Etsy Jam Episode 29: Monette from DigitalPapercrafting

In this episode, we talk with Monette from DigitalPapercrafting and ShinyDesigns.  In fact, Monette’s first shop, ShinyDesigns has been around since 2005 – pretty much the dawn of Etsy. Stay tuned to hear all about Monette’s journey, lists, clutter, fan mail, the creative process, criticism and a quick discussion about Etsy SEO.

Meet Monette

Hi, I’m Monette from DigitalPaperCrafting and ShinyDesigns. I’ve done a lot of things, one of which was that I had a local retail store. That was before people bought things on the internet – it was in the early 90’s! The internet was there and it existed but we didn’t have e-commerce.

I moved on from selling retail and became a CPA for awhile before Etsy came out in 2005. I saw right away when it came out in Beta that I might use it one day. Early on in 2006 or 2007 I used to sell quilt patterns. I sold them wholesale for awhile and some of them are on Etsy. I also moved on to do some writing and been able to publish 3 books! The last few years, I have come back to Etsy and I started a digital shop and that is going pretty well. Also, I came back to my other shop Shiny Designs to get it going like it should have been in the first place.

When I first started digital paper crafts, it was right before Etsy started offering digital downloads. A friend of mine encouraged me to do it and I remember I used to use a third party digital download software because at the time, you had to get their email and send them your files. Thankfully, Etsy came out with their hosting where they host your files for you. Because if they didn’t, I probably would not have kept selling digital arts – it was just too much hassle!

What was Etsy like back then?

I’ll tell you one thing from Etsy from the beginning, they’ve made good progress from the start. It was a new company way back. But man, the back-end of it still looks about the same. They changed some things like that new Listings Manager and a few but some of the other stuff are just old, almost vintage! It’s been that way since!

What are the other places online that you’ve setup shops with?

I have an Amazon Handmade account right now. I have not built it out because you know, there’s only so many hours in a day and I’ve proven that I tend to go from project to project. This is my biggest downfall as I quickly get interested in the next shiny thing.

How do you structure your time?

It dawned on me that working at the computer for long periods tended to make me tense, fidgety, and anxious. This isn’t good for me! So I started limiting it to an hour or two at a time. I actually had to set up a timer because you can get lost in it! It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been doing that and I find that I’m spending less and less time at my computer.

I also like to do a short to-do list. It’s not long, maybe about 6 items and some of it are easy so they get crossed-out super fast. There’s also a Today list. Like today, I wanted to do some gift listings for Christmas in my Etsy shop. I find that having a Today list tends to keep me from just getting lost in checking Facebook, etc.. It keeps me a little bit more on the task at hand.

Fan Mails

I get some emails from customers and I call them fan mails. Most of the time I get things like “I really like your work!” so I always respond to that (because it would be rude not to!). I keep those in a little folder in my inbox that says “Fan Mail”.

Criticizing your own Work

I don’t teach art but I have taken a class here and there. I remember people always looking at their work and criticizing it. They see little imperfections in their work because they are just so close to it!

Back off! I tell them to back off because you’re never gonna be finished. No one’s gonna be viewing that piece of art, or that painted wall, or that stained woodwork from 6 inches away! They’re gonna be 3 feet or better. So back off already. It’s amazing how changing your perspective and backing off will do for how good something looks. And don’t point out the errors. Just don’t do that!

If you’re too familiar with it, you’re gonna know every single thing that went wrong. Don’t tell people your mistakes. I’m not saying to put work out that has mistakes in it necessarily. There’s that balance between “I gotta make it perfect” which means you’ll never be finished or I have to make it “good enough” to release to the world. Make it good enough, with good quality, and have standards.

Handling Criticisms

Criticisms seems to be another thing that seems to undo creative folks when it comes to “Is my work good enough?” Critics of your work are everywhere. I mean everywhere. Some of them are well-meaning, some of them are completely thoughtless, and some of them are outright malicious. There’s that and also the question of how to take criticism.

