A comprehensive 3-step guide to build your product and sell it automatically.
Photo by Adam Nowakowski
By Jon Brosio
So you want to build a passive income online business but don’t know where to start?
Well, luckily for you — you’ve landed in the right place.
What you’re going to read in this article is my proven method for building a passive income online business. Now, I’ve been at this for about 4 years and I have gone from absolutely obscure and unknown online writer to over 3 million views, 5-figure a month income, working for myself, and doing the work that helps fulfill me that my office job and restaurant gigs couldn’t.
Now there are essentially two elements to my online business:
Active — the tasks, roles, and responsibilities that I follow in order to build and sustain the latter part of the business. These roles and responsibilities include: active writing, the building of courses/ebooks, site maintenance, drafting of email broadcasts etc.
Passive — the passive side of the business is everything involved with the systems of the business that I built. These processes work on autopilot. That isn’t to say they “pop out of thin air” there is active work needed in order to grow this side of the business. However, once those systems are in place, I am able to completely turn my attention back to the active side of the business.
This article is about that second element: how to build an effective passive income machine.
The foundation of your online passive income business
Let’s consider a few things before we jump right in…
Let’s consider that:
You’re consistently generating content that drives traffic (this could be through paid advertising, it could be through the creation of organic content on content platforms, it could be through content on your site that’s SEO optimized (so it can generate traffic).
You’re using and email service provider and building/attempting to build an email list
You’ve already created a digital elearning product. You don’t need to go overboard here — all you need is something that teaches your site/platform visitors how to solve a specific problem.
You need all of these things in place in order to proceed forward.
Now the first two considerations have too much nuance to you as the reader for us to illustrate the in’s and out’s of creating content. Plus, if you’re thinking of creating online writing content — there are so many resources already available in my own content library that can help you with this.
We are, however, going to go over the third consideration — how to create your own digital product that is going to be sold passively.
We’re not going to go over exactly what product you should or need to create — you can find the answer to that question by probing and surveying your audience and email list. Simply ask them what problems they are dealing with and think of a solution to a problem that comes up and creates a theme.
Okay — let’s look at creating your passive income digital product…
How to create your passive income digital product
Okay, so let’s get into the actual technical elements of creating our passive income product from scratch.
Please note, we’re going to be building an ebook download passive income product.
Now, when most people think about an ebook product, they throw their arms up in the air because they assume they’re going to need to hire an expensive freelancer on Upwork or Fiverr because they don’t have any design knowledge.
Well — like you, I’m one of those people. I’ve also created my ebook from scratch without paying any designers and I’ve sold thousands of dollars worth of my book and hundreds of copies.
So, imagine you have the idea for your book that is going to be a solution for a given problem within your operating niche. What’s a niche? A niche is,
“A specialized or focused area of a broader market that businesses can serve to differentiate themselves from the competition.”
So for you, let’s say it’s health & fitness.
You are solving a problem to help your readers build a “Greek God Bod.”
Okay — we’re going to build an ebook from scratch considering that idea what I just wrote (now I’m not a health & fitness expert so hold some criticisms if I’m way off the mark in the promise that we make later).
Let’s assume that you’ve already written out the guide (book). You maybe did this in a GoogleDoc (recommended). The most important part of this guide is going to be the cover of the book.
Contrary to the lie you were told as a kid — we do judge books by their cover.
At least subconsciously…
This has been proven by California Institute of Technology Professor Leonard Mlodinow in his 2012 Best Seller, Subliminal: How Your Unconsious Mind Rules Your Behavior,
“Moreover, when quizzed about the reasons for their decisions, the subjects proved completely unaware that those factors had influenced them […] Their comments included much about the relative merits of the detergents, but none mentioned the box. Why should they? A pretty box doesn’t make the detergent work better. But in reality it was just the box that differed — the detergents inside were identical. We judge products by their boxes, books by their covers, and even corporations’ annual reports by their glossy finish.”
Thankfully, we won’t be creating this completely from scratch — we’ll have some free templates to work with.
These templates can be found on Canva — a free to use design platform that has preloaded templates ranging from business cards to Facebook ad banners.
So after you’ve created your free account, you can see on the home page, the template for a book:
Source: Author Canva Account
Once you click there, you will be brought into the design page.
Here, we’ll be creating our downloadable passive income book.
Now — first following the “red arrows” we can see that in the search box, we searched within our niche (fitness).
After that, we selected the design that is going to fill our needs (second red arrow).
