How I Made an Extra $317.97 on Autopilot on Etsy

Here are the exact steps I took to earn some extra cash in my sleep.

The accidental spider web — Background image and logos from Canva, annotations by author

#1 Write articles with free templates attached to them

Everything started after I shared the first Google Sheets template with the public, which also is my first ever Medium article. It’s about an expense tracker that helped me go from broke to more in control of my finances.

Why still a Google Sheets spreadsheet?

Where I live, even in 2021, many places still don’t accept cashless payment. I’ll still be manually adding numbers to a spreadsheet half the time, no matter where I go.

Apart from that, I track expenses like a mad woman, a skill my grandma taught me. I think it’s important to have a firm grip on your money and know where every cent is going. Increasing your income can sound like The Cure if you’re struggling. But if you throw 1K down the drain, how will your financial situation improve if you have a multitude of that to spend? You’ll burn it just as hard. Bad habits will make money disappear, no matter how large the sum.

TL;DR: Give value to potential readers for free, without expectation.

Google has been sending heaps of organic traffic my way since I shared this first Google Sheets template over time. After the expense tracker, I made a time tracker, a Social Media editorial calendar, a habit tracker, and some other pieces.

#2 Set up a Medium publication to house articles about Google Sheets

I updated the templates for the new year. Now that there were several, I set up a Medium publication to group articles around Google Sheets templates and how-tos together in one spot.

When someone would find the article after a Google Search, they could see that it’s “published in Google Sheets Geeks”, click, and see if there’s anything else they like. If so, they can decide to follow the publication. For some, this means signing up for Medium, as most traffic to those templates is external.

#3 Add newsletter signups below each article

The veterans are always screaming, “Build up a mailing list from day one!”. I thought, well, that cannot hurt, and I’ll only send people a newsletter when I have news, that is: when there’s a new or updated template.

I chose Upscribe as my email marketing service and I have no intention of switching. The interface is noob-proof, affordable for small creators like me, and dead easy to use. It looks great and your emails will look great too.

Upscribe = Simple + sleek + very reasonable pricing + embeddable Medium forms

Screenshot of Upscribe homepage by author

The first sign-up forms simply ask for the sign-up. Later on, I experimented a bit with different wording, to see how people would respond to it.

Two Upscribe forms — image by author, made in Canva

#4 Add a lead magnet (free download) to a newsletter signup form

Further down the road, I thought, let’s play. I had a look at my best-performing articles within this publication. In other words, the articles that were receiving the most traffic and link clicks.

I also:

  • Copy-pasted these articles into one document
  • Rewrote the content here and there
  • Added a front page
  • Added a table of contents
  • Wrote a Thank You at the end
  • Along with a link to my Etsy shop for those who would like to support me financially, where they can purchase a template (if you want to sell something online, you need a way to get paid)

There is no difference between Google Sheets templates here on the blog or those in the Etsy shop.

Purchasing a template is purely optional. The intention is to keep templates accessible for everyone. That means I’ll continue to offer them for free on the blog. This way, more people can hopefully use them and profit from them.

See what I did there? The freebie is 100% free. If readers want to, and only if they want to, they can have a look at the Etsy shop, and purchase something. Or not. This is up to them. There is no spamming or funnel forced upon them if they don’t.

#5 Add listings for each Google Sheets template to the Etsy shop

Note: This step was done simultaneously with the previous one.

Per Google Sheets template that was already on the blog I added a listing to Etsy.

I used the content from the blog and freebie in the previous step to make individual PDF downloads for each listing.

To each PDF, I added a front page. I made this front page using a free computer screen mockup I found on the internet, where I inserted a preview of the template. I edited the rest in Canva, a graphic design software, the fast alternative to Photoshop.

The PDF is a 1-page guide on how to get started quickly. To lend an extra helping hand, I added a tab inside each Google Sheets template named “Start here”. Here, I recap the instructions very briefly.

#6 Set up a YouTube channel to supplement the blog articles

Copying a Google Sheet is not as straightforward as one would think. It often goes wrong, seeing the hundreds of edit requests in my inbox.

