I have recently ventured out to create a new side hustle. About four weeks ago I created a shop named Modern Printable Shop on Etsy selling printables related to finance and habit tracking. The shop is a work in progress but there is a legit opportunity to make money on the side and even full time. My goal for the month of April is to continue developing the shop and to have 25 sales while I learn to develop passive income on Etsy with Digital Downloads.
Side hustles are something that I have had mixed emotions about but have changed my tune on them over time. At first, I was annoyed with the term side hustle since it seemed that anything such as babysitting or dog walking was now considered this hip term. Also, the concept that on top of my day job people felt I needed to do more work was annoying.
Even during our debt payoff, we did some extra work but nothing that would constitute a true side hustle. I still advocate it though for you if you are having a hard time finding extra money at the end of each month. Sometimes you can only cut so much and you need to look at the income side of the equation to get ahead. Or do both. This is called widening the gap between your spending and income.
My attitude changed though once I started this blog. A blog inherently is kind of a side hustle whether you make money or not. It takes a lot of time and you learn a lot of skills along the way. Now, I don’t make any money from this blog. I want that to change sometime soon but through the blog I have seen different ways for me to make money using skills I have.
As a blogger my most successful moment was when I created and offered a debt thermometer for free. It is the only editable debt thermometer out there (well, I now have better designed ones on Etsy) and it is by far my biggest driver of traffic currently.
Having seen how creating a PDF can generate so much interest got me thinking about other resources I could develop.
Separate from the PDF and excel resources I was making to drive traffic to my site my wife and I fell into selling stuff online. In December, we set a goal to sell $100 worth of stuff on eBay. We failed. Well, only if you want to split hairs.
We didn’t hit our goal. We sold $96 of stuff which technically constitutes as falling short of our goal. A day or two after the month though we sold over $100 in 2 days. We were on to something and had achieved our overall goal. eBay can be a great way to make extra money. It is such a great feeling when you get a notification saying that you sold something. It usually comes a few days (or months) after listing the product so it is a fun surprise when you get that notification.
The downside is that once you sell something you have to ship it right away and you most likely don’t have another one to sell. But, we were making money which the blog was not doing. At a certain point it is nice to get some income for your hard work including hobbies.
eBay is not passive income though and let’s be honest, very few side hustles, if any, are truly passive. It does have elements of passive income though and that is intriguing.
Around the time of us focusing on eBay and wanting to get back to making stuff for the blog I heard about a mastermind that Gwen and J from the Fire Drill podcast were going to run. They tend to feature a lot of side hustles on their show and they were inspired by their guest on episode 31 who makes and sells digital download printables on Etsy. Both hosts are standouts in the blogging community and life in general so they are worth getting to know if you don’t already.
When they announced the mastermind they were going to hold with listeners I was interested from the beginning. It seemed like it would combine the resources I wanted to make as well as the income aspect without shipping.
I immediately signed up once it was available. It cost money to join but I used money I had previously set aside for opportunities like this and treated it as an investment. With the experience on eBay and the debt thermometer I had momentum coming into the class even though I was new to Etsy. There was nothing stopping me from doing my own thing on Etsy but I knew working alongside others developing their own shops that I would be extra motivated.
The mastermind has not disappointed and the positive group dynamic has kept me extra motivated and held accountable. When I have free time, I focus that on Etsy which explains the lack of blog posts lately. We also have a Facebook group so we can share ideas along the way. I can’t stress enough the importance of community regardless of what you are working on.
Develop Passive income on Etsy with Digital Downloads
The key aspect for us with Etsy is that when I sell a digital product I don’t run out of it like eBay. Since the product is digital I can sell it as much as I want and we don’t have to ship it. This allows Etsy to be more passive than eBay. You still put the time in upfront but at a certain point if you have done it right you get to enjoy making money while focusing on something else.
The passive aspect really happens later but let’s be honest, nothing is truly passive. Over time though you can put less time into it and focus on other things since those listing and products are still up there.
With a full-time job and a family who comes first I can’t guarantee a regular working schedule on any side hustle I develop. I like Etsy because I can take chunks of available time and put it towards the shop. Those chunks of time and efforts build up much like saving or paying off debt.
How to Make a Digital Download
Digital downloads can really be anything but the typical product is a PDF. Microsoft Excel files are also popular and you can sell fonts on there too. I am sticking with PDFs and will do some excel as well.
You don’t have to be a designer or have experience with design software but it helps to have some sort of proclivity to either ecommerce, design, software or making things. Or at least have an interest in learning those things.
Through my day job I have access to Adobe products and have lots of experience with them which probably gives me a leg up. I can tell you though from seeing the other group member’s products you don’t have to know or have photoshop or illustrator. They have all produced lots of amazing stuff without Adobe products or a design background.
Also, Google is your best friend. If you don’t know how to make something look it up and there is most likely a tutorial showing you how to do it. Don’t just admit defeat if you don’t know. I have resorted to that many times.
Some resources include:
- Inkscape (free Adobe Illustrator alternative)
- Gimp (free Adobe Photoshop alternative)
- Scribus (free Adobe InDesign alternative)
- Canva (free image creator)
What do you Make?
You can really make anything that you want but I am focusing on what I know and am comfortable with while starting out. The current focus is personal finance charts and we will spill out to habit tracking as well. I am also interested in other items such as stationary or invitations to push myself.
The key to remember is that you are making a product that solves people’s problems. People need a reason to buy your product or else they will make it on their own or go elsewhere. We are here to serve the customer and recognize what they need and want.
This is a business and treat it as such. This is not a get rich quick scheme where you sucker people in to buy some crappy PDF you created to make a quick buck. The Etsy consumers are smart though so they won’t fall for it.
Some specific items that I have created that are of value are my budget planner, debt tracker, monthly bill tracker and debt thermometer. They are embedded with the experience and knowledge we gained getting out of debt and having success with our money. That is how we are providing value to our customers. We know these products work and are working to constantly improve them to stay ahead of the competition.
Other products that you can make and sell include the following.
- Organization checklists
- Printable Stickers
- Printable Artwork
- Snapchat filters
- Packing lists
- Coloring Pages
- Stained glass prints
If this interests you I would say find something unique about yourself and focus on that. As a side hustle you want it to be fun but don’t underestimate your skills and knowledge that you can use to create your shop.
How This Relates to You
Maybe this sounds like something that you would be good at or maybe selling printables on Etsy could be completely wrong for you. That isn’t the point though. If you see how one thing led to another for us then I encourage you to find something similar. Call it a side hustle or not but for me my Etsy shop fulfills a couple things for me.
- Money in my pocket now! Don’t underestimate this even if it starts out slow.
- I make stuff and can immediately see it help people. My day job as an Architect seems glamorous but it sure can take a while before you see any semblance of your hard work built. This gives me a short-term fix that is very motivating.
What skills do you have that you can marry with an interest you have? Is there an established online marketplace you can sell them on? What goals do you have that requires more income? Be open to different ideas so that when an opportunity comes along you can take advantage of it.
Get to Work
Regardless of what side hustle you create I would encourage you to just try something. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone a bit but you will also have fun. You will learn new skills and it will lead to other opportunities. It isn’t forever either so if you don’t like it you have the freedom to move on. That is what it is about. It is there to give you freedom and to create opportunities for yourself.
A good resource to read might be Chris Guillebeau’s book Side Hustle. Erin read that a few months ago and since then we have found two additional income streams with eBay and Etsy and have other plans too. Here is a picture of us with Chris when he spoke in Phoenix on his book tour. I must say I am impressed what has transpired since then.