Making and selling printables on Etsy for extra cash...

Sounds good, but how easy is it to start a printables business?

If you need to get some extra cash, making printables to sell on Etsy is indeed an easy way to set up a side hustle from home. And it's something anybody can do.

Want to learn what it takes to make printables and how to sell them on Etsy?

Great!

Keep reading and I'll tell you how you can make printable PDFs and start an Etsy printables store!

More...

How to make printables to sell on Etsy | Start a printables business

[Disclaimer: Some links in this post contain affiliate links. This means I get a commission if you purchase the product through my link at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

Before I start, I'm going to recommend to learning resources for you. One is my friend Suzi's Printables by Number course, just in case you're not very good at tech and want to learn how to make lots of different printables in detail. It's all there. And I'd also recommend The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy, it's a book and it's not just aimed at people selling printables, but I've found the tips in the book very helpful and it's helped me see some of the mistakes I was making in my listings.

What are printables?

Printables are designs or documents you create so they can be printed and used by people as a hard copy (although a lot of them can also be used digitally as well).

When somebody buys a printable on Etsy, they get a link to download your design, then they can print it (in their preferred size, if you offer different sizes) and either display it or use it.

Why do people buy printables?

So why do people buy printables when they could make them themselves? It does depend on the type or printable, of course, but there are a few reasons why people would prefer to buy a pdf file rather than make it themseles.

  • They don't have the time to make it and, even if they did, they don't want to spend the time doing it.
  • It's convenient, if you want a piece of Wall Art and you go to a shop on the high street,  you might only have one size, but if you get a printable, you usually get more than one image and it comes in several sizes). 
  • It's cheaper than buying a printed copy of a similar item (such as Year Planners).
  • They like the look of a printable and can't find it anywhere else.
  • It's quick because they don't have to wait for delivery, they buy it and 'Hey, Presto!', they can print it immediately.

What is Etsy?

Etsy is one of the most widely known marketplaces for handmade stuff and original gifts such as art pieces, jewellery, clothes and many other handcrafted items you can't find in your local shops.

Etsy has over 90 million active buyers (March 2022) and it's one of the to go places for people who are looking for gifts and gift ideas.

But Etsy is not just a great place to sell your handmade items.

It's also a great place to sell your printables and other digital goods.

Why is Etsy such a good place to sell your printables?

  • First, it's easy to start a shop in Etsy. You don't have to build a shop yourself or pay anybody to build it.
  • You can start for FREE, so there's no risk. You can start your Etsy shop using this link and you'll get 40 FREE listings (worth $8) so you can try it out first.
  • You don't need expensive equipment to create or sell your printables (though you'll need to invest on a couple of tools if you want to do it seriously).
  • You don't have to pay a monthly subscription to join, but you'll have to pay listing fees and Etsy fees (similar to the way Ebay works, but I'll tell you more about it later.)
  • Etsy's 90 million buyers. Obviously, they aren't all going to be interested in your product, but when people go to Etsy, they're looking for something and browsing, so your products are (hopefully) going to come up in their searches and you'll be able to make sales.
  • You can use Etsy ads to attract buyers to your shop and to your products, and Etsy also advertises your products for you (you can opt out, of course).
  • You can get more than one Etsy shop, all you need is a different email address, so you can have shops selling different products or work in completely different niches.
5 things you need to sell printables on Etsy

Are there any disadvantages of selling printables on an Etsy store?

There are some disadvantages or rather, things you need to take into account before you start selling printables on Etsy.

Here are some I can think of:

  • Marketplaces are very competitive, and there are many others selling the same things you want to sell. Unless you're in a very tiny niche and nobody's ever had the idea to do it before, you'll be competing with them and it will take time.
  • It's not as easy as some experts lead you to believe. You're not just going to open up a shop and get 100s of sales in a week. For most people, it takes a while, lots of products and some trial and error to get things going. And you'll also find that some of your products won't sell at all.
  • You need to learn Etsy SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) so your products will come up at the top of the search and can also be found by Google when people are doing a search on Google.
  • You don't get an email list with Etsy. While one of the advantages of selling on Etsy is the number of buyers they have, the bad news is that you don't own this list. If you want to send emails with offers, special deals and news about your shop, you're going to have to start an email list somewhere else and try to get people to sign up from Etsy because communication with your customers on Etsy is limited.
  • You have to get used to the way the fees work so you can price your items and still make a profit and (if you're not in the US, you might have to pay some extra fees as well).
  • You'll have to drive traffic to your shop and your products on social media yourself, even if Etsy is already doing it for you.