107 unopened emails in Google Sheets folder. 99% of these are edit requests.
107 unopened emails in Google Sheets folder. 99% of these are edit requests.
I automatically route all edit requests into a folder and leave them there.

You’d think adding instructions is enough. I added a “How to start using this template” in each blog post. The how-to is repeated at least once in the article, right above and/or below the link to the Google spreadsheet.

Once inside the Google Sheets template, there’s also either a note or an image plastered all over the spreadsheet that shows readers how to proceed. Nonetheless, the green button in the upper right corner is for many too appealing to ignore.

The edit requests overflow the inbox structurally. I stopped replying to them. Now I just automatically route all such emails into a folder and leave them there.

I thought, okay, maybe showing how it works versus explaining it in words works better. I’ll set up YouTube channel.

Screenshot of Google Sheets Geeks YouTube channel and the 5 earliest videos
Screenshot of Google Sheets Geeks YouTube channel and the 5 earliest videos
First YouTube videos on the channel — screenshot by author

I made a quick screencast, called it “How to make a copy of a Google Sheet” and published it on the brand new YouTube channel.

In the channel description link boxes, and underneath each new screencast video in the description box, of course, I add the following links to:

Example of what’s inside description box underneath YouTube videos: link to the original article, link to the Medium publication, the mailing list, and the Etsy shop
Example of what’s inside description box underneath YouTube videos: link to the original article, link to the Medium publication, the mailing list, and the Etsy shop
Example of what I put in the description box underneath YouTube videos — screenshot by author

Yep, Pinterest also, we’ll get there.

When I notice I keep getting the same questions, that means something is unclear. I then turn to either a blog article, or a simple screencast to solve the problem.

The funny thing is, these videos were meant as supplementary to the blog articles. I never intended for this channel to grow. Surprisingly, it has been growing without me intervening much (read: at all).

Viewers have even been asking me to make more content, which I never expected. It’s a great sign from the public that what you’re doing is more useful than you initially thought.

#7 Set up a Pinterest business account and create boards and pins

Instead of pinning to my personal account that has lots of scattered, random and unrelated boards, I opened a Pinterest business account. This is solely for the Google Sheets spreadsheets.

Google Sheets Geeks Pinterest — screenshot by author

Currently, there are only two boards. The pins on one board lead to the Medium blog articles. Pins on the other board lead to the Etsy shop.

Whether the pins lead to Medium, they clearly state “Free Google Sheets template”. When they lead to Etsy, I include “Buy on Etsy”, as to not cause any confusion. Again, people can choose here.

In three months, I went from zero to 31K monthly impressions. There have been:

· Around 4K clicks on the pins

3839 pin clicks from January to April 2021
3839 pin clicks from January to April 2021
All-time pin clicks of 3,839 on Google Sheets Geeks Pinterest — screenshot by author

· 1K+ outbound clicks (“total number of clicks to the destination URL associated with your Pin”)

1072 outbound clicks from January to April 2021
1072 outbound clicks from January to April 2021
All-time outbound clicks of 1,072 on Google Sheets Geeks Pinterest — screenshot by author

· 465 Pin saves

465 pin saves from January to April 2021
465 pin saves from January to April 2021
All-time Pin saves of 465 on Google Sheets Geeks Pinterest — screenshot by author

Pinterest is like a visual search engine. It takes time for pins to rank. All traffic I got here is fully organic. I’d say that ain’t bad.

What I did: The summary

What I did is essentially build up a spider web that links each resource to another. Wherever you land, you’ll have somewhere to go to next.

Someone can Google for a specific search term and end up finding my template, and click onwards to the YouTube channel. Someone might search YouTube for something Google Sheets-related, and end up signing up for the mailing list. A Pinterest user might be looking for templates. From there, they can continue to the blog, sign up for the freebie, click onwards to the shop.

I even set up a Google Sites website that houses all channels under one roof.

Etsy sales numbers

Because I know you all love seeing the numbers.