If you don’t know how to take criticism, I would argue that you are really not ready to be able to put work out there and to let it go in the world. You’re gonna have to be able to make something, create it, give it life, and let it go. That’s what you do. You have to release it into the world to fend for itself and it WILL get criticism. There are only a few ways to deal with that – you can either completely ignore it (which is not helpful) or look at the criticism you got and ask yourself:

  1. Where did it come from? Who criticized you? Was it your snarky sister-in-law? If the source is someone who actually has some bearing of knowledge in your subject, maybe you should listen.
  2. You have to look at the meat of the criticism. I have had some really ugly criticism of some of my work. Some of it has merits, some of it are baseless. So you have to look at the criticism and look at the part of it that you agree or disagree with. That will bring you to a point where you can take the criticism that you’ve got and then make a plan to address the weaknesses.

That gets you to taking criticism and taking it for what it’s worth. Not blowing out of proportion and not dismissing it entirely.

It’s like basically taking all kinds of criticism and making it constructive whether or not it’s intended to be constructive in the first place.

Tips on Writing Copy

List your features and your benefits. For example:

Features = Benefits

Recycled Materials = it’s green and you’re helping the Earth.
All-in-one Kit = you don’t have to go buy anything and saves you time.

That’s how I do it. Sort of a mechanical approach. Feature Feature Feature, then Benefit Benefit Benefit.

Tips on Finding Keywords

A lot of people struggle with this. When I think of something, I’m just naturally not going to think of searching for something the same way that everybody else in the world is gonna be searching for it. Or the same way my customers are gonna be searching for it. It helps a lot to ask that exact question and ask people how they would search for it. Show them a picture of something you put together and ask “What would you type in to Google to find this?”

In Marmalead there’s also a Rock Your Photos Report so if you’re interested, these gets sent out to people who do shop on e-commerce. We ask them to describe how they would search for it. It’s a cool way of generating a bunch of ideas of how people might look for something that you might not even considered.

You can also send it out to people you know on Facebook to get the same kind of response and that’s a great place to start if you really don’t know where to start. Then you can take those keywords into the Storm feature inside Marmalead and see where it goes from there. This is a good way to attack this problem.

Why Renewing Matters

I think the reason they give so much weight to freshly renewed listings is because it’s a way of distinguishing who is really committed and who’s not. What they do is that they put a little money on it. 20 cents is not a lot. It can add up but it’s not a lot.

You’d be surprised how many people are opposed to spending that 20 cents. You know what, it’s between being way over here at the bottom where no one’s going to see me and spending 20 cents and popping up at the top where I could actually be purchased. What people don’t realize is that placement where you might renew your way to stay at the top for awhile is that once you start to get some sales momentum, you’ll stay there. Every time you sell you’re gonna get renewed and secondly, once a listing is doing well – you can go from ranking really well on a less competitive keyword to rank on just about any keyword. It’s all possible because for Etsy, you have a proven track record. These are things we’ve observed, heard from shops, and then also Etsy admins have confirmed!

Why Some People Don’t Get the Results They Were Expecting

Sometimes people would come to us and say “Hi, I’m on this page and I’m ranked but I’m not getting the views I am expecting.” But if you go and look at that search, you’ll see that their listing images are not as engaging as the other ones. It’s not standing out, it’s not really popping off the screen, it’s not screaming ‘Click me!’ And if people aren’t clicking it, Etsy will remove it. For those that have been in retail, if something is taking prime real estate in your shelf and people are not touching it, it goes to the back of the store! There are other factors at play and all that other stuff is important too because if you don’t do the SEO fundamentals, then you won’t even be considered!

In this episode, we talk with Monette from DigitalPapercrafting and ShinyDesigns.  In fact, Monette's first shop, ShinyDesigns has been around since 2005 - pretty much the dawn of Etsy. Stay tuned to hear all about Monette's journey, lists, clutter, fan mail, the creative process, criticism and a quick discussion about Etsy SEO.

Etsy Jam Episode 28: Original Spin

Is anything really original anymore? Is it possible to create something completely original? Has everything already been done? In this episode Richie and I seek to answer these questions.

What is Original?

Original means that it is the first time something has ever existed. Well, nothing is original anymore. But that’s okay. It does sound kinda depressing if you think about it but the key is to change your perspective. Any time anyone plays any note on any musical instrument, that note has been played before. Even if this is the first time anyone has played the trumpet, and they played a concert B-flat, that note has been played before. That’s been heard before, it’s just on a different instrument and it sounds like a different instrument. So it could get kind of depressing when you think about it like that.

The important way to think about it is that these things that get derived from other things can still be original. This could be the first time anyone has put this different instruments together and played a piece of music that is in this style. Maybe that style has been played before on other instruments. But this is the first time that it happened for this and in this situation with these specific pieces and components. And that in it of itself is original.

