Selling Digital Products: Ways to get paid

Selling digital products: payment solutions

Selling digital goods and downloads has been around for a while now. E-books, music, high resolution images, software and games are the most popular kinds of products to sell online. When you decide to start selling digital products, the main question is – how to get paid for selling files? As a part of the team responsible for the Jolly Icons project, I have some experience to share on the matter.


Selling on Marketplaces

One way to do it is using the power of marketplaces. They can provide a solid amount of traffic to your products and many people will have an opportunity to see and buy it – with almost no SEO efforts from your side. This option also makes sense for certain items (like stock photography) more than others. Main flaw of the marketplace option is giving up a significant part of your earnings to the marketplace (up to 70% of each sale). Another downside is that while selling on marketplace you may have little (if any) control over the pricing policy of your product. On many marketplaces, like Graphic River (of Envato), price is determined by staff members and not the authors. Naturally, those factors get you wondering about breaking free and starting your own venture.

Selling Independently

Self-Hosted

Setting up a shop for digital goods is a vaste topic, and the payment processing itself has various options to consider. After making the choice of leaving a marketplace, we developed a product for independent sales and started exploring ways to get it started as soon as possible. Naturally, there was no point of setting up a big shopping cart with payment gateways just for this purpose. We quickly set up a one-pager product site and just needed to take care of selling process. This is where digitally selling services came in handy.

Shopping Cart

There are numerous e-shopping and cart services originally developed for selling physical products. Some of them (like Shopify) plugins for digital downloads as well as numerous additional features, tools and software for building a full-featured online shop. There’s plenty of free and paid themes, but any customization done by a Shopify designers might add additional cost (their rates start from $80/hour). In addition to that the company charges a percentage of transaction fees for merchants who sign up for their plans except Unlimited Plan (which costs $179/month).

Even though the minimum package starts with $29/month + 0.2% per transaction fee, this option seems a bit overfeatured for our goals. Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion Shopify is a great service and the pricing is completely reasonable for what it offers. The problem is that for now we don’t need most the features. We don’t need design or templates, because that’s what we do ourselves, and a need of integrating our design into system templates makes it more of an obstacle. We don’t need dozens of payment gateways – PayPal or Credit Card option is completely enough. Hosting, bandwidth? We have it already. Newsletters, analytics? Nice, but not essential for a test-drive project. Turns out, that most of the features included in the monthly price of a cart don’t make us any good. What if we could only pay a transaction fee? Let’s research this option.

Using PayPal

Why not just use PayPal, you’ll ask? PayPal offers an option called PayPal Digital Goods (Express Checkout) but it’s more of an API then a service.

Standard fees for the transactions on payPal are 2.9% + $0.30 USD. If your sales are less than $3,000 per month, on a $5 transaction you would be charged the 5% + $0.05 rate ($0.30), and on a $100 transaction you would be charged the 2.9% + $0.30 rate ($3.20).

To set up this solution be ready to provide PayPal team with certain information, official papers and details to get the approval. Also, to qualify for additional features of your PayPal checkout, like micropayment pricing (normally, less then $10 per transaction), you must submit an additional application, be approved, and have an account in good standing. For merchant rates (less then the usual 2.9%) you also must submit an application and have qualifying monthly sales volume ($3000+).

Selling Digital Products Services

Luckily, there are some specialized services that make selling digital products as easy and pleasant as possible. They instantly connect your product and a payment processor (like PayPal), providing an automated delivery of your digital goods immediately after payment, without you having to worry about delivery, security or possible downtime. You only upload files to their safe and secure servers, and they provide you with a shortened buy-now URL once your product is uploaded, and take care of the rest.

Fees to consider

Most of digital products services don’t deal with credit card companies directly (except Gumroad, Ribbon and Tinypass), but instead go through payment processors such as Paypal or Stripe. That’s why you have to take into consideration the fees charged by these companies as well as their pricing policy. Some of them offer a per-transaction fee (average of 5% + $0.30 fixed fee per transaction). Others charge you monthly depending on used storage and and product quantity, and in some cases depending on whether you have made any sales at all.

