Welcome to Episode 35 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. How I use my planner to help my craft selling business – and how you can do the same..
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Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number Thirty-Five – How to Use a Planner to Boost Your Sales – Craft Seller Success Podcast 35
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
An essential tool in the running of my business is a yearly planner. So today I am going to tell you a bit about how I use it on a day-to-day basis, what it does for me and why you also might benefit from using one.
I have never been one of those people who just magically remember things. Even as a child I usually had a notebook nearby to remind myself of events and things I needed to do. There were always to-do lists and scribbles on the backs of envelopes when I was around.
But I was still always disorganized and forgetting stuff.
I managed to muddle through my school years, and into adulthood. Feeling more and more stressed at my inability to get myself organized properly.
Back in the early 90s, I was at home all day with my young son, and to help with the household income I began making and selling miniature teddy bears by mail order. After my son started school, I began going out to work part-time, whilst still making the teddy bears, and began an Open University degree… and suddenly my life was very busy!
Organization became a must and I turned to planners to help me keep track of everything. Whilst they did help, I didn’t feel I was really using them very well though. Things got left out. Things got lost. And there were gaps where I just forgot to use them. It was all very frustrating.
After a couple of years of using cheap diaries and year planners, I invested in my first Filofax. It was a lot more than I usually paid, but the theory was that because it cost me a lot, I would feel I had to use it!
Well, that theory worked. I started using the Filofax planner every day and soon it was a habit that I still have right up to the present.
A Quick Summary of different planners
Nowadays, there are so many different planners available, it can be overwhelming knowing which to choose!
And you can easily use many regular diaries as planners, especially the larger ones with more room to write in.
The only real difference that I can see between a diary and a planner is that planners often have additional pages to help one, well, plan things. Though plenty of books that are marketed as planners don’t have those.
When shopping for a planner, be sure to check what is included inside to see if it suits your requirements.
I have tried quite a few types of planners over the years, including 4 different sizes of Filofax.
I used the Personal size Filofax for years, that is the A6 size one, the size most people associate with the Filofax brand. Many people love this size, and it is pretty portable. My Filofax had a zipper around it and was designed for people on the go, so they didn’t lose bits of paper etc out of the planner. But this zipper also meant that the pages didn’t properly spread open, and I found it rather difficult to write on them without removing and replacing them – which was annoying.
I swapped to a regular Personal Filofax, and that was much better!
One year I tried the mini version. This size is probably great if you need to carry your planner around, as it fits easily in a handbag. But, for me, it wasn’t really big enough to fit in all the info wanted.
And then I went up to the A5 size, which I instantly liked and is the size I have mostly used for the past 10 years or so.
The Filofax planners are very much like traditional diaries. They are pre-printed with the dates for the year on each page. You just remove last year’s pages from the ring binder, pop in the current ones, and you are ready to start planning.
Because the planner pages are held in a ring binder, you can also include other pages. This is a really useful feature, which I will mention again later on.
In 2020 I tried a do-it-yourself bullet journal. A bullet journal is simply an empty notebook, with tiny, faint dots all over each page, in a grid. You have to fill in the pages for each day, month and so on. The dots help you draw neat boxes and tables. Because nothing is pre-printed, you can customise this exactly how you want it.
This is ideal if, for example, you need more space on some days than others. Or you wanted to add extra space for a busy month. Or you wanted to include stuff that is not in a regular pre-printed planner.
Bullet journals are very popular with artists and crafters as you can combine the practical planning function with creative decorations and embellishing. If you have a look for “bullet journals” on Pinterest you will see that many users greatly enjoy creating beautiful pages.
The original bullet journal concept was for a very functional planner. You don’t have to embellish it, you can make it just how you like.
A bullet journal also usually contains additional info, such as trackers to ensure you are doing things that need repeating or to monitor your progress over time. I will talk more about trackers later in this article.
