How to Start a Printables or Digital Downloads Etsy Shop

How do you successfully sell Printables or Digital Downloads on Etsy?

Selling printables or digital downloads is an ideal work from home job for people who want passive income.

Passive income is when you make money with little to no effort. You usually have to put a lot of work up front to set up the product, but there’s little work required afterwards.

How do you make money selling printables?

In this post, I’m going to discuss:

  • What are printables and the difference between printables and digital downloads
  • Why you should create them
  • Best places to sell printables or digital downloads
  • Ideas for printables or digital downloads
  • How to get started including an interview with a successful Etsy printables shop owner (with tips, tools and best practices)

You will not want to miss this interview!

Let’s get started!

How to sell digital downloads on Etsy

if you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, at no cost to you.   

What are printables?

Printables are pictures or documents that you can download and print yourself. Here are some examples:

  • Shopping checklists
  • Meal planners
  • Calendars
  • Candy bar wrappers
  • Invitations

What’s the difference between printables and digital downloads?

Some define digital downloads as items that are created on the computer, but cannot be printed. Here are examples of digital downloads in this context:

  • Excel worksheets
  • Video stock footage
  • Music files
  • Social media templates
  • Clip art

Some also use digital downloads and printables interchangeably (i.e. a printable is a digital download). This is how I’ll be defining it for the rest of the article.

Why create printables?

Making printables or digital downloads and selling them online is a great side job.

You create the product once and an unlimited number of people can purchase it. You don’t have to worry about shipping, manufacturing costs, or inventory management like you do with physical products.

It’s low cost and low risk. You can sell the product internationally. The customer gets the product instantly.

The best part is that it is a passive form of income. You do the majority of the work up front. The rest of the work is minimal.

Art printables on Etsy

What are the best places to sell printables?

Etsy is a trusted marketplace and known for having DIY products for sale.

If you haven’t gotten started on Etsy yet, you can get your first 40 listings for FREE here.

Etsy gives you access to a large audience that’s ready to purchase printables and digital downloads.

It’s also user-friendly from a technology perspective.

You don’t have to worry about the technical side of setting up a website or how to process payments. You can set up your shop and list products in minutes!

Etsy is the quickest and easiest way to sell your printables or digital downloads.

The rest of the article will focus on how to sell printables through Etsy.

I should also mention:

You can also sell printables on Fiverr or Creative Market.

If you have a blog or website, you can sell printables by adding a shop plugin like Woocommerce.

You can also start your own shop website through Shopify.

This is the most expensive route, but also provides you with the most customization options for your shop.

What are some ideas for digital downloads to sell?

Here are printables/digital downloads that sell really well on Etsy:

  • Coloring pages
  • Invitations
  • Quotes
  • Planners
  • Stickers
  • Fonts
  • Patterns

If you’re curious about the best-selling products on Etsy:

✅ This FREE guide has the secret list of the best-selling products by month on Etsy and how to use seasonal trends to make sales.

How can you get started selling printables on Etsy?

How can you make money selling printables or digital downloads?

I’m excited to share this interview with successful Etsy printables shop owner Julie Berninger.

Julie is a new Mom and tech professional living in Seattle, Washington.

Etsy digital downloads
Julie Berninger

Julie sells bachelorette party printables in her Etsy shop, TheSwagElephant.

In 2019, Julie launched Gold City Ventures where she teaches others how to make and sell printable products online as a side hustle.

She also hosts a podcast about financial freedom called Fire Drill and blogs at Millennial Boss.

Fire Drill is an excellent podcast! I’m a big fan and listen to it regularly!

Total revenue for Julie’s online business in 2019 was an astonishing $230,000!

In this interview, Julie shares how much money she’s made selling printables on Etsy, her biggest challenge with selling digital downloads, and the biggest mistake people make when starting their Etsy shop.

Her insights are invaluable for anyone considering starting an Etsy printables shop!

1. How did you get started selling digital downloads on Etsy?

I went to the Activate conference held by blogger Ruth Soukup a few years back. I was standing in line for the food truck at lunch when I met blogger Laura Smith from I Heart Planners. She was super humble describing her business in our chat and later after the conference when I looked her up, I realized she was making six figures selling digital downloads online!

