In 2021 I became a legit creator. Generating over 12k in revenue from digital products. Here’s how it played out step by step.
I have played around on the internet for over 10 years. Always wanting to create something of significance, never quite hitting the mark. Never staying at it long enough to see any significant growth.
People often ask me why I became a creator. And the answer lies in the pandemic. I have a full-time job that I absolutely love where I coach fitness professionals on how to grow their business through marketing.
The pandemic hit the fitness industry pretty hard and I remember sitting in my office in March 2020 listening to our prime minister announce that every gym, studio & PT business was to close its doors in 24 hours.
That moment scared the crap out of me and put me on a path to creating a portfolio of small bets, so I would never be in a position where I was worried about income again.
A few people have asked me how I did it, so here I am sitting down at the end of the year looking back at not just the growth, but the activity and lessons learned. Here is a month by month breakdown of how it all happened.
December 2020 Product & Revenu Tracking
I launched my website (yet again) and decided to start creating content in 2021. I also launched my first template, the Design Your Perfect Year Notion Template. 2 people downloaded it. In Total. In the whole month.
Luckily my PT was one of them and was generous enough to pay me $10 for it.
This creator thing is off to a great start 🤪
Total Downloads *:2
Total Revenue: $10
*Just a note that these total downloads & revenues are from all products in that month (not just the ones I mention).
I wrote a few blog posts (OK, maybe 2) and a few people discovered my Perfect Year Template, 9 to be exact.
Total Downloads: 9
Total Revenue: $0
I joined a 28 blogging challenge. Wrote 14 blogs and completely burned out. This was also the month I became a Notion Ambassador on a whim. A couple of people I follow mentioned they applied and I thought, I could do that. A week later I got an email saying I was accepted!
I launched my next three templates in quick succession: The 30 Day High Vibe Energy Tracker, #100day Project Tracker & The Every Person’s Zettelkasten.
Lesson: Doing things in communities is much easier than doing them on your own. Find your people.
Total Downloads: 54
Total Revenue: $3
March was a busy month at work leading up to an in-person event. But something significant happened behind the scenes, I joined ship 30 for 30. But more about that in April.
Total Downloads: 31
Total Revenue: $0
I spent the month of April shipping little yellow essays and growing A LOT on Twitter (almost doubling my followers in just over a month). As I was shipping I solved a problem I had of needing to keep my essays in a central place, and so I launched the ship30 Notion Library.
Total Downloads: 39
Total Revenue: $30
After I finished my first cohort of ship30 with less than 1000 followers I pre-launched my first paid product, Consumer 2 Creator Lab Workshop + Template. And holy cow, 30 people paid me money for it.
Now we’re talking, this is some significant money.
Lesson: Launch before you think you’re ready & don’t wait for some magic follower count to be ready.
Total Downloads: 102
Total Revenue: $1661
People continued to buy Consumer 2 Creator Lab in June and the majority of my revenue still came from my signature product.
I launched a couple of small templates in June including my Pink Sheet template & Build In Public Template. Both were templates I was using in my own library and talking about in my writing, so it was easy to launch them.
Lesson 1: Show Your Work & Then Ship the System You Use to Make Work Happen.
June was also the month I launched my second paid product: The 30 Day Experiments Field Guide. This was an ebook I built in Notion with a whole lot of my writing from my first 30 days of ship30 packaged up with a template to track self-improvement experiments.
I sold it for $9 thinking that pricing it low would mean I could sell a lot.
Lesson 2: It takes just as much work to sell a high priced product as a lower-priced one (except you make less money on a lower-priced product). So… raise your prices.
June was also the month I became a co-founder of a Notion SAAS product called Blockbase. I mean what else am I doing in my spare time?
Total Downloads: 221
Total Revenue: $3030
In July I decided to launch my third paid product — a workshop called The Creators Guide To Building Notion Products. I’d learned some lessons from launching 2 products and thought why not teach that to some of my friends. 50 people signed up for the two sessions in total.
Lesson 1: Don’t wait for some far off date to teach what you know, instead be a guide for those who are just close behind you.
Lesson 2: It’s easy to sell during launches, it’s much hard to sell long term. Still working on this lesson.
Total Downloads: 162
Total Revenue: $1417
In August I launched the Daily Creator Collective, originally launching it as a paid community that no one joined (yep, zero). So I changed direction and opened it up as a free community with a paid tier.
Lesson: Communities are hard work and are not suited to my product mix. I love engaging with people on Twitter. But in a community, there is a lot of pressure to keep up the engagement and that’s not my strong point.
I also started writing on Medium in August and made exactly $1.05.
