We recently had the amazing opportunity to host a panel at LVL Academy and, with September at Aisle Planner being all about collaboration, we wanted to share a little bit of what we spoke about with you. We focused on professionalism and client experience—especially for those just starting out in the industry—and we’re so excited to share some of our tips and tricks surrounding this theme with you today. Read on, and have plenty of blank space in that planner for all of the new clients you’ll book!
Setting up a Professional Foundation
When you’re just starting out as a planner, it’s so imperative to have a professional foundation set for yourself. You want trusted vendors and potential clients to take you seriously, and it takes some planning and forethought to ensure you’re presenting yourself in the best light possible.
Education & Collaboration: We always recommend starting out with education and collaboration. Even if you’ve never planned a wedding before—especially if you’ve never planned a wedding before in your life—start attending event-planning conferences and courses. Along that same vein, make sure you’re doing plenty of industry research. Staying current on trends is such an important part of the wedding-planning world.
Systems & Processes: Just because you’ve never planned a wedding before doesn’t mean you can’t have systems and processes in place for when you do so. The more proactive you are, the better. Begin to define your workflow, outline how and when you’ll communicate with clients and start scheduling and tackling administrative tasks.
Self Branding: This is a biggie. Potential clients need to see that you’ve got your stuff together, and your materials should communicate the fact that you’re an operating, thriving wedding planner. Invest in pretty business cards and build an online portfolio (even if you have no weddings to showcase, your website can still offer a bio, photos, awards and accolades, contact info, etc.). You should also begin to build your social media presence. Everything you post is a reflection of your business, and you want to begin to position yourself as a thought leader in the industry. Your Instagram images should be powerful and pretty. Your Facebook posts should encourage interaction. You may also want to start building out a blog, if you have the bandwidth and the potential for useful content.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of a professional email address. This means dropping the “…@gmail.com” and obtaining an email address that reads @[your business].com. It seems like a small thing, but having the right email address does a lot to instill faith in potential clients. And, as always, remember to keep everything on brand—all of your materials (both digital and in print) should have a consistent, cohesive look and feel.
Building Your Client Experience
Before you’ve ever even secured a single client, you should begin to build out your client experience. Again, this is all about being proactive. You don’t want to be figuring it out as you go with your first big client. Sit down and map out your workflow (we’ve got a great article on workflow here to help you with this). This is all about defining the milestones in your client experience. Remember, consistency is key. What unique process and set of steps will each of your clients follow from start to finish? Have those key workflow bullet-points mapped out in the Aisle Planner Checklist, and stick to that workflow with each new client you book.
Breaking into the industry can be difficult, so expect to face some challenges as you work to book clients for the first time. But, don’t let challenges shut you down; you should enbrace those challenges and continually be open to trying new things. Also, remember that it is ok to be new at something so don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask for help.
The wedding-planning industry doesn’t really offer a ton of training. So, we recommend volunteering as help for wedding planners you know and look up to. Gain insider’s access to the planning process by offering them free help with their next event, or even with their day-to-day office tasks. You’ll learn a ton this way—hands-on experience is always invaluable.
Building Your Network
Again, building a network can be difficult, but this is where collaboration comes in. Attend as many conferences and classes as you can. Seek out industry groups and attend events. Drop off coffee, treats and your business cards to trusted vendors around the area and ask if they’d like to sit down sometime to chat. We also recommend starting to build your own personal library of vendors and keeping notes on the people you meet.
Put yourself out there as much as humanly possible, and understand that building a solid network is something that all wedding planners struggle with. It can take years to secure a trusted, seasoned group of vendors, planners and peers—but the network you build will one day become your greatest asset as a planner.
Project & Money Management
Many people don’t realize that wedding planning and coordination is very much a test of both your project management and your money management skills. If budgeting isn’t your strong suit, use a budget tool to help you along the way. Budgeting is a huge part of wedding planning, so sharpen your skills anyway you can—this includes attending available courses, sitting in on online webinars, etc.
As far as project management goes, train yourself to be an over-communicator. Tell people exactly what to expect and when—and ensure your process is clear from the very beginning. Aisle Planner has great collaboration tools for this very purpose. Remember, creating a consistent workflow and sticking to that workflow is a great way to ensure your clients know what steps to expect when—and setting expectations from the get-go is imperative to successful project management.
Overall, in many ways breaking into the wedding planning industry is pretty similar to breaking into any industry out there. You have to do your research, brand yourself and work hard to build a network. Keep in mind that good growth is always slow and controlled, so don’t get disappointed if business isn’t booming within months of opening. And, above all else, remember that there’s nothing wrong with being new. Everyone was new at once, and everyone has faced the same challenges along the way—and, as always, your Aisle Planner community is here to help!