Many creatives dream about starting an Etsy shop to supplement their income while doing something they love. As someone who has turned an Etsy shop into a full-time income, I know the time and dedication it takes to build a profitable online business.
When I first started out, selling personalized chocolate favor wrappers, it didn't take me long to realize that my business model was flawed. There was no way that selling, producing and shipping personalized chocolate favors was going to become a profitable business without a huge time & inventory investment.
Truth be told, with a toddler running around, I simply didn't have the time or energy to make it work. I set about trying to find a business model that would allow me to continue using my design skills, while offering low overhead and less time investment. That's when I decided to design & sell party printables.
I spent the next several months mastering Photoshop and adding new designs to my shop. Within the first few months I had a couple hundred sales and I knew I was on to something. I loved the fact that by selling digital products I didn't have to worry about inventory, printing or shipping. I could focus on creating beautiful designs, which was my real passion.
Within a year, I had replaced my full-time employment income, and I was successfully selling digital products online. I'm not going to lie, that first year was a lot of work. I spent endless hours designing invitations and party decorations to stock my shop, and of course filling orders. But once I had a system in place, I was able to cut back on my hours while still providing quick turn around times and an easy straightforward ordering process for my customers - two must haves for successful digital product sales.
If you're in the same boat, feeling like you want to start a new Etsy business or if you want to expand your current offerings into digital products, here are some easy to implement and profitable digital products you can sell on Etsy now.
1. Printable Invitations & Decorations
Of course I'm going to start with what I know. If you have skills in Illustrator and/or Photoshop and love to style parties, then this may be the perfect route for you. The great thing about this type of product is that you really have a chance to get creative with your designs.
Most customers want personalized invitations & decorations, but you can also add in a mix of instant download products to your shop so that you have an automated revenue stream as well.
Quick tip: There are a lot of similar shops out there, and if you want to succeed you really have to develop your own style - look for trends in industries outside of the party world, such as fashion and home decor, and find a way to translate those colors/looks into your invitations and party decorations. Refresh your shop with new designs or collections each season to keep customers coming back for more!
If you don't know how to use Photoshop but you have a passion for parties, I created the Start A Party Printables Business Course for you. It teaches you the design skills you need to create modern invitations & party decorations as well as the business skills you need to succeed. The course is currently open for enrolment, you can check out here.
2. Sewing & Knitting Patterns
If you have a love of sewing or knitting and are willing to spend some time creating patterns, you could have a profitable business selling instant download patterns. It will take some major work in the beginning to create the patterns and format them so customers can easily follow along, but once that work is done, you simply need to upload the PDF files to Etsy and set them up as instant downloads. Then, you can literally make money as you sleep because customers will be able to purchase and download the pattern of their choice in an automated process.
Quick tip: You may want to consider creating tutorial videos along with the patterns that you sell. It will be an additional level of support and instruction for your customers, something that could set you apart from other sellers.
3. Clipart & Digital Paper
If you love to sketch/draw and know, or are willing to learn the ins and outs of Illustrator, then designing clipart and digital papers could be a great way to earn income online. Just like with party printables, there are many clipart sellers on Etsy, so you really need to find and develop your own unique style. Keep an eye on trends and update your shop regularly. Think about the people using your products - they're likely creating their own printables so they'll want trendy designs in popular color schemes.
Again, you'll have a lot of upfront work to do, creating the designs and uploading them to your shop. But once you've set up instant downloads on Etsy, you can sell while you sleep and spend your time working on new collections.
Quick tip: make your commercial use policy really easy to understand and user friendly. Nothing turns me off a clipart shop faster than confusing terms. I want to know exactly how I can use the clipart and if I need to credit your work. Make it super clear in your policies!
4. Wall Art & Prints
Selling wall art and prints is perfect for you if you nuts about typography or pattern design. Maybe you currently do custom design work but are looking for a way leverage your time with an automated revenue stream. Find your niche and then create new collections each season. For example, maybe you'll focus on nursery art. Or maybe you'll design prints for animal lovers or prints with inspirational quotes for women business owners.
Rather than printing and shipping your designs, set them up as instant downloads so that customers can download a high resolution PDF file and print from home or at a copy center. You'll be surprised how many people are open to the idea of printing themselves so that they can save money and time on shipping.
5. Planners & OrganizersAre you detail oriented and can't live without your to-do list? Does organizing take you to a place of zen? If so, then you might want to think about helping others organize their lives or businesses by creating printable planners. If you have a knack, or even background in productivity or home organizing, this could be a great automated business idea for you. When your PDFs are ready, you can add them to Etsy as instant downloads for an easy and automated delivery process. Customers will just print as needed and be more organized and less stressed for it.
Quick tip: Besides creating super useful content, the product design is uber important here, so you'll either need to design them yourself or hire a designer to put them together.
And a bonus idea, just because...
6. Styled Stock Photography
If you're a professional photographer who wants to make some more income while freeing up time, why not try selling stock images on Etsy? The key to success is finding your niche and building up a good sized inventory in your shop. Right now, styled stock photography for women business owners is becoming super popular. Traditional stock images are just too 'corporate' for many women-owned businesses, so if you've got the interest in making stock photos more relevant for creative and women entrepreneurs you might have a really profitable business on your hands.
Have I got your creative juices flowing? Whether you currently have a creative business and you're looking to add an automated revenue stream, or you're researching business ideas to start, this list includes ideas that have been turned into profitable businesses. Of course your success will depend on many factors, including how much time your are willing to invest on designing quality products and marking your work.
If you want more personalized advice on how to add digital products to your current business, I offer special one-on-one strategy sessions.
Do you have any other ideas on profitable digital products to sell on Etsy? Any pressing questions you want answered about selling digital products? If so, leave a comment below!