Making Money with Etsy – Case Study $1000 A Month

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This is a Case study (sorta’) of how we (my wife and I) are making money selling stuff on Etsy, earning over $1000 a month for 2-3 hours of work a day. If you’d like to know;

  • how we got where we are right now
  • what have learnt, is there a secret
  • can anyone make money selling on etsy
  • how much money can you make on etsy
  • what products are selling on etsy
  • is it possible to make serious  money with etsy

then stay with me.

As I said, we are making over $1000 in revenue currently, and we are pretty close to $800 in profit on a monthly basis.

All is done from our home, no boss, no 9 to 5 grind.

Despite the ‘success story’ element of this post, making money on Etsy (and eBay) is not easy and it has taken us 2 years to get here.

It took this long mostly because:

a) we did not know what we were doing

b) we did not have time to experiment and build this online business any faster.

Furthermore, there is an element of luck (I believe), without which we could be still at the $100-$150-a-month level.

Disclaimer: as you will see our experience it is a unique story, and the results we have got are probably not typical. But I thought I share it with you folks, because there is a lot to learn here, and I’d rather you learn from our mistakes than wasting your time making your own mistakes…

How It Started, and What Is The Best to Sell on Etsy?

 

Tips To Increase Sales on Etsy without Social Media
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If you have read the About Me section of Bootstrap Affiliate you may know that I have been selling lots of stuff on eBay for more than 5 years now.

But to be honest, it has never kicked off, and – especially when I started –  it required a lot of investment that never really made a good profit.
My wife got pregnant 4 years ago so she had to give up her day job. The arrival of our daughter changed a lot of things, basically we had to re-think what we wanted to do in terms of career v. family life and how we want to make money.

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Our priorities changed, that’s for sure. My wife decided that she wanted to be her own boss and make money from home, rather than working for someone else, make money for someone else, just to spend a lot of money on childcare (yes, childcare in the UK is ridiculously expensive)

So she started thinking about her passions, anything that bugged her and thought it could make a decent business to provide us with a second income.

One day she was looking for a nice birthday card for her film-lover friend, and got frustrated by the fact that she could not find a decent birthday card for her. She thought that others may have the same issue, ’cause anywhere she looked there simply was not any film themed greeting card to buy that she liked.

Tip #1

Find a market gap, a need that must be fulfilled. If it is your own ‘need’, even better.

So she thought, okay, I am going to make one for myself which she did. And then she realized that it may be something that is ideal for a home business.

  • It needs minimal investment
  • You make unique greeting cards to order
  • Semi-passive: the design only needs to be done once

So in terms of investment, we needed a decent printer (got it cheap, for $50), some blank paper cards (50 for $5), a free photo editor software and a good idea (which she already had).

It took us around half a day to finalize the design (Pirates of the Caribbean – Jack Sparrow, yay) and a few attempts to get the prints look nice.

When it was ready she took some photos of it, registered on Etsy and uploaded our very first greeting card.

 

What is Etsy?

In case you don’t know what Etsy is: it’s an online marketplace mainly for unique, vintage and handmade stuff. We chose Etsy as the main platform to sell because the greeting card we had made, ticked two boxes out of the three. In addition, there was the option to personalize it.

In terms of costs: registration is free, but there is a 20p listing fee. On top of it, Etsy takes a percentage of the sale price too (6% maybe?).

So for cheaper items it is not a great deal, it just needs to be calculated into the retail price. For bigger items, well, its a lot of extra cost to recover, so in niches where there is a lot of competition and where buyers are price-sensitive, Etsy is not the best place to sell.

On the other hand, there are a lot of handmade, unique stuff – so the potential number of niches is virtually endless. This makes competition low, and – I figured later – if you smartly maneuver between niches you can quickly find one with little competition and dominate it.

I am also pretty sure that more than 50% of the Etsy users are women. I personally had never heard of Etsy before my wife suggested that we should sell greeting cards here.

Tip #2

Find the platform that fits you product – or find the product that fits the platform (and the potential audience)

Why Selling Greeting Cards on Etsy?

We were pretty short on the budget, for one. We already had a product. Sort of. But the main principle, the reason why we thought this could turn into a nice little side-hustle is this:

  • I knew it from my eBay experience that buying in and stacking up a lot of stuff is simply too risky. Especially with items that supposed to be unique, or have different sizes etc. So no T-shirt printing.
  • Can be easily adopted if need be. Again, from my past experience I knew if we started a proper shop and stocked a lot of stuff, it would be difficult to change direction.
  • Minimize risk: we double-checked if people were selling personalized greeting cards on Etsy (they were) and if people were buying those (they were).
  • We also had a chance to peek at the competition. We knew it already that what we wanted was not available, or we did not like it (styling, design, too pricey etc.) So it was a good chance to get more ideas of what people were buying, but to be honest we have not started analyzing competition seriously until recently.