I liked many things about the bullet journal system, such as the ability to completely personalise it. But I didn’t like that it took SO long to get it all ready for the start of the year.
Many of the people who use bullet journals seem to only create one month at a time, throughout the year. But I wanted something where I could plan ahead and needed a full year ready to go.
So I doubt I will ever use a bullet journal as my main planner again, but I do still use bullet journal techniques for studying and notetaking, which I may discuss in a future article.
In 2021 I used an A4 Smart Fox Planner Deluxe (link in the show notes). This is a very handsome planner, and I found the lovely look and feel inspired me to keep using it! The planner is undated, so although the boxes and other content are preprinted, you do have to go through and add all the actual dates. This allows you to start the planner at any point during the year. Filling in all the dates took quite a while, though nowhere near as long as doing the bullet journal!
The Smart Fox planer has a lot of extra pages with trackers and graphs to help you plan your goals for each month, and analyse how well you did with them. At first, I enjoyed this feature but didn’t really have time to fully embrace it for the full year. Looking back, perhaps I should have tried harder as I was finding it useful.
The additional content lends itself very well to craft sellers for monitoring your business.
I suspect I will be using another of these lovely planners in the future, though I will go for the A5 next time.
In 2022 I went back to my Filofax. I also used it for the first 3 months of 2023, and then I got an A5 BoxClever predated planner, during a sale, which I intend to use for the rest of the year. The main reason for this change is that my trusty Filofax binder has recently started looking a bit scruffy.
I will no doubt use Filofax again though, but I will be investing in a leather cover this time. The one I had was faux-leather, and it started to crack and fall apart around the edges (though, considering how long I have had it and used it, I can’t really complain about that).
Nowadays, a lot of people are using digital planners instead of physical ones. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I still like my tangible planner. I do use digital to-do lists, reminders and other apps though, which I will talk more about in a future article. Perhaps it is just that the physical planner is so quick and easy to grab and look at, and can work in a power cut!
I think the artist in me likes being able to doodle and draw in my planner too.
Digital planners are very like physical planners, indeed most seem to try hard to look like the physical versions.
They have the advantage that you can easily change or delete things, without them looking messy. Some include the option to set reminders or alarms, which can be very useful. Also, some allow you to quickly enter repeating items in one go – a real time saver if you want to add something to remind you to put the rubbish bins out every single week for a year!
Many of the digital planners I have seen are aimed at iPad users, with considerably fewer options for Android tablet owners. As I have an Amazon Kindle Fire, I have even less choice and have never found a digital planner I would want to use. If anyone out there knows of one, please let me know and I am certainly game to give it a try!
You can use a simple calendar app, such as Google Calendars, as a planner, by the way. Whilst it will not be able to do some of the things that the more dedicated planning apps do, it does have reminders and many other useful features.
Whichever type of planner you use, the ways you can use them tend to be the same.
So What Do I Do with My Planners?
You may now be wondering, what exactly do I put in these planners, and why are they essential tools for my small business? So let me tell you…
A One-Book Wonder
For me, my planner is one book that stays by my side at all times. It holds everything I need in one handy place. Over the years I have changed the way I use it, and exactly what I put in it, and now I have a system that works well for my business model, and lifestyle.
I will tell you about some of the things I use my planner for. Many of these could be useful for any craft seller. Others may not suit your particular business model.
Some people like to combine work, home, school, family and so on in just one planner, others like to keep these separate. The great thing is that you can create a planner system that works well for you.
In this article, I will be talking about the uses for craft sellers in particular, but will occasionally mention how planners can be used for personal and other things too.
Events and Reminders
One of the main uses of a planner is to record upcoming events and other things you don’t want to forget.
