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Freelance Writers: What It’s REALLY Like to Create and Sell Your Own Info Products Online – What I’ve Learned in 15+ Years

I first published this post on September 11, 2013, and I’ve been selling information online since 2002. A lot has changed for me and in the self-publishing / info-products creation industry since I first wrote it. Following are the main ones that stood out to me as I took a long look back over my career as an online information seller.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Selling Information Online: 2017 Update — A 15-Year Look Back

Boy, reflection … there’s nothing like looking back to see where you went wrong, what you did right, and what you wish you could change to drive some hard truths home. But, c’est la vie, no? Here are some of the major observations that come to mind as I look back over my long self-publishing career.

FYI, here are the other parts of this series: Part II; Part III.

I. Getting Jiggy with Professionalism

I used to deliver my e-courses as simple pdf files. Buyers would order, then wait for me to send them the files. Now, I’ve migrated them all over to Inkwell Editorial’s “school” on Teachable. This means that students not only have immediate access to the material; they also have lifetime access.

There’s also no waiting for updates. When the material is updated, you have immediate access to it; no need to wait and wonder ifyou have the most recent version.

II. Transitioning from Non-Fiction to Fiction

I wrote my first romance novella in the spring of 2013. Since then, I’ve written over 40 more. At one point, it outpaced my non-fiction income. It’s because in 2015, I was writing basically a book a week. Romance is the best-selling genre of all time, so you can make a lot of money writing romance. One month, I earned almost $4,000 — from Amazon alone!

But when Amazon introduced its basically “all you can read for $9.99 per month” subscription service, it crippled my sales, along with a lot of other self-published authors. I went from seamlessly earning $1,500, $2,000 and $3,000 pe rmonth to barefly $200 and $300. The bottom fell out quick!

So I stopped writing fiction and turned my attention back to my non-fiction. I’m glad I had my foot in both pools because most of my non-fiction sales come from my own website (not from Amazon), and of course, those books are priced much higher than my fiction novellas. Most of those range in price from 99 cents to $3.99.

Now, the market has kind of stabilized. I wish I hadn’t stopped writing romance. I still earn between $200 and $400 per month in fiction book sales — and I’ve only written two fiction novellas in the last year. This month, I’m about to dive back into fiction again. I miss it, and my characters are talking to me like crazy (they do that, you know!).

Moving forward, I’ll be concentrating mostly on fiction (romance) and developing ecourses (discussed below). Why? Because it doesn’t have to be updated like non-fiction. And three or four of my ebooks account for the bulk of my sales. So I’ll be paring down a lot; getting more focused on what sells and what doesn’t. To this end, I’ll be …

III. Developing Ecourses

Ecourses sell for more than ebooks, are easy to deliver via a platform like Teachable, and they help to build my brand as a writer. Also, this taps into the natural “teacher” in me. I love getting feedback and questions from students, dispensing advice, and helping others to thrive in a career they never thought possible.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

I love this quote becasue the older I get, the more I realize just how true it is. Nothing makes me happier than to see someone achieve a goal taht they’ve been working towards. And if I can play a small part in that — well, you can’t put value on it.

The bottom line is, these days, I’m all about making a living writing — and not just from client projects. Last November, I changed the mission of this site to reflect this. So that’s what’s happened since I wrote this post in 2013. Following is the updated version of the post I wrote back then.

Freelance Writers Cashing In on the Information Products Craze

Many freelance writers are capitalizing on the “information products” trend and becoming “infopreneurs.” I’m one of them; I’ve been writing and selling my own line of information products (ebooks and ecourses) online since 2002. It’s given me much more career freedom.

What I mean by this is, because I have another income stream besides writing for clients, it allows me to choose my client base more carefully – I don’t have to take on any and every writing job that comes my way. This is partly why becoming an infopreneur has been one of the best things to happen to me professionally; I simply can’t imagine doing anything else for a living.

In this post, I’ll lay out some pros and cons of what it’s like to sell information products online. Before we get to that though, let’s define what an infopreneur is.

What is an Infopreneur?

As defined on the popular site, Succeed As Your Own Boss, an Infopreneur is someone who markets and sells prepackaged information products. This includes, but is not limited to, ebooks, workbooks, CDs, videos, DVDs, forms, e-courses, worksheets, manuals, MP3 audio files, e-zines, newsletters, home study courses, workshops, seminars and conferences.

