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Creators talk about the Digital Market

Posts: 358
Location: Central Texas (Georgetown)
tiny house wofati
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Davin’s sales:

My path to the permies digital market might feel familiar...
I took my sweet time, but I now have seven items listed. I believe the digital market has doubled in seller activity since I started creating items.

Regarding the digital market as a whole, I have trusted in Paul’s word and continue to do so. I was in the room several times when Paul announced the opportunity to sell digital items on the permies digital market. I had the potential to produce a PDF plan set of a construction project, but I hadn’t a specific item to zero down on. I didn’t believe my interests would align with buyers.

I visited Wheaton Labs for the first time in late summer 2015. Paul thought I could design a better berm shed from the existing one. Brian was the interim land manager at the time. Fred was there already. The point being, I downloaded sketch up for the first time, and began communicating with the 3D models. I learned Sketch Up quickly, but it took several months to make a wofati prototype and present it on YouTube.

I visited Wheaton Labs for the second time in the summer of 2017. Prior to this meeting with Paul, he asked me to produce a plan for the solar dehydrator that was to be built during the 2017 ATC. He showed me Mark Vander Meer’s solar dehydrator in the YouTube video.

By the time of the ATC start, I came up with a model, that then got hashed out by the class, instructor Tim Barker, and Paul. As the class built the large solar dehydrator, I altered my computer model to the exact measurements and materials. This took a lot of time, and I could have been more useful to the Class, but I felt the documentation was important - what if Paul wanted to talk about it after I left back to Texas. Also, I wanted to gift the Class a plan set as a souvenir. (davinhoyt at gmail)

Note: Design work with Paul is not easy. I have done it a few times. He has ideas that cause a person to stretch their perspective(s). You definitely need to meet him where he is. If you were to make a digital product, he would probably guide you to a professional looking product - one that he would like to sell himself. If you left it up to him to knock on your door and ask if you will make a digital product, it ain’t gonna happen.

I returned to Texas with three solar dehydrator models in my computer.

I modeled the Mark Vander Meer solar dehydrator, the 2017 ATC Class solar dehydrator, and the simple tray 2016 ATC Class solar dehydrator.

At that time, the ATC 2017 Class solar dehydrator did not have many test runs. As a documenter, I thought it was appropriate to produce a full set of plans for Mark’s design (proven to work), just as much, if not more, than the importance of producing a full set for the 2017 ATC Class design. The pressure was on.

thumbnail example

It took six months for me to make the two solar dehydrator plan sets. It wasn’t the only thing I was working on, but it took many hours that went uncounted.

thumbnail example

I told Paul in an email once: “FYI- It takes me a day to make a SKETCH, a few days to make a MODEL, and a few months to make a PLAN SET.”

Note: If you're still lacking the drive to make a digital item, go visit Diego Footer's podcast "Do the Work", donate to his organization, then catch up on all the things you've been meaning to do.
Note: The first time I posted an item to the digital market it was incomplete. I realized some more information was needed in the plans, and the plans were easily replaced with a newer edited version. All of the people who have access to the digital item, then, have access to the latest version.

When I thought the plans were done, I sent them to Paul for a quality review. He advised I create a few graphical explanations to assist in sales - to increase the presence of the item in the digital market. He advised I create a letter size summary package, and a shrunken representation of the plan set. Both of these show an overview and prove a quality.

Note: Permies staff may edit your didgital market posts to read more clearly, and better serve the permies community.
Note: The first image in your digital market post will be the thumbnail image that stands beside the title in the digital market listing. Prepare in advance, or request a staff member change the thumbnail to another image found inside your post. Also, the images you use should be placed online prior to your post, because you are referencing the images. I have been using Facebook, and I don’t advise it, because I’ve had to re-link twice. I have my own web space and will use it going forward.

