Making money with Etsy and print on demand: The illusion of easy success

5 min readMay 26, 2023
Photo Oberon Copeland — Unsplash

Many people are drawn to Etsy and print on demand because of the promises made in YouTube videos. They make it seem easy to open an Etsy shop, connect it to a print on demand service, upload some designs, and start making money. But my experience was different. It was much harder than I expected.

In this article, I talk about the challenges and reality of making money quickly and easily with Etsy and print on demand. I reveal the hidden factors that are often not mentioned in YouTube videos.

Photo: Viacheslav Bublyk on Unsplash

The influence of YouTube videos

YouTube is a great place to learn about Etsy and print on demand. There are many videos that show how to start an Etsy shop and sell print on demand products. However, it’s important to be critical of these videos. Some of them make unrealistic promises of easy success and huge profits. Here are some examples of what you get when you search for “making money with Etsy” on Youtube:

  • “Make Your First $10,000 with Etsy Print on Demand in 2023”
  • “Printful vs. Printify 2023 (My Thoughts after $1,000,000)”
  • “Make $21,613 Per Month Selling AI Mugs (Easy Side Hustle)”
  • “I Tried Selling AI Art Prints On Etsy For 30 Days”: With enticing thumbnails displaying substantial revenue figures.
  • “A New Beginning — Print on Demand $0 to $100k”.

These videos are interesting and make you want to start an Etsy shop. But it’s important to remember that they don’t always show the full picture. These titles make it sound like anyone can start an Etsy shop and make a lot of money with print on demand. However, there are challenges to running an Etsy shop, and not all sellers are successful. It takes hard work and dedication to be successful.

If you’re thinking about starting an Etsy shop, do your research and be prepared to put in the work.

My experience

Five days ago, I embarked on my second attempt at opening an Etsy shop. Following the instructions from a YouTube video, I was under the impression that it would be a simple process. However, I quickly realized that the reality was far from the seamless experience depicted in the video. Opening a shop on Etsy required more than just a few clicks; it involved listing an item and entering payment details on Etsy before anything else.

Stats and results

In these initial five days, I designed and published 11 articles in my shop. However, the results have been disheartening. If I don’t count my own visits and searches to my store, my total views amounted to a mere 5, averaging just one view per day across all my articles. Unfortunately, I have yet to make a single sale. Additionally, I incurred 2.7 euros in fees (it remains a small amount).

My dashboard on Etsy 5 days after opening my store

It’s worth mentioning that I dedicated a significant amount of time to designing my products, crafting compelling titles, descriptions, and keywords for each item, which took approximately 30 minutes to an hour per article.

While I understand that it’s normal not to make sales in the early stages, the current statistics have left me feeling less than optimistic. It’s challenging to envision how my shop will gain traction and how my products will appear in search results.

Understanding the realities

The truth is that success on Etsy and in the print on demand market is attainable, but it requires more than what the YouTube videos may suggest. It demands dedication, perseverance, and a thorough understanding of the complex landscape beyond the enticing promises. Here are the key realities often overshadowed:

  1. The oversaturated marketplace: Etsy is home to countless sellers, making it challenging to stand out amidst the fierce competition. For instance, a simple search for “Mother’s Day gift” yields millions of results, making visibility a significant hurdle for new sellers
Search for “mother day gift” on Etsy shows millions of results
  1. Unrealistic income expectations: While YouTube videos promise significant profits, the reality is far more complex. Achieving a good income requires thorough research, well-designed products, and effective search engine optimization. Selling 250 products priced at $10 with a 40% profit margin would be necessary to earn $1,000 per month, not considering Etsy fees.
  2. Costs involved: Contrary to the notion of a free and effortless venture, there are costs associated with selling on Etsy and utilizing print on demand services. Etsy charges a listing fee of 0.20 dollars per item, and additional expenses may arise, such as subscription fees for AI-powered image generation tools like MidJourney (12$/month in my case for Midjourney).

Handmade identity vs. mass production

It’s also important to consider the impact on Etsy’s identity as a platform for handmade and artisanal goods. The automatic inclusion of the “handmade” label on print on demand products raises questions about the core values and messaging Etsy aims to convey. I think that Etsy needs to clarify its policies on print-on-demand products and make it clear to sellers and customers that these products are not handmade. This will help to protect Etsy’s reputation and ensure that customers are getting the products they are expecting.

While Etsy and print on demand can provide opportunities for a side business with minimal investment, it’s essential to approach them with realistic expectations and a willingness to put in the necessary effort. It’s not as easy as the YouTube videos make it seem.

In conclusion, Etsy and print on demand offer potential, but success requires hard work, continuous research, and adaptability in a competitive marketplace.

By understanding the realities beyond the alluring promises of YouTube videos, aspiring sellers can make informed decisions and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams with a clearer understanding of the path ahead.

Disclaimer: The ideas and content of this blog post are based on my personal experiences and insights. However, I used ChatGPT to write / rephrase some parts to write faster and to articulate my thoughts more effectively in English.




IT working girl. Interested in many topics such as project management, self help, tech and trading. Writes in French and English