- Niki Puls, 30, wanted to find a way to earn passive income for her family.
- She made her first digital product this past March and has earned over $120,000 since.
- She has advice for beginners starting out in this space.
When Niki Puls created her first ebook this past March, she was making $60,000 per year at her 9-to-5 marketing job.
But in just the last two months, the 30-year-old has made roughly $77,000 selling digital products, according to documents provided to Insider, and says she’s only been working “five hours or less” per week.
Since starting in March, Puls says she’s earned roughly $120,000 selling three digital products: an ebook, an email course, and an ebook template. The income allowed her to quit her 9-to-5 in July and achieve her “ultimate goal:” spending more time at home with her two-year-old daughter. That’s about to get even more important given she now has a second child on the way.
“When I was working nine to five, I dropped my daughter off at daycare at 7:00 in the morning, wouldn’t see her until 6:00, see her for an hour before dinner, put her to bed,” she told Insider. “Now she spends all day with me.”
Puls is among the Americans who have found ways to earn passive income, an income stream that often requires some initial time and investment, but then generates cash thereafter with minimal labor. Rental properties, high-yield savings accounts, and dividend stocks are some traditional examples of passive income, but today, some Americans are turning to digital products, online courses, social media ad revenue, cash-back rewards, car-sharing, and even vending machines as new-age ways to work smarter and not harder.
While Puls’ husband still works, she says the income has been huge for her family’s financial stability, and that her flexible work life has helped them avoid steep child care costs.
“It took off and sold like crazy”
In addition to her full-time job, Puls says she’s “always had a side hustle” to make additional money for her family. She used to spend several hours per week consulting small businesses on social media marketing.
But earlier this year, she decided to seek out something that would not only provide her extra income, but more of another valuable resource: time.
In March, she spent a week creating her first digital product — a 50-page ebook about how to live a simplified life priced at $35, “just to see how it would do,” she said.
“It took off and sold like crazy,” she said, and soon began generating roughly $5,000 in monthly income for her. Puls says she continued to earn roughly $5,000 per month through July, when she felt comfortable quitting her job.
After earning roughly $13,000 in August and $5,000 in September, adding her second and third products in October helped her earn $32,000 in October, and $47,000 in November.
Her three products include the ebook — which is now priced at $18 — a 25-day email course on how to create digital products and earn passive income that costs $97, and a $27 template on how to make an ebook. She’s also recently started offering mentorships for people looking to earn passive income. She says she currently has roughly 100 members and generated $1,500 from this in November — and typically only requires an extra two hours of her time each week.
Given she says her monthly business expenses — which largely consist of website hosting fees — are only roughly $140 per month, she’s able to pocket almost all of her revenue.
For Puls, the time commitment hasn’t been overwhelming at any point in the process.
She says her $18 ebook took her a week to make, while she finished the email course and ebook template in one week and “less than a day” respectively.
Now, she says the one to two hours she works per week is primarily “social media upkeep,” which involves crafting TikTok videos and blog posts that help bring customers to her site — she says she doesn’t do any paid advertising.
A big social media presence isn’t required to find success
Puls says social media is her biggest driver of customer traffic. In February, she says she had roughly 23,000 TikTok followers, but now, she has over 229,000. That said, she’s seen plenty of people without massive social media followings find success selling digital products.
“You will have to market your product, but there are other ways besides social media. Pinterest, blogging, have your own website, SEO, things like that all help.”
Niki says she’s made all her products through Canva — where making an ebook is free — but sells them exclusively through her own website.
While she says most people sell digital products through platforms like Etsy, using her own website is ideal for her.
“When you really have your own website, your own brand, you’re building your own business, versus Etsy, you’re basically borrowing someone else’s platform to sell your products.”
She adds that Etsy is very competitive because there are “so many sellers” and the platform takes a fee from sales. She says it’d be difficult to reach at least $10,000 in monthly income, for instance, selling through the platform.
That said, given most people don’t have an established customer base or website when they’re starting out, she says it makes sense for many sellers to begin on Etsy.
When developing a product, she says picking the right niche is important.
“If you pick something super specific, not a lot of people are going to buy it because not a lot of people are searching for it. So kind of the broader, the better. Things such as health and wellness, those bigger topics like that tend to do better.”
She advises beginners to pick something they’re passionate teaching others about and make a “how-to guide” ebook — such as a “seven-day guide” or a “30-day plan.” She suggests pricing these in the $20 to $40 range.
“The best thing would be just to give it a try because it’s low startup cost,” she said. “It doesn’t take that long. Do your research. Really just give it a shot because what do you have to lose?”
Given her success with digital products, Puls says she’s often asked why she hasn’t made more of them. Though she says she will probably roll out more in the future, for now — particularly while she’s pregnant — she says she’s not in a rush to do so.
“Part of my whole brand is slow living. But part of it too is just being content and you can be pretty content with the money I have now.”