Nzangi Muimi

Passive Income Streams with Digital Products – My Mistakes and Lessons Learned

Passive income streams are a way of making money without having to always be physically and actively involved in the task. You leverage the power of technology to automate the business and rely on the internet’s power of connecting people to make money online (mostly).

I got introduced to computers in my high school days but didn’t develop a keen interest in information technology until my first year in university. I was always playing computer games and surfing the internet during my free time.

As someone interested in writing, I started a personal blog on Here, I used to share personal stories and poems. Then I learned online that I could make money writing on my blog. That idea led me to research on the web how I could do it practically. However, I hadn’t come across the idea of passive income until later when I had progressed up the ladder of being a content creator.

There are three major ways of making passive income on the internet as described by Eric Reinholdt in the book “Architect + Entrepreneur – Volume 2”. These are affiliate marketing, advertising and digital products.

In this essay, I am going to discuss digital products, my creator journey, the mistakes I made while getting started, my progress and the lessons I have learned so far.

Let’s dive in.

Making Content and Attracting an Audience

This usually starts with market research and choosing a niche that you will focus on. I didn’t know any of these things when I was starting.

So, this is how I got started.

I had been learning how to use the ArchiCAD building information modelling software to complete some assignments. YouTube was my number one resource because the videos are free. However, I noticed that most video tutorials were made by people of an Indian accent and I had difficulties syncing with their English pronunciations. Also, other tutorials were either too fast for a beginner or had just background music playing and no voice-over to guide through the steps being demonstrated in the video.

Nevertheless, I was able to learn the skills I needed and kept on practicing often which led to discovering more things on my own. YouTube creators like Eric Bobrow and ArchiCAD with Dona, were among the best channels that were very valuable in my ArchiCAD learning journey.

I felt that we needed a locally identifiable voice on the web that other learners in my country and continent could relate to. So as a way of giving back to the online community, I started QuantBuild Academy. I started making simple, beginner-friendly, step-by-step tutorials and sharing them for free on that YouTube channel.

It took me 3 years (quite a long time) to build an audience of 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. I finally got accepted to the YouTube partner program and applied for a Google AdSense account. Ads started showing on my videos and I started getting a small paycheck at the end of every month. This is part of the advertising method of passive income generation that I mentioned earlier.

Since then, the audience has continued to grow exponentially with every new content created and we are currently at over 10,000 subscribers.

Homepage of QuantBuild Academy YouTube Channel

When I had seen that I had managed to qualify for the YouTube partner program, I wanted to add another layer of passive income to my portfolio. I decided it was time to start selling products to this small audience.

With no research or any sort of organized product development process, I just dived in and started creating products.

My First Digital Products

Sincerely, I wanted my efforts of providing solutions to my audience’s problems to make me some money. It would be a great thing to earn some dollars from doing something that I liked and enjoyed.

So, I thought about selling something to them. I created a one-on-one software tutoring subscription product on Gumroad. Gumroad is an online cart, checkout, payment processing and file hosting solution. Anyone who watched my free tutorials on YouTube and wanted to schedule a session with me would be directed to purchase a subscription to have that access.

Did I make any sales? Zero.

The subscription program was easy to create and it didn’t need any huge upfront investment of my efforts. I would only invest my time if a customer was willing to spend their money to have a session with me. It turned out my viewers were satisfied with the YouTube tutorials and anyone who messaged me requesting a tutoring session was not willing to pay for it.

Before that, I had invested time recording, editing and polishing online course content to supplement my tutorials. It was going to be a video-on-demand course. It took me a lot of time. When I had finally completed it, I created a sales page on Gumroad and started promoting it. I made one sale for $ 45 after a long time. Then no more sales came in!

I thought to myself that maybe the traffic to my sales page was not enough. So, I decided to upload the course materials on Skillshare. The course was rejected because my videos contained branded content (watermarked with my business logo).

Nevertheless, I went on to create another brand-new course that was accepted and I have been teaching on Skillshare for some time now. If you like, you can get a 1-month free trial of Skillshare and get access to all my classes there.

List of classes taught by Nzangi Muimi on Skillshare.

That said, those were my first two “unsuccessful” products. I have gone on to create more products that worked and received great feedback from my target audience.

But what was I doing wrong in the first trials? There are mistakes which I made while getting started on my own. These were part of my experimentation and I have learned from them and improved my experiments.

Let’s explore them below:

Mistakes I Made and the Lessons I Learned

I identified the following mistakes in my earlier product development pursuits:

  1. Failure to ask the right questions

I was building products that were not geared towards my problems but the problems of my audience. Instead of asking them what they would consider a great solution to their pain points, I assumed that I knew what they wanted and went on to build products.

The products were great, packed with a lot of actionable guidance and very valuable content. But it was not what my audience wanted.

The lesson I learned here is that I needed to engage my audience first to understand their pain points and what they consider the best solution to those pain points. Asking the right questions is a great way to investigate and research the market to gain insights into what you should build for your audience.

  • Not building an email list

Attracting an audience on platforms like YouTube is a very rewarding thing for a business. You can use that to reach out to them as part of your marketing efforts. But having an email list is more valuable.

While YouTube owns and controls the data about your channel subscribers, your email list is owned by you and is not influenced by the decisions third-party business make.

I had not invested my efforts in building an email list. I had subscribers on YouTube but it was not useful in collecting feedback about my products. It was useful in marketing but the conversions were very low. A focused email list would have produced better conversion results.

Going forward, I have learned the importance of an email list in business. All my websites have an email collection pop-up now to collect emails from my fans. As I work on building a valuable newsletter to keep my subscribers engaged. I can then leverage that relationship in the future when I want to launch products.

  • Ignoring the MVP

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It is a stripped-down product, with enough functionality and features to attract early adopters and help validate the product idea in the market. This method of product development allows entrepreneurs to quickly validate ideas and iterate products based on feedback from the early adopters.

While working on my first digital products, I did not build an MVP to help test my ideas in the market. I went on to invest a lot of time and effort in recording and editing videos and graphics for the course. It would have saved me this time and effort if I had created a stripped-down version of the product or adopted a pre-sell strategy to gauge the market’s reception of these products.

The lesson here is that an MVP is important and should be the first step for a small entrepreneur before launching any digital products.

  • Pricing Mismatch

Price is one of the forces that determine how successful product sales will be. If you set a competitive price in the market, people are likely to buy from you assuming you have satisfied other requirements of product-solution fit.

My pricing for the digital products didn’t match the expectations of my audience and their purchasing power then. Analyzing my YouTube subscriber data, I realized that most of my followers were students looking for free resources to learn complex software. They were not ready to spend money on courses, that’s why they loved the free guides on YouTube.

Therefore, convincing them to buy was hard, unless I gave out the course for free!

Wrapping Up

Building passive income streams has been one of my interests for some time now. I look at the flexibility and freedom it offers to a creative professional and it’s something that I have decided to pursue.

When I was getting started with creating digital products, I didn’t know where to start. I just created, shared and hoped to make sales. It was a trial-and-error method. Looking back at my first failures, I have shared the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned along the way.

I hope you learn from my mistakes and improve your process. I too have learned from them and improved on my product offerings. I currently have more products doing well on the market. Also, I am working hard to create more valuable solutions for my audience.

Currently, I am building the Global BIM Marketplace platform to connect creators with customers looking for BIM objects, software and project templates, plugins, addons, presets and much more.

That’s all from me. Let me know about your digital product development experiences in the comments section below.

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