For anyone looking to start selling design products as a side hustle, this is the session for you! Our Creative Director Matt Slightam went through the opportunity and how to get started; from picking what kind of products to sell, how to research, and how to define your audience and brand, all the way through to how to create and launch your first product. This session touched on some of the content in our free Product Academy course, as well as some of the presentation concepts in Matt's Instagram articles, such as how to engage an audience and make more sales with a preview story.
Products featured in this session
Understand Selling Products
You can make money from selling digital design products, but it is important to understand how much money can be made. Selling products can include fonts, brushes, textures, illustrations, etc. The scope of the product and your skill set could translate to profits.
You can sell them as individual products or in design bundles.
Introduction to Design Cuts
Design Cuts is the only fully curated digital design product marketplace. They pick the best products that come onto a marketplace. They help and support the community through free learning. They have also helped designers make millions of dollars over the past five years and that has transformed their careers.
Understand Exclusive Products
Design Cuts produces wonderful things that are called exclusive products, where they come up with unique ideas and new goals. They combine those with leading designers and advise them on product creation.
They provide creative direction and marketing support as well. They create the highest quality, most innovative, comprehensive products. For example, The Ultimate Brush Toolbox is amongst the leading products in the marketplace since it was launched in October 2020.
Your skill set as a designer, whether you like fonts, textures, brushes, photography, illustration, etc, has a type of product that you can sell to make money. It's the perfect side hustle that can build up into a residual income and then some passive income. The goal is to not have to do too much or push too hard. You can dip in and out of it over time and build up with more products and make more money.
You can earn hundreds or thousands of dollars a year initially, but the best designers can make tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. This is a career that you can slowly move into until you reach a full-time and risk-free position.
It can take years to build up to be a top designer, but you can earn along the way. It is quite compelling to do it as a side hustle if you're a graphic designer who would like to de-risk. You can make passive income with it. You can build that up over time. When times are hard, you can always depend on the income coming in.
Design Cuts has a Product Academy. It's the largest, most comprehensive course on digital design products that is completely free. They support it with live sessions in the learning hubs and provide supporting content on Instagram, including weekly tips and free design templates.
It is a comprehensive premium-level course. There are large articles supported with tons of free content. It includes everything from the opportunity to finding your talent, defining your audience, creating your brand, researching a product, creating the product presentation, and then marketing your products. It has step-by-step guidelines for everything, with examples of other products and actionable steps at the bottom to make it as easy as possible.
Find Your Talent
If you are interested in designing products but don't know what you want to design, it is important to find your talent first. You need to know about your skills, what you are most passionate about, how you can translate those skills to actual products, where you can provide the highest quality of those products, etc.
Be honest with yourself and examine whether your design is good enough to make a product within the category you're focusing on. If you go to the ‘find your talent’ article on the Product Academy, you will see all the main types of skillsets.
Once you find your talent and know what you want to work on, the next step is to research. Research helps to immerse yourself in that category. You need to understand the gap, the opportunities, and visit marketplaces, forums, discussion groups, social platforms etc. Follow the best designers within that category.
For example, if you’re into illustration, a fantastic designer to follow would be the wonderful Lisa Glanz who is beyond talented. She's got tons of fantastic content on her social media. Follow her, look at her products, look at the other leading designers' products and engage with them. Talk to them about their work and seek help.
Design Cuts also offers free mentoring sessions that are extremely informative and helpful. Now, not everyone will have access to a creative director to provide regular feedback for their work, so making connections will come in handy. Nurture relationships with leading designers, people in the industry, or friends whom you trust and reach out to them for feedback on your work and ideas. They can act as your virtual creative director. It will be a massive shortcut in speeding up your design process when creating quality products.
Define Your Audience
Define your audience. If your design work doesn't resonate with your audience, it won't convert or sell. So you need to do some research. With all the products, gather some information, find out who your audience is, and note it down.
Look at the hard metrics, their gender, age, their job, etc. Then look at soft metrics such as their personality, what language resonates with them, what do they like, and so on. Understand who your target audience will be.
Brand and Branding
At the initial stage, start to think about branding once you've defined your audience, but put your products and sales first. It should all be about your products and your sales. You may get lost in your own branding and spend ages designing a logo and website. So whilst you should think about your branding, initially begin with a simple logo or name so that you can start to build equity.
At a later date, you can think about websites, social media, fine-tuning, etc. Initially, you don't have to niche it too much. Think about your official branding and your tone of voice. Think of ways to engage with your audience. Differentiate yourself by seeking out the competition in the marketplace. Identify how you and your products are different from them. Stand out and find an identity that will be recognizable to your audience.
Find a Concept
Find a concept to understand what will sell in the market by doing detailed research. Research is all about immersing yourself in your product category, looking for requests and wishlists in marketplaces. Check forums and discussion groups. Search through social media for people in need of a product that can help solve their problem.
