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5 Etsy Alternatives For Digital Products & Why You Should Start With Etsy

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The digital revolution has ushered in a golden era for creators, artists, and innovators. The surge in online sales of digital products, ranging from e-books and courses to design templates and printables, is a testament to this transformative shift.

The expansive online world provides numerous opportunities. However, with these opportunities, it can be tricky to choose the right platforms to display and sell digital items. In this article, we are going to cover my top 5 online platforms to sell your digital products, and why you may still want to start Etsy.

Drowning in a Sea of Choices

Newcomers to the digital product scene are often greeted with an overwhelming array of platform choices. Each platform has its own special features, advantages, and prices. Some are made just for designers with a specific interest, while others have a wider variety of digital products.

Where is the ideal place to establish your digital presence? Which platform assures the most visibility? Do certain platforms cater better to specific digital niches?

This article talks more about other options besides Etsy. But first, let’s quickly discuss why someone selling digital items might choose a different platform than Etsy:

Platform-Specific Features

Some platforms might offer unique tools, like better analytics, advanced customization, or more robust marketing integrations.

Audience Demographics

Depending on the product, sellers might want a platform whose primary audience aligns with their target customers.

Commission & Fee Structures

Cost plays a crucial role. While some platforms might charge monthly, others might take a commission per sale.

Ease of Use

For someone new to the digital selling realm, a user-friendly interface can be the difference between a smooth start and a frustrating one.

Brand Building

Certain platforms may offer better opportunities for brand exposure and building a loyal customer base.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 platforms that are not Etsy.

1. Creative Fabrica

In the vibrant world of digital sales, Creative Fabrica has emerged as a key player. It’s now a top choice for many people selling digital items.

Breadth of Offerings

One of the primary appeals of Creative Fabrica lies in its diverse range of offerings. Whether you’re an artist crafting unique coloring pages, a designer focusing on KDP interiors, or an entrepreneur selling SVG graphics and logos, there’s a space for you on this platform. Its versatility makes it an attractive choice for sellers who cater to various niches or those who want to expand their digital product range over time.

Ease of Use and Seller Support

One of the significant pain points for many online sellers is customer service. Addressing questions, managing complaints, and ensuring customer satisfaction can be time-consuming. Creative Fabrica shines in this regard. By taking over the customer service piece, it allows sellers to focus on what they do best: creating. This convenience is invaluable for those who want to prioritize product development and design over day-to-day customer interactions.

Financial Considerations

Setting up shop on Creative Fabrica is undoubtedly wallet-friendly, with no initial costs. However, the commission structure is something to consider. The platform does take its cut, which can sometimes be significant. Depending on the acquisition method of your customers, you might find yourself retaining anywhere between 50-75% of the total sale amount. This percentage is notably lower than some other platforms, so it’s essential to weigh the convenience and exposure Creative Fabrica offers against the potential earnings.

2. Creative Market

Creative Market stands out as a hub for those in pursuit of superior design assets. Catering to an audience hungry for high-quality products, this platform has become synonymous with excellence in the digital design space.

Diverse Range of High-Quality Assets

Creative Market thrives on its commitment to quality. From meticulous graphic assets and captivating stock photos to versatile fonts and professionally crafted templates, the platform boasts a repository of items that cater to a broad spectrum of creative needs. This makes it an ideal marketplace for sellers looking to target a discerning audience who values the premium nature of the offerings.

Joining the Creative Market Community

For those eyeing Creative Market as a potential platform for their products, it’s essential to be aware of its unique selling process. While it’s free to list products, the platform upholds a stringent vetting process for sellers. This rigorous screening is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it ensures that the marketplace remains a repository of high-quality products. On the other, it may pose a barrier to entry for newer sellers or those whose products don’t meet the platform’s exacting standards.

Understanding the Financial Dynamics

The financial model of Creative Market leans towards ensuring the platform’s sustainability and maintaining its reputation. Sellers should be prepared for a 40% commission fee on each sale. To break it down, if you make a sale worth $100, Creative Market would take $40, leaving you with a $60 profit. While this commission might seem steep to some, it’s important to consider the platform’s vast reach, reputation for quality, and the potentially higher price point that premium assets can command here.

