The rise and fall of a $50,000 digital product, in 5 acts
How a 2 weeks experiment turned into my 2 years income
Product tagline: +20 freelance docs as Notion templates
Days to build: 14
Days to promote: 3
Page views: 13,800
Indirect value generated: estimated $500,000
I had stumbled on the perfect digital product, generating passive income to build creative projects for 24 months. I still can’t believe it. I created a product in 2 weeks that turned out to be my main source of income for 2 years.
Within 1 month, this product went from “this is just a small experiment” to “here is $7,000 dropping in my bank account each month”. Sales have now slowed down and I can reflect on this whole ride.
1. Getting an idea for a small experiment
It all started as a small experiment. I had the hunch for this idea 2 years ago, in September 2020. I had just written about the Hyper Freelance model, and I wanted to become one myself. I had spent 6 months building a portalfolio for Supercreative, and while I talked to my Mom, Jonno and Alex about using Notion with clients, I wrote an article about their experience and starting thinking about creating a product myself. Then, it all clicked.
The Notion Pack was a simple product idea. Before I launched it, a few creators were selling individual Notion templates at around $15 each. My innovation was marketing-related: packaging 20 templates together and setting a higher price with a premium feel.
September 12: finish the pack after a week of “tunnel mode”, staying in my bedroom all day long to keep on working. Very fortunate to have had a good playlist.
September 13: translating the pack in French
September 15: soft launch on Twitter and newsletter
September 18: sharing free invoice version on social groups
September 23: ProductHunt launch
2. Being open about my process
Once I had finished building the product, I created a free sample from it. This would convince people online that I had done a good job, that the rest of the pack was good. I spent a morning sharing this free template on a Facebook group, on Reddit, on Twitter and on Supercreative’s website. This brought 1000 emails in 30 days, and some of the first 100 sales.
I launched the Notion Pack on ProductHunt and it reached #2 Product of the Week. To this day, I don’t know how much credibility that brought to the product. But it surely did bring lots of interest.
But the interest for the product really surged when I started talking openly about the process of creating the Pack. I wrote about my process on IndieHackers. I talked about my process on several podcasts. I was invited to talk about my process with Marie Poulin, the OG Notion creator, on her Youtube channel.
I had just passed $15,000 in one month. And again and again, as I was becoming more transparent about it all, I was creating the easy dream of making fast money online. The “build in public” trend is an inspiring one. Everyone can build anything! Power to the individual! And I do perpetuate these ideas in this article.
Two months after I launched my product, I was excited to see someone else launch their own version. Then a month after that, 2 creators launched their own. Then 4. The idea had caught on. Now there are hundreds of “Notion Packs”, which is crazy!
3. Fighting the copycats
It’s all nice and good, until you start seeing your work plagiarized. Some had blatantly copied my landing page or the content of the pack. So I asked the creators to remove, remix or credit their work. This happened 4 times, and it never felt good. The 5th time I got plagiarized, the creator ignored my messages and the whole thing blew up.
This has been a good experience to learn about DMCA, cease and desist letters, IP infringement laws throughout the world, small claims procedures, lawyers and the full legal protection creators can leverage to defend their work. There’s a line between inspiration and plagiarism, and when the line is crossed, creators have little resources to defend themselves. So I’m now documenting everything I’m learning to share on this blog, once this issue will be solved.
4. Scaling all the way?
To share the Notion Pack with more people, I accepted translations of the pack to other languages and featuring the product on new Notion template platforms.
But there was a problem. As volunteers translated the pack, it became more difficult to maintain. One change here would mean 10 changes for every other version. So I eventually removed 4 languages that brought little sales.
Secondly, by featuring the pack on platforms that were not up to par with Supercreative’s brand, I also decreased the perceived value of my pack. Not smart moves in retrospect.
But I could also have done a lot more. I could have scaled with ads. I could have written more articles and learned more SEO. I could have tried influencer marketing. I could have, I could have, I could have...
But my priorities were never growing this product. Instead, for the first year, I saw all of this money as a gift to buy myself “productive exploration” time. Passive income allowed me to try creating (and dislike afterwards) cohort-based courses. I also started a Youtube channel. I had the freedom to play my own game, without the need to generate money fast. The result meant more original work. Work that I’m proud of today.
5. Diversifying to kill dependence
The Notion Pack funded all my life. My rent, my living expenses, my university debt and my bizarre trip to Mexico. As my main income stream, I became increasingly worried when sales were down for too long. Dependence is the mind-killer.
Just like the hyper freelance model, my way out was diversification. I saw a new game to play. This game was radically different from the startup game, or the freelance or indie hackers games: it’d be my own game of infinite exploration. I wrote about it in my tiny products article, which has become the core idea of Supercreative today.
But I didn’t like the finance jargon of "portfolio diversification". I needed something more organic. So I now pitch Supercreative as a “garden”. A garden of small products like the Notion Pack.
Some projects require a lot of attention (Playground - a bonsai!), others not at all (Radio - a cactus!). As Supercreative is launching new products every 14 days, I’m thinking about maintenance all the time. And I know other creators have the same end goal. So I’m writing a book for them (you can be updated about it when it pre-launches below).
Thinking in cycles
The first best feeling as a creator is knowing you’ve created something useful. The Notion Pack has served 700 happy customers, and that number keeps growing. I'm so grateful. I will keep on serving you.
The second best feeling as a creator is to produce a creature: a creation that takes a life of its own. And the Notion Pack is my best example for a project that has taken a life of its own.
But as we become enamored with our creations, we avoid thinking about their downfalls. Slowly but surely, my Notion Pack will become irrelevant as new tools come out. So I'll have to be creative, and turn the death of my creature into fertile soil for my next project. It is reconditioning.
So one day, I will recondition the Notion Pack into something even better. This might just be the beginning after all.
Created by Ben Issen
Based in Paris, Ben founded Supercreative. With his team, he creates tools and videos to help creatives be more productive. Prior to that, he worked at Webflow and launched a design agency. @ben_issen
Feb 25, 2022
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