What Should be Your 3 Main Focuses When Launching an Etsy Shop Selling Digital Items

There’s a lot that goes into launching an Etsy shop. The pictures, the descriptions, the logo, the name - it can all be very overwhelming. You may even feel confused with where you should be putting your time and what you should be focusing on.

I have made many mistakes in the past, but one thing I did right was the way I launched my Etsy shop. In this post I will share with you how I viewed my Etsy shop when launching and how this thought process made a huge impact towards my success. I will also provide the three, (yes not 8, not 10, not 20) simple things I focused on when launching that resulted in replacing my full-time income within the first 6-8 months of launch. See my post here for the sales report from these first several months.

Why three?

There’s more reasoning behind this number than what you think. With only three things to focus on, this helps with the overwhelm of launching and puts all your time and effort into the three main things that are the most impactful to getting your shop on the map. These three things will influence your growth the first year of launching more than anything else in my experience.

**Note: This is what I have found in selling digital items and specifically cut files. I do feel this would be different when selling other items, particularly physical items on Etsy.**

When I first launched my Etsy shop, I viewed it differently than many others. I viewed it more like an experiment - in the sense that I did not put a lot of time or effort into the things that shop owners put into. I didn’t put much thought into the name of the shop, images, descriptions, the About section, shop announcements, or branding. This was the best thing that I could have possibly done.

But Kasey, aren’t images key to selling on Etsy? Yes…and no in this case. When you're first starting out, you are competing with top sellers who have been on Etsy years and have a massive following. Don’t worry so much about the images and how to make them pretty. If anything focus on how to make your images STAND OUT against your competitors. That’s it. Don’t worry about anything else as far as images go.

My first images were nothing grand but I saw that nobody else was using black against white, so that’s what I chose. Everyone had a lot of busy banners and crazy colors which just busied the screen. I believed these would stick out more against my competitors because of their simplicity and because of the darkest possible color against the lightest possible color. So, I put hardly any time in the image and I had more people favoriting my items than other shops that opened around the same time had favoriting their items.

So DO NOT focus on

  • branding
  • the look of your shop or images
  • the shop name
  • “niching” down immediately (if this is holding you back from launching)
  • promoting outside of Etsy 

Instead focus on the following three things that will have the most impact on your Etsy shop when selling digital items.

1) SEO

If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, SEO means “Search Engine Optimization”. Kind of a mouth full but it’s far less complicated than it sounds. This is number one on the list since I contribute much of my success in the early days to Etsy SEO. Since I haven’t shared this until now, you may be surprised by the fact that my background is in SEO during my Internet Marketing Agency days, which definitely helps when starting an online business! SEO is the act of placing frequently searched terms or phrases into your listings or content. In doing this, the SEO terms and phrases will help the content or listing appear in the search engines - in this case, the Etsy search engine. This is key! If you are not found on Etsy or online in general, you will not make sales.

February 2017 (a few months after first launching)

The Past 12 Months

Here’s a couple screenshots I took this morning. You can see in the first image that more visits after I first launched were mainly from Etsy search. More recently and over the past 12 months - despite my best efforts - Etsy search is STILL the highest traffic driver to my shop. Even after 2.5 years. My goal is to beat Etsy through social and direct traffic referrals *competitive face* and I’m almost there! But this tells me that my SEO efforts are working! People are finding my listings because of these keywords I place in my listings. ALSO, this is what worked for me in those beginning days. PROOF y'all!

This is something I dive into with the students I coach and in my Etsy Success course. Here’s a brief overview of how to implement SEO into your shop..

Where to place the keywords:

The three main places to insert keywords is the title (this adds the most keyword weight), the description, and the tags. Doing this will help get you found.

How to know which keywords to use:

Find what search phrases or terms your customers are using and target these phrases. Using Etsy Rank or Marmalead online tools definitely helps with this. I mainly find the keywords I target using Etsy Rank and the Etsy search bar itself. When you have hundreds of digital listings, you need this process to be quick, taking as little time as possible. Spending hours diving into SEO techniques and researching has never made much sense to me when you sell lower priced, digital items by the hundreds. I can definitely see the benefits to this for higher priced items, but not in the digital realm. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

2) Pricing

The second thing to focus on when launching is your pricing. Soo many times I see shops launch and zero sales come in. One common answer I see to this, is their pricing is waaaay too high. When you are a very very small fish in a very very big pond, you HAVE to compete in other ways. I have found the best way to compete is discounting my prices. The perk to selling digital items when it comes to pricing is that you have ZERO overhead and a lot more room to play with! Forget how many hours you probably spent making these first items to sell and how much time you've spent getting the shop ready (which if you followed my advice at the beginning of this post, should be minimal.) JUST cover what Etsy takes and get that price down baby!

