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I made $340,000 in revenue on Etsy last year selling custom tumbler designs. Here's how I boost sales with AI.

Elle Hardy   

I made $340,000 in revenue on Etsy last year selling custom tumbler designs. Here's how I boost sales with AI.
  • Bailey runs an Etsy store that makes about $14,000 a month selling digital tumbler designs.
  • Her mantra is volume equals sales, and she tries to add up to 600 new designs each month.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Bailey, who declined to share her last name for privacy reasons, a 38-year-old Etsy seller based in Florida. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I used to work in an email-marketing role where I made $55,000 a year. When my partner and I got pregnant with our third child in January 2020, we realized that paying for daycare wasn't sustainable on our income at the time.

So I quit my job and started an Etsy store called Bailey Designed Co., where I sell custom tumbler designs. It started as a print-on-demand shop, and now we are digital only. My store averages $14,000 a month, and my membership site, which I started in 2022, brings in about $13,000 a month.

I'm now a mother of four, and last year I made a total of $340,000 in revenue. Here's how I got started.

In the beginning, I tried to sell several items like T-shirts

These didn't take off at first because the market is so saturated.

I turned to YouTube for inspiration, and I found Evelyn Weiss, Sandra Di, and Wholesale Ted to be the most useful. They all stress the importance of researching what's trending and selling before creating.

I started using the browser extensions and to help me discover trends. These platforms tell you exactly what the search volume is on Etsy for a particular product, how many people are selling it, how many sales they make each month, and how much money they're making.

It took me about two months to finally make a good handful of my own designs that were consistently being sold. I printed products on demand until December 2021.

In January 2022, I pivoted from print-on-demand products to digital products

I was faced with pandemic supply-chain issues, and I also saw a lot of successful sellers on Etsy who were selling just digital designs. The customer downloads the product — there's no inventory for me and very little customer service is needed because it's a digital file.

I noticed that designs for tumblers were doing well, and there was hardly any competition back then. I found only a handful of shops, and they were making up to 700 sales a day.

For two months, I spent every hour putting up designs for tumblers. By March 2022, I hit $17,000 in sales, which was crazy for me.

By June, I had about 600 listings up, and I kept adding to them. My goal then was to add 20 a day. Now the store has around 3,600 designs.

Customers started asking if I would sell all of my designs, so I started my subscription-membership model. For $43 a month, they can get access to every digital design and everything new that I put out monthly, which is still 300 or so designs.

It takes me about 5 minutes to come up with a design

I only design in Canva and Kittl — design software that was made for people who don't necessarily have a design background. I'm 100% self-taught.

Kittl is relatively new and is doing a good job of competing with Canva. I prefer to use Kittl because of its clear commercial-licensing agreement. There are also no "pro versus free" accounts like with Canva, and you can save higher-quality files than you can with Canva.

YouTube and Google were my best friends when I was learning how to design. Pick your software of choice and tutorials can be found for that specific software.

I deal with copyright issues on an almost daily basis

Because of the way the Etsy platform handles IP and copyright, unless every design is registered, individual copying or reselling will continue.

As you can imagine, copyrighting more than 3,000 designs at $65 a registration is not feasible for me — I'd be looking at $195,000 in registration costs alone, not to mention attorney fees.

I could go and file a claim on every infringing design, but the offending party can counterclaim and reinstate the listing after 14 days, and you're not allowed to file another claim, per Etsy's policies. It's part of the game you play to sell on Etsy, and I've accepted that.

I see an average 10-fold increase in searches and sales from October to January

Halloween, Christmas, and Mother's Day are always big. I tailor my designs to whatever is trending, but sales are also heavily based on holidays.

When there are no big holidays, sales focused on occupations tend to do well. Making designs for groups like nurses and teachers that can be used for gifts are really popular. That was a gap I realized that I could fill, and I jumped on it.

I run a Facebook group that has over 8,000 members

I also have an email list that has over 13,000 members. I get a lot of design ideas from posting to that group and email list, where I ask members what types of designs they're looking for right now.

In January, I started my own online courses for people who want to sell digital products without a design background. So far, the only marketing I've done for that is through my blog. I've had 200 people purchase it for $297, but in a few months I'm increasing the price to $497 as a new extension is being added for print-on-demand sellers.

I just hired a person to market the course full time because I'm too busy, but I shot the videos myself from start to finish. I'm a member of Evelyn Weiss's Course Creator Society, and her YouTube is where I first learned how to develop my course and my membership site.

I highly recommend diversifying where you sell

Facebook groups and email lists have been a key to my success, and I wish I'd done it earlier because I don't have to focus on always chasing new customers. Growing your own audience outside of Etsy is also much safer in case of algorithm changes or increased competition.

With the introduction of AI, new shops are popping up every day, which creates more competition. But it also creates opportunities for those able to use it effectively to save time, whether it's ChatGPT for idea generation or picture tools for design creation.

I use Midjourney and love it, and I recommend Kittl's built-in AI tool.

AI has helped me earn more because it's increased my productivity and volume of designs — and more volume equals more sales.