How I Made Over $30,000 Selling Printables on Etsy
I have a story for you and it is not about how I suddenly woke up, decided I wanted to make a bunch of money on Etsy selling printables and became an overnight success. This is a story of how I sloowwwwlllllyyyyyy came to the realization that success on Etsy as a "Printables girl" was POSSIBLE for me. Once I got to THAT point, then yes, things took off from there. But, let's start at the beginning...
In December of 2013, I opened my Etsy store and listed my first printable - a simple weekly planner that I still use and sell to this day. I had been patching together my own printables and sharing them with friends and on this blog for some time, and I had finally mustered up the gumption to try to start selling them.
That first month, I made $3. My friend Carrie bought the printable. I remember being so excited by the sale.
However, because I did not have any clear goals for my store and definitely didn't treat it like a business, it did not make a lot of money. I was okay with that at the time because I had a lot of other things going on. I had just closed down a coffee shop business and was launching a cleaning and babysitting business. That kept me busy during the day and then at night, I'd work on my graphic design business serving clients and tinkering with this blog.
Every once in a while I'd add a new printable to my store - just single page downloads that I actually hobbled together with Picmonkey. Creating printables in Picmonkey was painstakingly slow work since it's really supposed to be used for graphic editing and creation, but at the time, Picmonkey was the only program I knew. *Fun fact, I'm a self-taught graphic designer and all I use is Picmonkey!
(Picture: A printable a put together in Picmonkey. Now, I would use Google Docs or Apple Pages to create the same type of layout much more quickly.)
The printables I was adding to my store at that time were very inexpensive - I charged $3 at most. Throughout the month, I'd make a sale here and there. My phone had the Etsy Seller app downloaded onto it and the app would notify me of a sale by making an AMAZING "cha-ching!!" sound. I loved it even though I only made enough to pay for my fancy lattes here and there.
A year passed. 2014 was drawing to a close and I had made a whopping total of...$186.00 Then, in December of 2014, I decided to put together something that was a little more exciting than a single page printable. I created what I called the "Plan, Do, Review" kit. It was super simple but useful, and yes - assembled painstakingly with Picmonkey. (Pssst! I no longer sell that kit in my Etsy store, but you can get it here for free with this secret link ;) >> Click HERE for the Plan, Do, Review kit.)
(Pic: A snapshot of some of the pages in my Plan, Do, Review kit that helped me start earning somewhat bigger bucks. :)
I priced the Plan, Do, Review kit at $10 - much more than any printable price I had listed before. This was a significant baby step because I was learning that a comprehensive collection of printables was something that I could not only charge MORE for, but it was also something that would SELL BETTER. As that kit started to sell more than any of my other "cheap" printables, I realized that people were a lot more excited to buy my $10 product than they were to buy my $2 or $3 products. Somehow I thought that my cheaper stuff would sell faster. I was wrong and in December 2014, because of that $10 kit, I made $254.50 in sales in that one month, which was so exciting for me since I had only made $186.00 the previous 12 months combined!
Haha. Trust me. I was no overnight success.
So my eyes were a little bit more open from this experience as I entered into 2015. At this point, I was transitioning out of my cleaning and babysitting business and starting to work full time as a graphic designer. My Picmonkey skills were becoming legit! LOL
My Plan, Do, Review kit continued to sell, but I had another collection of useful templates bubbling in my mind. Before I had even ever started this blog, I had been using a system called the Ultimate Life Binder as a way to keep track of my life. It was my central hub for setting goals, measuring my progress, and generally just being aware of where I was, where I was going, and what I was working on a day to day basis. It was comprised of life-management printables that I had printed out from my findings on the web and some that I had created myself to suit me even more personally.
(Pic: My Life Binder back in the day before I turned the system into a printable kit that people could buy.)
Here and there I shared my Life Binder process on this blog. It truly was the cornerstone of how I was taking 100% responsibility for my life - a life philosophy that this blog is all about. My audience showed a lot of interest in it and I had friends constantly asking me to help them put together their own Life Binders. However, as with anything that we're really good at, I didn't consider turning it into something that other people could buy and use because, well, "it's so easy, anybody can make their own." Hahaha. *Business tip: If you ever find yourself saying that about something that you're good at, please turn it into a product. It could make you a millionaire and make a lot of people's lives better.
The real kick in the backside came as I approached the middle of the year. I was getting closer and closer to the Fall season - a time when I knew that I had two big trips coming up - one to Europe and one to the States. I'm a traveling girl. I get on the plane at least once a year. However, this time, I was ready to write a slightly different story for myself. I was ready to feel differently about myself. I had a picture in my mind and in it, I was sitting in a cafe in Paris drinking a latte and feeling successful, feeling at peace because I had a business that was making money even while I was on vacation.
I wanted to be that girl. Even though I had achieved my first dream at that point where I was able to make all my money online as a virtual assistant basically, I was still trading hours for dollars. I knew that my finances would take a hit as a result of taking a vacation. I did NOT want to feel like my money was running out while I was traveling. I did NOT want to come home broke.
