Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of etsy.com.
While it isn't as popular as Amazon, as old as eBay, or as flashy as some of the other marketplaces, Etsy has become a global powerhouse built on the back of small producers making handmade or unique products.
While it's obvious that you can sell physical things that you create, I picked up a great Phillies home run photo for my brother, it's not as obvious if you can sell Digital Products.
This leads us to the question we get asked a few times per week, can I sell digital products on Etsy.
The simple answer is yes, you can sell digital products on Etsy.
There are a few restrictions in terms of the types and ways that you can sell Digital Products, but for the most part, they can be a welcome addition to Etsy's marketplace. Everything from printable calendars to recipe books has made up a huge portion of the Etsy marketplace over the last few years.
Now that we know the simple answer, let's dive into some of the “it depends” factors like what types of digital products can you sell in Etsy and how to set up your store.
What types of Digital Products can I Sell On Etsy?
From my perspective, there are two different categories of “Digital Products” that you can sell on Etsy.
The first is what's called a printable or downloadable product (things like weekly planners) and the second is physical products that you don't need inventory for (such as print-on-demand T-shirts).
While the second category is technically a physical product, you as the vendor don't need to carry any inventory and simply need to upload the design as a digital file.
Let's take a deeper look into both of these categories and learn some of the pros and cons of each.
As mentioned above the first and arguably most common type of digital product being sold on Etsy fall into the “pure digital product” category and includes things like clipart, WordPress themes, resume templates, and even printable wall art.
While at first glance these may not seem like the traditional Etsy product, some of the digital products on the platform have sold tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of units, with planners and planner accessories being among the most popular.
You don't need to limit your ideas for digital product uploads to those categories in virtually any digital product, such as an ebook, that can be downloaded and printed by the end-user can be sold on the platform.
In fact, the only real limit to what you can't sell inside of the Etsy platform is what Etsy refers to as resold products or (for those of us familiar with Amazon lingo) retail arbitrage.
Essentially, if you can dream it and design it (or pay somebody on fiber to design it for you), you can upload it to Etsy.
Some of the most popular digital downloads or printable type products that you'll find on the Etsy platform include things like:
- Room art (for offices, nurseries, etc)
- Photos (uploaded by the original photographer)
- Scrapbook Templates and Patterns
- Design Elements (stock photos, backgrounds, and clip art)
- Ebooks (every category you can imagine)
While many of these things appear to limit the overall reach of the site, for example, you may find a lot of inspiration around scrapbooking or interior design on Etsy, you can find a lot of Digital Products (especially in the e-book category), that fall outside of the traditional definition of “who is shopping on the platform”.
If you have ANY digital products in your business, I would take a look at Etsy as an additional way of bringing in a few sales.
Print on Demand
The second type of “digital product” that you can sell on the Etsy platform is print on demand or POD items.
As mentioned above, these aren't pure digital products (someone gets a physical T-shirt or pillow shipped to them), but from a vendor standpoint (that's us) we don't have to store any inventory or even worry about the manufacturing of the product and can therefore consider them to be a digital product.
Just like with the digital downloads or printables there's a huge variety we talked about above, of niches and interests that you can find print-on-demand products for inside of the NC marketplace.
Since you can create just about anything as a print-on-demand product from pillows and throws two T-shirts hats and essentially anything that can be printed on, take a look and see if anyone is already doing print-on-demand in your market.
If you're running a purely e-commerce business, this might not be the right approach for you. On the other hand, if you are building a business around a niche, like bass fishing, chances are you can create an additional revenue stream by uploading print-on-demand products to Etsy.
The only real downside, if you can call it by downside, is that in addition to the platform and any advertising fees you will have the addition of the actual printing and fulfillment fees for this type of product.
That being said, it's hard to get mad about the fees you're paying for something when it's still making money without a lot of effort.
How To Sell Digital Products Using Etsy
Now that the gears are turning in your head and you’re thinking about all of the digital downloads and print-on-demand products that you can create, you're probably wondering “this is great but how do I sell Digital Products using the Etsy marketplace?”
We're going to cover the four-step process that you need (3 steps for digital downloads or printables and 4 steps for print on demand) to get your Etsy shop up and running.
The “hidden step” in this entire process is getting your digital product created. I'm not can be diving into that today but if you want some ideas on how to quickly create a digital product, you may want to check this article out here.
Setup Your Etsy Store
Before we can start selling anything on Etsy, we need to first set up our Etsy.com account.
After going to Etsy.com, you'll need to create an account.
If you click on the sign-in link (located in the top right-hand corner of the website), you will be prompted to either fill in an existing name and email address or register a new account.
This can also be done by the use of the three quick creation buttons for Google, Facebook, and Apple.
