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Making passive income requires us to flip a switch in our brains that is used to saying “make something once, sell it once; rinse and repeat.”
When it comes to making money passively – whether on Etsy or another platform – we make it once and sell it over and over again.
So let's flip our thinking about one customer = one sale… because one customer can mean 10+ sales over the lifetime of your shop!
I've had many conversations about starting an Etsy shop, earning passive income, etc. Many times I'm met with resistance when it comes to Etsy:
First, let me be clear: I will never ever tell you it's easy to make a full-time living selling digital downloads on Etsy. Anyone who says it is, is full of shit and you should run in the other direction. You aren't going to make $10K a month while watching Netflix, period.
However, even with competition on Etsy, if you flip your thinking, you'll make good money.
You may have digital downloads in your shop for $1, $3, $5, $7, etc. so your first thought is “even if I sell 100 of these, I only make $500.” But what you should be thinking is:
“how can I turn this $3 customer into a $30 customer?“
Some people will have a problem for every solution (yep, read that again). If you're not one of those people, then I'm glad you're here… let's dive in!
If you prefer video, I've created a webinar outlining the steps I take to turn my customers into repeat customers every single time!
1. Be memorable.
I've been blogging for more than 15 years, and have probably had as many businesses over that time period. However, my branding colors and style have always stayed the same. When you land on anything I've created, you'll see bold colors (almost always teal, purple, and hot pink), simple fonts, and value-first content.
No matter the businesses I created over the years, people remember ME. I am my brand. You don't have to be your brand, but chances are, something about you is what makes your brand stand out.
If you're an introvert and that makes you squirm a bit, I totally get it. It's something you never really get used to – all eyez on me is a lyric, not something I planned in my life – but here we are, and I wouldn't have it any other way!
I enjoy serving my audience (you!!) and I love delivering massive value in blog posts like this one. I also enjoy creating products that are financially accessible.
All this to say, my business is memorable; from the colors and fonts to how I run things, people remember me.
How can you make your business memorable?
Branding: stick with the same font type, colors, and style even if you pivot your business. This doesn't mean you should NEVER refresh or update, but changing styles every 6 months will make your brand less memorable.
Naming: is your shop name easy to say, spell, and remember? You can change your Etsy shop name if it isn't, and it's super easy to do – takes less than 5 minutes!
Experience: it's much easier to deliver an “experience” when your customer gets to unbox a physical item, read a hand-written note from you, etc. With digital products, you've gotta be creative to make it an experience – but you can do it!
Think about all of the times you've purchased a digital product. No, no, you're probably thinking of the graveyard of courses and downloads you've purchased over the years that are collecting dust.
That's not what I meant. I mean, did you ever have a super awesome experience when buying? What did it look like? Why was it so great?
My motto is “always over deliver” – maybe that means adding a freebie in the download file, or maybe it means adding a coupon to your delivery PDF (more about that later). Whatever it is, make it awesome, and make it memorable.
There are thousands of other shops out there; yours needs to be the one your customers remember.
TAKE ACTION: Make a list of the positive and negative experiences you've had while shopping online. Brainstorm ways to model the positive experiences in your own digital download business.
Oh, and before I forget… read my new post about what to do if your Etsy account gets suspended – how to fix it, why it probably got deactivated, and more.
2. Create an email list.
I'm going to help you breathe through this one, because I know you're like “oh shit!!” if you haven't started an email list before. Or, maybe you're saying it even if you have, but don't worry: email lists are much easier to create TODAY than they've ever been before.
The purpose of an email list is to have access to your customers (and potential customers) at all times. If you don't collect emails and your shop gets shut down, then what? How can you get in touch to let them know what happened? Hint: you can't.
Having an email list prevents your customer base from being able to disappear based on a shop being shut down, a social media algorithm changing, or whatever else could happen when building your business on borrowed land.
Which email provider should I use?
You have several options when it comes to which email provider you can use for your email list, but I have three recommendations, depending on your situation:
MailerLite is the email provider I've used (off and on) for years. I currently use them because they are the most robust of the three I'm recommending, and they have a free option (up to 1,000 subscribers).
Their integration with Thrivecart makes my business seamless, without the need for too many extra tools, so I highly recommend it if you plan to segment, group, or automate your email list.
Another cool thing about MailerLite is that you can set up a paid newsletter… a great way to earn passive income with email automations!
Best for: those who have a blog, want to build a big brand and integrate with other programs, and who don't need fancy templates (which sometimes get you thrown into the spam filter anyway).
Click here to get started with a free MailerLite email account.
Flodesk is the new kid on the block. They're taking the email world by storm, and for good reason! Up until now, beautiful email templates and ease of use were fairly difficult to find. Flodesk changed that.
I use Flodesk for my PLR for Blogs website and it works wonderfully. The deliverability rate is on par with MailerLite's, and the ease of use is 10/10.
While Flodesk does charge $38/month, that number never goes up no matter how many subscribers you have. And, if you use my referral link, you save 50% which means you only pay $19/month.