Tip #3

Minimize initial investment by selling something that you don’t need to stock.

Our First Sale on Etsy

Only 4 days after uploading the first greeting card, she had her first sale. Only £3.50 (maybe $4 ?), including postage, so the actual profit was around £2 ($2.5).

Which was not a lot. So we figured we needed to sell around 100 a week to replace a part time job.

But the feeling was great, and it certainly felt differently to selling products on eBay. Because it was ours, we had the idea and we created the product based on that idea. And within 2 weeks of the initial thought, we made money with it.

Fast forward a year later – The Fluke

So in terms of making new designs, everything was a bit ad hoc. Whenever we had a good idea, we made it. Some cards were selling relatively well, others did not sell at all.

On the positive side, with practice, it only took 1-2 hours to come up with a new design that was ready to print.
On the negative side: we could have designed a lot more cards. In all honesty we only had like 20-odd different greeting cards after a year.

Sale numbers were not bad but hardly enough to seriously disturb the shallow waters of our family budget: 5-7 sales a week, mainly driven by one or two cards.

Until one design really kicked off: it was a Friends tv show themed birthday card. From this card alone we were selling 10 a week.

Tip #4

Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your audience

But even then it took us months to realize that maybe we should chase this line and make more, similar cards. In hindsight, if we were a bit more savvy, we could have easily made 5-10 Friends tv show themed cards, so that if someone searched for it then they would have had no choice but clicking on one of our cards.

We also started experimenting with other, famous tv shows and programmes, but nothing else seemed to work. At least not at a level that we wanted it to.

Becoming More Organised To Boost Sales

Around this time I started learning about online marketing, so it kinda’ made sense to apply all my newly-gained knowledge on my wife’s online business.

  • We started to dig deeper and tried to understand why that one card was more successful than all the rest altogether.
  • I started to look at Etsy Analytics
  • I started to look at keywords in the title and in the description
  • We tried to understand customer preference.

It did not take much effort to find out that the fact that Netflix had Friends on their platform helped a lot. So we started looking at other popular shows as well, and also carried on developing other, Friends TV show themed cards.

At the same time I completely re-written the product descriptions, and reviewed the titles & #tags of all the others.

(For reference, I tried to summarize what I have learnt about creating content for search engines to find in this post: How To Get On Google Page One – Create Content That Ranks Although it is aimed at Google search queries and creating long-form content, the principles are the same: create content that people are looking for)

We also started to analyse competition: every time before starting a new design, we looked at what others were selling. We had two methods:
a) if there was a lot of competition, tried to make one that is better than anything that was available (it is sort of subjective, but there you go)
b) if there was no competition, tried to find out why that was (maybe copyright issues?) and then do a killer design.

It worked and, combined with targeting keywords and #tags, we slowly started to increase the monthly income and reached $350 a month by the summer of 2019.

In terms of keyword research, we followed a simple strategy. We entered a keyword, found the first result that was not a promoted listing and copied the title & tags.

We had 4-5 different designs on the Friends TV show that were selling relatively well. But we felt that something was just not right and other cards in that ‘niche’, if you like, that were not as great-looking as ours (in our opinion), were best sellers. So people loved those, for some reason.

The key was that those used the Friends font that we though would be ‘too obvious’. So we were kind of trying to be more unique and do something different. We were trying to know it better, than the audience we were targeting.

One evening we slightly amended the design, applied the Friends font, and…oh, boy…

So we came out with this design at the end of August. And for a week, nothing really happened. We had a holiday booked from the middle of September till the end of September (25th if I remember correctly) so we shut the shop for 2 weeks.
Even though there were no orders coming in for 2 weeks out of the 4, by the end of September we had a great month.

Results: we now have at least 5 ‘Best-selling’ greeting cards of various designs.

$1000 A Month By Selling on Etsy

It was the 1st month over $1000. And the 2nd followed it shortly

So it was not a question anymore, that the we had found something that met with what the people were looking for. And orders are coming in ever since, we currently average around 9 orders a day.

Graph showing conversion rates on Etsy
20% Conversion Rate – This Is How You Become a ‘Bestseller’ in your niche

The majority of the orders are on this one particular card. So it is a bit concerning. But it shows that it probably takes 35 attempts to find one that IS working.

Disadvantages of Working From Home As An Online Entrepreneur
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The Flip-side of working from home

Cons #1
I guess it’s only relevant if you have a toddler constantly around. There is simply no time to work during the day. Preparing orders needs time and focus, which is virtually impossible to do during the day when our daughter is awake.

So yes, it only takes 2-3 hours a day, but it 2-3 hours after she’s gone to sleep. Which often means that my wife is up till midnight, every day. Weekends are the worst.

It will probably improve as my daughter will spend more and more time at pre-school.

