8 Tips for Starting a Wedding Planning Business on a Small Budget

 

Tips for Starting a Wedding Planning Business on a Small Budget

Are you trying to start your wedding planning business with very little money? I’ve received a few questions lately from future wedding planners who want to get their businesses started on a small budget and they want to make money as soon as possible, so I’m answering one of them in my Q and A today.

Question

I’m starting a wedding planning business and have very little money to invest in it. I also need it to make money as soon as possible. How do I do this?

Answer

You don’t need a lot of money to start a wedding planning business. But, please have realistic expectations about the amount of time it would take to be successful. You may be able to start quickly but wedding planning is not a business that guarantees you’ll make a lot of money very quickly. It takes hard work and it can take time for you to establish yourself as an expert and be able to attract a steady stream of brides.

Here are 8 tips for starting you wedding planning business on a small budget:

1) Figure out what brides want to buy, not just what you want to sell to them

Don’t decide on your services based on what other wedding planners offer. Focus on a specific type of bride, find out the types of services she would buy, then create and sell those services.

2) Forget about perfecting your logo and brand design

Many new wedding planners focus on getting their logo, website and printed materials “perfect” before they launch their businesses. In the meantime, they’re not getting any clients and not making any money, instead they’re spending a lot of money on design.

I’m not saying you don’t need attractive marketing, you absolutely need to look professional. But, you don’t need the “perfect” design when you start. Your brand design will develop as you work with more and more brides and as your business grows.

3) Keep marketing expenses low

Be careful about investing a lot of money in advertising, especially on wedding websites. Many times those ads only bring brides who are price shopping.

4) Take advantage of free social media sites for online marketing

Set up free accounts for your business on the social media sites that the brides you want visit. This could include Facebook (business Page), Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and others. Many sites offer free analytic information so you can learn about the brides who visit and “like” your posts and pins and create content that will keep them interested in you.

5) Talk to people about your wedding planning business

Your first few brides will probably be family members, friends, or friends of a family member or friend, so don’t be shy about spreading the word. Tell people that you’re a wedding planner and explain how you can help the brides they know have the weddings they want.

6) Overestimate your time when setting your rates

What hurts new wedding planners the most is not charging enough enough for their services. This is often because they underestimate the amount of time it would take to plan and manage a wedding. So, calculate your time carefully before you quote your rates and send out proposals.

7) Collect a deposit when a bride hires you

When a bride signs your contract (yes, you must invest in an attorney who can help you write a contact), get a deposit before you begin planning her wedding. This is standard, so don’t be afraid to ask for money. A deposit will help you cover expenses as you’re planning the wedding, keep a bride committed to you and reduce the possibility of not getting paid.

8) Give great customer service

When you do an excellent job, your clients will tell everyone all about you and new brides will be seeking you out to hire you.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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Wedding Planner Q&A – “How Do I Get Selected as a Preferred Wedding Planner?”

 

Become a Preferred Wedding Planner

Wedding planners often get their best brides from referrals. So, getting on the preferred vendor lists at hotels and other venues, can bring you opportunities to work with high quality brides. In my Q&A today, I offer tips on how to become a preferred wedding planner.

Question

How do I approach hotels to get them to refer me? I “Liked” them on Facebook in hopes of starting relationships with them.

Answer

It sounds like you’re interested in getting on preferred vendors lists at hotels. Many hotels and other venues only allow clients to use the vendors from their lists so this could open up opportunities for you to get new clients.

If you’re a new wedding planner, it could take some time to become a preferred vendor so start positioning yourself now to be the one they want.

Here are 4 tips that will help you to become a preferred wedding planner:

1) Start making contacts now

You don’t have to have a client who is in need of a venue to start connecting with their catering, event and sales staff. Attend wedding, event planner and caterer association meetings, Chamber of Commerce mixers, Convention and Visitors Bureau mixers and small business events. Many hotels and event venues are members of these groups and you can start making connections and forming relationships. They will often invite planners to tour their facilities in hopes of getting referrals. These tours are wonderful opportunities to not only see if a venue would be suitable for your future clients, but also to get to know influential staff members and help them get to know you.

2) Find out the criteria for preferred vendors

Hotels often have requirements such as; you must have planned a specific number of events at their location, you must have been a wedding planner for a minimum number of years or you must have proof that you carry business insurance and have a business license. In addition, they may want to see testimonials from past clients and references from other vendors so they can be sure that you consistently do high-quality work, offer excellent customer service and are easy to work with.

Find out the requirements of the hotels in which you want to be a preferred vendor and start fulfilling them now. Then you’ll be in a good position when they’re ready to add a wedding planner to their list.