I invited Laura on my Financial Freedom podcast, Fire Drill, to share her story.

I learned from the episode we recorded that she used to be an engineer but has since left her job to start her own business selling printables and planners. Laura made her digital products using computer programs she already knew like Excel which I think is really cool and less intimidating than the fancy graphic design software I thought you needed to know to make things like these.

My brain started spinning with ideas after talking with Laura and I eventually decided to add printable products and digital downloads to the small Etsy shop I started in the bachelorette niche. Now, a few years later I have over 1,000 sales!

2. How much money can you make monthly selling printables on Etsy?

Yes, you can make six figures like Laura Smith if you really put all of your focus into the business. I have a full-time job, a baby, a blog, and a podcast so I only put in a couple of hours per month on my Etsy business therefore my goals are much lower.

I’ve still made over $5,000 on printables so far with such little time investment though! As a working mom, I’m thrilled to have such a great financial return on a few hours of my time.

You can make more of course if you have the time and a knack for it. I ran a mastermind with my podcast listeners and one of my students started his printables shop around the same time as me a couple of years ago and has made over $15,000 revenue on his printables business. His success has been amazing!

Etsy digital downloads

Another student of my printables course has made several thousand dollars and over 1,000 sales in just 6 months! She really picked it up quickly and has been SO productive in the last 6 months – I’m jealous. Plus, her products are so cute!

How much you make really depends on how much time you have to put into the business, what products you pick, and how much you really love it. It takes passion and not giving up at the beginning to get there.

If you are a busy mom like me, aim for $500 per month to start and then if you find yourself LOVING it and making printables every chance you get, then you can definitely adjust your goals and set your sights higher. That’s a good problem to have, right?

3. What costs are involved with selling Etsy digital downloads?

It only costs 20 cents to list a product on Etsy! You pay Etsy transaction fees only when you make the sale and not before. So this is a very cheap side hustle to get started.

There has been a lot of coverage of increasing Etsy fees in the news recently but this is not as much of an issue for digital product sellers. We don’t have the same overhead as a handmade seller with shipping, materials, and postage fees. It’s really only our time that we need to worry about. If you hear anything about Etsy fees I wouldn’t worry about them for a digital downloads business.

Now of course you can have materials costs if you choose to buy pretty fonts and graphics for your digital downloads. I used free fonts and clipart to make my printables in the beginning but now I’ll spend a few dollars to buy a pretty scripted font from Creative Market. I like to do that now that I have a cash flow positive Etsy shop and have the budget.

4. Do you need graphic design skills to create printables for Etsy?

Definitely not! It doesn’t hurt to have an eye for design but you can get that by following trends on Pinterest and searching for printables on Etsy to get ideas.

Some graphic design tips I’ve learned include:

  • Making sure you use enough white space
  • Never picking more than two fonts
  • Matching the font and clipart to the product – don’t use a Halloween looking font on a wedding invitation!

One trick I like to share for finding out what design appeals to Etsy customers is to look at which items are marked with a bestseller badge in the search results on Etsy and take notes to capture trends. Sometimes you’ll notice that certain design elements are popular and can incorporate those into your own products.

Note: If you use the tool EverBee, you can see how many sales that product with the bestseller badge is bringing in each month.

5. How did you decide what printables to sell on Etsy?

I knew bachelorette parties because I was going to a bunch of them and knew printables games were a thing.

If you have no clue what you would sell I recommend checking out my free ebook, The Seasonal Product Secret, which I’ll link here for you to download. It gives 12 months of digital downloads that you can sell on Etsy and some details on how to use free tools to get started researching ideas.

6. What is your favorite aspect about selling digital downloads on Etsy?

I absolutely love selling digital files because it’s perfect for someone without a lot of time. I only have a few hours to myself on weekends and I don’t want to spend that handmaking crafts and then worrying about shipping and postage.

Digital downloads are passive somewhat because you put in the work upfront to make the digital product on your computer and then you can have an unlimited number of customers download it. I only get one or two customer service questions every couple of months so it’s really not a lot of work for me after making the initial design.

