10 Expert Tips for Selling Your Designs on Etsy

by on 25th February 2011 with 11 Comments

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Etsy is a community that fascinates me. Thinking it was limited to scrapbooks and crafts I paid little attention to the site for years, but recently I discovered that there’s a lot more to this group than meets the eye. It turns out there are several very talented designers on Etsy making a decent amount of cash selling stock designs.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at some of the successful sellers of graphic design templates on Etsy to see if we can glean any trends and tips from them.

What Is Etsy?

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In the rare case that you haven’t actually heard of Etsy, here’s a brief introduction. Etsy is an online marketplace specifically tailored towards the artistic and crafty members of society. The stated goal of Etsy is to “enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.”

The scope of products is incredibly diverse, from handmade coffee cup cozies to photographic prints and everything in between. Though the products vary incredibly and come from different people all over the planet, a quick look around the site will reveal that there is still a remarkably consistent branded feeling across a lot of the products, almost as tangible as that of a design-minded corporation such as IKEA.

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You quickly realize that Etsy isn’t selling trendy products, they’re selling a lifestyle and a way of looking at the world. This lifestyle could be said to be a unique blend of vintage styling, handmade quality and top-notch presentation.

How Does Selling Work?

Now to the catch. Unlike many other design marketplaces that you’ve seen, it’s not free to list a product on Etsy, though it is fairly cheap. It cost 20¢ to list one item for four months. This sounds simple, but gets tricky. Since Etsy is geared towards custom products, this cost stacks up if you want to sell more than one. So if you have one painting of grandma riding a horse, it’s 20¢, but if you want to sell 20 identical prints of the same painting, it’ll cost $4.00.

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On top of the 20¢ per item fee, Etsy also takes 3.5% from every sale you make. This is of course justified in the fact that they’re giving you such a large audience.

This unique structure obviously has major implications for anyone looking to sell a design template. If you’re on GraphicRiver, you can list one template free and sell it to as many users for as long as you like. However, GraphicRiver will then take as much as 50% of the profits from that sale.

Etsy on the other hand, will charge you a measly 3.5% per sale, but they’ll tack on 20¢ for every item every four months that it is listed. Both systems have major pros and cons, just be aware of them before you consider selling on either plaftorm.

The Tips!

Enough introduction, let’s move onto figuring out how to become a successful seller. The ten tips below are derived from analyzing the techniques of users that seem to be doing remarkably well in terms of items sold. Following these techniques may not provide instant success, but it’s a great start!

Tip #1: It’s All About Value

As with any sale you’ll ever try to make, the customer here has a very attuned sense of value. To appeal to this desire, you have to make sure you’re pulling out all the stops when selling an item.

For starters, don’t just sell one template, sell twelve in a bundle. Make sure the customer has lots of unique options to choose from rather than simply one design in several forms. It might actually help to break the templates out into individual items as well while selling the bundle at a steep discount so that the value is clear and enticing.

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The seller who created the item shown above is GradybugDesigns. This user has a whopping 3,236 sales with prices ranging from $8 to $100 on various products.

Tip #2: Keep Your Customers Happy

Etsy has a feedback system similar to that of Ebay. This creates a sort of self-policing community. If you’re ripping people off or delivering sub-par work, it will quickly show in your feedback, which will then kill your sales.

If however, you go well out of your way to make and keep happy customers, then your rating will skyrocket and people will feel comfortable purchasing your products.

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Take the seller shown in the image above as an example. TracyAnnDigitalArt is one of the top sellers in the graphic design area on Etsy and has over 14,000 sales! How does she do it you ask? One of the key to her success is obviously stellar quality and customer satisfaction. TracyAnnDigitalArt has nearly 7,000 positive feedback ratings and one negative rating. That’s an awesome ratio that immediately tells me that I can trust this seller to deliver exactly what is promised.

Tip #3: Think About Occasions

Many of the templates that seem to sell well on Etsy are event-driven. By that I mean they aren’t generalized business cards and flyers like you’re used to, they’re something to be used for a specific occasion. Birthday parties, baby showers and weddings are all prime territory.

