Who’s making passive income from ebooks, courses & membership sites, and what can they teach us?
If you’ve ever Googled around for information product examples to give you that little bit of inspiration and help in choosing your own idea, you’ve no doubt come up empty handed.
Unfortunately, until now no one has compiled an epic list of the most successful information product businesses out there. Time to change all that!
In this article I’ll walk you through over 40 of the best info product businesses out there. I’ll tell you who’s making money, exactly how they’re doing it and what lessons we can takeaway. As always my focus will be on getting us to dream up our own ideas off the back of these cool case studies.
By the end you should have several really cool information products in your mind! And if somehow you don’t, you should checkout this.
This is an interesting case study that you have to check out, because you should be able to relate to it.
David quit his job and started hunting out some good old passive income. He decided to hit up the minimalism niche. This was back in 2009, before the niche was insanely crowded.
Side note: although a niche like minimalism is packed, it is still attractive because big numbers show big interest and well, if you examine the average minimalist aficionado (eg me!) we often buy everrrrry single info product on minimalism we can lay our hands on; ironic as f*ck, right?! But true. Continue Reading >
I thought it would be fun to juxtapose Expert Enough with Corbett Barr’s main venture, being the Think Traffic blog and it’s associated products including Affiliate Marketing for Beginners, Start a Blog That Matters, Traffic School and more recently, Fizzle (see them all here).
Wow! What a difference.
With the Think Traffic products Corbett is earning well over $100,000 a year, and that’s being very conservative, since it’s based on a post he wrote almost 2 years ago. Continue Reading >
If you had said to someone five years ago that you were going to create a website that taught students how to land investment banking jobs and that you were going to turn it into a $1,000,000 dollar business, they probably would have laughed their asses off at you!
But hey, that’s exactly what Brian has done over at M&I.
Here’s how… Continue Reading >
I’m focusing here on Yaro’s first product launch, but before I get into that, let me be upfront about this; this is a case study of how to make money online by teaching other people how to make money online.
Since Yaro had already made decent money online from non-MMO niches (essay editing, blog editing, card game website etc), I feel good about including this case study.
So Yaro’s first product, Blog Mastermind, was a membership site on making money from your blog. Continue Reading >
I remember first coming across Lindy Chen’s website a few years ago when I was researching how to import from China for a few ecommerce ideas we were stewing over.
For any of you who have researched it yourself you’ll agree with me when I say the information out there on this topic is terrible.
Most sites contain trifling bites of barely comprehensible information and almost none contain anything approaching authoritative how-to articles. Continue Reading >
Big regrets laughing when I heard my friend’s Dad was feverously researching how to keep his own chickens…
Because when I found out that this site, dedicated to teaching people how to do this very thing, was making an absolute killing online with 100,000+ uniques a month I felt like the out of touch one. My bad!
But wow, was I happy to hear it, because it confirms once again, that just about every niche on Earth is full of passionate people that yearn for information and will pay good money for it. Continue Reading >
I think I mention knitting a lot on this site. It’s just such a good example of a tasty niche, since avid knitters are always trying new things and spend weekends locked down in their own lil mini sweat shops (aka they’re homes!)…translation, they eat yarn for breakfast and buy a lot of everything!
I’ve studied the knitting niche a bit for inspiration purposes, and I’ve found that the big money makers are obviously information products(particularly video courses since they are the best way to communicate how to knit), knitting supplies, and most importantly, for this case study at least, knitting patterns (the diagrams knitters use to make clothes).
Let’s focus on the patterns for a minute. Continue Reading >
When I was younger a friend of mine, let’s call him Vince, was a hobby boat nut! I enjoyed it too, you know, go down to the park, put the mini speed boat in the water and hoon around.
But wow, what he spent on it!
I think the average boat kit was $500 and then there were all the add ons. Continue Reading >
You’ve probably heard of Pat Flynn before, over at Smart Passive Income, and we’re about to look at his first money making venture online to see what we can takeaway…both the success lessons and the big bad mistakes.
So Green Exam Academy is a site that teaches architects how to pass the LEED exam (an exam you need to take to get a license to work on Green Energy buildings, or something). Greeeeeat idea!
I know at the time Pat didn’t actually think about any of these pointers I’m going to make, but we can reverse engineer it all and narrow in on the reasons why someone would want to start this idea. Continue Reading >
This is going to be a weird case study, but I want to include it because there are some very inspiring lessons in here.
