I’ve been very much looking forward to writing this Gumroad review for a long time now, as I’ve been using the service for 12 months now and I’ve got lots to say about it (both good and bad). But first, a bit of a backstory which will help to set the context for the praises and criticisms I’m about to spew:
It was way back in 2005 or so when I started feeling incredibly frustrated that there wasn’t an easy way to sell digital products on my websites. I was bursting at the seams with ideas, yet I was paralyzed by the fact that I had to learn how to write PHP code (or hire someone to do it) in order to create a good (and secure) shopping cart.
I tinkered with PayPal for a while, which is something you’re likely to hear from others in their own in-depth Gumroad reviews. That notoriously yellow “Buy” button was prevelent everywhere across the Internet back then, and I certainly spent my fair share of time trying to get it to integrate well into my own websites. The integration was the easy(ish) part, but usability was the problem. It was a really clunky solution for allowing our customers to purchase digital products directly from our websites. Sometimes it worked, often times it didn’t.
Behold the birth (and my eventual discovery) of Gumroad
Founded in 2012 by Sahil Lavingia, Gumroad was the solution to all the problems that anyone who ever wanted to sell a digital product on their website had. It offers an incredibly simple and easy way of turning any website or blog into a safe and secure e-commerce store, and it does it in a way that no other service can do so efficiently. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover it until 2018 (while listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast hosted by Pat Flynn).
At first I was skeptical of it working so well, as it seemed to be promising an awful lot. Things like safe and secure file hosting (and delivery), an extremely simple purchase flow for your customers (they wouldn’t even have to leave your site), and payment processing (which is always the part that causes headaches).
I started slowly with just a few digital products. I didn’t want to commit to it until I was sure it worked, which is my common approach to these kinds of new and fancy products which seem too good to be true.
Long story short, it didn’t take longer than a week for me to become convinced that it was the solution I needed to sell digital products across all of my websites. The handful of sales I made that week using Gumroad were flawless and easy (for both me and my customers). I’ve since been converting all of my digital product sales to this new service little by little (whenever I have spare time).
However, it isn’t perfect. And this is a brutally honest Gumroad review after all, so I’ve got lots to say about my experience with it over the past 12 months or so. So here we go with the good stuff!
Pros and cons of using Gumroad to sell digital products
Please note that some of the things I’m going to list out here may sound really petty. However, all of these points come straight from 12 months of real-world experience, and the petty stuff is important IMHO.
- The Gumroad promise of being able to sell digital products on ANY website or blog without any extra coding is true. Simply create the product on Gumroad (upload the digital product with an attractive preview image or two, and write a short description for it). Then add the auto-generated link anywhere on your website. That’s honestly all it takes! Your customers will then be able to purchase the product directly on your website (safely and securely) without the need to jump over to Gumroad.
- A major advantage of selling digital products with Gumroad (instead of using a third party “middleman” solution like Amazon) is the fact that you will get all of your customer’s information. This is especially important if you are building an email list (I recommend doing this through ConvertKit) and you want to keep providing value to them after the sale. In contrast, Amazon doesn’t tell you who your customers are – they keep that information for themselves and their own marketing and relationship efforts.
- The pricing is very fair IMHO. For just $10/mo, I get a complete e-commerce solution for an unlimited number of products.
- I personally love the stats feature. In addition to seeing things like how many times each product has been viewed and purchased, I can also see where those sales originated from (for example: Google, my own website, an email that someone forwarded to someone else, etc).
- There’s an active (and enthusiastic) development team behind this product. Support is always fast, and they are very active on Twitter. This is one of the most important parts of this Gumroad review as far as I’m concerned, because if there’s nobody running the show (and continuously updating the product), it’s not worth investing my time and money into.
- Gumroad is perfect for people who only have a handful of digital products to sell. But for people like me who have hundreds of products (and growing), it’s a bit more difficult. At the time of this writing, the organizational structure of products within Gumroad isn’t very…organized. All of your products will be listed in the order they are uploaded, with no clean way of grouping or tagging them by category (tagging is possible, but there’s no way to organize them). There is a search bar at least, so it’s not all that difficult to find the things you are specifically looking for.
- I’d personally like to see more customization features for the pop ups that are triggered on my site when someone clicks the “buy” button. Basically, I’d like to try to match the visual design of my site as much as possible. Yes, there are a few things that can be customized (like button color for example), but it’s not very extensive at this time.
