Instagram has always been a great source of inspiration for me. First of all, as a passionate traveller, I would religiously follow my friends’ travels on the app and slowly I discovered more and more interesting accounts. That was in 2013.
I can’t say I have always wanted to make money on Instagram or was growing my followers with this specific goal. As a blogger, my main aim was to increase reach for my blog posts and share my photographs. Moreover, I never thought of launching an Ebook. If someone had told me four years ago that I would be doing this I definitely wouldn’t have believed them.
Identify a pain point – yours or someone else’s
There was a time when I struggled to find pretty places to photograph. I saw all these beautiful and interesting locations: houses, street corners, beautiful cafes and simply couldn’t understand where the photos had been taken. I reached out to Instagrammers whose photos I liked a lot and asked them for addresses, but it seemed to be an unspoken rule not to reveal ‘secret locations,’ which I personally find ridiculous.
This bothered me a lot. I remember after receiving a short answer that a particular house was in the Knightsbridge area, I felt really frustrated so I hopped on Google Maps and ‘walked’ every single street in the area to find what I was looking for. You might say I’m stupid, I say I’m determined and never give up until I get what I want.
That was my pain – not knowing about these ‘secret’ Instagramable locations in London. At the same time, a friend of mine came to visit me and shared her story of how she couldn’t find the perfect spot for a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. We were talking about this photo. She said she had bought a photo guide prior to her trip, but it was really poor quality and she couldn’t actually find anything in the guide.
Find a solution to the problem
That’s how I came up with the idea for a London Photo Guide – An Instagram Guide to London. First of all this would solve my own problems, and I knew others would be interested too because I was receiving a lot of questions about where my photos had been taken.
A side note here for those who think that sharing locations is a really bad idea and Instagram has become a ‘copy and paste’ of everyone else’s photos – I have to tell you that no one will take exactly the same photo as you. Sometimes just taking one step left or right changes the composition and the image is completely different. If not you, then someone else (me) will share the ‘secret’ location, and you will gain a really thankful and loyal follower. Sharing means you can contribute to someone else’s creative process and that’s really wonderful.
(Of course, I’m talking about mainstream locations here. If you have a special and unique place for your signature photo shoot I can understand why you want to keep it to yourself).
Ok, back to the creation of my first product…
How I created my first digital product
In November 2015 I decided to test the idea itself. I thought I would create a list of things to do at Christmas in London, like visiting ice rinks and markets, and where to find shops with the best festive window displays. It took me a whole weekend to put everything together into one PDF and when it was ready I uploaded it to my blog. I then promoted the link on my Instagram and Facebook page. In total, the file was downloaded 1229 times!!!! Thinking about this number now I realise how many email subscribers I could have had on my list at that time…
This was a huge success so I decided to launch my paid product next. I’m one of those people who like making detailed plans and then putting them into action. Having good systems in place also helps if you have a full-time job and are working on your website/blog/product launch on the side.
I had been following different successful online entrepreneurs and marketers for a while before I decided to invest in one of the programmes that would help me to create a product. I have to say that I always thought that you can find everything online for free or find people who will share their experiences with you for no cost. I still think this is true. But I also believe and have proved it to myself multiple times that it’s more cost and time effective to invest in paid help and tools.
I already knew the general guidelines on how to launch a product which are:
- Check interest by writing a blog post related to your topic, mentioning your product and asking your readers to leave an email address so you can let them know when your product is released.
- Create a simple web page with your product info and start collecting email addresses.
- Actively work on adding more people to your list – these are people who are genuinely interested in what you are about to launch.
- Build a relationship with those people who subscribed to your list – send them emails related to your product.
- Notify them first when you launch your digital product.
Basically, what you need is a reliable email marketing tool, some freebies (free PDFs or any other useful digital content you give away for free in exchange for an email address), a landing page (one page with your offer with just one call to action – ‘leave an email address’) and an action plan on what to do and when.
