Category Archives: Business Development

Keep Those Clients Coming: How To Build Your Referral Business

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting for Creatives, Business Development, Getting More Clients, Networking, Oscar Party Tips | No Comments

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.

Meme wedding planning clients

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.

Beach Wedding Los Angeles With Tent

It’s all about your network! For this wedding, the hotel (Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach) referred me to the couple; then I referred them to the tent vendor (LM Productions), the DJ (Vox DJs), and the florist (Lotus and Lily). Photo by Nicole Caldwell Photography.

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 dee@noworriesep.com!

The Low Wedding Budget: Just Say No

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Budget, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Cost, Wedding Decor | No Comments

I’m sure this title is controversial – and I’m sure it’ll anger some brides and grooms reading this. And trust me, I get very miffed when I see just how much it costs to have a wedding. But I also know how much it costs to run a business, pay for labor, and provide goods and services (at least, in dense, pricey cities like my home of L.A.).  Couples see a lot of DIY blogs online and think they can beat the system – and sometimes, a lower wedding budget can work, if thoughtful, methodical choices are made (I.e. food truck instead of 4 course dinner; rent a city park versus a luxury hotel). But I have ran into potential clients that want to pay an unrealistically low amount for a super lavish wedding; and the dots just don’t connect.

And when you as a wedding vendor sit down with a potential client and they want to have a bargain basement budget, it’s best to politely decline if the following occur:

An avoidance of reality: “I can make my wedding budget work – even if you say I can’t!”

Some clients listen, and agree that they need to re-calibrate their budgets. Others refuse to listen to reality. “But my cousin can provide the tequila and our best friend can bartend!” If there’s an insistence a first class wedding can happen on a bargain basement budget, you will never be able to convince them otherwise, and there will be too much time taken out of your schedule to try to convince them.

Smogshoppe wedding decor flamingo decor runners table wedding budget

Choosing a venue that has a unique look, like SmogShoppe here, can reduce the need for significant amount of decor. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography.

Cutting YOUR corners.

“You can use our extra speakers!” No, a DJ should use his/her own. “My housekeeper can wash your dishes!” No, a caterer should bring enough staff to do EVERYTHING.  “Our groomsmen can set up the decor for you!” No, a planner should always have their own staff.  A client that wants you to understaff or under-prepare beyond best and standard practices, so they can cut their budget, is penny wise, pound foolish.  Just say no.

In summary…

Being honest and kind in your discussion with couples is valuable in that you can bow out gracefully, and also help guide them to a successful event, regardless if you are involved.  Just remember that when you cut corners just to book that next job, it may cost you more mentally, and even financially, than it’s worth.

Questions? Email me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com, and meantime, happy planning!

Profit First | Tips for a Profitable Wedding Planning Business

By | Blush and Pink Wedding, Blush Wedding, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Profitable Wedding Planning Business | No Comments

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.

White Lilac large wedding Persian wedding blush Terranea wedding Large ballroom profitable wedding planning business

Large weddings like this one at Terranea, featuring over 500 guests, require lots of staffing; I factored this into my proposal from the beginning. Photo by John Solano, design and florals by White Lilac.

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!

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.

***

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!

 

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.

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!

Wedding MBA 2017 Recap

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Destination Wedding, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding MBA, Wedding MBA 2017, Wedding Planner | No Comments

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.

Wedding Display Wedding MBA Wedding Balloon Vendors

This balloon display as soon as attendees entered the conference space was a hit.

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!

 

So you want to become a wedding planner…

By | Aspiring Event Planners, Aspiring Wedding Planners, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

By Dee Gaubert | Owner, No Worries Event Planning

Growing up, I wasn’t one of those girls who gushed over weddings or dreamed of being a wedding planner.  I definitely wanted to get married one day, and I loved event design and decor, but it wasn’t a passion of mine to become a planner.  Instead, I worked in both marketing and then television production, and worked on events as part and parcel to both of these careers, and realized I could start my own event planning company. With my husband’s hours intensive and us starting a family, I needed to be able to manage my own schedule and be the ‘lead parent’ most of the time; and thus, No Worries Event Planning was born.

As I became more searchable on the web, I started getting inquiries and notes from a variety of people wanting very badly to be planners and learn more about the business. I was surprised because it’s really hard work, a serious hustle the first few years to find your clientele, and for certain temperaments, being a wedding planner is extremely stressful. But, I really loved doing it and I wanted to educate others.

To that end, here are a few pointers if you want to become a planner, that will help you reach your goal of having your own business or a thriving career in events.

One of the perks of the job? Getting to work in stunning locales.  Photo by Katie Geiberger, venue: Rancho Del Cielo.

One of the perks of the job? Getting to work in stunning locales. Photo by Katie Geiberger, venue: Rancho Del Cielo.  Florals by Peony and Plum.

Get lots of experience before becoming a full time wedding planner.

Working for years in both marketing and TV production, I developed a skill set working both in project management and events that served me well. If you haven’t done a lot of event planning, you will find yourself in unusual situations that you won’t be ready for, unless you start working for other planners right away.  Volunteer for trade organizations (like ABC, WIPA, and EPA) and help them plan and execute events, too – it’s outstanding experience, and you will start to get to know other wedding planners, as well.

Wedding planner destination wedding photography Paris

Another pinch-me moment from running No Worries: Our Paris destination weddings. This gorgeous photo is by Yann Audic of Lifestories Weddings photography.

Consult the B2B pros.

As a wedding planner, I’ve run into a lot of gray areas as far as responsibilities of the various parties involved with each element of the event.  But, I got a great lawyer and accountant from the beginning, and since then have developed a team of contractors who help me when needed for IT,  web maintenance, and other needs.  You don’t want to be held up by a last minute issue with your printer or have a contract that leaves you liable, so interview a team of B2B pros when you start your business.

Network.

Networking is the number one way I built my business, by referral from other trusted peers and colleagues. It also helps you build a support system with other planners and pros; it’s really the most fun part of doing what we do!  I love the friends I’ve made in this industry, and treasure our relationships.

For brass-tack advice and personalized consulting on creating a profitable, joyous wedding and event planning business, check out our Aspiring Planners page for thoughtfully crafted workshops and consulting packages, and please call or email me anytime:  310-562-3306 and dee@noworriesep.com.  Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2017!