What is Gumroad, exactly?
One of the promises of the internet, way back in the days before we learned how terrible it could be, was the way in which it empowered creative people to more easily distribute their creations. Once broadband became a standard in the home, access to this world-wide network gave them a way to master their own destinies. Musicians didn’t have to rely on record companies to record, press, and ship their music. Authors didn’t need a publisher to get their novel in front of millions of eyes. Painters no longer needed to rely on galleries to have people ignore them. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly work out that way. Or it mostly didn’t work out that way. And it’s services like Gumroad that are fulfilling that original promise.
Social media—especially YouTube and Instagram—allowed talented people who’d otherwise have toiled in obscurity to show their work and build followings. Blogs did the same for authors. The corporate world saw all these people getting famous and wanted access to their audiences, but had little regard for the content. Gumroad, on the other hand, saw the value of the content itself.
Since 2011, the e-commerce platform has helped independent authors, designers, coders—any digital creator, really—to easily sell their downloadable content. It was a barebones service at the time, but these days it’s very robust. They’ve added the ability to sell subscriptions and rentals, for example, as well as ways to protect your content through DRM. You can also sell physical products, as well, with Gumroad acting as your frontend—but really, the value is in Gumroad’s features geared toward digital.
For Creators who could be Influencers but don’t want to be, Gumroad gives them a way to earn money doing what they love.
What’s the Cost?
The platform offers two levels of service, with either zero or very little upfront costs.
- Getting Started, 8.5% + 30 cents per transaction — It’s free to sign up and set up shop, and Gumroad only takes money when you make a sale. You get a Gumroad storefront with unlimited products, analytics, and customer management tools.You get a limited number of Posts and Workflows (more on that in the next section), and can offer Standard Definition streaming of videos. Note that the fee listed above is actually two fees combined. There’s the 5% that goes to Gumroad, and the 3.5% + 30 cents per transaction is for credit card processing. If you connect your Paypal account, sales made via PayPal cost a flat 6% (plus whatever PayPal charges you).
- Pro, $10/mo or $108 when billed annually, plus the credit card fees — That $10 per month covers you for up to 1,000 customers. You can see how the price increases as you grow here. At this level you get everything in the free plan, plus: unlimited Posts and Workflows, HD streaming, custom domain, all Gumroad branding removed, custom CSS to make your storefront look however you want it to. PayPal payments made to your connected account are only 1% (plus whatever PayPal charges you).
Gumroad also has a “Discover” feature, where customers can browse through all the categories and products offered by the nearly 78k creators using the service. Anything anyone finds through this method (as opposed to heading directly to your store) is subject to an additional 10% on top of the fees laid out above.
Is It Easy to Setup and Use?
It really is. The interface is basic, but in a good way. There’s no noise or extraneous bells and whistles to confuse you. Occasionally, as you’re setting things up, you’ll run into a setting that isn’t immediately obvious what it is/does. There are no contextual help buttons, no little question mark to push to get a quick, hovering explanation, but it’s not that hard to find the answers in Gumroad’s knowledge base. But really, everything’s pretty self-explanatory.
Creating the account is as easy connecting your Facebook or Twitter profile (or you could just set one up with your email if you like). Once that’s done, you’re immediately into the section where you start adding products, which couldn’t be easier. You’re walked through each step of the process. The default assumption is that you’re selling something digital, and you have to specify whether there’s a physical product. But it’s incredibly simple to add product name, description, price, and specs. You’ll upload the actual files that make up the product (e.g. an MP3 for a song, or PDF for an e-book). If you’re selling software, there’s an option for Gumroad to generate a unique license key for each purchase. You can even customise how the payment screen will look, and the receipt that people get—for each individual product.
Probably one of the coolest features of Gumroad is its Workflows. This is where you automate follow up emails to stay engaged with your audience. Whenever someone follows you, or buys something, or both, you can trigger a follow up email at whatever interval you want (X amount of hours, days, or weeks). Then you can automate follow-ups to follow-ups, again at predefined intervals like a drip campaign, to stay connected. It’s one of the highlights of Gumroad and gives anyone the opportunity to operate like a legitimate business.
Show Me the Money
Unlike most of the platforms we’ve reviewed here, it’s not so easy to find any articles or posts that compile a list of, say, the Top 10 Gumroad sellers, or anything like that. This might be because Gumroad isn’t meant to serve the kinds of Creators whose names are part of the products (i.e. influencers and/or naked people whose products are ancillary to their success).
What is easy to find, however, are more personal stories from individuals who’ve done well with the platform—like this one from the creator of picjnumbo.com, a stock photo service that’s basically just one guy, his camera, and Gumroad. You’ll definitely find something from Nate McAllister, either about the digital tools and products he creates and sells, or just tips from him on how to succeed with Gumroad. You may stumble on the story of a guy named David who made over $13k with his e-book.
The Bottom Line
Probably more than any other service, Gumroad requires you to have a great product and some business savvy. It’s not a personality-driven thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good fit for influencers. In fact, especially for influencer who specialise in digital media, Gumroad may be the most lucrative way to monetise your creations. That’s because you don’t need to show up with a great idea and the business-savvy to grow your audience. You’ll bring that audience with you, and many of them will likely want to support you.
Remember, though, this is for true digital creations and unique/useful physical products. If you just want to capitalize off your name to sell merch, a service like Teespring is more up your alley. If you’re looking to sell aunty physical products, really, Gumroad isn’t for you. It’s just not really set up for that.
But for digital products of any kind, Gumroad is the standard by which any other service should be judged.