That’s a super short version of how to launch your product. I was lacking step by step guidelines on what to do and when, how to manage both creating a product and marketing it at the same, and how to launch properly and actually earn some money. So I took a deep breath and invested in two tools that helped me launch a digital product:
- Flodesk – an email provider that allows you to effectively collect emails, create forms and set up landing pages. It also allows you to send automated email sequences, deliver your PDFs after someone has subscribed and manage your list in the most effective way.
- GetDPD – a system that delivers a digital product after it has been purchased.
Also, having invested in paid products I committed to actually doing this because I had to make a ROI (return on investment) and justify spending money.
Things you need to do before you start working on your product launch
Identify what your product is going to be about
While many of us creative people have a lot of ideas in our heads, it’s very important to come up with something that people would actually be interested in purchasing. Google what people say about your topic, look for phrases like ‘I don’t understand how to …’ or ‘It drives me crazy when I can’t find/do/ etc. X’. Look at the comments section on big blogs or websites – that’s where you’ll find all the juicy stuff. Check forums, Reddit threads, Quora and ask questions on your social media accounts.
Check the interest BEFORE creating a product
All big names in the world of online entrepreneurship will advise you to actually try selling your product before even creating it. I think I was afraid of following this advice 100%, and instead I was honest and said that I was working on a paid product, and offered a 20% discount to those who subscribed to my list. And people did subscribe and send me emails saying they couldn´t wait to see my guide. That was my way of validating my idea.
Set a deadline
Nothing keeps you moving faster than an approaching deadline. I made this mistake with my Ebook – I thought I would launch sometime in April. Then I thought the middle of April was a better idea. To cut a long story short I just sent an email to my list with the launch day of 28th April. That was the point of no turning back. I had to launch on that day no matter what.
Have as detailed a timeline as possible
It’s as simple as this: take an A4 sheet of paper and draw either a line or a massive calendar. Normally it takes about 2-3 months to launch a product so keep this in mind when planning. When you have a date for your launch it’s much easier to plan backwards.
Pick a maximum of two social media channels to focus on
You might think there is no problem with being on every platform but trust me, it’s better to pick two and really focus on them. For me, it was obviously Instagram and I also decided to try Twitter. The latter was a strange choice as I had never actually understood it, but it’s quite a popular thing in the UK, where one of my target audiences is.
My step by step process to creating a digital product
I started by creating a simple landing page on the blog. It’s very easy and you don’t even need a website to host it because you can keep it on their platform. Check out their complete guide on how to create a landing page.
This is what I got. At first, I didn’t offer those two locations, I added them later.
At the same time I started writing a list of all the interesting locations for my guide, I did lots of research and went to those locations to take photos. To be honest, it took me a long time. Initially, I had only 35 places, but then I changed this to 65 locations in seven categories.
Instagram was my main source of generating interest and collecting emails. My strategy was to share a photo from the guide and ask people to join my VIP list so they were the first to know about the launch. I also shared a little bit of behind the scenes work and regular updates on how I was doing. This served two purposes: to maintain interest in my launch and to be accountable.
I don’t know what took me so long, but I only emailed my list about the launch of my Ebook three weeks after setting up a landing page online. I should have done it sooner! At this point my email list was tiny and I didn’t have a launch date yet. I think that these were the two main reasons for this delay.
I wanted to launch in April, so I had to speed up the product creation. By the middle of March, I already had a few chapters ready and I decided to send a few photo locations to my VIP list to keep them updated and interested.
I also published ‘7 Views of St. Paul’s Cathedral’ with suggestions on where to take the best shots of this amazing building I love so much. This was based on one of the guide’s chapters and the goal was to get people to sign up to my VIP list.
Then my parents visited me in London and we spent a lovely time travelling to the south of England and Scotland, so I had no time to work on my launch. In the meantime, I always had an active link to the landing page on my Instagram account and had scheduled a month of tweets with Hootsuite. That was the passive marketing of the Photo Guide’s landing page.