3 Examples of Freelance Writers Who Became Infopreneurs

How to Make Money Creating and Selling Your Own Information ProductsFor example, I write and sell a line of ebooks and e-classes, mostly on freelance writing and self-publishing.

One of the regular guest posters here, Karen Cioffi, has developed an e-course (Create and Build Your Author Online Platform).

The co-author of Inkwell Editorial’s social media writing ebook, Nina Lewis also has a “Make Money with Your Blog” course.

These are but a few examples of those of us who are capitalizing on the information craze. There are thousands (if not a few million) others.

Why Information Is the Best Product to Sell Online

In case you don’t know, information is the easiest, most cost-efficient, most profitable product to sell online. The reason why is best explained in a post I found on DropShipWholesale.net, which explained it this way . . .

As more and more people move to the World Wide Web seeking their fortunes, the number-one business question of the recent age has become: “What’s the best product to sell online?” The answer is simple: information.

No other type of product is easier to create, faster to bring to market, easier to distribute and potentially more profitable, often offering profits of 1,000 percent or more. 

How to Make $100,000 Per Year Selling Info Products Online

I loved this article by Yaro over at the uber-popular blog, Entrepreneur’s Journey. He breaks down – by day — just how easy it is to make six figures per year selling information products online — information products you create. This of course means you get to keep all the money.

As someone who’s been selling ebooks online since 2002, and ecourses since around 2006, I can tell you that what he lays out is soooo feasible.

2 Problems Most Infopreneurs Face

Where the real challenge comes when creating information products to sell is: (i) is finding a topic that will appeal to a niche audience, but one that is large enough to sell well; and (ii) marketing the product/service you create consistently.

6 Advantages of Selling Ebooks & Other Info Products Online

If you can overcome the above hurdles (and it may take some trial and error), you can literally write your own financial – and lifestyle — ticket. For example, selling ebooks and e-classes online allows you to . . .

I. Work as much or as little as you want

Although in the beginning, you’ll be working a lot more than you probably want.

Factors That Contribute to Success Selling Info Products Online

(a) A Cache of Products: I didn’t start to realize that I could make a real living from selling my ebooks online until I’d written a dozen or so titles. That’s when I noticed that my sales became more consistent.

Although if you’re writing non-fiction, I don’t advise writing 50 ebooks like I did in 2011. Get a small cache of maybe a half doze or so inter-related products that you can promote.

Otherwise, as products go out of date, you’ll find it hard to keep them all updated. Now, if you’re writing fiction, that’s another thing altogether. Go at it! Once it’s written, you never have to touch it again. So just keep this difference in mind, ok?

(b) Niching It & Experience: Another thing that contributed to my income growth is the fact that I write in a defined niche – one I have a lot of experience in.

(c) Good Ole Hard Work: Once I realized that “Hey, I can really make a living JUST selling my ebooks,” I started to pour more of my efforts into it. Once you build up a cache of products — if you promote them consistently — your income can be surprisingly steady.

Again, tread lightly though. Don’t go crazy creating a lot of non-fiction products that will have to constantly be updated.

(d) Marketing Consistently: Make no mistake, promoting (marketing) is where the real work comes in, so be prepared to do this consistently. You can have the best product/service in the world, but if you don’t get the word out about it regularly, you won’t make very many sales – even on major outlets like Amazon.

And the reason is simple – the web is a very crowded place; competition is fierce. You can’t do hit-and-miss marketing; you have to constantly be on the promotional grind. I can’t stress this enough. For this reason, a big part of planning a product should be the marketing schedule, ie, what are you going to do daily, weekly and monthly – consistently – to promote your product.

Your marketing schedule is every bit as important as the product itself. Be sure to choose marketing tactics that you can afford to repeat.

FYI, It’s one of the reasons I like blogging and social media marketing. It’s free, can be highly effective and yields results for years to come because people go online to look for information. Blogging consistently does a beautiful job of giving prospects the info they need to make a buying decision. It, in effect, pre-sells for you.

II. Work from anywhere you have an internet connection

All you need is a laptop and an internet connection to create info products to sell – really!

III. Set your own working hours

As a non-morning person, this is HUGE for me.

IV. Earn as much as you want

Your income potential as an information seller truly is unlimited. Again though, it takes a lot of work to create a product that sells steadily enough online. But, if you get two or three of these (non-fiction), you can make a full-time living.