How can this help my shop?

The whole point of this is that even if you have this mindset that nothing is original anymore and everything is a derivative of something else; don’t get caught up in that. When you’re making something, don’t feel like it has to be something that’s never been done before.

If you see something somewhere else that is sort of similar to what you want to make, try to make it original. Make it your own. To make it original doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch and start all over again and come up with something that is never been seen before anywhere else. It’s okay to take something that someone else is doing and make changes to it to make it your own. Make it better than you think they’re doing it. Maybe make it fit a slightly different niche than they are targeting with their product.

The Problem with People Copying Other People

Copiers will never be innovators themselves. They will be stuck in a ‘copying rut’. So if someone does copy your stuff – it sucks and they are horrible people. But they also will never have the originality that you have which drove you to do this and that, and it will drive your future further and further beyond what they could ever do. You will always be ahead!

But how do I differentiate?

With all these being said, differentiation, iterating on and adding your own ideas to things that already exist in the world, is a great way to actually showcase your own innovation. But to get out of what we call ‘creativity blocks’; get out of the standard where if you’re not doing the totally next groundbreaking thing – then you don’t feel like you’re contributing. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and think:

“Here’s the thing, here’s the problem and the existing solutions; how can I make them better?”

Inspiration is everywhere. Look at things and look at problems you are passionate about. Anything anybody buys solves a problem. Adding aesthetics to things tend to be something that we really like in modern culture because we don’t have the same needs we used to.

Not Everyone Is Your Customer

A thousand true fans is a concept that pertains to art and music. It says that you don’t need to be a huge main headline band traveling the world to have a lifestyle supported by your passion in art. What you really need is a thousand true fans who are willing to show up every time you do a show, buy your CDs, buy your merchandise and etc.. A thousand true fans that support you because they love and care about what you do.

Final Thoughts

Stop putting yourself to too high of a standard, understand there’s always room for improvement, and add your passion to stuff. Even if it’s jewelry, there’s always room to go in a different direction.

Get out there and make things better. Make them your own, get unstuck, be positive, and see how you can change things for the better!

Is anything really original anymore? Is it possible to create something completely original? Has everything already been done? In this episode Richie and I seek to answer these questions.

Products That Stand Out in a Crowd

This post is about products that stand out in a crowd of similar products, and I couldn’t think of a better real life example than the wine section of the grocery store.

First a little background. I like red wine. The end… just kidding. The truth is we appreciate red wine, and also not enough to actually learn anything about it. That second part is very important. Many of your customers will appreciate what you sell, and also not know exactly what they’re looking at. I say this because product experts can look at something and either A) know all the key players in the industry to everything is recognizable or B) they know what they’re looking at and can spot subtle queues of quality (or in this case they can make sense of a wine label).

So what ridiculous method of selection would barbarians like us employ ?

Ready for it?

1) Price

2)  Interesting labels.

Like I said, I’m far from a wine expert. Want to know if it’s red or white? I’ve got your answer. Beyond that, I’m clueless. So this means pricey wine is out of the question. It also means that I can’t spot a bargain either. For me that means cheap wine = bad time. So I look at the middle shelf. As I’ve said before so many times, price is part of your product.

Once I have my selection area squared off the fun begins. I’m looking for interesting labels. Remember, I can’t understand what gibberish they’re pitching on the labels so this is the best I can do.

Here they are again, the seven bottles I collected just for this post.


By wine bottle standards, these stand out on the shelf and for different reasons I chose each of them. I’ll explain one by one. Let me also make the blanket statement that all of these did actually taste good. This system may have it’s flaws, but we’re happy with the results.

Educated Guess


How often do you see a blackboard with interesting science formulas on a wine label? It’s a first for me. The name sealed the deal, Educated Guess. I’m a big fan of making and testing guesses. I had to drink this wine. Most of the neighboring labels were boring fonts on off white labels. This one stood out with white writing on a black background AND orange name. It’s that simple, and they wouldn’t have won my business if they hadn’t grabbed my attention first.

Paso Creek


Off white label? Check. Basic font? Check. That tree though… and wait, look closely, there’s something in the tree looking at you. There’s something intriguing and calming about this tree. Even as I write this, I can’t stop looking at it.

