Thinking of starting an Etsy shop? Here are some selling on Etsy tips for both digital and physical products. Trying to decide which type of product to sell? I’m currently selling both digital and physical products, and it’s been a great learning experience. Is it worth it to sell on Etsy? The answer totally depends upon what your goals are. How successful is selling on Etsy? In this post, you’ll learn the advantages and disadvantages of selling digital or physical products. You’ll also learn simple tips for selling on Etsy, and whether or not an Etsy shop is better for selling than a website shop. Since I opened my physical products shop on Etsy first, let’s first take a look at how to open a shop for handmade items. Learn how to sell on Etsy successfully right here!
***Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.***
Here’s How I Got Started Selling on Etsy
The summer of 2018 was a time of firsts for me. In addition to creating a semi-secret blog, I also opened an Etsy shop for the hats I had made. It was, and is, totally a side hustle. Since I’m a teacher, I have a bit of extra time in the summer to explore interests and hobbies. My husband restored a 1930 Model A Ford a few years ago, and my way of joining in the fun was to make 1920s and 1930s-era hats using a vintage wooden hat block. Suddenly, my closet was filled to the brim with hats. There was no way I could possibly wear all of the hats I had designed, so I read a bit about opening a shop on the Etsy website. Etsy has excellent resources, and for a small seller like me, it was an ideal way to market what I had made.
Selling on Etsy is a Great Way to Make Money from a Hobby
There are other benefits to selling on Etsy in addition to the money. I enjoy browsing through second-hand stores for hats in need of a little love and reshaping. Hunting around for vintage accessories to place on the hats is interesting and fun. If I am looking for items to sell in my Etsy shop, I have a purpose in my quest. I can justify this bit of shopping therapy if I make money from it, right? When I reshape or design a hat, I often embellish it with a fun little piece of vintage jewelry or a vintage scarf. The refurbishing process generally takes very little hands-on time (a definite plus). Most of the creation process is hands-off while the hat is drying on my vintage hat block during the reshaping process. I am not a mass-production outfit. If you visit my shop, please bear in mind that I’m a super small operation. Restocking has been a challenge, as many second-hand shops were closed until recently. Is an Etsy shop right for you? If you are a crafter, knitter, woodworker, or any other type of creator, selling on Etsy might be a good fit for you.
Etsy Shop Setup for Selling Was a Snap
What you should know before opening an Etsy shop? Although the Etsy site provides excellent, step-by-step instructions for shop setup, the thing I was most worried about was my Etsy shop name. What would be a fun name that would reflect the vintage style of the hats I wanted to sell? One style of hat that was popular during the 20s and 30s was the cloche style.
I decided to see if the name ClocheCloset was taken, and hooray, it was available! I was one step closer to opening my shop.
Do I Need a License to Sell on Etsy?
Is Etsy profitable for sellers? Most Etsy sellers are like me, meaning that most are just trying to make some money off of their hobbies. As long as your Etsy shop isn’t a full-time business endeavor, no business license is needed. There is a certain profit threshold that needs to be reached before you need to worry about paying self-employment taxes. Here’s an article from the TurboTax website that goes into greater detail about that. Selling on Etsy is ideal for the casual, side hustle seller.
Gathering Props for Selling on Etsy
If you are selling a handmade product, you will need to have a way to display that product attractively for photos. Think about what you might need. For my hat shop, I needed to find a way to display each hat in a photo. Hats sell best when they can be seen being worn on someone’s head. I certainly did not want to have my face plastered all over my shop pages wearing my hats, so I needed to find someone to model them. The only problem is, I’m the only female in my household. It would be inconvenient to ask someone to come over and model each hat when I needed to take photos. It would have been even less convenient to haul all of my hats elsewhere to be modeled. I was at a loss.