Okay, so there’s this dude called Dr Loop. He’s a chiro, but most of his money comes from teaching other chiros how to market their business online (through social media, SEO, email marketing etc) and also teaching online entreprenuers how to make money online.
Now Dr Loop is an interesting character. He doesn’t really go into too much detail on his successful ventures (I gather this is more reserved for his coaching clients), but he does share some very powerful tips, especially with this one software product he launched. Continue Reading >
Probably my favorite blogger going around, Leo somehow manages to continually pump out useful content on a swathe of topics related to personal development.
I love that he continues to advance himself with everything from meditation to raising his kids, but what I really love is the amount of passive income he’s generating now! Hahaha.
You knew that was coming. Continue Reading >
Something a little different! As you can imagine this is an information product for people trying to learn their way around Excel. What you might not realize without doing anymore research is that this product sells for $99 and has sold over 24,481 copies! Buuuuu yao!!
It’s a terrific example of what can be achieved when you teach people an important skill – the kind of skill they can use to increase their earning capacity…kaching styles.
What skills do you have that would help people earn more money, get a rise, land a better job etc? Continue Reading >
Cake decorating. Yeah, that’s right. An information product on cake decorating is a profitable niche! If that doesn’t inspire you to realize pretty much any specialized knowledge you have can be turned into a profitable info product, then I don’t know what will.
This is another case study I’ve plucked from Udemy.
Jodi Schweiss I love you! Jodi is inspiring. Here she is with a full time job decorating cakes and yet she made the time to create this course. As with most things Udemy related, this course is mainly video based. Continue Reading >
If you’ve read Josh & Ryan’s blog before you’ll know they talk about how to live a meaningful life. Unlike most blogs the quality of their writing is at a professional writer level…and well, they are professional writers (Joshua at least is).
Thanks to their focus on pumping out high quality posts – I mean essays – they have attracted a huge audience. Over 100,000 unique visitors a month in fact.
How have they monetized this traffic? Continue Reading >
This is probably one of those passive income ideas I would have had when I was in my early 20s. After all, think about how much time we waste on looking good when we’re young!
Anyways, the idea is simple; teach people how to get a body like Gerard Butler and crew in the Sparta movie, 300.
Leveraging off the Hollywood effect of a movie is genius. The movie is doing all the selling for you! The movie will get people searching for something like “300 work out” or “300 diet” or “Spartan work out”, whatever, and your blog on all things Sparta fitness related will reel in the traffic. Continue Reading >
A website dedicated to sewing! Oh yeah, that’s right. And wow, what a hot ass niche – crafting is one of the biggest past times in the world.
If you are a crafter, you need to be thinking long and hard about a blog, especially since your passion can drive the content creation machine. That said, as you can imagine there are 1000s of blogs on sewing alone, so the question becomes…how did Sarai, from Colette, execute on her passive income idea to beat the competition?
Adam Baker started this site to share the lessons he learnt along with his wife, when they set about eliminating their mountain of personal debt a few years ago. The site is thus a personal finance blog, but with a focus on eliminating debt. I like focus!
What’s most interesting about Adam Baker is how he grew into a real online business builder. Starting out with an ebook on how to sell your stuff for maximum profit on ebay, Craiglist etc, he’s progressed to launch a membership site on debt reduction (You vs Debt) as well as a freaking feature length movie (one I might add was crowdfunded and not so much profit oriented).
He was also the co-creator of Only72, which did to information products on making money online, what Groupon does to small businesses every day – ie bundle deal site. Continue Reading >
Steve Kamb came up with a great idea. Take a huge topic, in this case health & fitness, and then niche it down not based on the topic, but rather based on the target audience. Before going any further, think about what this means for you and the topics you know.
Example, say you are a financial planner, maybe instead of hoping to teach stock picking for everyone you can niche down and focus on retirees and all their associated specific needs (time horizon, risk preferences, lifestyle fit etc). This is just one of many ideation techniques out there and we go through them all in the Idea Generating Article.
Okay, back to it. Here’s exactly how Steve has killed it online with his fitness website. He wrote a ton of content. He did a ton of guest posts (especially on non-fitness websites, that he knew would be read by his target audience of nerds, eg tech blogs). He created a community around the comments section of his blog and through the massive forum component of his site (hello loyal tribe!). Continue Reading >
Oh wow! I wanted to bring you guys a language teaching example, and since I was personally thinking of doing a course on introduction Chinese Mandarin, I Googled around a bit to scope out the competition. It’s fairly smooth sailing I might say!