I wanted to experience what it felt like to be skipping around Europe with a business that had money coming IN on its own. I wanted to come home financially BETTER than I was when I left!
I knew the answer was passive income. Fortunately, I also knew I had in my hands the power to create it. Up to that point, May 2015, my Etsy store had been open for 18 months and I had almost reached $1000 in sales. It was time to take the next step.
I started working on turning my Life Binder system into a digital product that other people could buy. I graduated from creating printables in Picmonkey to creating them in Google Docs and that is the program I used to create the whole thing. Google Docs! Not fancy Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. Google Docs.
(Pic: A snapshot of designing the Ultimate Life Binder in Google Docs)
And so, in June 2015, I released my Life Binder product to the world - meaning I listed it on Etsy and told my email list about it. Then...my phone started "cha-chinging" more than it ever had before! By the end of the month, I had reached $1000 in sales! That blew my mind. I had made more in one month with one product than I had in the last 18 months!
At the end of that month, I was at a turning point again. I had made $1000 in passive income, yes, but I knew it was mostly due to marketing to my list. How was I going to continue to make that amount in sales? I knew I couldn't keep marketing the same product to my same list month after month. At that moment, I was at a fork in the road where I almost went down the path of "Oh, maybe I'll create something new and sell that next." Luckily, I remembered a piece of advice that prevented me from doing that. I remembered Denise Duffield-Thomas (the Get Rich Lucky Bit#h lady) talking about how women have a tendency to keep creating something new over and over instead of sticking to one core, amazing product and finding endless ways of selling the SAME thing.
In that moment, I realized that if I really believed that I had created something amazing, something that I knew would help people, then I had to stick to it. I knew that there was probably a million more people out there who would LOVE my Life Binder as much as the 50+ people who had bought it in the last 30 days, but it was MY job to make sure they knew about it.
(Pic: The original Ultimate Life Binder. I've since created a new edition every year, but I still sell the original in my Etsy store. :)
This is where Pinterest came in. I decided that I was going to use Pinterest as my marketing platform. I wasn't going to spread myself thin across multiple social media arenas. I was going to focus on one, and I knew that Pinterest was the right one for me because it was where I went when I was hungry for printables, so I was familiar with how I could leverage it for my own. Also, Pinterest has this magic fairy dust that is great for businesses - it puts its users in a take-action/shopping frame of mind. When people are on Pinterest, they are typically there because they want to improve some aspect of their life. They are looking for solutions, which often results in a purchase.
I took off my "printable-creator" hat and put on my "printable-marketing" hat. :) What I found was that marketing demanded as much creativity as actually creating a product, especially when you're marketing on Pinterest. My whole strategy was VERY simple and EXTREMELY effective - I set a goal to create at least one tall graphic every day presenting my Life Binder product. You might be wondering how I was able to keep coming up with ideas. Well, one cool idea I had was to take each page of the Life Binder and create a whole pinnable graphic around that one page. That alone gave me 27 pins to create.
Some days, when I felt too lazy to create a new graphic, I would just re-pin old ones, which is actually a solid strategy too as doing so will boost exposer.
I stayed consistent at this and eventually I created a pin that went viral. You can see it HERE, if you'd like.
(Pic: a screenshot of my Etsy shop as it is now.)
What were my results from all this pinning? My sales stayed consistent. I continued to make $1000 a month. Then after a couple of months as my pins started to get re-pinned more and more, taking on a life and momentum of their own, I stopped creating new pins for the product and the number of sales kept growing.
November came along (5 months after I had launched the Life Binder) and I was packing my bags for Europe. The "cha-ching" sound from the Etsy app on my phone was a part of my daily life now...and life was good. As a single lady with not a lot of expenses, making even $1000 a month in passive income was a game changer. I was able to make better decisions in my business because I was not longer stressed out by money. In fact, I was working less and less, but making more and more.
Whilst traveling for two whole months, my store went from $1000 a month to $2000 a month. Then in January of 2016, it passed $4000 in sales in a single month! This was all 99% due to a single product - my Ultimate Life Binder.
Since then, my Etsy store continues to generate $2000 a month on average for me and I continue to foucs on my Ultimate Life Binder. My misssion is still to help a million woman with this system I've crafted to help people take 100% responsibility for their life.
And guess what? My dream totally came true. I found myself in Paris, sipping a latte, with a business that kept making money even though I wasn't working and I totally returned home wealthier than I was when I had left.
So the moral of the story is that success takes time and it's all in your head. In my first 18 months on Etsy, I made less than $1000. In my second 18 months on Etsy, I made $30,000. What changed? I did. Now, looking back over this whole experience, I've taken inventory of the mindset shifts, the skills, the resources, and the knowledge that has helped me get to this point and I've created an online, self-paced course called Passive Income with Printables. It contains everything I would have LOVED to know when I started.
So if you have any interest in creating printables, whether you want to use them to enrich your own life, share with your audience, or make passive income, check out my course. I think you'll like it. :)