So, let me go behind the scenes and share with you how I created the 2016 Create Your Shining Year in Life + Biz goals workbooks, diary/planner, wall planner + to do list pad. This is a long post, where I take you behind the scenes of exactly what it’s taken to create this product range. You might find it useful if you own a business, are interested in self-publishing, or in what it takes to build + launch a product.
Starting the process: getting the right people on the bus
The process started in March this year. I know – quite early! Gone are the days when I decide on Dec 22 to write + illustrate a goals workbook + release it as an e-book on Dec 26! Ha!
I was actually supposed to start even earlier than that – in February. But I was burnt out from the last workbook season, and I was mulling over my major concern – I didn’t have a project manager/Chief Operations Officer and that role REALLY needed filling.
As Jim Collins would say:
Companies that go from good to great start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.
Without that project manager role filled by the right person, I was missing a critical person on the bus.
When my company was smaller, I didn’t need this role to be filled by someone else as much – first, I did it. And then I had a part time Virtual Assistant/Online Business Manager filling that role. But once the company had grown in size and complexity, I knew it was unsustainable to not have the role filled full-time by the right person. I’d had it filled before with a full-time person who was lovely, but not the right fit for the role. It was pretty disastrous and stressful, really. Having a fantastic COO is a key hire for me, and I knew I needed to get it right.
When you need to speed up… slow down.
And even though there was SO MUCH to do… and I really thought I should just work instead… I had this very deep feeling that my soul was whispering to me… that I needed to get quiet and have a retreat so that I could hear the new insights and divine download for the company (and my) evolution and growth.
We had just moved to Tasmania, and were still settling in. There wasn’t any way I could piss off for a few nights to myself. So I did a partial retreat instead. I had discovered that the cute place I was going to for massages and spa treatments also had a guest suite looking over the ocean that they only rented on weekends. I asked if I could rent it just in afternoons as a work space, and they were happy with that. It ended up being really reasonably priced.
So late February, I spent five glorious afternoons at the turquoise cabin. It was bright blue – painted like it was just for me! I wrote and I cried and I drew and I drank tea and I watched Notting Hill and I slowly knitted myself back together. On so many levels I was healing and integrating – moving away from the rainforest, moving to the island, still healing from the trauma of post natal depression and hyperemesis gravidarum.
I didn’t know what was going to come out of this healing time. And I tried not to push for the big insights. Just let it come. Let it unravel. Let it be.
RETREAT = INSIGHTS
By that Thursday, I woke up knowing who I needed to hire as project manager/COO for the company, and I knew the exact offer I needed to make in order for him to accept. Within 24 hours, he had accepted and began work for me part-time (so he could continue to run his own company on the side). Within 3 weeks, he realised it was actually his dream job + his soul’s calling, and joined us full-time.
That person of course is Grant Andrew, our Chief Operations Officer. He had been working with us as a tech contractor creating the shopping cart for the 2015 workbooks. As soon as we met, we realised we were soul-siblings. I was in awe of his huge heart + capacity for work, and knew he was meant to work for our company.
It took him a couple months longer than I to realise that, but he came around + it’s been world-changing for the both of us and for the company too. We compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we challenge each other, we argue, we grow, and we become better people and get better at business.
So, all in all, a pretty awesome hiring process, really. Go to a turquoise cabin for a week. Watching Notting Hill. Emerge with an exceptional COO. The blank spaces, the retreats, the times we step back – these are the places we often get our biggest insights.
Once Grant was onboard, it was a flurry of activity.
WRITING THE CONTENT
I divided the workbooks into chapters and rewrote large pieces of content, especially in the Business workbook. Both books are much larger, and the Biz workbook in particular has some fabulous new sections.
I had two people helping with polishing the content. Tamara Protassow was the official editor of the project – she helped spot typos and helped content make more sense. She is a grammar nazi which is exactly what was needed. Even though I am pretty good at that stuff usually (heck, I used to be an editor for business.gov.au before this!) it so helps to have a fresh pair of eyes looking over content. Especially when it is content that I’ve written and illustrated and approved the final design on.