But is selling printable downloads on Etsy legal?

Provided you've created the printables (or have a commercial license to use them), and you've got the right to use the images/graphics in the files, yes, it is perfectly legal to do it.

What I mean when I say you need to have the right to use the images and graphics used in the files, I mean that you have either:

  • created them yourself from scratch (without copying them).
  • have paid for a commercial license of the images or graphics you're using (for example, because you've bought them through Creative Fabrica).
  • are paying for a subscription to a graphic design program and the images and graphics are included in your subscription for you to use commercially (you must check this with the program of your choice, so if you're using Canva, check out their license terms and what you can and can't do with the graphics you create).

Also, you need to be careful with copyright, you can't start a shop that infringes on somebody else's copyright and trademarks.

So, for example, you can't set up a shop to sell Harry Potter Wall Art, even if it's your own drawings and paintings. And you cannot use quotes that have been trademarked either.

Etsy takes copyright infringement very seriously and you can get banned if you are a repeat offender. Here are Etsy's IP rules.

So,before you start creating your designs, do a search for trademarks in the UPSTO website for the US or search for trademarks in the UK here.

Is making digital printable Pdfs to sell worth it?

Benefits of creating printables

  • Creating a printable to sell is quite fast. A simple design can be done in 5-10 minutes.
  • You can use FREE tools to do it, so you're not spending money on tools at the beginning.
  • When you create a printable you don't have to worry about stock numbers or storing everything in your garage.
  • There's no packaging to worry about either.
  • You create one printable that can be sold multiple times and on multiple platforms.
  • Printables are usually much cheaper than a hard copy of a similar item, so they're easier to sell.

EXAMPLE: A Planner can cost from $10 to $40, but a similar planner will cost from $5 to $20, for example.

How dificult is it to make printables for Etsy?

This is the greatest thing about starting a printables business.

It's not difficult at all, or rather it can be as difficult as you want it to be.

For example, if you're familiar with Powerpoint, use it to create your printables. You might need to learn how to do some of the more complex things and learn a few tips and tricks pros use, but you can get started easily.

If you've never used Powerpoint or Canva and want to learn how to use them to make your printables, check out Printables by Number

You can also start making small and simple printables at first, so you get the hang of it, create a few templates and then move on to more complex products.

For example, I designed this Homework Tracker to help my daughter keep track of her homework, but since I was already setting up a new shop on Etsy to show you the process, I thought I'd add it to it:

Do I have to be creative to sell digital downloads on Etsy?

I'm not going to lie. Being creative is an advantage when you're setting up a printables business on Etsy because you'll know how to make your digital downloads look beautiful and if you can create your own drawings and illustrations, they will be unique to you.

But you don't have to be Michelangelo to make printables that will sell.

If you struggle to come up with ideas and designs, you can use Canva and you'll get access to thousands of graphics and thousands of templates you can use to get started.

All you need to do is change things a bit (fonts, colours, clipart, layout) and you'll have a brand new design you can use.

When you're making printables to sell on Etsy, DO NOT use a Canva template as it comes, use it for inspiration. #sellingprintables #makeprintables #etsystore

Click to Tweet

And you don't even need to be able to draw.

As I just said, use Canva's resources or get your graphics from Creative Fabrica, if you need them.

HOW MUCH AN YOU MAKE SELLING DIGITAL DOWNLOADS ON ETSY?

I'm not going to tell you like some of those experts kicking around that you will make thousands of dollars selling printables on Etsy.

It can be done, obviously. If you look at Etsy and do a search, you'll see shops that have sold thousands of items, but unless you're either very good at SEO or are very lucky, you won't become rich overnight from selling stuff on Etsy. 

