Planners. Almost all of us have them, but how often do we really think about them? Of course, we think about the things they tell us to do – we strike off the events and tasks they line up for us each day. But do we think enough about how we structure them – how, effectively, we order our lives?
If there’s one person who definitely does give enough thought to planning, it’s bespoke planner designer Monique Basil-Wright. As well as being a freelance personal assistant, for the last year she has also been running her own customised planner-making business, the Wright Planner. (Was she gifted with the ideal surname for a business? Almost certainly…)
For Monique, a planner isn’t just a little black book you grab from WH Smiths. Her production process gives you an idea of how much thought and care goes into her pocket life-organising machines: “With my business, you don’t just pick something off the shelf, you sit down with me and I get to know you and how you run your life. Then we have a chat about why you want to get organised, how you see yourself doing that, and how having the right planner would help.”
Then from there, Monique actually feeds all that information into her production process: “Every planner I do is completely different. They’re all bespoke to a particular person and how their lifestyle works. Then customers use them and come back to me with feedback saying which parts work well and which parts could do with tweaking. It just gives them a bit of flexibility before committing to it for the rest of the year.”
Not, then, your average planner. Nor is it just hyper-advanced planner production Monique helps her clients with. Through her freelance personal assistant business, she also helps clients with generally organising their lives.
For obvious reasons, the two businesses meld perfectly: “The two work really well side-by-side. With one, I’m there to help you organise your business or your home – or just to help you get everything you want done. Then with the planner side, I offer people a tool that allows them to keep organised.”
So, the big question: how exactly do you get into bespoke planner-making? “Well, I’m a little bit of a control freak: I’m just going to put that out there now. I’ve always liked pretty things and being beautifully organised. So I’ve always loved stationery: since I was in school, I’ve always used diaries, organisers and things like that to keep me on track.
“I found, though, that throughout school, college, university and even going into the working world, there was never a planner or organiser that grew with me through different stages of my life. Or there were sections that didn’t fit or work, or perhaps weren’t in the right order for me.
Either way, there was never one that did all the things I wanted. It was quite frustrating, and it made me think: there must be a market for bespoke planners – ones that fit exactly to your lifestyle and that you can change if you need.”
From there, it’s pretty easy to see how things started to get off the ground: “I started making planners for myself – sort of tinkering on my computer and then printing them out. Then when friends saw them, they said: ‘oh that’s brilliant – can I have one?’. And before long, enough people had asked that I started to think: ‘oh, perhaps I should really think about doing this’.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Bespoke planners, of course, wasn’t Monique’s first freelance business. So, what about Wright Services: how did that come about and why did she first decide to take the leap into self-employment, I ask her.
“If I’m quite honest, I basically got tired of the office life and the nine to five. I used to have to travel about an hour each way to work – and that was if the traffic wasn’t too heavy. I would have to leave home early and get back late, and I found I was missing spending time with my two kids. I just thought: I don’t want to do this anymore,” she says.
With any big move like moving into freelancing, however, there’s usually a catalyst. And for Monique, that was clear: “It was when they asked me if I could go down to working part-time. And I just thought to myself: ‘working part-time? Travelling that distance each way? I don’t fancy that.’ I’d been thinking about freelancing for a while, and that just seemed like a good time. It seemed like a sign to just go for it.”
That was three years ago, and with Monique now running two businesses, the successes speak for themselves.
So, does Monique have any advice for other budding freelancers like her?
“I’d say definitely do your research: find out what’s already out there. Look at how other people are doing it, what’s working for them and what’s not working. And make sure you have a strong support group around you, and if you need help, ask.”
And… come on, you could have predicted it: “make sure you have a way to plan everything. Whether it’s an app, a paper planner or even a simple to-do list. It’s so important to have a way to organise your work and keep yourself moving forwards.”