Live an adventurous life of work + travel

The creative traveller’s guide to making money through Etsy

The creative travellers guide to making money through Etsy

I’m going to tell you a few little secrets on how I make money through Etsy.

For those of you who haven’t used Etsy before, I’ll briefly explain. Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade items, vintage items, or craft supplies.

I decided to sell digital stationery designs on Etsy back in 2012 as a way to step into self-employment, and it’s been a huge success! Read the full story on how my Etsy shop came about here.

My shop stats for 2014

Shop stats, making money through Etsy

Yes, you read correctly. I made over $10,500 through Etsy in 2014! My products were purchased worldwide; about 44% of my sales came from Australia & NZ, followed by 37% from North America and 18% from Europe.

Minus fees, my profit came out around $9500. These fees might seem high, but I actually think they’re reasonable considering I don’t have to pay rent for a shop front. They include Etsy’s listing fees, and payment processing fees through both Etsy and Paypal.

benefits of having an Etsy shop

  • It costs very little money to start. Each item only costs .20c USD to list (which lasts 4 months).
  • You can make money on the go. I actually use Etsy to make money and travel at the same time! I choose my own work hours, which means I can work before I go out sightseeing or when I get back in the evenings. Flexibility for the win!
  • Your shop stays open 24/7. There’s no need to man a desk to keep your shop running, and it’s so easy to maintain as there’s barely any upkeep.
  • All payments are sorted out for you. Credit card, PayPal, and Etsy gift cards are all accepted through Etsy’s payment gateway.
  • You can pause your shop to take a vacation. I closed my shop twice during 2014 for travel to New Zealand in March and Bali in August.

Convinced? You should be! Here’s a brief 6-step guide on opening an Etsy shop of your own (I say brief, but it’s actually not that short. I could spend hours going into detail on each point but hey, we ain’t got time for that now).


Macbook 1 small

1. Pick a killer product

Every shop needs a product, so what will you be selling? Services, or physical products?

Most travellers tend to choose something that they can sell from anywhere, but if you’re not travelling long-term then you can look into physical products and sell them in the times between your travels.

Etsy has strict policies on what can and can’t be sold, and you must be careful not to breach copyright with your products. Here’s a guide on what you can sell on Etsy.

Some ideas for services or digital products:

  • Digital designs
  • Patterns
  • Vectors
  • Photos
  • Graphic Design

Some ideas for physical products:

  • Travel souvenirs
  • Stationery
  • Gifts
  • Decorations

Etsy’s customers are looking for handmade, unique, quality products, so keep this in mind when choosing what you will sell. I’ve purchased a number of products from other Etsy sellers, including a wedding band for my husband, jewellery (for me!), and gifts for family members.

It’s a good idea to brainstorm a bunch of product ideas before getting started. Try to think of ideas that are either different or better than what’s already available on Etsy. This way, your product will stand out above the rest!

Opening an Etsy Shop

2. OPEN YOUR SHOP

Head here to register with Etsy. You’ll be prompted to fill in your details, and set up your online space.

Brand your shop so that people know what they’re stepping into. Imagine someone walking into a physical store; they’re going to look for what the shop is called, and what the shop sells.

You can do this by picking a name for your shop, creating a logo, adding a header image, and adding a shop announcement to let people know what you sell. You can also create shop sections for categories of products. Here are some awesome tips on branding!

Create shop policies so that people know what to expect when they buy your product. I have a list of FAQs, a refund policy, and shipping/delivery information in my policies.

Treat it like a part-time job. It does take a little time to properly set up an Etsy shop, so don’t expect to be able to do it in an afternoon. I’ve spent a lot of time working on designs, uploading them to Etsy, improving my listings, and making my shop look spick and span.

Postcard 2 small

3. PHOTOGRAPH YOUR PRODUCTS

Your listing images are a huge deal. They are going to be the deciding factor for a customer considering your product, so you’d better make sure they’re damn good.

Use the best camera you can get your hands on. I actually bought my DSLR initially to use for product photography, and it was absolutely worth it! Here are my camera recommendations.

Make sure you’re in a space with plenty of natural light (but not in direct sunlight otherwise you’ll get harsh shadows). Once you’ve taken some photos, check that they’ve come out clear and crisp. Make sure there are no distracting objects in the background, and make the surrounding area as clean as possible.

Try to make the viewer visualise that they already own the product. If you’re selling jewellery, photograph someone wearing it. If you’re selling art, photograph it hanging on your living room wall.

Create digital images. If you’re selling services or digital products you can also make digital images for your products. I create these for some products and photograph others, and have had success with both – so do whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Listing products in an Etsy Shop

4. LIST YOUR PRODUCTS

So you’ve set up your shop and prepared your products, now you’re ready to list them on Etsy! The listings manager is where you can begin.

Fill your shop with products. Generally, the more products you shop has, the more likely people will buy from you. Try and have at least 10 products in your shop when you get started. I’ve slowly built up to about 60 products over the years.

Use all your keywords. These will be help people find your product when they’re using the search bar. A great way to figure out which keywords will be useful is to type the name of your product into the search bar, and see what suggestions comes up. These are the terms people search for most.