Dark Horse


The silver label is a bit different. It’s somewhat shiny and stands out from the bottom that’s darker filled with wine (I could have photographed prior to consumption. whoops. 20/20 hindsight). Check out that negative space though. The horse head is left aligned with the text. I can’t help noticing this label. Then comes the name. Dark Horse. Wikipedia defines this as, “A dark horse is a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed.”. Ever feel that way? Me too. Again, had to drink this wine.

Layer Cake


Okay, this one will be really really short. The label has cake on it! Do I have to explain what’s going on in my head when shown a photo of cake? I didn’t think so. Wait, are you still reading or have you already left to get yourself some cake too?



This one feels the fanciest of the flock. I think it’s the duck. It has a majestic look to it. It’s maybe a little smug too. I didn’t notice it the first time around. That duck doesn’t even care I’m here. The name is large and all caps, DECOY. The font below is cursive (fancy) and there’s a lot of white space on that label. Overall it says very little. I must know more, and so I did.

19 Crimes


You may be thinking what I was when I first saw this. What are these people thinking with a label talking about crime and a grungy old picture as the label!?! Well it worked. I had to know what this was about.

It’s an interesting story…

“Nineteen crimes turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of a least one of the 19 crimes were sentenced to live in Australia, rather than death. This punishment by “transportation” began in 1783 and many of the lawless died at sea. For the rough-hewn prisoners who made it to shore, a new world awaited.

As pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick.

This wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.”

After this bottle taught me so much and I spent a few moments of thought holding it, I would have felt silly not buying it. Another victory for the brave wine label.

The Show


Arguably this one stands out the most. It looks like they literally shrunk down a rodeo poster and slapped it on a bottle. Red letters, huge yellow sun with black rider and horse over top. Need I read anymore? Nope. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the two red wines you’ll see me with. The other is Merlot by the way. If this is the show they have for me on the outside, I can’t wait to try what’s inside.


Every one of these bottles grabbed my attention in some way. Maybe I like bold marketing. Things that stand out and break convention. Some of these may not be ones you’d personally choose. That’s okay because you can’t appeal to everyone.

I imagine these wineries realize shoppers like me are intimidated by the wine aisle. We don’t know what we’re looking for, not a clue in fact. We’re looking for a beacon of hope, something to save us from the awkwardness that comes from feeling horribly uninformed. These rebels looked at the crowd and chose to be remarkably different. They lit their torch and guided me out of the unknown and into something I could feel good about. The label is cool.

Why This Matters to You

If you sell a product purchased as a gift, chances are they’re not comfortable with choosing a product the way an end user would be.

If you sell to someone that’s new to your category, they may not be comfortable with where to start.

If you sell to someone that’s been around a long time, they may want to see a fresh perspective.

In every case, bold moves that grab attention are winning moves. Attention is at a premium, and fitting in is like hiding out.

Where to go from here? Well we have two options that you should look at here

Rock Your Photos – How do your listing’s photos perform? Get a custom report from real shoppers that scores the quality, appeal and clickability of your photos as well as a slew of keyword suggestions for your listing!

Entrepreneur’s Library – Do you spend enough time learning? Top performers in every industry are constantly learning to stay ahead. The Entrepreneur’s Library is just what you need to go beyond SEO and into a master of eCommerce. Welcome to the club. This library is growing every month and next two courses are copywriting and photography so what are you waiting for?

Photo credits to Allie Peplin. Thank you Allie!


Etsy Jam Episode 27: Rachel from RachelsJewelryShoppe

In this episode we talk with Rachel from RachelsJewelryShoppe. Rachel started designing in her early twenties and then started her own company. She had wholesale relationships with about 100 specialty boutiques all over the east coast as well as retail private sales. Tune in for another jam-packed Etsy Jam!

Sneak Peek of Marmalead’s Origin

We brainstormed about a lot of things. It all started with the idea of “Marketing Made Awesome”. So that would be like “MMA” or maybe “MAR” which is short for marketing. That’s where we got the “Marma”. The “lead” bit came because we were thinking marmalade.

A lot of people confuse us with “marmalade” and during our brainstorming, we thought “Ooh, we could be like ‘marmalade’ but instead of the actual food, we could say ‘lead!'” – because we’re aiming to be educational leaders.

