Update: How We Recovered From A 90% Drop In Sales By Shifting To A Subscription-Based Model

Published: March 28th, 2022
Ralu Petrea
Founder, Outline Planner
Outline Planner
from Bucharest, Romania
started November 2018
market size
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
150 days
average product price
growth channels
business model
best tools
Canva, Etsy, PandaDoc
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
42 Pros & Cons
3 Tips
Discover what tools Ralu recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Ralu recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on Outline Planner? Check out these stories:

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I'm Ralu Petrea, digital planners designer at Outline Planner, obsessed with taking handwritten notes for a clearer mind and better plans to move things forward.

Let me guess... you're spending a lot of time jotting down ideas for your business, taking private notes about your team members and clients, scribbling briefs, and listing tasks for your projects. You'll write your notes on any piece of paper that gets your way, so your thoughts are scattered into a million places by the time the week has ended. I was there, too, until I found I could prevent parts of the chaos by taking paperless notes on the iPad.

So in 2018, I created the Outline Planner, a premium collection of digital planners and notebooks to scribble notes on the go, directly on the iPad. Hundreds of team leaders, CEOs, managers, coaches, and consultants, mainly from the US, Australia, Germany, and the UK, ease their mind's chaos by taking searchable notes on my digital templates.

Today, I support a community of 300+ professionals who have instant access to more than 27 premium digital notebooks for life matters, meeting notes, projects, and people notes through my premium vault.

Currently, the instant access to my vault is 197$ with a yearly renewal at $97, yet the price will go once I add more digital planners and resources.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

When the pandemic started, I was naively relying on Etsy with my business and had almost no following, a tiny emails list, and no other sales channels to use. So it was a huge hit when in April 2021, my sales dropped close to 90%. I got from a $4K to a $500 monthly income in a matter of 2 months.

Don't settle for one sales channel (even if the statistics look appealing); always keep an eye on new sales channels to use and expand your business.

I knew I had to shift to a new sales channel rapidly. Therefore, in 3 months, I switched from selling individual digital planners on Etsy as a one-time payment to selling instant access to ALL digital planners** as a yearly subscription on my website. ** To boost my move, I immediately created the support Facebook group** **to share updates, ask people for feedback, give digital planners for free, and post videos with hacks on being productive with digital notes on the iPad.


My subscription-based sales steadily grew to $3-4K per month after the massive drop eight months ago. Although sales on my Etsy shop are pretty much dead, I keep using the platform as a trust boosting and lead generation funnel and direct future customers to my website.


What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Although I experienced appealing growth in the first two years, the business started to decline almost one year after the pandemic hit. Here's what I learned from this experience:

Lesson 1: Find your niche, don't sell to anyone

Although the pandemic had a significant impact on my business, the fact that I was trying to sell my products to everyone was the real dealbreaker. You can't meet real customer needs and later scale your products if you try to please everyone.

So, I created the VAULT with premium digital planners for professionals who lead teams, manage projects and offices, or help individuals. Today, 300+ professionals take organized, searchable notes using my digital templates.


Lesson 2: Work on growing a community

Create a private, safe space for your customers to connect and voice their minds. This way, you'll have constant support and feedback. Plus, the community is not attached to your sales channels, so it will stay beside you no matter where or how you sell the products.

Lesson 3: Find your methods to generate traffic

From 2018 to 2021, I relied on Etsy to send traffic to my shop. So when Etsy traffic dropped, my sales declined as well. It's a winning idea to build your traffic generation techniques, so you can always redirect that traffic to different channels included in your strategy.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

I love designing planners that improve everyday work for leaders and small business managers. So, starting in 2022, I'll create on-demand custom planners for professionals and small businesses that need a better way to take paperless notes and structure their workflow.

In the next five years, I'll focus on building bundles of notebooks created for particular professions like real estate agents, doctors, coaches, etc.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, by Dan Ariely is a fascinating book with good insights on how we end up lying to ourselves in particular cases.

50 Economics Classics by Tom Butler Bowdon is a beautifully written book for anyone, no matter the level of their knowledge of economics, with fundamental ideas on capitalism, finance, and the global economy.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

I have ONE HUGE piece of advice: diversify your sales channels.

Don't settle for one sales channel (even if the statistics look appealing); always keep an eye on new sales channels to use and expand your business.

Here are some excellent sales channels to look for:

  • platforms that have a lot of traffic, like Etsy, Amazon, eBay
  • your website
  • a social media page
  • your email list

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Currently, I am looking to hire a full-time in-house graphic designer assistant, and I'm in the middle of a recruiting process.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Ralu Petrea, Founder of Outline Planner
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
Want to find more ideas that make money?

Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.

Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.

Want to start an etsy digital products business? Learn more ➜