Saturday, 14 October 2017

Getting your Product or Idea Online


Do you have a creative idea or concept that you feel would reach a wider audience, and benefit more people by being presented as a product that is available online? Online products are a wonderful way to share your Highest Artistic Vision with the world, and as the process is largely automated, it will give you more time to enjoy life and keep creating. 

There are many ways of delivering a product online – yet the basic creative and logistic development of all online projects is similar. This process is most effective when the essential components are approached in a flowing order that allows for integration at all levels. The four main parts are:

1. Creative development of product
2. Product planning and production stages from start to finish
3. Online tech components (the working parts)
4. Marketing and promotion

Once you create a product, there are multiple working parts that must be interlinked to support the sales and promotion of your product. These include an email marketing program to grow your email subscriber base, a website domain, hosting and clear web pages, web links and lead pages. Efficient delivery systems, an easy to use shop page, simple payment gateways and effective social media are all part of this cyber set up. It can seem overwhelming when you look at the scope of tech components required to sell a product – yet when these components are viewed as a connected system of simple, layered steps, it is easier to do.

Everyone has a great idea or an area in which they hold a special interest. If this idea can become profitable, and also serve others – it is a great way of supplementing your income.  We are living at a time where this is easier than ever to do, and people are buying online every minute of the day, 24/7. The advent of social media changed the way we communicate, and can offer a great means of promotion. Its important to be sensitive to your community's needs and stay grounded, remembering that your product is primarily about service. You must communicate your skills, but avoid using the product as a platform for self promotion. Relentless and aggressive self-promotion is irritating and will repel potential buyers.

You only need an idea to start with. Even if you have no technical skills, there are people who can help. In the early days I used to hire people to assist me with tech set up, but over the years I found it was not so hard to learn to put the pieces together. One of my dear dance colleagues had absolutely no computer knowledge, but had some great ideas that were very easy to turn into online products. I set up a small online store for her, and that has turned over $40,000 USD clear profit for her in the last four years. So this has been a relatively easy way to showcase her knowledge, and bring in a small income. She has been able to set her ideas free, and people who are interested in her life work get access to her brilliant ideas. So everyone wins!

In the last 15 years, I have had the pleasure of being able to share creative ideas, cultural research and dance/music methodology with many people around the world, thorough online products. It has proven to be an effective way of making viable career out of my hobbies, passions and main areas of interest. I have created over a hundred individual media products. One of the benefits is more free time, and less work hours. 


The process of online product creation is twofold; the creative side and the tech side. I have learnt some important things to be aware of in the earlier stages to allow the process to run efficiently. There is an order to work with, and it entails a layered process to save time and energy – otherwise you could be doubling up on activities. The projects that follow this basic sequential order have enjoyed the most success. I hope these tips are useful for fellow artists and creators who wish to share their work with a wider international audience.
Draft your initial idea and contemplate the format you envision your product to be translated into, eg: pdf, ebook, film, audio, e-course, or a multi-media project. Will it be part of a larger ongoing project or upcoming event, or contribute to a wider suite of works, and should it be available as a digital or hard copy item… or both? Does it reference your former work or idea, and can therefore be integrated into an existing system, or is it moving in a whole new direction, which will require more work and new infrastructure?
Do some market research on your target audience. What are their areas of interest, what problem do they want solved, what kind of products do they find useful. Study which formats they are already familiar with. Look at establishing a realistic budget and learn what this audience would be willing to spend on a product of this nature. It is an ideal time to do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities threats) of the product idea and its place in your live and online communities, or for your individual potential buyer.
In this initial planning stage, you will be working with the complete time frame from production to launch. Plan how you will get your product’s key message across with clarity, and how your sequential flow of information to the public will progress both before and after the launch. Create a schedule for product production and determine a budget, allowing 20% more in addition to this, in case it is needed. Decide on the over-all look and feel of the production, and become familiar with general pricing and delivery method. You can look at similar items to get an idea, but ideally, your production should offer something unique. Factor in time for delays, changes, challenges and re-doing things. I usually allow 25% more time than anticipated, just incase of delays. Remember to back up media at every stage.
Legalities are essential areas to finalise before production – so make sure that any music, media and IP (intellectual property) is yours, and is stated in a legal contract. If music is needed, liaise with producer of music and their terms to use it in your production, and clear this before starting. Or alternatively source musicians and pay them for their service in creating music for your project, and remember to sign legal copyright documents to use the music even after paying them.
If you need new artwork begin the drafting of the art, logo, font types and creative aspects of your product and related pages at an early stage. Even if photos still need to be taken, some planning at this stage will be useful, for example, the template can be designed and new photos dropped in at a later date. Sometimes, if you have older images or former productions that are referenced in this new product, choose the images and how they feature. Sometimes, if artists already have an established body of work, older images may be referenced, and the same logo and artistic templates can be used.
Draft your essential written copy and make a full description of your product’s aim and content. The content used needs to communicate directly to the potential buyer, so they understand the product and its benefits, and you must make sure that their concerns are addressed. Establishing the product within the wider context of your existing work is also important – so be sure to add a bit about your vision, past related work and how this product can be of service. Decide on various samples that may be included, and describe them. Copy for newsletters, social media, websites, pdfs, shop, etc must be drafted at this stage. As long as the main body of text is established, it is easy to tweak for various media portals (website, landing pages, social media, articles, marketing emails, etc). Get feedback , and if needed, you can enlist the help of a copywriter or editor.
Investigate delivery options and pricing for these. If the delivery method you plan on using offers a free subscription period (many offer a month), join up and do a bit of testing with a sample digital item to get familiar with the inner workings of the system. You may choose an e-shop that offers a payment portal, but also interfaces with a digital delivery system. This is an ideal time to be testing and setting up your ‘shop’ and methods to receive payment. Link your bank account at this stage, and organise any paperwork required for tax purposes (eg: business number, ABN, business name, etc) and set up your preferred payment gateway, eg: Paypal, Clickbank.
Organise a website domain and hosting if you do not have one already. Create an index page as the ‘homepage’ and several other pages which feature, with a common logo and menu. Create a social media link to drive traffic to your website, or create a sign up button on social media. If you don't plan to release a dedicated social media page, group or event until the actual launch date, then be sure to at least test run buttons and links that will become live at a later date.
For people to sign up to your email data base, you need a mail marketing platform, like the free Mail Chimp for smaller audiences, or paid versions like Madmimi, Constant Contact, Aweber and more. Set this up early and if you are already communicating with students or colleagues who may be interested, begin gathering emails via a newsletter or social media. Testing is essential to make sure all interfaces and newsletter boxes are sending traffic to the correct lists. This is where you can set up drip campaigns, where someone signs up and they receive several emails delivered at regular intervals.
Culminate your research on the topic, find suitable support material – images, music, etc, again, addressing IP and copyright. Practice your body of work, and become familiar with demonstrating or talking about it clearly if that is a part of the project. Make a plan with realistic deadlines, don't cram too much into a working day, and allow time in between tasks in the case of unforeseen circumstances eating up precious time. This is a time to stay focused, and also be aware on not getting stressed. You really need to clear out large chunks of time and say no to distractions. It is useful to prepare everything needed for production in this preliminary phase.
Production time entails a working schedule to complete the body of the project. It is also a time of enlisting the services of others, and executing your project’s main body of media work, which may require filming, recording, audio, writing – whatever forms your project takes. Maintain a budget, be aware of time frame and aim to work to a plan. Always take extra photos or document the work in progress, as this may be useful later. This is the most important time to stay physically healthy and mentally clear, especially if you are presenting the work. Be sure to record yourself giving a brief description of the work, or invitation to view, if you do feature in the production yourself. Aim to have some type of support or assistance at this stage, especially to take care of the more mundane things, as these small things use energy that is necessary for focused production work.
Post production is often a time of deadlines and budgeting, so aim to have a smooth schedule to follow with time for hiccoughs or unexpected changes in schedule to occur. Editing, final proof-reading, compilation, etc, happen at this stage. Always back up and make a spare copy of your material in case there are problems with media. This is the time that product artwork and design, and final copy and content, are to be completed – as this represents the final stages of your work. Trailers and final film edits, dvd authoring, audio mastering, and pdf formatting are finished now. Sometimes website graphics will need updating, even on pages that do not relate directly with the product, as you often need exposure on other pages, so do a web check now for maximum exposure of your new product.
This includes the place your product is stored for digital delivery, so now is the time to upload content. It also features your website, specific product web pages or lead pages with links, where customers can view and purchase the product. It is also where people sign up to your email data base, so you need a mail marketing plan, like the free Mailchimp for smaller audiences, to paid versions like Madmimi, Aweber and more. For all parts to work together, set up and testing is essential.
This is the stage to get from post production to the product in its final format – digital or hard copy. If digital, large MP4 movie files may need to be compressed, audio AIFF will need to be converted into MP3 and PDFs or ebook sizes may need to be minimized without quality loss. Hard copy items require pressing, duplication, printing, etc.
Organise your delivery method, which usually means joining or subscribing with a monthly fee. Some digital delivery platforms (also known as e-commerce platforms) include Sendowl, E-junkie, Pulley, Shopify - there are many. These handle all types of digital downloads and can also combine files of various formats into a ‘bundle’. They are great for courses. More specific ones are Vimeo (for video), CD Baby for audio), Pressbooks (for ebooks). There are also some course platforms like Thinkific, which take a percentage. Remember to shop around before this to get a feel for what would suit your item the best. For hard copy items, postage and shipping, or wholesale options need to be taken into consideration. If selling locally or internationally, work out postage costs, including packaging.
Test all products, finalise sequence for launch and be sure all aspects of the product entity are synched and working well, from web pages to social media links, product pages, description and email marketing, product delivery to payment gateways. Some people prefer to entice buyers with a free item in exchange for their email, and do a slow ‘drip feed’ or offer a free educational process, with a limited time offer. Others prefer to make a splash with a special product launch date, where people can get the new product, or perhaps offer a discount or pre-launch to their existing customers. At this stage, no matter what your launch process will be, testing is essential.
On the date you launch your product, be sure to have intro videos or webpage loaded, tested and ready to go. Keep copy and promotional launch content simple and well integrated with all aspects of the product launch to encourage good initial sales. For customer loyalty, you may have a pre-launch for existing customers and introduce a launch for new buyers or subscribers.
You may wish to do some post launch promotions in the days and weeks following the launch. I usually rotate the promotion of my products and group them into several categories. Work out ways of re-igniting interest in the product in time to come, and be sure to start gathering feedback and get testimonials. This is the time to ask for reviews, and get these onto your social media and website. If in the future you are looking at teaming up with affiliates, or people who will sell the product for you, and get a percentage, you will need to create the copy and pages or links they need to proceed with clarity and ease.