7. What is your biggest challenge with selling digital downloads on Etsy?

Staying current with trends is important and that is why I use the free tool eRank to see what is popular and what shops have the most sales. There are tons of free tools available to Etsy sellers that take the guesswork out of being a seller.

Related: Here’s an in-depth review of eRank including best practices and tips.

8. What’s the biggest mistake people make when starting an Etsy digital download shop?

I think the biggest mistake I hear is that people talk themselves out of starting a digital downloads business before they even start! I hear that people think they aren’t creative enough, would never be able to make something someone would buy, or they are intimidated by the process.

That’s actually why I started a YouTube channel showing the process of making printables. It’s to help people realize yes, normal people without graphic design skills can do this! Here is a video I made on how to make Christmas gift tags:

how to create digital downloads

Subscribe to the channel. We put out new videos each month on making digital downloads to sell on Etsy.

9. What are your top 3 tips to get started selling printables on Etsy successfully?

  1. You use as many free resources as possible like my free ebook, the YouTube channel, and tutorials you find around the web to test the waters and see if you like it.
  2. I would probably make my designs in either Canva which is a free online design tool or a product I already knew like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint (yes – you can make printables in PowerPoint!)
  3. I would just get started! I think sometimes about what would have happened if I didn’t make the leap to start this digital downloads business! I have a creative outlet now that actually makes me money. It’s awesome to think about.

10. Can you tell us about your Etsy printables course? What’s unique about it?

I first ran a mastermind for podcast listeners who wanted to learn about making digital downloads to sell on Etsy. I got so much positive feedback and interest after my episodes with Laura Smith and a few other digital product sellers that I knew I could fill all the spots in the mastermind. They filled up in just a couple of days!

The mastermind ended after six weeks but I kept getting emails from listeners asking when I was doing it again and could they join. I decided to record everything in video tutorials and put it in an online course that could live year round.

I also teamed up with my friend, Cody Berman, who was able to leave his corporate job with his side hustles in January 2019. Cody also sells on Etsy and was the perfect partner for this project.

Our course E-printables launched last summer and we’ve had over 800 students take the course so far! The response has been insane and it has been so cool watching what students create.

Printables course

Now what makes our course different is that I have the busy Mom in mind because I am one! We made templates for all of the digital downloads we teach you how to make. These templates are “done-for-you” and you just drag and drop your own clipart and change the colors to make them your own. Then you can list them on Etsy instead of creating them from scratch! I have no time anymore after having my kid so I wanted to help others in the same situation get more value from the course faster.

We also have a Facebook group where we have successful Etsy sellers come in and share their wisdom on Wednesday nights via Facebook Live.

A big thanks to Julie for her Etsy printables insights!

If you’re interested in selling printables or digital downloads on Etsy, look into Julie’s course.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of her students . In this Gold City Ventures review post, she shares an insider’s perspective on the printables course and tips for selling on Etsy.

Here are 2 other reviews from students who took the course about how to sell printables on Etsy:

printables on etsy
how to create a printable for etsy

Her Etsy course contains:

  • 12 text and video modules with step-by-step instructions on how to make and list your printables as well as market and optimize your Etsy shop
  • 12 templates so you can easily make printables including gift tags, habit trackers, and greeting cards
  • 13 bonus lessons contributed by printables experts (including a bonus module for how to sell on Shopify, Teachers Pay Teachers, and your own blog/website)
  • 1 month of coaching in the VIP Facebook group with bonus training and access to Etsy printables experts

It’s an online course so you can complete it at your own pace given your lifestyle and situation. You should be able to complete it in 4 weeks. You don’t need to purchase any software to make the printables. All the tools the course teaches are free.

There’s also a 7-day refund policy so you have nothing to lose. You can enroll here (and get $50 off automatically so the course costs $197).

If you’re interested in selling stickers on Etsy, check out my interview with this successful Etsy stickers shop seller.

If you’re interested in selling physical products on Etsy, check out my interview with another successful Etsy seller who was able to quit her job in 4 months. She’s making $1500-3000/week from her Etsy shop.

Here’s a list of other great passive income opportunities and ideas.

Related Work At Home Articles:

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    1. Cool! Thanks for leaving a comment! Yes – selling printables on Etsy is a great additional income stream!

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