Affordable broadband, digital communication tools, and the rapid development of pro-grade content creation software at consumer prices have created an environment where intangible products can make you money online. While there is some question about what constitutes an intangible good, budding entrepreneurs should let economists bicker about the definition. For your purposes, think of them as anything that doesn’t involve making physical products. The much more important question is, “How do you make money from them?”

Pick a Niche

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of making intangible goods, you need to pick a niche. There are arguments against picking a niche. Changing your niche is difficult, for example. These objections miss the bigger picture. Let’s say you pick entrepreneurship as your niche. Entrepreneurship covers an extraordinary amount of ground. You can legitimately develop products around everything from small business accounting or marketing to effective growth strategies and productivity.

Picking a niche lets you do a couple of very important things. You can start positioning yourself as an expert. You focus your attention on a smaller sphere of knowledge. You can charge more for your work, which is always good for building a better money funnel. It saves you time by avoiding leads who aren’t really on the same page as you. It also leaves you open to develop a range of intangible goods.

Picking Your Intangible Goods

Intangible goods take on a lot of different forms. A few of the more accessible ones include:

The intangible good or goods you pick should lean on your existing knowledge, skills, or strengths. For example, if you worked as a personal assistant in real life, you’re well-positioned for a virtual assistant gig. Are you a semi-pro user of audio and video editing software in your private life? You’re in good shape for podcasting and making online courses. Do you rule the roost with Python, Java, or BuildFire.js? Apps are your friend.

You should consider the amount of time you have to invest relative to when you want to take the product to market. You can write a short, informational e-book fairly quickly. Depending on your programming savvy, app development can happen pretty fast. Course creation, by contrast, can take months when you factor in module development, recording, and editing. If patience isn’t your strongest virtue, look for something with a short creation-to-market timeline.

Making Money with Your Intangible Goods

In terms of making money, you must consider the total profitability and the timeline to profitability. Online courses in high-demand topics can offer big profits, but it can also take a while to generate demand for big-ticket items. E-books and apps have a lower profit margin, but they’re low-ticket purchases. It’s much easier to convince people to spend $5 than $295.

For an intangible product like podcasting, the timeline to profitability can be long because you must develop an audience. Once you develop the audience, you can take advantage of advertising and sponsorship opportunities. You can offset this timeline somewhat by offering secondary intangible goods. If you run a podcast about investing, you can also sell e-books about investing.

Most intangible products live or die based on a few factors. Your product needs reliable distribution, such as listing e-books on Amazon and offering online courses through Udemy. Your product must offer value. A course must teach a topic or process very well. A book must explain a topic or process very well.

Reviews are crucial. Without violating the terms of service for your distribution platforms, encourage your buyers to leave reviews/ratings on the distribution site.

You can make money with intangible goods, but the process is sometimes complex. Find a niche you like and know something about. Select intangible products that play to your skills and strengths. Make sure you have a realistic view of how long it will take before you start seeing a profit. Use reliable distribution channels that enjoy solid traffic already. Encourage reviews. While no one can guarantee profitability, this combination offers you your best shot at it.


by: Dennis Hung