Here are the services that we’ve been considering are a payment service to deliver the files to the customers.

Shoplocket

ShopLocket lets anyone start selling professionally online in minutes. Simply publish a product, embed it in any website, Facebook page, or blog post, and start collecting orders.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Stripe

Features:
Nice looks, mobile optimization, low fees

Fees:
2.5% per transaction + PayPal / Stripe processing fees

Good for:
Starters, low-priced goods.

Sellfy

Sellfy lets creators of digital content – ebooks, music, video, photos, or basically any type of file – to sell their goods via a simple short URL. Provides an easy way to give buyers a discount if they share your product on social media, and they also have an affiliate program available. There won’t be any charges to sign up for the service, but there will be a 5% fee + Paypal charges on every transaction. So, you only pay once you start selling. Also, you can offer discounts for clients who recommend your product via Twitter or Facebook and then analyze the discounts, shares and clicks impact on sales.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Stripe, Paymill

Features:
Affiliate links, sales dashboard

Fees:
5% per transaction

Good for:
Starters, link sharing, low-priced products

Gumroad

One of the few services that can process credit cards directly. Takes care of digital product’s hosting, delivery, and payment. It’s quite simple: upload the product + add a title and description + email, tweet, or Facebook the provided link = get paid.

Gumroad works even in countries where Paypal isn’t available, such as Belarus or Montenegro.

Payment processors:
Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, Amex, Discover, Diner’s Club

Features:
Advanced analytics, credit card processing, nice looks

Fees:
5% + 25¢ of each transaction

Good for:
Starters, credit card payments, non-PayPal countries

Pulley App

Pulley is a hosted shopping cart system which provides a simple way to sell your digital art, music, videos, photography, fonts, eBooks, software, and other downloadable products. Dashboard gives an overview of sales, top products, order activity, customer details and activity in your account. Unlimited orders and bandwidth. All plans offer a 14-day free trial.

Payment processors:
Paypal, BigCartel

Features:
14-day free trial, pricing plans, BigCartel integration, cheap 100MB storage plan

Fees:
From $6/month for 100 MB storage.

Good for:
BigCartel shops, small files

[table id=4 /]

DPD

DPD is an easy to use platform for selling and delivering downloadable content. Upload your products or subscription content to DPD and start selling in minutes. With DPD, all sales are paid directly to you with no per-sale fees, bandwidth charges, or commissions.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Stripe, Payza, SagePay, 2SagePay.com, Clickbank, Authorize.Net

Features:
30-days free trial, customizable checkout, send product updates, customer newsletters, sell content subscriptions

Fees:
From $10/month

Good for:
Marketing, updatable products, subscription content

Ribbon Payments

Ribbon allows to accept credit cards instantly with no setup or monthly fees. Selling services, products (digital or physical) with a very simple upload process that gives you a short link to share. Every two weeks you’ll be get paid via wire transfer, check request, or PayPal.

Payment processors:
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB, Diner’s Club

Features:
Neat design, custom checkout, beautiful showcase page, credit card processing, unlimited number of products, digital and physical products, ability to let your buyers name their own price, payout every two weeks

Fees:
2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction

Good for:
Accepting credit cards, many products, digital and physical product, design products, letting buyers name their own price

Selz Payments

Selz is an out of the box e-commerce framework that takes care of everything from secure payments to delivery. It also provides you with tools to reach out to the audience in whatever way you choose.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Westpac. Payments are processed in Australian Dollars using an up-to-date exchange rate.

Features:
Analytics dashboard, customizable store page, marketing toolset (MailChimp + Campaign Monitor + AWeber newsletter integration), Facebook app, clean minimalistic design, credit card processing, unlimited number of products, “pay what you want” and free product option, payout every week, accepts files up to 4GB in size, provides code for embedding widgets and buttons, social buttons integration (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), selling services, previewing an item as a photo or video (accepts vimeo/youtube links)

Fees:
5% + 25¢ for each transaction

Payouts:
Seller receives payouts every Friday for any sales received in the previous week directly into the bank account or to the PayPal account.

