If you’re creating a digital product to sell online, a big “ freezing” point for you might be choosing what platform to house it all on. I did SO. MUCH. research on this when I was working on creating my first online course. I got ALL the free trials and read ALL the reviews and clicked Next on ALL the Google pages. And lemme tell ya, there are quite a lot of options out there. They each have their pros + cons, and this is certainly not an end-all-be-all list, but I’ve rounded up some of the platforms I think are the best on the market (some well-known, some not so much). I’m gonna keep this intro short, because there are TONS of options to cover. Buckle up.
But before we dive into The List, let’s think about some things to consider as you’re choosing where to house your product + how to get it into your customers’ hands...
1. Customer Experience + User-Friendliness
If the customer isn’t having a good experience with the platform you’re using, stop using it. Simple as that 😃 This is the most important factor in choosing a platform. It all comes down to your students actually being able to use + interact with the product they purchased from you. If it’s not user-friendly, than what’s the point, right?
2. Design Aesthetic + Branding Options
As a designer, the look of the platform is always super important to me. And even if you’re not a designer, the look should be important to you, too. There’s a reason Apple’s packaging is extremely high quality – because it’s the first impression and hints at what’s inside. If the “outside" of your product is amateur, no one will ever know that the inside is high value, because they’re already turned off by the aesthetic. Make the outside match the inside with a platform that provides quality design. Brownie points for ones that let you customize the space even more to fit your brand.
3. Price + Commitment
Obviously price is a super important factor as well – gotta be able to afford the thing 😉 A lot of these platforms have monthly pricing, some offer discounts for paying the full year in one payment, and some even have a one-time lifetime payment rather than doing anything recurring. Your budget will definitely help you weed out which platforms won’t work for you.
Ok, on to the meat. Let’s break down our options into three categories:
- large products with multiple content components (video, PDF, chat, etc. like an online course or membership site)
- small products in a specific niche (platforms specific to certain industries that allow you to get your product in front of an instant audience)
- stand-alone options with no marketing capabilities (if you just want something to facilitate the checkout process + automatically deliver your product to your customer)
Large Products with Multiple Components
Teachery is my fave 😃 I ended up landing on this option for all my online courses, and I’ve been suuuuper happy with it. They’re affordable, great design (they’re currently working on a design overhaul to make it even better!), and the whole environment is great for customer experience, even those not-so-savvy students. Plus, I know the co-creator of the software, and frankly I like to support what he’s doing. And no transaction fees on all plans! You can read my full review of Teachery here.
This one is growing in popularity + offers a wide variety of features like affiliate options, options to customize HTML + CSS, and upsell/bundle options. Their pricing is pretty reasonable (there’s a free option), and I think they’ve come a long way in the last few months to allow more customization + branding to your courses. They’re another great option!
Teachable is another very popular option, and I’ve heard they’re super easy to set up for not-so-tech-savvy beginners. Their pricing seems a little high compared to Thinkific and Teachery, and I’ve noticed less customization options than other platforms as well, but people obviously don’t seem to mind. They also do A LOT of affiliate marketing to promote their platform – it must be working, but it’s also a little bit of a turn off for me personally.
Kajabi is expensive, and rightfully so – it’s a beast. If ConvertKit, Squarespace, and Thinkific had a baby, it would probably be Kajabi. They’re way more than just an online course platform. Very pricey, but very advanced!
Rainmaker is the slight cheaper step-sister of Kajabi. Again, it offers WAY more features than just online course hosting, but you’ll pay extra for all the bells + whistles. Also, Rainmaker is designed beautifully – very profesh!
Other options that I honestly don’t know much about, but might be worth a little digging:
Other sites that handle more of the marketing for you, but also take a big chunk of your profits (you’ll notice when you land on these home pages, they’re marketed more towards the students than the teachers):
Small Products in a Specific Niche
Obvi, I love Etsy 😉 I started out selling handmade on there (which is what most people think of it as), but it also has a fully integrated instant download option for selling digital products, and it’s become a huge part of my own business. Read about why I use Etsy here.
Who doesn’t love Creative Market?! CM is a platform for buying / selling all kinds of design assets – stock photos, illustrations, icons, textures, fonts, templates, etc. There’s a million great resources on there, so this is a great place for designers + artists to turn their work into some passive income.