All the sites out there are either from the 18th century, or content-light sites put up by the BBC, Chinese TV etc. The one site I came across that offered funny, interesting video lessons though, was Chinese with Mike. It’s a site led by you guessed, Mike.
He’s a mullet-sporting American and a big fan on infotainment. Mike’s videos at first give you the impression he is on another planet (I like the big ass personality, because you can’t click away…hello engaged user!), but then he whips out pitch perfect tonal Chinese the next minute. Love it. Continue Reading >
I first heard about these guys when listening to a Pat Flynn Smart Passive Income Podcast. I loved that Pat was finally getting to share a few success stories of making money online that weren’t to do with teaching people how to make money online! As someone who created a careers advice membership site myself, this was verrrrry refreshing. So here’s the story behind Harvest Eating.
This chef, Keith Snow, decided to create a site showcasing awesome recipes for fresh local style eating. He put a ton of content up and then added a You Tube channel too – ie he was no longer just writing about his recipes, but also cooking them like a mini Jamie Oliver.
He rolled the site he had into a membership site, where people paid to access all the content. Membership fees were either monthly, yearly or lifetime. He’s got over 1000 people paid up, many of whom would be monthly members at $4.99 a month. Now I don’t need to do the math on this one, you can clearly see this is generating $20,000+ a month for him (assuming half of people take up the discounted options of yearly or lifetime membership). Continue Reading >
How do you create a million dollar passive income business? Create a community centered around an intense pain and sell info products and services to them all. Done.
Seriously, that is exactly what Patrick Curtis has achieved over at WSO. Let me give you the run down on exactly what he’s created, so you can think about what similar community sites you could create…hello Jack Russel dog training!
Jack first created WSO as a news and forum site. So students interested in landing a job on Wall Street would come to read up on what was happening (funny take on the finance news) and would ask each other 1000s of questions on all things Wall Street related, from resume questions to interview hacks. Continue Reading >
This one page site – built probably in less than 3 hours using the Unbounce platform – sells text & image driven sales videos to online entreprenuers; eg someone launching an ebook.
The cost is $499 and all the work is handled by a team of 5, leaving about $100 for affiliates and about $270 profit per video in the owners hand. How do we know all this?
First heard about this product through Derek Johanson, an online entrepreneur who creates and co-creates products for his fellow online entrepreneurs (eg course on copy writing, course on information product creation and now a course on fitness.).
So it seems to me Derek would have advised Clay – the fitness expert – on how to create this info product, and in doing so I think they’ve created something pretty cool.
In a niche that is saturated with info products on how to build muscle, get ripped and generally become a world beating mofo, you can imagine the challenge of launching a successful passive income stream in it would be tough. But here’s what I think the guys have done right. Continue Reading >
I’m 99% sure this is Lee Burrel’s site, which created after being inspired by the Four Hour Work Week AND I’m 99% sure he’s making a million plus a year from this based on a video testimonial / case study he submitted to the Four Hour Work Week Blog 1 or 2 years ago. So with that unreserved success established, let’s take a look at what he did and what we can learn from it.
So my understanding is that Lee was no GMAT genius when he decided to launch this site. What he did was team up with a GMAT tutor. Already that should be setting of massive alarm bells for you…what ideas do you think would be awesome to launch, but you’ve always held back because you don’t think you’re an expert enough? Can you find an expert to team up with?
For example, I might be doing something in the sewing niche soon – an ecommerce site drop shipping a particular item every good sewer needs (think 14,000 searches a month and almost no competition) – but I have no freaking idea about sewing. Well, I’ll find a knowledgeable sewing blogger who knows the subject, but maybe is not so good at monetizing their blog and so would love to earn money from creating content for the niche. Boom! Anyways, so that is what Lee did here. Continue Reading >
An ebook on how to use Evernote. $160,000 passive income (net) a year. Oh yeaaaaaaaaah baby! Round of Pina Coladas on Brett Kelly, the author of this puppy!!
I first read about Brett on the Four Hour Work Week blog and more in Chris Guillibeau’s $100 Startup Book, and was blown away.
What a great idea!! Find a hot product that is complicated and then create an all-in-one plain English guide on how to use it. The better your instruction – think screenshots, step-by-step instructions, and best of all, videos – the more you sell.