It can take a few months to see some traction.

And don't think it's going to happen with your first  few products either or that you'll make a sale straight away.

It can happen, but be prepared to make several products before you'll make any sales:

Selling Printables on Etsy
TIPS
  • Start with small products.
  • Make your first product, then make some more.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Put aside a little bit of time every day.
  • Use templates.
  • Don't give up!

What are the Best Etsy printables for your side hustle?

There so many popular printable ideas that I could write a whole blog post just on that, but I'm going to give you a list of printable ideas that sell well for your Etsy printables side hustle.

These are general ideas, but you can adapt them to your niche and you'll have to do your research first.

  • Wall Art - You could niche down and create Nursery Wall Art or Office Wall Art.
  • Educational Posters - General or specific to a subject, grade, etc.
  • Worksheets - Self-care worksheets for example.
  • Calendars - Will fit any niche
  • Planners - Will fit any niche
  • Banners - Classroom Banners, Birthday Banners...
  • Invitations - Party invitations and other party printables, Wedding Invitations, Baby Shower Invitations...
  • Printable Games - For schools, for parties, for adults, for children.
  • Educational Worksheets - for teachers for homeschoolers.
  • Cards - Birthday Cards, Weddings Cards, Thank You Cards
  • CV templates

There are many more things you can create and if you want a more complete list, here's a list of digital product ideas you can sell (some are not printables, but they may give you some more ideas)!

I don't have much time and just want to do this as a side hustle, how long does it take to make printables and manage a printables shop?

Having a printables Etsy store can be a handy side gig, because once you've set things up, you can get a passive income stream.

It's not like opening a store to sell handmade items when you need a place to store them, then you need to make them and post them when people order from you.

For example, once I know what I want to design and I have a list of things to include and I have drawn a layout or chosen a template to work with. 

It can take me between 5 minutes and 30 minutes to create a printable, but the more pages and the more complex the design is the longer it takes, obviously. 

Then, I use my templates (and I have created different templates for each shop) to make a few images to showcase my products.

This can also take me between 5 minutes and 30 minutes (if the product has more pages, you might want to create a few more graphics showing them all, or if it's new or a seasonal product, you'll have to change your text and move things around a bit more).

Then, it's time to create a description

I like to do this before I upload, so I have all the text ready and, usually, I've already done my keyword research and know which tags to use.

And since I have a template, I only need to write a description of the item and change sizes, etc.

It doesn't take long, but if I'm stuck, I sometimes use AI software to help me create the description. Let's say this takes between 10-20 minutes.

Finally, you get to upload the files and set up your listing.

It's mostly a copy paste job at this stage, and if you've got your files ready and have downloaded all the images you'll use, it takes 10 minutes or so.

But what about managing the Etsy shop?

Initially, managing a printables shop on Etsy doesn't take long, once you've uploaded your designs they're there for people to buy, as long as you've not set the number of items to 1 (cos you can sell an item multiple times) and you've set it to renew automatically if you sell out, you don't have to do much.

Just keep an eye on things every now and then, and if your items start to sell, you can spend some time optimising to increase conversions.

Other than that, your chief concern when you start your printables shop should be to create more products and send people to them.

Even if you've set up your SEO properly, it will take time to work, so choose a social media platform or two and promote your products there.

Creating printables to sell on Etsy

How to come up with ideas for your printable designs

There are different ways to come up with ideas and inspiration for your designs:

  • If you're already using something you've created for yourself, spruce it up a bit and sell it.
  • Brainstorm and see how many ideas you can come up with.
  • Do a Google Search and see what's out there.
  • Do an Etsy Search and look at what type of products are selling.
  • Do a Pinterest search and see what comes up.
  • Use Pinterest trends.
  • Use Google Trends.
  • Create seasonal products.
  • Use an Etsy SEO tool to do some research, such as EtsyHunt

What are the best tools to make printables to sell on Etsy?

If you want to create to sell on Etsy, you don't need to use expensive software.

It's possible to create digital downloads with tools you already use and are familiar with or use FREE online tools.