Here are some of the various things for which I have used my planner as a reminder tool:
- Holidays and events that may affect my sales
- Postal rate changes
- Meetings – both in real life and online
- Craft fairs, shows and exhibitions
- When a sale or offer is due to end
- When I am planning to start a promotion or sales event
- Subscription fees due
- When magazines relevant to my niche come out
- When payments are due to me
- When tv or radio shows related to my niche are on
- Podcasts I follow
- When an eBay auction I am following will end
- Birthdays, doctor appointments and other personal things
A handy hint – I often make a note in my planner, one week or so before an important event, to remind me it is coming up. This is handy to give me time to prepare where necessary.
I make use of the planner to remind me when I temporarily change things in my Etsy shop or blog. For example, coming up to Christmas, I will add the last posting times to my shop announcement for my two physical product shops. I have a reminder for this! And I then write another reminder to change the announcement back again once the Christmas shopping period is finished.
Planning Blog Posts
I use my planner to note when I post new blog posts (and what they were about) and to schedule new ones.
At the back of the planner, I have a page with ideas for new posts, which I add to as I think of things.
Planning Social Media
I am currently not using social media very much, but many craft sellers regularly do, and swear by it! The planner can be a very helpful tool for keeping your social media up to date, and on target and help prevent it from overtaking your life!
If you like to post regularly, you can add a note or sticker to your planner to remind you a post is due. Trackers are also great for this, as you can see, at a glance, when you have been posting.
And, you can use your planner to plan and monitor advertising or marketing schemes using social media.
Even if you don’t post much on social media, your planner can remind you to check the feeds of people or brands you follow.
If you find you tend to spend too long on social media, you can use your planner to pencil in specific times for it, so you are still getting your important tasks done first.
Another way that my planner helps me, is I use it to keep track of when I need to perform various routine actions which it would be really easy to forget otherwise.
For example, on the first of every month, I have a reminder to download the previous month’s accounts from Etsy, to record that month’s stats and download lists of expenses etc.
If it is a routine that may end or change at some point during the year, I might add a reminder for the next occurrence when reaching the current one, rather than filling them all in advance for the year. But if I can, I add them all to a new planner so they are ready for when the year starts.
I have these things set up as reminders in my to-do list app on my phone as well, but I find seeing them in my planner is very handy.
I usually use stickers to help these reminders stand out on the page. I used to use coloured stars and circles, but have now designed custom stickers which I print and cut myself. I hope to offer some of these in my online shops in the future, as I am sure other people may find them useful too.
Here are some of the other routine things that I add to my planner:
- Back up my blog and standalone shop
- Back up Etsy takings and other data to a portable hard drive, and online cloud storage
- Back up photos and graphics
- Back up Paypal and credit card transactions
- To check affiliate links and their sites
- To run antivirus and Malwarebytes scans, to keep everything on my computers safe
- To check new magazine releases on Readly for useful articles
- To renew subscriptions
- To do quarterly shop audits – for more on this see Craft Seller Success Podcast Episode 15 – A Shop Audit for Craft Sellers
- To prepare and submit taxes
- To regularly check notices and forums for marketplace sites such as Etsy
- Regular stock and packaging material audits
When I receive payments from my Etsy shops, I note them in my planner on the date they were paid to me This not only serves as a simple backup of the information, but I can quickly look back to see when I last received the money. I also have a note of when the next payment is due.
I have a page in my planner where I record each month’s earnings for my three Etsy shops.
Whilst this information is of course recorded already in my proper accounts, I like having it to hand in my planner for quick reference.
I also have trackers for affiliate income, book sales and other income streams.
Waiting For and Reordering Things
I write in my planner when I purchase things online. This serves as a quick way to check when I ordered something if it seems to be taking a while to get to me.
I often add the prices too, so I can quickly check when reordering – and, where I can, to make a note to check stock when I predict I am likely to be running out.
For example, I have written a note, every couple of months, to remind me to stock up on a particular packaging product.
When my business was very new and very tiny, I recorded all my accounts in my planner. Now the proper accounts are separate, but I still like to note some things for future reference.
I have also added reminders to stock up on supplies and packaging materials in plenty of time for busy periods such as Halloween and Christmas.
