As wedding planners, many of us start out with full-time jobs while we begin planning weddings to help make ends meet. This is completely respectable and totally understandable—you can’t exactly quit your day job to become a wedding planner without a guaranteed source of cash flow, after all. But, balancing wedding-planning and a separate full-time job can be a headache and a half, to say the least.
Chances are, you’re bombarded with internal conflict and questions: Do you let your clients know you’re still working for another company? Do you call in sick to your day job so that you can execute client weddings? Is there ever any time to catch up on sleep? And, a question that’s likely on every planner’s mind as they start out: Just how far away is that light at the end of the tunnel? Today, then, we wanted to answer some of these questions for you and offer up some pro tips and bits of encouragement for wedding planners who are just starting out while still working full-time jobs.
Take the time to define your workflow
When you’re working full time and managing a wedding-planning business, making the most of every minute is critical to your work/life balance (and sanity!). Defining your workflow can be a tedious task, but one that is absolutely paramount to the process. After all, without a solid, defined workflow in place, you can easily miss important details and lose track and control of your event. It’s as simple as defining and sticking to a standard operating procedure.
Your planning workflow should begin at your first client touchpoint, continue through booking and move into a simple system for planning and production that then continues to the big day. You should also document the steps you take following the wedding. From tip to tail, every step of your process should be engrained in your mind as official protocol. (You can also learn more about defining your workflow here.)
Defining your workflow is just as important for your clients as it is for yourself. When you’re in charge of an event that’s as complex as a wedding, you should always know what your next step will be. Your clients will appreciate this, and having a clear-cut path helps build trust and confidence. After all, your client hired you so that you can always be ten steps ahead of them.
In a nutshell, streamlining your planning process will help you do more in less time. Over the long haul, taking the time to map out your process will help you sustain not only a healthy work/life balance, but also set a solid foundation for business growth down the road (so that you can one day quit that day job).
Aisle Planner has been incredible for my work-life & work-flow! Being an organizer by nature, I was on the hunt for the perfect platform that would hold all client & project details in one cohesive (& pretty!) space! When Aisle Planner came into my life it was everything I dreamed of & more… and what’s even more amazing is they are continuously adding features & streamlining the process even further. Their customer satisfaction is paramount, the interface in beautiful, & every tool makes my heart sing. Looking back, I have no clue how I juggled all the pieces without it!
– Christy of To La Lune Events
Find a platform that supports your workflow and keeps you organized
Defining your workflow is the first step in the process, but without a platform to support that workflow and keep you organized and on track, the system you worked so hard to develop can quickly go out the window. Enter: Aisle Planner.
Aisle Planner offers a number of tools to help you stay oh-so organized and right on track…and the best part is, everything—from your calendar to your client communication—is housed right in one accessible, easy-to-use place. You can use Aisle Planner’s checklist (the heart of our platform) to house your workflow and apply it to each and every single wedding you plan. That way, you can ensure you’re working through the same protocol for every single one of your events, ultimately saving you time and helping to keep you on track (so that no details slip through the cracks).
Starting a business from the ground up is not easy and takes A LOT of work, especially if you’re also working a day job to keep you afloat, it’s going to be a challenge no matter how you cut it – a challenge that in the end will be so worth it, especially if you’re following your passion. When the going gets tough (and there will be those moments when overwhelm takes over and it will take your every last will to fight through it) remember your why…and remember that each step forward (no matter how small those steps are) will get you closer to the day when you can finally say bon voyage to your day job!!
-Christina Farrow of Aisle Planner
Set client expectations
Let your clients know up front what to expect and how they can best reach you based on your outside work schedule. If your full-time work schedule is flexible, then you have some wiggle room to schedule midweek site visits or vendor meetings, but, if not, set the parameters for your availability—evenings, weekends and perhaps a lunch here or there. Also, have a plan in place for those Friday late-afternoon rehearsals.
A great place to lay out framework for client expectations is in your client welcome kit. Don’t have one just yet? Take the time to create one—it’s worth it. You’ll want to provide them with a comprehensive welcome kit as well as properly onboard them onto the Aisle Planner platform.
Lastly, when it comes to telling your clients about your day job, honesty is the best policy. It may be uncomfortable, but, remember, the last thing you want is for a client to feel slighted or deceived. Chances are, your day job will indeed come into play at some point and, therefore, is something you should let your clients know about right off the bat, so they’re not taken by surprise later down the road—this can be detrimental to your relationship.
Set a regular schedule
We can not stress this one enough. Setting a schedule helps to ensure you’re working smarter, not harder. Oftentimes, we’re so busy constantly working and tackling tasks as they come up (whack-a-mole status), that we feel like we’re doing both of our jobs a great justice. (After all, we’re constantly working, and isn’t that what it’s all about?) But, the truth is, without a regular schedule, you’re likely doing both of your jobs a great injustice. When you don’t have time properly set aside for each job, you become less productive and less efficient, even though you’re constantly working. We especially love what our very own Director of PR, Katherine Oyer from Lucky & In Love had to say about this:
“When I first started I would try to squeeze in working whenever I could: 30 minutes before work if I managed to get up when my alarm went off, 45 minutes on my lunch, maybe an hour after I got home from happy hour if I wasn’t too tired. I ended up getting SO behind on my wedding clients because I wasn’t giving nearly enough time and attention to their events. Once I started a schedule of working every single morning during the week from 5-7 on weddings, then 8-1 on non-wedding Saturdays, I was so much happier. I felt on top of the world having all of my wedding to-dos completed before I had to go to my ‘real job’, allowing my clients and other vendors to respond throughout the day. If I needed to schedule a call during my lunch, I had the flexibility to do so, and didn’t feel I was jamming too much into a short amount of time, while simultaneously trying to actually enjoy my food!”
Create actionable, realistic goals
If your goal is to turn your wedding-planning side-business into your full-time job, you have to take the time to create actionable goals. “Actionable” means you also have to be realistic about your time—they have to be goals you can actually complete while still managing your full-time day job. You shouldn’t set a goal of planning 10 luxury weddings next year if you’re only currently planning 1-2 weddings each year. Think about where you are, where you want to be and what small, but important, steps you can take to get there.
Setting goals falls along the same vein as defining your workflow and setting a schedule—without a clear-cut, defined path, it’s nearly impossible (or at least a whole lot harder) to get to where you want to go. You wouldn’t hop in the car headed to an appointment without any idea of the address or how to get there, would you? Running a business without setting goals for it is like driving to an unknown destination without directions (or Google Maps!).
Set a realistic goal – like a 5-year plan – and do what it takes to make the transition to full-time wedding planner by that date. Otherwise you’ll never feel like it’s the “right time” to take the leap.
– Britt of Sugar Branch Events
When it comes to making your wedding-planning business work for you as you still work another job, remember, patience is just as important as all of the above steps. As Katherine Oyer from Lucky & In Love reminds us, “It’s tough coming to the realization that your business will likely not explode with growth while you are working a full time job – but that’s okay! It’s not realistic to assume you will be able to financially support yourself in a mere 6 months when you’re starting out. Allow your full time job to fund your side passion, and do it gradually. There is no rush to building a strong foundation.”