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If you’ve been a creative for a while (or even if you’re just starting out), chances are you’ve noticed a trend: in order to make money, you have to spend time creating.
And as your desire to grow your business (and your revenue!) builds, there comes a point in time where there are simply no more hours in a day to add on additional clients.
Short of ever-increasing your rates, how can you grow a business with an unlimited earning potential when you have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else?
Enter digital products.
Creating a digital product and selling it on a popular, reputable online marketplace might be the very thing that helps you hit that next-level revenue status you’ve been dreaming of.
Knowing this has left a lot of creatives asking if Etsy is legit for making good money online as a creative.
Is Etsy Legit for Making Money?
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to go back to work after she was born.
But, with a full-time student of a husband, I had assumed the role of primary breadwinner (a badge I wore proudly!) and knew that in order to make it financially work for us, I would need to return to work after my maternity leave.
We had never considered what would happen if I couldn’t go back to work.
Three weeks postpartum, my world turned upside down as I was diagnosed with a serious case of postpartum depression and anxiety that left us with no other choice– I would have to quit my job.
There was absolutely NO way I would be able to return to work in the limited 8-week maternity leave time frame I was given.
And I realized at that moment that I didn’t have a choice– I HAD to find a flexible way to work from home if I was going to continue to provide for my family.
For years I had heard about Etsy (an online craft fair or sorts for creatives to sell their goods) as as a way to make some money, but my husband was wary, “Is Etsy legit? Are you sure this isn’t a scam?”
So I did a little bit of digging (and then some) and I realized that not only was Etsy legit and it was possible to earn a *little* monthly income from the legit marketplace platform, but there were sellers out there making $5,000, $10,000, $20,000+/month selling 100% on Etsy.
I was shocked…and incredibly inspired. Etsy was legit after all.
And so (with the power of God behind me and a newborn in tow), I got to work creating, listing, and marketing my baby headbands + digital art prints in my new Etsy shop while the little one slept (just call me queen of the naptime hustle).
While I would have been thrilled to earn a couple hundred dollars that first month, I was flat-out SHOCKED to realize I had earned over $1,200– and that Etsy would be paying me my first paycheck as a work-from-home momma.
That was only the beginning. The next month? A cool $4,000.
And things only continued from there– 18 months in my Etsy shop was earning over $20,000+/month in revenue. I had gone from working at our dining room table to hiring a team of contractual employees to help fulfill orders and stay caught up.
So when people ask me: “Should I open an Etsy shop? Is Etsy legit for making money online?” I have to laugh— because I now spend my days coaching and teaching Etsy sellers all over the globe how to create a full-time income from selling their products online through my signature online program, Mastermind Your Marketing.
And while traditionally known for just vintage or handmade sellers, over the past 5 years, Etsy has EXPLODED to become one of the top platforms for freelancers to expand their revenue— both by offering certain services AND creating passive revenue through selling digital products.
What is Etsy?
Since opening its doors first in 2005, Etsy has evolved to become more than just the popsicle-stick virtual craft fair it started out as– it’s now a thriving global marketplace with buyers and sellers coming together from all corners of the world to exchange money for unique and one-of-a-kind products.
And while Etsy is the “blanket” platform that all of these shops and goods fall under, when you sell (or purchase) anything on Etsy, you’re doing so as an individual brand.
You are 100% in control of the products you sell, the prices you set, and the order fulfillment that goes into each and every order.
So why would you choose to sell on Etsy vs. setting up your own standalone e-commerce site? Let’s take a look at the benefits.
Why you should consider using Etsy
Little to no startup cost
Forget the thousands (or tens of thousands) that you traditionally had to spend to get an online shop up and running— Etsy allows you to quickly and economically create a storefront and get your products out into the world.
While there is no start-up cost to set up a shop on Etsy, Etsy makes it’s money in three main ways: product listing fees, transactional fees, and ad spend.
Low product listing fees:
Etsy is an extremely economical option for publishing products online– charging a mere $0.20 per published product listing. Once published, that listing will remain active for 4 months or until it sells.
If, after 4 months a particular listing has NOT sold, then that listing expires and you will need to pay $0.20 to publish it again for an additional 4 months. These listing and renewal fees are added to your monthly Etsy bill
If, however, the item sells (congratulations, by the way!), you can choose to keep it sold out, or select the option to have Etsy automatically renew it for you (again, charging the $.20/product) so that it can continue to make sales in the marketplace.
Everytime you sell an item on Etsy, Etsy takes a 3.5% cut of the profits. Compare this to Amazon’s 15% “referral fee” and you can see just how economical it is to sell on Etsy v. other online platforms— you’ll keep more money in your pocket.
As of February 2020, Etsy now requires that all Etsy sellers making over $10,000 in a 12-month period are required to participate in their “offsite ads”— an advertising service Etsy handles that promotes your items on high-traffic sites including Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing shopping.
Participation in this service is mandatory, but requires little of Etsy sellers. Etsy handles ALL of the offsite ads promotion— the only thing required of you is to pay a 12% sales fee on any items you sell that came in from an ad.