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The reason this works well is that events create purchase occasions. They give shoppers both a reason and an excuse to buy cool products that they might otherwise not be able to justify. When a typical mom is planning her son’s 5th birthday party, she checks out Wal-mart, when a trendy mom plans the same party, she hits up Etsy.

Regina Novranto created the invitations shown above along with many other baby-centric event templates and currently has just over 1,800 sales.

Tip #4: Think Inside the Box

Since so many of the design templates selling on Etsy are event-driven, you see quite a few clever attempts at creating decorations that are also practical. This often results in a flat template that can be cut and folded into a 3D shape like the boxes shown below.

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When you break into the third dimension, tons of possibilities open up. Now you can not only sell banners, but gift boxes, party hats and table tents! Again, always keep tip #1 in mind and try bundling all these various items together in a pack.

The “Pillow Box Printables” shown above are one of the items available from TracyAnnDigitalArt, the rockstar user shown above with the amazing customer satisfaction rating.

Tip #5: Offer Custom Versions

Remember that Etsy’s entire culture is permeated with the idea of “custom products.” When they’re not completely custom, they have a unique look that won’t be easy to find anywhere else.

One way to bring this idea into your products is by offering a service element. As an example, Nelladesigns, sells several simple but stylish silhouette prints. Some of these products are pre-made but others require you to submit a photo that will then be turned into a one-off custom silhouette print.

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A service like this offers fairly simple designs, but customized in a way that is not easy for customers to reproduce on their own. With over 3,600 sales, Nelladesigns is surely doing something right!

Tip #6: Tag Strategically

When you’re uploading designs to any marketplace, it’s always tempting to breeze through the submission process. There’s often multiple steps and that can be really time consuming and even annoying.

Tagging is one of the steps that is always a part of this process. Many users throw in a few tags with little thought or attempt to skip this step entirely, but this can have detrimental effects on your sales potential. Remember that Etsy is a huge marketplace and there’s one primary way for people to find you: search results. Even if your designs are amazing, if you don’t rank well in several searches, odds are you’ll remain undiscovered.

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The image above comes from an item sold by Storybook Style, a seller with over 3,300 sales. Notice how there aren’t just one or two, but several tags used. There’s also some insight into what people are searching for, notice the tags “editable”, “customizable”, and “personalize”, all mean essentially the same thing but this makes the products optimized for a number of different searchers.

For more insight into what people are searching for, pay close attention to the trending tags that pop up in sidebars around the site. This is valuable information for not only tagging your current items, but for what items you should consider creating in the future.

Tip #7: Go All Out On Presentation

One of the most noticeable trends among the top sellers on Etsy is that they have awesome presentation images of what they are selling. If you’re selling Photoshop templates, it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating a simple Photoshop collage of all the templates and call it a day, but check out what the competition is doing:

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PaperAndCake’s printable party packages are all shown as completely set up party photos. How much more striking is this than a Photoshop mockup? Answer: tons. Photos like this one help the buyer see the exact end results of their purchase, which makes them much more inclined to press that “buy” button!

Tip #8: Transform Every Day Items

One popular trend among the plethora of party-related designs is to come up with unique ways to essentially re-brand everything at a party to fit your theme.

We see an excellent example of this below from user LoveTheDay with printable mini candy bar wrappers. Every supermarket in America has bags full of mini Hershey bars and this clever template allows you to print and apply your own designs over the standard candy bar foil.

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In cases like these, you can bet that the purchasers are looking to impress. The goal is to get the people at the party to stand in awe and wonder how the party planner pulled off so many amazingly creative ideas. Little bits of custom design in unexpected places have great shock value and potential buyers know instantly whether or not your design will provide them with this desired benefit.

Tip #9: Make Personalization Easy

You might be wondering exactly what kind of templates people are selling on Etsy, the answer is of course the same kind you’d expect from any other design website. Be careful of stereotyping these customers into soccer moms with no design skills. These shoppers know what to look for in a file. The templates that sell well are those that are high resolution, fully-layered, print-ready documents built in professional applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

As you’re both designing and building, keep personalization at the forefront of your mind. If someone buys your postcard with the intention of dropping in their own photo and it takes them 45 minutes to do so because of your messy PSD, they aren’t going to give you a good seller rating. Make sure that replacing the placeholder photos/text is a simple and straightforward process and include detailed instructions just to be sure it’s clear.