The key for me is finding something where the company behind it has not created the greatest support system or how to guide. Or where their guide is not comprehensive enough for power users. This is always something you need to check. I mean, take Optimize Press – a complicated WordPress theme that pretty much everyone online is using to sell info products. It is complicated sure. But James Dyson’s video tutorial library alone covers pretty much every issue I ever encountered, and then some. And he backs that up with a treasure trove of PDF tutorials and what not. You couldn’t make a dime releasing an Evernotes Essential type product for Optimize Press. So be careful. Anywas, back to Brett. Continue Reading >
Very similar to Nerd Fitness, in the sense that Matt has taken a very broad niche – running – and niched down based on target audience, in this case marathon running vegos!
For a while last year I was training for a marathon fuelled 90% by plants and you can imagine my instant attraction to this site as a result. Which brings up a bigggg point!
If you niche down a topic (running to marathons) and a target audience (runners to vego runners) you create a site that people who fall into that sub-niche fall in love with. A site they identify with. A site where they don’t need any convincing – they’ll bookmark it, sign up to your email list and even read 10 articles on their first pass!! Why? You are speaking to their very heart.
The information is oh so freaking relevant. I remember my experience with NMA was that I landed, read for 1 hour, came back to it the next day and bought the ebook. Boom. Most sites see a 10-30 day trust building cycle, in order to convert people from first time visitors into purchasers/tribesman. I was joining up for this tribe within 24 hours. I’d hazard a guess that Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness experiences something similar, as would so many niched up minimalist bloggers (eg minimalism for families) for example. So ideate on all that goodness for a bit. How does NMA generate passive income? Continue Reading >
Jennifer is so freaking bubbly, I love it! She’s the teacher of this online course on how to cook raw food – and the author of what I imagine is her SEO-friendly and lead capturing blo, Learn Raw Food.
I think this is a great case study as we get to see a super niche topic – raw foods – in action. It’s interesting to track Jennifer’s progress and realize she first published a cook book on the topic, before making this video course / membership site. Now, what a great lesson that holds for us.
Publish a book to get authority (even if you don’t sell much it looks good – FYI she sold over 100,000 copies of her first book), but not money. Create a video course to make money to live on! I mean, put them side by side; her 3 books sell on Amazon for about $10 each, whilst her video course sells for $175 (per year). Continue Reading >
Love at first sight. I’m not a paleo nut at all – I like a me some pasta! – but this site is just stunningly designed and what a smart setup in terms of content and products.
Paleo Plan is the sort of site that reminds us that in order to success with any passive income idea, you need to go all in on it and pour your heart and soul into it (at least for a few months). That sort of up front crazy-as-a-fox kind of work is what brings about a site like Paleo Plan.
You’ve got wonderful multiple streams of income going on here, from the one-off ebook sales of $37 (or more for extended licenses) to the monthly membership to their meal plans and fitness workouts website (around $10 a month…recurring).
The niche itself is great. Paleo is a massive trend of the last 5-10 years, being the younger cool nephew of Atkins, and given it’s ability to get results, seems here to stay indefinitely. In a similar style to P90X, Paleo Plan helps users solve both food and exercise problems, which pretty much doubles it’s income or ability to charge. Continue Reading >
Another very cool Four Hour Work Week success story!! Nev’s story is great. Snowboard enthusiast moves to Whistler. Becomes snowboard instructor. Works nights at a restaurant. Gets laid off from BOTH jobs. Gets handed 4HWW by a friend. Creates DVD course on how to snowboard like a pro. Busts guts to spread word. Fast forward. Site makes over $240,000 a year. Probably pays about $70,000 (my guess) to his outsourced web developer and personal assistant to keep it running whilst he travels the world. And who knows what the break up is amongst the few other contributors to the site. Either way, hells yeah!!
There’s so much to learn from this case study. The niche is fantastic since there are so many things to teach about snowboarding, from upside down crazy tricks to basic downhilling. And then the related products!! Oh dear, you can affiliate so much stuff. And even make your own training aids like Nev has done – he sells a branded bar to practice your balancing. It’s also the kind of target audience, where once you sell them one product (eg beginners DVD), you can end up selling them a handful of other educational, training and performance products through some smart email marketing. Brilliant!! Continue Reading >
I’ve followed Scott for a couple years now and seen him grow from just another blogger to become a Barr-Babauta lovechild in both his awesomeness and authenticity. What I love most about Scott is the depths he goes to punch out a post. None of that 400 word musing shite. No way!
