Etsy For The Digital Nomad: How To Earn Via Etsy When You’re Away From Home

Etsy – the unique, Bohemian, trending marketplace that has taken the world by storm. Unlike many large online eCommerce platforms that expect you to manage stock, packaging, and shipping, digital products – as long as they are unique – are easy to add to your virtual store.

While the marketing aspect of this successful marketplace can be tricky – increasing etsy rankings, making your store popular, and linking your etsy presence to another channel – digital nomads are increasingly realising its lucrative nature.

What are digital products?

Any item that can be sent to an email address is a digital product. For you, as a digital nomad, all you need is a few hours online and a little knowledge of the online purchasing process.

There are hundreds of examples of digital products. Some require a lot of time and effort to prepare. Others ask for regular online time (not easy when you like to go off the beaten track although 5G will eventually change this). Many need very little work at all but a lot of marketing knowledge.

A few examples of digital products are:

  • Ebooks
  • Photographs
  • Content writing
  • Music
  • Research services
  • Tutorials
  • Web elements
  • Printables
  • Graphics
  • Online coaching and courses

What digital products can I sell on Etsy?

Go to the Etsy website and you’ll see the main categories on the homepage. At the time of writing, these are Jewelry and Accessories, Clothing and Shoes, Home and Living, Wedding and Party, Toys and Entertainment, Art and Collectibles, Craft Supplies and Tools, and Vintage. The categories that most apply to digital nomads are Art and Collectibles and Home and Living.

While Etsy used to be a handicrafts marketplace, it has expanded to include a much broader range of products over the years. And although the majority of items sold on the site are physical objects that require a fixed address (or someone at a fixed address who is prepared to do the packaging and shipping for you), there is plenty of scope for the virtual.

The Etsy target market is a global one – especially when it comes to digital products. While you won’t need to worry about shipping costs and geolocation, you will need to consider language. If you have undertaken the task of writing an e-book, it might be worth asking a fellow traveller to translate it into another popular language to increase sales potential. For other languages, try hiring a translator on a talent platform.

Any item that a customer can view on a media device, edit using software or hardware, or print out is a digital product that requires no packaging or shipping. From knitting patterns to clipart, from theme templates for bloggers to business card designs, from logos and resumes to media kits, and from photographs to personalized stationery, any item designed by you is eligible for Etsy.

Etsy digital download prices

Every virtual product is delivered in the form of a digital download. For every product you list, Etsy requires a US$0.20 fee – this covers a term of four months. After the four month listing period, renewing the same listing will cost another US$0.20. To avoid your listing being taken down when you are offline, automatic renewal can be selected on your seller dashboard.

For every sale, Etsy charges a transaction fee. This is 5% of the price displayed on your listing and any wrapping or shipping charges. For digital nomads, this will usually be 5% of the listed price. Optional personalisation – when ordered by a customer – will also count when calculating the transaction fee.

Etsy advertising prices

When on the road, it’s not always easy to get internet access. And marketing and data analysis require significant online time. Because of this, many digital nomads opt for Etsy ads and/or Offsite Ads. Both are supplied by Etsy.

Using the advertising dashboard, you can set a maximum amount for your daily Etsy Ad budget. Etsy Ads are bid-based, meaning prices change according to the competition. Using unique keywords can reduce your costs, but such words are few and far between. Again, you can opt for automatic renewal, although it is best to keep up to date with the best applicable keywords.

Offsite Ads, as the name suggests, offers ads outside of Etsy. These might be on social media networks or on major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo, for example). If orders are made via Offsite Ads, you are expected to pay a fee. Every sale made via an off-site advertisement is charged at a rate of 15% of the total price of the order. Stores that make over US$10,000 a year get to pay less – 12%.

If you are already selling well on Etsy, the Etsy Plus subscription package lets you list 15 items for free and US$5 in Etsy Ads credits. These credits don’t roll over from month to month, meaning you’ll need to relist every month.

Etsy payment processing fees

Etsy Payments can take away some of the hassle of processing payments but – as will all payment platforms – expect a cut of your profits. Where your bank account is makes a difference. Expect an average of 3 – 4% of the total sales price plus a flat fee of around US$0.25. These sums are similar to the majority of payment processing services. Etsy Payments allows customers to pay for products using credit cards, debit cards, Etsy gift and credit cards, PayPal, a few bank transfer services, Apple Pay and Google Pay. This covers the most popular payment options. 

Digital VAT fees apply to some countries. When you sign up with Etsy Payments, they automatically calculate and pay the VAT to the relevant tax authority. The 5% transaction fee also includes VAT.

Digital product ranking

If you’ve spent a few hours in a bus station designing a new font bundle, there’s a lot you can do to make the listing look great. First impressions are critical and your customer needs to see how that font looks in all its glory the minute your listing shows. The right price is also important – you can pick up new fonts for a dollar or two but a handful manage to earn ten times that amount from thousands of buyers. 

The same applies to e-books. Some sell for a few cents, some for US$40.

With Etsy, it’s not so much the price that counts with digital products (it does with physical products as shipping is involved), it is your review score and visibility. Etsy SEO is a complex beast and getting yourself to the top of the search page requires skill.

While Etsy Ads does put a few products higher up the listing, the main contributors are good reviews and carefully thought out keywords. What you put in your metadata has a huge impact on how early on your potential customer gets to view your product. And, just like Google, Etsy rewards popular stores with higher ranking. Personalisation has also made it tough to get to the top of everyone’s search results – someone’s location and interests will change what appears in their listing as opposed to someone in another country with different interests. Even so, it is possible to give yourself a boost

Etsy Query Matching matches visitor search terms to your title, your tag, your category, and your product’s attributes. Query Matching also takes into account visitor filter choices. For Etsy, these filters include prices, shipping times, colours, shop location, categories and shipping locations. 

The algorithm then goes on to rank these rather generic results according to a number of criteria:

  • Listing Quality (if you’re a new seller, you won’t score high)
  • Recency (your renewed items will appear higher than your three week old items)
  • Delivery prices (does not apply to digital products unless you have made a mistake in your listing)
  • Language (it’s worth adding translations where there is space)
  • Shopper habits (you have no control over this)

Build a passive income

While freedom of movement is the root of the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s not necessarily the hippy lifestyle many non-nomads envisage. The rise of the influencer and a range of technology means anyone can work away from a fixed location – and even in digital nomad land, many of us want to keep up with the digital nomad Jones’s.

That means an income.

The year-old Farmhouse Font Bundle, now selling for US$15.43 has received 5 star reviews from over 6,000 orders. 

The Podcast Media Kit template from CreativeJamCo has earned over US$20,000 for its creators. 

The Japan Travel Book has sold over 1,000 copies at just over US$22 per book.

And these aren’t huge companies. 

One red thread runs through these successes – 5 star reviews and excellent products and customer service. If you can produce a quality digital product, it’s definitely time to open an Etsy store.