Good for:
Marketing, accepting credit cards, selling digital items + physical items + services, letting buyers name their own price, store embedding, big files, selling on Facebook

Instamojo

Instamojo is a simple payment system that lets you sell your digital creations directly to your customers by just sharing a link. With Instamojo, you can sell your digital files as instant downloads, sell tickets and much more by sharing a link to your customer(s) or within your network of friends, fans and followers (example, you can sell your software, music, video, photos, podcasts, event tickets, online courses, web & mobile apps, e-books, e-magazine, etc). The payout happens on 2nd and 4th Friday of each month. Can be used by anyone with a Paypal account.

Payment processors:
Credit Cards, Net Banking (India)

Features:
Payout twice a month, free product option

Fees:
5% + 30¢ for each transaction

Good for:
Countries where PayPal is avaliable, Indian sellers

Nuubuu

Nuubuu helps to sell digital creations like ebooks, songs, music, videos, designs, icons, photos, apps – anything that can be stored as a file. The proceeds from the sale of digital goods is deposited to your PayPal account at the end of each month as long as you have a balance of at least $10 in your nuubuu account.

Payment processors
PayPal, credit cards

Features:
Monthly paybacks, expiring links

Fees:
5% + 25¢ fee for each transaction

Good for:
Accepting both cards and PayPal payments

Fetch App

Originally developed by Shopify, it’s now a separate service. Premium plans make no restriction on the number of products, files, orders, users, or any other feature. FetchApp is hosted software so there’s nothing to install and it works on any platform. Has an API and lots of documentation and lets you create multiple products without re-uploading the same files.

Payment processors:
Shopify, BigCommerce, FoxyCart, Goodsie, Google Checkout, PayPal

Fees:
Flexible pricing depending on storage space. From free plan for 1MB to $500 for 100GB storage. Also provides a self-hosted plan for $10/month.

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Features:
Shopify integration, API and documentation, creating multiple products based on same files

Good for:
Shopify carts, selling both digital and physical products (like photos and prints)

Instabuck

Instabuck is an online service that lets people sell their products independently. For the most basic package you get a maximum file size limit of 128 MB and an overall account limit of 500 MB. You are provided with a sales page; the URL of this page can be shared with potential buyers; all stats of your sales can also be viewed on this very page on a graphical display.
The iOS app allows to upload product via Dropbox, receive notifications each time someone orders your product and view sales stats. Free trial with Instabuck is unlimited. It will charge you only after your third sale. Every month that you don’t have 3 sales you pay nothing.

Payment processors:
Paypal, Clickbank, Payza or Liberty Reserve, Bitcoin

Features:
Landing page optimization, iOS app & push notifications, real time sales analytics with graphs, bitcoin payments, hosting for landing pages, A/B split testing, hosting files via dropbox, unlimited free trial (up to the moment someone buys your product)

Fees:
From $4.99 monthly for 500MB storage and 20 products
to $299 for 40 GB storage and unlimited products.

Good for:
Musicians, dropbox downloads

logo-intubus

Intubus is the ultimate service for selling and publishing digital products — e-book, music, video, photos, software, docs, market research, scientific work, drawings or any other digital files. Intubus offers flexible and effective solutions for storage, publish and manage personal digital content. It provides you with a shopping widget ready for placing. You can set the price and add your content to any websites, blogs or social networks, create own store or affiliate program. Once you upload your files, you can create such widgets to sell content, summary with a detailed description of your product, RSS-subscription or own shop, customized ads for your files and add them to your blogs and social networks. The money comes directly to your PayPal account immediately after the sale – 100% of the sales.

Payment processors:
PayPal

Fees:
Base plan – $5.99/month
Standard – $17.99/month
Offers a great free plan with 2GB of storage and 3 shopping widgets.

Features:
Shop widgets, tools for the distribution and sale of your digital content, instant payback, sharing tools

Good for:
Paid subscriptions, viral effect

Simple Goods

A unique feature of this service is an embeddable checkout, allowing your customers never leave the website. Files are securely delivered after each sale while unlimited hosting and bandwidth included. Payout via PayPal or directly to your bank account via ACH (US only). Customers are automatically added to your email
list.