Next, our template gets expanded and set in the design area. You can now see with the “green boxes” that the text was changed from the template’s given text to the headline we chose earlier:
Source: Author Canva template builder
Finally, what we’re going to do is add our content to the rest of the book.
You can barely see it in this image, however underneath the cover page is a button that says, “add page.” We’re going to want to click that and it will put a blank page underneath our cover.
From there, in the left hand design navigation bar, we’re going to select “text” and then build a text box on that blank page copying and pasting our content from the GoogleDoc we created earlier; creating a new page whenever we run out of room.
You’re going to then download (in the top right) and save as a PDF.
Save it somewhere in your computer because it’s going to be uploaded at a later time.
Next, we’re going to go into how to store that newly created digital product into a digital storefront.
How to setup your storefront to sell your product
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this.
Generally when I have — I talked about two different ways this can be done and I really glossed over the technicalities of each one. I would generally give an overarching “idea” of what needed to be done and let the reader figure out the rest.
I’m sorry for doing that…
So in this article, I want to be more thorough for you. With that, however, I can only choose one of the methods I generally go over.
So, with that being said, we are going to go over using a hosted WordPress site and using WooCommerce (free plugin) in order to do so.
If you don’t have a hosted site yet, don’t worry, it’s actually not too hard to get it setup. I use bluehost personally but you can find other hosts like siteground, hostgator, godaddy etc.
Unfortunately, we’re also not going to go over the “science” of choosing a domain name and setting up a theme (I put science in quotes because I actually think people overthink this step) because I feel there are already scores of articles, walkthroughs, and how-tos on how to accomplish this and putting this type of information in this article will surely bore you to death and that’s the last thing I want.
We’ll assume that you already have a hosted WordPress site and an operating theme.
Considering that, we can move forward with the WooCommerce plugin to sell your passive income ebook.
Setting up WooCommerce:
Like I said, WooCommerce is a free plugin (there is a paid version, but we don’t need it). It can be used to sell everything from:
- Physical products
- Digital downloads
And of course, we’ll be focusing on that last bullet point.
Now that you have your saved PDF, we need to upload it to WooCommerce in order to allow for someone to purchase it.
It is to be noted that you will need to setup your Stripe and PayPal accounts in the settings section of the WooCommerce plugin in order to be paid. This shouldn’t be too hard if you are already operating in a country where Stripe and PayPal are allowed.
So when you’ve downloaded the plugin, you will see “products” on the left navigation bar of your WP site.
You will then want to upload your newly created passive income product and add it to the backend of WooCommerce. You can do this by clicking “add new”. See image:
Source: Author WP dashboard
From here, You will be put into the “product” page on the backend of WP and WooCommerce. You will have a series of steps listed out in the image that is going to follow.
Rename the product to what we named it in the previous step
Make sure the product is both “virtual” (doesn’t need a shipping cost) and “downloadable” (can be uploaded into WooCommerce).
Choose your product price
“Add file” and then “choose file” (find the saved PDF we created earlier)
Source: Author WP dashboard
You can also choose the thumbnail image, download limit, expiration etc.
Really those are all variables that you can mess around with but they’re really not applicable to what we’re doing.
Again, we’re trying to keep this like a basic b — .
This next step is going to get a little tricky to fully illustrate seeing as you might have one of a thousand different themes/page builder already setup on your site.
So, I’m going to include the shortcode for the “buy button” that you can implement on your site. We’re not actually going to build the sales page because there are too many variables that are specific to the page builder and you might not have that.
So, as broadly as I can put it — when you’re building your new WP page, you’re going to want to include an image of your product (which you can take directly from your Canva PDF) and put that somewhere on a sales page.
You can also put this product on a landing page builder (Convertkit, Mailchimp, Leadpages, Unbounce etc).
But you’re going to want to go into your WP page builder and start a new page.
In your page builder, you’re going to want to add a button element.
But this isn’t going to be a normal button we can add in our page builder — it’s going to be a shortcode.
Now — and this part is really important — we need to tell the WP site where to lead the clicker if they click on the button and we want to lead them to the WooCommerce uploaded PDF product that we just uploaded. So, in order to do that, we’re go to add our own WordPress shortcode in the button. You can look up with your page builder how to do this (elementor, WPbaker, Thrivethemes, elegantsthemes etc.).