Cons #2
The physical limit of selling low-ticket items. So if 2-3 hours of work makes $1000, 8 hours of work would make around $2500. That’s the limit of this business right now, that’s what is physically achievable doing it ourselves.

Cons #3
It’s far from being passive.

Yes, it feels great to wake up in the morning and find that we have sold 3-4 greeting cards already while we were asleep (thank you, dear US customers), but we can’t go on a holiday without having to think of losing $2-300 a week. In fact, even if we skip one day, the backlog is significant on the following day, due to the amount of greeting cards sold on a daily basis and the manual labour it takes to proceed an order (ie printing and packaging).

Because we create our own products, it’s not going to change unless we can outsource the processing the orders.

I still prefer affiliate marketing, because the only thing that you own, is basically your website. The upfront investment is much less (and therefore the risk you take is much less too.).

If you’d like to know more about affiliate marketing and how to build up resources of online revenue that will generate passive income, I recommend this training course. It’s is a step-by-step video tutorial that walks you through the basics of online marketing, keyword research, customer life-cycle etc; while giving you all the tools (including a website) to really kick off. Have I mentioned that it’s FREE?

Even if you are not interested in making money with affiliate marketing, the principles that I have learned with this course proved very useful in giving a boost to our Etsy shop.

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Opportunities for Improvement

I must add that we have achieved this without any promotion, or rather, any presence on social media, any paid advertising or anything of that sort. There’s a lot of room to improve especially on Pinterest (I’m on it right now).

There’s still a lot of design that we plan to do but haven’t yet.

We have plenty of ideas of other products that meet the same principles (low initial cost, low cost of manufacturing) but would make a bit more profit. But, there is no time right now to catch up on those ideas.

We are only present on Etsy and Ebay. Despite having the same products on Ebay, sale numbers or minimal (20-30 a month). I am yet to figure out why. If we could achieve the same numbers on eBay, our turnover would double without having to do anything else.

As the designs are done, I am looking into other ways of monetizing them. I am experimenting with Red Bubble: this is a service that takes away the cost of manufacturing and the sellers can keep a cap on top of the base price of an item. The seller determines the cap, it can be anything up to 70% if I remember correctly. For example if I wanted to sell a T-Shirt with a printed design, the base price is $10 and I can set the cap to 20%. So people could buy the T-Shirt with my design for $12 from Red Bubble and I’d keep $2.

Unfortunately they don’t sell greeting cards, and most of the design we have made need a slight modification to meet the requirements of Red Bubble (issues like size and shape of a picture to perfectly fit on an iPhone case). Again, time…

Lessons Learned from Having and Etsy Shop
I’m on Pinterest

Lessons learned

1. Working from home is great, but you actually need to allocate the time (and space) to do the work. Especially if you have a busy household, otherwise no work will be done.

2. No matter how thoroughly you plan, you won’t always be able to predict what people will love. So it takes a lot of experimenting. Having 5-10 products that don’t sell is part of the process, and you should not feel down about it.

3. Always analyse competition and try to be the best. Don’t be afraid to keep changing and experimenting until everything fits together, also see number 2 above.

4. Selling online is a great feeling. But selling a $20 item takes the same amount of effort than selling a $5 one. We should have put a lot more focus on product development and optimizing our time vs. profit. In hindsight, we should have thought about what business we would have liked, how much profit we’d like to realize with how many hours of work well before the first sale. But we did not. We probably could not have planned it all out anyways, due to the lack of experience in creating our own products.

5. Always keep your eyes on the next level. When the number of orders increased suddenly, we quickly ran into a logistical nightmare. We ran out of envelopes, the ink delivery was delayed, so we were unable to process the orders. We now have a system to always have an extra stock of everything that can keep us running for a week – until we replenish whatever runs out. We also continuously streamlining the process of preparing orders, to make it is fast and efficient as possible.

Selling your own products is an awesome feeling. Being able to come up with something out of the thin air, being able to bring it to life and then make money by selling it cannot compare to anything.

Yet, a more passive income through affiliate marketing would improve our work-life balance significantly. The money we could earn with affiliate marketing has no upper limit. And with affiliate marketing, we would not have to close our shop down, whenever we go on a holiday for a week or two.

So it’s great that we have this income stream and I am hoping that a year on I could report that we have reached $2000 a month.

In the meantime, I am also hoping that my websites keep making that same profit as they did last year, or more. That would mean that we are really close to finally get out of the 9 to 5 rat-race and become full time online entrepreneurs…

If you’d like to learn more about keyword research, and how to create / optimize content to reach maximum potential, I recommend this course: it’s free with a lot of added extra, and it explains the basics of keyword research very well. You would have access to a keyword research tool as well.

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4 Tips to Boost Your Sales on Etsy without Social Media

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Greg