Payment processors:
Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express)

Fees:
2,9% + 45¢ per transaction

Features:
WordPress plugin, MailChimp integration, traffic sources analytics, embeddable checkout, documentation for various platforms (WordPress, SquareSpace, Tumblr etc.), payouts every Friday, mobile ready, low fees, unlimited hosting and bandwith

Good for:
Wordpress websites, Squarespace websites, Tumblr blogs, marketing newsletter

Tinypass Logo

A simple and flexible tool that allows web publishers to manage access to their premium content without changing their site’s existing structure. Allows to charge for access to one piece of content or an entire section, set prices as low as two-cents, and easily adjust this approach based on audience response. Tinypass can be used in dozens of different ways to build a monetization plan that’s right for your audience.

Seller’s share of revenues becomes available for withdrawal after 30 days after the initial transaction date. Funds can be transferred via PayPal transfer, wire transfer, company check, or others, although charges for any method other than standard company check are deducted from funds.

Payment processors:
Credit card, Paypal, Tinypass account

Features:

  • CMS Plugins (WordPress, Drupal)
  • Create hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly premium access passes.
  • Multiple price options for different access periods.
  • Specify a certain amount of access that is allowed before visitors are prompted to pay.
  • “Pay what you want” option as well as “pay any price above minimal”.
  • Charge for the high-definition version of your content, or for an ad-free version.
  • Automatically handle splitting paid content revenue with contributors or affiliates.
  • Allow recurring billing for 1 week or 1 month.
  • Display localized currencies to your customers

Fees:
Depend on monthly sales:

  • Microtransactions (less than $1.99) 30% per transaction
  • Less then $2,000 a month = 15% + $0.30 per transaction
  • $2,000 and above = 10% + $0.30 per transaction

This pricing table is reset at the start of each month. Tinypass fees for microtransactions, here defined as any transaction equal to or less than $1.99, is 30%. All processor fees, i.e. credit card fees, etc., are included as part of the Tinypass fee.

Good for:
Big sales volume and amount of products

Quixly

Delivers digital files instantly and automatically once they make their purchase. Can hook in to a PayPal or Google Checkout account to automatically & securely deliver digital products to the customers. You can manage and track customer orders. Quixly is also a file storage/sharing service that provides easy and intuitive file management and customizable self-expiring URLs.

Pay As You Go Plan:

Quixly Pricing

You will be billed at the end of your billing cycle (1 month) for the bandwidth and storage you used during that billing cycle. For example, if you used 1GB of Storage and 15GB of Bandwidth during a billing cycle, you would be charged $10. Watch out for extra bandwidth costs or make sure to set a Price Cap on your account, so you never spend more than you want. For example, if you set your Price Cap to be $40, your service will be automatically paused for that month once your total usage has reached $40.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Google Checkout

Features:
Limited bandwidth, analytic reports and sales visualizations

Fees:
Self-hosted Plan for $7.00/month

Good for:
Small files, self-hosted files

Sellbox

Sellbox is a online service that allows you to sell any file (doc, slide, audio, video, etc.) from your Dropbox or Google Drive. The process is very simple, setting up takes just a few minutes. After connecting their Dropbox account, users select the files they want to sell, then set a file name and price. Sellers can share their files on Twitter or Facebook or via a shortened link, and buyers can pay for the files via PayPal.

Payment processors:
PayPal

Features:
Instant payback via PayPal,

Fees:
5% per sale

Good for:
Individuals, starters, Dropbox or Google Drive files

Chirpify

The app introduces an innovative way to buy, sell and pay with one comment on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Seamlessly connects in-stream social media transactions to your back office fulfillment and crm tools. Great choice for those who have extremely engaged Twitter or Instagram followers.

Payment processors:
Domestic Credit Cards, ACH or PayPal over Social Media.

Features:
In-stream transactions on social media, promotions & coupons

Fees:
5% + 30¢ per transaction.