So, the shortcode we need to embed on the page is WooCommerce’s “add to cart” short code. You can copy this shortcode that was taken directly from WooCommerce’s shortcode database:
It’s important to note that you’re product id probably isn’t going to be “99”. In fact, you can see where yours is by hovering your mouse over the product in the product list and seeing the id:
Source: Author WP dashboard
So then obviously, yours would look more like:
Now, I am able to show you at least an illustration of the code injected into the page but not on the page builder — it is through the backend page builder that comes strictly with WP.
Again, this is because I don’t want to confuse you that my screen looks different than yours and my elements are different etc. If you are operating with WP, you will at least have this screen.
Note: there isn’t any copy text, images of the product etc. Again, I had to do this because the pages would look different and cause too much confusion.
Source: Author WP dashboard
So when you actually publish this page and someone clicks on the “add to cart” button, they will have your PDF added to their purchase cart and a completed sale of this passive income product can be completed.
Below, you will see a “dummy” page that shows the shortcode in an actual page and how it looks. You will see I did a basic design to include an image of the ebook on the right.
This is what the sales page could look like with an actual page builder (the one used in this example is thrivethemes). See image:
Source: Author example WP page
You can find the URL to the page you created from the backend of your WP site. You’re going to need this URL so you can direct your audience to this page should they have interest in the product that you just created.
Directing your audience to the sales page (automatically) is where we’re going to pick up next.
Passively directing your audience to the sales page
So, the passive element of this whole sequence is coming into play now.
I know, I know — we’ve had to do a lot of “active” work in order to get here. But I promise we’re nearing the place where all of this is going to fire off automatically thus making it a passive income system.
So, if you’re not building an email list by now — you really need to.
Unfortunately in this article, we’re not going to go over building an email list in depth. We’re already nearing 3,000 words and there’s no way we have enough bandwidth to include that here (it could really make up it’s own book — just building an email list).
Let’s consider that you’re including opt-ins with your articles (you know, those fancy things you see at the end of articles).
Whenever someone opts-in to your email list, you can start a “welcome sequence” email that welcomes the new subscriber. From there — you want to welcome them into your tribe over the next few days:
What can they expect to gain from the list?
What can they expect to learn?
How many emails daily/weekly/monthly/yearly can they expect to receive?
Do you do shoutouts?
What’s a bit of your background?
After that (let’s say it’s a 5 day sequence) — on day 5, you can “pitch” this product that we created in the email. You would simply let them know that the product exists in the email and include the URL from the page we just built.
Now, not everyone is going to be interested in the book— but there are going to be people who want the value you can offer them by providing them with this product.
And you’ve done just that!
Now, everytime someone signs up for your email list, they are going to be automatically (cough — passively — cough) sent through the system we provided and be “pitched” this product.
I can promise you — if you’re providing enough value from front to back (from the exposure of your content to the pitch of the product) you’ll definitely be creating customers.
Note: you can find how to create sequences with your specific email service provider by doing a quick Google search.
Wrapping it up
You owe it to yourself to be rewarded for all of the knowledge, wisdom, and information you can share with the world.
You can do this through the creation and passive sale of your very own information product.
How do you do this?
Well — the quickest way to get all of this done is to:
1. Create your digital product:
You can create your digital product by simply writing it in a GoogleDoc and then formatting it for free with the help of Canva.
Canva is an online platform with hundreds (if not thousands — I haven’t counted) of templates for digital creation. The important one here that we want to focus on is the “book” creation.
you can simply:
- Search for your niche
- Choose a design
- Change the wording and some of the formatting
- Copy and paste your GoogleDoc to the rest of the template
- Save as a PDF
Once you have saved your newly created product, it’s time to upload it so people can buy.
2. Create your digital storefront
In order for your future customers to purchase this product, you need a “digital storefront.” For the purposes of this article, this comes in the form of WooCommerce — a free WordPress (WP) plugin.
Follow along in the directions above for uploading your product into WooCommerce and then implementing the WooCommerce “add to cart” shortcode button so when a site visitor clicks the product — it will be added to their cart.
Next, you’re going to need to sell the product passively through your email list.
3. Passively direct your audience to the sales page
If you aren’t currently building an email list — you need to be.
Like, right now.
An email list allows you to build a tribe of subscribers that you can then direct to and pitch your newly created passive income product.
You do this through an email welcomes sequence.
The sequence goes through what to expect from being on the list and then ends with a “pitch” at the end.
And there you have it — the quickest way to get up and running with your very own passive income online business.
Is there active work that needs to take place in order for all the systems to be build.
But once you’re there — you’ll see payment notifications roll in from the sale of your passive income digital product.
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