Info I Need to Hand
One big advantage of ring-binder type planners such as Filofax is that one can include pages with all sorts of useful information, without needing to rewrite it in a new planner every year.
This is one of the reasons I tend to favour the Filofax brand.
It has a lot of business info stored in it from previous years, much of which can still be used, such as branding details and contacts. So even when I am not using it as an actual planner for a particular year, it is still a useful data storage system to keep on hand.
Some of the information I like to keep in my planner includes:
- My branding guidelines – such as the RGB codes for the colours used on my website and branding, and the sizes of pictures on my blog and product listings
- The ideal sizes for pictures on social media platforms etc
- A list of websites that have useful information I might require
- The current postal rates for my products
- Lists of books, courses and so on that I want to check out when I can
- The contact details for supplies and packaging materials that I regularly buy
- Checklists of how to do things that I only do now and then, such as how to format a book for publishing
- A list of Craftsy, Open University and any other courses I have done – or plan to do
- A list of audiobooks I have listened to and might want to refer to again
- A list of reference books I have read and might want to refer to again
For the last two items (the audiobooks and physical books) I also note down what the book was about, and anything I might want to look up again at a later date.
Trackers are popular with bullet journals but can be used in other types of planners too.
Basically, it is a list of things you need to do regularly, with boxes to tick each time you actually do it. So you can be sure you have done it regularly.
Some planners come with tracker areas you can fill in, or you can create your own in the notes section at the back of the planner. Or stick a couple of extra pages in, if necessary.
I currently have weekly trackers that include:
- Checking the Etsy forums for announcements
- Updating plugins on my websites
- Updating my accounts
- Cleaning my craft table
- Social media posts
- And more
I have monthly trackers for:
- Running antivirus checks
- Backing up my websites
- Downloading financial information and backing it up
- Checking affiliate sites
- And many of the routine tasks I mentioned earlier
Many people also like daily trackers – ideal if you regularly forget to check your email account!
If you are a regular follower of the Tin Teddy Blog or have listened to the Craft Seller Success Podcast, then you will know that I am a big fan of setting goals.
I plan my goals using mind mapping software, as described in the Craft Seller Success Podcast episode 14, Goal Setting for Craft Sellers. Once I know what I want to do, and how I am going to break it down into manageable tasks, I can add the tasks to my planner.
Having cut-off dates to do things helps motivate me, and I get so much more done since I started this habit.
I also add little motivational comments to my planner to help keep me going. I have stickers with positive things printed on them, and I regularly go through my planner and add them randomly. I also add motivational stickers or comments about my goals to remind me of why they are important and how good it will feel to reach them. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does help me.
I have found that setting specific dates and times to do things has significantly helped me get more organized. It is easy to write something on a to-do list, and then ignore it. Now I try to write the things that need doing into my planner, so I know when I will be doing them. And I tend to then actually do them.
The planner lets me see what I have planned for any particular day, so I can prioritize the most important tasks, and move any if needed.
Having a planner with “month to a view” can help with this. It is easier to see, at a glance, how crowded different parts of the month are. If you spread your tasks out, you are less likely to feel flustered and overwhelmed, and more likely to get the tasks done.
I write down many business landmarks in my planner, such as when I hit significant sales figures, podcast downloads or listing counts.
Whilst I do sometimes look back on these, I mainly do it because writing these things down feels good!
This is probably going to sound a bit daft, but I like to draw stars or flowers around the landmark. Or add stickers. Or write it in a bright colour. Things to make it stand out and show it is an achievement.
Doing this reminds me that I am making progress. Which encourages me to work hard and carry on.
If I am having a bit of a tough day, or a slow day, or a “why on earth am I doing this?” type of day, I can flick through my planner and see these happy little landmarks.
I know quite a lot of craft sellers do something like this. So maybe you might want to give it a try.
