Work One Day A Week and Earn a Healthy Income From a Massive and Fast-Growing Captive Audience on Etsy

How to Create a Best-Selling Digital Product

Last week we looked at the possibility of earning a full-time passive income based on selling digital download items on Etsy.

Anyone of average intelligence and with few or absolutely no past experience or design skills can make a full-time living on Etsy, by offering digital download items to millions of potential buyers at the site.

Today I want to take a detailed look at two ways you can boost your digital downloads.

I’ll explain how to find the best selling niches. And why I settled on adult colouring books of Victorian ladies wearing very fussy hats.

Why thousands of Etsy traders are going digital

Etsy traders are increasingly choosing digital over physical products and finding success sometimes comes much sooner than they expect.

Selling digital products can be a lot easier than selling the physical stuff. You simply source designs and create digital products and upload them for sale and let Etsy’s software handle all sales and fulfilment.

That leaves digital sellers more time to grow their inventory and maximise their earnings from every new product, without having to make regular trips to wholesalers and delivery offices.

On Etsy itself, for example, I read about a woman who created a few digital nursery prints and received her first order the very same day. That was in 2015, and since then Jenny Kun of Etsy shop The Crown Prints has sold around 5,000 digital downloads of her own original art.

Several other designers mentioned in Etsy forums were each selling thousands of digital products every month, none of those people claiming to be experienced or trained designers.

The easiest way to join Etsy’s digital super sellers is to:

(i) Create products based on other members’ bestselling designs – without copying too closely,


(ii) Make your designs better than all the others and preferably unique and carrying their own exclusive copyright.

(i) and (ii) contain the most important and potentially most profitable advice you’ll receive today and they’re the reason I’m explaining both points in detail.

How to identify best-selling designs

Begin by entering ‘digital’ into the search page on Etsy’s home page. On the page that follows, pick a generic product you might like to create and sell at the site, such as eBooks, paper flowers, gift boxes, gloves.

For example, I searched this week and found adult colouring books have been trending high at the site for several years and show no sign of slowing down. People must find it therapeutic.

The next step is to learn if any specific design or style of generic product, like the colouring books, is topping the sales charts at Etsy.

Bestselling individual designs can be found by keying the generic product into the search box at:

That takes you to products boasting highest sales.

Choose an eye-catching design from your generic products base and click through to its product listing. Next page, click on the seller’s shop name.

On the page that follows, click on ‘sales’, top or left side of the page, and you’ll see the seller’s most recent sales, not just of your chosen product but across the seller’s entire inventory.

In most cases, you’ll find one or more products pictured several times on the same page, possibly, but not always including your target design. Several same product images suggest a bestselling item for your role model seller and a good item for you to modify and sell in your own Etsy shop.

That’s how I spotted Victorian fashion images performing particularly well in pdf colouring book and single sheet format.

Most contained images of well-heeled Victorian ladies wearing elegant ball gowns and day dresses.

Create your own best-selling digital product

And that is how Victorian fashion became my chosen theme for a proposed new adult colouring book and now I need to make my product different and better than items I am competing against.

Of  hundreds of colouring books featuring Victorian fashions, I found just two depicting ladies wearing fancy hats smothered with flowers and feathers and other colourful accessories and being almost carbon copies of one another and not at all attractive or professionally listed at the site.

And that is what tempted me to create a digital colouring book containing images of Victorian women wearing fussy hats.

My version would be more professional looking and priced slightly below others for fashion in general, and hats in particular, and my listing will include high frequency keywords used for other people’s bestselling products, alongside important high frequency search terms other sellers may have overlooked.

I decided to source images from Le Moniteur de La Mode, a French fashion magazine published in the 19th century and packed with black and white images of hats and other items of clothing.

In itself, the magazine is difficult to find and costly to buy when you do find it, and that restricts competition for my proposed new product.

However, I obtained twenty-two badly damaged breaker issues of my target magazine, costing me two pounds apiece in my local auction saleroom. All were stained and torn but each magazine contained four to ten illustrations of hats and ladies wearing them.

Here’s just one example:


We already know that image could be difficult or simply too expensive for rival sellers to obtain from its original source.  But without changes, my public domain image remains in the public domain, and there’s very little to stop people copying my image and making money from it themselves.

However, if I make sufficient changes to the public domain image to render it a ‘derivative’ item, deserving of its own copyright notice, then it could deter others from copying the piece.

Note: Derived copyright describes changes made to the public domain original; the original piece remains in the public domain.

But even a few changes and a prominent copyright notice will deter most rival sellers.

You can find information about the public domain and what constitutes derivative copyright at:

So I might crop images of flowers, or leaves and feathers, from other parts of my source magazine and position them on the hats just shown, or I could cut around the ladies and their hats and fix them against a lightly patterned, unobtrusive background, such as trees or a garden gate. Then the image is scanned and a copyright notice added.

Another idea: Add ‘altered art’ to your product’s name and listing title and description and potential design thieves will know what you mean and back off.

Having made some changes and scanned the revised image and added a copyright notice, I now need to use imaging software to remove coloured stains and blemishes acquired over the years and leave just the white, black and grey of the original image.

