Real Talk: This ones for the wedding planners
Banner image of Vicky & Craigs Wedding by Chris Werner Photo!
I know that education, especially continuing education is so important in all industries. I also know that there is a lot of mis-information out there or information being taught by planners who are relatively new in the industry themselves and who might not necessarily be in the best position to give advice. I don't claim to be a wedding wizard (although my clients have given me some pretty spectacular nicknames in the past) but I do know a few things having been in this business and managed other businesses for quite some time.
Let me preface with this: My background is in SALES & BUSINESS MANAGEMENT. Not weddings, not pretty lacy details but in the ugly, nuts & bolts parts of businesses. Whether you like to consider it or not, this business is a sales business. In fact, EVERY business is a sales business, it's literally at the foundation of every startup, company and even non-profits. But I'm not here to talk to you today about sales (that is a topic for another day). Today I'm here to talk to you about managing your business when it's NOT easy.
In one of my last posts I talked about how managing a business when things are going well is relatively easy. The thing is, businesses are not always easy and this industry is known for actually being one of the most stressful! Anyone can take a well oiled machine and maintain it. What really sets apart the real business owners from the hobbyists is what you do when things suck, and buddy, they suck frequently.
As I've said before, 99.9% of my clients are amazing, wonderful people but I have had difficulties in the past. Here's something to consider especially when you are figuring out your niche!
1. Not every client is your ideal client
This is something that was a completely foreign concept to me when I first started in the industry. "every paying client is my client!" I would say and to be fair, it was true. When you first start out you should take almost any and every wedding that comes your way. Exceptions to this rule of course are a client that is abusive or disrespectful or wants you to do dangerous or illegal things (this is a mantra that can and should be taken across every relationship in your life). However after a while I started to realize that even though I had really lucked out and gotten the most amazing clients for my first few weddings, I had also gotten a few inquiries from some very un-ideal clients. What that means to you is completely different than what it means to me. You have to identify what you are good at and how your clients fit into that niche. After you've done a handful of weddings, you should be able to identify what you are good at, what you are not good at and who you mesh well with. This is when you start to develop the profile of your ideal client. The sooner you can identify your ideal client, the sooner you can begin marketing towards and subsequently booking that client. If you know that you are a very organized, type-a person who needs constant communication to be on track-make sure your ideal client matches up with that. If you are the type of planner who likes the client to take most of the control and just have you implement their choices-market towards that person! The sooner you identify what you are good at, the sooner you will be successful and the happier you and your clients will be!
2. You have to suck it up sometimes
So don't get me wrong, my batting average is pretty high for booking the most amazing clients in the world. I've somewhat organically figured out how to market towards and book the best clients but even I've let a couple bad eggs slip through the cracks, will you ever hear about these weddings? Probably not. The thing is, if you catch that a client is not a good fit early on, having relationships with other professionals in your area that you can defer to is crucial. If you can discuss with your client why things are not working out and transfer them to someone else you just saved yourself and your client and also gave business to another professional who will likely return the favor with a referral in the future. However, sometimes you book a client and it's too late to cancel their contract and switch gears. Let me again re-iterate what I said above: if your client is ever abusive, harassing or asks you to do things you are really not comfortable with you can fire them at any time (and this should be in your contract). However, if you just feel like you and your client are not a good fit but it's 3 weeks before the wedding, at that point-it's time to suck it up. It might have been your misstep or lack of awareness that allowed that client to make it that far as your client, maybe they suddenly started acting crazy halfway through and you had absolutely no idea. Either way, we are now officially dealing with the biggest day of someones life. The day that they make movies about (SEVERAL movies), the day that all of their anxieties come to a head, when every single person they have ever loved and cared for are together in one room and the spotlight is on them. I mean, who wouldn't go a little crazy in that scenario? At the end of the day, this is a business. You took this person on as a client and agreed to help them plan their wedding. If you are trying to back out at the last minute because you just don't like the person-YOU are the one that will be wrong at the end of the day, no matter how "bridezilla" your client is. Sometimes you have to suck it up and do a great job even if it sucks. THAT, my friends is the difference between having this job as a hobby and doing it full time as a career. It's not going to always be sunshine and roses, it's going to be stressful, ugly, it might force you start drinking hard liquor in the middle of the week-but you took on this title and this obligation and if you don't follow through, guess what? You aren't a wedding planner, you're a hobbyist.
3. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy
2nd Rihanna gif because Rihanna is always relevant
I'm in a lot of different Facebook groups focused towards creative businesses including wedding planning. A common theme that I see over and over again is business owners asking "what do I do?" in a situation when someone has been a jerk or screwed something up. If you are a wedding planner, I hate to tell you this but YOU are the one responsible for putting it all together. YOU are the one responsible for fixing it. YOU are the architect of this event and whether or not you know it, you are capable of making even the crappiest situation work.
Example 1. Your Client Messes Up
A person getting married has hired you to do this job because they have no time, energy, motivation or idea of how to do it themselves, right? So when they are about to make a poor decision whether it be a vendor, timeline, layout, etc. it is your responsibility to guide them in a different direction or at the very least voice your opinion about it. So often I see planners that feel like "it's not their job" to help the client pick good vendors. Even if you are just managing the event or the "coordinator" for this wedding, I guarantee you will be much happier if you help guide the client into making better decisions beforehand. If the client still goes against your judgement and makes a decision, make sure you have it written down that you have advised against it and move forward. If you think it's a deal-breaker for you, tell the client. Again, this is where having a solid contract will protect you and your client against crappy vendors and tight timeline scenarios! If your client messes something up, guide them, teach them and try your best to fix the situation, you are the professional and this is what they hired you for!
Example 2. A Vendor Messes Up
This is going to happen again and again and again. I don't care how long the vendor has been in business or how many Instagram followers they have-the business is run by a human/(s) and humans are flawed. This is also part of the reason you are here! You are a gatekeeper to the wedding day and should also act as a filter for vendors that come through and ensure that they have things in proper order. If the client told the florist they wanted dozens of light pink Sarah Bernhardt peonies but the florist contracted them for pink mums-you should make sure that is corrected. Sometimes, vendors get offended when you correct them, but that's part of the gig! It would be amazing if every vendor did everything they were supposed to and the wedding day timeline ran perfectly on time and everyone checked themselves over and over again to make sure there were no mistakes but
4. Remember, It's Not About You
This is going to seem like a no-brainer for every non-industry person reading this. But you would be surprised how many "planners" I see that make their clients wedding day all about themselves. I want to re-iterate this: It's not about you. This is about your client. You are here to make sure they have an amazing time and are celebrated on the biggest day of their life. If you don't like the flower arrangements they picked? It's ok, because you didn't pay for them. There are certain things we can do to guide our clients to make sure they have an amazing day, but make sure you aren't using your own personal opinions to make them do things they don't want. Helping them book a competent catering staff is something you should do, telling them to change the color of their linens because you don't want that color on your website or social media is NOT something you should do. Creating an event that is unique to the client is what you are supposed to do. Plus if you are booking your ideal client, they probably have a similar design vision/aesthetic and would love for you to guide them-not tell them-guide them.
5. Be Humble
To your clients. To your vendors. To fellow wedding planners, venue owners, waitstaff, cleanup people, the guy who washes your car. Not being a humongous douchebag will actually get you very far in life. I know most cockiness stems from insecurity and if you're a new planner it's very easy to feel insecure! But that's ok! As soon as you feel that need to one-up someone bubbling up inside of you, quiet it down, take a deep breath and understand that again, it's not about you, you are a pawn in a much bigger game. Yes, you are responsible for a big chunk of this momentous occasion, but that doesn't mean this day is yours or people owe you something. Working hard will get you far, but being humble is the other part to the equation that will allow you not only success but fulfillment as well. I promise you'll be a happier person when you stop holding on desperately to some sort of hierarchy and just do the best you can every day while extending kindness to those around you.