3) Always set yourself apart from other wedding planners

In every interaction with hotel staff, even when just connecting at association events and mixers, remember that people notice how you look, act and speak. Always be professional and never say negative things about a client or another vendor, it’s a small world and gossip travels fast.

When you plan a wedding at the hotel where you want to be a preferred vendor, keep staff informed and make sure they know of any last minute changes. They appreciate emails confirming details so they can be successful at giving you what you need – it’s an extra touch that many wedding planners don’t often think to do. Also, treat everyone with respect, call each person by his or her name and send a handwritten thank you after your event is over – this is another special touch that many planners don’t do.

4) Stay in touch

Don’t just start a relationship and drop it when a hotel doesn’t put you on their preferred list right away. Be patient. Stay in touch with your contacts by making it a point of saying “hello” when you see them at events. Do more than “Like” and follow them on social media, also comment on and share their Facebook and Twitter posts. Doing these little things will keep you fresh in their minds and help them see that you would be a valuable asset as a preferred vendor.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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Wedding Planners – Attract Brides with Stories

 

Wedding Planners - Attract Brides with Your Stories

Many wedding planners’ websites and printed marketing pieces look the same. Brides will find lists of services and packages, information about the planners’ backgrounds and explanations on why they’re the best.

So, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, do something different. Promote yourself by storytelling. You can attract more brides by telling them how you can help them plan the weddings they want by telling stories than by giving them a list of the services you offer.

Here are 3 points you need to include in your stories:

1) The problems your brides had

Tell stories of your brides’ problems before they met you. For example, how they didn’t know how to create and manage a wedding budget, were time-crunched because they had a full-time job or were trying to DIY and not doing well. Talk about whatever challenges they were facing that seemed overwhelming to them and made them turn to you. Be clear about some of the emotions your brides were going through during this time because chances are good that brides reading your website will be able to relate to them.

2) What you did to help them solve their wedding planning problems

Tell the stories of how you helped your brides overcome their problems. Supply a few details that will help future clients see that you understand the problems they are having and are uniquely qualified to help them. You’re much more than a list of wedding planning services!

3) Give the outcome

How did the brides feel after you took over the wedding planning process for them? How did their weddings turn out? It’s best if you can get brides to tell their own stories in testimonials that they allow you to share with others. However, if you haven’t received any, go ahead and explain how happy your brides were and how well the weddings turned out. Aim to get testimonials from future clients.

And if you want help to become a top wedding planner, sign in to get my ezine “Wedding Planner Tips.”

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Wedding Planner Q&A – “I’m Having Trouble Getting Started on My Wedding Planner Business, What Should I Do?”

 

Starting a Wedding Planning Business

Does something always seem to get in the way of starting a wedding planning business? In my Q and A today, I offer tips that will help you remove your obstacles and get your business going.

Question

I’m starting a wedding planning business. I have office space, so it’s just a matter of doing it. I find I keep procrastinating. Every time I solve a problem or take a step closer to starting up, I find there is always something else I need, or need to do. I am always waiting to complete a step and the time just passes. I have no doubt I can do this, I just need to get started. How do I do it?

Answer

If you’ve already gotten your office space, you’ve already started your business. It’s time to quit getting “closer to starting up” and actually work on your business.

Here are 7 steps for you to take:

1) Get organized

Write down everything you feel you need to do to move your business forward that you haven’t done. Examples – write a business plan, find and join a wedding and event planner association, start a Facebook Page, start a website or blog, find wedding vendors, etc.

2) Set deadlines

You mentioned, “time just passes”. Don’t let this happen anymore. Set deadlines for all of the items you wrote down above, break each one down into small, manageable tasks and schedule them on your calendar.

3) Find an accountability partner

Find a fellow wedding vendor, business person, friend or family member with whom you can discuss your plans, who will encourage you and hold you accountable for meeting your deadlines.

4) Forget about being perfect

I read once, “perfection doesn’t pay the bills”. So true, I know as a wedding planner you’re probably a perfectionist. You’d like everything to be perfect before you start your new business but it’s an impossible goal to attain. Strive for excellence; not perfection.

5) Speak about “having” not “starting” a business

“Starting” a business sounds to others, and you, like it’s something you’re planning to do in the future. Instead, you want others to know you are in business and ready to get clients. After all, wouldn’t you work for a bride now if the right one wanted to hire you as her wedding planner?

6) Get a client

Nothing will make you feel more like you’re in business than getting hired by your first paying client. It doesn’t have to be for full service wedding planning. Your first bride might just need a “day of” wedding planner or simply a few hours of consultation time. Start promoting your services now.