Elevate an idea. Understand the pain points you can fix and make a product out of that. For example, Ian Barnard recognized a problem within his work. He saw that it was difficult to put together lettering in Procreate, in a structured manner, so he created the Grid Builder and sold it to help others. As a result, it turned out to be the top-selling product of all time on Design Cuts.
Once you have an idea for your product, create a scope document. Design Cuts has a free template. A Google document is used with all the exclusive product designers. It outlines the concept of what's going to be in the product, how will it help, what the cost will be, etc.
It helps understand the value proposition, the benefits of the product, the problems it might solve with the audience and things to establish at an early stage to shape the product as well as the marketing material. Reach out to your virtual creative director for feedback. Share it with them so they can comment on it. You can then change it and fine-tune it accordingly.
Break down each of the elements and flip back to the other one. For example, Trailhead's Ultimate Brush Pack includes a watercolor spec, pastoral spec, a crayon spec, a gouache spec, and an acrylic spec. He proposed the product as well as the different elements in the scope by breaking down the components.
Create a Timeline
Creating a timeline helps give you the encouragement to go ahead with the plan and keep up a product cadence. Try and work on a timeline for the products. However, if you find too much work within that spec, take out some of those deliverables. The only person who knows what the deliverables are and the piling pressure is you.
Take out some of those deliverables to meet the launch date and add them back later or update the product. Repromote it and reduce the price again. It is a great opportunity to remarket the product every time you update it.
Design the Product
Once you’ve got a good concept, feedback from your virtual creative director, and have understood your audience, it is time to design your product.
Create Mood boards
A mood board is picking lots of bits and bobs online from Google images or other sources and producing an idea of the style. It is a mock-up of what they could look like as finished products. It gives you the initial flavor and direction.
Create Initial Designs
Think of the product itself and what it might look like, what the elements and the functionality might be, etc. Establish an initial design with focus and direction. Make sure to gather feedback all the way through, and fine-tune it. Try out ideas and get feedback.
It is important to get regular feedback on your work. This will help speed up the project. It creates a stronger product. Use Google Drive to upload images and highlight sections of the image while obtaining comments as feedback.
Present the Product
Once you create the product, it is then time to present it. For example, the designers at Design Cuts have been working on their products for years and presenting them over time. The presentations always get better with time and experience.
Bridge the Imagination
The most important thing is to bridge the imagination gap. For instance, if you create a brush pack, avoid showing just the 20 brushes on the screen. It would be delightful to see what you can create with those brushes instead. Avoid showing the design elements, rather show them the designs made from those elements.
Bridge the imagination gap by showing people the exciting, interesting outcomes and products they can make with your products. They are far more likely to sell once the gap is bridged. So go the extra mile and take away the customer's guesswork. It is the outcome that excites and sells the product.
Design the Product Cover
The most important presentation graphic is the product cover. Would you pick up and open a book if you didn't like the cover? Maybe not. To see what's inside, you need to make an exciting cover that draws attention. Make sure it defines what's in the product, the scope of the product, and how it is different from other products.
To make it simpler, Design Cuts put together a product cover template as a PSD that can be downloaded and presented with a grid in Photoshop. You can click on the smart object and choose different layouts. It has recommended elements like a competitive possibility, a bonus element, product space for your logo, and so on, that can help put together a compelling cover.
For example, see The Slayout Lettering Masterclass by ShoutBAM in the image below. It shows that brand equity is really important. It's got a clear title and defines what's inside the product. The scope of the product, which is 120 pages, interests the viewer. It also tells you what you can achieve with the product.
It's important to check the previews of the product. Use a preview story to pull the customer and excite them about the product. Design an amazing cover to begin with. Show them all the interesting things and get them interested in opening the product. Share an intro and give them a background of the product. Share how it was made, why was it made and the problems it can solve.
Make a connection with them by giving them the scope of the product. Show them what differentiates the product. Give them a compelling reason to look through the rest of those previews. Hit them with a big hook combined with social proof. You could also use a testimonial that can help with the sales.
Next, tell them what's inside the product. Break your product into categories and show everything clearly. Use mockups where need be. You can also add something for free to keep them hooked. Lastly, give them an overview.
Launch the Product
Once you’ve created a great product, it is time to launch it. Build relationships with other product designers, with marketplaces and reach out to someone such as Matt.
Promote it on social media and reach out to the network that you've made of designers and other figures in the industry. Use a launch incentive, such as a discount; it is a powerful way of helping boost the initial sales.
Promote products via emails to your community and set up a few of the channels there through which you can sell your products. For example, Design Cuts sells via promoting them through emails and other channels.
Post Launch Strategy
After launching the products, think about a post-launch strategy. To maximize the ongoing income, think about product updates. Re-promote the product and reach out to the marketplaces. Increase your brand equity.
If you've created a really massive product, you can split that product into smaller individual products because that helps marketplaces sell one of those products and then the others. Don't be afraid of putting your products in bundles.
Congratulations! You have successfully learned how to design and sell digital designing products. For more information, please see the information provided below.