I have been receiving an influx of emails the past few weeks from those of you who intend to start your own wedding planning businesses but want to take the right steps to ensure you don’t make common mistakes (you’re all so smart!). Take it from me, mistakes in the beginning stages of your new business always result in wasted time and money (and put you on the edge of insanity) but the good news is most mistakes are completely avoidable with the right tools. Because these questions are so common I thought a post on the subject would be helpful for you – AND because it’s Friday the 13th and I’m feeling CA-RAZY, I’m giving away a really powerful free resource that I wish I would have had in my arsenal when I started my business! Details about that are at the bottom of this post.
But first – three things you can do NOW to start your wedding planning business off strong:
1) GET EDUCATED
The TOP questions I receive about education: do I need a degree? and where is the best place to get certified? and do I really need to be certified? Let me break this down for you because I believe that being educated in whatever career, craft, trade you plan to practice is extremely important.
Do you need a degree to be a wedding planner? Well no, not technically. Many wedding planners I know majored in hospitality and even though I’m sure that degree is somewhat helpful to a career in wedding planning, it simply will not logistically teach you to actually plan a wedding. I personally believe that if you must have a degree and higher education is something that is important and validating for you, a business degree with a focus in marketing would strongly contribute to a career in wedding planning (or any entrepreneurship endeavor) and set you up for major success as marketing your services and running a business are things that must be learned.
Where is the best place to get certified? As the Director of Wedding Education for The Wedding and Event Institute I am obviously biased here, but this is hands down the best place to get certified as a wedding planner (or receive any wedding business education). Even if I was not their Director of Wedding Education I would still be shouting from the rooftops about how amazing this institution is. I have been working closely with WEI for over a year now and the wedding planners on my team are all certified through WEI. I never fail to be impressed at the level of integrity and professionalism with which they operate and the depth of education they offer to those at any level. This is why some of the top wedding professionals and industry leaders (such as Ceci Johnson, Kristin Banta, and Anne Chertoff) sit on the WEI Advisory Board.
Do I really need to be certified? This is how I look at it: I am not going to a stylist who hasn’t been to cosmetology school or a dentist who hasn’t been to dental school and I would never work with an unlicensed realtor to buy or sale my home. The same goes for any professional, be it a plumber or surgeon. I’m sure that you agree. So why would anyone hire a wedding planner who is not certified? It just doesn’t make sense. Even if you are familiar with wedding planning or have owned your business for several years but are not certified, I recommend you take certification courses regardless. It will only benefit your business (or future business) and make you a more knowledgeable professional.
Another top question I am asked all the time is: how do I price my services, especially when I’m brand new and have little experience? Admittedly, this is tough. I also struggled with this when I was a new wedding planner who didn’t know how to price my services. I started my wedding planning business in 2007 and although I was certified, had interned and had some experience, I was still really confused as to what was a fair price since I hadn’t officially planned a wedding, start to finish, for a stranger. So I did what most new wedding planners do: I checked out what the other planners in my area were charging. I didn’t do this to copy their pricing, but rather to get some understanding of what my local market would bear. I came up with an average and considered my own time and money that had been invested up to that point and charged $2000 for my first complete wedding planning booking (the other planners in the area were charing around $3000-$5000 at the time for this service). I thought it was fair as it was well below what was average, but I was still being somewhat compensated for my time (most couples book a planner for complete planning services 12-18 months out). I always recommend that new planners create 2-3 simple packages and use the flat fee pricing method. Understand what your market will bear. (Need more clarification on different pricing methods? I’ll have that for you at the end of this post.)
3) FINDING CLIENTS
So now that you’re certified and you have interned and gained experience as a wedding planner as well as set your packages/pricing, the next step is finding clients who would benefit from what you offer. I’m always asked if I advertise or do bridal fairs and the answer to those questions is mostly no. But that wasn’t the case when I was new. I advertised online (at the typical places brides search like theknot.com and mywedding.com) but didn’t find a lot of value advertising offline (it did create vendor recognition, but I never booked a wedding from a magazine ad when I was new). I did 2-3 bridal fairs a year, I networked my booty off and coupled with the online advertising, all of that is what really worked. The most successful of all those with the highest conversions were bridal fairs. In fact, most of the wonderful clients I booked my first four years in business booked me via a bridal fair. Everyone’s experience with advertising varies so don’t be afraid to try a few different things. You’ll find what doesn’t work fairly quickly.
Are you ready for that really powerful resource I mentioned earlier?!
Today through Sunday I am giving away two of my favorite coaching topics via PDF that I really think you’ll benefit from:
My Pricing Methods PDF that really breaks down the different ways you can price your services as a wedding planner and how I use a fusion of these methods in my own business.
My Email Tips & Strategies PDF to help you along as you figure out how to price your services and how to manage your email inbox (it may be manageable right now, but implementing these tips now will get you prepared)!!
To receive these resources:
1) Make sure you have sent me your email address via the button on the upper right of the screen entitled “FREE RESOURCES” so I know where to email the PDF’s.
2) Share this blog post on Facebook (share it from my Facebook page HERE), retweet it on Twitter, or share on Instagram and tag me (@thealisonhoward).
That’s all! Happy planning friends! And watch out for those ladders and black cats today. ; )