After failing my ambitious plan of launching on 1st April, and then on 12th April I publicly committed to the date of 28th April. I sent ‘Save the Date’ emails to my VIP list and posted this update on Instagram as well. I even downloaded and installed a countdown app and was sharing screenshots of it from time to time to keep the hype around my launch.
I published the blog post ‘3 Reasons why you Need to Plan your Stay in London’. I wanted to emphasise the fact that you need to plan your travels in advance if you don’t want to miss interesting opportunities. Also, because my readers like to take interesting photos for Instagram I recommended making a list of places to take photos of, which is where my guide would be very useful for them.
10 days prior to launch I offered a giveaway to capture additional last minute emails for my VIP list. After some research on which service to use, I decided on KingSumo (I also found a coupon for a really good deal) and went shopping for small presents. Your giveaway should be super relevant to your target audience and the product you launch, so I decided to put together ‘A Travel Kit for London’ that would be useful for tourists coming to the city. How it works is that you sign up with your email address and you get your personal ‘lucky’ link to promote this giveaway. The more people you refer the higher chances are of you winning the prize. And I get more emails. Win-win.
Blog post ‘10 Ideas for a Street Photo in London’. The idea behind this post was to give ideas on good things to take photos of in London and then promote my guide with specific locations for these photos.
I wrote the blog post ‘Meet the Londoners’. I asked one of the most popular London Instagrammers about their favourite photo spots and how they would describe London in three words. It’s always interesting to know where people go to take their photos.
KingSumo automatically picked the winner of my giveaway and I added all the contestants to my VIP list. After that, I sent the three blog posts to my list and that was my last email to them before launching.
The next day was crazy for me because I had to make sure everything was ready, all systems were set up and the email launch was scheduled. For my Ebook delivery, I picked the service I mentioned earlier – GetDPD. You pay $10 per month and everything is 100% automated meaning when you want to buy my guide you go to my website, click the ‘Buy now’ button and it takes you to the GetDPD check out system. After you’ve paid you get a message with a link to the guide. At the backend your email goes to my email marketing provider Flodesk and you get tagged as a ‘customer’. It works perfectly and you don’t need to do anything manually at all.
28th April – LAUNCH DAY
I scheduled an announcement email for 10 am offering my VIP list a code for a 20% discount. I made the code available for 24 hours only. This was to create urgency so people actually bought immediately. I had to work that day, and all I could do was look at my phone and see all the incoming pop-up sale notifications. Needless to say, I was very happy!
Before the promo code expired I sent a reminder to those who didn’t purchase the guide and got more sales. Honestly, it was so stressful and uncomfortable but I’m glad I did what I had to do.
After the VIP offer expired, I send a launch email to the rest of my list and made an announcement on my Instagram account. But that’s not the end of the story…
A week after the launch I sent out a survey to those who signed up for the VIP list and didn’t buy to ask why they didn’t. This is a good way to get to know your audience better and see what they think about your product.
To make the sales of my guide more automated I spent a month working on my free course on how to take photos in London. This is a 7-day email course teaching you how to get the most out of your smartphone camera and all about photography in London. A few times throughout the course I mentioned my guide and gave students the opportunity to buy it at the very end if they were interested.
At the moment this course is no longer available, instead, I am offering a sample chapter for free followed by a few emails with photo ideas and tutorials.
All this happened only because of Instagram. Instagram is how I got the idea for this product and it’s my main way of attracting people to my blog where they have the chance to get to know me better through a lot of useful and free content.
What I used to launch my first digital product:
- iPhone 5S
- Google Slides
- Google Maps
- KingSumo (get 20% with my code COFFEE20)
You’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! Having a digital document to sell is one of many ways to monetise your Instagram account. Build a targeted audience on your profile, find out what they want and then offer your solution to their problem.
I hope this article was helpful to you – if it was I would be happy if you could share it. Please let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click a link in this article and purchase something, I may make a small commission at NO cost to you.