It’s worth noting that if you make under $10,000 during the 12-month period, you can choose to opt out of this service.
Ease of tech
If you’re stuck in tech 1999 (like me!), the idea of setting up your own ecommerce website can be enough to cause you to break out into serious hives and can be a major hangup for selling your goods or services online.
Etsy’s ease of use and ridiculously low learning curve makes it easy to set up your shop and get your products out into the world– no html coding or tech integrations required!
Built-in network of shoppers
One of the most challenging aspects of starting up an online design or freelance business is the weight of being responsible for driving 100% of the traffic to your shop– you have nobody else sending people your way.
When you create a shop on Etsy, however, you’re immediately welcomed into a marketplace with over 39.4 million active shoppers— many of whom are already searching for the products that you sell.
Etsy is SO effective at getting the word out about your products/services, in fact, that many freelancers and designers choose to open an Etsy shop as a compliment to their standalone website.
Built in trust
Another difficult facet of starting an online business is building up that know, like, and trust factor with potential customers so that they feel confident in their decision to purchase from you, whether it’s a product or service.
Etsy eliminates that barrier with a stellar buyer/seller relationship reputation and built-in policies that ensure customers (and shop owners, too) are always taken care of.
Who uses Etsy, and what for?
With over 2.5 million active sellers using the platform to sell their products, Etsy appeals to most creative entrepreneurs as a natural marketplace. And while you can sell — virtually — anything on Etsy, there are 3 types of products that benefit the most from the platform:
Etsy primarily started out as a vintage-product selling site, with sellers being able to list + sell any products 20+ years old in their shops.
While this share of the market has dwindled significantly in recent years, Etsy is still one of the better platforms out there for selling unique vintage finds and many sellers make a full-time income in their vintage shops.
Perhaps the BIGGEST share of the marketplace, Etsy is beyond a natural fit for those creatives looking to sell their hand-crafted products.
From jewelry to pottery, soaps to scarves— there is room in the marketplace for nearly every handmade product niche and the creative solopreneurs behind them.
Selling handmade, however, does have its challenges. While the product creation can be easy enough, make sure you consider the added complexities of shipping (including international regulations), taxes, inventory management, and more.
Hands down my favorite (and the most logical fit for freelance creatives), digital products and services have been a growing trend on Etsy for a while now, but they’ve been gaining MASSIVE traction over the past few years as sellers realize the ease and growth potential that comes from creating and selling products digitally on a larger scale (create a product ONCE and sell it over and over again?! I mean, sign me up!).
Etsy also makes the process extremely easy by “hosting” your digital product files on their site for sellers to ensure automatic instant delivery to your customers with no additional order fulfillment on the seller’s end.
Examples of digital products include: printable art, graphic design elements, fonts, cut files (svg), ebooks, photo mockups and presets, spreadsheets, digital planners…the list is endless! Truly— the sky’s the limit when it comes to selling digitally on Etsy.
And believe it or not, you can actually sell service on Etsy, too! If you are a graphic designer, copywriter, or some other creative freelancer looking to land more paying clients, you can create product “listings” for your services and have people hire you when they purchase that particular listing.
Etsy has strict limits on selling services on the platform, so you’ll want to make sure you meet their requirements as listed here.
So is Etsy legit as a place for freelancers to sell their services and/or products? In a word? YES!
How to successfully sell on Etsy
As a freelancer or creative solopreneur, you probably have a million ideas of what you COULD sell on Etsy (a blessing and a curse)…but it’s important to take a step back and realize that selling on Etsy, while infinitely simpler than other platforms, isn’t as easy as hitting “publish” on a new listing and watching the sales immediately roll in (of course it isn’t!).
So if you’re ready to move forward with selling your digital on Etsy, use the following guidelines to set your new shop up for success from day 1:
Step 1: Validate your product through market research
There’s nothing worse than pouring copious amounts of energy into developing a product…and then later realizing that there’s no market for that particular item.
So it is absolutely CRITICAL to set aside the time before you open your shop and start creating to spend on market research.
The best place to start your market research? Etsy itself.
Spend time getting to know the platform, learning the ins and outs, and checking out what’s for sale, what types of products are moving well, and take special note of any gaps you may see in the marketplace.
You’ll also want to spend a significant amount of time in this phase researching your potential competition. There are SO many golden nuggets you can learn from poking around their shops and seeing what’s working/not working for them.
Use their expertise to craft your own experience and avoid making those “beginner mistakes” that often come from general inexperience.
You’ll want to look for things like:
- What kind of customization options do they offer (size, color, personalization, etc.)
- What kind of FAQ’s do they have listed (ideal for figuring out what things customers want to know before purchasing)
- What is the average cost of items in that niche? What is the average turnaround time?
- What does their product include?
- For physical products: beautiful packaging? Care instructions?
- For digital products: bonus goodies? Video tutorial instructions?
You can also reach out in online communities— Facebook groups, online forums— and ask for feedback on potential product ideas:
- What would they like to see included?