This is a unique site marketed by + for teachers. They have TONS of resource for teachers from kindergarten through high school – everything from curriculum to classroom decor to activities to calendars. Anything a teacher might need, you can probably sell on TPT. I have my classroom-specific kits listed on this site, and though I only sell a few each month, it’s a place I know teachers are shopping + I don’t have to lift a finger to make the sale. Another one similar to this is Teacher’s Notebook.
If you’re a photographer, illustrator, or videographer, you need to get your stuff up on iStock! This is a massive database for all kinds of businesses to find + buy stock photos, video, illustrations, and even audio. At my old job, I was literally searching for photos on iStock every. single. day. This is one of the largest stock photo sites on the inter webs, so don’t miss out on their pool of customers.
Other options that produce physical products from your digital files, and handle all production, shipping, and customer service (so not digital products, but still passive income on your part):
- Minted (stationery, invitations, art prints, etc.)
- Spoonflower (fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap, home decor, apparel, etc.)
- Society6 (art prints, pillow covers, phone cases, stationery, etc.)
- Printful (mugs, art prints, phone cases, clothing, etc.)
- Zazzle (clothing, apparel, mugs, art prints, miscellaneous gifts, etc.)
Stand-Alone Options with No Marketing Capabilities
Gumroad is the beeeest. Their design + branding is killer, their customer service is fabulous, and their integrations into your existing site are seamless. It’s free to signup for Gumroad, they just take a small cut of your sales. I’ve mainly used Gumroad to sell bundled courses (mainly using it as a shopping cart only), and limited sales (you can limit the number of sales you allow). It’s also great for selling subscriptions (with monthly recurring payments), software / SaaS (license keys options), and pre-selling with a future release date.
DPD is a popular low-cost, no-frills option for automatically delivering your digital product – hence the creative name 😉 Their pricing is a little complex with limits on storage space and numbers of products for each plan (and no free option besides a 30-day trial), but the rest of their system is super straight forward + easy to set up and integrate into your own space – basically wherever you can paste a link, you can use DPD.
SamCart has been around for a bit, but has recently become much more popular (and their design has improved greatly, thank heavens!). They have powerful features including advanced affiliate options, A/B testing, upsell options, and LOADS of analytics. But it all comes at a high price tag – their lowest plan is $99/month.
WooCommerce (requires Wordpress)
I’ve used WooCommerce for physical products at a previous job, but haven’t had much experience with their digital download options, though I know they exist! If you’re a Wordpress lover, this might be the perfect gateway into selling digital products on your existing site. But don’t ask me how to set it up, Wordpress and all its many widgets is the most confusing thing on the planet to me (right up there with health insurance).
Squarespace, my love, I can’t forget you. With the e-commerce plans, you can sell digital files with ease. I especially love that their download links expire within 24 hours (to crack down on sharing links), but they have a convenient feature to resend a refreshed download link if a customer requests it. And just like the last example, if you already have a SS site, this is a no-brainer feature to use on your existing site. Their plans start at just $12/month and allow you to sell unlimited number of products, they just take a 3% cut – score!
Other options that I honestly don’t know much about, but might be worth a little digging:
- SendOwl (similar capabilities to DPD)
- Shopify’s Digital Downloads App (to add to your Shopify site)
- Memberful (membership plugin for Wordpress sites only)
- SentryLogin (membership plugin that can work on Squarespace site)
- TinyPass, recently acquired by Piano (membership plugin that can work on Squarespace site)
So there’s your ginormous list! There's literally 29 options up there. Like, whoa.
I know, it can seem overwhelming. But hopefully seeing some of these options broken down into categories can help you figure out which one would be the best fit for your product, brand, and budget. There’s a lot to consider, but don’t become paralyzed by it all – test a couple, choose one, and actually move forward with it. If you decide down the road that it’s not working out, you can always try something else. I’ve seen a lot of “big names” do this, and don’t worry it’s not the end of the world!
The most important thing? Eventually stop researching + take action.
FREE 8-DAY EMAIL COURSE – THE DIGITAL PRODUCT ROADMAP
If you’re curious about all the pieces of the giant puzzle that is creating + selling a digital product WITHOUT it feeling overwhelming (i.e. we’ll take it one step at a time), check out my free email course, The Digital Product Roadmap. This free course walks you through the 8 checkpoints for driving your digital product from idea to launch, and includes resources + action steps for each checkpoint (hint hint, picking a platform to sell it on is Checkpoint #6). Sign up below, and we’ll get started this week!