But here's a list of some of my favourite best tools to make printables:

Free Tools:

I'm assuming you already have access to these through your PC or Google, so even if you've paid for them when you first got your computer, they're not going to cost you extra.

  • Microsoft Word and Powerpoint - Easy to use and with lots of features you can use to make pretty printables.
  • Google Docs and Google Slides - These are a bit more limited than Word, but they're OK to create printables and everything's stored right on your drive, so it's easier to organise everything.
  • Pages and Keynote if you're an Apple user (I'm not, so I can't comment on how good these are.)
  • If you use Linux you have access to LibreOffice, but I have found I much prefer using other tools and if you're looking into selling your printables as files than can be used digitally, you may have issues.

My favourite design tool to make printables:

Although you don't have to use a graphic design tool to make your printables, there are a couple of big advantages to using such tools:

You can use templates, elements and graphics already there, so it's all much quicker (but, of course, you need to make sure you're allowed to use the included graphics commercially).

And if your design skills aren't great, it means you can still create fantastic looking printables you can sell online.

Canva

Canva offers a FREE plan and it's good enough to get you started.

You will be able to do almost everything you want to do, but there are some features that are not available in the FREE plan, such as: Magic Resizing, Background Remover, downloading PNGs with a transparent background or downloading high quality PDFs, for example.

So, if you're planning to sell Wall Art, use the Pro plan.

There are others tools like Visme and PicMonkey but they're pricier than Canva and don't have as many graphics and templates.

Where do I find images and fonts to create printables commercially?

As I mentioned earlier, it's important that you use clipart and fonts that come with a commercial license so you can sell them on Etsy or anywhere else you want. But don't worry, that doesn't mean it's going to cost you a fortune.

Here's where to find FREE elements and fonts for your printable designs:

Freepik

Freepik is a good resource for Vectors and images for your designs.

You can either pay to download them or use their FREE license, which allows you to use the graphics for personal and commercial use as long as you attribute the images.

You can do this by adding your attribution to your Etsy listing and/or in a downloadable file.

Freepik attribution for selling printables

Canva

I like using the graphics already in Canva because it's very handy to do the search and there's lots of FREE graphics you can use that come from Pexels or Pixabay, but you need to check that you can use them first in Canva's content license agreement:

Free Content License Canva

To find out if you can use a graphic on your commercial printables while you're working on your design, hover over the element and if it's FREE to use, it will tell you.

If you're a Canva Pro user, checkout Canva's license agreement to see how and when you can use their graphics.

Pixabay

I like using Pixabay when I'm looking for vectors, not just photos and illustrations because I can change the graphic if I want to, for example I can change the colours or move things around so I can create a new design using the same elements if I use a vector graphics tool.

Creative Fabrica

Creative Fabrica is one of my favourite places to find graphics and other elements for printables.

First, because you can find anything you want.

Second, because it's easy to find similar styles of graphics, for example by following one designer, so you can make your printables have a specific look, if that's what you want.

And third, because they do have FREE graphics you can use commercially (though you have to do a bit of homework and save them for when you might need them, as they're not always available).

Also they offer Discount Deals and they also have offers at different times of the year too.

And, if you subscribe to them, you can use any of their content to create and sell printables and other items while you're a member.

But you can't download everything one month, then cancel your account and start creating items with everything you downloaded.

From what I understand, if you create a design and started selling a design while you were a member, you can continue selling it afterwards, but you can't make new designs, but you'd better check Creative Fabrica's subscription license.

So if subscribing is not for you, pay for individual items as you need them.

How many digital products should you create to start your Etsy printable business?

Well, you're going to need at least one to get started, otherwise you cannot finish setting up your Etsy store.

But the more you have, the better, because you want to show you have a shop and not just a single product and the more traffic you'll get to your shop. 

Plus, if you have more than one product, your customers will be able to buy more than one thing from you (you can offer discounts if they buy more than one item, for example or they might just fancy something else).

But if you want to get started with just one, that's OK.

It's going to take you a little while to create your first designs, so you want to get them out as soon as they're done.

But you should aim to have 30-50 products in a couple of months.

What type of files should downloadable printables be?

If you're creating printables for Wall Art, you can save them as PDF files or JPG but you must make sure they will print well.