3. Design Bundles

Design Bundles shines as a platform dedicated to specific niche products such as clip art, craft patterns, and fonts. This unique focus, combined with an extensive reach, makes it a favored destination for many creators.

Specialized Offerings

One of the primary reasons behind Design Bundles’ success is its niche market approach. While other platforms might span a vast array of digital assets, Design Bundles zeroes in on specific categories. For designers specializing in clip art, craft enthusiasts with a flair for creating patterns, or typographers with a fresh font design, this platform is a goldmine.

Getting on Board

The journey of becoming a seller on Design Bundles is not as simple as signing up. The platform maintains a quality-centric approach, requiring potential sellers to seek approval before listing their items. This ensures that buyers always have access to top-notch products. Additionally, a starter portfolio is necessary, allowing the platform to gauge the quality and relevance of the potential seller’s offerings. This vetting process, while slightly demanding, ensures that sellers align with the platform’s quality standards, boosting trust among potential buyers.

Audience Reach

Any platform’s efficacy boils down to its reach, and with an astonishing 9 million monthly page views, Design Bundles does not disappoint. This broad audience base ensures that listed products have the potential to be viewed by a massive number of prospective buyers, increasing the chances of successful sales.

Understanding the Commission Dynamics

At Design Bundles, commissions aren’t flat-rate. Depending on various factors, especially affiliate referrals, sellers can expect commissions to fluctuate between 50-75%. This means that if a product sells through a platform’s promotional efforts or directly, a seller might retain more of the profit than if an affiliate marketer facilitated the sale.

4. Gumroad

Gumroad has quickly become a staple among digital product creators looking for a platform that seamlessly blends functionality with user-friendliness. With a clear focus on digital assets, it provides an environment that both creators and consumers find appealing.

The Beauty of Specialization

Gumroad’s edge lies in its specialization. Instead of juggling between physical and digital goods, it stays true to the latter. This focus ensures that the platform’s features and user experience are optimized for digital products. Its discovery feature is a testament to this, allowing buyers to explore a vast range of digital goods, from e-books and music to design templates and software.

Cost-Effective Selling

For creators starting out or those wary of hefty platform fees, Gumroad proves to be a breath of fresh air. Eschewing monthly charges, it instead opts for a pay-as-you-sell model, taking a modest percentage from each sale. This structure ensures that new creators aren’t burdened with upfront costs and can gradually scale up as their sales grow.

Marketing: The Key to Success

While Gumroad offers a fantastic selling environment, its organic discoverability might not be as robust as some larger platforms. This characteristic means that to truly tap into its potential, sellers must be proactive. A robust seller-driven marketing strategy is not just recommended—it’s essential. You will need to stay on top of marketing your own products in order to make sales.

5. Your Own Website (Shopify or Wix)

While popular and high-traffic platforms offer built-in audiences and established infrastructure, having your own website is vital to long-term success and provides an opportunity to truly create a brand. A personal website acts as a blank canvas, allowing you to tailor your digital storefront according to your vision and branding. With it, you can appeal to a global audience, unbothered by any platform-specific constraints, pricing, or algorithms.

The Double-Edged Sword of Traffic

Nevertheless, this autonomy comes with its own set of challenges, primarily driving traffic. On established platforms, a portion of the audience might stumble upon your products organically. With your website, the responsibility of attracting every visitor rests squarely on your shoulders. This task demands a strong and consistent digital marketing strategy, encompassing SEO, content marketing, social media, and potentially even paid advertising.

Branding: The Beacon of Distinction

One of the biggest perks of operating your website is the absolute freedom over branding. Platforms might restrict the extent to which you can personalize your store, but on your domain, the sky’s the limit. This independence allows you to create a unique user experience, setting your brand apart from competitors and making your digital products truly memorable for customers.

Cost Implications to Consider

Though it might seem that bypassing platform fees would make your own website a cheaper option, this isn’t always the case. Most personal websites come with their share of overheads. Monthly hosting fees, domain charges, and transaction fees (especially if using payment gateways like PayPal or Stripe) can add up. Depending on the scale of operations and the chosen services, these costs could exceed what one might pay on platforms like Etsy or others.

