Bookkeeping for Event Planners: 3 Tips

By | Bookkeeping for Event Planners, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Consulting for Creatives, Business Development, How do I hire a Bookkeeper | No Comments

We all know as business owners that keeping track of expenses, saving for taxes, and making sure your books are balanced is so important.  But bookkeeping for event planners is not an easy thing at first, because of the unpredictable schedule of being a planner – working in the service industry means a lot of time on the road, in the field, and away from your administrative, desk-based tasks.  Here’s how I tackled tightening up my bookkeeping processes.

Hire a bookkeeper!

Hire a pro! They do not need to be full time.  I hired a bookkeeper for an initial analysis and software recommendations; quarterly checkins; and end of year profit-and-loss and tax prep.  It did not cost a fortune and truly worth every penny.

Bookkeeping for event planners calclutor accounting for creatives

Invoice online.

If you can’t afford taking credit cards – and if your revenue is unsteady or you are in the first 2-3 years of your business, that’s a smart call – see if there are any cloud-based, bookkeeping and invoicing systems that use ACH deposits to take from your clients.  Try to find something that schedules invoicing so you don’t have to think about it – clients get regular invoices on time, so that they are well aware of when their next payment is due.  Then as the cash comes in, the software keeps track of it, and balancing the books just got a lot easier.

Automate your tax savings.

This can be a super tough aspect of bookkeeping for event planners (I speak from experience!). What helped me was having my CPA give me tax projections in Q1 of every year.  Then, I could set aside – or at least manage expectations – of what my taxes would be. I got quite accurate at planning ahead and it saved me a lot of stress and sleepless nights.  Schedule quarterly or monthly allocations to a separate bank account for taxes, and plot reminders in your calendar throughout the year to send your payments to the IRS.  Or you can also ask your bookkeeper consultant to do this, and they can remind you.

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Don’t be afraid to hire a pro to help you manage this process – a little professional guidance means big time savings in stress, and possibly business fees and tax penalties.  Being organized = peak efficiency in all levels of your business!  And, I can’t recommend enough this book: Accounting for the Numberphobic.  It has outstanding small business advice and is actually pretty fun to read, too. Find it here – and happy planning!

Setting your Employees Up for Success

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Employee, Employee Tips for Event Planners, Independent Contractors | No Comments

I have had the experience of not only overseeing my own employees, but being a new employee at a couple different corporate settings in the past year or so.  I’ve learned a lot from both sides (the corporate on-boarding experience has certainly changed a lot, I’ll say that).  A bad start can have ripple affects that can hurt your business.  These key tips will make your new contractor or employee feel secure, so they can start kicking butt for you – and have fun doing it!

Give your employees the basics.

At a 5-star hotel I worked at recently, I was personally introduced to the entire corporate staff and as much of the banquet staff as possible. It was incredible – sure, I couldn’t recommend everyone’s name right away, but it gave me a solid sense of how the company worked, and also made me feel less shy when I saw new people in the hallways.  I was also shown every single common area, bathroom, and other important spaces.  No wonder people stay at that property for years!  The culture left a lasting impression on me.

Don’t feel you are pandering to someone or wasting time by methodically showing them around to all relevant colleagues in your organization, and showing them every nook and cranny of the space that they will be using.  They will feel like a stranger in a strange land, otherwise, and struggle to interact with people at first. It also makes them feel ignored or cast aside. Not a good start.

Ritz Carlton Ocean View wedding OrangeCounty Dana Point Employee

Photo by Studio Purdy.  I was based in L.A.; this event in Dana Point required me to work with Orange-County based contractors that I found via my network of high quality fellow event planners.  Making sure I sent these new contractors my manual ensured consistent service to my clients, despite the fact I hadn’t worked with them frequently before.

Have collaborative docs ready to go.

Be sure to do your homework and set up collaborative docs and systems before they arrive (google docs, Aisle Planner, etc).  It takes some time to delegate – if it’s your first-ever associate, you need to do the hard work of which assignments to give them, and how you two will use your shared systems.  But it only takes a couple days to get someone indoctrinated into most online project managers and documents – once you’re in, it’ll flow. But you absolutely have to do the carving up of assignments and adjustments of your systems before they arrive – otherwise, they may not have enough to do at first, and start off with confusion. This could lead to mistakes and wasted time – things no business can afford.

Write an employee manual.

If you work with ICs, this can be a contractor manual. Your payroll company or lawyer can advise on exactly how to work on this – but it’s super important for all employees to read and sign off on this. For event planners in particular, you need to lay down some ground rules, such as: No chewing gum, no social media sharing of events during event (or after, if client does not give permission), dress code, etc.