Meet Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel from RachelsJewelryShoppe. This was back in my 20’s. I was buying too much jewellery then and it cost me a lot of money until I decided that I should just start making my own. So I got the materials and I got the designs. It came up pretty nice actually and some of my friends asked me to make them some. I said no because I had a full time job at the time. I’m a dental assistant by trade and that’s what I’ve been doing for my young age.

It was pretty funny because one day, I walked into a bank and the teller got all excited about what I was wearing – my necklace, my earrings, the whole set. And the teller asked me “How much are you selling that for?”

I gave her a price and she said “I’ll take it!”. Take note I was depositing money at the bank! Then I said:

Rachel: “Sure, okay so you wanna call me later?”
Teller: “No no, now.”
Rachel: “Ummmm okayyyy

So I immediately was taking the jewelries off. I don’t have any gift boxes or anything. I just made myself a pair of earrings and a necklace! Meanwhile, she was excited as I took it off and I left the bank pretty much with nothing. No jewelries, no nothing except that I made money which by the way I deposited right away into my account.

I left the bank and called my husband then and I told him what happened. That’s when I started thinking maybe I have a business on my hands. My friends started buying the jewelries and paying real money for it – and that was very cool.

Very quickly I got to a point where I know I couldn’t do it myself. I needed a partner so I brought in a partner. He actually put up some capital which was nice because money was an issue as I already quit my job just so I could do the jewelries. He was basically out on the road, selling jewelry and showing them the product line while I handle designing.

The 2008 Crisis

It was awful. Before that, the stores were ordering from me every few weeks. Everything’s going well and people are coming in and asking for my jewelry. Suddenly I wasn’t getting orders for 2 to 3 months. Because listen, when the economy drops and you’re running out of money for food, you’re not going to buy jewelry. That’s one of the first things to go.

The company folded because it just wasn’t working. We gave it some time but after half a year I realized that I would need something else. So I went back to my dental roots and got a job in the dental field again because I needed the money to stay afloat.

What is it about the wholesaling that you wouldn’t want to do with the jewellery again?

Part of the problem, we made a mistake. This is something that my partner and I had been discussing and we were kind of debating if we really had to do it or not. What we have been doing at the time was when a store placed an order; we would have a two week lead time. We tell them that it’s handmade and it takes time to make etc. etc.

My partner insists that we live in a world where everything is instant and people want everything right away. When they place an order, we need to be able to get it to them right away; within 2 – 3 days.

Well, now it means you have to buy materials, having inventory, stocks, and you really have to start mass producing. We started mass producing things and we were making 50 to 100 of each design hoping that it would sell. I’m usually pretty good at that and when I finish designing, I’m proud of it and get very excited about selling it.

What happened was we had a ton of inventory. We sunk a lot of money into it – then everything crashed! We had a few good sales and then very quickly, everything crashed. I had lots of inventory and it wasn’t going anywhere. That was our downfall.

Tell us about how you do your Photos

I decided to do something a little crazy. I watched many many many videos, tutorials, and read blogs when I started.

Going back to last May or June, that’s when I started getting active again with my Etsy shop. Basically the entire summer, all I did for 12 hours a day is photography. This entire summer, I was so busy with photography that we didn’t even go to the pool or the beach even once! I was catching the good sunny days so I could take pictures and took a lot of books out of the library. Jewellery is one of the hardest things to take pictures of because of all the reflective surfaces.

What is your medium in learning new things?

I’m much more of a visual person. In fact, I had taken some college courses last year because I thought maybe I wanted to do ultrasound technology. So I went back to college and I actually was sitting with 18 year olds in class. I could have taken them all online. I could have taken the online courses but I am visual – I like having a teacher and I like to be able to ask questions and get answers.

I also like to watch tutorials, or listen to tutorials in the background when I was editing or taking my pictures.

Closing Thoughts

The only message I want to tell people who are new is be overwhelmed because you will be. You will be! Prepare for that and just go with it. I think the main message is that it’s not instant. It’s not just going to happen overnight. There’s no magic sauce. It’s going to take time. So if you’re like me, you gotta have more patience and you have to do all these stuff. You have to do social media, you have to post, you have to do this and you have to do that. Eventually it will take off but have the patience, stay positive, and be a baby! Be a baby and keep walking.

In this episode we talk with Rachel from RachelsJewelryShoppe. Rachel started designing in her early twenties and then started her own company. She had wholesale relationships with about 100 specialty boutiques all over the east coast as well as retail private sales. Tune in for another jam-packed Etsy Jam!