The appropriate tool is usually called ‘Grayscale’ or similar. Once done, my image can be inserted into a Word file with twenty or more additional images.

8 ways to beat the competition

Next I’ll create a cover page and a title for my colouring book. I notice most people selling similar items use a plain, unadorned image on the cover, making it difficult to distinguish one similar theme colouring book from another.

So I will hand colour part of my cover image, to show it’s a colouring book and to reveal how beautiful the finished artwork might look, as well as making it stand out from the crowd.

Finally I add a brief introduction to the book, along with suggestions for colouring the prints, and possibly showing how to prepare the finished artwork for sale.

Next I convert the Word file to pdf and upload it to Etsy. Two hours at most might give me a product offering two or three pounds pure profit per sale.

Just fifty sales at the lower price would earn me one hundred pounds, about fifty pounds per hour worked, and potentially bring profits for the foreseeable future.

The following tips will make your design and finished digital products unique and evergreen:

• Designs unlikely to go out of fashion can continue making sales and profits indefinitely, even for minimum time and effort spent creating them.

Examples: cats and dogs, travel, historically memorable characters and events, crimes and criminology, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderful.

• Introduce sufficient changes to make your finished design unrecognisable from its source. If suitable alternative public domain material exists, try adding parts of several different sources to your finished product. This should annihilate competition against you.

• Create the entire design yourself or have someone else create it for you. Or work together on the finished piece.

• Avoid fad and gimmicky designs, unless sales are buoyant and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

• Stay abreast of trending product types and designs. Aim to match an upward trending product with an upward trending design and seek gaps in the market, as where, for example, tea bag packets are increasingly popular and butterfly images are growing in popularity on all manner of different product types, but few people have added butterfly images to tea bag packets – yet! Do your research at the site mentioned earlier:

• Choose products and designs very carefully because items you expect to sell in high numbers might be wholly undesirable to real life buyers. This is why making a careful study of successful Etsy sellers’ current and future bestselling digital download items is essential to your continued success.

The following site lists current top sellers at Etsy, for all type of products, not just digital:

• Top digital download sellers say that people buying downloadable items typically require more back up than those buying physical products. They might ask questions about the download process or instructions for making finished products. Be helpful and you will generate good feedback on which your future sales depend. Don’t help or begrudge time spent helping buyers and they will leave unsatisfactory feedback.

Here are three ways you can avoid spending too much time answering after sales queries and making sure your answers prove helpful…

– Help customers and thwart pending questions by providing a brief guide to downloading your product inside your Etsy listing, so people are confident about accessing your product before spending money.

– Give detailed instructions about using the downloaded item in the same pdf file used to convey the pattern or collage sheet or other base product.  Alternatively, include a separate pdf instructions leaflet to accompany the base product.

– Upload videos showing how to download purchases and create products from your templates and patterns.

• Use relevant keywords in your titles and descriptions, in your own name and shop name if you specialise. These are words – called ‘keywords’ – matching those used by potential buyers to find your products on Etsy or other search engine.  Find appropriate keywords at:

But you are only allowed three free searches each day; any more and you have to download software costing $19.99 (slightly over £16).

• There’s an excellent Etsy marketing graphic showing which products attract the highest sales on Etsy, alongside dozens of other important statistical information to help grow your business.  Find it at:

• Here are my own chosen digital download items which you might also like to sell:

Nursery Prints – to print and frame or colour to suit.

Wedding Favours – tea bag containers, packets for seeds (add something like ‘thanks for making it a blooming good wedding’), invitations for buyers to personalise, and countless more designs, enough to make your living selling wedding related items.

Patterns – knitting, crochet, cross stitch.

Instruction Leaflets – showing how to make candles, soap, tree houses, and countless more.

Clip Art – sometimes shaped into small circles or ovals and designed to place between a jewellery-making blank and its resin dome.

Vintage books and articles from the public domain – especially with high prices asked for original copies. Craftwork books and patterns are especially popular at Etsy.

Family Trees – you provide a tree design with boxes to add to or subtract and for buyers to personalise with their own family members.

Maps – especially vintage maps ready to print and frame and look every bit like original maps sometimes costing hundreds of pounds.

Vintage Images – especially early photographs which are rare and expensive in original format.

Greetings Cards – ready to print and fold or to personalise with buyers’ details.

Gift Tags – very popular bearing vintage images, especially from Victorian times.

Gift Wrap – similar to gift tag.

Business Cards – serious, funny, macabre, profession related, and much more.

Wall Word Art – lots of words forming a shape – hearts are popular – inside a Word file for buyers to edit to suit their personal requirements.

Also – print and fold gift boxes, stand up animals, clothes to cut out and dress the same page cut out image of a doll, important historical documents, calendars, wall charts, travel guides, and countless more.

Finally, I hope this two-part article will help you grow a profitable business on Etsy.

If you need more information or assistance, you’ll find Etsy packed with articles, forums and downloadable guides to getting started and turning your digital product business into a full-time affair.

Find the details at:

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