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The rise and fall of a $50,000 digital product, in 5 acts

How a 2 weeks experiment turned into my 2 years income

Ben Issen

Picture this...

  • Product tagline: +20 freelance docs as Notion templates
  • Days to build: 14
  • Days to promote: 3
  • Page views: 13,800
  • Sales: 750
  • Revenue: $50,375
  • 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.

Sales of the Notion Pack in the last 2 years.
Sales of the pack in the last 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 perfect digital product?

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.

My pitch for the Notion Pack was simple too: “it helps freelancers generate all the boring documents for their clients - invoices, proposals, NDAs - inside Notion, automatically”. At the time, Notion was an up-and-coming product. Most freelancers didn’t know it yet.

Timeline of events:

  • September 2: getting the idea for a pack
  • September 3: tweeting about it to validate the need
  • September 4: setting up a Gumroad page and getting 10 pre-sales, enough to feel the pressure to now deliver
  • September 7: started building the pack
  • September 9: first validation calls. These were incredible because pre-buyers had skin in the game, and wanted the product to be really useful for them, so their feedback were more honest
  • September 10: designing the landing page (livestream here)
  • 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.

Distributing the Notion Pack online

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.

Talking about the process of buiding the Notion Pack openly

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.

Talking about the process 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.

The whole thread here.

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.

Translation and affiliations deals for Notion Pack

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).

Average monthly yield of the Supercreative "garden" for the last 3 months

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.

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Time to create
Time to share
Last edit: 
Feb 25, 2022
Special thanks for feedback: 
Sylvain Dore
Image credits: 
Ben Issen

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