Here's the key to marking your prices low these early days...The lower the price, the more sales you receive, the more desirable you’ll appear to Etsy, the higher you’ll rank in their algorithm, the more reviews you’ll receive, the more people will trust you as a new shop, the MORE SALES. Phew! That was a long one but now you get the point. Over time and as your sales increase, you can slowly start inching your prices up to make this whole Etsy thing worth all your time and effort!

3) Volume

This is another important focus area in the early days. Many new shops put all that hard work into the launch, throw up a hand full of items and then wait for sales to come in. My advice, DON'T WAIT! This is the time to produce produce produce! The more products you can add, the better. Since digital products (especially SVGs) are usually more simple to create than, let's say a watercolor painting, you are able to crank these bad boys out more easily. Always think quality first, but don’t spend hours on one design. I know this can be hard in the beginning but work. Towards. This. Challenge yourself! In my first days I would make goals. 15 products each week, 10 products each week or even more if you’re able. I was a busy mom, pregnant with my second and had other commitments so my time was limited but if you’re able to do this full time then take advantage of this time and create, create, create! Even if you don't have much time, that doesn't mean you can't turn over designs quickly. Keep at it and you'll get quicker and quicker with designing and producing your files.

Why volume helps

In increasing the volume of your digital inventory you are expanding your reach at the same time. Every new product that goes out should have a new theme or new set of keywords that is getting in front of new eyes. Therefore, the more products you create, the more your reach expands, the more people see it, and the more sales you’ll have. Etsy will also see that your inventory is increasing and they’ll give you a boost too.

Every time I list new items on my shop, I ALWAYS see a jump in sales.

This is a part of Etsy’s algorithm and from the followers I now have, but I saw this in the beginning when I didn't have followers as well! They will give your shop a boost when you add new items since you are proving to be an active shop. My team and I make a goal to list items each week or two nowadays, but in the beginning I was listing every 5 or so days WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Whether its 2 items or 5, whatever you are able to do, make it happen. 

This is another thing I see many people fail to do after first launching that is crippling their shop in the early days. Whether sales are coming in or not, KEEP CREATING, keep producing more designs, get in this habit, get used to this, embrace it. This is your new baby.

After the three steps above, I might also add keep improving! Over time, more sales will come in. But keep making improvements to your shop and keep going! Don't slack with this.

If you still aren’t seeing sales…

Ask yourself “What is my shop lacking?”, “What could be driving away buyers?”. Look at the top shops on Etsy in your area, what are they doing? Would a customer choose your listing or theres? Which one would you choose and why? It’s probably the same reason your customer isn’t purchasing from you as well. WORK ON THIS. And while you're researching your competitors its easy to compare yourself to them in a negative way when you see their sales and followers. DO NOT think you won't ever be as good as these other shops. Try looking at them in a different perspective "They’ve already done all the work for me!” LEARN from them. Don’t give up. Don’t call yourself a failure. Simply IMPROVE and keep going.

Okay, I’m coming down off my soapbox now. If this were audio I'd probably be shouting at you all forcing you to cover your ears because I’m so passionate about this stuff and I want you to succeed! It makes me so sad to see people give up so easily - to make a few failures in the beginning mean to them they’re a failure when they should keep going!

Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to learn.

On that note, I hope this helps some of you who have yet to launch or who have courageously taken that first step in launching a shop and are not seeing the sales you had your heart set on. I know how frustrating this and depleting this can be so I hope I have taught you some new things and also enlightened you to keep going during your read. Feel free to ask questions in the comments below, I try to respond to everyone.

Have a great week everyone. Cheers!




Faiza Nazneen Ahmed

Thank you so much!Your content is very helpful and encouraging.

Kasey | Pen + Posh

Thanks Destiny! Glad it was helpful!


Love the tips Kasey! So happy I clicked your post first. I truly see where you are coming from and will be considering every bit of it!

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