Category Archives: Business Builders
After I wound down my wedding planning company, I started working in venue sales. When I interviewed with prospective employers, they always asked me what my approach would be to selling. All I had to say was, when I first started my company, I had to start from nothing, and at first, nearly every single piece of business, every client, I earned was from an outbound lead. It was all about attracting clients in any way possible – a huge hustle.
In other words, unlike a big, well known company or name brand – like Four Seasons, say, or The Gap – I had no brand awareness, not even many contacts, in either the wedding industry or the world at large. I had to hustle. But, it worked; my first year, I booked 16 weddings, and by year 3, I had a fully booked calendar, almost purely from referral (the small percentage that weren’t, were booked off my website). Here are a few tips on how I did it.
Be a Diplomat – and Venues will Refer You To Clients
A major problem venues run into with their wedding planner colleagues are how biased they can be towards their clients. Now, of course, your client comes first. But, clients are always right. Yet, some event planners will take their clients’ completely unrealistic and unfair requests to the hotel or venue and make foolish and rude demands on their behalf. Instead, the planner should lovingly and calmly educate their clients on how to modulate their request to be reasonable and realistic. Wedding planners who do this not only have clients who appreciate their expertise and credibility, but they immediately rise to the top of most venues’ lists for referrals. The majority of my referral business came from venues.
How do you promote your wedding planning business?
Good question – it’s different for everyone. AND – for every region. I’m just gonna come out and say it, but here in L.A., using web platforms to advertise businesses really don’t seem to work enough for vendors out here, enough to achieve a meaningful ROI, anyways. But, in other regions, these web platforms may work like gangbusters. In my experience, clients here are investing a lot of money in we vendors (because we live in a big, expensive city, so we have to charge more, natch), and they don’t just want to grab a few names on line – they want someone they can trust. Perhaps a DJ or even a caterer can be found online, but a wedding planner? That person is holding the keys to your entire event, and they know a lot of personal and financial information about you. And you can ‘fake’ your portfolio – or at least embellish it- pretty easily. Crazily enough, some wedding vendors and planners out here don’t even have websites. (Obviously that’s not best practice, but it shows you how powerful word of mouth is out here.)
That said, there are a lot of free websites and online portals where you can advertise for free – and you never know. All you invest with these outlets is time, so it’s worth a try. But tread carefully, ask lots of questions, and secure case studies from your niche and region before paying big bucks to advertise your wedding planning business.
Tie Up Those Loose Ends
Clients are more likely to refer you if you have no loose ends left with them after their event. Sometimes, clients will have lots of questions or issues with the end of their event unless you pre-empt the situation. For example, always point out to multiple people, not just the couple, where their gift cards are in person to them before you leave, and take photos of where they are safely stored (I learned to do this after a 2am phone call from a mother of the bride who panicked because the bride and groom didn’t show them where they were when they gave them all their gifts at the end of the night). If a vendor showed up late or you had an issue with timing due to circumstances beyond your control, be sure to calmly alert them in a friendly follow up email. If they feel you did a thorough job with concise follow-up, they’ll be more likely to refer you.
Network, Network, Network!
Go to as many networking events in and out of your industry as possible. The fun of being a wedding planner means lots of wining, dining, and schmoozing. Strike friendly and warm conversations; followup the next day or two with an email, and follow your new connections on social channels. Often an event will clash with another one (they always seem to be on the same night!) so strategize wisely to stop by as many as you can. Forming bonds and supportive connections means more referrals – and most of all, those connections mean warm friendships and support in an often demanding industry.
Have any questions? Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org!
One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t please everyone.” So true. And yet, as event planners, we want to so badly. Or, we are tired of having these expectations thrust upon us but wearily try to do so anyways; regardless, what needs to be done in these situations is to manage expectations with wedding planning clients. And that means from the very beginning.
Have a rock solid contract to help manage expectations from the start
I know it’s pricey to hire a lawyer to write your contract, but DO IT! A solid contract will protect you from litigious people who may overreact and point their finger at you if a mishap occurs, even if it’s not your fault. Not only does it manage expectations, it can save you from negative reviews and even foolhardy attempts at litigation. And compare notes with other planners and wedding vendors, too! Be sure you know what pitfalls you need to pre-empt, what verbiage is appropriate, and what lingo is required in your state. (And while I’ll give some contractual advice here in the blog, always run everything past a legal expert first!)
In your proposal, enumerate EXACTLY what you do. For example, a moderately priced full wedding planner should not be going to every single wedding dress shopping trip – that could take days! I noted on my proposal that I attended one FITTING to learn how to bustle the dress. Be as crisp as possible, and discuss with your prospective clients so you can get off on the right foot from before they even book you.
