Last month we covered Step 1: Finding Your Profitable Niche on Etsy.
Today we continue our Etsy series by diving into products – how can you get products for extremely low prices – or even for free – that you can sell over and over again on Etsy?
Step 2: Creating or Sourcing Your Products for Very Little Money – Or Even No Money at All
Let’s start with Public Domain because, well, it’s FREE.
Public domain refers to creative works such as books, artwork, movies, television, radio programs and so forth that have an expired copyright. When a copyright is expired – in other words, the copyright owner failed to renew the copyright – then the work falls within the public domain and anyone can sell the work for the price they choose.
For example, in the USA works published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, as are many more recent works because their copyrights were never renewed.
One of the best online resources for public domain works is found at http://gutenberg.org. Be sure to remove all Gutenberg references before selling anything you find on the site.
If the work is not in the format you need, go to http://zamzar.com to convert the file format for free. For example, you might find an ebook in the file format .epub and wish to convert it to .pdf prior to selling it. Simply upload the file you want to convert, select file type from the drop down menu and enter your email address.
To edit PDFs, for example to remove Gutenberg’s references, you can use the free one PDF editor at https://www.cutepdf-editor.com
There are sellers on Etsy selling NOTHING but public domain works and pulling in 4 and 5 figures a month doing it.
Popular public domain items are artwork and images, crafts, cooking, old radio shows, historical texts and photos and even vintage TV shows.
Google Advanced Image Search
Another great source for public domain and copyright free art, prints and images is Google.
Go to https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search and enter your search term. Scroll down to where it says, “usage rights” and select “creative commons licenses.” These images are usually free but may require credit and may have limitations on how you can use them. Look at the image’s license to see what you can and cannot do with the image.
Yes, you might have to look up 10 images to find 1 or 2 you can sell on Etsy, but it doesn’t take much time to do this and it can be incredibly lucrative if you choose the right images.
You can search by subject matter, art style, artist’s name, book title if the images were published in a book and so forth. The images from book plates of public domain books are a terrific source for old photographs and artwork that sells well on Etsy.
You can sell prints on Etsy one of several ways – place them on CD and ship the CD, offer instant download in various file formats, print onto quality paper and sell with or without mattes and frames, place the images on t-shirts and mugs, make them into calendars and… well, really, just use your imagination or do your research on Etsy to see what is selling best.
Finding the Rights to Images You Already Possess
Let’s say you’ve purchased a book published long ago that contains some fabulous images. You’d like to reprint and sell those images on Etsy, but first you want to make sure you’ve got the right to do so. (Hint: If you simply sell the individual pages in the book, such as book plates, you don’t have to worry about rights. But if you want to reprint images onto photographic paper, or sell them electronically, or place them on t-shirts, etc., then you need the rights to do so.)
To do a reverse image search and find out what rights you have, simply go to Google and click on images, then click the camera icon at the right of the Google search bar. A pop up will give you the option to either enter an image URL or upload and image to search.
If the images in question are physical, scan them into your computer and then upload them one by one into Google with the appropriate ‘usage rights’ setting to see if they are in the public domain or are free to use.
Commons License via Google
You can also do a Google image search for your keyword plus the terms, “commons license” to find quality, royalty-free prints. This will return images that are royalty free. Be sure to check the ‘conditions’ for each image you plan to use, just to be certain you’re allowed to sell it.
The key is to make finding images a treasure hunt. This makes it fun for you, as well as lucrative. And remember that every image you find that is royalty-free can be reproduced and sold as many times as you like.
How to List Digital Items on Etsy
To learn how to list digital items on Etsy, go here:
Etsy lets you upload up to five digital files, with a maximum size for each file at 20MB. And they currently support 18 different file types.
How to Get Popular Prints for Free and Create Physical Reprints
Okay, this is almost TOO easy.
Just follow the instructions above for acquiring public domain and royalty free images. Then instead of turning them into digital products, print them onto photo paper instead.
You can print these yourself or outsource it to a printing service. Either way, you now have physical prints to sell, which can command a much higher price than digital prints.
And you can charge even more if you offer matts or frames.
When printing images for resale, you’ll want to print them at a minimum of 300 pixels per inch for great image resolution. This will prevent people from being disappointed when they receive their prints. The last thing you want is feedback saying that your images are too grainy and lack resolution.
How to Acquire ORIGINAL Vintage Prints for Very Little Money (or even free!)
The first time I saw a listing like this on Etsy, I nearly lost it. What a great idea and why didn’t I think of this myself?!
This seller acquired old books that contained images – all sorts of images. There were plates (those images in really old books that are on pages of their own, often on heavier and shinier stock paper than the rest of the book) as well as drawings, artwork, photos, etc.
He would find old books that contained interesting images, and then remove the images and sell each one of them separately.
Imagine the money to be made here – you find an old book in a thrift store, garage sales, etc. You remove all the pictures and sell each one as a stand-alone product.
And yes, this is 100% legal and you never have to research whether or not you own the rights. Just as it is perfectly legal to resell a used book, it is also legal to sell a single page from that book, too.
You can sometimes even find these old books for free, from people who just want to get rid of them.
More often you can buy them for a few dollars or less at anyplace that sells old books. When debating whether or not a book will make you money, count the number of images, multiply by the percentage you think will sell, and divide that number into the price of the book. This is your price per image. Figure you can sell each image for $3 to $50, depending on what it is and what kind of shape it’s in. You’ll get good at this as you become more experienced.