When is the Right Time to Go Independent?

If you boast a considerable following or have a well-defined marketing strategy in place, setting up your own website is a no-brainer. It also opens up doors to innovative business models. For instance, by utilizing membership plugins or services, you can transition into offering subscription-based access to your digital products. This recurring revenue model can stabilize income streams and ensure a consistent user base.

Integrating tools like email marketing software or analytics platforms can provide deeper insights into user behavior, helping refine marketing efforts further.

In my opinion, if you’re serious about establishing a long-term presence in the digital product realm, creating your own website shouldn’t just be an option—it should be a priority. 

small business home office

The Allure of Etsy

With all of the alternatives mentioned above, one might wonder, why even consider Etsy? This platform, known for its handmade, vintage, and unique products, also holds a treasure trove of opportunities for digital sellers. Its immense user base (over 81 million buyers), combined with a relatively easy setup process, makes it an attractive starting point for many.

Etsy strikes a balance between giving sellers access to a vast audience while also allowing for niche targeting, thanks to its product categories and tagging system. Additionally, its fee structure, covering the listing, transaction, and payment processing fees, remains competitive when compared to many other platforms.

Moreover, starting on Etsy allows for a gradual entry into the world of digital sales. It lets newcomers learn the ropes, understand their target audience, and refine their product offerings before potentially branching out or expanding to other platforms.

The Nitty Gritty

Setting up shop is free, with a minimal listing charge of 20 cents per item. After a successful sale, Etsy takes a 6.5% transaction fee, with an additional variable payment processing fee based on the seller’s location. When compared to the commissions of other platforms, Etsy’s rates are quite reasonable.

But why start with Etsy? The platform provides a unique opportunity to build your brand while also making sales, thanks to its inherent traffic. For newcomers, it’s a goldmine. The platform offers the chance to niche down, targeting specific markets and building a brand organically.

Marketing: The Powerhouse Behind Your Digital Success

While platforms like Etsy offer an inherent audience, to truly thrive and expand your reach, it’s vital to integrate external marketing channels. Relying solely on organic traffic from your chosen platform can hugely limit growth potential. External marketing helps in not only bringing new customers but also in building a loyal customer base.

Harnessing the Power of Email

One of the most tried-and-true methods of marketing, email remains a cornerstone for many businesses. Why? Because it provides a direct line of communication to your audience. By building an email list, you’re gathering a group of people who have shown explicit interest in what you offer. Regular newsletters, product updates, and special offers can keep your audience engaged and coming back for more. Furthermore, with personalized email campaigns, you can segment your audience and target them with tailored content, increasing the chances of conversions.

Diving into the World of Video Content

Platforms like TikTok and YouTube have emerged as powerful marketing tools for small businesses, especially for digital creators. Videos offer a dynamic way to showcase your products, provide tutorials, share customer testimonials, or even give behind-the-scenes glimpses.

However, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of each platform. The key is to produce content that resonates with your target audience, whether it’s a quick TikTok tutorial on using a digital product or a detailed walkthrough on YouTube.

Consistency is King

Regardless of which external channels you tap into, consistency remains paramount. Sporadic posts or emails can result in lost engagement and even a diminishing audience. On the contrary, a regular posting schedule helps set audience expectations and keeps your brand at the forefront of their minds.

Integrating and Cross-Promoting Channels

Another effective strategy is to integrate and cross-promote across all your marketing channels. For instance, an engaging TikTok video can be shared on other social media platforms, directing more viewers to your TikTok account. Similarly, video content from YouTube can be embedded in email campaigns or on your website, offering readers an enriched multimedia experience.

In Conclusion

While Etsy is a phenomenal starting point, it’s crucial to diversify and not solely rely on it. Each platform has its own set of advantages and limitations. Your choice should align with your business goals and operational preferences. Whichever path you choose, remember: it’s about creating value for your audience and carving your own digital space.

If you are interested in a deeper dive into this journey, I offer a comprehensive guide that covers the A-Z of setting up and scaling a digital product shop which you can find in my shop here

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