Instead almost every post he launches is a 2000+ word essay of epic proportions. This quality is what has helped him build a passive income empire. Now before we go any further, Scott would be the first person to slap me across the face with a dueling glove Homer style and say “It ain’t passssssive man!”.Continue Reading >
A marketplace for digital downloads of sheet music. You can find everything from Metallica for Alto Sax to Florence and the Machine for Cello!!
To be fair this marketplace business model is a big ask of most people. To really crush it you need to create a very advanced website where users can submit their wares for sale etc etc. And you need to of course get the traction in the market to become the leading central depository of all things related to your niche. But ask yourself what smaller niche you could become the marketplace for? Eg Chihuahua clothing! Continue Reading >
A very simple site by an attorney up in Canada, that shows us how easy it is to turn your expertise – something you consult with people on – into a product. Think about it…every lawyer uses a template. All they need to do is get a website created, whack it up and then market with some free articles on will kits for Google. Autopilot!! And anyone out there thinking, “Oh, but I charge $3,000 for a will, why should I give it away for $35?”.
Simple. The people buying your will kit were never intending to pay a lawyer $3,000. You’re not losing customers to your cheaper option, you’re just gaining new customers you would never have had before. And for absolutely zero extra work per client! Now obviously the will kit is a very simple and readily available product out there, hence it’s very meager $35 price tag over at Canadian Personal Will Kit. But let your mind wonder for a minute. What are harder to find templates and also involve helping people save $1000s on lawyers fees and help them protect their life’s assets? Hmmmm, separation agreements perhaps! Continue Reading >
What a great case study! Here we have Paul Cunningham, an IT dude who handles Microsoft server work for a big mining company in Australia. At some point Paul realized that all the knowledge he had gained during his job could be handy to other people. So he setup a blog and started banging away on the keyboard about how to do what he does; setting up, migrating and maintaining Microsoft Exchange servers. Brilliant!!
A boring niche for any of us non-IT people, but a great example of something that just works. I mean think about it. Who is he selling to? Well, he’s selling to fellow IT workers who are scratching their head and busting their guts trying to migrate an Exchange server, but just can’t get it to work. Continue Reading >
Benny the Irish polyglot! Yeah, that’s pretty much the brand of this personality-driven website that teaches students how to learn any language in just 3 months. I freaking love this passive income example, because it shows you exactly how to create a kickass muse.
First, let’s look at the idea. Benny doesn’t teach languages. He teaches people language learning systems. So in that sense it’s kind of like all those courses out there on things like improving your memory, optimizing your thinking etc. What a smart angle.
I mean, think about it. There are already a ton of resources out there on different languages – it’s crowded. But what about rapid language learning as a whole? Not so much. Continue Reading >
This site is aimed at students and young professionals looking to break into management consulting. It’s another great careers advice site with a slew of info products on offer.
The model with MC is simple; tempt students in with great free content, then put them through a free ecourse, and then once enough trust and desire has been built in the content itself, offer the paid-for comprehensive and structured version.
As with pretty much any career advice info product, this one benefits from the fact that students are in desperate need for the product. They’ve just spent $100,000 on an education and now need to beat 100 other students to one spot. We are talking desperate times. Continue Reading >
Collaboration is the name of the game here. SFH is a joint venture between 8 or so experts in the personal development and fitness niches. You can imagine what this means. Content is created in weeks. Marketing is done with some simple blog posts. Product looks amazing. Sold!
Sure you have to split the sales, but still. What a great project. Who can you collaborate with on an idea? This is a great example of bringing multiple skills to the table and producing a product that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. SFH is a membership site, which allows people to join up for 3, 4 or 6 months, depending on their seriousness or time requirements. Continue Reading >
Can you think of a more enticing title for an info product? Nup, me neither. It really speaks to people’s pains of wanting to get into software development, but fearing that it’s way outside their reach. Perfect pitch. So this course is offered on Udemy, which I’ve talked about before – it’s a platform for creating and selling courses. Check it out to learn more.
So what I love about this info product is that it’s so smart in it’s focus. It’s not teaching people how to develop all kinds of apps; it’s just focused on games. This is different to 80%+ of the other courses out there that hope to teach everything and end up teaching nothing. There is also that idea of people saying ‘this is exactly what I’m looking for’ when they see a very specific course like this; you sell them in seconds. And the way John Bura delivers the course – in true Udemy style – is 100% video. Continue Reading >