How to Make Your First Passive Income Sale

One of the most common questions I get asked by new creators building a passive income is:

"I just finished my first product. Everyone says it's great but no one is buying it. How do I get my first sales?"

This can be an insanely frustrating experience. A lot of designers quit when they struggle to get those first sales (which is a shame because often it just takes a little experimenting to start making money). 

So I decided to compile a collection advice from proven sellers on Creative Market. These are designers that have opened shops, released products, and had significant success.

In some cases creating a full time living from their shops. 

But first: what are the most common ways designers made their first sales?

Everyone's journey to their first sales is different. But I often find it's the result of a handful of different techniques:

  1. Offer a time-based discount. Give a generous limited-time discount to people that buy in a very specific time window (for example, "Buy before [insert a specific upcoming date] and get [your product name] for the early bird price of [insert discounted price].)
  2. Be social. Whether it's through your following on a social media site or through forums (Creative Market forums seem to be effective) share your product and the story behind it. You don't need to push hard for the sale. Just share what you're doing.
  3. Leverage OPT. Conversion rates for products tend to be between 1-3%. That means you need significant traffic to make sales. Unless you've already built a mailing list or have an active following on social media (thousands of people that will actually see and click on your posts) then you need to use Other Peoples Traffic (OPT). You can do this by partnering with a blog related to your field or by being featured on a site like Creative Market. 

Here's some real responses from successful sellers on Creative Market:

The Early Bird Sale

"I've always found early bird pricing to be pretty effective because it gives people a reason to buy right there and then rather than putting it off until later. This is great for getting early sales because if people like your product, and they know it's only going to be available at this price for a limited time, they're far more likely to act."

Sam Jones

Key Takeaway: Create an early bird price that encourages prospects to buy now if they want the discount. This eliminates potential buyers from telling themselves they'll come back and buy it later.

Make Evergreen Products

"My first sales came from a set of rope brushes for illustrator. It was't very imaginative, but brushes are time tested resources that always sell if you market them well." 

"So, you could test the waters and get your first sales by creating your own version of an item that may already be out there; just make it high value and give it some killer preview images. Brushes are one of those items that sell better if you show off the dream (of what you could make with them) instead of the technical aspects."

Calvin Drews

Key Takeaway: Some products are always going to be in style. Keep an eye out for designer staples and think about the design elements you regularly need in your own work. 

Ask "Would I Use This?"

"When I make new products, designs or fonts I always ask myself, would I use this product as a designer? Stay true to yourself and your talents and when you make products that reflect your style and creativity your work will be noticed and sell itself." 

"Besides making awesome products, I spend a great deal of time making my product previews, this is actually the best part of making my products." 

"And even though I'm not the best writer I try and write the best titles, descriptions and tags that I can. I also like to go the extra mile by helping buyers out by writing tutorials on my blog with instructions for installation and how to use my products."

Skyla Design

Key Takeaway: Before you invest the time in making a product take a moment to seriously consider whether you would use the product you're making. 

Add strong titles, descriptions, and extras like tutorials. You don't have to be the best copywriter or tutorial creator. But your audience will appreciate the effort. 

Go Where Your Customers Hang Out

"Strategies that I believe helped me get my "first sales" included promoting through Pinterest where most of my initial customers found me (present day, they find me mostly through Pinterest and Creative Market), learning everything I could from Creative Market's "Shops Tips & Tricks" blog posts found here."

"(I also) spend a lot of time improving and creating great products and previews, focusing on my strengths and prioritizing 'quality over quantity', listening closely to my customers (and potential customers) feedback and requests, and a commitment to delivering excellent customer service "always"." 

"Being involved in the Creative Market community has been a biggie. I feel the more involved I am, the more opportunities to learn and grow personally and professionally..It's a win-win!!! And all these strategies I initially used, still ring true today."

Feathers & Sage Design Co. 

Key Takeaway: Be an active part of the community in the places your prospective customers hang out. Sites like Pinterest, Dribbble, Instagram, and the Creative Market discussion area are all areas you'll find designers looking for resources.