It will depend on what tool you're using and what type of files you can produce.

So try to set your PDFs to download at High Quality or 300 dpi if you're using JPG (neither of these options is available in Canva's FREE plan).

If you have to change the resolution and quality of your file, you can do it for FREE from websites like Tinywow.

What size do you I need to make my printables?

The short answer to this question is to choose the size your customers use for printing their printables at home.

Here in the UK it's A4 size (21x29.7cms) but in the US I think it's US letter size (22x28cms).

So, if you want to be able to sell in both markets, you need to include both sizes.

If you make sure you work within the margins and leave enough gaps around, both sizes will print well.

But it's easy to create both sizes and add both files so your customers can choose.

I've also seen people use A5 as another option (148.5x21cms).

What size should Wall Art Printables be?

When you're creating Art printables to sell on Etsy, it's good if you offer a range of sizes in your Etsy listing, rather than make an individual listing for each size.

You can start with A4, A5 and A3 (297x42cms), but you should also consider other options.

I haven't done this before, so I headed to Etsy to see what people are doing and the usual is to offer a few different sizes that will print well on different sized papers, like in this kids quote graphic print:

How to size your printables for Etsy

Or you can also create the same design in different ratios so they print well for different sizes and adding a handy size chart to the listing images, such as this affirmations wall art seller does here.

Add a size chart image to sell printables on Etsy

TIP

Here's where having a pro account for Canva or VistaCreate comes in. Using the Magic Resize option (Don't forget to select Copy and Resize in Canva), will resize your document in seconds. All you need to do is move things around a bit so everything fits well.

Start an Etsy Printables Store: Selling your digital downloads

How do you sell your art printables and other pdf files on Etsy?

Selling your printables on Etsy is straightforward, but you need to prepare a few things before you're ready to sell it.

And, just a heads up, once you've done the first one and know the process it's much faster, so don't get discouraged if it takes you a little while for the first time..

I'm not going to go over the details of opening an Etsy shop in this blog post, as it's pretty easy to do and all you need to do is follow the prompts and enter your email and details (including bank information and credit card) to do it.

What to do before starting your Etsy shop:

You'll have to do some research to figure out what products you want to create and in what niche.

Best thing is for you to make a list of ideas through brainstorming and then do some hands on research on Etsy, Pinterest, Google Trends and (if you're ready to do it) using an SEO tool (preferrably an Etsy SEO tool), so you know what keywords to use.

I like to keep a list of ideas in an Airtable base with some basic info about the products.

Also, before you start, you need to decide on a basic palette of colours and fonts for your shop and your products, if you haven't got them already.

Even if you don't want to set up all the information about your shop at the beginning and you don't even have a logo, you want to be consistent when you create printables and also when you create graphics for your products.

You can always change this as you go forward, but you'll find it easier to get started if you have it.

Step 1: create your first printable for your etsy shop

Then you need a product.

As it happens, you won't be able to finish setting up your shop without a product to upload, so create one first.

Once you've created your digital product, you download it in the appropriate forma t and size and name it in a way that can be easily understood by your customer.

So they know what it is when they download it and they know what it is.

Step 2: Make Etsy graphics for your product

You need a few graphics/photos of the item you're creating so your customers can see it and you can give them a bit of information about it in a visual way.

If you have a printer and can take a photo of yourself or somebody using the product, this is great.

But if you can't, you can create a few mockups to show your item.

Note

A mockup is an image where you can display your product in a realistic setting. 

Step 3: Create your description

To make things a bit easier/faster, I prefer to have this already written before I start a new listing and I use a template so I know I'm not forgetting anything important.

Include information about sizes, printing information, tips, copyright, how to access the file, etc.

Step 4: create a listing

Once you've added some basic details for your shop, you'll be prompted to add your first product.

You start by adding the graphics you've created.

Adding a video is optional, but it helps your product pop in the search pages, so you're better off having a short video.

It doesn't have to be long, a simple 3-5 second animation would work, but if it's too overwhelming for you at the moment, don't do it.

Then fill in all the details and select the right settings for your item.

Even if you've never done this before, you can complete in a few minutes.