A Fantastic Find for My Etsy Shop
By chance, I happened upon a yard sale in a subdivision near my home, and I just about fell over in shock. There, setting on card tables, were mannequin heads. They had hair and pretty faces. Also, they were very cheap. I chose one I liked, paid my dollar for her, and happily clutched my purchase. Thank you, Lord! I silently rejoiced. I looked on the bottom for a label, and discovered her name was Tiffany. Tiffany was pretty, but she had been used as a practice model for someone attending school to become a hairdresser. She needed a trim and a hat. Unfortunately, her life is one perpetual bad hair day.
You see, she really does need a hat. Fortunately, I have a lot of hats for her to wear. Great! I had my hats, my hat model, and now I just needed some stunning photos to upload.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Photography
Stand-out photos are essential for an Etsy shop, but I didn’t have any sophisticated photography equipment. I kept reading about things like lightboxes and how to stage the perfect shot. Although I could have made my own lightbox, I ended up just using a white tablecloth as a background for most of my shots. I use my phone for photos, and they aren’t perfect. Most are a bit shadowy (like the photo of Tiffany in the above paragraph), but I’ve gotten a lot better at using the photo editing tools on my phone. You can also use free photo editing sites like Fotor, which has a lot of fun effects. My photos have gotten much better since I learned how to edit them quickly and easily.
Judging by the number of hats I’ve sold, my customers must think my photos are fine. Just do your best with what you have.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Optimizing Your Listing for SEO
If you want to know how to be successful on Etsy in 2021, format your product listing so it can be easily found in a search. You want to use some search engine optimization tips to increase your chances of selling more items.
First, include your most descriptive keywords in your titles. Etsy titles should be clear, descriptive, and not too long. Etsy shoppers are busy people who scan through Etsy search results quickly. Keep in mind the needs of your possible customers and what might be appealing to them. Since my hats are designed with the vintage 1920s and 1930s look in mind, I try to remember that when I create my listings.
Etsy provides sellers with an opportunity to add up to 13 tags for each listing. Use them all. To make the most of each one, create multi-word phrases. If an item isn’t selling well on Etsy, you can go back and refresh the list of tags. Is your item a particular size? Include that in a tag.
Using Long-Tail Keywords to Sell on Etsy
Target long-tail keywords in your product descriptions. Instead of just “sunhat” I could try “1920s style cloche sunhat”. Think of what makes your item special and would make it stand out from other listings. People seem to appreciate that I shape my hats on a vintage hat block, so I sometimes include that in my hat descriptions. Take a look at other listings for similar products that come up in the Etsy search results to see which keywords are working well for them.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Going Live
My Etsy shop went live in late July 2018. I should be able to recall the date offhand, but I can’t. At first, I obsessively checked my stats on my Etsy shop manager app every 15 minutes, it seemed. Right at first there was a spike of interest because I think people must have a way of being notified of any new Etsy shops that appear. After the first day, then crickets. A few days later, someone in Ireland favorited my shop. How did they find me? I have no idea, because I didn’t have an active blog then, so had done no promoting. Also, I had told no one except my immediate family about my shop. People did find me somehow, and gradually the traffic to my shop grew. Now I have a pretty steady stream of traffic and consistent sales. I hardly ever look at my stats anymore, and it’s a pleasant surprise when someone favorites my shop or buys a hat.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Promoting Your Product
There are many places to promote your product for free. You could start an Instagram business account, Facebook page, or Pinterest business account to promote your Etsy shop products. You could also pay for ads on those sites. I haven’t been able to promote my hats much on Pinterest, because they are one of a kind. Once a hat has sold, the pin would be obsolete. However, if you make many duplicate copies of a product, and have multiple copies available, promoting on Pinterest would be a great idea.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Packaging
For packing the hats, I use the free Priority Mail boxes from the United States Postal Service. You can order them online and have them sent to you for free. The 12-inch by 12-inch by 8-inch box is large enough for my hats. For cushioning, I use the air pillows that I get in Amazon packages. I have a special closet area where I store them until needed. I try to recycle any packaging materials (like tissue paper) I receive and use them for the hats if the material is in good shape. I spend hardly any money on packing supplies, which means more profit.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Shipping
On Etsy, you have the ability to create shipping profiles. At first, I chose to price shipping based upon the weight of each hat after packaging. That was a pain, because I had to include the weight in each item description, and that was time-consuming to determine. Many times, I would just estimate, and sometimes I under-estimated, which meant a loss in profit. I decided to offer free shipping on every hat, no matter where it was shipping to. That was a big mistake. I increased the prices of the hats to cover shipping. As long as the hats shipped to a location in the United States, the cost I had to pay was reasonable. Once I had an order from New Zealand, and the shipping cost was horrendously expensive. I actually lost money on that hat. Now, I offer free shipping only in the United States, and there has to be a minimum purchase amount. Free shipping is definitely the way to go if you can swing it.