- What has bothered them about buying an item like this in the past from another seller?
- What would make this a no-brainer purchase?
I have an entire podcast episode dedicated to product validation and the step-by-step process you can follow to ensure that your product is a hit right out of the gates.
Step 2: Create your product and price it out
Once you’ve done your market research homework, use this information to plan out your own unique product.
With thousands (and potentially tens of thousands) of sellers in your niche competing for buyer’s attention on Etsy, one of the best things you can do in this stage is create a product that “does it better” than the competition.
More formally called your USP (or unique selling proposition), you’re going to want to find a way to create a product that stands out in the marketplace and sets you apart from the competition.
A thousand shops could be selling graphic design elements, but if you create yours to have a seamless customer experience, included video tutorials, and wrap it all up with exceptional customer service, you may be well on your way to earning that coveted “bestseller” badge that Etsy offers– and becoming a sensation in the marketplace.
So think about what makes YOUR product unique and the gap in the marketplace– what is missing? And once you identify that, ask yourself “How can *I* fill that missing gap?”
And there, my friend, lies the answer to entrepreneurial success.
During this step it’s also extremely important to nail down your pricing. While it’s good to have a general idea of what the competition is charging, at the end of the day, the best pricing formula you can follow includes one that:
- Covers ALL your costs: inventory and shipping supplies might be obvious costs, but you’ll also want to account for “hidden” costs like your labor (hey, your time is worth something!), operations expenses, and software/platforms you are using to run your business (eg; your email service provider, landing page software, etc. )
- Makes you a profit: It seems like a no-brainer, but SO many creatives undercharge what they’re worth and don’t turn in a profit when costs are subtracted out from their revenue. You’ll want to make sure you’re charging enough that you can walk away with a clear profit– and have more to invest in your business and grow.
Step 3: Set up your Etsy shop + list your product(s)
Once you’ve created your product(s), it’s time to open up shop! It may seem strange to set your shop up in step 3, but here me out: There are SO many little things that you probably haven’t even considered that come when setting up a shop— the shop name, the banner image, your tagline…all important things, but also very distracting.
If you don’t have a product already created, it’s easy to get hung up on these nuances indefinitely and never make any progress as you stay stuck debating your branding colors.
Having a product created and ready to go forces you to take action and just get it done! You can always come back and change things up later as needed— nothing you create here is set in stone!
You’ll start by creating a new account on Etsy, and then following the step-by-step instructions to complete your online shop profile and list your products.
With virtually NO learning curve, it’s very easy to get a new Etsy shop up and running in the course of a single afternoon.
Step 4: Bring traffic to your shop
There are two primary ways you’ll want to drive traffic to your Etsy shop:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): This is the very first step you’ll take in marketing– researching strong keywords that you can use in your listings title and tags to get ranked in the internal Etsy search engine– it’s how people searching on Etsy will find YOUR stuff amongst the competition.
- Outside marketing: While many Etsy sellers get hung up on SEO and never move forward (which is why I created my 14 day Etsy SEO program).
But if you’re looking to make consistent, daily sales on Etsy, having outside marketing is critical to your success. My personal favorite “cocktail” blend of outside marketing includes Pinterest, email, and content marketing.
Top questions on determining if Etsy is legit
Whenever you’re getting started selling on a new platform, there are always a million questions. So let’s tackle some of the most FAQ’s about selling on Etsy:
Is Etsy safe and reliable?
Yes! Etsy has a solid reputation (built up over their 15+ year history) for being fair to both buyers and sellers.
How do you get paid on Etsy?
There are several different ways you can get paid on Etsy, but the most common is Etsy Payments. With this method, you’ll connect your bank account to your shop and get direct deposits sent on a regular basis (you choose the intervals).
How can I tell if a seller is legit?
The best way to instill buyer confidence in your shop is to make sure your entire storefront is robustly filled out– your profile, “about me” section, shop announcement(s), professional returns/exchange policies, and that you have a “full” shop (I recommend no less than 20 listings).
Is Etsy the only platform you should be selling on?
At the end of the day, Etsy is an incredible marketplace to buy and sell products, and if you’re looking to tap into a marketplace that already has — literally — MILLIONS of buyers looking for the exact thing that you might sell, it’s worth adding Etsy to your business model as another income stream for your business.
But (like everything in business), it’s important that you don’t place all your eggs in one basket; If you’re *just* getting started selling online and looking to Etsy to begin your entrepreneurial journey (congratulations on taking that first step, by the way!).
Keep in mind that while Etsy is a low-barrier platform to begin which makes it EXTREMELY easy entry, it shouldn’t be the only platform that you choose to sell online with for the duration of your business.
Use Etsy as a launching point (or additional revenue stream), and then commit to diversifying your revenue in a way that no single platform or product is responsible for your entire income.
A well-rounded business is the best way to set your brand up for long-term success, and is the smartest way to build a business.
So at the end of the day is Etsy legit as a place to sell your digital products and services? Absolutely!
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