My profession is Architecture. At the time of release, I charged $300 per sheet of construction document in a PLAN SET. If I was to extrapolate into this work, the 2017 ATC Class Solar Dehydrator Plan Set was a project I would normally charge $1,200 for ownership. The same goes for Mark’s design as it has the same number of sheets. (Maybe my rate needs some more exploration: the difference between replicate-able-item-plans with ownership, verses custom-non-replicate-able-item-plans.) Also, please note the travel and communication that was needed for this to come together. I am a consultant when I work. The final designs always surpass what the owner, or designer, could have done alone. Paul fills the “owner” position  for the 2018 Rocket Oven plan set project, and "part-owner” position when sitting around the table at the 2017 ATC Class construction site.

And now let’s break down the money more...
My sales have not exceeded my expectations, but they are hearty. My expectations would be hitting “my costs” by year two. I posted both solar dehydrators at the same time, then, Paul advised me to make a combination package for a discount. This is the best seller of my items on the digital market.

Note: To make more than $500 in one year on the digital market, a person must supply their tax identification (social security number) to permies dot com.

You can make almost as much as the seller by being the affiliate on permies dot com digital market place. I wish I were the affiliate on all my sales. I would make a lot more money. Paul makes the most money out of my affiliates. Because I haven’t made as much money as I would have liked, I have been releasing my newest items in the digital market with a lower affiliate percentage than 40%, which is Paul’s recommendation. I believe the digital market is new and growing, and there will be more money supporting creators like myself going forward, but I want more money now. A fear lingers in my mind about a digital item becoming obsolete before making a profit. I have been placing my latest plan sets at an affiliate percentage of 25%, and 10% for my combination plan sets. This pays an affiliate 3-5$, instead of 8-10$ like the initial solar dehydrator offers.

Note: I have not found a way to protect my digital items (PDF) from counterfeit. I can imagine a teacher sharing their PDF with students, but no mass dilution of my goods has ever come to my attention.
Note: A seller cannot change the affiliate percentage once an affiliate sale has been made.
Note: In my latest plan sets I have advertised other drawings in the title block area. I placed an image of the DIY object along with an affiliate hyper-link.

I have made more money from Paul’s kickstarters, than the digital market sales. Paul has paid me a lump sum twice for allowing the 2017 ATC Class solar dehydrator Plan Set to be a stretch goal; thus, it was released to thousands of people. The permies membership organizes these people, via the digital market, so I continue to be hands-off when it comes to customer portal.

This is an attempt to entertain the money bug in you...
Every month, I receive PayPal money from Paul Wheaton’s digital market. It has averaged $70 for the last year. It is a smooth transaction and I have never been troubled by the process.

From all the money my seven digital products have generated, I estimate affiliates have made 28% from the digital market, and I have made 46% from the digital market, and Paul's kickstarter payouts have accounted for the remaining 26%.

As for the digital market sales percentages alone, I estimate that affiliates have made no less than 35% of total sales; Therefore, I'm making 65% of the sale price at best.

-The net value producing my seven current digital market items is $7,500 ($300x25sheets). Let's say this is my value calculation for the moment.

-Two thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven people have access to the 2017 ATC Class Solar Dehydrator plans.

-No one has access to the Wheaton Rolly Shelves plan set right now. It may seem like a silly thing to model, but the plans will be there for Paul and other permies to refer.

-Nineteen people ave access to the Rocket Oven 2018 sales: affiliates on those: 15 to Paul, 2 to me, 1 to a permies member, and 1 more non-affiiliated link forfieted to me, the seller.

-Sixty-three people have access to the Solar Dehydrator Combo Package (best seller).

Note: I can foresee opportunities of collaboration around items sold on the permies digital market. For example, I would like for someone to supply me a materials take-off list for  projects.

Good luck and thank you...
I am very glad to have produced digital items and placed them on the permies digital market place that is open 24 hours a day. I have been able to create documents that the permies community appreciate, and this digital sale becomes another thread of our interaction. I have gotten nice messages via forums, private message, and postal mail. Also, thanks to the wide reach of permies dot com, I have gotten international phone calls from large scale farmers, and emails from university professors.