Advantages of Selling a Physical, Handmade Product on Etsy
If you’re thinking about starting an Etsy shop for your handmade items, I hope this has given you some helpful insights. I haven’t given you a lot of technical information, because the Etsy site provides that. I just wanted to give some tips for selling physical products on Etsy. The advantages of selling physical products on Etsy are many:
- You will have a place to share your wares with a wide audience.
- If you are looking for a way to justify the money you spend on a hobby, sell what you make. The money you make can be used to further develop your hobby or buy new equipment for your hobby.
- It’s fun to interact with customers who enjoy your products.
If I can open an Etsy shop and sell my hats, chances are good that someone out there will be interested in buying what you make as well. The key to making a profit on Etsy is to make something that you can price reasonably without feeling like you are making a super low hourly wage. My hats are not time-consuming to shape and let dry, and I have a good reason to look for vintage trimmings and hats at yard sales or second-hand stores. I’ve made money and had fun.
Disadvantages of Selling a Physical, Handmade Product on Etsy
There are some drawbacks to selling physical products on Etsy:
- Restocking your shop with additional products takes time.
- Figuring out the amount of time you spend making something can be tricky. You need to do this to make sure you are paying yourself an adequate hourly wage.
- Shipping can sometimes be a hassle.
- You need to have some physical space to store your products and shipping materials.
If none of these disadvantages presents a huge obstacle, keep moving forward with your Etsy shop plans.
Which is Better, Selling on Etsy or on an eCommerce Shop on a Website?
If you have your own website, you might be considering opening your own shop and selling online that way. The main consideration is traffic. If your website receives a large amount of traffic, then opening your own shop would allow you to keep more of the profits. If you are a small operation with limited resources, Etsy would have a greater reach. If you start small on Etsy and grow bigger, you could always transition to an eCommerce website shop later on.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Opening a Digital Downloads Shop
Since so many events were happening from a distance recently, it was an opportune time to design and offer some digital downloads. Digital classrooms needed digital activities. Virtual social events needed digital resources as well. I opened the FluxingWell Digital Downloads Etsy shop. The products and the shop came together on a weekend, and it didn’t take long to make sales. I plan to keep adding digital products because they are so easy to manage. Can you have more than one shop on Etsy? Yes. All you need is a different email address for each Etsy shop you manage.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Shop Policies for Digital Downloads
There were some things I did not have to worry about, which was nice. I did not a shipping policy, other than to select “Digital Product”. The shop policies were slightly different. For my Etsy hat shop, I offer full refunds if a customer is not satisfied. In my digital downloads shop, I do not offer refunds. I do offer technical assistance if someone needs it, and a few have. People seem to understand the policy and have had no objections to it.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Designing Appealing Digital Products
How do you know which digital products to sell on Etsy? You can do a Google search for ideas. To find the digital products that sell best on Etsy, just type in something like “What are the best selling Printables on Etsy?” You can also search within Etsy to see what other shops are selling. Then, turn to a graphic design program to create your digital product. You can also use Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Microsoft Publisher. When your design is complete, just convert it to PDF format and upload the file to Etsy.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Use PLR Products to Save Time
What does PLR stand for in business? It stands for Private Label Rights, and a PLR product is an item that is purchased and may be customized and resold. For example, if I had a garden printable Etsy shop, I might want to offer wedding planners, garden planners, and other floral printables. What if I had no time to design those items from scratch? That’s where PLR comes in. I could purchase a garden planner or wedding planner from a PLR vendor, and add my logo on it to sell in my Etsy shop. By purchasing the PLR product, I also purchase the full commercial rights to rebrand the product for my own shop. Two excellent PLR vendors are PLR Beach and Simple Happiness Biz. One note of caution: If you sell PLR products on Etsy, be sure to change up the cover (at a minimum) so that you have a part in the design process.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Adjust to the Customer’s Needs
Now that more students are seeing their teachers in person, there isn’t as much need for virtual bingo boards. People are meeting in person for social functions, so don’t need virtual baby shower or bridal shower games. I’m going to pivot and focus more on creating more quality ebooks, printable checklists, planners, and party theme packs. I’d like to design my own from scratch, but I’ll use PLR products if I need to.