To enter the category, use one of Etsy's suggestions.

And if you don't know what tags to use, check out a few similar products on Etsy and use the same or similar tags. 

I like using EtsyHunt for this, so I can hover over a product and see what tags they're using.

Once you've done this, add your description in the box.

STEP 4: complete the listing details

Time to set the price and complete all the other details for your digital product and click Publish.

How to start a printables business on Etsy

How to price your designs to sell on Etsy

This is one of those tricky questions, because you want to be paid fairly but, at the same time, you're competing with other sellers.

You can get an idea about prices either by browsing in Etsy or on EtsyHunt, but what should you do?

Do you price your products higher than others, lower?

Personally, I'd use similar prices to items already there, but make sure they cover Etsy fees so you make a profit.

What types of Etsy fees are there?

If you've used Ebay to sell a few of your own items before, you'll already be a little bit familiar with how Etsy fees work.

In any case I'm going to quickly summarise the most important Etsy fees for you here:

Etsy Listing Fee

First, there's a listing fee of $.20 for each item. So every time you list an item or an item is relisted, you have to pay this.

Start an Etsy shop and get 40 FREE listings with this link.

Transaction fee

Every time you make a sale, you'll have to pay 6.5% on the whole price of the item including the price of delivery, but since you're working with instant downloads, there's no delivery price, obviously.

Etsy Advertising Fees

I am assuming you won't start using Etsy Ads at the beginning, but if you do, you can set up a maximum budget for your Etsy ads to make your bids.

Offsite Ad Fees

From what I understand, you can opt out of this, but if Etsy advertises your product on other platforms and somebody clicks and buys your item within 30 days, you have to pay an Offside Ad Fee between 12 and 15%.

Regulatory Operating Fees

If you're not in the US, check out this page to find out if you have to pay Etsy's Regulatory Operating Fees.

Here in the UK, the fee is 0.25% of the cost of the transaction fee (item+postage and gift wrapping).

There are other fees like Payment Processing Fees and Subscription Fees you can use once you've got a money making Etsy store, to find out more go to Etsy's Legal Fees page.

Sorry if it all sounds a bit complicated... Here's an example of Etsy fees I had to pay on one of my designs that I priced at £2.25:

Selling printables on Etsy: Etsy fees

If you're not sure about what to do, you use the same price point as a competitor with an equivalent product or think about it as a consumer.

What would you be happy paying for your design?

Would you be happy paying $1.50? $2? $3? Is $4 pushing it?

How to deliver your printables to your Etsy customers.

This is very easy.

All you need to do when you create your new product listing is click on the digital radio button to say it's a digital file and then, a bit further down, you can upload up to 5 files to your product.

Adding a printable file to an Etsy listing

Then, when somebody buys the product, they'll be able to download it directly from Etsy.

So you don't have to do anything every time somebody buys something from you.

How to market your Etsy printables

As I mentioned in the Etsy fees section, you can run Etsy ads to promote your products in Etsy, but this will cost you.

If you want to promote your printables for FREE, you're going to have to put some work into it.

Two great social media platforms to promote your Etsy printables are Pinterest and Instagram.

They're both very visual and can send traffic to your Etsy store on autopilot, but it will take some time and effort to do it and you're going to need a social media strategy to help you. 

It doesn't need to be too complex, do a bare minimum at the beginning because you should put most of your effort into creating more products. 

Multitasking

When you're creating your mockups for your Etsy shop, create similar Pin sized and Instagram sized images you can use to promote your digital products.

I prefer Pinterest because you can make a range of pins to show your product that will point to your product directly and it's more passive.

But I find Instagram a bit harder to set up, because you'll have to give links to your products in captions or in your link bio.

Plus, you have to come up with all the hashtags and write engaging captions, and on Instagram you also posts other types of content, so, for me, planning Instagram and posting regularly is a bit harder.

If you're familiar with other social media platforms and already have a following you can leverage, by all means, try those instead!


I hope you enjoyed this guide to make and sell printables on Etsy and you've decided starting a printables side hustle is something you can also do.

Please share this blog post if you found it useful!

Thank you!

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