How PaperJuly got started
Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?
Thank you for reaching out for this interview! I’m Dalia. At PaperJuly, I sell digital planning products with a focus on personal wellness, organization, and goal fulfillment. My decision to open an Etsy shop was actually quite unplanned! As an avid knitter and crafter, I had dreamed of setting up an Etsy shop for several years. However, making and shipping physical products always seemed like too great a time commitment. Then, about a year and a half ago, I came across a YouTube video about selling digital products on Etsy. Until that point, I was unaware that Etsy allowed digital items. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally open a shop!
Currently, my shop’s products include digital planners, journals, and notebooks. These items are multi-page PDF files that are organized like their physical counterparts, with internal hyperlinks to navigate through the pages. By opening these products in a PDF annotation app on an iPad or other tablet, it’s possible to digitally write in them in the same manner that you would write in a physical planner.
I chose digital planners as my shop’s main product category for a few reasons. I’ve always been interested in the ways I can leverage technology to stay organized, manage my projects, and make my work more efficient. Digital planners are particularly unique among digital productivity tools in that, unlike many apps, they provide technological advantages while also maintaining much of the design and user experience of physical items. In making my shop’s products, I enjoy having the creative flexibility to combine the proven effectiveness of physical planners, the adaptability of PDF design, and digital interactivity, such as integration with the iPad’s calendar and other apps. Further, without any physical size limitations, digital planners offer the perfect opportunity to create a truly comprehensive planning system. I love the challenge of incorporating day-to-day organization, wellness journaling, finance tracking, and much more into an effective, easy-to-use product.
To make my products, I use graphic design software. My preferred software is the full suite of Affinity apps for Mac: Designer, Publisher, and Photo. To make video tutorials for my items, I use iMovie. I also maintain a Wordpress website, paperjuly.co, for my shop.
What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?
One of my favorite products is my shop’s set of 3,240 hyperlinked digital notebooks. With ten colors and nine design styles, this set offers a multitude of ways to organize and style your notes. My primary aim in designing this product was to create a flexible system of templates that is compatible with a variety of study strategies. To this end, the notebooks contain multiple Cornell Notes templates for productive study. They also include pages in five different pastel colors to help organize ideas and concepts. In addition, the notebooks have smart buttons that can create new iOS calendar events, reminders, and more, all without leaving the notebook! I think the combination of these features—customization, practical study solutions, and iOS integration—is what makes this notebook set one of my best-selling products.
Among my shop’s other products, my set of 7,680 minimalist digital planners is another one of my favorites. This collection took countless hours to create, but I love how many customizations it contains! With multiple layout options, ten colors, and optional iOS integration, it offers so many possibilities to create a planner that fits your needs. My favorite design elements are the pastel gradient color options: rainbow, mermaid, sunrise, and garden. I believe this product’s great flexibility in layout, style, and color is the main reason for its success in my shop.
Getting sales on Etsy
How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?
I actually made my first sale within a few hours of opening my shop! A buyer purchased my pastel blue digital planner. They quickly gave the item a five-star review with an enthusiastic message and a photo. I am so grateful that this buyer chose to purchase from my new shop. Despite this quick start, it took about a week to make my second sale, and traffic did not start increasing significantly until about a month later. To drive traffic to my shop, I currently use only Etsy. I focus on using detailed titles and tags in my product listings to help boost my items’ visibility in Etsy’s search. In the future, I hope to open social media accounts to promote my products, but presently, my goal is to expand my shop’s range of digital planning products.
How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?
I manage my shop by myself. One major benefit of running a digital-only shop is that it’s quite easy to have a flexible schedule, as there is no need to make a new product for every order. As a result, I divide my time between creating new products and answering customer inquiries. The most important part of my day-to-day shop management is assisting customers who encounter technical issues while downloading their purchases. Sometimes, for example, a buyer’s device will prevent them from downloading from Etsy. In answering these help requests, I aim to provide the quickest and most straightforward resolution possible. To this end, I always keep my products on a cloud storage service, such as Google Drive. If a customer encounters an error on Etsy, I can easily give them the cloud storage link to download the files.
Regarding the tools I use to run my shop, I generally use various Etsy keyword finders, such as Alura’s, to search for high-demand, low-competition keywords. This research helps me decide whether a potential new product is worth the time it will take to design and market it. To create my listing images and other shop assets, I use the Affinity app series: Designer, Publisher, and Photo.
The future of PaperJuly
What goals do you have for your shop in the future?
My current short-term goals include creating more digital planners for my shop with new designs and a renewed focus on self-care and personal wellbeing. I’m particularly interested in introducing more products with a neutral, boho aesthetic. I would also love to leverage my past experience as a tutor for middle and high school students to design more education-focused products, such as student planners. For more long-term goals, I hope to start marketing my shop on social media, such as Instagram. I’m also interested in expanding the tutorial section of my website, to offer more tips on digital planning and studying.
Advice for new sellers
What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?
To learn the basics of how Etsy determines your shop’s SEO (that is, when and where your products appear in Etsy searches), I highly recommend reading Etsy’s Seller Handbook! It contains valuable information about using titles, tags, and more to boost your products’ visibility in Etsy’s search. Specifically for digital items, I’ve found that it’s crucial to include very comprehensive instructions with every product. For a cost-free way to make video tutorials on a Mac, I recommend using iMovie! It’s very beginner-friendly, and it’s easy to export your videos for YouTube.
Also on the topic of digital selling, font licensing is one aspect that is easy to overlook. Be sure to check the licenses of any fonts you use in your designs, as all licenses differ! Depending on the font, the license may prohibit commercial use, require you to bundle the license with your product, or only permit use when the font is rasterized or vectorized.
To conclude, if you’re still hesitant about opening an Etsy shop, my advice is to just go for it! You can never predict how successful you’ll be before you try. It’s an incredible opportunity to share your hard work and creativity with people around the world, and it can also be a great way to upgrade your skills in digital marketing, communication, and more. I wish you the best of luck!