Often, clients are so overwhelmed with paperwork and contracts from vendors, they don’t read everything. So be sure to discuss with them first, at the proposal phase; again, at your first meeting; and remind them along the way – in an emotionally intelligent fashion – what you do and don’t do. At your final meeting, it’s really smart to ask them to send someone to you at the wedding to discuss anything they want fixed or addressed at the wedding. Tell them that you need to be empowered with knowledge at the event to do your job to its best – you are not a mind reader. (This allows you to avoid the passive-aggressive list of complaints on the following Tuesday. I got one of those once – with ridiculous ‘issues’ that had nothing to do with me – and vowed, never again!)
How do I keep Pinterest from warping my client’s expectations?
Don’t let Pinterest highjack your work! In person, discuss with wedding planning clients how fantastical and ornate design vignettes they see on Pinterest can take hours to setup. In your contract, you’ll have verbiage that states you handle standard set up only – and list them: “escort cards, ceremony programs, and guest book” – finite, crisp, clear. Do they have a few family photos they want set out? Fine. What about menus at each table setting? Maybe – possibly the caterer can do it, one way or another, you can figure that out. But set up multiple levels, platters, and 5 different desserts? Nope! In your contract (I’ve done this – but again, check with your lawyer), you can alert the couple that you reserve the right to elect to bring on board another assistant or designer to implement their setup if you decide it’s beyond your contracted duties.
Remember, you’re not all things to all people…You’re providing ONE service and can’t stretch like Elastigirl to do the jobs of many! Having crisp paperwork to set the tone will easily manage expectations.
Need a sounding board? Have a difficult situation on your hands? Struggling with cash flow? I can help with all these issues and more and provide a complementary 20-minute intake call. Contact me anytime at email@example.com!
It can be tricky to build a profitable wedding planning business. Too often, I find wedding planners focusing on volume. The more events they book a year, the better. While you do need to market yourself in such a way that once you fill your calendar comfortable, you are turning down potential new business, what’s more important is what you’re profiting per event – not how many events.
Also, there are a lot of hidden costs to running an event planning business – the last minute additional staffing needs when a wedding becomes a bit more complex than originally planned, or your bookkeeper needs to untangle a few unique expenses and bill you more money.
Here are two tips to built a profitable wedding planning business:
Strategize the Right Mix of Events
Loading up on coordination jobs makes you less money than booking a few less in number of full planning, for example. Look ahead and decide how many coordination, partial planning, and full you want to book in the coming year, and then develop marketing strategies to do just that. Write the goals down and check in weekly.
Protect Against Last Minute Costs
Client needs you to pick up their alcohol at the last minute – 1 hour from your office? Oops! Cousin Freddy invited his 50 friends, and the guest count shot up? Then the client has to pay more money in your direction. Have ‘change in scope’ and ‘additional services and fee menu’ sections in your contract. Mileage and staffing are hard costs and must be covered; also, your time is potentially a soft cost, but VALUABLE. These ‘little’ fees add up hugely, and can kill your profit or keep you from building a profitable wedding planning business till it’s too late.
I’m here to help you build a profitable wedding planning business!
Don’t hesitate to email me to share your thoughts, or pick my brain – I mean it! I offer a 20 minute consultation “discovery” call with anyone needing some insight or curious about consultation services – or just to chat! Absolutely no obligation. I’ve learned things the hard way and eager to share my hard knocks to help other entrepreneurs succeed.
Best wishes for a profitable enterprise. Happy planning!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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?
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.
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.
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 email@example.com, or call 310-562-3306. Happy planning!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy planning!
For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Wedding MBA conference, this time for two sessions – in addition to discussing destination weddings, I also spoke about appearing on television and managing on-camera opportunities. The best benefit about attending the conference is seeing my colleagues, meeting new ones, and enjoying the city of Las Vegas.
When I woke up that morning, I had an iPhone news alert about the tragic shooting in Las Vegas the day prior – a stunning development that shocked us all. The conference was still going to move forward – as it should – and my friend Summer Newman of Summer Newman Events, who traveled with me, wanted to help as best we could. When we tried to donate blood, the drive that was taking place across the street from our hotel had already closed down because so many people showed up. By a day or two after the event, the local blood supply was sufficient for at least a few days. However, it reminded me how important it is to give blood and I’m now going to donate once a year. Meantime, I donated to the Go Fund Me page to help support the victims and their families.
With the Wedding MBA well underway upon our arrival, I carefully chose the sessions I wanted to attend. I had a massive head cold by the time we arrived, so I couldn’t hit as many as I wanted, so I specifically chose sessions that relate to my newer role as a freelance marketing and event consultant. It’s so important to understand how the Internet, Google, Facebook, and SEO and SEM in general can enhance a business’ marketing. I carefully chose two sessions about these topics, and they were extremely helpful. The speakers were very generous with their knowledge and one even sent slides to us, Mark Chapman of Everett Andrew Marketing.
I also met some vendors on the convention floor, exploring new ideas in lighting, stationary, photo booths, and others. Overall, it was a productive trip and it was fantastic to see the conference get bigger every year – it’s a fantastic opportunity for wedding vendors to help each other grow stronger, together. Hope to see you there next year!