About to hire your first employee or contractor?  Need advice?  I’m here to help! Email me at dee@noworriesep.com!

 

A Pretty Pastel Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding

By | Blush and Pink Wedding, Blush Wedding, Malibu, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding, Malibu Wedding, Sally Pinera | No Comments

A Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding is always one for the books. For good reason:  the vistas on display at this property always take my breath away.  This is the reason why the venue has become so legendary here in Los Angeles – and dare I say, the world over.  There is nothing like it!

The bride and groom, Emma and Michel, lived in France for the initial part of planning, then moved to San Francisco.  Wisely, they booked me over a year in advance, and had ample time to carefully curate and construct their dream day. They had many guests flying internationally, and were able to have their wedding on a weekday, which made things even more seamless to plan.

The Wedding Vendors

The florist, Plenty of Petals, nailed the romantic, vineyard-inspired florals, Signature Party Rentals provided the chairs and tables, napkins were by La Tavola, and Bright rentals provided the rose gold silverware.  Other vendors included Vox DJs, Jacob Jurado (officiant), Tim and Co videography, Jamie Cakes, and Silver Service Catering.  The vibe was soft blush, rich organic greens, and French country furniture with rich wood texture.

The Planning Process- a Weekday Wedding!

While Emma and Michel lived abroad and then in San Francisco, we stayed in close touch.  Because many guests were flying in from outside of L.A., this was a destination wedding for many of them, and the couple chose to have the event on a weekday.  Not my first, actually – they’re a lot of fun!  Also, some vendors and venues have cost-effective pricing for weekday events.  They made sure guests knew well ahead of time when the event would take place, so they couljd request vacation days, book flights, and make overall “life” arrangements for the event.

Enjoy photos below, by Sally Pinera!

 

Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding floral backdrop border ceremony greenery blush

Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding floral backdrop border ceremony greenery blush

Rustic rose gold silverware malibu rocky oaks wood table napkin treatment olive branch

Lush bouquet dahlias greenery blush pink burgundy

Bridesmaids Blush bridesmaid gowns greenery rustic bouquets

Floral greenery wedding table runner figs grapes

altar floral border malibu rocky oaks greenery roses blush ivory

French country crossback chairs rustic malibu rocky oaks signature rentals

Destination Weddings | Paris

By | Destination Wedding, Paris, Paris Destination Weddings, Paris Wedding Photography, Paris Wedding Planner, Wedding Design, Wedding MBA, Wedding Planner, Yann Audic | No Comments

I’m heading to the Wedding MBA again this year (4th year in a row!) and hosting a Q&A on destination weddings. My preparation got me to taking a stroll down memory lane, looking at old documents and photos of the weddings, and I just had to share some of my favorites here; this post showcases stunning florals and venues from past Paris weddings.

Oh-so French Florals

Peonies featured big time in many of our weddings, particularly in the spring, when Paris is literally full of them! Florals by Estelle Preston – you cannot do better than hire her for your big day in Paris!

Photo by Yann Audic / www.Lifestorieswedding.com

Photo by Yann Audic / Lifestorieswedding.com

 

Perfect Paris Settings

You don’t have to have your wedding at the Versailles to have a truly stunning backdrop. Many cafes inhabit beautiful ornate buildings; very little decor is needed.

Top Two photos by Yann Audic;bottom photo by Olivier Lalin.

A Wedding Planning Podcast for Planners + Couples

By | Event Professional Podcast, Podcast, Wedding Planning Podcast | No Comments

My regular webinars for event pros have turned into podcasts!  At this link, you’ll find a wedding planner podcast have small but mighty nuggets of wisdom will get you through the toughest issues event pros encounter on a regular basis.

 

Soon (and based on a rather chaotic summer I just had on a personal level, I’m estimating “soon” is Winter 2018), I’ll have podcasts for couples as well, to help manage the wedding planning process as a consumer.

My concept for a wedding planning podcast was to share the struggles I’ve had, and how I overcame them – thus, in these podcasts, I’m offering actionable, concise, and real-world tested solutions and procedures you can easily repeat and use on your own.  From not standing your ground with a difficult client to selling your services at profitable pricing, I have lots to talk about. But, if you’re a wedding planner, you’re probably crazy busy and don’t have time to listen to a long podcast.  These are short podcasts, easy to listen to, and full of content, not empty chatter.

See podcasts here at the Aisle Survive website.
Enjoy, and email any thoughts, comments, or input at dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!

