Making Something Out of Nothing with Digital Products: How Far Can You Go?


When he first sold a copy of Windows, Bill Gates perhaps unwittingly started a revolution. He was convincing people to pay real money for a product that only existed in the virtual realm.

Today, Gates is the second-richest person globally and has occupied the top spot for the better part of the last two decades. Microsoft is 26th on the Fortune 500, with 25 years and counting on that list. And it’s commonplace to buy products that you download onto devices, with nothing tangible to show for the purchase.

Selling a digital product is almost like magic. You’re making something out of nothing. And modern technology has made it increasingly possible for the average person to participate in this endeavor.

You can even supplement tried-and-tested traditional methods of revenue generation, such as real estate investments, with this new means of earning passive income. Here are some routes you might want to explore.

Graphic resources

With the increasingly sophisticated camera technology packed into modern smartphones, just about anybody can be a photographer. And when you can quickly end up with thousands of photos gathering virtual dust on your phone’s memory, you might as well turn them into an income stream.

Websites for stock photography allow you to do just that. By permitting them to license your photos, you can earn some money with little more than the effort it takes to capture the image and upload it.

Many of these websites and others dedicated to art will let you upload digital artworks as well. If you have skills in software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, your creations could prove useful to paying clients. Alternatively, you could create and sell custom tools, such as brushes and textures, used by artists working in these programs.

Personal expertise

The age of the internet is also the age of information. And as the popularity of the DIY movement shows, it’s clear that people want to learn about anything and everything.

You might not be the leading expert in your field, but you probably have something to offer based on your personal experience, skills, and knowledge. To the right person, that expertise could be worth real money.

All you need to start making money in this way is the know-how to publish knowledge online, in the form of an ebook or learning course. Besides creating the content, you need to learn or outsource skills related to layout, marketing, and distribution.


codingLearning how to code is an advantage, even if you never become a programmer. It teaches you to be a problem-solver and can have unexpected applications in a wide range of careers. Sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to apply this skill directly with an eye towards passive income generation.

Worldwide, the mobile app industry was worth over $100 billion in 2018. And it’s growing rapidly, with a projected rate of 18.4% per year. As coding becomes more widely encouraged and perceived as an essential skill, you might have what it takes to write an app. It could be developed for a general audience, or as a commission for a client; you can get paid for every download, add-on content, or apps.

A realistic approach

There are other digital products you can consider selling; the list isn’t exhaustive. But it should help to give you an idea of the possibilities that currently exist for making real money out of a purely virtual creation. And at the same time, these options should also paint a clear picture of the limitations you’ll face.

Making a digital product might not yield anything tangible, but it still takes hard work. And the barrier to entry might be lower than ever, but the requirements to make a significant amount of money are still quite steep.

Unless you’re a skilled photographer or artist with a lot of quality work in your portfolio, you might be earning less than a dollar per sale of stock resources. The publishing industry has typically been winner-take-all; a few successful authors earn more than all the rest. And the highest-earning apps offer great content as well as regular updates.

If you’re looking to earn a fortune in your sleep, that’s not possible. You can make a living off the money you earn from selling digital products. But it’s going to take active involvement, just like any other job.

For a more realistic approach, you can use these as a supplement to your income. Run a ‘barbell strategy’ with your day job concurrent to your digital revenue stream. And minimize the effort required by aligning it as much as possible with the skills you already have.

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