Once you set up your account, you'll want to look for the shop manager button (logo currently looks like a storefront) located directly next to the search bar.
Click on the shop manager icon and you will be taken into the shop creation screen.
Here, we will need to fill in a few details including the name of the shop and your payment details.
Upload Your Products
After filling in our store name, Etsy will ask us to start filling in details in the “stock your shop” section. This is where listing creation begins.
Once there, click on the add a listing button and you'll be taken into the listing creation screen.
Here Etsy will ask us to upload any photos and videos we have as well as giving as much detail about the product as we possibly can.
Under the listing detail section, you'll see an area to fill in the title and category of the listing. Directly underneath that, we will see a listing type option that allows us to select physical products or digital products.
Keep in mind that if you're uploading print-on-demand products that they are physical products (as the end customer will receive the T-shirt or pillow that they are ordering) and for digital products, like ebooks, that you should select the digital product option.
Once you have filled in any pricing and variation information, as well as setting your stripping options press the save and continue button (located in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen) and you will be taken to the rest of the setup process.
If you had previously set up your shop, you can add listings at any time by clicking on the shop manager icon on the main Etsy homepage and then clicking on the listings link.
One thing to keep in mind is that Etsy does charge what they refer to as a “listing fee”.
While this fee is only $0.20, it does apply to each item that you create and list for sale on the Etsy platform.
Connect to a Fulfillment Center (for Print On Demand)
If you've chosen to go the print-on-demand route after you've created your listings (and listed it as a physical product) you will need to connect Etsy to your print-on-demand service to fulfill the order.
There are a variety of services including Printful and Printify that can help you w while the actual process of connecting your print-on-demand service to Etsy.
While the process will vary slightly from service to service, generally speaking, it's as simple as logging into your account for the print-on-demand service and selecting their connect or integrate button.
Select the integration button and you will generally be redirected to Etsy to log into your account and authorize the applications access to your store.
Some of these platforms are much more advanced than Etsy itself, in terms of product creation, and if you're getting serious about print on demand and want to take advantage of all of the different products that they can offer you, you may want to consider doing product creation inside of your print-on-demand platform.
Most of these platforms will easily sink products back over to your Etsy store, meaning once you've created the product on your POD platform you can skip the product creation process inside of Etsy.
Now that we created our products inside of the Etsy platform and connected it to our print-on-demand provider (if that is something that we needed to do), we're all done and can watch the sales rolling.
Just kidding it's not quite that easy.
Just like with most marketplaces, it is not a great way to rely on organic search alone to take advantage of the platform.
While it can be an extremely great source of continuing sales moving forward, we almost always want to give our listings a boost with either external traffic (like from our email list) or by taking advantage of in-platform ads.
After having seen several Etsy stores and running a few ourselves, we here at brand creators are actually big fans of the in-platform ads that Etsy has to offer.
Unlike many other platforms, like our friends over at Facebook, Etsy makes their ads extremely simple to set up and you can be up and running (and driving sales) with just a few clicks.
To get your ads started click on your shop manager icon and then click marketing and advertising.
From here, you'll be asked to set your budget (this is the maximum amount you wish to pay per day and will default $100, but can be set as low as $1).
The only other thing you need to set up to run Etsy ads is the products you want to advertise. Etsy will allow you to choose as few or as many of the products that you've created to run ads with.
Unlike many other platforms, Etsy operates on a purely cost-per-click basis and you don't determine or set a bid (at least as of writing this article).
Instead, Etsy takes into consideration your total budget, the likelihood a product is to be sold, and whether or not even able to ads for a specific product.
Every time a search is made inside of the Etsy platform they take a look at your listings including things like titles and tags, to see if your product may be a fit.
If it is and you have enough budget left, compare the other products being advertised that are a fit for that specific search, your ad will show.
Generally speaking, the higher quality the listing is and the more sales and positive reviews you have, the more likely you are to show and the less you will pay per click.
In addition to their on-site ads platform, Etsy recently rolled out an off-site advertising option as well.
Using this option, you're able to take your Etsy products and have Etsy create ads on a variety of sites including Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
If someone clicks on one of those ads they are taken directly to your shop.
Additionally, you only pay an advertising fee if you make a sale, making this a hard option to beat.
That’s a Wrap
Etsy, despite being an underdog in the e-commerce marketplace world, is an extremely powerful and often overlooked platform.
If you have a market that's passionate about funny sayings or slogans or you have an e-book that you'd like to get in front of more people, Etsy is more than worth taking a look at.
For just a few cents you can have a listing on a popular and growing e-commerce marketplace and give yourself the ability to run high converting on-site and off-site ads to your digital product.
If you've been looking for a way to add a revenue stream to your business, I would highly suggest giving Etsy a look.