7) Remember your dream

Isn’t it your passion to be a wedding planner and help people have beautiful weddings? It’s not going to happen if you just let time pass and never put your office space to good use. You’ve got to get moving.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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Wedding Planners – 3 Ways to Avoid Attracting the Wrong Brides

 

3 Ways Wedding Planner Can Avoid Attracting the Wrong Brides

Very often, new wedding planners attract the wrong brides – these are brides who don’t want to pay them or demand deep discounts. This can happen if you don’t correctly market your wedding planning services.

Here are 3 ways you can avoid attracting the wrong brides and start attracting brides who will value you and the services you offer:

1) Don’t market to all brides

It’s tempting to reach out to every bride in your area in hopes of getting a few brides to notice you. But if your marketing messages try to reach every bride, you’ll easily appeal to the wrong brides. You want to target a specific group of brides who would value you, create the services they need, then write marketing messages that make them think, “that wedding planner knows what I need. I want to hire that planner”.

2) Market your services to your target brides

Online – Find out what blogs your target brides read and what social media sites they follow, then make sure you have a strong presence on those sites. Post interesting and relevant information on your sites, don’t just make sales pitches for your wedding planning services. Then go to blogs and social media sites your brides visit and make positive comments so they can see you there.

Offline – Join fitness clubs, social clubs and professional organizations in which your target brides are members. Get to know them and let them get to know you before making any sales pitches.

3) Don’t waste your time on brides who aren’t interested

Don’t spend any amount of time begging the wrong brides to hire you. If they don’t want to pay you what you charge, don’t discount your rates and don’t bother trying to change their minds. Thank them for their time and move on. I know this may be difficult to do when you may be struggling to get clients, but these types of brides turn out to be a lot more trouble than they are worth.

Have confidence that you’re a valuable wedding planning professional and invest your time, energy and money only in brides who value the skills, knowledge and expertise you offer.

And if you want help to become a top wedding planner, sign in to get my ezine “Wedding Planner Tips.”

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Wedding Planner Q&A – “People Want Me to Plan Events for Free, What Do I Do?”

 

Get Paid to Plan Events

Have people asked you to plan weddings or other types of events for free? Sometimes they will tell you that it will help you get exposure. Or that it’ll give you an opportunity to meet lots of potential clients and influential people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. What does sometimes happen is you find yourself donating your time, money and energy with little benefit.

In my Q and A today, I offer advice on handling people who want you to plan events for free.

Question

I’m studying to be a wedding planner so I haven’t planned any weddings yet. I’m trying to make some money by planning other types of events on-the-side. However, when I tell people my rates, they complain and want me to plan events for free. What do I do?

Answer

If you’re brand new to event planning and don’t have any experience, you may need to plan some events for free to increase your skills and learn how to work with clients. If this is the case, be selective and be sure the events you take on truly give you the opportunities you want. Also, be very clear about the services you’re providing so your “clients” know exactly what to expect.

If you already have experience and can offer professional-level event planning services, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be paid and these 5 tips will help you:

1) Be clear about your skills

Just because you’re still studying to be a wedding planner doesn’t mean you don’t have the knowledge and skills to plan events. It’s fine to let people know you’re studying wedding planning but also tell them you already have experience in planning other types of events so they understand you’re not a newbie. Show them photographs, talk about past events you’ve planned and share testimonials.

2) Decide what services you can offer

If you’re only going to do event planning on-the-side, you may have to be selective about the types of services you can offer because of your schedule. Determine what those services are and who can benefit from them, then promote yourself as an event planner who specializes in those areas of planning. People will recognize your value and be willing to pay you when you establish yourself as an expert in giving them the help they need.

3) Act like a professional

Even though you’re doing this on the side, you need to act like a business owner, because you are one. Dress professionally, be on time for your meetings and appointments, follow up with anyone who asks about your services and take the time to market your services, both online and off, to attract clients.

4) Set boundaries

When I first started, I had people inviting me to coffee to “pick my brain” about events they were doing themselves. I ended up spending hours helping plan many events without pay. What I should have done, and what you need to do, is make one of the services you offer a consultation for people who just need event planning guidance. Then, when someone just wants to “pick your brain” and wants hours of advice, suggest they schedule an appointment for a paid consultation in which you can help them plan an event they can execute themselves.