Total Downloads: 85
Total Revenue: $67.05
I launched my fifth paid product: The Focus Hub Template + Workshop. I even launched it a week early! And even though it was well-received it wasn’t my favourite product and I realised I wanted to stick to creating products for creators.
Lesson: Just because you CAN build a template, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your mix. You have to be personally passionate about it to bring the energy.
In other news I had a Medium article go somewhat viral with over 5k views and I got a $70 payout from Medium. Not bad going from $1 → $70 in just one month.
Total Downloads: 133
Total Revenue: $1308.27
Lots of shipping essays on Twitter, but to be honest I was a bit shipped out of product launches, so not a lot to report. Thank goodness for the magic of compounding that kept some revenue coming in including another $100 from Medium (but no more viral articles yet).
Total Downloads: 240
Total Revenue: $983.61
In November I decided to try my hand at launching a course. I knew I didn’t want to build a cohort-based course, so I launched Consumer 2 Creator Self-Paced Course. It went beyond the tools and into the mindset & process behind note-making & creating.
It was also my highest priced product so far, so I hit my highest month of revenue (just) by selling fewer products.
Total Downloads: 153
Total Revenue: $3059.91
Remember that first template I launched back in 2020, Design Your Perfect Year. Well, I updated it for 2022 and re-launched it. As of today 200 people have downloaded that template this month.
Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to update and re-launch things once your audience starts to grow.
I also launched Spark365 Journal which was a 365-day journal for creators to get a daily spark of inspiration. I only had 2 people buy it during pre-launch so I decided to refund their money and dump it.
Lesson 2: Don’t be embarrassed to dump projects that don’t hit with your audience. I couldn’t justify spending that much energy on something that only a few people were interested in.
On a whim on Christmas Eve, I decided to do a MEGA launch of 5 of the part-time creator templates that I’ve used throughout the year to track and make these launches happen. I came back later in the day on Twitter to find over 200 people had requested the templates. It is by far my best launch of the year.
Lesson 3: When everyone else is winding down, wind up. There’s little noise during the Christmas/New Year period so when you make a noise on Twitter you’re more likely to be heard.
December I spent more time launching free products than paid, which although doesn’t pay in revenue, it pays off in the long run when I start launching paid products in the new year again. It definitely pays to play the long game.
Total Downloads (so far): 474
Total Revenue (so far): $437
My Top 10 Learnings From Making $12k in 2021
- Don’t stick to just one type of product. I launched templates, workshops, communities, guides, courses. I know what I like now and what isn’t suited to my personality type.
- People buy during launches so make the most of them, but then find ways to keep selling past the initial launch. I’m still figuring this one out
- Create a portfolio of products. My signature product is still Consumer 2 Creator Lab, but I’ve been able to create a suite of other complementary products to go with it.
- Price things higher than you are comfortable with. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean you’ll sell more of it. I’ve sold double the amount of Consumer 2 Creator which costs $59 than I did of 30 Day Experiments Guide which is $9.
- Find your Super-Fans. I somehow have people who buy things just because I make them. I try and reward them with pre-launch specials because I know they will reward me with talking about my products.
- Start before you’re ready. People out there might tell you to wait till you have 10k followers, but why wait? If you have a hint of an audience put your feelers out and see if people are interested.
- You don’t need to be an expert. A lot of people tell me they can’t launch anything because they are not an expert. People aren’t expecting you to be one, they are looking for a guide who is at the next stage from who they can get advice.
- Free is fine, but give people an opportunity to pay you. The best advice I got was to put my free templates on Gumroad. Not only can I track the downloads, but really generous people have paid me throughout the year which still blows my mind.
- Build in public. The most successful people I know who are selling products are the ones who are doing cool shit and then teaching others to do the same and that’s the framework I followed. I showed people behind the scenes into my Notion workspace and my processes and it got them excited when I launched those same workspaces & processes.
- Be OK with failing (& in public). Sometimes things work, other times they flop. My paid community was a total flop. I canned my Spark365 Journal because no one was interested. But I won on many other products. You can only win if you make plays. You’ll win some & you’ll lose some.
Growth is definitely not linear, but the cumulative effect of all those downloads and all those dollars are what matters most.
In total I had 1606 products downloaded and made $12,572 in revenue. Not bad for someone who also managed to hold down a full-time job, ship over 200 essays, survive four months of lockdown and still have somewhat of a social life.
If you liked this article, follow me over on Twitter where I write daily about the essential systems you need to get started & survive as a part-time creator.
And if you’re interested in any of my products you can view them all on my Gumroad page or my website.