The first steps you take on the path to becoming a professional wedding planner can feel uncertain. There are questions galore, what can feel like a million to-dos, and more people to meet than there are hours in the day. So today, we wanted to talk about what it is like to be starting as a new planner from a couple different perspectives. Read on to learn about the experiences of these 3 ladies and how they are approaching the challenge. And remember, everybody starts somewhere!
On Making the Decision to Become a Professional Planner
I recently discovered how important it is for me to find some sort of personal fulfillment through my work. After serious thought and self-reflection, I discovered that I could achieve the self-fulfillment that I sought by pursuing a career that allowed me to make others happy – this would be my “joie de vivre,” so to speak.
After a series of pro/con lists, conversations with friends and colleagues, and (admittedly) some serious Pinterest-ing, a career as a wedding planner is something that I really want to do! And, despite being entirely enthralled at the prospect of having identified a potentially fulfilling career, I also knew that educating myself about the nuances of wedding planning would be absolutely necessary if I intended to succeed in this industry – especially as a complete newbie.
I didn’t realize just how lucky I was when Jasmine Star connected me with Heather from LVL Academy. Heather was excited to speak with me and share her insight about the industry. I was overwhelmed by her kindness and willingness to speak with me – a young women from Canada with absolutely zero formal experience.
My conversation with Heather went better than I could have ever imagined. Heather identified the traits she looks for in upcoming planners, how to manage clients’ expectations (including those tricky situations), and what steps I could take to get some hands on experience. I learned how crucial interning with event planners and networking with vendors in my area would be for my career. If I was going to be an excellent planner, then I needed to be a familiar with the vendors I (and my prospective clients) would be working with.
I feel the most important part of my (very initial) education process has been this – network, don’t be afraid to ask the experts questions, learn your market, and get as much hands-on experience as you can. This, combined with some sort of formal event planning education, will most certainly equip any new event planner with the skills they need to be successful.
On Setting Up Your Business
I started my business in the summer of 2015 after working for another planner. I knew I had the drive, experience and personality in me to have my own wedding planning business. This only became so clear to me after a real-talk-less-than-stellar experience working for someone else and my 7+ years of working in the catering/events/bridal industries. A word of advice, if I may? If you want to be a wedding planner, start assisting in one of the industries related – bridal salon, florist, photographer, etc. Not only does it make you a more well rounded planner, you’ll also look like an expert in your field to others.
Wedding planning businesses look like all fun and flowers, but it is still a business so there are some not as fun things to do when starting and in the first year. Before I began my business and started taking clients I made sure I:
- Properly registered the business (LLC, C- Corp S- Corp, etc.) and made sure I was compliant with required state forms (Annual reports, corporate minutes, registering Doing Business As name)
- Set up a business checking account
- Worked with a branding coach and graphic designer to establish branding that clearly attracts my target client and to develop a website, logo and set up social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Have a lawyer draft up a legal contract outlining your services when clients hire you
In my first year of business I:
- Hired an accountant to do taxes
- Made sure I fully understood once money starts coming in how much goes to expenses, taxes, owners draws and profit
- Networked with industry professionals who I knew I wanted to work with in the future
- Took a workshop / course / continuing education class relevant to my business (does not have to be directly related to weddings- marketing, creative entrepreneurs, business development, etc)
I attended LVL Academy and was able to put what I already knew with what I had learned to move full speed ahead into my business. I still reference timelines and worksheets from LVL Academy. I am approaching my two-year anniversary and am still learning and making mistakes. But, each mistake is an opportunity to do it better next time.
One thing I felt like I was missing out on when I first started my business was marketing on The Knot and Wedding Wire because they are EXPENSIVE! When you first start your business you aren’t going to have the marketing budget to advertise there yet – I didn’t get a Wedding Wire account until last month, also because I wanted to have reviews up on there too. (It looks much better when you have substance to back your Wedding Wire profile.) With that being said, the other thing I am constantly doing was letting people know about my business. Whether they were in the wedding industry or not, brides, the people in my gym or doctor’s office…they were going to know about my business! There’s a way to casually bring it up in conversation without it being salesy or pushy. Two of my best clients in my first year of business were people that knew I had been doing weddings since high school and remembered me!
On Building Relationships
“It’s all about who you know” says…everyone. Overwhelmed? Don’t be! Building a business requires relationship, an inevitable factor. It’s necessary for the health and success of your new endeavor. Chances are, since you have already taken the leap to start your own wedding planning business, that relationship-building gene is already raring to go! While they aren’t totally off base in saying “it’s all about who you know,” I’m a firm believer that building relationships in the wedding industry is far more about being genuine and making an effort to connect with people than it is getting your name out there to anyone and everyone. Throughout my time in the industry, I’ve found it so valuable (and encouraging) to connect with vendors beyond working a wedding together; vendors you can grab coffee with on a random weekday afternoon.
Whether you are new to the area (home of your budding business), a life-long resident, or somewhere in between; your business is going to be better off thrive because of the relationships you build, now and throughout the next few years. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can only or should only seek out those with the highest following on Instagram or the coveted one, two or three spots on Google and force a friendship on them (or yourself!). Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive that they are incredible vendors with lovely personalities to match; but often times we think that the “all about who you know” part means that we can only associate ourselves (and our business) with those that hold the number one, two or three spot. So not the case! Reach out to vendors that align with your style or aesthetic, you are more likely to refer those vendors to your target bride anyways! And if those happen to be vendors from those top spots on Google, then go get em’!
Any good business (in my opinion) started with relationship; a business partner, a first bride, a vendor team that meshed really well. It all started somewhere. Give yourself grace and time to make those connections. Sometimes you make 10 at once at an industry event and sometimes it’s a shot in the dark and an Instagram message to that photographer who’s work you’ve admired forever! Reach out, because you never know what friendship might come out of it!