5) Don’t be afraid to say “no’’ to giving away your time

You time and skills are valuable and you deserve payment for what you have to offer. If you start to plan events free when you could be charging, you’ll be starting a habit of accepting less than you deserve. You won’t be happy and you’ll have a difficult time making your wedding planning business a success.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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5 Things Wedding Planners Shouldn’t Share with Brides on Social Media

 

5 Things Wedding Planners Shouldn't Share on Social Media

Politics are frequently a topic for debate on social media, and with the United States Presidential election only a few months away, many people all around the world are eager to share their opinions online. If you’re also inclined to voice your opinion, remember that when you have a wedding planning business, your clients, potential clients and vendors will able to read what you post. It’s best to stay silent on these and other topics that could make people hesitant to do business with you.

Here are 5 things you don’t want to share on social media:

1) Political opinions

When you post your political opinion, you could be alienating brides who are following you. If you’re thinking that it is OK because you only want to work with brides who share your views, understand that brides prefer a wedding planner who focuses their time on planning weddings,  not on sharing their opinions on social media.

2) Arguments with others

If you disagree with anyone on anything, don’t fight in public on social media. Brides don’t want to hire an angry wedding planner who takes to Facebook or Twitter to air their opinions on other people’s comments.

3) Complaints about brides and vendors

Even if you’ve had a difficult bride or a vendor who didn’t meet commitments, social media is not the place to air your grievances. Settle problems privately. Brides don’t want to hire a wedding planner who can’t manage their business or one who whines about others in public. And vendors don’t want to work with someone who might complain about them on social media when they work together.

4) Confidential information about your weddings

Of course, you won’t share details about wedding budgets, expenses or contracts. But you also need to check with your brides before posting information and photos about their weddings. While most won’t have a problem with you sharing photos or writing about their event, they may want to be the first ones to do it or they may not want to share all details with everyone.

5) Personal drama

Brides don’t need to know about black sheep relatives, relationship issues and any arguments between you and your family members. But, if your personal Facebook page is public, or you’ve become Facebook “Friends” with any brides or vendors, and you talk about your life online, they’ll know everything. You don’t need people in your professional life knowing all about your personal life. Think before you share. Keep any personal drama out of the public eye.

Always keep posts on your social media sites positive, upbeat and professional to attract the brides you want.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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Wedding Planner Q&A – “How Do I Beat the Competition?”

 

How Wedding Planners Can Beat Competition

You’re going to face competition when you’re a wedding planner but it shouldn’t stop you from following your dream. To win clients, you’ll have to plan and run your business professionally and market it well.

Question

I have a dream of being a wedding planner but I know there would be a lot of competition. Would it be worth it for me to start a business? Could I really get brides to hire me instead of someone else?

Answer

If you’re noticing there are a lot of wedding planners in your area, it could mean that there’s a high demand for professionals who can help plan weddings. So, if you start out right, you can be very successful.

Here are 5 ways you can start your wedding planning business and thrive, even in the midst of heavy competition:

1) Find a desire or need you can fulfill

Read wedding magazines, websites and blogs and talk to newly married brides. Find out the services and products they needed or wanted during the wedding planning process that no one provided. Chances are good that many newly engaged brides need and want those very same things and would buy them from you, if you offered them.

If you can’t find something new to offer, find a service or product you can deliver in a different and better way than your competition. For example, many wedding planners offer to help choose a wedding menu. If you used to work for a caterer or planned menus for a venue, you can offer professional insight and expertise into planning a menu that most cannot. Promote the value of your expertise to stand out from your competition.

2) Don’t compete on price

When you’re a new wedding planner, you might feel that the only way you can compete is by offering the lowest prices. Don’t fall into this trap because if you do, you won’t be able to stay in business. Market the value of your unique expertise, services and products. Don’t compare your prices to another wedding planner’s and don’t let a bride do it either.

3) Aim at getting a few small clients, not just one high-end bride

There’s often a desire to start a new business off with a bang by trying to reach high-end brides with big budgets. But, unless you have had a lot of experience prior to starting your business and have a lot of high-end vendor contacts, it’s best to start small. It can be easier to be hired for consultations, “day of” coordination and full service wedding planning by brides with average budgets when you have a new business.

4) Build strong relationships with vendors

Get out and visit venues and meet caterers, florists, bridal consultants, cake designers, etc. Don’t just introduce yourself and ask for referrals. Instead, meet for coffee, build relationships and create your network of high quality, supportive vendors.

5) Be visible online

Set up a blog and share insights into wedding planning that you have gotten because of your work with brides. Use social media, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, to teach, entertain and inspire brides. Show them you’re an expert so they’ll want to hire you instead of your competition.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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5 Mistakes Wedding Planners Make with Brides

 

5 Mistakes Wedding Planners Make with Brides

As a new wedding planner, I’m sure you’re eager to attract brides and keep them happy when they’re your client. But it’s possible that some of the things that you think are helping you get and keep clients are actually hurting you. If you’re making any of the 5 mistakes below, it’s time to make some changes so you can attract more of the types of brides you want and become financially successful.