As for fiction, you never know when a book is going to “take off on you.” I’ve written some books that I thought were awesome, but didn’t sell diddly squat. And I’ve written some I wasn’t crazy about, but readers love them.

The point is, you never know what’s going to sell, so just keep pumping out titles. Eventually, you’ll have a few that will break through.

Four of my biggest sellers — which have accounted for most of my romance sales on Amazon — have been the A Lover for Beth, Priced Out of Love, A Taste of Tara and Ruthless Love series. Now remember, this is out of over 40 books.

What I like about writing fiction though is that one book can earn you thousands. Just look at 50 Shades of Grey. Although my numbers are nowhere near that, I’ve earned thousands from one book — in one month. As I’m writing, I always wonder, “Will this one take off?” Sometimes you have a feeling (like I did with Ruthless Love); other times, I’m shocked. So it pays to just keep writing.

The Most Important Thing You Need to Know to Create Information Products That Sell

There are over 50 products in Inkwell Editorial’s e-store, but just three to five of them account for the bulk of sales. So doing your research to find out what people really want to know is key to producing profitable products.

FYI, here’s a handy keyword research tool that can help you hone in on a niche to develop/create products in/on/about.

V. Not have to worry about paying for and/or stocking inventory

While you can create physical products if you want, you don’t have to. Also, when you create physical products, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stock them. On-demand service providers like Smashwords, CreateSpace and Lulu allow you to produce and ship only when a customer places an order – and they do it all for you!

I only deal in e-products and services. One day, I may go the route of producing DVDs and physical books, but for right now, I like the fact that I don’t have to. 

Another format I will definitely be getting into is audio. Audiobooks are becoming more popular. I don’t know much about how to to it yet. Just from some precursory research, it seems a bit expensive, but some self-publishers report it being as much as 10 percent of their income. So that’s on the horizon for sure, as I only foresee growth there.

VI. Control your own future financially and professionally

As an infopreneur, you never have to worry about being fired, or being discriminated against or being told that you’re too old, etc. As long as your brain is working, you can create info products to sell. This kind of “career control” is pure gold in my opinion. All of these are major advantages of being an infopreneur.

HOWEVER . . . 

Selling Info Products: 4 Pitfalls To Expect  & How To Handle Them

This career is not without its pitfalls. Following are four major ones you’ll run into sooner or later, and how to handle it/them.

I. Technical Glitches

While technology is wonderful and allows you to run a practically zero-cost business as an information seller, when it goes on the fritz, it can cost you a ton of money. For example, one time, my web hosting company went down for an entire work day. This meant that all of my sites were offline, which meant that I wasn’t earning any money.

Who knows how much that cost me in lost leads and sales – many of those customers will never return.

Solution

Now while something like this is out of your control, you can decrease the chance of this happening by using more than one host company.

Note: I have three host companies (see them all here). I found out later that two of these were owned by the same large company, and that’s why all of my money-making sites were down.

There’s a whole lot more that can go wrong on the technical end, eg, you want to migrate from an HTML-coded site to WordPress; your laptop gets a virus; you upgrade to the latest browser and it causes some of your programs to act wacky – the problems can seem never ending.

To mitigate this, have a tech person on hand that you can call on when stuff like this arises if you’re not an expert in this area. Because trust me – it’s not if something will happen, it’s when.

II. Questions from Buyers


Buyers and prospective buyers will ask questions about your products that you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. Some will be nice; others will outright accuse you of trying to scam them – even before they’ve plunked down any money!

I’m constantly amazed at just how rude some can be BEFORE they even give an ebook/e-class a chance. Just take it all in stride and answer their questions to the best of your ability.

Solution

Always be honest and get back to them as quickly as possible. One of the things I do is readily tell prospects when I don’t think my ebook/e-class will help them.

The reason is, I want long-term customers; not a sale at all cost. So if I know/feel that a product is not a good fit for a prospect, I’ll tell them so – and why I think so. Some go on to purchase anyway – but at least they do so with full knowledge.

Conducting your online business like this builds trust and although you might not make that immediate sale, the prospect may purchase in the future if you produce a product that is a good fit for them.

III. Ebook Theft

If you produce informational products for sale, be prepared for someone to outright steal it. There are a couple of types of theft — theft by outright stealing, and theft by “purchase.” Following is what I mean.

