My Journey to Creating a 90-Day Planner - Part Two

create a planner Sep 16, 2020

In part one of my journey to creating a 90-day planner, I shared that I created my planner in just 90 days once I committed to it and dove in! It was a wild ride, with lots of ups and downs and so many lessons learned. In this blog post, I'll walk you through the rest of that journey.

As an international lean business consultant, I was traveling every single week, mostly domestically, but in July 2019 I had a trip to India planned. I decided that was the perfect time to dive in and build out the planner. Why? Because I figured that two 25-hour flights and 2 weeks in a country where I knew no one except my consulting clients would give me a lot of focus time to get it done.

So I packed up tons of supplies - sticky notes, markers, tape, paper - and pulled together a giant inspiration file - and set out on my trip to India.

Getting Started Creating My Planner

My days in India were long.  I would wake up at about 5 am, drink coffee and have breakfast, commute for 2 hours to the office, consult for 10 to 12 hours a day, and somehow fit in calls with my team back in the U.S. at crazy hours.

But I still managed to sneak in an hour or two a day on the planner and went all-in on the weekends.

The hotel staff must have thought I was crazy because every day there were more page mock-ups taped up to my closet wall (see photo below).

At the end of my 2 week trip, I returned to the US with quite a bit of the planner mapped out. Not done, but lots of progress made.

And lots of excitement and momentum to keep going and turn my idea into the physical product I wanted - and to create my planner in the next 90 days!

Creating My Planner in 90 Days

While in India, I committed to a return trip in early September, and I was determined to have the first draft of my planner in hand when I returned.  That meant I only had 90 days to get my planner created, designed, and have the prototype printed.  

I thankfully received my prototype the morning I left for the airport (thank you overnight shipping), and I returned to India with planner in hand!

But that wasn't without a whole lot of twists and turns including some unnecessary expenses and stressful situations including having to fire one graphic designer and find another in a hurry (there was more to finding the right type of graphic designer than I realized).

So there I was on the plane back to India.

Enjoying a celebratory glass of champagne because I had my actual planner in hand - yay! - and ready to dive in and make my final (and what I thought would be minor) edits so I could get the Purchase Order submitted and the planners ordered.

I went into the process thinking that once I had my prototype, the challenges would be behind me.  But unfortunately that was not the case.

Unexpected Challenges in Printing my Planner 

The first big problem I noticed when I got my prototype / proof from the printer was that the paper quality wasn't right.  Even though I had been assured by the printer that this was the paper thickness companies used for their planners, I could see the print through the pages and when I wrote in it the pen bled through.  

Uh, did other companies really use this paper?!  Even if they did, I knew it definitely wouldn't work for the level of quality I wanted!  

So, the first thing on my list was to request another sample and updated pricing with thicker paper. 

I went through the rest of the planner and found a few minor things to change, but overall the design was solid and I was happy.  

As soon as I got settled into my hotel in India, I emailed my printer and shared my feedback about the paper quality and requested a quote for the thicker paper.

It's Going to Cost How Much More?!?

I knew requesting a change in paper would impact the cost estimate, but I was expecting that the thicker paper would cost me a few extra dollars more per planner.  That would have been fine since my profit margins allowed for that. 

What I never expected was that the cost came back 2.25 times more than the previous quote.

Wait, what!? 

It was going to cost me almost as much as I was planning to sell it for and my profit margin dropped down to practically zero. This meant I had to basically start over when it came to finding a printer.

And so my 2 week adventure in India began...

When I wasn't working with my consulting client, I spent every spare minute of time I had researching, sending countless emails, and making 4 a.m. (India time) phone calls with different printers (good thing I added that international calling plan to my phone for the month!). 

The Unknown Unknowns

I learned so much in those two weeks and realized that there are so many factors that go into printing a planner that I never considered. 

As much as I knew about creating and selling physical products through my other businesses, I quickly realized that creating a planner was very different and there were so many unknowns.

It took me a while to understand why my one "simple" request for a thicker paper had such a big impact on price. Luckily, I found a few companies that could print my planner at the level of quality I wanted and for the price and profit margin I wanted as well.

Capturing Branded Photos for Pre-Sales

Even though the printer issues were  incredibly stressful, I made the most of being back in India with my planner and shot as many photos as I possibly could for my website and social media to get ready for pre-sales. 

I knew that I would be replacing the photos once the real planners came in (with their upgraded hard covers and metal bindings), so I focused on capturing a lifestyle vibe in the photos that would speak to my target market. 

After returning to the U.S., I invested in a professional photo shoot with the planner prototypes so I could begin pre-sales.  Rather than having my graphic designer doing a mock-up of the planner, I wanted branded photos, so once again, I focused on lifestyle images and tried to capture highly shareable photos that could be used for the website and social to begin building buzz.

Even though these photos were only of the prototypes, they are still some of my most popular photos and ones I still use today.

Selling My 90 Day Planner

6 weeks later and the planners arrived and I was thrilled with how they came out!

Because you can't get a prototype that includes the hard cover and wire binding, you never fully know what it's going to look like until you get it, so while I had high confidence it was going to good based on the proof, it was a relief to see that the quality was just what I expected.

That meant it was time to start selling my 90 day planner, starting with filling all the pre-orders that came in and then doing my full launch promotions.

I headed back to California where I arranged for another photo shoot to refresh and update the imagery to showcase the new planners and uplevel the brand imagery for my website, social, and marketing campaigns. 

I learned so much throughout my journey creating my 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and felt like I mastered a college course on printing, binding, and paper in the process.  

I have since helped numerous other coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs create, optimize, and monetize their own planner, workbook, or journal for their businesses. 

They were all able to fast track their results and avoid so much of the stress, headache, wasted time and expense with my support, and I'd love to help you do the same. 

Learn How to Create a Planner for Your Business

If you are curious about how to create your very own planner, workbook or journal, I have a free webinar where I share:

  • The top 3 mistakes people make when creating a Planner, Workbook or Journal for their business
  • The critical first 3 action steps you need to take to get your Planner, Workbook or Journal created
  • How to get it created in the next 90 days

You can sign up for instant access here:

I want to hear from you!  What's been holding you back from creating your planner, workbook, or journal?  Comment below.

by Crista Grasso

Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale.  Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business.  She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast


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