How to sell digital files using WordPress

E-commerce is one of the fastest growing markets around, and digital sales make up a big piece of that pie. If you want to dabble in the world of online commerce, setting up a digital sales-only store is one of the simplest methods. The problem is figuring out the best way to sell digital files using WordPress.

(Chart by Visualizer Lite. Data from BusinessInsider.)

Fortunately for you, WordPress makes this task easy with its intuitive plugin system. There are plenty of tools that will enable you to sell digital files quickly. Best of all, adding new products is simple, and there are few upfront costs involved in this model.

In this article, we’ll discuss what digital sales are, how they can benefit you, and how to set up an online store using the Easy Digital Downloads plugin. Let’s jump in!

An introduction to digital sales (and how they can benefit you)

A wide range of businesses can be conducted using only digital sales, ranging from online bookstores to web hosting and software. They all have one thing in common – they don’t require you to ship anything physically. This is a strong selling point, but it isn’t the only upside to digital sales, which provide:

  1. Easier management. There will usually be a system in place that handles everything from processing orders to delivering them online. That means you’ll be free to spend your time coming up with new products.
  2. Multiple payment options. Dozens of payment gateways can be set up online, and you’re free to pick your favorite in most cases.
  3. Minimal upkeep. Handling and storing physical products takes time and money, even if you’re only running a small operation. When it comes to digital products, you may only have to worry about hosting fees.
Example of how to sell digital files using WordPress: the ThemeIsle plugin store.

For example, we sell digital products via the ThemeIsle plugin store.

Setting up an online store to sell digital files using WordPress is relatively simple. Coming up with ideas and creating digital products does take some effort, and the same goes for promoting your items. If you have the time and the drive to pull it off, however, you’ll have a stable source of income on your hands.

How to sell digital files using WordPress (in three steps)

Previously, we mentioned that there are plenty of plugins designed to sell digital files using WordPress. There’s WooCommerce, for example, which is geared more towards physical products, but still does the trick for digital goods.

When it comes to this particular task, though, we’re big fans of Easy Digital Downloads. It’s a tool tailor-made for selling virtual items. Here’s a quick preview of what’s possible with the plugin:

If you’d rather stick with WooCommerce, there are plenty of tutorials available on how to configure the platform for digital sales. Otherwise, you can go ahead and install Easy Digital Downloads, then proceed to Step 1.

Step 1: Configure Easy Digital Downloads’ main settings

Before you can put your first digital product up for sale, there are a few settings to sort out. After installing the plugin, a new Downloads tab will appear on your dashboard. Click on it and choose the Settings option:

Easy Digital Download's page settings.

By default, Easy Digital Downloads will automatically set up checkout, success, and transaction pages for your site – everything you need for a user to complete a purchase. In this first section, you can change which pages the plugin will use, in case you want to set up alternatives on your own. For now, we recommend sticking with the default and styling them as necessary.

Once you’re done, go to the top of the page and click on Currency Settings. In this screen, you can set the default currency for your store, as well as a couple of other minor settings including the position of the currency’s symbol:

Easy Digital Download's currency settings.

After taking care of those settings, there’s only one more thing to configure before making that first sale – payments.

Step 2: Set up your payment gateways

It goes without saying, but you shouldn’t make a sale without figuring out how you’ll get paid beforehand. Easy Digital Downloads enables you to use two payment platforms out of the box – PayPal and Amazon Payments. To get started, return to the plugin’s Settings page and click on the Payment Gateways tab:

Configuring your payment gateways.

All you have to do is enable the platforms you want to use by ticking the boxes next to Payment Gateways, then choose a default gateway. After that, you can pick which icons to include alongside your options, so users can tell at a glance what payment methods they can use.

If you’re planning to use PayPal to handle your payments, you’ll also need to fill out some additional fields. Click on the PayPal Standard link right below the Payment Gateways tab to take care of them:

Configuring your PayPal settings.

The first field is self-explanatory. The second, PayPal Page Style, is an optional field. If you’d like to create a custom page style for your PayPal checkout page, take a look at this resource.

Step 3: Add your first digital file

Now for the most important part – adding a digital file to your inventory and putting it up for sale.

Go to your dashboard and click on Downloads > Add New. First of all, you’ll have to pick a name and a description for your digital file:

First digital file page

The next step is to set a price for your file. The option to do this should appear right below the main WordPress editor:

Setting the price for your digital file.

Now, scroll down until you reach the Download Files section and leave Default as the product type. Then, use the form below to upload the actual file you want to sell and set a name for it:

Uploading the file you want to sell.

When that’s done, go ahead and click the Publish button. Now, your item is ready to go and you have two options to display it. Firstly, you can use its unique shortcode, which you can find next to the editor below the Publish button:

Checking out your product's shortcode.

On the other hand, you can also insert the [downloads] shortcode anywhere on your site, which will display all your items for sale. This is the perfect solution if you’re thinking about displaying multiple items.

Conclusion

Setting up an online store can be an intimidating proposition – there’s no way around that fact. However, selling digital files is also one of the simplest ways to get your start with e-commerce. After all, you won’t need to worry about shipping, and you can sell each product as many times as you want.

Here’s what you need to know to sell digital files using WordPress and the Easy Digital Downloads plugin:

  1. Configure the plugin’s main settings.
  2. Set up your payment gateways.
  3. Add your first digital file.

That’s the basics covered. If you’re ready to take things further, then we’d recommend checking out Easy Digital Downloads’ superb knowledge base.

Do you have any questions about how to sell digital files using WordPress? Ask away in the comments section below!