If you’ve been creating or customizing your own sublimation designs, you may have considered selling them online to other crafters. There are many successful designers who are doing just that. But how can you get started?
Selling digital sublimation designs on Etsy is a great way to reach new customers and grow your business. By creating a storefront, uploading your designs, and promoting your products, you can sell the same design repeatedly, without replacing inventory or having to ship physical products.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps of setting up your shop and listing your first designs.
This post may contain affiliate links for products we recommend (this means that if you make a purchase through one of our links, we will earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you). Full disclosure policy.
Step 1: Create Your Etsy Shop
The first step is to open your Etsy shop. It helps if you already know what designs you would like to sell, but that will probably change over time, so let’s dive in!
If you already have an Etsy account, you can open a shop from there, or you can create a separate account for your business – the only requirement is that you use a different email address for setting up a new account.
If you are new to Etsy, or are creating a new shop for your designs, use this link to receive 40 free listings!
You’ll need to choose a name for your shop, and set up your payment methods for sending and receiving funds.
*Namesnack has a free business name generator that can be used to brainstorm unique Etsy shop names! It’s intended for suggesting domain names for websites, but it does a great job of coming up with related words, and not just mixing up the starting words you provided.
Also – surprise! You’ll need to go ahead and create at least one listing to activate your shop. Don’t worry, you can edit this listing later. Go ahead and post a design that you’d like to sell!
Adding the First Listing During Setup
We'll cover the basics here, because you’ve already spent enough time deciding what to name your shop – you don't need to get stuck on this first listing.
Start by adding at least one photo of your design. These are not the files you will sell; they’re the photos that Etsy customers will see when they look at your listing.
While Etsy recommends adding a brand logo to your image, instead of a watermark, either one helps to protect your work from simply being copied instead of being purchased.
Read Etsy's tips on protecting listing images here: How to Protect Listing Images.
They also recommend using a photo that is about 1500 pixels wide: large enough to view clearly, but not a high-quality image that could be saved for use in printing.
You can also include an image of a mockup using your design, or a photo of a finished product you have made with the design.
You might also include an image that explains that this will be a digital download, and that nothing will be shipped to the buyer. There is often confusion about this, and you’ll want to be clear.
Next, add a descriptive title for your design, and choose answers that apply from the “About this listing” drop-down menus. For example, Who made it? “I did.”
Under Category, you can type “sublimation” and a few options will come up. Choose one that makes sense to you for now. Later, you can research and test how the selected category affects your appearance in search results.
You can add or check off other descriptive information as it applies, including colors and any related holidays, or you can come back and work on this later.
Under Renewal options, you can choose “Automatic” if you want to always have the design available for sale, or “Manual” if you would rather renew it yourself after each sale. There is a 20-cent fee for each renewal.
Type: Digital (You will not be shipping anything to the customer.)
Description: The item description is another place you have a chance to include keywords that your customers may be typing into the search bar. Be as descriptive as possible – Etsy gives you plenty of room.
This is also where you get an opportunity to connect with customers, by offering them a bit of your personality, and by being helpful.
Include information on how to download their files after purchase. Add tips on creative ways to use your designs, and definitely, definitely include links to your business website, mailing list and any social media accounts.
Sections are basically the categories in your shop. If you want to create a holiday section, for example, then customers looking for those items can search the Holidays section, rather than looking through your entire store.
Again, this is something you can come back to once you are set up and ready to organize your shop.
Tags are important; they help your customer find your listing. You have 13 available for each listing. You can add keywords that you think will bring your customers to you – sublimation design, digital, retro, roller skates, etc.
Price – this, again will be something you can research, test, and change. Set a price for now. $3.00 to $4.00 is a common price for a single digital design, but pick an amount that you are comfortable with.
Quantity – Set this as 1.
Personalization is turned off by default, but in later listings you may want to offer customization like adding a name or photo to a design. This is where you would add instructions for the buyer to add their requests.
Digital Files: This is where you'll upload your design file from your computer. The design should be saved in 300 dots-per-inch (300 dpi) resolution.
You can also add files containing instructions, tips, a thank you note, bonus files, or variations on the design.
Setting up Your Etsy Storefront
Once you have that first listing up, and your shop is activated, you can work on creating your storefront.
Treat this like you would a physical storefront in a shopping center; create something that will catch a browsing customer’s eye.
Add a profile image and some information about your shop, to let customers know that they are buying from a real person.
Add your business logo, and create a banner that shows something about what you sell – this could be examples of products with your designs. It could even announce a special discount or sale.
As you add store listings, you will be able to arrange the way items are displayed on your shop page – we'll cover that in a bit.
Step 2: Choose Which Designs You Want to List Next
Now it's time to choose which designs you want to list in your shop. If you're not sure where to start, take a look at what other crafters in your niche are selling. You can also browse external sites like Pinterest for inspiration. Look at what is trending, and see what you like or what you think you could easily start creating.
This is where you get to have some fun.
You can go with a theme (retro, cottage core, western), color-coordinate your entire shop in a certain style, or simply create whatever strikes your fancy.
Designs can be similar variations in different color schemes, original art, hobbies, simple, complex, you name it.
You can create designs from your original artwork, put together clip art that you have purchased from a graphics collection, or even commission art from other designers (with an agreement that you own the work and can resell it).
Custom or Pre-Made
Offer custom designs if you like, though this could mean more hands-on time spent working with customers.
Offering only pre-made designs provides a passive income stream, where you are free to work on other things while your designs sell themselves.
You might decide to design only for T-shirts, or you might offer wraps for tumblers and mugs. The same design might work for many final products, sometimes with a bit of adjustment. Matching designs can be sold as a set, or separately for different finished projects.
The best answer is to just start listing. The sooner you get listings up, the sooner you can start seeing sales. You can always add more or try new styles.
Seasonal and Holidays
Seasonal and holiday designs are always popular. Get a head start on them, because crafters are thinking ahead, and making these items several months in advance, so that their own customers will have plenty of time to purchase before the holiday.
This doesn’t mean you have to take them down when the season is over, either. You can leave the listings up, at least until it expires. You may be surprised to find that you have sales of holiday items year-round!
Organizing Your Design Files
Tip – Create a system for organizing your design files now – you’ll be too busy creating later!
This could mean storing them in folders on your computer, or coming up with a naming system that makes them easy to sort so that you don’t post duplicates.
Also create copies with added watermarks or logos, for the photos you’ll add to your listing.
Depending on how you work best, you might want to create, copy, watermark, and list in batches. Anything that will save time down the road.
Step 3: Fill Your Shop with Products
Once you have your storefront set up, and have a few designs ready to list, it’s time to fill up your shop!
Go into your Shop Manager, and Click on “Listings” in the left sidebar. You should see the original design you’ve already posted.
You can actually duplicate this listing to create a new item for sale, by clicking on the gear icon in the lower right corner of the listing square. You can use this as a template for future listings: simply replace the item photos, title, description, and any relevant tags, keywords, or details.
Create a good, basic description with instructions or explanatory images, that you can reuse in the future. You won’t have to re-invent the wheel every time you list more items, and you’ll be able to post several items quickly.
You can think about adding items categories or “Sections” here, as well. These will help customers find the right designs for them, especially as your shop grows.
You can list as many items as you like, and you have 40 free listings to use, so fill up that storefront!
After you have a few items up, try logging into Etsy from another browser, and searching for your shop name, to see what your storefront will look like to Etsy buyers.
If you want to rearrange the way your listings show up on your shop page, you can!
You can arrange your shop listing by newest first, or in a custom order – this is enabled under Settings -> Shop Options -> Rearrange Your Shop.
You can also keep featured listings at the top of your page, by clicking the star on the listing window in your listing dashboard. This is a good way to get more attention for items that are selling well.
Step 4: Spread the Word
Now that your Etsy shop is up and running, it's time to start promoting your products! One great way to to do this is by leveraging social media. Share your listings on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, using hashtags like #EtsyFinds.
You can also join crafting groups and participate in online discussions related to design or other crafting topics. Some groups may allow you to share links, but even participating and being helpful will lead others to check out your profile, where you will have your shop links posted!
By promoting your listings and engaging with potential customers, you can increase the visibility of your products and boost sales.
Don’t forget that adding to your shop regularly will let Etsy know you are an active shop with fresh listings and lots to offer!
You can make your Etsy shop your main focus, or it can used to bring customers to your main business.
On your own social media accounts, you can interact with your customers directly – start a facebook business page or group for your designs or finished products. Let these VIP customers enjoy sneak peeks or special discounts on your newest designs. Go live to share a preview, or offer a demonstration in how to press sublimation designs.
Always include links to these accounts from your Etsy shop page, listing descriptions, and in your digital downloads.
This goes both ways – add your Etsy shop URL to your social media profiles, and anywhere else you interact online (LinkedIn, reddit, local community or school groups). Add it to your email signature, your business cards and your banners at any craft shows, and in small business groups (especially if you can create custom designs for them).
Basically, get your business in front of people, so they can see you and your products.
Step 5: Offer Discounts and Special Offers
Who doesn't love a good discount?
A great way to get repeat buyers (and reward loyal customers) is to offer a discount or coupon code on items in your shop.
More sales traffic is not only good for profits – Etsy will see the positive response from buyers, and will recommend your items to even more customers.
Offering a percentage off on multiple-item purchases encourages shopping, and really, your overhead costs on digital products is minimal, so you can afford to offer a GREAT deal! An example might be anything from 30% off all items for the next week, to 50% off orders of 10 or more designs.
You can offer discounts to your first customers as a show of thanks (include a nice note). Often buyers are happy to be among your first visitors, and will come back to support you.
Consider offering a free item (or a bundle of freebies!) with a purchase. Again, there is no additional cost for you, once the digital design is finished, other than Etsy fees.
Another great opportunity comes up when Etsy notifies you that customers have marked one of your items as a “favorite” – you have the option to send them a discount offer. This also applies when a customer has placed one of your items in their shopping cart, but they haven't checked out yet – send them a friendly nudge by offering a coupon code!
If you choose to run a sale, be sure to publicize it across all of your channels (social media, email list, etc.) so that more potential customers are aware of it. By offering discounts and promotions, you'll not only attract new customers but also encourage existing customers to come back for more.
All of this helps build a connection with your customers, and gives you a great excuse to communicate with them. Along with your offer of a discount, encourage them to leave a review, and include direct links to your website or social media group, where they'll have access to more special offers.
You don’t want to build your entire brand on Etsy – if something about Etsy’s platform changes, or your shop is taken down, you could lose connection with your customers.
This direct connection with customers is valuable, and should be part of your overall business strategy – plus, if they follow you to your other accounts or social media, you take them away from the distraction of other sellers/designers.
So get them signed up on your mailing list!
Step 6: Create More Designs!
Rinse and repeat – keep going!
The more designs you have listed, the easier it will be for your customers to find you! Your designs will also improve over time, and you can branch out into different templates or styles. You may even decide to open a sister shop and specialize in a certain style.
Just keep adding listings. Leave them up, and as they sell, have your listings set to auto-renew, so that the next person can buy.
You can leave listings up indefinitely, or go through and refresh your shop periodically. Give listings some time before you remove them, they may just need time to be seen by enough customers.
*If you're interested in expanding your skills, there is a great beginner's course for learning to design in Procreate at Every-Tuesday (every-tuesday.com/procreate-for-beginners/). The course is free, although she welcomes donations – for the price of a cup or two of coffee, it's a fun course to pick up! (This is not an affiliate link; we just love her teaching style!)
Step 7: Expand Your Offerings
As your shop grows, keep an eye out for opportunities and new ideas. Trends come and go, and you may be inspired by what other crafters are making.
Another option for your original designs would be to sell them as printed transfers. This involves shipping a physical product, but there are sublimation crafters who do not have their own sublimation printer, so there is definitely a market for pre-printed designs!
Obviously, you can also sell your own finished products. Etsy can expand your audience for this. There are many sublimation shops on Etsy, but when you are offering original artwork, you offer something unique for buyers. This is especially true if you offer custom or personalized designs.
A big point to consider when offering both finished items and supplies, is that buyers can be easily confused when they can only see images on an Etsy listing. They may not remember that some of your items are digital and some are physical, no matter how many times you mention it in the description.
So if you intend to expand into printed transfers or finished products, keep this in mind. Unless you can find a way to make the differences between your listings unmistakably clear to buyers, it may be worth it to consider opening separate or sister shops.
Good luck, and keep creating! Let us know what you're working on – comment below, or join our free Facebook group: Sublimation Connection.