Best for: those who want the easy button, have a small budget, and are willing to pay up front even without a big list.
Click here to create a Flodesk account and start emailing your peeps!
TAKE ACTION: Set up your email list today!
3. Optimize your listings.
It is so much easier to optimize what we already have going for us than it is to start over from scratch. While you should be adding new listings to your shop regularly, you should put just as much effort into doubling down on the listings you have.
Each listing you have is an opportunity to market another listing in your shop. Think about it: when we go to any restaurant, they ask if we “want fries with that” (or their version of an upsell), right? Why should our listing descriptions be any different? Hint: they shouldn't be! 😉
I use a free tool called Alura (though I do have a paid plan) to make sure my Etsy listings are on point. While you could manually attempt to update each of your listings based on what you think should be done, Alura gives you the facts: an actual score for each listing in your shop.
The listing above has a poor score for obvious reasons: there are only two photos, no focus keyword, and (not shown) there are no tags. The title length isn't detrimental, but you want to make sure the first 60 characters are THE most important part (so if the rest is cut off, your listing will still get clicked on).
TAKE ACTION: Sign up for Alura.io and update your listings. Alura is FREE to use the basic version of their tools. Use code SADIE30 to save 30% if you choose a paid plan.
Note: Updating your listings is not a one-time thing or something that will be completed quickly, but it's of the utmost importance when it comes to making more money from each listing. Using the data in your Alura dashboard will open up many opportunities for your shop.
4. Create bundles.
Piggybacking off of the last tip to double down on your listings, creating bundles is a fast way to increase each listing's earning potential.
Let's say your best selling item is a printable/digital home management binder. It's selling like hot cakes and you can't figure out what in the world to offer your current customers to get them to buy something in addition to the binder.
- publish a cleaning binder (look at FlyLady, she has made millions teaching people how to do what they already know how to do: clean the house)
- email a related freebie to those who purchased from you already and on the “thank you” page from them downloading the freebie, have a $7 “tripwire” product
- create additional pages as an add-on and offer your customers a discount.
There are several ways to boost each of your listing's sales, but it's going to take some brainstorming on your part.
TAKE ACTION: Brainstorm how you can increase sales for your top 10 listings.
Side note: I know this post is technically about Etsy, but I wanted to show you something awesome on Teachers Pay Teachers, in case you're selling over there as well. If you have bundles, not only are they published and highlighted in your listings, they are highlighted AGAIN in the checkout process!
I went back and forth on whether I should buy a bundle or not, and decided not to. Then, I got to the cart and they popped up again! Guess who just spent another $50+ on Spanish resources…
USE the tools you have! If you aren't on Teachers Pay Teachers, create bundles on Etsy and mention them in your listings. If you ARE on TpT, you better get those bundles up! 😉
5. Publish, publish, publish.
Surely you already know this, but it's worth having its own place on the list: publish more listings! If I had a dollar for every time someone who has literally 10 listings came to me and said “I'm not getting any sales!” I would be retired already.
ThePlannerShack has over 125,000 sales and nearly 1,000 listings (and note, almost all are marked “on sale” – a tip I teach in my Etsy course).
Etsy is a numbers game. While there are exceptions, yes you will occasionally see a shop that has few listings and is killing it with sales, the majority of top selling digital product shops on Etsy have hundreds if not thousands of listings.
If that seems overwhelming to you, that's totally normal. Now that you know, you've gotta decide if you're dedicated enough to put the work in to BE a top Etsy shop, or if you'd rather lust after their revenue without putting the work in (like most people do).
TAKE ACTION: Create and publish at least one new digital product this week. Only you know how much time and energy this really takes, so you may find that task to be too easy. However, creating isn't the real action task here, PUBLISHING is. Most of us do not struggle with creation, but with publishing.
If you do struggle with digital product creation, let me know in the comments and I'll write a new blog post for you about how to never run out of ideas or momentum when creating digital products. I've got tons of tips and literally 1000s of product ideas I am happy to share.
TAKE ACTION (v2): If you're running low on energy or time this week, instead of creating new listings, duplicate your popular listings and do some A/B split testing with different mockups.
Create a mockup for each listing that is different than the mockups you have IN the listings currently. Duplicate some of your most popular listings, only changing the main image.
In a few months, you will have a clear winner and can update the rest of your listings with the winning mockup style. You can also try this with titles, descriptions, and tags. Use Alura to find the best tags to use, and use those on the duplicate listing rather than on the original so you can gather even more data!
Psst… sorry to interrupt, but this is important! 🙂 I'm teaching a free webinar about how to sell more digital products on Etsy without raising your prices. I'd love it if you'd join me!
While having a blog isn't a “must”, it is one of the best ways to get repeat customers by showing them you are an authority in your niche. This tells them you know what they want and need, and you're the best person to deliver it.
Not sure what to write about? You're in the right spot; I've been blogging for more than a decade and I've helped hundreds of people get started with blogging. If you aren't interested in writing, skip to the next tip.
What can I write about to promote my digital products?
