Starting an online business can be an exciting (and a scary) time for many people, especially when you’re starting with a limited budget.

But what if you have zero cash in the bank?

One of the best, and affordable, ways to start an online business is on Etsy. This article will breakdown how to start an Etsy shop with no money.

What is Etsy?

Etsy is an online marketplace for independent sellers who sell custom-made products. Etsy is traditionally known for selling handmade items such as scarfs and jewelry. However, Etsy is becoming more known for selling digital products on its platform. Unfortunately, many online business owners are unaware of the power of selling digital products on Etsy. And it’s probably the easiest way how to start an Etsy shop with no money.

It doesn’t cost you anything initially to open your shop, unless you sign up for an Etsy subscription. The first time you’re charged is when you upload your first item to your Etsy shop and even then you have until the first of the month before you need to pay it back. But hopefully you will have made your first sale by then to cover the cost. 

Etsy charges a $0.20 USD listing fee for each item you that you list in your shop. After that the only other times you’re charged is:

  • When an item expires and you’ll be charged another $0.20 USD to re-list it.
  • When someone makes a purchase you’ll be charged another $0.20 USD re-listing fee as well as Etsy transaction and processing fees.
  • When you advertise using Etsy Ads. Etsy has on-site and off-site Ads that you can use to advertise your shop. On-site ads are pay-per-click ads. With on-site ads you can set a daily budget and you only pay if a potential buyer clicks on your ads. Once your maximum daily budget is reached, Etsy stops showing your ads. Off-site ads are ads that Etsy shares with social media platforms or search engines. You cannot opt-out of off-site ads, but you don’t pay for these ads unless a customer buys your product and then a 15% off-site ad fee will automatically be deducted from your overall purchase price.

So, unless you choose to pay for on-site ads, the only other fee you’ll see before making a sale is the listing fee.

Ways to Start an Etsy Shop

As I mentioned earlier, the number one way how to start an Etsy shop with no money is by selling digital products. But you might be wondering, “what digital products can I sell on Etsy?”

Here are 30 digital products you can sell on Etsy:

  • Worksheets (Check out How to Create and Sell Worksheets on Etsy)
  • Workbook templates
  • Short-term rental property welcome book
  • Planners
  • Calendars
  • Trackers
  • Business cards
  • Brochure templates
  • Flyer templates
  • Resume templates
  • Social media templates
  • Website templates
  • Logos
  • Branding kits
  • Journals
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations
  • Printable decor
  • Colouring pages or e-booklets
  • E-books
  • Gift tags
  • Lead magnet templates
  • Pre-written forms or agreements
  • Business forms templates such as invoices, order forms, or budgeting forms.
  • Etsy shop banners (to sell to other Etsy sellers)
  • Printable stickers
  • Fonts
  • Clip art or digital designs
  • Printable signs
  • Craft patterns (I.e knitting, crocheting or cross-stitch)

How to Cut Costs

The beauty of selling digital products on Etsy is that you can easily cut costs when you start to sell. First of all, it takes very little cost to create digital products because all you need is a good software for digital product creation. Personally, I love Canva. It’s the only software that I use to create my digital products. Canva is very user-friendly so even the most novice digital product creator can make beautiful designs. And Canva offers a free plan so you can create your digital products at no cost.

Secondly, unlike physical products, you won’t be on the hook for shipping fees. When someone buys your digital products, Etsy immediately sends your digital product to your customers email address for free.

Another great thing about selling digital products is that you create the product once and you can sell it over and over again. I’m still selling the first digital product that I ever made and I haven’t made a single edit to the actual product since it first went live almost two years ago. So when you’re selling digital products on Etsy you’re not only saving money but you’re also saving your time and effort as well. 

Next, if a digital product isn’t selling when your product expires you could choose not to renew, saving you on the $0.20 USD re-listing fee. However, I don’t usually recommend this option for two reasons:

  • First, potential buyers like to see a stocked shop before they buy. By not re-listing your products you’re taking away your inventory and potentially a sale. Just because you didn’t sell the product within the first four months, doesn’t mean you won’t in the next four.
  • Second, it may not be your product that’s not selling but instead your product listing that’s not selling. Your Etsy product listing includes the product title, product description, the product images, etc. How you advertise your product is sometimes more important than the actual product itself. So if your product isn’t selling you might want to ask yourself why? If it’s lack of demand then maybe you might decide to not re-list. But if it’s that your product listing isn’t clear, descriptive or even search engine optimized you might be leaving money on the table. 

Finally, when you’re just starting out, focus more on free product advertising than paid. Instead of paying for on-site ads right off the bat, try sharing your Etsy products on your website or social media. Also, put more effort into optimizing your product listings for Etsy and search engines. When your product is optimized you’ll show up more frequently on the first page of Etsy organically and be found easier by search engines. This helps cut your advertising costs significantly but increases your product sales.


You can certainly start an Etsy shop with no money when you sell digital products. As a seller on Etsy myself, I never had to pay Etsy a dime out-of-pocket and I’ve been selling digital products on Etsy for almost 2 years now. Selling digital products on Etsy is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to get in front of more people and make money online. Selling digital products on Etsy is the #1 way how to start an Etsy shop with no money. 

Want to learn more about how to improve your Etsy products search engine optimization? 

Check out 7 Proven Etsy SEO tips to Boost Your Etsy Shop’s Visibility. 

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