Grant helped with writing systems section in the Biz Workbook. It’s a work of art, that checklist. So bloody powerful. It will help you identify where you are missing critically important systems & get them sorted in your biz el pronto!!! It’s based on the same systems we use in my million dollar a year company. Systems accelerate business growth and free up so much time!
Me, Grant + Tamara would use Google Docs to review content together. I love how you can work on the same document simultaneously and see what everyone else is thinking and typing. We use the full suite of Google cloud based products here for everything we do – from documents to spreadsheets to presentations for courses + webinars.
We also realised that one of the big things people were asking for is an action plan of what to do next with their goals. So between the three of us, we created the Magical Mountain Map sections in both the Biz and Life workbooks. We are already getting such great feedback from people about how useful it is!
THE DESIGN PROCESS
I hired a local graphic designer Shiloh Longbottom to work with – she would come to our house + we would disappear down into my office (at the bottom level of our house) for the afternoon to work.
We brainstormed together + she’d work on pages + ask me for different illustrations. I ended up painting dozens and dozens of watercolour backgrounds to use, and illustrated hundreds of images.
I have to give a special shoutout as well to Artbeat of Tasmania – the local art supplies store I frequented during those months. The lovely owner gave me SO much advice and recommendations on new pens and paints and brushes to use, and the 2016 collection wouldn’t look as stunning as it does without her stellar recommendations!
We did however soon realise that we weren’t going to be able to pull off 3 books + 2 products within a month as I had hoped (HA.HA.HA. I AM INCREDIBLE AT UNDERESTIMATING TIME REQUIRED FOR THESE THINGS!)
Luckily, I met another graphic designer at a Hobart meetup I ran – the incandescent Naomi Gora. We roped her into doing the 2016 diary design while Shiloh finished the 2 goals workbooks.
Thankfully, my office was large (it was originally a L-shaped rumpus room) so we popped some more desks in there, and we worked our tushkas off, and listened to Spotify, and told stories as we worked.
It was fun and thrilling and revolutionary and also totally exhausting – I think we all were needing some quiet alone time in our own home offices by the end!
Even though I write and illustrate and handwrite every piece in our products, it has made such a difference to have a graphic designer lay it out. It ends up being a way more polished product than I could produce on my own. Plus, there’s no ding dang way I could have accomplished all that on my own. I would still be laying out pages if that was the case!
After months of writing and editing and designing and re-editing and reviewing, the books were finally… finally… FINALLY ready to be sent to print.
We used Imago as our printers. Their printing warehouses are in Singapore, and they also have offices in US, UK + Australia.
We had done a review of printers and asked colleagues for advice. We had seen a selection of the books printed through Imago and were really impressed.
Most of all, we were happy with the fact they were able to source + use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified recycled + sustainable paper, and that they had fair working conditions in their manufacturing warehouses.
Once we’d submitted the final documents to them it took another 3 weeks of back-and-fro fixing files as the printers would find tiny errors in margins or resolution. It was painstaking, but I’m glad they were so meticulous in making sure the final product would be beautiful.
It took approximately 3 months from the time we gave them the final digital files to the time they printed the products, got them on cargo ships, and those ships sailed from Singapore to Australia, US + UK.
Because we sell workbooks in over 100 countries, it is important to me that we make it as fast + affordable as possible for everyone to get their books. Having mailing centres in 3 locations does add a HEAP more expense and complexity (Grant in particular has been gently but firming thudding his head on the table especially over that complexity) but I think the end result is worth it.
Our distribution houses worldwide are:
- UK – James and James
- AUS – Invenco
- US – Revgo
BUILDING THE E-COMMERCE PLATFORM + LAUNCHING
As soon as the workbooks were finished being designed, we jumped into our next project: launching it.
I tell ya what, there’s been little rest between them this year! Especially since in the midst of all this workbookery, we also created a new membership site for the Academy + then also welcomed 925 new members into the Academy in September!
PHOTOGRAPHY + VIDEOGRAPHY!
I knew this year we needed to uplevel the photos and videos for the sales page to give a better insight into what the books were like. And of course, because of the pace we were working… I need it done… like, yesterday.