Theft by Stealing

I’ve come across lots of my ebooks on several sites being sold without my permission. And this is only getting worse. Proof? Read the Fast Company article, Amazon’s Plagiarism Problem. Not only will it make your head spin at how easy it is to steal work, it gives insight into why the problem is getting worse, ie:

The new self-publishing platforms are easy to use and make it possible to publish a title in as little as 24 hours. There’s no vetting, editing, or oversight, and if your work is taken down you can always throw up more titles or simply concoct a new pen name and start over. There’s even a viral ebook generator that comes packed with 149,000 articles that makes it possible to create an ebook in minutes.

Solution

So how do you deal with this? I simply don’t look for my ebooks anymore. I get too upset and really, unless you’re willing to spend your days hunting down some no-name scum in California, Russia or Thailand, there’s not much you can do without Bill Gates-like money.

I DO list links in the backs of my ebooks to other products and to my online store. This way, readers may click through and find other products they like that haven’t been stolen and make a legitimate purchase.

Note: Most buyers are unaware that they’re purchasing stolen products, so I never blame them. All you can do is hope to turn them into loyal customers by making them aware of your full catalog of products.

Theft by “Purchase”

Then, there’s this kind of theft — where someone buys your product(s), and returns it under fraudulent pretenses. There are a lot of unethical people out there; unfortunately, it’s just part of doing buisness online. Take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of people are honest.

IV. Returns

Ebook returns are a fact of life; it just goes with the territory. Mine are relatively low – less than 1% of overall sales. Some outlets like Clickbank and Amazon can run a little higher because of their refund policies, but overall, I don’t sweat returns too much.

Darren Rowse over at the uber-popular blog, Problogger takes the same attitude, saying this this about ebook returns and sales:

Here’s what I’ve seen when it comes to refunds on my own ebooks. In the last two and a half years, I’ve sold around 40,000 ebooks here on ProBlogger and on Digital Photography School.

I don’t have an exact figure on how many refunds have been requested and given (we refund 100% with no questions asked), but I would estimate that the number is less than 100—at the most it’d be 150. . . . refunded sales make up around a quarter of 1% of my total sales. They’re not very significant.

Solution

There are a number of things you can do to decrease your ebook return rate, ie:

  • Provide a thorough overview of what the customer can expect to receive (eg, a complete Table of Contents);
  • Deliver promptly via an instant download service like e-Junkie or in the case of e-courses, on a platform like Teachable;
  • Respond quickly to customer inquiries; and
  • Don’t produce crap.

The last point really can’t be overstated. Provide value in every product you create. This way, customers won’t feel like they’ve been ripped off. Not only will they be less likely to request their money back, they’ll become repeat customers – which is what you need to build a successful business selling e-products like ebooks, e-classes, webinars, etc., online.

You are always going to have those schemers, scammers and rip-off artists who want something for free; there’s not much you can do about these type of people who request a refund. But, most who purchase your product(s) don’t want their money back. They want you to deliver on what you promised.

So do so – and you’ll have no problem building a successful business as an information products seller.

Conclusion

Although I wouldn’t trade my career for the world, it’s not for everyone. Knowing the pros and cons of producing info products to sell will go a long way towards helping you decide if this kind of career is something that could work for you.

Is Making Money Selling Ebooks Online for You?

Making money ebook-publishing-packonline selling ebooks and ecourses is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for lazy people. It’s not for those who need others to motivate them.

The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package: 4 Ebooks. 1 Low Price.

But if you are the anti-thesis of this, ie, courageous, hard-working and self-motivated, you really can make a lot of money selling ebooks and ecourses online (I’m proof of this) – if you don’t forget that last ingredient – perseverance.

Share Your Ebook Selling Tips and Questions?

Have any ebook selling tips you can share? Have a question about how to make money selling ebooks online? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Serious about Starting a Self-Publishing Career? Then You Need a Website/Blog. Learn why and how to start one.

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    Comments

    1. Hey Yuwanda,

      I’m glad I found this site, so many great blog posts (most are from you!). I’m just starting out in this biz but can already see myself working on my own time from a hammock in mexico. lol You really need to find the right niche (hopefully not oversaturated) and that people are actually interested in. Then use social media and other sites to market.
      Dan recently posted…Automatic vs Manual DMCA TakedownsMy Profile

      • Dan:

        Hmmm, working in Mexico I can see — in a hammock, well that just might be a bit difficult with all that swaying back and forth (and napping!). LOL!