Be A More Assertive Event Planner : Practice Makes Perfect

By | Corporate Event Coordinator, Corporate Event Planner, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Event Planning Workshops, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

Have you ever worked at venue, and heard from management that you the most calm event planner (or one of) that they’ve worked with? When I’ve asked what they’ve experienced from other planners, I’ve heard stories of drunk planners, planners that have caused major drama, got into fights with vendors, etc.  Now mind you, I have a wide network of planners here in L.A. and know none of my compadres would ever act like this, but, as the years wore on and I bore the brunt of bad behavior from clients, guests and vendors, I could understand why planners get aggressive, reactive, and, well, un-calm.

I never let myself ‘lose it,’ but one thing I learned to do was be more assertive. I.e., stay calm, but not passive.  A couple times, I even raised my voice, but only when necessary. I do think that it’s great to be calm, but it can’t be at the expense of your well-being and the quality of your client’s event or of your business (when a client needs some boundaries set).  I will say, it gets easier the more you practice. Here’s some tips.

Call a company and negotiate, even if it’s not as an event planner.

Why not? It can be your wifi, your office rent lease renewal, or shoot, just call your credit card company and ask for a better APR. Use measured approach and validate it with a good reason (“I did some research, and an office building next door is charging less than what I’m paying now – so my rent needs to stay the same for the next year.”). These lower-level negotiations will prepare you to be tougher in more tense situations.

Strengthen your contract and stick to it.

If I had a nickel for every time a client innocently started involving me in rehearsal dinner plans (when I’ve been clearly hired just to work the wedding)…  I finally added in italics that these events are clearly additional services, just to reinforce what exactly my contract covered. Then I felt more comfortable telling the client they’d have to pay extra for these services.  The first time, I had butterflies in my stomach; after that, I didn’t blink.  And the clients were grateful for my honesty, and some even hired me to help with their additional events.

Let ‘er rip – when you really need to.

I’ve only raised my voice 3 times in nearly 200 events. Twice, it was towards staff or vendors’ staff that were not listening. I politely and firmly asked for something several times – no response. (Was it because I was a *female* event planner? I wonder.). Finally, I raised my voice a shout.  And it worked! I know we shouldn’t have to do it, but a) if there are no guests around and b) it’s a vital, time sensitive issue, than IMO, it’s okay to raise your voice.  (The third time was to an inebriated, aggressive guest who was harassing me – raising my voice stunned him so much, he scurried away!)

Should you add new services to your business?

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Consultant, Corporate Event Coordinator, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator | No Comments
A few years ago, I realized that clients constantly needed basic tabletop offerings – candle votives, lanterns, and the like. Due to the expense of sourcing and storing these items, not all florists had robust quantities of them.  I sourced a few different types of votives and frequently rented them out to clients, making some additional pocket change and saving them time, and over-investing in these items.  What would be hard about adding new services to my boutique event planning business?

I thought, maybe something’s there.  I could start a table top rental business! It fills a need, I had storage in my garage, and I had plenty of contacts in the event world.

Then I started thinking:  How would I deliver these items to everyone, along with my day to day business, which if I wasn’t careful, could be all consuming? Wouldn’t delivery cost as much as the item rental fees, due to labor costs?  Also, what if they came back broken? What inventory tracker should I use?

Lanterns add new services to your business bud vases floral linen wedding long table reception decor event design

Photo by Jillian Rose Photography

I realized, it just wasn’t worth doing – better to stay with what I was doing, continue to refine my event planning business, and coast along with that.

It’s so easy to be distracted, to see another opportunity and try to strike out in a new direction. Before you do, check in with yourself:

Run Scenarios.

Think through a typical transaction of your new business. How much time and money would it cost you?  Would you be able to charge enough to cover your cost?

Evaluate your resources – do you have enough to add a new service?

Do you need additional capital?  How much would it cost to source raw materials (if any)?

Does someone else already do it well?

When photobooths were the new thing, there were just a handful or competitors for each region. Now, there are so many!  Is it worth entering a saturated market?

Take time to review all your options and the ripple effects to your business.  If you think it’s a good idea, go for it! Otherwise, nothing wrong with regrouping and making your current business even stronger.

Event Planners: How to Deal when things get Personal

By | Consultant, Corporate Events, Event Planner, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

As a wedding planner, I learned more about diplomacy than a degree in international politics probably ever could!  What helped me deal with situations with extraordinarily irrational elements was developing empathy and being a consummate professional, and event planners can do so easily with a little forethought. Here’s how.

1.  Try to Figure out What’s Going On.

No need to actually ask the person what their problem is (unless you feel it’s appropriate!) – but perhaps you overheard the bride talking about her deceased father, or the party host talk about being laid off recently.  Something could be going on in their lives that while it doesn’t excuse their behavior, it allows you to give them a pass so you don’t overreact.

fun bridal party photos bus party bus event planners

This is the end result you want to get for your clients – all smiles after a great evening. You can get there the easy way, or the hard way, depending on how well you set boundaries.

