How to Use Etsy to Sell Services (Legally)

Full disclosure: I use cookies to customize your experience and track what content you prefer to read. Is that cool?
more info

Do you have a girl crush on all the Etsy shops?

Do you catch yourself wishing you could open your own shop? …Even though the craftiest thing you do is draw stick figures killing each other?

My Guide To Selling Services On Etsy

Guess what? You and I might be soulmates.

I am the laziest crafter ever. Pre-Etsy me wouldn’t even look at a project unless she could finish it in 20 minutes. Patience is not on my list of natural talents.

So then why did I start an Etsy shop?? There’s only about three people on Earth that know this, but I ACTUALLY got started with selling services on Etsy.

Yup, I opened a web design shop on Etsy back in February 2015. During that time, I grew my business faster than ever before. And even though my shop was making some pretty serious bank, I shut it down and switched to home décor just four months later.

Why did I jump ship?

I was actually getting so much business that I was forced into early retirement. I got sick of fixing other people’s websites and decided freelancing wasn’t for me.

But let me just focus on the bottom line here for a second:

Etsy grew my web design business faster in three months than I’d managed to grow it in FIVE YEARS.

Sidenote: Just make sure you actually want TO DO the business you’re running first 😉 #beginnersmistake…

Check out my Linkedin if you want to see how many (soul-sucking, sensible adult-style) jobs I had to take while running my own Freelance web business (pre-Etsy).

But later, when the Etsy biz took off, I realized I was on to something.

Selling services on Etsy makes it WAY EASIER.

And just because you’re not crafty doesn’t mean you can’t sell your kickass services instead.

Why You Should Use Etsy to Sell Services

As of writing, Etsy has 25 MILLION active buyers.

25 million people are just waiting to find your service. A large handful of them will want to use it. These customers already USE and TRUST Etsy, meaning they’re WAY more likely to buy from you on Etsy than on your website.

Most service providers just create their own website and expect to make millions overnight. (Ha!)

Do you know how many hits per day the average website gets? Roughly 20. As in 2-0. And that’s if it has good SEO and is damn near flawless.

Want more people to find your website? Well, the next step is paying for traffic, guest blogging, creating webinars, AND building a massive email list. Know how long those things take? Usually around 2 years. Know how much it’s going to cost? You’re looking at 10k or more.

Do you have 2 years and 10k+ to get your business off the ground?

Didn’t think so.

So instead, be a tricky f*cker and use Etsy’s audience to start your business.

Don’t believe me?

By all means, create your own website. Invest all your time and energy in it. Wait around for people to find it.

A lot of people are under the impression that if they create a website, the entire world will find it instantly.

Reality check: readers are not going to flock to your site like crazed Bieber fans. After all, the internet is a MASSIVE space.

How big is the internet, really?

“With all their power and market share, Google has only been able to index 0.004% of the internet. That means Google still hasn’t found 99.996% of all websites that exist.” (Source: Web Analytics)

As an ex-web developer and SEO consultant, I beg you, don’t expect miracles here. Feel free to create your own website. A website makes you look more professional. But don’t expect it to bring home the bacon. Not unless you already have a client base.

Instead, let’s focus on what Etsy can do for you.

Etsy’s Rules (aka what you can sell)

Etsy’s House Rules declare that in general, services can’t be sold. BUT there are quite a few exceptions to the rule (and we’re going to use them to get your biz off the ground). Let’s start by reviewing Etsy’s rules below:

  • Any service that does not yield a new, tangible, physical item is not allowed (for example: tailoring, restoring or repairing an item, photographic retouching or color correction are not allowed).
  • Any metaphysical service that promises or suggests it will affect a physical change (e.g., weight loss) or other outcome (e.g., love, revenge) is not allowed, even if it delivers a tangible item.
  • Custom graphic design and digital pattern distribution are allowed. A digital file (for example: .pdf, .jpg, .doc) is considered the tangible, physical item on Etsy.
  • An instructional crafting workshop is allowed as long as it provides the buyer with a tangible, physical item (for example: an instructional booklet, crafting supplies, a finished project that the student created in the workshop).

(taken from Etsy, available here).

So what does this mean for your service-based business?

Examples of Services You Can Sell on Etsy

  • Design Services including: Graphic Design, Web Design, Print Design, and Template Creation
  • Instructional materials like patterns and digital files
  • Workshops, courses, e-books, learning materials (that can be physically downloaded, i.e. as a PDF, JPG, or DOC) are considered A-OK on Etsy
  • Digital assets such as web banners, clip art, vectors, or anything that can be downloaded for client use

Most people take this and run with it. Because Etsy requires you to deliver a “tangible item” with your service, most sellers include an instructional PDF with purchase. This turns your service into a “digital download”.

It’s also a great opportunity to link to a form (and get details about your customer’s project), or provide a link to a video or downloadable file on dropbox.

What You Need to Know if You’re Selling Services

Because services are less “tangible” than other products on Etsy, you need to have a sort of “onboarding” process in place for your new clients.

If you want to be stupid brilliant and make this as easy and possible for YOU, automate the entire thing. Here’s an example:

When I did web design, I included a digital download PDF with each product. It thanked the customer for buying the product. Then it linked to a form (try typeform for this) where customers could tell me about their project (and upload anything I need, like their logo).

I then automated my form to reply to my customer as soon as they pressed “submit”. The client immediately got an email saying that I would be in touch in 48 hours with a mockup.

Want to make it even easier than that? Create a service that clients can COMPLETE themselves.

For example: a how-to workshop on making blog graphics. Give clients a PDF on download with links to an instructional video, and downloadable templates from dropbox. Show them how to edit their graphics step-by-step in your video.

Now there’s some hardcore passive income you definitely shouldn’t pass up 😉

Take the Etsy Makeover Challenge
It’s time to whip out your virtual makeup bag! Get 7 days worth of Etsy hacks, each with tips you can complete in 15 minutes a day. Follow the prompts each day, and you could be making sales next week!


Thanks for Reading!
Hi there, my name is Jenni. You’re reading about the Etsy shop that freed me from the worst job I’ve ever had (and a lifetime of working for somebody else).
Find out what went down here.

Hey guess what? The exact tricks that got me 6-figures sales are waiting for you in the Ultimate Guide to Etsy. This is a 40-page, step-by-step MEGA tutorial that will help you strategize your way to more sales.


I’m Ready to get focused!
Already have a product online but need to sell more of it to make rent? Figure out what’s clogging up your sales with a FREE Shop Critique, waiting for you on the other side of ⇣ this ⇣ button!

You may also like