Note: I modeled the 2018 Rocket Oven purely from video. (I don’t know anyone else who would do this.) Paul gave me access as the video was being compiled. In return, I provided Paul with images to supplement his video documentary. Shout out to Tyler for his skills in that project and documentation.

For lack of better terms, having produced a digital item for the permies digital market makes me “feel like I fertilized a system that betters us.” It requires a pay-it-forward mindset. For me, the first two solar dehydrators made me sink to my core, and get serious. If I hadn’t experienced the planning and building of the large solar dehydrator, I may never have conjured the confidence to make a plan set. I would probably still be an observer making notes, instead of an author making a product.

In closing, I suggest you become involved with the community at permies dot com and maybe even visit Paul Wheaton for a week. Get to know something, then, apply your special hand to it.

PS: A special thank you to my friends Scott and Paul for pushing me toward sketchup modeling.
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Posts: 32722
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I know that for the combo, we made banner ads here on permies, ran tiny ads at the bottom of threads and in emails, we also have some ads at richsoil - and maybe a few other places.  And I think there may have been some sales to people in the PIE program.  

I know that there are a few other "thread boost" things we have given to that.  

I know that we also give your stuff a mention in the rocket ovens DVD.

I think it might be time to have "a sale".  Or maybe lower the price a bit.   Or maybe offer a package deal.  

I know we are also experimenting with ways to improve conversion.

I was hoping that there would be a lot more people selling all the stuff in the digital market to harvest that 40% (my stuff is currently set at 50% or higher).  I thought that with a few people harvesting the fat affiliate stuff, we would see ten times more sales in the digital market as a whole.  I still have lots of ideas and plans to do much, much more.

The important thing is that if you do zero, you get zero.   And with passive income, then you try stuff and you never can tell which thing is gonna pay off huge.  But the idea is to look to how much did you earn, overall, per hour, over ten years?  And beyond ten years?

Good info Davin!  Thanks for taking the time to share all of this!

master steward
Posts: 14336
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I sell a very different product on the digital market, so I thought I'd share my experience as well.

About Me and My Sales
I needle felt dragons and fairies and a miniature Paul and Jocelyn figure. I haven't really advertised, though I know Paul and Jocelyn plugged my creations of them on facebook and on the permies page. I suspect that I might get more buyers if I advertised more, or if I raised my affiliate fee higher--right now it's low to nonexistent keep prices low. Right now I'm a bit busy, so I'm not in a hurry to get more sales--though I'm always happy to take on orders!

Physical Objects and Shipping
Selling a physical object isn't exactly what permies was set up to do, as there's no "cart" and no way to change shipping based on where one is shipping in the US. If there were a cart, it would be easier for people to, say, pick up 4 fairies and a dragon and some swords. But, there isn't, so I'd need to refund shipping to those that order more than one item. This kind of hassle might keep people from buying. There's also just US Shipping and International Shipping, which makes things rather hard for international sellers. Having said that, I've still made sales! I've made $200 in three sales--granted, one sale was to Jocelyn, and the other to Paul for their respective figures.

Support for Beginner Sellers
As a beginner seller, I really appreciate permies and the support I've gotten here.  You all helped me decide on a name for my store, and gave me feedback and encouragement on my creations, and that really really helped! The sales allowed me to buy more materials and to hone my skills. Since there's no listing fee, there's absolutely no risk in listing an item at permies. You can put up whatever you want, and if no one buys it, all you've lost is a few hours. There's no risk. I really, really like that. If I were to list on etsy, I would have listing fees for each thing I put up for sale, even if no one ever bought it. And I'd have to keep paying that fee to keep it listed. That's a risk I didn't want to take as someone who didn't know if their product was actually good enough to sell.

