Selling digital downloads on Etsy is a business venture that’s exploded in popularity over the last several years. With virtually everything online, cheaper access to digital design tools has given the most aspirational designers an outlet to monetize their skills.
Etsy is an online marketplace that more digital artists continue to leverage as a way to monetize their designs.
And because of Etsy’s growing popularity among consumers, paired with how easy it is to design something on a computer, selling digital downloads is only becoming more popular.
But if you’re thinking about heading down this path as a way to monetize your passion for graphic design, there are a few things to be aware of first.
What are digital downloads on Etsy?
Digital downloads are files that can be downloaded onto a computer and used for another purpose.
The most common digital downloads sold on Etsy are graphic art, greeting cards, website templates, and stickers.
These files are purchased via Etsy and delivered immediately to the customer – there’s no physical product being exchanged.
Why sell digital downloads on Etsy?
Selling digital art has many benefits, as you just heard. No physical product is exchanged, so no shipping or postage is required. Downloads are made immediately after the payment process is completed.
But there’s another benefit, and that is the low overheads.
Once the designer or graphic artist has the equipment to create their digital downloads, there aren’t many overheads. Monthly subscriptions for graphic design software are the biggest, as well as the one-off costs of the design surfaces. Aside from these two elements (and Etsy fees), the overheads just aren’t there when compared to creating a physical product.
What’s more, there’s not even a need to organize postage!
Best selling digital downloads on Etsy
The best-selling and most popular forms of digital downloads on Etsy include:
Wall art. Whether a simple A4-sized piece of paper or a larger poster that can be printed locally, wall art is a trendy digital download to sell on Etsy.
Greeting cards. Hallmark’s had its moment. There are loads of talented designers making a vast range of greeting cards for all sorts of occasions overlooked by larger companies. Designers can also customize many forms of greeting cards sold on Etsy.
Certificates. Encouragement awards, diplomas, certificates of recognition, and gratitude are all very popular forms of digital downloads sold on Etsy. They can be printed locally to the customer and then have the names filled in by hand.
9 Tips for Selling Digital Downloads on Etsy:
While the concept of selling digital downloads on Etsy is more straightforward than selling physical items, it’s still rather intricate.
Here are 9 tips to get started:
01. Find your niche
Niche marketing is the quickest way to create a growable and scalable business while ensuring long-term success. But, unfortunately, simply racing out and selling digital downloads you like isn’t going to cut it.
Look for inspiration from your competitors. Find an Etsy shop with lots of sales and unique items without much competition. Fine-tune your design to your own style, and you’ll tap into the demand that’s being underserved.
02. Perform market & keyword research
Understanding your market is key to your success in selling anything on Etsy, even digital downloads. That’s why it’s important to shop your competitors and their products. You need to know what’s out there before jumping headfirst into a saturated market with a sub-par product.
But you can learn more about your market than just who else is selling products similar to yours. Look at the competitive Etsy shops within your market and ask yourself the following questions:
- How are they marketing their products?
- What makes their digital downloads unique?
- What makes their brand unique?
After all, your potential customers will compare your digital downloads to your competition’s.
- How are your products different?
- What makes them better?
- Are they priced competitively?
It’s essential to clearly define how you set yourself apart from other Etsy shops before you launch your business.
Researching the competition can be time-consuming. But rather than scrolling through hours of Etsy shops and pages of listings, Marmalead shows detailed analytics for hundreds of Etsy shops with one simple keyword search. What keywords are they using? How are they pricing their products? What file types are they using for their designs?
→ Find out with quicker results using Marmalead.
03. Remember, your customers probably aren’t as tech-savvy as you
The next step to selling digital downloads on Etsy is to, of course, launch your Etsy shop. This is pretty straightforward. You’ll need to set up your Etsy shop like every other seller, the only difference being that you won’t be shipping physical products.
At this point, it’s important to remember one thing about your future customers. They’re probably not going to be as tech-savvy as you are. This is where your returns policy needs to be cut and dry. And with digital downloads, it’s not a returns policy as much as a refund policy.
