In the spring of 2008, I published a PDF guide titled Stop Wishing and Start Earning: A Low-Risk Plan to Escape 9–5 and Launch a Profitable Copywriting Business.
It was my first real info product. And it contained all the valuable lessons I’d recently learned when I transitioned from my day job to full-time freelancing.
I figured other aspiring freelancers might benefit from these ideas and strategies. But little did I know that this 160-page guide would be the genesis of a six-figure info products business a few years later.
Oprah Is Doing It!
For freelancers, creating and selling info products can be a fun and rewarding way to earn extra income or make a full-time living.
It can also be an excellent way to diversify your income. That’s because info product sales can take some of the pressure off your marketing efforts and client work. And they can add some much-needed predictability to your cash flow.
Fortunately, the market is growing and showing no signs of slowing down. Consider these interesting developments:
- Market research firm Global Industry Analysts projects that the global market for e-Learning will exceed $241 billion by 2022. (Yes, that’s “billion” with a “b.”)
- LinkedIn spent $1.5 billion in 2015 to acquire online education company Lynda.com, which publishes online courses. At the time, this was LinkedIn’s largest acquisition by far.
- Companies like The Great Courses, MasterClass, Skillshare, CreativeLive and Udemy are popping up everywhere. And investors are funneling a significant amount of capital into these businesses.
- Even Oprah has gotten in the game with her OWN Lifeclasses!
The good news for those of us who create (or want to create) info products is that the concept of online courses and online learning is no longer obscure. It’s now mainstream.
Which means that you don’t have to explain the idea in full detail to your prospective customers. They get it.
And despite appearances, there’s plenty of room for small players like you or me to make a good living publishing and selling info products.
Why It’s a Great Opportunity
There’s a very good chance that you have specific knowledge and insights that someone else would be willing to pay for.
That might sound far-fetched. But there are several reasons why it’s true.
First, I bet there’s at least one topic people ask you about on a fairly consistent basis. For me, those topics are wine and launching a freelance business.
I’m knowledgeable on several other topics. But those are two of the most common topics that friends and relatives approach me about.
Second, it has never been easier or cheaper to build an audience. Building a list of prospects is incredibly simple. You don’t need a big audience to do well in this business (that’s a common misconception). And establishing trust and authority with the people who are on that list is easier than you’d think.
That last point about trust is important. Because there could be 100 other people publishing courses about, say, staying fit as a stay-at-home mom or how to DJ like a pro. But if your audience likes and trusts you, you’re the person they’re going to buy from.
Third, the costs of publishing and promoting info products are extremely low. Lower than ever before, in fact.
(By the way, Chris Anderson wrote about this fascinating trend extensively in his classic book The Long Tail. If you haven’t read it, here’s the article that eventually led to Anderson’s book.)
When I published my first info product, I invested in some technology to send emails, collect payments and deliver my product. I think my total monthly costs were $120.
But my publishing costs were virtually zero. I still find that amazing!
Third, unlike the big info-product and online education companies, you don’t have to sell a lot of products to be successful.
Those companies have investors. They have to generate big numbers and grow every year.
You, on the other hand, don’t have the same pressures. Maybe all you’re looking for (to start) is to generate an extra $1,000 a month. Well, a handful of $100 or $200 sales a month can quickly get you there. And once you get going, that’s entirely possible.
Think about it. What would an extra $1,000 a month mean for you and your family? Pay the car off? Save for your kids’ college education? Keep you from having to find another freelance client?
I realize this may sound unrealistic. I certainly felt that way before I made my first info product sale. But it’s interesting how this expectation quickly changes the moment you start earning $1,000 or $2,000 a month in product sales.
Where Freelancers Go Wrong
Unfortunately, most freelancers never try to create and sell info products. And of those who do, way too many of them fail. Here are the top four reasons that happens:
#1: They pick the wrong topics
It’s critical that your info product address a topic people want to learn about. It may sound counterintuitive, but everything else being equal, you’re better off covering a topic others are already teaching than something no one else has addressed before.
