A 27-year-old Etsy seller who went from zero sales in his first 4 months to bringing in $10,000 in a single week explains the low-cost strategy he used to land his first sale

  • Austin Ziegler knew nothing about selling products online when he started his side hustle.
  • He didn’t sell his first item on Etsy, a battery case, for four months.
  • He shifted gears and made his first sale by producing low-cost items such as 99 cent keychains.

Austin Ziegler knew very little about Etsy when he decided to start selling 3D-printed products there.

“I’d heard that if you make stuff at home, Etsy is a good platform to sell on,” the engineer, 27, told Business Insider. “And I was like, ‘It’s worth a shot if it’s only a little side hustle.'”

He designed double and triple A battery cases and printed hundreds of them, convinced he’d hit on a winner.

“I didn’t make a single sale in the first four months I had it on Etsy,” said Ziegler, who launched his Ziggy Zig Designs online shop in April 2022. “I was a little defeated.”

Landing his first sale and building credibility by listing inexpensive products

Ziegler realized he needed to change his strategy while sitting on a couple hundred battery cases.

“I accidentally shotgunned my Etsy page,” he realized. “I got too excited and I rushed into everything.”

When he stepped back to assess his business, he realized, “I have zero sales on Etsy, I’m a brand new company, and I have no reviews.” No one will want to buy a product from me because I am not a trustworthy seller. “I shifted gears from there, thinking, ‘What is a small, relatively inexpensive project that I can post for basically no cost at all?'”

He reasoned that something less than a dollar would drive sales and, in turn, reviews. In the end, that’s what customers want: positive feedback.

“When you have more credibility on Etsy, with order volumes and reviews, people are more willing to buy the product,” Ziegler said, adding that “it’s kind of difficult to improve your credibility until you get sales.”

He printed keychains and magnets that cost about 75 cents each and sold them for 99 cents. “I’m really not making any money,” he said, after shipping costs and Etsy fees, but that wasn’t the point. He was willing to lose money or even break even if it increased his credibility as a seller.

The strategy worked: he made his first 20 sales and received his first ten reviews. He even began selling battery cases, he said, though that project “never really took off.”

With seller credibility in hand, Ziegler only needed a concept that would resonate with customers. Later that year, two of his products — a travel soap box and a gas can ornament — did exactly that, becoming Etsy bestsellers. Insider verified his ornament’s $10,000 sales in one week in 2023 by looking at screenshots of his Etsy dashboard.

Other ways to drive online sales: ads and strong listing pages

There are other strategies to drive online sales, whether you’re 3D printing your products like Ziegler or designing and ordering them through a manufacturer.

Joe Reeves, who has sold millions of dollars in wallets on Amazon, agrees that “reviews are probably one of the most important things, if not the most important thing,” he told Business Insider. “And the only way to get reviews is to have people buy it.”

Sure, selling a lower-cost item may help, but perhaps you want to sell something closer to $20 to $30 per unit, such as a wallet.

Ads will help you sell, but they will cost you money, according to Reeves. “That can be a shock to anybody who isn’t used to spending money, especially in the beginning when you’re not seeing much return and it seems like you’re just burning that money into thin air,” he said of his early advertising spending of $300 to $500 per day.

As his revenue increased, he increased his ad spending — up to $10,000 per day, he claimed.

If you want to sell on Amazon, go into it knowing that “the more money you’re willing to spend on it, the faster it’ll blow up,” he said.

Of course, there are less expensive ways to position your products for success, such as creating a strong listing page with attractive photos.

Reeves used Fiverr to hire a contractor to take professional photos of his wallets for his listing page. He spent between $50 and $100, and he says it was some of the best money he’s ever spent as a business owner: “If their photos can help you convert 5% more, that 5% will pay itself off over time.”

Ziegler takes his own photos but has invested in a photo box to create a clean, sleek background for his product photos, as well as the design software Canva to elevate his branding.

Consider the cost of hiring someone on Fiverr or purchasing a photo box as an investment in your business, according to Reeves: “Every little quarter or half a percent of optimization gets you that much closer to a better listing.” If you make $1 million per year and can optimize to be 1% better or make 1% more profit, that’s $10,000 in your pocket. Every percentage point counts.”

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