I found the gorgeous photographer Tracy Lee and asked her if she would do videos + photography for me. She was keen, and was also willing to work on the fly with me thank goodness.
In the week leading up to it, I created huge spreadsheets of exactly what photographs + videography I needed taken, as well as a props list of what was needed. I felt so dang organised!
I also was feeling completely overwhelmed about what I should say in the video – I’ve never written a video script before and it’s not my medium of excellence. I asked my gorgeous friend Kate Byrne from Betty Means Business to meet me for chai and cake, and she was SO helpful in laying out what I needed to say.
Me + Kate. Totally normal.
I hired a gorgeous creative studio for the day that had fantastic light and was relatively quiet so we could get all our photos and videos done in one huge day. I hired Maker’s Hub as the venue which is SO amazing and was just perfect for what we needed. Can’t wait to go back there to do creative workshops! I also hired Mikaela Danvers from Maker’s Collective to be our set designer. She helped set up ideas for shoots and prepare backgrounds. For the amount of work we squeezed into that day, she was so very needed.
The shooting day was a huge one – I started packing the car at 8am, was at the venue by 10, and we were running around until 4 when we needed to head to our next venue – a beautiful park – for our group photographs + outdoor photography.
My lovely friends volunteered as gracious models – luckily they all also do the workbooks! Big thanks to Smita Patel, Kate Byrne, Deanne Kalda, Mikaela Danvers + Lile (my old cubicle boss!) for looking hot.
I didn’t get home until 7:30pm, and I was soaked with glitter + sweat.
BUILDING THE E-COMMERCE
Building the e-commerce platform + sales page + all the behind-the-scenes pieces that ensure you can:
1. Buy a book
2. Have it emailed to you (for an e-book)
3. Have it mailed to you (from the correct distribution centre)
… it looks SO SIMPLE.
But in reality – it’s complex. And hard. And requires a lot of people to massage all the working pieces.
Grant project managed it. Amber, Joyce + Erin were his able helpers. Our developers were Kelsey Sheely and Nathan Brewer (who is completely adorable and doesn’t have a website, but asked I link to his talented artist wife’s website instead.)
For the graphic design of all our web properties and sales page, we used the amazing Splendidly Curious (Suzi + Kayla) who went above and beyond for us. As did our video editor – David Kinney from DLK Designs.
It was a MASSIVE effort… that took months + some crazy, crazy hours by the end to get it out into the world.
It’s a lot like birth in many ways – but I personally prefer this kind of birth to the real thing. That bitch is HORRIFIC HARD. And BLOODY.
This kind of birth is just plain hard. And it tests your patience and your smartnesses and your strength and your courage and your commitment and your temper and your work relationships and all the rest.
LAST WEEK, OUR MIRACLE BABY WAS FINALLY BORN
Weighing a fucktonne (those Biz + Life packages are HEAVY!), healthy and colourful.
Proud parents: SO many of us who were involved in this.
I am reminded again and again of how this isn’t just about me anymore.
This isn’t me coming up with an idea a couple of days before Christmas and making it into an ebook (like I did for the first workbooks 7 years ago!)
This is a big, massive project that needs a whole lot of love and hearts and energy and time to make this exquisite, powerful planner collection, and help it go out into the world to as many people as possible:
- 10 months.
- 26 people.
- 2 books.
- 1 diary/planner.
- 1 wall planner.
- 1 to do list pad.
And a thousand dreams to come true…
I can’t wait to see what dreams will come true of yours because of them…
Offering it to you with open hands + glad heart…
With all my love,
DON’T MISS OUT!
- We have already sold out of To Do List pads
- We have already sold out of HALF of our Biz goals workbook stock in ONE WEEK.
Don’t miss out… These are essentials for any goal getter business woman!!!!
ALWAYS email us — firstname.lastname@example.org. Social media means we miss out on all your questions and we want to help you!!!
LIVE SHIPPING UPDATE:
- Aus, NZ and Asia have arrived & are shipping daily.
- US & Americas just got to mailing house & will start shipping daily from today.
- UK & Europe boat is in port, waiting to get through Customs. We will start shipping by end of week!!!!
Love you all long time!!! Thank you for sharing this incredible journey with us!!!!!!
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