        Glad you’re enjoying the site, and good luck on your freelance journey. You’re in for a wonderfully wild ride. 🙂

    2. Yeah, I need to be more up to date on updates as well! I have been working on a Facebook course, and thank goodness I didn’t put it out yet, because it would have been a lot of back end work. Updates are a tedious process, but mandatory. Thanks again for reminding me about Yahoo Answers. I have been working on a survey with little results, and I totally forgot to go to Q & A sites to see what is going on in the market place. However, I got on Facebook and inboxed 5 of my ideal clients personally, and they kind of gave me an idea of what they were looking for. On other news, no worries Yuwanda. I know that you are extremely busy, so whenever. In that time, I have been doing some soul searching and reading my favorite business bible: Think & Grow Rich. And, there are some truths in there that I didn’t recognize I was doing! Thank you Tiffany! 🙂
      Nina recently posted…How to Use Social Media to Build High Quality Relationships and Increase SalesMy Profile

    3. This is a great post…I’ve had the idea of creating info products swimming around in my head for awhile. I can definitely attest to the marketing aspect being time and focus intensive. Back when I was dabbling in affiliate marketing I quickly realized that it wasn’t enough to advertise sparingly in one place, no matter what the internet marketing pros said. Now that I have some more experience, I have to find some time to brainstorm and see what I come up with.
      Tiffany recently posted…Facebook’s New Page InsightsMy Profile

      • I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with something Tiffany. One of the best ways to do this is to troll “Answer” sites like Yahoo! Answers. This will give you some insight into what regular folk want to know about a particular subject you may be thinking of writing on. Also, outright ask readers of your blogs, newsletters, social media accounts, etc. what they want to know about in your defined niche. You’d be amazed at what folk want to know that you hadn’t even thought of writing on.

        Can’t wait to see what you come up with. 🙂

    4. Thanks for the great tips on creating info products Nina. Your comment just gave me an idea for a follow-up post next week, How to Create an Info Product that Sells.

      I’ll cover some of what you’ve covered here. I don’t do #2 nearly enough. I think if I did, some of my ebooks might not have been written.

      Also you’re spot on about doing updates — which can be such a pain (I’ll swear I’ll scream if Google makes one more change to anything anytime soon!), but is so necessary.

      Thanks for sharing so freely. You’re a doll. And FYI, I still haven’t forgotten your email; it’s in my inbox and I’ll get back to you soon. My life is a bit crazy at the moment.
      Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…Freelance Writers: What It’s REALLY Like to Create and Sell Your Own Info Products Online – What I’ve Learned in 10+ Years My Profile

    5. I can certainly attest to this. Creating and selling an online course online has been one of the most gratifying experiences as a business owner. There’s nothing more exhilarating than logging into your email and seeing a payment notification for something you created years ago! And, Yuwanda is right, marketing is the key. If you don’t market, know one will know it exists. I have been guilty of sporadic marketing– and we all know sporadic marketing leads to sporadic income. However, I started my marketing again( a work in progress), and guess what I am getting more leads, sign ups, and sales. The thing with marketing is you have to find out what works for you. 100% of my sales have been from Facebook and Facebook alone. Therefore that’s where I focus most of my marketing efforts. I would like to add a few tips:

      1. Give people what they want, show them what they need. Survey your list and see what they actually want.

      2. Promote first, create second. You want to make sure people are really interested in your idea and will actually pay you money. When I did a live training series for my make money blogging, I promoted it, and then started developing the content when I got my first sale. The payment beforehand kept me accountable for delivering.

      3.Produce high quality content. Your first time around may not be the best, no matter how much you think it is. The key is to produce content, get feedback, and keep testing, and tweaking until it’s up to par.

      4. Provide updates if necessary. Online marketing is such a mercurial field;everything is always changing. For example, Google Keyword tool no longer exists, now they have a keyword planner tool. I have to update my blogging course to reflect this change. Don’t be lazy about providing updates and pushing out new, and fresh relevant information when needed.

      I hope this helps! 🙂
      Nina recently posted…How to Use Social Media to Build High Quality Relationships and Increase SalesMy Profile

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    1. […] I’ll be doing a follow-up to last week’s post on what it’s really like to create and sell your own info products online. That post received a lot of interest, and some of the comments gave me the idea to cover some of […]

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