Which Digital Products Sell Well on Etsy?
The list of possible digital products is vast. Here are a few that sell well, in addition to ebooks:
- Printable checklists
- Party theme packs
For a more complete list, get my ebook called How to Build and Grow a Successful Digital Download Business on Etsy.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Images for Digital Products
Unlike my hat shop, I didn’t have to take photos of my digital products. I did need to have eye-catching graphic design images. For my interactive virtual bingo boards, that was easy. I just created a design in Crello (my favorite easy graphic design program), changed the colors for each virtual bingo board image, and presto! I uploaded pdf files and my digital products were ready to go. Images for ebooks have been more of a challenge. Here’s how to make a free 3D ebook mockup in Crello or Canva.
After creating the image, you can remove the background using the RemoveBG site, or your premium version of Canva or Crello.
You could also create an Etsy listing image for an ebook using the free version of Smartmockups. Here’s one I made:
My ebook images are works in progress. A flat image of the ebook cover just doesn’t stand out enough, in my humble opinion.
Selling on Etsy Tips: Promoting Your Digital Product
Digital products are easier to promote than one-of-a-kind handmade products, especially on Pinterest. The Etsy seller doesn’t need to worry about running out. More of the same digital product can always be listed. My Pinterest pins for my virtual bingo boards drove quite a bit of traffic to my Etsy shop. I did not pay for any promoted pins or ads on Facebook, but you certainly could.
Advantages of Selling a Digital Product on Etsy
I wish I had opened my digital downloads shop sooner, because there are so many advantages to selling digital products compared to physical products, including:
- The same products can be sold over and over.
- There is no need to deal with packing or shipping.
- Digital Etsy products are easier to promote.
Disadvantages of Selling a Digital Product on Etsy
I had a hard time thinking of a disadvantage to selling digital products compared to physical products. Here’s the only one I could think of:
- In my case, it takes longer to create a digital product than it does to refurbish a hat.
That was quite a short list of disadvantages. Now you can see why I’m such a fan of selling digital downloads on Etsy.
What About Teachers Pay Teachers?
Since some of my products are ebooks, like cookbooks, I chose to go the Etsy route. Certainly, a Teachers Pay Teachers shop is a great option for educators. In fact, when I have time, maybe during summer break, I’m going to investigate opening an online shop on that site for my educational products.
How About You?
If you are seriously considering opening an Etsy shop for digital downloads and would like to learn the exact steps, get my eBook, How to Build and Grow a Successful Digital Download Business on Etsy.
In it you will learn:
- How to get your shop up and running, ready to make a profit
- The most popular digital downloads to sell
- How to advertise your products on Pinterest
- How to get 40 free shop listings
Selling on Etsy has been a positive experience for me so far, and I’ve learned how to manage both of my shops without being overwhelmed. Who knows what the future holds?
Looking to Make Your Blog Get Noticed?
Standing out from the crowd is tough, especially when it comes to blogging. Need to add some unique, memorable features? You might like my eBook containing information about some excellent free media tools for bloggers.
May all of your Etsy shop endeavors be successful!