In other words, you want to sell into a market that already exists and has momentum.
#2: They pick the wrong target audience
Your topic might be excellent and have strong demand. But if you’re approaching the wrong audience, you’ll fail fast. So it’s important to identify an audience that actually wants to learn about your topic and has the resources to pay for info products that will fill their knowledge gap.
Also, you need to focus on what your target audience wants, not necessarily what they need. For instance, it’s important to live within your means. So we could easily argue that this information is something people need. And maybe you can teach others how to budget properly and develop smart spending habits. But if your market doesn’t really want that information, your product won’t sell.
This is why Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is way more popular than its healthier (albeit fictitious) counterpart “Krispy Kale Snacks.” No one needs doughnuts. But that’s precisely what millions of Americans want on the way to work.
That scenario, of course, could play out very differently in a section of town where people are healthier and want kale chips and kombucha for their snack.
#3: They try to do too much too quickly
It’s going to take time to draft, produce and publish your first info product. And it’s going to take time, effort, energy and patience to create the infrastructure that will enable you to promote, sell and deliver your knowledge.
So if you try to do too much too fast, you’ll burn out and give up.
The key is to iterate. Focus on creating just one info product to start. Work on doing the best job you can on just that one product. Get it right and get it out there. Get feedback and refine it to make it better.
In fact, don’t even worry about setting up your technology, your blog or any of the other assets you think you’ll need to get started.
That’s a common (and costly) mistake!
Instead, focus all your time and attention on creating that first info product and getting it right. Once you have that first product in the bag, you have a real asset that you can leverage.
But if you spend too much time on your technology or any of the other items you think you’ll need, you’re very likely to encounter obstacles that will cause you to quit early—way before you’ve created that asset.
#4: They have unrealistic expectations
We’re conditioned for instant gratification in Western society. If an app takes more than two seconds to refresh, we get frustrated. If we have to wait in the checkout line for longer than three minutes, we pitch a fit.
I get it. But building a viable and consistently profitable info products business takes time AND a good amount of work.
Even if all you want is an extra few hundred dollars a month in income, you’re still going to have to create and market the product. And that’s going to require some effort. It doesn’t happen magically.
So don’t fall for claims about four-hour workweeks and five-minute workdays.
You’re not going to wake up one day and find that you mysteriously made $88,631 while you slept—or while you sipped Limoncello and wrote poetry under the Tuscan sun.
Getting to that point takes time and serious, consistent effort. After nine years in the info product business, I’ve met many successful info product creators. And I’ve yet to meet one who didn’t put in a ton of hours… and who didn’t pay the price in blood, sweat and tears.
Sure, they may appear relaxed, beautiful and carefree in their videos. But believe me, they worked their tails off to get there!
And in 99 percent of cases, it took longer (and more work) than they ever thought it would.
Is it worth creating and growing an info product business as a side hustle to your freelance business?
Yes, it’s extremely rewarding. It can also be very lucrative. And you can dial it up or down depending on what you want to get out of it. So I don’t want to make it sound like this is the hardest thing on earth.
But you first need to be aware of the obstacles that will stand in your way. That way you’ll be prepared to work through them and increase your chances of success.
The best approach: Focus on creating and marketing your FIRST info product. Get that piece right. Build that asset first.
If you can do that, you’ve gone beyond where most aspiring info marketers quit. And you’ve set yourself up for a successful info product side hustle.
I’m about to work with a small group of freelancers to help them develop a passive income stream. We’re going to focus on creating and selling their first info product.
I’m looking for a handful of people to work with. And I specifically want to help create some success stories we can all brag about. 😉
Which means you’d have to be ready to work hard, implement, test and report back on results. (You’d need devote at least five hours per week to learn and deploy the material.)
If that sounds like you, email ed at b2blauncher dot com with the words “Info Product Coaching” in the subject line… and I’ll send you all the details.