So you have two options: Clearly define when a customer is deserving of a refund if they can’t figure out what to do, and provide detailed instructions for how to use your downloads.
Creating instructions for something as simple as extracting files from a zip folder might seem pointless, but it could save you some back and forth with future customers. Find some good instructions online, adjust the steps to align with your product, re-brand it to fit your shop, and include the instructions with every order.
04. Watermark your listing photos and design proofs
Now that you’ve created your new Etsy shop to sell digital downloads, it’s time to develop listings for each of your products.
If you don’t want a competing Etsy shop to steal your designs, you should watermark your listing photos and design proofs. Etsy has taken some steps to help with protecting the rights of your brand through their new Reporting Portal, but you can never be too careful.
A watermark on your listing isn’t going to lock it down like Fort Knox, but if someone wants to steal your designs, they’ll have to work harder to rebuild it from scratch.
05. Price your digital downloads competitively
You read earlier how there are fewer overheads selling digital downloads on Etsy compared to selling a physical product.
Yes, that means your final prices can be lower, but not free. Competitive pricing is essential to making a profit and ensuring you’re adequately rewarded for your time.
Not sure where to start with your pricing? That’s where Marmalead comes in. Quickly research pricing for hundreds of Etsy listings with the click of a button.
Getting your pricing right will take time. You’ll likely need to operate your Etsy shop for a while before you start understanding how your price point impacts your sales. But with digital downloads, adjusting your pricing is as simple as moving a slider up and down.
06. Fine-tune your Etsy SEO
Etsy SEO, or search engine optimization, can help you bring in significantly more traffic and sales to your Etsy shop.
When people land on the Etsy homepage and search for your product, you want to ensure that your products appear as high as possible in the search results.
This won’t be particularly hard if you’re selling a product in a niche with little competition. But do you know if you’re using keywords that shoppers are actually searching for?
On the flip side of the coin, if there’s a lot of competition in your market, you’ll need every competitive edge you can get for your products to rank higher than your competitors.
In both scenarios, a keyword tool will help you fine-tune your Etsy SEO and broaden your organic reach.
More tips for selling digital downloads on Etsy
If you made it this far in our list, then you’re well on your way to running a successful digital download business on Etsy. But before you set off on your new business venture, here are some more things to be aware of:
07. Follow pop culture trends for quick sales
Game of Thrones, NFTs, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dogecoin, and Squid Game are all popular trends that quickly came and went.
As you’re selling digital products on Etsy, keep your eye on upcoming pop culture trends. Because your product can be created virtually overnight, you can quickly get new listings associated with the current trend.
Trends won’t always be trendy, so swap out your old designs for something new once the cultural fad passes.
Don’t forget that Etsy doesn’t play when it comes to copyright infringement. So make sure your designs don’t infringe on someone else’s intellectual property or be prepared for Etsy to shut down your shop.
08. Digital downloads are more than ‘art prints’
Throughout this article, you may have thought that digital downloads are files that can be printed and used for decoration.
While that’s true, digital downloads on Etsy are also so much more. Here’s a list of digital downloads that are more than simple art prints:
- WordPress themes and plugins
- Diaries, organizers, and journals
- Stock photography
- Coloring books
- Invitation, resume, and certificate templates
- Fonts and typography
- Sewing, knitting, and embroidery patterns
- Logos and branding
- Vector images
09. Offer customization services
A cute dinosaur card for a young boy’s birthday is an excellent idea – but even better if your design involves that dinosaur holding a sign with the boy’s name and age.
Offering customizations for your standard designs makes your product more desirable to a customer. Customers can reach out to you and ask for something to be slightly tweaked or customized, for which they pay a small premium.
Set up some custom design templates in your Etsy shop, and work with your customers to create a digital download that’s personalized to their needs.
Is selling digital downloads on Etsy a profitable business venture?
Sure it is!
But don’t be tricked by how easy it appears to be. The products you sell must be well-designed, well-marketed, and, if possible, customizable.
Do your market research and create digital art in demand, and you’ll find your digital downloads growing in popularity, with a healthy profit flowing in!