And here’s a hot tip: When you find a book full of pictures that sell especially well, check the book selling websites such as Amazon and Thriftbooks to see if you can find more copies at economical prices. Sites like Thriftbooks will sometimes even give you free shipping if your purchase is large enough.
You can also frame these prints, using old frames you find in dollar stores, thrift stores and yard sales. This allows you generally double or triple the price, depending on the frame.
Another hot tip: Go to addall.com to find sources for out of print books, ranked by price. This site can be a goldmine for finding rare books on obscure websites or booksellers. You can search by title, isbn, author and keyword.
Don’t think you can only afford to purchase cheap books, either. If you run across an especially good book full of desirable book plates, it can still be worth it to spend some money for that book.
Let’s say the book contains 50 plates, 40 of which you’re confident you can sell for $5 to $25. Even charging the minimum of $5, that’s $200. If you bought the book for $50, you’ll be $150 ahead when you make the sales. And if you charge an average of $15 for each plate, now your profit is $550.
To remove the plates (or pages) use a steel ruler and a hobby knife. You don’t want to take a chance by trying to simply tear them out.
How to Create Celebrity Artwork Prints
You can do this yourself or outsource the work. Essentially you are creating your own digital artwork pieces based on public domain celebrity images.
For example, using software and with a minimum of skill, photographs can be converted into digital paintings. If you don’t own Photoshop, GIMP will work just as well and it’s open source.
To learn how to use GIMP, go to YouTube and type in ‘GIMP tutorials.’ You’ll find the basics as well as how to add layers, convert images into paintings, blend two or more images, turn color into black and white and so forth.
Remember, celebrities can be anyone or anything that people recognize. It might be movie stars of long ago, famous animals, cars, buildings, events and so forth.
You can also add words to the artwork, turning celebrities into artful memes and so forth.
I’ve found this works amazing for t-Shirts, since people love to have their favorite celebrity on a shirt, especially if it looks more like an art piece than a standard photo.
Sourcing Vintage Items to Sell
Etsy allows you to sell vintage items, regardless of whether they are artsy-craftsy or not. As long as they are 20 years old or older and not a taboo item like firearms, you can likely list it on Etsy.
Estate sales, yard sales and boot sales are excellent sources of vintage items you can sell on Etsy. To get an idea of what sells, look at other sellers’ ‘sold’ items.
Ideally, you’ll want to look for items that don’t cost a lot to ship, since shipping cost is definitely a factor for buyers.
Also, it’s best to stay away from anything too fragile. For example, I found some lovely paper sculptures that didn’t weight hardly anything (cheap shipping) but they were too fragile to try to pack. Conversely, small glass items, although they are considered fragile, are easy enough to pack in bubble wrap and some of them fetch very high prices.
Vintage jewelry can be extremely lucrative. A piece that costs you a dollar or two at a yard sale can sometimes fetch 10 or 20 times that much on Etsy. Name brands on jewelry generally fetch more money, as does anything with real crystal.
Use your best judgement and pay close attention to not only how much things sell for, but how fast they sell, too. It’s better to purchase a handful of cheaper items that you can turnover quickly than one expensive item that takes a year to sell. Then again, you never know how long it will take to sell anything. I’ve seen items sell within 5 minutes of listing them which is always surprising and a great deal of fun.
If you’re in the USA, check Craigslist and other classified sources for vintage items. Sometimes a person would like to sell a large lot of older items rather than try to have a yard sale or sell them online themselves.
Search Google for “ads like craigslist” to find additional sites like Craigslist.
Sourcing Craft Items
Etsy says that you can sell crafts made by you OR by someone else, but the original design or idea must be yours.
That seems like pretty loose language to me. An idea can be quite specific or incredibly vague. Like, “I have an idea for a cat on a t-shirt” or “I have an idea for pink and purple Christmas tree ornaments.”
When you look at crafts locally, look for ideas you can use as your own originals.
For example, maybe you’re at a craft show and you see someone there selling hand knit hats. You might strike up a conversation and ask him or her if they can make you a dozen hats in a style you specify for one price.
You could get crafts made locally or outsource to other places where it’s cheaper.
I do know some Etsy sellers who go to craft shows not only to find craft connections, but to also buy out inventory that’s not moving quickly. They get this inventory at a discount because the craft sellers just want it gone, creating profits of 5 to 25 times as much as they paid. Of course, this can violate Etsy’s terms because the items were not conceived by the seller, so use your discretion.
And of course, you can make your own crafts as well, if you’ve a mind to. Some crafts have a much higher markup than others, so if you’re a craftsy kind of person, you might want to spend some time on Etsy seeing what sells and how much money people will pay for it.
Next time we’re going to cover…
• How to Brand Your Etsy Shop for Maximum Sales
• Choosing the Right Store Name that Differentiates Your Business from All Others
• Tools to Make Your Store Look 100% Professional and Sale-Worthy
• How to Write Your Etsy ‘About’ Page and What to Add for More Sales
• How to Take Studio Quality Photos in Seconds without Expensive Equipment
• And More!
I hope you’re getting excited about the potential Etsy holds for you.
Even if you only devote a few hours a week to your Etsy business, and without creating anything original, you can still pull in a very nice side income. Get your retired parents or your children in on the act, too, and you can make it a family affair.
See you next month!