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YummyDesignStudio didn’t break 1,500 sales selling flat PDFs. Instead the files are fully layered and built for customization. Each download comes with clear instructions for customization in addition to a list of links for where you can download the fonts used.

Tip #10: Know the Customer

Before you jump onto Etsy and start uploading designs, I highly recommend spending a few hours looking around to see what types of designs are selling well. As I said at the beginning, this community very much has its own particular style. It may vary from designer to designer but when you take it in as a whole some definite trends emerge.

The most important question to ask if you want to be successful is “Who are the users?” Right off the bat we can tell that Etsy shoppers are stye-minded individuals willing to pay a slight premium to make their lives more attractive in unique ways. This brings to mind some obvious implications for the demographics. Let’s take a look at some numbers from a study published in 2009 on Etsy users (source).

Who is shopping at Etsy?

  • 67% of the site’s visitors are female
  • 43% were between the ages of 18 and 34
  • 62% have a college education
  • 88% are caucasian

From these few statistics we know that our customer is a young, college-educated, caucasian female. One of the best pieces of advice I can offer for approaching these customers is to keep it classy. Whether your designs are cute and colorful or dramatic and monotone, they have to appeal to someone with an evolved sense of style. The customer isn’t rich, the same study showed that many Etsy shoppers make less than $60,000 per year (£37,000), but she does have sophisticated taste.

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User Printyourparty knows this and it shows in their portfolio of items. Everything has a certain style to it that really nails this customer base. It’s feminine, yet bold; playful, yet stark. Something you wouldn’t expect to find easily at your local PartyCity store.

You should obviously develop your own unique style but pay close attention to who it is that you’re designing for. If you want to sell web-2.0-inspired business card designs, Etsy isn’t going to be the place to do it! If on the other hand you want to sell hand-illustrated wedding invitations, you’ve found the perfect place to start.

Conclusion

I’ll bet that before today, many of you had not ever even considered selling designs on Etsy. I hope this article has enlightened you on how much this unique marketplace has to offer designers with a keen sense of chic trends. By following the tips above from users that are already successful, you can get started today with some solid ideas for how to succeed in your own Etsy store.

Leave a comment below and let us know if you found this article to be helpful. Have you ever sold anything or thought about selling anything on Etsy before? Tell us about your experience and insight.

Comments & Discussion

11 Comments

Comments & Discussion

11 Comments

  1. great tips explained to start with etsy.

  2. Wow! I’m a Web designer/fine artist and I sell handmade SEWN items on Etsy. This just blew my mind! I can incorporate my other life too!!!

  3. Kelly Stone says:

    The tips are very useful. My never to answered question remains; what does Etsy mean? Or where did the the initails come from?

    Kelly

  4. sunita says:

    sounds cool. definitely going to try few things now.

  5. keana says:

    Hi. I was curious, does anyone know where the etsy sellers get their software design to create a ‘pre-made etsy” layout?

  6. Michelle says:

    How do they make this printable stuff?? I have GREAT ideas but I don’t know how to get started..

  7. Casey says:

    I just opened an Etsy shop called Sugar Studios. Still hoping to make a full/part time living off of it.

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/sugarstudios?ref=si_shop

  8. ewa says:

    Hi there.
    What a fantastic post. Thank you so much. I am making my own Photoshop templates and so far I sold only one. Now I know what I have done wrong and what I have to do in order to sell more. Great tips. Thank you.

  9. Alicia says:

    Nice article, thanks! I found it useful.

  10. Erin Evans says:

    Great article! You are a wonderful writer. As an etsy seller it is always educational to come across articles like this one – there is always more to learn! Thanks so much for a great write up.

  11. Jim says:

    Its confusing when people say content is king, if there is no inbound links it
    won’t do well in serps
    You are now part of my reading bookmarks, keep up the interesting
    posts

    Here is my page … unique hotels uk [Jim]

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