Permies has, literally, allowed me to vastly improve my felting skills. Here's some pictures of my early creations, compared to recent ones.

Without permies support, I would not have improved so much! You can also see that my photography skills have improved a ton, too, just by taking pictures of things I've made as gifts so I can post the pictures of examples of my creations.

Being Part of a Community
And, it's given me a way to give back to permies. It was delightfully fun to make the Paul Wheaton Voodoo Action Figure, and the Jocelyn Action Figure. And, it was great having so many people enjoy the pages, and to be able to send them to Paul and Jocelyn and have them enjoy them. I know that the sales i made here on permies would not have happened if I had not been a part of this community. By being here and contributing and helping others, I have been helped in turn. There's a LOT to be said for the value of community and it's emotional, economical, and intellectual support. I love giving back to the community that has given so much to me.

And, I really want to stress how much the community goes above and beyond just the digital market. I have HUGE thanks to give to Judith Browning who what my very first customer, and has supported me SO MUCH, gifting me with felt and roving and even a pair of wool cards. Thank you, so much Judith. I would never have met such a lovely person without permies, and I only hope that I can give back as she--and so many others--have given to me.

In Summary:
  • The digital market--even for physical items--requires no risk. You can list it, and if it never sells, it costs you nothing. If it does sell, you get money on the day of the month Jocelyn sends out the funds. No risks. Lots of potential rewards. In the words of Paul, "try 100 things, 2 will work out and you never know in advance which 2." Paul makes it pretty easy to do that here on permies!
  • It's a really wonderful to contribute to permies community, and potentially get paid to do it!
  • It's not really set up for physical items, or international orders, but you can make it work
  • It's a great place for a beginner to put out feelers about their product, without any risk, especially if that product is something permies might want. It's a great place to get feedback and encouragement about your product, as well as for your business. It's just plain a great place to be, and I am so thankful to be part of such an awesome community!

    gardener & author
    Posts: 1802
    Location: Tasmania
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    I listed my eBook up on the Permies digital marketplace here: https://permies.com/t/111481/Backyard-Dairy-Goats-ebook

    The setup process was much quicker and easier than I'd expected. I've made three sales, and the money minus the small amount of fees was transferred to me when it was meant to be (start of the month I think).

    It's a good service, the fees are way less than for eBay, etsy, Amazon etc. The affiliate amount can be set to anything, so it's nice to be able to set it fairly high, as I'd rather be giving a percentage to permaculture people than to Amazon.
    Davin Hoyt
    Posts: 358
    Location: Central Texas (Georgetown)
    tiny house wofati
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    Davin Hoyt wrote:
    This is an attempt to entertain the money bug in you...
    Every month, I receive PayPal money from Paul Wheaton’s digital market. It has averaged $70 for the last year. It is a smooth transaction and I have never been troubled by the process.

    This is a screenshot from my PayPal app on phone.
    [Thumbnail for permies-sales-passive-income.jpg]
    Screenshot of my permies dot com passive income.
    Davin Hoyt
    Posts: 358
    Location: Central Texas (Georgetown)
    tiny house wofati
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    Davin Hoyt wrote:This is an attempt to entertain the money bug in you...

    This last Kickstarter campaign (the Greenhouse Build movie), I think, has brought eyes to my drawings for sale. It probably helped that my Rocket Oven (2018) Plan set were a highlighted stretch goal for the campaign. I don't remember getting an exciting influx in sales from a Kickstarter of Paul's before, but that's a possibility. Whatever the case, one of the bonuses to being a part of the Kickstarter is the "set in stone" factor - After the campaign is over, your campaign page is frozen, and permanently advertises your product's existence.

    Now some juice:
    The lowest month's earnings since I started selling on Permies: January 2019 ($24.64).
    My current average monthly earnings since December 2017 ($81.00).
    My best month yet: July 2020 ($180.08).
    It's a tiny ad only because the water is so cold.
    Rocket Mass Heater Plans - now free for a while
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