My all-time Etsy sales — screenshot by author

2020

  • August: €0
  • September: €0
  • October: $9.56 (€7,98)
  • November: €0
  • December: $21.52 (€17,96)

2021:

  • January: $86,13 (€71,88)
  • February: $75,33 (€62.87)
  • March: $89,68 (€74.85)
  • April: $35,87 so far(€29.94)

What do the Etsy stats say though?

Since the opening of the shop, Etsy has brought in 72% of visits, mostly via the Etsy app and Etsy search. I brought in the other 28%.

Etsy brought 72% of visits: 483 via Etsy app & other Etsy pages, 510 via Etsy Search, 19 via Etsy marketing & SEO. I brought 28% of visits: 374 via Direct & other traffic, 21 via Pinterest.
Etsy brought 72% of visits: 483 via Etsy app & other Etsy pages, 510 via Etsy Search, 19 via Etsy marketing & SEO. I brought 28% of visits: 374 via Direct & other traffic, 21 via Pinterest.
Where shoppers found the Etsy shop — screenshot by author

I found it interesting that the far majority of the traffic came from YouTube. After YouTube, most of it came from Pinterest.

Traffic details for Aug 2020 — April 2021: 92 via Youtube, 3 via Medium, 2 via mobile YouTube, 1 via Gmail
Traffic details for Aug 2020 — April 2021: 92 via Youtube, 3 via Medium, 2 via mobile YouTube, 1 via Gmail
All-time Etsy “Direct & other traffic” details — screenshot by author

These numbers are small. As shown above, sales were practically non-existent before I updated the shop with 2021 templates. Over the years I’ve been noticing a bump in traffic around the end, and the beginning of the new year. You know how all the end-of-the-year reflecting leads to setting new resolutions for a better life, health and good habits.

Etsy shop: 1,407 visits, 56 orders, conversation rate 4%, revenue €265.48
Etsy shop: 1,407 visits, 56 orders, conversation rate 4%, revenue €265.48
A genuine thank you to anyone who bought a template!

I have an all-time conversion rate of 4%. I think this is amazing. As far as maintenance goes, I get the occasional question on Etsy, Medium or YouTube.

Per month, passive sales from Etsy bring in €7.98 to €74.85. You might think that these numbers are insignificant. This is similar to the $30 I earned on Medium back in November.

These quasi-passively earned dollars still cover some of my expenses. Small amounts or not, I’d be stupid to reject the money.

How to find your passive income idea?

I built up upon something that seemed to be of value to others. Mind you, this was done over time. There is never a quick fix. I don’t expect this to become a full-time gig; I see it more as part of the whole and a (very) nice to have.

You don’t need to follow the same path. I simply shared how I got here. The intention behind this breakdown is to give you ideas to exploit the skills and valuable knowledge you have.

What to make?

You don’t need to make spreadsheets. You can make whatever you want.

Start with that. Express yourself. Try things. Then:

  • SHARE your creations with the world. When you don’t, you’ll never learn about the opinion of the people and if it will resonate or not. Your ego will stay sheltered and protected, but you won’t get feedback that will give you renewed input and ideas.
  • See how the world responds. Be aware of the channels your audience uses to reach you. Take note of what the people seem to be liking. Where are they commenting? Where are the claps?
  • Take it further from there.

For example: if you write on Medium, and you have found a topic that the people seem to like, why not compile articles about this topic in a freebie? Inside the freebie, or in a drip campaign (Upscribe has this feature too) you can introduce readers to your company, or your website, or whatever it is that you have to offer.

There are probably more efficient ways to make the same amount of money with less effort and time. Sure, it’s possible to create something, recognize its value and charge for it right off the bat. This is up to you.

I hope some of this was useful to you. Take an idea or two. Start experimenting. And build a spider web of your own.

Get to know Gracia by reading her bio, or sign up for her newsletter to stay in touch. If you like free Google Sheets templates, you know where to go.

Writing my way to progress. Topics: personal growth, life lessons, tooling & (failed) ventures.

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