Price accordingly. Don’t undersell yourself! No matter what you might think your product is worth, you have to realise you’ve put time and effort into creating it.

I estimate how much time each product will take me to put together, including the time I would spend on dealing with enquiries and making changes, and then multiply this by my hourly rate for graphic design.

Polkadot Stationery on Pinterest

5. Market your shop

Optimise Etsy search. Many of my customers find my shop through a search on Etsy, which means I don’t have to do any advertising! All you have to do is make sure you’ve got great listing images and are using appropriate keywords.

Etsy also has a pay-per-click advertising program. I’ve had a little success with this, but not all that much.

Use Pinterest. I opened a Pinterest account for my brand and created a bunch of boards that would appeal to people interested in my products. This has been a major source of traffic for my shop and I’ve managed to get plenty of sales through it. You can read my post on how to be a pro at Pinterest for more tips on using it as a marketing tool.

Try other social media platforms. I also created a Facebook page for my brand but didn’t have much luck with it, though that’s not to say it won’t work for everyone. I also know of a few Etsy sellers who have huge followings on Instagram, so if you’ve got time to put together regular posts then this may be a great option for getting your products out into the world. See my post on how to be an ace at Instagram for more tips.

Ash Working 2 small

6. ANALYZe YOUR SHOP PERFORMANCE

Check your stats in your shop dashboard. This was critical step for me in discovering that people often typed in printable and travel into the search field. I then added these keywords to my listings and created products that would appeal to people using these search terms.

Trial and error. It was many months before I made my first sale on Etsy, and it was honestly through just adding new products and doing a lot of research to see what worked. Once I’d figured out my niche market (DIY printable invitations and stationery) I was able to create more products that catered for that market.

Be professional. A huge part of running a good Etsy shop is to maintain a stellar image to your potential customers. Make sure all your listing descriptions are easy to read and have no spelling errors. Answer enquiries as you would if you were speaking to another professional – using slang, smiley faces, or grammatical errors will more than likely chase away your customers.

Encourage feedback. Etsy has a review system that allows people to see what other customers have said about your shop, and this makes a huge difference when people are considering buying something from you. Once someone has made a purchase, follow them up a week or so later to see if they have any feedback and to ask if they can leave you a review.


You might also like:

Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

14 Responses to “The creative traveller’s guide to making money through Etsy”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s definitely becoming bigger every day! Which is great for people like us who’d like to take advantage of opportunities that might allow us to travel more 😀

      Reply
  1. Laura @ Roam + Golightly

    I love this post for so many reasons! As someone who’s in the process of trying to become location independent and freelancing my way through my travels, reading this has totally amped up my excitement to open an Etsy shop (or something similar) to create some extra revenue here and there 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s fantastic Laura, I’m so glad you’re looking for ways to become location independent! I can vouch for it being a totally awesome lifestyle. Sure, it involves a lot (ok, a substantial amount!) of work and can take a long while to set up, but it’s 100% worth it for the freedom you get!

      Reply
  2. Nikki

    Great post! I have been toying around with the idea of opening an Etsy shop and was thinking that perhaps I’d open a shop to sell souveiners from my travels and assignments around the world. For example, I love to collect handwoven bracelets and would love to sell these from Morocco, Vietnam, Colombia and more.

    That said, I wasn’t sure if it is actually alright to sell those products on Etsy since I technically did not create the product but am reselling it. What do you think?

    Nikki
    http://www.thepinthemapproject.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Great idea, Nikki! I think Etsy wouldn’t be the appropriate place to sell the bracelets as they’re not handmade by you personally, but there are plenty of other places you could try – maybe Shopify? 🙂

      Reply
  3. femke

    May I ask how you dealt with taxes while travelling abroad? I’ve also heard that running an online shop might violate your tourist visa etc. Any tips here? Thx!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for your comment, Femke. I’ve been paying taxes through my home country of Australia – I basically treat it as freelance income. I’m not sure about the tourist visa situation, it would probably depend on which country you are travelling in and what their rules are. If you’re only in the country for a short stay, I doubt it would be a problem 🙂

      Reply
  4. Lindsey

    Hi. I really like your post. I was wondering how do you deal with shipping costs when you’re in a different country? Because shipping can definitely put a dent in profits.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for your comment, Lindsey! I actually don’t do physical products, only digital designs, so unfortunately I can’t help you with that one!

      Reply
  5. Mariya

    I love this article as it’s comforting to know that someone else is managing to sell on Etsy and travel at the same time! I make physical products, and I know you only deal with digital so it’s probably easier to move around as everything is stored on a computer. I would like to know what you would do if you were in my position, and how you would carry around the products that are not sold? Would you instead leave them with someone who can ship them for you and hope for the best? Or would you deactivate the listing altogether? I’m just asking for your opinion, and it would be great to hear from someone who has experience in selling and travelling…even if your products are not physical 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for your comment, Mariya! It’s great that you’ve set up shop on Etsy 🙂 That’s a tricky situation, as carrying around products when you’re travelling sounds like a pain. If you have someone at home who could help you with shipping out products while you’re away, that would be ideal! If not, then I would probably deactivate the listing until I was back at home.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS