertising to sell more. Also, take advantage of cross-selling and reviews.