Birthdays and Other Personal Things
I also use my planner for personal things. I guess my life must be rather unexciting, as most of my planning is for business. I don’t do a lot else!
I add birthdays on the relevant dates – with stickers of little cakes, because why not? And I always write a reminder that the birthday is imminent a week or so before the actual date. This is to remind me to make a card, get a present etc.
A few other personal things I add to my planner are:
- Doctors and hospital appointments
- The day the bin needs to go out (and which bin it is that day)
- When the next issue of a magazine is due out
- When I am going to go stay with my mother for a few days
Whilst using a planner only requires you to have a planner and a pen (or a tablet, computer or phone for the digital versions), many people, myself included, like to use a few little accessories to help them with their planning.
I use the following accessories with my planner:
- Stickers – these are a quick, easy and eye-catching way to highlight important things. You can use cheap and cheerful stickers sold for kids, such as stars and dots, or buy beautiful stickers created with planners in mind
- Stencils – I have a set of stencils that are sold for use with bullet journals, but they can be used with other types of planners too. I like that they are reusable, and can be used with pencils, pens and markers. Some are boxes and frames, which help you divide the contents of your planner into convenient areas, and others are icons and decorative elements.
- Markers – before you use a new type of pen in your planner, do a little test on one of the note pages, or in a blank area, to check that it will not bleed through. I will do an article on my blog about planner pens very soon – I already have some reviews of pens that I use for my planners on there. You can use pens such as brush markers or calligraphy pens to write titles and important things in an eye-catching way. And using different colours can be a really easy way to sort your planner entries into different subjects.
- Sticky notes such as Post-it Notes – these are a handy way to record something in your journal, that you may need to move to a different date. Or some useful information that you want to move from one week or month to the next, so it is always to hand. Sticky notes come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours. I like the transparent, coloured plastic ones that you can stick over the top of your writing to highlight it. They are reusable and are a great way to draw attention to something you don’t want to miss in your planner.
I will do an article in the future with more about the various accessories I use when journaling.
For the Future
At the back of each planner, I always have a page where I make notes of things I will need to add to future planners.
For example, I might start a subscription to a WordPress Plugin in March of one year. I want to remind myself that the subscription will renew the following March – so I can decide whether I still want to continue with it when that time comes. But I wouldn’t have the next year’s planner yet.
So the reminder gets written on my special page, with the date when it is for. Then, when I get the new planner, I can copy it safely to a relevant date.
I have a couple of subscriptions, such as for domain names, that are for 2 or more years at a time. I can just keep adding these to the lists at the back of each year’s planner until I get to the year that the real reminder arrives.
I find that I can take advantage of many free subscriptions and trial periods for things because of my planner.
A couple of times a year, for example, Amazon offers me a subscription to its Kindle Unlimited service for a few months, for free or at a very low price. Kindle Unlimited is a service where you can read any of over a million books, whilst you are a member. It is usually £9.99 a month, here in the UK, in case you were wondering.
When one of these offers comes up, I subscribe and immediately make a note in my planner of when I need to cancel it again so as not to get charged.
Then I can make the most of the subscription period and read some of the books I had earmarked. There are loads of books on crafts, marketing and other subjects that a craft seller might need.
My planner is an essential part of my business. It allows me to organize my time and resources in a way that I can’t easily do any other way. Whilst I do still use to-do lists and other apps (more on this in a future article), the humble planner has proven itself to be the most versatile and easy system for keeping my life, and my business under control.
I am hoping to do a series of articles, possibly with YouTube videos, on planners and journals. What I have spoken about here really only scratches the surface of how you can both utilize and enjoy using a planner.
And that’s it until next time,
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
Items mentioned in this article
Below are links to some of the products used, on Amazon.com (top) and Amazon.co.uk (bottom). If you use these links to go to Amazon and buy, I will receive a small commission for sending a customer their way. This is at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you.
Helping craft sellers to sell their crafts.