Your content should match up with your digital products. For example, I can't just write about whatever I want and expect it to sell. I have to write about my digital products if I want to use my blog posts to drive traffic (and revenue).
Here are a few examples of posts where I promote my digital products:
how to rank on etsy
One of my most popular posts, how to rank on the front page of Etsy, promotes my Etsy keyword cheat sheets. I sell a few of these each week, even without telling anyone about them outside of a few blog posts. These are keyword sheets I do the work for one time, and they sell over and over again.
Why this post works: keyword cheat sheets show my audience (hey, that's you!!) that I know what I'm doing, and I'm worth listening to. The blog post itself delivers massive value, and doesn't require a purchase to use the knowledge I've shared.
When my readers use the information in my blog post to rank better on Etsy, they come back time and time again because they know what I've posted is helpful (and legit).
How to sell printables on Etsy
Another one of my favorite posts is where I teach you how to make and sell printables on Etsy. In this post, I promote my keyword post (which promotes my cheat sheets), in addition to promoting my Etsy course and some products I'm an affiliate for.
As you can see, blogging adds multiple streams of income to your business. A blog creates another platform to sell digital products and courses, in addition to making money with ads and affiliate marketing.
And don't worry, affiliate marketing doesn't have to be sleazy: this post has multiple affiliate links, and hopefully you don't feel like you're getting sold to or tricked. That is because I do affiliate marketing different than most, and I teach “the Sadie way” inside my PIPs+ membership.
If you're already a PIPs+ member, log in and find the “Affiliate Marketing” course – you'll see how small blogs can make thousands of dollars a month with honest affiliate marketing. If you aren't yet a member, you can click here and use code BLOGFAN to get $15 off your first month!
Why this post works: Teaching something always works! If you can show your audience how to “do the thing” they are going to check back for future posts, open your emails, and maybe even buy your products. 😉
In fact, if you feel weird about selling I will tell you this:
I have visited MANY blogs and vlogs that delivered massive value, and I wanted more… but they didn't offer it. They didn't have a single digital product to sell me, and some didn't even have an email list to join. So, instead of becoming their raving fan, I went and found a blog that covered the topic in a similar way and did offer products I could buy. Don't think of it as selling, think of it as helping!
TAKE ACTION: If you already have a blog, publish a blog post that will drive your readers to your Etsy shop. If you don't have a blog yet, write a list of pros and cons and decide if a blog fits within your business plan. If it does, start one today!
Need help figuring out how to blog? Leave a comment below and I'll put a video together for you.
7. Optimize your digital products.
Last but certainly not least – in fact, this may be the easiest and fastest way to make more money and get repeat customers – optimizing the delivery of your digital products.
What I mean by this is when someone purchases your digital product, they're automatically sent a PDF from you (via Etsy), right? You've already loaded it in. But what are you doing to make the digital product make you more money?
When someone buys a digital product from me, there is a “thank you” page attached to the PDF. This page gives a coupon code, often has an upsell or cross sell, and has a way to contact/follow me. I don't really do social media, but I do want my email list to grow, so I include a link to get a freebie for signing up for my email list.
How to optimize your digital downloads on Etsy
After your customer checks out, they will receive an automatic digital download file in their “downloads” section on Etsy. You need to make sure you optimize your download, because ALL eyeballs will be on you once they download their product.
EVERYONE who opens the digital download they purchase will then see your “welcome” and “thank you” pages alongside the product they ordered.
You can put together your own template in Canva, or you can purchase my template for $17 (or less if you catch it on sale!). This template has multiple pages!
thank you // delivery pages
On these pages, link to your finished products in Drive, Dropbox, etc on these pages. If it is a bundle, you can use multiple pages. If it's a single item, use page 5, 6, or even 10!
I like to use this template to deliver my finished products because people lose files all the time but a pretty PDF with a coupon code and such pretty mockups stands a better chance against the digital graveyard.
contact // follow-up pages
Inside this template you will also find a contact or follow-up page. This is where you will link to your social media, email list, etc.
coupon // upsell pages
You can add a coupon to any of the pages, or you can use one of the coupon specific pages. Coupons are an easy way to get customers to come right back and buy more. Think about all the times you've left something behind, for whatever reason, but went back when given a coupon. Marketing 101, amiright?
This template is offered in an 8.5×11 size for PDFs, and you'll also get a 2000x2000px option so you can use some of these pages in your Etsy listings when you are A/B testing new mockups (from tip #5 above).
Making more money on Etsy is simple.
Notice again, I didn't say making more money on Etsy was easy… but it is simple – and I just outlined the entire process in this blog post. You don't have to buy anything, you don't have to spend 100 hours trying to make $10, and you most certainly do not have to punch a clock and make someone else richer like most of us did for decades when we had “real” jobs.
Treat Etsy like it is your job, and you will get paid like it's your job. Treat Etsy like it's a hobby or an afterthought, and you'll be joining the people who say they “can't” make sales. Every day we wake up and decide how we are going to spend our day.
I hope you spend today creating (and publishing!) digital products, so this time next year you can be making a shit ton of cash and come back and let me know about it!