I think every business owner's story is an underdog story. Most of us worked for someone else, spent our days dreaming of working for ourselves, and usually through a significant change in their life – either forced or voluntary – they finally take real steps towards that dream being a reality. It’s rarely a smooth road, it’s usually a bumpy, curvy, pothole-laden road that can take a long time to get down. Lots of people have asked me about my own journey, so I thought I’d share it in a fun, timeline-style post – showing you that the big transition from day job to self-employed is not a quick or easy one. It takes time, work, and a whole lot of patience.
Here’s a common email I get: “Dear Kelsey, I want to start an Etsy shop but I’m afraid of XYZ,” or “I don’t have XYZ in place first,” or “I’ll never stand out in such a saturated market.” These are roadblocks. Hangups, fears, uncertainties that keep you from moving forward with your goal – opening an Etsy shop, and sharing your product with customers who are eager to buy.But good news! These aren’t real, they're myths. They’re fears that have no basis, because they’re flat out not true.
Are you new to the world of digital products? Or, maybe you've been thinking about adding some to your shop but haven't quite figured out what to offer? In either case, I've got one word for you: ebooks. These little babies are the perfect segue into the digital product world. Never created an ebook before, you say? I gotchu. I've designed many-an-ebook in my day. To make it as easy as possible for you, I've compiled this list of pages to include (and helpful tips!) so you're not just staring at a blank InDesign file. Get excited, you're about to create your very first ebook! (And stick around til the end, there's a brand new mini-class to help you learn even more about our good friend, Ebook.)
If you’re creating a digital product to sell online, a big “ freezing” point for you might be choosing what platform to house it all on. I did SO. MUCH. research on this when I was working on creating my first online course. I got ALL the free trials and read ALL the reviews and clicked Next on ALL the Google pages. And lemme tell ya, there are quite a lot of options out there. They each have their pros + cons, and this is certainly not an end-all-be-all list, but I’ve rounded up some of the platforms I think are the best on the market.
I’ve seen this question asked about a thousand times in about a thousand places, so I figured it was time to shoot straight. This topic can have some varying opinions, sometimes controversial about which way is better. But after trying both methods in the last couple years, I’ve discovered it all boils down to a few different factors to consider.
Online courses. Er'body's making them. They're a great way to share what you know about specific topics, while earning some passive income in the process. But online courses can be beasts. I've said it before – "passive" income is a bit of a misnomer because it glosses over the amount of work that goes into creating the product in the first place. For each of my online courses, I spent a good 4-6 months creating the content + promotion that went into those product launches.
Last week, I talked about a few reasons why Etsy is a good option for selling digital products online. But what’s the number one reason people shy away from selling on Etsy (at least from my unofficial research)? I’ve noticed that most people who are hesitant about selling on Etsy are worried that their product, whether physical or digital, will get lost in the shuffle. And by shuffle, I mean the literally millions of other product listings on the site, thousands of which show up every time a customer types something into that search bar.
There’s no doubt digital products are on the rise, and a common question among newbies looking to break into this billion dollar industry, is where the heck do you sell them? That question elicits tons of answers, and it all depends on your personal preference, your product type, and your selling style as to which one you should host your products on. When most online entrepreneurs list off the best digital product websites, there’s one that doesn’t get included very often but deserves a spot on the list – Etsy.
There can be a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. It’s a gray area that a lot of Etsy shop owners (and even just creative entrepreneurs in general) are afraid to go near. With such a huge platform like Etsy, it's not hard to come across products from different shops that show eerily similar aesthetics or content. When you're just starting out as an Etsy shop owner, or just a creative business, it's easy to look to successful shops and try to emulate their style or ideas. But try to refrain – because there's a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism, and you don't want to be on the wrong side of it.
Digital products are a way of creating passive income for your business. They are basically any type of information product you deliver electronically rather than physically ship. Some popular examples in the creative entrepreneur world would be online courses, video workshops, e-books, PDF guides, worksheets or printables, or design resources like icons, illustrations, stock photos, templates, and more. (See the mega list of digital product ideas included at the end of this post!)
Printables, worksheets, workbooks, planners, guides, PDFs — whatever you want to call them — they’re everywhere. You see them as opt-in freebies for email lists, content upgrades on blog posts, even entire shops full of them (hint, hint…). But you know what you also see a lot of, unfortunately? Bad design. Printables that are overworked and unprofessional, and as a designer, that’s a bummer! I know the creator worked hard on the content, put thought (hopefully) into how the printable could be useful to the customer, but the design lacks function and actually makes it harder for the customer to use the product in the first place.
Anyone who’s considered building an online course has certainly gone down the rabbit hole of searching for the perfect platform to deliver it on. I’m a research junkie when I start a new project, whether it’s for me personally (like buying a car or finding a place to live), or for my business (like creating a new product or trying out a new tool). So when I decided to build my first online course, teaching other creatives how to use the program Adobe InDesign, I did my research. I pretty quickly formed a list of the available platforms for course creation, along with some pros and cons for each. And I just kept coming back to one: Teachery.
Babies. Babies are hard. Babies are sweet and precious and cuddly and a blessing, but babies are really really hard. Add maintaining a business, and babies get even harder. BUT, the cool thing about babies is they give you some lead time before they get here. My pregnancy, albeit an emotional one, was an instrumental period of time for my business. I knew I had nine months to build P+O into something that could help sustain a life for my daughter and me.
Today is a big day for me, guys. Five months ago I started work on a project that would keep me up to ungodly hours. It would involve hours upon hours of planning, creating, writing, designing, strategizing, and more strategizing, and a little more designing, and then some more writing, and writing again. It’s been such a wild ride that had my mind racing with non-stop ideas since the beginning. And then the last two weeks, I hit a wall. I’ve prepped as much as I can prep, quadruple checked that everything’s ready, and I think it’s all catching up to me now. I’m tired, unmotivated, and would rather take a nap than write one more email campaign.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I love a good e-book. One that provides great content — actionable stuff, not fluff — and a clean, easy to follow design is hard to resist. E-books are super popular right now, and for good reason. They make great opt-in incentives or lead magnets, you don’t have to worry about printing anything physical, you can send it directly to your customer with one click, and you can share just about any kind of information using an e-book format. E-books are super versatile, they can be super valuable, but there’s also some bad news… they can be super ugly.
Online courses — they’re so hot right now. Interactive, self-paced online learning seems to be the way of the future, and how cool is that? You can learn anything from anywhere from just about anyone. Watch someone practicing the exact skill you want to master, and learn from their secrets. But if you’re an entrepreneur who’s considered diving into the world of online courses, beware it can get overwhelming. There are tons of new resources and services popping up daily, and all this content can make it tough to actually get started on creating that course idea you’ve had stuck in your head.
In the last couple years, Etsy has grown by leaps and bounds as it works to keep up with changing technology in the world of e-commerce. Selling digital products on Etsy is easier than ever before with a simple, automated system that lets you make money in your sleep. About half of my monthly income comes from passive income from products I have on Etsy. I hesitate calling it passive income, because it really does take a lot of behind-the-scenes and upfront work to get to the point where the income becomes passive. But it is a possibility if you create a unique product that customers actually want.
Today is a big day for Paper + Oats! Today is the day I scrap all my previous design services and packages, and shift focus to a new, more specific niche. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some sneak peeks of the new design services all last week, but today is the official “switch over,” with a couple new pages on my site. This decision came with lots of thought, research, advice from other entrepreneurs, and just a gut feeling that I needed to pivot.