How Much Money I Made Selling Wallpapers Online

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 5 min read
How Much Money I Made Selling Wallpapers Online

A few weeks ago I started selling a collection of wallpapers, and today I've made a video showing the raw sales numbers from that pack, and I broke down some info on what customers were more or less likely to buy them.

Here's the video flow:

  1. How much money these earned.
  2. Whether I am happy with the earnings.
  3. What I was really selling (hint, it wasn't wallpapers).

As an Apple nerd, I'm a bit ashamed that my screenshots for the thumbnail are showing 9:40, when I so easily could have waited a minute to get 9:41 screenshots.

And because I know some people prefer to read this sort of thing, below is the script for the video. Remember, this was meant to be read by me on screen, not read from a blog page, so keep that in mind 😛

I used to really not like talking about metrics publicly. I thought it was important to have a bit of mythology around how well you were doing on your side projects…you know, let people guess how well you're doing, don't actually tell them.

And if you can throw in a Bezos-chart that shows things moving up and to the right, all the better!

The more time has gone on, though, the more I think transparency is important. I don't want to share every detail of my life, but there are some things that I could share that I think would help other people who are looking into doing similar things.

You can find plenty of YouTube videos where people show off how they made $30,000 from selling some trivial item online and that's great for them, but that's definitely the exception and not the rule. To balance that out a bit, I wanted to share how well I did when selling a pack of wallpapers last month.

Today I'm going to share:

  1. How much money I made from those wallpapers.
  2. Whether I'm happy or not what that total.
  3. And what I was actually selling, because it wasn't really wallpapers.


Hi everyone and welcome to A Better Computer, my name is Matt, and you already know what this video's going to be about, so let's jump right in.

How Much Money I Made

So far I've made 53 sales and earned $263.

So while my number isn't as impressive as you may have seen in other videos like this, I'm still pretty happy with it, and I'll tell you why.

The way I measure success for stuff like this is whether my time invested in it lines up with the revenue I get in return.

I tracked my time while doing this project, and it took me almost exactly 3 hours to create the wallpapers, put them up on Gumroad, and create the video and blog post that announced them to the world. It's pretty simple math from there, $263 divided by 3 hours is around $87 per hour of work.

I don't know what you make per year, and I'm not going to tell you exactly what I make either, but $87 per hour is more than I make at my day job, so for me this was a great return on my time investment.

And since there are no ongoing costs or work that I need to do, that number can only go up from here.

If I'd spent 100 hours over the course of a month making these, then I might not be so happy, but that's why little products like this can be so great, since you get feedback quickly on whether there's any interest at all on what you're selling. If it doesn't work, then you're not out that much time. Similarly, the bar for what counts as "success" is much lower since you can make a smaller amount of money and still see it as a success for yourself. If I spent 100 hours on these and only made a couple hundred bucks, I'd probably have a very different tone in this video.

Not Technically 3 Hours

It's worth noting that I didn't go from zero to selling wallpapers in 3 hours. I'm a professional designer by trade, and I've been making free wallpapers for years before this. I've also spent 100s of hours in Figma, the app I used to make these, and thousands of hours in Final Cut Pro which I used to make the video announcing them, so I brought all of this existing knowledge and training with me when I started to do this. Yes, technically it was 3 hours of work one morning, but those 3 hours were only possible because of literally thousands of hours of work leading up to them.

It's a common saying among freelancers, but it's true, you're not paying me for the 2 hours it takes to do the job, you're paying me for the years of training and experience that lets me do the job in 2 hours.

What I'm Actually Selling

I mentioned at the start of this video that I wasn't really selling wallpapers, and I genuinely think that's true. Even through on a strictly transactional basis you give me money and I give you wallpapers, the reality was that I was selling…well…me.

If you watched the video or read the blog post announcing these, you know these were all about supporting me so I could devote more time and money into the regular content you see here. The wallpapers were a nice bonus, and I have seen some people using them in the wild, and that's awesome, but you were much more likely to pay up if you had the context of what your $5 was going to before getting to the checkout page.

I know this because when I look back at those analytics, I can see I have about a 6% conversion rate, or 6% of the people who went to the product page actually ended up buying the wallpaper pack. If we break that number down by how they got to the page, then we see a pretty clear distinction. My top converting referrer is BirchTree, my personal blog that I've been running for a decade. People coming from there know me well, and know I don't often ask for direct compensation, so this was a rare thing and they were more likely to support me.

Similarly, you nice folks on YouTube were a top converter too, and people browsing Gumroad were really high as well, but if you're browsing Gumroad, then you probably have money burning a hole in your pocket and you're primed to spend money, so that's not hugely surprising.

But then there's this, iDownloadBlog, a big Apple news site, linked to my wallpapers a week after I posted them. They sent a good chunk of people to the product page on Gumroad, but this was my lowest converting group of potential customers. Why was that?

The big difference is that iDownloadBlog linked to these wallpapers because they were cool looking wallpapers, and let's be real, people aren't used to paying for wallpapers, so most people used the free ones I let iDownloadBlog post, and didn't feel the need to pay $5 for the rest of them. I get that, but it really shows the difference between what it looked like I was selling from the outside and what I was really selling.


So that was a peek behind the curtain of my little wallpaper selling project, and I hope you found it interesting. If you're thinking about selling your own stuff online, then hopefully it gave you some ideas for how you can do that better and helps you set realistic expectations for what you can get out of it.

Anyway, thanks for watching and I'll see you here next time.