If starting out, and you have an ebook and video, that you wish to sell - you can get a free website, get free email marketing from Mail Chimp, and link it to paypal. Paypal take a small percentage of each transaction. You can get a minimal digital delivery quota from Sendowl for around $10 per month that houses and delivers your product for download to the buyer. So your digital costs to run an automated business can be as low as $120 a year. Ongoing costs depend on what your requirements are. I use Sendowl for digital delivery and Madmimi for email marketing, I like them both. Plus I have web and domain hosting plans with other providers. Remember, that all these monthly expenses are 100% tax deductable.

An affiliate sells your product and gets a commission. This widens your market and works for them too. Or you may allow the use of various parts of the project, in return for promotion of your product. It is also possible to team up with other complimentary producers and create a joint venture, by discounting both items as a package for the buyer.

I believe it is achievable for most people to initially sell 50-100 units of product a month with relative ease, even newbies, if it is the right product for your market. Of course, some people can sell thousands of units! The great thing is that these online platforms work for you internationally, 24/7. So you can earn an income throughout the year, even when you are away on holiday. The cyber world does require attention and clear communication, however the benefits are that you have more time available, and your work can be purchased easily. The buyer can receive their download immediately, which is satisfying for them. Making time for regular communication with your community, both online and in person, is essential because the cyber world is still about relationships and listening. 

Good luck with creating your online product! People get access to your ideas and expertise, your product will educate or inspire others, and you create an income flow in the meantime. Its a step by step process - go slowly and you'll find that each step is quite simple in itself... and it is the assembly of small steps that create your final Vision!

Related resources at 

Artist’s Web ($30) 
Grow your vision from the ground up, referencing the Tree of Life as a model for project planning, from its roots to the final web-ready stage. Keti shares an integrated physical/spiritual approach to creating products that reflect your Highest Artistic Vision, and express them in the world. Features 10 video tutorials and a comprehensive project workbook.

The Business of Bellydance ($8)
Tips for success with Bellydance teaching and ventures.

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