2. Event Planners need to Be Kind but Firm when things get Personal.

For wedding planners especially, it’s important to remember while your clients are in an emotional space, you are not.  You are at work, being a professional. It’s no different than a bank teller or a financial planner – you wouldn’t expose them to the latest fight with your mom or cry on their shoulder, would you?  So your clients should treat you professionalism as well.  It’s as easy as saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but my job is to create and run a beautiful wedding day.  When you have resolved your personal issues, let me know what your final decision is.  Let’s talk now about the dessert table (change the subject.)

3.  Be Clear in your Legal Agreements about Services.

If a client wants you to research 15 photographers when 5 would suffice, there should be a limitation in your contract where you reserve the right to charge additional when their needs go over and above reasonable limits.  This should be clearly stated BEFORE they hire you, too.

For more information about consultation and education for event planners, click here.  Happy Planning!

Charging Enough? Wedding Planner Pricing

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Planner Price, Wedding Planner Pricing | No Comments

I stopped actively planning weddings a few months ago (Bad knees + missing family time on weekends made the decision for me), and I now consult with other industry-related businesses. As a wedding planner pricing was key to the success as of my business;  recently, as part of my work, I happened upon a planner’s website with startlingly low prices.  These were prices I charged about 6-7 years ago.

Charging too little is a high stakes decision that drastically affects your well-being, your ability to provide for you and your family, and your long term earnings.  You will create a referral base that’s lower budget and never break through to a high-earning, high quality book of business.  When I amped up my pricing to truly reflect my workload and expertise, I had a lull in bookings for 2-3 months, but then I recouped any missing revenue and had much better long term earnings. It was a game changer.

Ceremony Under Chuppah Calamigos Ranch

Photo by True Photography; venue, Calamigos Ranch; Florals, McCann Florist

Wedding Planner Pricing Tips

1. Set limits on your services. I capped my ‘day of’ coordination to 40 hours total, and partial planning meetings were capped at 90 minutes long, for example.  Sometimes we give an inch, and our clients (usually without any ill will), take a mile, but it eats up your profit and earnings per hour.

2.  Ask around.  Find your tribe of honest and supportive wedding and event planners in your community and share your pricing models.  Become referral partners. If your pricing is apples to apples to each other (at least approximately), you build a web of high quality, well-priced services that will gain ground with potential clients and set a standard of pricing.

3. Consider hourly pricing. I’ve been a big proponent of this lately, and if I were to continue my business, I’d revert to this model.

Part of my consulting services is to help planners formulate concise, data-supported pricing models for optimal profit.  I offer a 20-minute no-obligation call to anyone interested in my services, which is a great way to have a professional, safe space to vent, discuss pressing issues, and gain insight on thriving in the challenging business of event planning. To learn more, click here, email me at dee@noworriesep.com, or call  310-562-3306. Happy planning!

Setting Boundaries with Wedding Clients

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Difficult Clients and Vendors, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding | No Comments

An unexpected thing happened when I started wedding planning:  People lower their guard with wedding planners, and suddenly you’re treated like a therapist – or punching bag.  Some of the sharply worded, irritable, or just plain mean treatment totally blew me away, or highly reactive behavior – like the bride who called me at 11pm on a Saturday night to tell me the photo of the prototype of her bouquet made her cry (after she tried to tell the florist the exact recipe to use, which of course wouldn’t look right because the bride wasn’t a florist!).  Clearly, I needed to set boundaries with some brides, grooms, and family members and friends. Here’s how I did it.

Smogshoppe Wedding Boundaries clients

Photo by Marble Rye Photography

Set Boundaries from the Beginning

The best way to do this is to set expectations and boundaries from the beginning – I mean from before the clients even hire you.  You must set a sense of authority and expertise, and be clear that there are ground rules for communication, including office hours and a general good attitude when talking.  I was a bride and I know how stressful it can be – but we’re not saving lives here: There’s no need to have an anxiety attack over whether or not the quartet can learn the exact arrangement of the pop song you want playing as you walk down the aisle.

Peony Boutonnierre Peony Boutonierre  Boundaries wedding clients Mulberry Row florist Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding peonies

Photo by Iris and Light

Pick the Right Clients.

If potential clients don’t like your no-nonsense (but kind) attitude, they aren’t a good fit. You’re not a non-stop ‘yes man,’ you’re a voice of reason. If they want an enabler, they can go somewhere else.

Make it Legal!

Then, be sure your contract supports your boundaries, and lays in place parameters for how you communicate.

Once you start establishing your authority, your life will change, and your work will be more joyous, and your clients will be grateful for your support.  To learn more about boundaries, email me at dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!