Meet Colleen Michele – a self-taught graphic designer who loves to spend time outdoors hiking and indoors snuggling with her cat Edgar. You can find lots of her amazing designs in her Zazzle store Colleen Michele which she promotes via her websites Colleen Michele and Pretty Wedding Paper, and on her Pinterest page Colleen Designs.
Tell us a little about you!
I’m from Kansas City, and I now live in Colorado, by way of New York City, New Zealand and Germany! I love nature, science and the outdoors – I live in the perfect place for hiking, climbing and trail running. I also volunteer with the local Forest Service Ranger District.
What is your background in?
My educational background is actually in math and computational science. I’m totally self-taught in design; I started learning graphic design on my own when I was 11. I think the math background really helps in design when it comes to balance, symmetry and attention to detail. My computational science background comes in with coding – for example, I coded a tool that generates pretty mock-up images to promote Zazzle collections on Pinterest or other social media sites (http://colleenmichele.com/pinnable-images). I wouldn’t have made that tool without the programming education I got in college and grad school.
How did you get started with Zazzle? How did you hear about us?
My mom actually got me started on Zazzle! She was making a good supplementary income from Zazzle starting back in 2007. Before I graduated college in 2010, she started a store for me with 100 products. I never thought they would sell, but a few months later my PayPal account was getting $50 here, $75 there, and I thought, there’s something to this Zazzle thing!
After I graduated college, I couldn’t find a job I was interested enough in – so I stuck with it and I’ve been Zazzling ever since! In fact, I put myself through grad school in Germany using my Zazzle income. I didn’t really get into the affiliate game until later – maybe around 2014. It took me a while to find out what works, but the formula that’s working for me now is Pinterest + blog/website, and now referral income from Zazzle and other sources makes up a good chunk of my income.
How do you promote Zazzle products (own website, social media, ect.) and what tools do you use (linking, API, RSS feed, etc.)? How do you choose what products to promote? Which areas do you find the most success in?
I use my own websites, blogs, and my favorite social media tool – Pinterest! I just link to my Zazzle store via my website (colleenmichele.com), or I’ll link to products directly via my blog on colleenmichele.com, or I also have a second blog at prettyweddingpaper.com where I promote other people’s stuff too.
Then I use Pinterest to generate the traffic. People come to Pinterest specifically to get ideas for their home, for parties, for weddings, for outfit inspiration – the list goes on. I think this makes it the perfect platform for marketers to reach customers in a natural, non-salesy way. Plus, it’s not just a social feed – it’s a search engine. Meaning people can search and find your pins months after you first pinned them. Lately I’ve been using BoardBooster to “loop” my older pins – this has really helped with keeping my follower and repin growth steady (boardbooster.com).
What new Associate Program features would you like to see on Zazzle?
For my pinnable images tool, I would like to see a single-product RSS feed, and the ability to consistently get product images with transparent backgrounds. I would also love if there was a way to find out the product dimensions via RSS feed as well.
What advice would you give to a new Associate starting to promote Zazzle products?
I would say, start a blog, or have a blog on your website. Blogs are more trustworthy for consumers, and they’re also really great for SEO. When you’re just starting out, you won’t have a lot of followers on social media or traffic via SEO. I’d recommend making some super helpful posts for your target market to gain some traction – for example, I made a “free wedding fonts” post that went wild on Pinterest and gained me a lot of followers.
Also, and this is really really important, promote things that people want to buy! Keyword and market research is so important for figuring out what products people are searching for in large numbers, and what keywords they are using to search for them. You want to find that sweet spot where there’s a lot of people searching for a keyword, but not a lot of competition. I like to look at Pinterest’s suggested topics to get an idea of popular categories (e.g. https://www.pinterest.com/topics/birthday-invitations/), and then I use Google Keyword Planner to really hone in on specific keywords to use when promoting (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner).
Finally, this is different for everyone but in my experience, quality is more important than quantity. Really taking the time to find high quality products to promote, writing longer blog posts about them with an authentic voice, and crafting promotional images to stand out on Pinterest and Google Image Search, has really helped a lot in terms of getting repins and traffic to my site.