I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve gone to Etsy, searching for cute craft items for my home, daughter’s room, or gifts for my friends, and wished I could simply make the item I was looking for myself. The Etsy price point is not a low one, nor should it be – with thousands of handcrafted items from around the world, finding the most unique, perfect gift, outfit, wedding dress, home item – and so much more – is now more accessible due to the internet and ecommerce.
I am not a crafty person, but I am all about the aesthetic – and being my own boss. So, if you’re like me, what can you sell on Etsy that doesn’t involve crafts? Is it even possible?
The short answer is yes – it is possible, especially if you already have a salesperson-type personality. Items like digital downloads of patterns created by visual artists, graphic design items that people can purchase from graphic designers, and vintage items for resell that you certainly haven’t made yourself are all options.
You can even sell crafting supplies as opposed to handmaking or designing items. Read on for more non-crafty ideas and do’s and don’ts for average Joes or Josephines.
If you search for “digital downloads” on the Etsy website, a variety of options come up, from resume templates, to photography, to cutting files (images/files used for crafters), and other designs. Basically, if you’re a visual artist or graphic designer, you fall into the “non-crafter” category of folks who still sell their creations on Etsy.
Etsy has created a great seller handbook for people taking this route, available here; essentially, sellers will upload the file for purchase, as opposed to mailing a handcrafted item. It’s pretty self-explanatory! The Etsy bloggers refer to it as a “low-maintenance way to stay in touch with your creative and entrepreneurial passions,” and it seems as though that is a correct sentiment; sellers on reddit seem to think the whole process is relatively easy.
Do: Make sure to delineate which prints are physical (if you’re going the print route) and which are digital – perhaps through your own watermark.
Don’t: Forget the watermark – seriously! You do not want people stealing your work, which can be so easily done in photography, film, and visual art.
Graphic Design Items
As an Etsy graphic designer, you can create custom logo designs, templates, and offer design services for greeting cards, invites, signage, stickers, typography, store banners, t-shirts and so much more – all without having to hand-make or hand-draw (unless that’s your thing!) an item.
You can even offer intangible services, like Photoshop help/coaching – this is an invaluable service that any business owner, regardless of their industry or skillset, should take ownership of; it’s the “teach a man to fish” principle. Teaching a new client Photoshop skills may mean that they won’t have to hire outside services for graphic design – though if they want to implement more advanced techniques into their marketing and advertising, they should certainly hire a pro.
Again, that’s where you come in! Arming clients with knowledge is power, and can make for retained clients.
Do: Set yourself apart. Graphic design is a red ocean, so to speak, so you really need to be sure to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Don’t: Sell yourself short – or let someone talk you into giving them free Photoshop lessons! You need to charge for your time and efforts, even if the services are, well, services, and not tangible items.
Vintage Clothing & Accessories
This is an entirely different skillset other than the aforementioned ones – the key to selling vintage clothes is finding the right items, knowing your audience, doing your research on the vintage item/era/history and price points, and being a great salesperson! There are many stores on Etsy that sell vintage items, so you will need to figure out what makes you unique (other than the items that you’re selling, of course).
It helps to know your brand – are you selling 1950s dresses? Porcelain figurines from the WWII era? Whatever your passion is, make it shine through the items that you sell. The most successful Etsy shops have a niche market, and have been on Etsy for a while – but don’t let that get you down! Just focus on your brand/niche and get to selling!
Do: Figure out what need you’re fulfilling. Why do you buy items, supplies, food, clothing, etc.? What speaks to you as a consumer? Use that knowledge to your advantage when advertising your items to your clients.
Don’t: Just sell to everyone. It may seem counterproductive at first, but any industry needs a niche. Trying to make everyone happy will make no one happy – and will mean less money in the bank for you. That’s no way to create a sustainable, remote business!
Beautiful rose-colored wire, hemp cord, and laser-cut wood abound in the crafting supplies section of Etsy. Ask your crafty friends if they have an overstock of supplies, scour craigslist or your local periodical for items, or buy them wholesale and resell. As a note, reselling is allowed on Etsy only in the crafting supplies and vintage categories.
The key to selling craft supplies on Etsy is, like other listings, to know your audience and create a listing that helps you to sell. Etsy suggests utilizing those “captivating writing” skills and “product photography that turns window-shoppers into customers.” While all of the Etsy tips and tricks for selling crafting supplies on their platform are pretty general, they are good reminders on how to move product within your Etsy shop.
For example, “optimize your shipping and inventory processes” is one of Etsy’s suggestions – meaning, shipping crafting supplies fast is key to customer satisfaction, as is making sure that your inventory is extremely organized and that you’re using the most cost-efficient shipping methods.
Do: Show – don’t tell – what the consumer is going to get. Etsy sellers take photos of every angle, color, texture, size, etc. of their supplies.
Don’t: Ignore your customers’ demands – Etsy sellers take the “customer is always right approach,” particularly with crafting supplies. After all, Etsy is the go-to website for crafting pros, so it makes sense that those who buy crafts on the retailer will only accept the best of the best!
Hard-to-find or unique items are big sellers on Etsy. Items like monster masks, or the large acrylic teardrop bead that sold at $2.99 per bead (someone bought 291,188 recently!) can lead to a lot of dough in the bank for non-crafty Etsy sellers.
Like vintage clothing, it’s important to know your market, and find the right niche for what you’re selling. Love horror movies? Then try the monster mask route – and have a blast collecting all those scary Leatherfaces. Are figurines your thing? What about collectibles? Make sure to pack them well, so you never have to worry about a negative customer review.
Whatever your unique thing is, you can easily turn it into cold, hard cash on Etsy!
Do: Find your niche – believe me, it’s worth repeating, especially with specialty items. You shouldn’t try and stretch yourself too thin, and sell collectibles, vintage items, and Halloween masks.
Don’t: Price incorrectly. If you don’t have beads that actually cost $2.99 per bead, then don’t sell them as such just because someone else had a success story! It’s the equivalent of lying to your customers, which is something no legitimate seller wants to do. Be upfront and honest with your potential clients, and you should have repeat customers – which is something we all want, no matter what business we’re in.
Food & Baked Goods
You may not be crafty, but can you cook or bake? If the answer to that question is ‘yes,’ then Etsy’s food and baked goods section(s) may be the best option for you! It may seem counterintuitive to sell food and baked goods, but it’s absolutely doable. Many Etsy sellers sell jam, pecan and date bars, food coloring – even mushroom powder and edible chalk chunks.
The main thing to keep in mind when selling food on Etsy is that there are many government regulations that “dictate who can make, sell, and package food.” Sellers also have to contact USPS and other shipping carriers about how to properly package the food items that they are selling.
Do: Package, package, package correctly! You can never be too careful with foods and baked good items. Go over the Etsy, FDA, and USPS/carrier rules several times – memorize them, in fact! You cannot afford to make any errors when it comes to food.
Don’t: Ignore any of the other tips and tricks – know your market, know your customer, and don’t be wishy-washy about what you charge. Stick to your guns – and your goods.
More Etsy Posts
If you'd like more Etsy help, check out these posts: