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How to Sell Printful Products on Etsy

By Nora Inveiss - Reading time: 6 minutes

Thanks to our integration with ShipStation, it’s now possible to sell on platforms that weren’t available to Printful users before, like Etsy.

Etsy opens the doors for existing stores who want to reach a new audience, and it’s great for ecommerce newbies who want to open shop on an established marketplace full of potential buyers. Or maybe you already have an Etsy shop and want to expand your offering with print products. Whatever the reason, it’s possible to make it happen with Printful and Shipstation.

This blog post goes over the basics of how to integrate Etsy, ShipStation, and Printful. It gives you some ideas to figure out whether Etsy is the right platform for you, and it covers tips on how to make sales and get your products into the hands of Etsy shoppers.

What is ShipStation?

ShipStation is essentially shipping software that can integrate with shopping carts and marketplaces and give online store owners tools to handle order fulfilment. For us, it works as a middleman that allows our customers to integrate platforms that can’t be directly integrated with Printful.

Take a look here for more information about how ShipStation works, how to get started, and important things you need to know.

An Introduction to Etsy

Etsy connects artists with customers around the world. The focus of this platform is selling handmade goods, vintage stuff, and craft supplies. So it’s a great place for consumers looking for unique products that aren’t available in big-name retail stores.

Etsy has grown astronomically since it was founded in 2005. Statista reports that as of April 2015, more than 1.5 million sellers sold goods through Etsy, and 24 million buyers had bought something.

In 2013, Etsy expanded its definition of “handmade” and started allowing sellers to offer products made by outside manufacturers, but there are a couple of caveats:

  • The outside manufacturer must meet Etsy’s standards
  • Sellers must create the designs for their products
  • Sellers need to prove their involvement in the creative process
  • Sellers must be transparent about their products and how they’re made

So, products that are printed by Printful can be sold on Etsy as handmade items, and ShipStation makes it happen.

Is Etsy right for you?

Selling on Etsy gives you access to a new audience of people looking for unique, custom products. However, you need to consider whether the extra effort and fees are worth your time.

Your products and price

Would your products stand out on Etsy? Competition is stiff – there are a ton of other sellers that could be offering similar items as you. If your designs stand out and are unique from what’s already there, then great. If not, what makes you different? What’s your value proposition and why should customers choose you over the competition?

Also take a look at the average price of products that are similar to yours. What are they selling at? Can your prices compete? This is  Etsy’s guide to pricing strategy, which goes over their recommendations.

Tip: You can sometimes get away with selling at a higher price point on Etsy, as customers can reasonably expect to pay more for a handmade item.

Your audience

Who are your customers? Is your target audience likely to shop on Etsy? Identify your niche and who you sell to, and figure out if Etsy is a good place to reach them.

Etsy (and ShipStation) fees

Setting up your store on Etsy is free and there are no monthly or membership costs, but there are still some fees to running a store on Etsy. Sellers need to pay fees for creating and updating their listings, for checkout, etc. Take a look here for Etsy’s pricing structure.

ShipStation isn’t free either. Plans range from $9-145/month, depending on your needs. The price can be affordable, especially for the starter options, but it’s still an expense to consider. Here is a list of ShipStation plans and prices.

Setting Up Your Etsy Shop

The first thing you need to do is register an Etsy account, which is free. Once your account is set up, you can click Sell on Etsy to open your shop. Etsy walks you through the process here, but the steps are as follows:

1. Set up your shop’s preferences – language, country, currency.

2. Name your shop – it’s possible to change this later.

3. Add listings – you’ll have to enter at least one product to move forward. Enter some information about your products, such as photos, descriptions, shipping price, etc.

Etsy

4. How you’ll get paid – enter your banking information (institution number, account number, etc.).

5. Set up billing – enter your credit card information and billing address.

When your Etsy shop is up and running, you’ll want to connect it to your ShipStation account (which you also have to set up). The process is straightforward, and you can watch the video for instructions here.

Finally, you also have to connect your ShipStation with Printful. Go to Dashboard → Stores → Connect Shipstation. Then you’ll be prompted to add your API keys. You can watch the video instructions for that here.

Connect new store
Keep in mind that the first order for every product that comes in through Shipstation won’t automatically sync. So, you’ll have to sync the products in that order and submit it manually. Each variant is considered a new product as well.

Applying for Printful as your Outside Manufacturer

A very important thing to note is that before you start selling, you need to apply to use Printful as your outside manufacturer. You’ll have to submit the following information:

  • What type of products are being handled by an outside manufacturer (eg. apparel, jewelry).
  • A description of yourself and your business, and why you chose to work with an outside manufacturer.
  • How your products are made. Specifically, what do you do before the product goes to the manufacturer?
  • How are you involved in the process? You’ll have to submit at least 5 photos of your designs to demonstrate your involvement in the creation process.
  • Information about the manufacturer. Where are they located, how are they involved in the creation of your products, your relationship with the manufacturer, etc.

To access the forms and read up about the outside manufacturer process in more detail, read Etsy’s guidelines here.

How to get sales on Etsy

If you do go the Etsy route and open your shop, you’ll have to work hard to get sales going and build a brand on this platform. These are some tips to get started.

Product photos and descriptions

We’ve written about this before. Regardless of your platform, you need professional photos that clearly show your products, and descriptions that creatively and accurately describe what your customers need to know.

When people search for products on Etsy, the product photos are what they notice first. So it’s key to use photos that stand out. Use a photo that’s visually striking, with your product and design at the focus.

Etsy products

Write product descriptions with keywords in mind. Think of which words your customers are most likely going to use when searching for products like yours. And come up with a list of keywords you want to be associated with.

Make your products searchable

Make your products easily found on Etsy. As mentioned above, using keywords in your description is a good place to start, but there’s more you can do to get your products in front of potential buyers.

1. Tags

Tags help people discover your products in search. You have 13 tags to use per product, so think carefully. What are the main aspects of your products that customers should know about, and what are they most likely going to use to search for you? You also have 13 tags to use for the material of your products, so it’s another chance to be found.

Etsy Search Terms
2. Product titles

Add keywords in your product titles as well as the descriptions. This helps customers see specifically what you have to offer. Keep the more important words near the beggining of your title, as longer titles get cut off.

3. Product categories

Choosing your product categories helps your products pop up on broader searches, so narrow down all applicable categories.

Etsy Category
The bottom line is to always keep your customers in mind. Which keywords would they most likely use? What information is most helpful for them? And be creative – use different keywords for different products. This both attracts people in different audiences, and it helps you identify what works and what doesn’t.

Monitor your Etsy stats

This is an excellent resource to see where your traffic is coming from and the top keywords you’re being searched for across different platforms. Use this information to better understand what’s working, where you need to improve, and how to do it. Take a look at pointers from Etsy here.

Interact with your fans and customers

The great thing about Etsy is the opportunity to connect and interact with your customers. Be personal, reply to messages, and show your personality. When possible, ask for your fans to leave reviews of your store. This goes a long way to build your store’s credibility and show other potential customers that you already have fans that like what you do.

Sell the right amount of products

Not only does it make your store look more thorough and professional, but having a lot of products also helps your store in terms of search. The more products (with keywords and categories) you have listed, the more likely you are to be found.

Plus, the more products a potential customer has to browse, the more likely they are to find something they love and want to buy.

There isn’t a specific number to aim for. It depends on how many products you have and want to sell. And you don’t have to add your products all at once. Start with what you have, and build your selections as you go.

The Etsy Verdict

Selling your products on Etsy can be a profitable way to get your products to more people who are looking to buy unique items. You just have to consider the extra time and expenses it takes to open an Etsy shop. And remember to keep experimenting with keywords and marketing tactics. Don’t be discouraged if your sales start out low, it could just be that you haven’t found the ideal sales strategy.

Have you opened a shop on Etsy? Share your experiences in the comments!

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  1. Paul

    I just opened my Etsy shop manufacturing with Printfull. As the post states, competition is hard, especially because there are some out there producing items way way cheaper.
    In my experience in order to have successful Etsy shop you must be willing (and able) to spend on branding and advertising.

    When I spend on Etsy Promoted Items I see sales, but I am not profitable due to the costs of promotion and production.

    Anyway I am 1 month old there and made 9 sales (1 refund. Also be aware of scammers) and not profitable yet. I still have to find the way to crack Etsy. If you think it is opening a store and becoming rich then it won’t work.

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice – you bring up a good point about using Etsy Promoted Listings. Best of luck to your store.

  2. Make Love With Food

    I love this great blog on how to integrate Etsy into my e-commerce marketing strategy with ShipStation. There are so many different channels available with ShipStation and it is impossible to use them all. This article helps me narrow down the choices 🙂

  3. Tyler

    What if you don’t make but a few sales here and there, could you just skip the “ShipStation” process and list your Printful products on Etsy (after you apply and get an approval). Whenever a customer buys something from your Etsy store, you manually put in their order to Printful with their information as the receiver? It sounds like a lot of keeping up but, honestly, that cuts out $9 a month – especially if you’re not making any sales for an entire month(s). Would this work without using ShipStation?

  4. Tara, Heart of Life Design

    Thanks so much for sharing this information! I started a digital download Etsy shop in October of 2014 and, with lots and LOTS of SEO research and an extreme focus on great customer service, I’ve now reached over 3500 sales. The demand for offering the option of physically printed items is where Printful comes in for my Etsy shop.

    This blog is spot on in that getting a good start on Etsy sales is VERY hard at first. I experimented (and continue to) so much with keywords, and various marketing tactics. However, I can confidentially say that social media does not yet play a big roll in the sales I make, as I don’t have much time to do that type of marketing (two toddlers at home haha)! My sales are mostly from what Etsy brings in.

    Also, new shop owners should remember that perseverance and professional image thumbnails are the main ingredients to a successful shop, in my humble opinion, anyway. Once you get into a groove wth your shop, things often times start to take off exponentially before you even realize it. Just stick with it and keep researching and evolving!

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Thanks for your input! And I agree – professional thumbnail images are very important.

      Congrats on the success of your shop!

  5. Ryan

    How long does it take to set up ShipStation? I know it would depend on how many products you have, so how long would it take to set up one item with 35 variations? I currently sell on Etsy and submit all of my orders manually (which I don’t really mind and in some ways prefer), but it would be nice to not have to do that anymore.

    Thanks.

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Shipstation doesn’t require you to sync your product variants right away – the first order for every product (including product variants) will show up as an unsynced order. So you could sync each variant as orders come in. This video explains the process.

  6. Michael

    I opened my shop, followed all instructions, and was rejected for outside manufacturing with The Printful, and forever banned from using Etsy. I wasn’t given much reason why, either, as the explanation was quite vague. I am very discouraged by this… but I read online that Etsy has a record of closing shops for little to no reason with no explanation.

    Etsy is a great platform if you don’t have the resources to make your own website and drive traffic to it. Unfortunately, it is no longer an option for me…

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hey Michael,

      That’s too bad. We’ve found that Etsy’s approval criteria aren’t very consistent. We have customers whose stores were approved no problem, and others who’ve had to jump through more hoops, or who got declined.

      1. Dena

        I don’t understand how you could be banned for using Printful on Etsy when Printful is listed as an approved manufacturer on their website…

        1. Nora Inveiss Post author

          Thanks for bringing this up! At the time of writing, Printful wasn’t an approved manufacturer. So the process might be a little different now; we’ll look into it and update!

  7. Galit

    I need to fill out the “Apply to Work With a Manufacturer” and have some questions I don’t know the answer to regarding Printful:
    1. What types of materials are used in the production of your items?
    2. Are byproducts or waste generated during production? What are the environmental aspects surrounding the production of your items?
    3.Does your manufacturer have any certifications worth noting? (e.g. SA8000, ISO 14000, etc.)
    I hope you can help me answer these questions so I can submit the application.
    Thank you!

  8. soroush

    hello, thanks for your informative post. I had a question about my printful store & etsy integration. I have a lot of different products on my own website manufactured by printful, now If I want to list them on etsy, do I have to list the products one by one manually or shipstation will transfer my printful products from my website to etsy automatically? thank you

  9. Yaira

    So do I need to add Printful as one of my production partners on each Etsy listing?

    Per the listing manager: “A production partner is anyone who’s not a part of your Etsy shop who helps you physically produce your items.”

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hey Yaira! You can take a look at Etsy’s guidelines for editing and displaying your production partner info here: https://www.etsy.com/help/article/4717
      You do need to apply to use Printful as your production partner, but it doesn’t look like you need to disclose the name of your partner on each listing.

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