If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ll probably have built up a fair amount of knowledge about your area of expertise. So why not make some additional income from it, in ways that will scale without requiring additional time and effort? By learning how to start an information product side hustle, you can create something once which sells indefinitely to any number of people.
And even if you’re just starting out in your career, you might have in-depth knowledge of a hobby or interest that people could benefit from. From arts and crafts to learning musical instruments or competitive gaming, there are lots of potential opportunities if you can share useful advice.
- What are information products
- Choosing your niche and format
- Creating your information products
- Marketing and selling your products
- Other freelance side hustles to earn extra income
What are information products?
Any information product is simply a way to share or sell knowledge in a digital format. They can range from eBooks, templates and cheat sheets, to audio and video courses. And cover everything from one-page recipes to complete online courses and membership websites.
To create a profitable side hustle, you need to sell an end product. But you might want to create other free assets to build interest and trust before asking people to spend money.
It’s never been easier to share and monetise information online, but this means that you’ll face a lot of competition. Especially if you’re targeting popular and lucrative topics. Becoming successful will probably require some investment of time and money to build an audience of potential customers, unless you’re incredibly lucky or already have a fairly substantial network of people willing to promote and recommend whatever you’ve created.
Choosing your niche and format
Start by brainstorming some potential areas or topics that you might have specific knowledge in, and which would be potentially useful and valuable for other people to know. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to benefit your audience in some way.
For example, if you’re a freelance web designer, you might create a guide to using popular website platforms, how to design logos, or a tutorial on achieving a specific effect in popular graphics software.
The benefit of building on your existing career and interests is that you’ll have experience and knowledge of those areas. Including challenges that you might have struggled with in the past, and eventually mastered. You might also have an existing network of relevant contacts and ways to reach customers.
Some topics are generally more popular than others, including lifestyle, fitness, finance, travel, art, design and more. A larger niche will be easier to access, but tends to have more competition. More obscure areas have a smaller potential audience, but it’s easier to stand out.
When you’ve picked your niche, it will help you to decide the formats to use. It’s important to try and pick something you’re comfortable doing, which is appropriate for the market you’re operating in.
If you’re a writer explaining how to create a novel or screenplay, then an eBook might be the most suitable option. But a personal trainer offering exercise routines will generally do a better job if they’re comfortable creating video tutorials and guides.
It’s important to check existing products in your chosen niche to get an idea of how they are designed and marketed, the prices they’re able to charge, and whether you can offer something that’s better, cheaper or unique in another way.
Creating your information products
There are a wide range of tools that can be used to create professional text, audio or video products, or to manage online courses and membership services. But what you might overlook is the time and cost of production, which dictates how much you might need to charge to make a profit.
Creating an eBook might take you 40 hours of work, and you might pick £50 per hour as a reasonable return on your investment. Which means you need to earn at least £2,000 after production costs and sales fees. If you’ve picked a popular niche such as travel guides, you might reasonably expect to sell 200 copies at £10 each to reach your target. Whereas if it’s a technical manual for complicated software for architects, then you might have a much smaller audience and sales targets of 20 copies, but a price of £100 per copy might be reasonable given the potential value.
This is where your research into existing products will be useful, as it will help you to know whether your price points are likely to be realistic.
To actually create an eBook, there are lots of popular options, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Pages, Scrivener, Adobe InDesign and more. You can either output your work as a PDF, EPUB or KPF (Kindle Package Format), or use a variety of online tools to convert a .doc or .docx file into an eBook format. And you can choose to create your own layout and cover, or bring in a freelancer to add the finishing touches.
Audio recording and editing options include Audacity, and podcast services such as SoundCloud, Anchor and Spreaker. And you might record video on your phone and then edit it with tools such as Blender, iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. For screen captures and recordings, there’s Camtasia, or OBS Studio.
Whatever you’re looking to create, there’s software to help you. And it’s easy to add purchase options to your website if it’s using most of the popular platforms, including WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify and more.
That’s why many people get far too caught up in trying to choose the best software for their project, rather than focusing on more important tasks. A highly polished, professional product is great, but as long as you’ve got something which is usable, and delivers value to your customers, then that will work. It’s always possible to invest in a better book cover, or hire an audio editor for some extra flair once you’ve made a few sales. That will show you have a viable product, and allow you to spend based on user feedback.
It’s also worth offering early copies to friends, contacts and influential people within your niche to see if they’ll offer constructive criticism. And hopefully they’ll also leave early reviews and share recommendations with their own networks to give you an early boost in awareness.
Marketing and selling your products
You may already have a sizable audience for an existing website and social media profiles which is appropriate for your new product. Or you might need to build something from scratch if you’re branching out into other areas, or want to keep your side hustle separate from your main career.
In addition to selling from your own websites, there are also a range of suitable marketplaces for all types of information products. For example, you might upload your eBooks to Amazon and Blurb, or offer courses through Udemy and Skillshare. You can even sell Excel spreadsheet templates and dashboards at sites including SpreadsheetNut or Templarket. DIY art and craft instructions can be sold through Etsy, and there is always somewhere to sell any type of info product. Whichever sites you choose, make sure you check details including any required subscription or sales fees.
Whatever routes you choose to sell your product, you should learn what options are available to create the best possible listings to reach the biggest number of relevant customers. For an Amazon eBook, that might mean optimising your cover, description and author bio before adding a category and keywords.
Optimising your listing will help attract customers already on a marketplace, but building a marketing funnel will attract people from elsewhere. Anyone arriving from your website, email list, or social media profiles will already know you, and will be less likely to browse competitors offering similar solutions.
Email newsletters are particularly useful for promoting information products available either directly, or via the appropriate marketplace. Not only can you regularly alert and remind potential customers of what you offer in various ways, but they’re already interested enough to let you into their email inbox.
If your pricing and profit margins allow for it, then paid advertising is an option, whether you’re listing against search engine results or targeting audiences on social media. This can help you reach a new audience that might not be aware you or your product exist. Or even that there are information products designed to solve whatever problem they’re looking to solve.
And it’s worth remembering that it’s easier to sell something to an existing buyer than attracting a new one. So if you have more than one product available, make sure you’re looking at upselling additional purchases, cross-selling complimentary items, and keeping their details if you plan to release further related products in the future.
Every sale is an opportunity to also attract reviews and recommendations. Pretty much every marketplace has a recommendation system based on customer scores and feedback. Encouraging positive responses, answering further questions and dealing with any complaints promptly will help to reassure anyone considering your products. And make sure you’re sharing those testimonials as far and wide as each platform allows, whether that’s on social media or adding them to your own website.
Competitions and special offers can also be helpful, but be careful if you’re considering reducing prices. It’s often better to bundle more value into your product, by including some free extras, rather than discounting the cost. People will often be sceptical of something which is too cheap, especially if you’re claiming to offer them something valuable.
Offering further support, consultation and other related services can then tie back into your main freelancing occupation. Or provide you with opportunities to recommend other freelancers for a commission, building yet another revenue stream. Just make sure any partners, affiliates or other linked businesses will provide the same level of quality and service, so it doesn’t undermine your own efforts.
Other freelance side hustles to earn extra income
Looking for ways to earn extra income alongside your self-employed or freelance career? Why not check out some of our other guides to bring in some extra money?