Good for:
Social media, engaged followers

Digital Delivery

Uses Amazon technology to deliver files over a secure (HTTPS) download link with a time and/or click restriction. Provides lots of advanced security and CRM features, such as sending products updates for free, PDF stamping, mailing lists, discount codes and multilingual capabilities.

Payment processors:
PayPal, Google Wallet, Stripe

Features:
Multi-language, affiliate program, mobile optimization

Fees:
Offers a variety of pricing plans from $9.00 for 10 products and 1GB storage to $39.00 for 250 products and 15GB of storage.

Good for:
Updatable products (themes, plugins etc.), building relationship with customers, multi-lingual websites

Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads offers the easiest solution available for WordPress to sell your digital downloads. Each downloadable product includes a complete purchase log so you can easily see exactly who has purchased your product. The plugin includes a details sales and earnings graphs page so that you can visually see how well your digital downloads are doing. Includes monthly earnings. Discounts can be offered as set or percentage based amounts, and include options for auto expiration and maximum uses. Offers to the users purchasing multiple downloads at once with the included shopping cart.

Payment processors:
Stripe, PayPal

Features:
Wordpress Plugin, elegant reporting, discount codes, developer friendly, iOS app, multi-site support

Fees:
100% free to use with no license restrictions or expensive download costs. Priority support – $39/month.

Good for:
Developers, WordPress websites

More options

There are a lot of other options, and I’ve only listed services most suitable for the project, or used for similar products. There are more services, like Payza , BlueSnap, BitBuffet, FastSpring, Digital Goods Store, Payloadz or E-junkie that can be added to this list.

Final Thoughts

Best way to find the perfect solution is simply take the certain use case (number of products, storage/bandwidth requirements, planned amount of sales) and make a comparison table for each of the services.

For our Jolly Icons, aside of the fees, there were few other important factors to keep in mind. The service has to provide neat design of the checkout page, setup simplicity, marketing tools and ability to accept both PayPal and credit cards.

Another important concern is liability of the service. Clearly, this industry is growing fast and becomes more competitive. Last year’s startups becomes today’s leading companies – for example American Gumroad which announced in May 2012 that it had raised $7 million which is a clear advantage over newcomers to this field. Polish SellBox and Latvian Sellfy also have stronger positions then most of the startup services who are currently still in the infancy state.

And the winner is…

Jolly Icons + Sellfy

After comparing all these options we’ve finally chosen two services to handle the payment processing: Sellfy for PayPal processing and Gumroad for credit card processing. The customer is able to choose any of them during payment process. Both of them have rather strong positions on the market, provide nice UI, sales stats and fully meet our requirements.

Jolly Icons + Gumroad

We would also like to give some credit to Ribbon and Shoplocket for the competitive pricing and awesome features. We would definitely consider them among top-5 options for our next project.

Hope this article helps you to choose a payment solution for you digital products! Share your thoughts and experience in the comments, all the feedback is highly appreciated!

8 replies
  1. Geoff
    Geoff says:

    Hi, there is one you missed from your comprehensive list https://selz.com (disclosure I work for Selz). We’re popular with solorpreneurs as we’re as simple, quick and easy to use as Gumroad. We love supporting people with a similar independent spirit as us make a living online.

    Reply
  2. prosperbwealth
    prosperbwealth says:

    Thanks for this list. Still wondering why a company as technically sophisticated with talented folks still live in the yesterday’s mentality that makes them shut out countries from their platform. That’s money on the table they’re being blind to.

    Reply
  3. ModernWEB
    ModernWEB says:

    Don’t use SELZ.COM site, they KEEPING YOUR MONEY FOR MONTHS and puting wrong data in their system to have excuse. I was waiting over 3 month just to get email back from them saying that yea they didn’t pay me that yea my dashboard showing that they did pay me (data manipulation) and that i need to wait further. THEY OBVIOUS SCAMS im not the only one having this kind of problems. THAY WANT YOU TO MAKE SELLS SO THAT THEY CAN KEEP USING YOUR MONEY FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS – THAY COOPERATE WITH PAYPAL BUT PP WON’T DO ANYTHING EVEN AFTER THOUSANDS OF COMPLAINS – SAID anyway i worned you

    Reply

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