Use Google Image Search

"I always login to Google Adwords and do keyword research for my new products. I try and name my products in a way that will help drive traffic to my products through organic SEO. I also name my preview images with SEO in mind as well."

"You'd be surprised how many people use to look for design inspiration and if you name your image properly, it gives you an additional source to drive traffic to your products."

Derek - Creativenauts

Key Takeaway: Do a Google image search for keywords associated with your product. Use this to find product ideas, see what's popular, and discover words and pain points.

Get Featured (the Easy Way)

"The single best thing I did when first starting out was participating in these Discussion forums. By doing so, I not only gained notice from other buyers and sellers but I also found useful threads from Ken Weaver and Liam McKay that were looking for people to feature."

"Without being active in the CM community, I think your shop's files are more likely to disappear into the mix and rarely be seen."

"After that, I wrote an article on my blog that shared my experience and tips on selling with CM. That has been linked to quite a few times and still comes up in a lot of Google searches, which directs more traffic to my shop."

Adrian Pelletier

Key Takeaway: The Creative Market forums are visited by shop owners, customers, and Creative Market staff members. Instead of hoping you get featured be an active member of the forum and keep an eye out for opportunities to be featured. 

Write a Good Headline

"I did a little experiment with my first Powerpoint template – a line that says "Introductory Price - $12".

"Honestly I don't know whether it triggered the first sale though. After 2 sales it was Handpicked and it's been an thrilling run :)"

"I think potential buyers will at least check your main profile once so I think it helps to spruce up your profile with proper pictures, copywriting and of course, more items."

Razlan Hanafiah

Key Takeaway: Prospects scan quickly through products so you need to do everything you can to grab your prospects attention. Study how to write attention grabbing headlines to get more traffic and interest.

Get Support and Don't Give Up

"When I opened my shop it was all new to me. I had never sold anything online. So the only thing I knew what to do was to keep working and making products. But when you are working hard and there are no sales your confidence crumbles."

"You start to think that you have done all wrong and your products have no value. It is really hard to keep on working."

"In that point attention and support from members and staff of Creative Market is crucial. That shows that you have done good work. You just have to be patient." 

"So I did not have any strategies to make my first sales but I know how to help others to get there."

Mr Vintage

Key Takeaway: Success often takes much longer than you expect. Release new products and promote old ones consistently. Don't be afraid to reach out to Creative Market staff members and ask for help and feedback. Creative Market is run by people who love design and have a vested interest in your success.

Leverage Links

"A thing that helped a lot for my first sale was publishing my work on Behance and adding a link to my shop."

"Then I started creating different boards on Pinterest in which I've included my products and some of the top rated products with affiliate links so other customers were brought to my sop, plus any of their purchase increased my income." 

"After that I've started posting my products on Dribbble, Facebook and Twitter, so my sales started to rise. But you have to be patient, work hard and never loose your confidence."

Mircea Bucsa

Key Takeaway: Leverage high traffic websites and your social profiles by adding links directing people to your products. For a little extra boost in income use affiliate links for everything so you get the additional 10% on sales.

Learn Top Seller Secrets on Forums

A strategy that has helped me get my first sales was (and still is) reading discussions in the forum - including reading past forums."

"There is a vast amount of invaluable information and insight in forums from an amazing population of helpful sellers. Nothing has assisted me more than this information - especially on issues I didn't know I needed to know!"


Key Takeaway: There's a saying that goes something like "Success leaves clues." Mine the forums for information about what works for top sellers. Especially in the shop owners area, sellers tend to open up and share more numbers and techniques. 

Pay with a Tweet

"On my own website I try and give a version of my product away for free, using pay with a tweet. It generates traffic back to my site or Creative Market. A bit nasty but people don't seem to mind too much."

Simon Stratford

Key Takeaway: People love freebies. Experiment with offering freebies in exchange for something like an email address or Pay with a Tweet.

Got some tips? Share them below!

As a seller that's been making a full time living selling digital goods for nearly five years I can confirm that all these techniques have worked for me to varying degrees. 

Experiment with each one and see what works best for you. 

Have you made consistent sales of products? I'd love it if you'd leave a comment below and help make this post even more useful!