It’s time to get brutally honest with this Gumroad review. Who is it FOR and NOT for?
This is the part of this Gumroad review that I was most excited about writing! I get a lot of questions from people about my experiences with this product – most specifically, they want to know if Gumroad is right for them. Since I’m never one to shy away from sharing my opinions, I’m going to answer this by breaking it down into two really easy to digest lists: the kinds of people this product is for, and the kinds of people it isn’t for.
Gumroad is for you if:
- You’re a content creator who wants to spend all your time creating great products and NOT messing around with the technical aspects of your website. The Gumroad solution is super fast and easy to integrate.
- You only have one product to sell. Although it’s very easy to sell as many products as you want (I have hundreds) Gumroad is the ultimate solution for those with only one product. Why? Because it’s so lightweight and simple! IMHO, there’s no need to buy or subscribe to a more complex (and expensive) e-commerce platform designed for huge businesses when something as simple as easy as this exists.
- You’ve never sold anything online before. The Gumroad approach to selling digital products is incredibly simplistic and anyone can do it. There’s no need to worry about things such as payment collection and payment processing because they take care of it.
- You don’t have a website. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe that I am this deep into this Gumroad review and I haven’t even mentioned this yet (because it’s a pretty big deal). Anyway, yes, it’s true – you don’t even need a website or a blog to place Gumroad links. It works on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest too!
Gumroad is not for you if:
- You sell physical products instead of downloadable digital products. In that case, Shopify will likely the best solution for your needs.
- You’re looking for a super-clean and slick online store (such as 08left.com). Again, you’re better off going with Shopify because a slick storefront is one of the products they offer. Gumroad doesn’t offer the ability to create an online store – they simply allow allow you to sell digital products on your existing website or blog (or social media account).
- You have thousands of digital products. In that case, you may prefer a database-driven solution such as PhotoStore by ktools.net. Be warned though – the developers have ceased work on it, and they don’t support it any longer. If that seems interesting (but understandably scary), consider the Photo Video Store solution from cmsaccount (which is still in active development).
Frequently asked questions (an extra little bonus for this Gumroad review)
Yes, there is a frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the Gumroad website, but it’s unfortunately thin on content and not written in a way which helps potential customers objectively weigh the pros and cons. All of what is there is completely valid of course, but I’d like to add a few FAQ’s of my own. I hope they don’t mind…
Do buyers ACTUALLY feel safe putting their credit card information into that Gumroad popup box that appears when they click the “buy” button?
In my experience, yes. They do. Sales have actually INCREASED since I switched from PayPal to Gumroad, which is an interesting statistic all an in of itself. Note that there is very clear “secured by Gumroad” text at the bottom of the box with a link to an official security statement.
Does the Gumroad solution really look professional and clean on ANY website?
Yes. I’m using Gumroad on three of my websites at the moment and I feel that they integrate well into each one right out of the box. I didn’t have to do anything with the design other than change the color of the “buy” button for each one.
Does it always work? What about bugs and glitches?
In the 12 months I’ve been using Gumroad, I’ve never once ran into an issue where a customer wasn’t able to complete a transaction. Every purchase has been successfully completed without a hitch – which is one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of this product.
What about the customer experience? Am I going to get bombarded with technical questions from customers (because they need help completing a transaction)?
In my personal experience, no. The beauty of Gumroad is the simplicity. All the buyer has to do is press the “buy” button, enter their name, email address, and then their credit card info. A direct link to the file they just purchased is emailed to them at that email address. I’ve never once had an issue where a buyer didn’t receive a link or couldn’t download the product.
No matter what your specific wants and needs are for selling digital products, I hope this brutally honest Gumroad review was helpful. For the record, I’m keeping my subscription for the foreseeable future despite some of the negatives I’ve outlined above. The pros simply outweigh the cons IMHO. At least for my needs.
If you want to read more of my thoughts about Gumroad, do be sure to read how I compared it with Shopify for selling digital products. Both are good in their own ways, and the one you choose will be based on what you personally need in an e-commerce platform.
Finally, what are your thoughts about Gumroad? I’ve already given my opinions, and now I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below. Is it working well for you? Is there something about it that you find severely lacking? Please let me know!