Mistake #1 – You’re not charging enough

If you’re like most new wedding planners, you’re charging low rates in an effort to attract lots of brides. Unfortunately, your low rates are probably only attracting brides who don’t place a high value on your services and want cheap prices. When you charge what your services are really worth, you’ll attract high-quality brides who value what you have to offer.

Mistake #2 – You’re letting brides decide how much you charge

If a bride pushes back when you quote your rates and gets you to offer a discount, you’re letting her choose how much you charge. Discounts can make it look like your services aren’t worth the price you’re charging. Instead, determine your rates and if she wants to negotiate, offer to include an additional small service for the same price, don’t automatically offer a discount.

Mistake #3 – You’re shy about asking brides to sign contracts

You and your brides need to be clear on the services you are providing and how much you will be paid for those services. This way there won’t be any disappointments or worse, disputes, during and after the wedding planning process. Work with an attorney to create a contract that you can use with your clients.

Mistake #4 – You’re available 24/7 for your brides

Of course, you want to be available for emergencies, especially right before the wedding day and on the wedding day itself. But, if you find yourself texting and talking to brides all hours of the day and night to discuss non-urgent requests or because they just want to chat, you haven’t set boundaries. You need some downtime to recharge, so unless you want to work around the clock and you’re being paid for 24/7 service, make it clear when you are and aren’t available.

Mistake #5 – You’re afraid to ask for payment

Whether you’re working for a family member, friend or a bride you just met, you need to make your payment schedule clear and not be afraid to ask for payment. At the very least, you need to be paid half when you start planning and the remaining fees before the wedding day. Some wedding planners request all of their money upfront. Write your payment schedule into your contract so there won’t be confusion about when money is due.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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Wedding Planner Q&A – “How Do I Write a Business Plan for My Wedding Planning Business?”

 

 Business Plan for Your Wedding Planning Business

Have you written a business plan for your wedding planning business? You might dread the thought of making a plan because you’d rather spend your time planning weddings. But, knowing what you want your business to look like now, and in the future, and planning how you can get there is important if you want to become a top wedding planner.

In my Q and A, I offer an easy, and hopefully, fairly painless, way to write a simple business plan.

Question

I am writing a business plan for my wedding planning business and I am having a little problem putting it together. Can you guide me?

Answer

If you’re writing a business plan to help you clarify your business goals and direction and are not planning to share it widely, it doesn’t need to be as formal as the intimidating business plan examples that you may have seen online.

Answering these 7 questions will help you create your plan and start a successful business:

1) Why do you want to have a wedding planning business?

Describe the passion that drove you to want to be a professional wedding planner.

2) What is your big vision for your business?

Maybe you hope someday to be a wedding planner for celebrities. Maybe you want to help the brides in your local area have their dream weddings. Maybe you see yourself traveling and planning destination weddings all over the world.

Whatever your vision is, write it down and describe it in detail. If you don’t know what you want and can’t envision it, you won’t be successful.

3) Who is your competition?

Venues, florists and caterers who have wedding coordinators on staff may be the competition in your area along with other wedding planning businesses. Check them out, see what they offer, who they target and how they promote their services. You don’t want to copy them, you want to learn from what they do.

4) What services will you offer and who will be the brides who will hire you?

Don’t just decide to offer high-end services to brides with large budgets. Do some research, determine a niche and find out the services they want, need and will pay for that your competition may not be offering.

5) What will your business look like?

Decide if you plan to work part-time or full time, and where you will work, at home or in a rented office. Note the number of hours a week you intend to work, the number of weddings you want to plan in a year and the number of assistants you plan to hire.

6) How much to do want to make?

Decide how much you will charge for your services (refer back to my blog post on how to determine your wedding planning rates if you need help) and how much you will earn per year.

7) What are you going to do to make your plan a reality?

Review the answers to your questions and write action steps for creating your successful wedding planning business.

Your plan can change as your business develops so don’t be afraid to write your current plan then make updates as your business grows.

If you’re trying to get a bank to give you a loan, your business plan will need to answer these questions and more. Talk to the loan manager about the type of format the bank requires. There are templates online and some excellent software that you can purchase to help you write a detailed plan. Also, local government offices often offer free classes for new business owners on topics such as obtaining a loan, marketing and bookkeeping. Do some research and see how you can take advantage of their free assistance.

And if you have a pressing question about starting or running your wedding planning business, you can send me an email at questions@sharonhill.com. I’ll answer them on this blog or in my ezine, “Wedding Planner Tips,” which you can subscribe to here.

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