Founder Stories: Ralu Petrea On Creating Outline Planner

In today’s Founder Story we feature Ralu Petrea, the creator of Outline Planner.

Read on for lessons she has learned from launching and marketing her business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role.

I’m Ralu Petrea, a UX designer, and a quiet listener. I’m curious about human experiences. And I’ve been designing intuitive products and friendly user experiences since 2012.

I’m also the creator of the Outline Planner-the go-to-space for digital planners templates for iPad. I have more than ten years of design experience and a passion for productivity, so this project has been a fantastic journey! I am actively working on designing digital notebooks templates to BOOST PRODUCTIVITY and MENTAL HEALTH among business owners, solopreneurs, and teams who need this kind of support! 

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

Outline Planner is the best way to get things done for many people! CEOs, teachers, social media managers, artists, and fitness lovers rely on Outline Planner templates to help them succeed daily. Outline Planner templates are the perfect solution to your daily chaos and a helpful tool for anyone looking to be more productive!

But it was a long way to get here. And it all started before I started crafting this product.

I’ve always been an introvert, so I constantly listened to people. I quickly learned that focusing on the right things and getting the best results out of our efforts are among my most demanding challenges in life.

Knowing that did not help so much, though. I was also falling into the snare of focusing on what would not move the needle in my career, spending countless hours on urgent but not critical tasks, to realize that I haven’t made any difference. Failure to move forward led to toxic emotions that would harm my mental health, such as disappointment, guilt, and exhaustion.

It’s not surprising that I have been experiencing burnout and depression for many years while working to develop my UX design company portfolio.

So, in 2016 I created a paper planner to help people plan their tasks without neglecting their mental health. I found it seriously amazing being able to help SO many people! Yet, the impact was small, so I started looking for ways to bring my planner into the digital space!

In late 2018 I came across the note-taking apps for iPad and immediately realized their unique potential! These apps are fantastic for taking handwritten notes! You can search through your notes, erase mistakes quickly, and move text around. But they need to catch up on organizing your notes. And that’s when I saw the incredible opportunity. In October 2018, I built my planner in a PDF template format that, once imported into a note-taking app, would help people all around the globe to organize their notes better. 

3. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch? 

I launched my planning templates on Etsy, so I used their marketing channel frequently. It was a paid service to boost my products in front of the relevant audience. Back then, the market was less saturated than it is today. Still, it was essential to use visually appealing product thumbnails to attract customers to my new shop. Product thumbnail designs are even more critical today, and crafting them requires a lot of research, tests, drawing, and iterations until you find the winner.

Next to using Etsy ads, I also created an Instagram account for my business which I used to post pictures of my products in action. This way, potential customers could get an idea of how my templates could be used in real life.

I used the same approach on Pinterest, but instead of creating posts, I would create boards to which I would pin all my products and follow other people’s products as well. This way, I could get more exposure to my products. The more exposure you get on Pinterest, the better because people can re-pin your items and thus increase your exposure even further.

Lastly, I also designed a small website and linked it to my Facebook page, Instagram account, and Pinterest boards.

4. How did you come up with your logo and the visual identity for your brand?

When starting my digital product, I decided to refrain from investing time and resources in creating a new brand. So, I took the old paper planner’s name, logo, and fonts. However, this decision was short-lived. At the beginning of 2020, I created a better brand for my digital planning templates project.

I learned from previous experiences and decided to go with a simple text-based logo with a clean look that could be easily remembered. This was when the Outline Planner brand was brought to life. Since the templates are for professionals, I used a simple color palette mainly consisting of neutral colors with a few accents.

When it comes to images, however, there is another story. I’ve been experimenting with lots of different ideas. After doing some tests and evaluations, I’m now drawn to using simple images with minimal or no text to show off my planners. I’m especially drawn to using black-and-white photos to create a much cleaner look.

5. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

Etsy ads, Google ads, and Facebook ads have all been very helpful in attracting and retaining customers for my business. Minimal design imagery works best to appeal to customers, but on some channels like Facebook, where there’s more competition, you may need bolder designs and human faces to stand out. Overall, I’ve been delighted with the results I’ve seen from my marketing campaigns and designs.

There is one drawback, however: my images could have been more consistent across multiple channels, but I needed to spend more time on marketing materials. And “more time” was not something I had at the time. So if you have the budget to do so, it’s best to have another person or agency support you with this.

6. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

When it comes to brands, I got inspired by a mix of brands that put the people first and provide friendly solutions for productivity, time-saving or mental health, like Calm, Grammarly, or Wetransfer.

Regarding Calm, I love both their minimal and peaceful designs and the way they support mental health among employees. The app is free for all employees as a mental-health benefit, essential for people’s well-being.

Grammarly is a fantastic productivity app for better notes for professionals to write with clarity. More than 30 million people use Grammarly daily to improve their written communications, and it’s no surprise, given a clean look and friendly user experience, they’ve been spoiling us with.

WeTransfer has been another inspiring brand for my business. And it’s not just because it’s a time-saving tool that made it possible for me to keep my business running smoothly and efficiently. I love WeTransfer’s visuals, strong message, and philosophy of putting people first.

Lastly, I have always enjoyed Apple’s branding and marketing materials. I love their minimal design approach and focus on creating better user experiences. Their attention to detail is impressive, and I admire how they constantly push the boundaries regarding innovation. Apple has been my favorite brand for many years, and I continue to be impressed by its work. I am particularly drawn to their clean and simple designs, which are both elegant and functional. I also appreciate their commitment to creating products that are easy to use and offer a great user experience. In addition, Apple’s marketing materials are always top-notch and incredibly effective. All in all, I am a huge fan of Apple and everything they stand for.

7. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

My website is one of the best marketing platforms, but it’s been a long to get here. Here are the top 5 marketing platforms that have helped me so far:

  • The Etsy marketplace has been one of my best marketing platforms since 2018. Apart from selling on the platform, I have connected with potential customers and built relationships with them. My first customers, feedback, and reviews were gathered from Etsy.
  • The newsletter platform I used at the beginning, Mailchimp, was also excellent at getting things done. Over time I’ve also tested Drip, Flow, FoxSend, and MailerLite and decided that MailerLite is the winner in terms of the best experience for the money.
  • The Facebook group has been another great way to connect with customers and potential customers. I’m not a fan of social media, but a Facebook group could help a business massively.
  • Youtube has been the best channel to show tutorials and visual guides. It’s always helpful to display how-to videos about newly launched products, especially when you’re new in the business, or you need a demo product to share for free.
  • Lastly, I’ve used the Trustpilot platform to gather and display customer testimonials, apart from the testimonials I was getting in the Etsy marketplace, to ensure I am not relying 100% on Etsy.
8. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

I love the quote “Finding the genius in simplicity” that I heard from Ludovico Einaudi, an Italian pianist and composer I admire. It really inspires me and always helps me get back on track.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed at work, I think of that quote and then start finding ways to simplify my work. It’s a great way to escape a complicated and stressful situation!

So finding the genius in simplicity is my mantra and everyday motivation. 

9. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

One of the most important lessons is to stay focused on your goals. It can be so easy to get sidetracked when things get tough, but it is essential to remember why you started your business in the first place.

You must also be willing to take risks and do it. I know there’s a lot of fear of failing when launching a business. But it’s better to launch a less perfect product than not launch at all!

Finally, always be willing to adapt and change. The business world is constantly evolving, and those unwilling to change will likely be left behind. So when it comes to visuals and marketing materials, it’s better to start with the best you have and adjust, adapt, and improve on the way. 

10. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

This is a question that I have been debating for years. Some qualities are essential for anyone who wants to start and grow their own business. Here are five of them:

Be passionate about your idea and business. It will help if you believe in what you’re doing and look for ways to improve and grow.

Driven to succeed. Always looking for new opportunities and ways to get ahead. And be ready to put in the hard work required to make the business successful.

A good entrepreneur is innovative, always looking for new ideas and ways to improve things. They are not afraid to take risks because they know that it’s often necessary to achieve success.

So, be risk-taking. Take on new challenges and ideas, even if it means failing. Be resilient and always able to bounce back from setbacks.

Lastly, one must be resourceful, which means utilizing all available resources to their fullest potential.

A successful team is a strong team built on a foundation of communication, cooperation, trust, and respect. But even with these things in place, a team will only be successful if its members are united by a shared passion.

Passion motivates everyone to work together and push through tough times. Yet finding the people who are passionate about building your product can be a challenge in itself.

11. Let us know where we can go to learn more! 

I’m always happy to meet new people. Visit my website to start a chat or join my Facebook group if you’re passionate about or want to start with digital planning. I’ll leave my details below.


My Vault with free demos 

Facebook group