As we’ve mentioned, we opened our Etsy shop selling just hand-lettered prints and cards. We knew we wanted to branch out from that but without a printing or design background we first had to figure out how to do all the things we dreamed of doing. I should actually say this in present tense, because that continues to be our approach to things.
Our planners are one of newest products, and while they’re frequently evolving, I feel like we’ve finally really nailed down the basics of them. But, it’s taken SO MUCH blood, sweat, and tears to get to this point. Shout out to our customers who bought our first versions of these, because looking back they were rough but we were SO PROUD that we actually made them, and it was a start.
I know that to an outsider, paper products aren’t complicated and don’t require much skill. I think it’s easy to imagine us just printing out the pages, and how hard can printing be? Well, that’s what our blissfully ignorant selves thought, too! We quickly realized that there’s so much more formatting than we thought, and the steps to a complete planner are extensive. It was a big undertaking to even decide what we’d want in our DREAM planners, and then executing our vision was a process.
We started out with planner pages that were borderless – meaning the ink prints all the way to the edge of the paper – and full of color. It was a colorful, beautiful concept but also looked overwhelming and made the printing prone to errors. That meant SO MUCH wasted paper, wasted ink, and time. We regrouped and redesigned the pages to get rid of those problems, and honestly, I like the cleaner look that we ended up with.
We also learned so much in terms of both formatting and production. Originally, I would print the correct amount of each type of page then stack them up in piles and put them in order by hand. This was fine in the beginning but it was extremely inefficient and time-consuming as more orders came in. I lasted through the Summer/Fall/Winter 2017 rush using this method. With only one working printer that had to be fed back through to print the second side, I made hundreds of planners this way.
Meanwhile, Amber was hand-making our tabs, which was a process in itself before we even added them to our planners. We couldn’t find them in the size we originally wanted, and we couldn’t justify the price of custom tabs, so we made them to start out. This worked fine, but was also extremely tedious and made our products look handmade (even though they are… but you get the point).
We reformatted the size and were finally able to find pre-made tabs that we could order in bulk and manually add to our pages. I also finally spent several hours reformatting the files that we use to print the planners so that we could print them and they’d be in the correct order (minus the tabs). Guys. This. Was. Huge. And again, those of you who are experts would think we’re dense, but it was all part of the learning curve for us. You cannot imagine how much time and error this saves us. Even when our printers mess up we can easily identify the page, reprint, and be on our merry way.
We’ve also made improvements with our covers, evolved the layout, resized it to hide the tabs, and added pages based on feedback and our own experience with them.
From designing, to formatting, to printing, to cutting, to tabbing, to pocketing, to creating and producing the covers, to binding, to packing and shipping, these planners are literally a labor of love. Last fall when our business was growing but our practices were inefficient I was up until 1 most nights producing orders and fielding ALL the problems. I got sick several times, and it was stressful. That’s the ugly side of owning your own business in which you are also the producer.
The beautiful side is that I cannot express how proud I am of our planners. We’ve come so far and I feel like our planners can stand up against the big names not only in terms of looks, but the features and layouts can’t be found anywhere else. I have always loved planners and stationary but would’ve never thought that I could create my own (and I don’t mean the kind that’s 3-hole punched in a binder).
Hopefully this slightly technical post gave you a little more behind-the-scenes look at our process and product evolution!