How a 33-year-old mom makes $1,000 per month in passive income on Etsy

Julie Berninger.
Photo by Sisino Photography
Key Points
  • Julie Berninger had long been dabbling with side projects when she started her Etsy store in 2017.
  • Initially, she sold temporary tattoos for bachelorette parties, but pivoted to printables because they were easier on her schedule.
  • Her store now brings in about $1,000 per month in passive income.

Julie Berninger had long been dabbling with side projects when she decided to open an Etsy shop in 2017. Berninger and her husband were saving up for early retirement, and Etsy seemed like a viable way to make money on the side.

Her initial shop focus: bachelorette party supplies. "I was in my late 20s and I was going to tons of bachelorette parties," says Berrninger, "and I just knew that there was a market there." Half of bachelorette or bachelor party attendees are willing to spend nearly $1,000 on the event, according to a 2021 study by The Knot.

Berninger started with temporary tattoos "because I wanted something inexpensive to manufacture," she says. But after meeting a woman at a blogging conference who was selling printables on Etsy, she decided to switch course.

Printables are forms or templates such as budget planners, calendars, and Christmas cards that customers can purchase and print out on their own. For sellers, the work is put in up front when they design the item and upload it. After that, the customer does the rest.

Berninger, now 33 and living in Massachusetts with her husband and daughter, now sells an array of printables in her store including bachelorette scavenger hunts, New Year's planners, and resume templates. Her store brings in more than $1,000 per month in passive income.

Only three of her tattoos 'actually were popular'

Berninger initially only put in between $500 and $600 to make a supply of the temporary tattoo designs she wanted to sell in her store. Despite the relatively low cost, she quickly realized her mistake.

"I picked six designs to start and then only three actually were popular," she says. "I still, to this day, have hundreds of bachelorette party tattoos that no one wants." While she'd sporadically sell tattoos in $15 to $20 batches, it was a challenge to balance her full-time job with shipping duties and answering customer inquiries.

When she met the conference attendee selling printables, Berninger realized there was a niche for similar bachelorette party items. "I got rid of all my tattoos in my shop and then I decided to sell the scavenger hunts that were editable," she says.

Successful sellers pay attention to what people want

Berninger saw success with her new printables lineup quickly. "I think I made 70 sales in the course of six weeks," she says. That was in 2018, when bar crawls and scavengers hunts were popular for bachelorette parties.

When the pandemic hit, those events halted, and she needed to figure out a way to pivot her store offerings. She started "focusing on seasonal products," she says. "And then I also focused on entrepreneurial things like templates for small business owners."

How to turn your side hustle into a successful business

Video by David Fang

She now has real estate business templates and Airbnb host templates, among others, in her store.

Though selling printables on Etsy is technically passive income, even with this side hustle, she says, "you need to take your head out every once in a while and just understand what's going on in the world." As people's habits changed during the pandemic, for example, she says, "the sellers that did the best that year were the ones that were paying attention to how things were different and what people actually wanted."

With Etsy, 'you can be nimble and quick'

Berninger teaches an online course about how to start an Etsy store for selling printables. Fellow Etsy printables seller Rachel Jones took the course, and she's been bringing in six figures in passive income from her own store.

When you start "a mini business, like [on] Etsy," says Berninger, "you really can test things and you can be nimble and quick" to pivot when you need to. You don't need to make a big financial investment; you just have to be patient and listen to the market to signal what it's interested in by using tools like Google Trends or Pinterest Trends.

"You're not going to become a millionaire overnight," she says, but if you focus on building your business day-to-day over time, "years pass by really fast, and then you got something big."

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