When starting your business or starting in a new field, there are so many questions and often no one to ask. At WPIC we provide our alumni with a free association so they can share best practices, network with their peers and get answers to the questions they have.
We asked our WPICAlumni what advice they wished they could give themselves when they were just starting out and these wonderful Wedding Pros shared their advice.
What do you wish you could tell your former self?
“I’d tell myself that when you own a business, wedding planning is only about 25% of the job. The rest of the time you are marketing, building websites, blogging, education yourself, talking to media,re-educating yourself, networking, taking care of the business side, etc, etc.”
-Danielle Andrews Sunkel, The Wedding Planners www.theweddingplanners.ca
“Being in a bridal show or magazine doesn’t mean you’ve made it. Within the first two years of owning my business, I thought it was important to be in bridal shows and magazines. I started signing up for mini bridal shows within the Durham Region and smaller pockets just outside the GTA as well as smaller magazines based out of Durham. These shows and magazines that I had spent a fortune on did absolutely nothing for me. In the first few years I think it’s much more important to focus on the processes that you will run your business with, a really great website, and social media to get your name out there. You could be at the largest bridal show in Toronto, but if your name isn’t recognized among their friends, or you don’t have great testimonials on your website, they won’t book with you.”
-Kim Choy, Morganley Events www.MorganleyEvents.ca
“Along with getting educated in event planning, one should also study other areas of how to run a business, which includes accounting, marketing, customer service, administration, event trends, and sales. Having an amazing support team at home, and at work, is a must to survive the demanding role of a wedding planner.”
-Hevin Mueller, Story Weddings & Events www.story-weddings.com
- “I did not realize that after going to art school I would need to go to business school to learn how to sell my art. I would have told myself to study a bit more about business practises instead of learning them the hard way. But such is the path of the plucky optimist dreamer.
- Another thing is that if you are too scared to go into business on your own, do not take on a business partner just to share the risk and workload. Hire staff or experts for each division of your company that you are weakest at. If you are a good match and complement one and inspire one another then proceed ONLY WITH A PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT. It’s basically a prenuptial! To build a proper business plan is to include what will happen when it fails or if you grow apart and not together in your vision for the company or priorities in life.
- The other thing I would have told myself is to get your accounting practises straight and make sure you put all your taxes, CPP, RRSP, savings, education, promotion and reinvestments into your business away each month with your gross income. It’s nice to get that big pay check for thousands, but do the math and realize that it is gross and not net and you might only be able to pay yourself hundreds after the bills are all paid. Many creative types are not naturally good with money so I had to learn some of these lessons the hard way and now my policies are airtight and bulletproof which allows me to confidently take on the my dream clients. Yah!
- Oh and having a partner that understands you is of paramount importance if you are going to succeed without burning out over the years!
If you are going to go back and start over, just don’t forget to put the crystals in the time machine!”
-Sam Fleming (aka DJ Efsharp), Evolved Entertainment www.evolvedentertainment.com
“I wish I knew more about effective online marketing strategies prior to starting my business. I honestly believed that because of my large network, it would be pretty easy to get the momentum going and create buzz around my business and website, but now I realize the time commitment of creating good content on my blog and staying relevant across all social media platforms. This is a job all by itself! It takes a lot of time and effort to create a strong brand, and you have to spend a lot of time evaluating your advertising campaigns to figure out what works for you – it isn’t just about getting people to visit your website, it’s about getting the right people – your ideal clients – to visit your website AND to reach out and contact you.”
-Alisha Chadee, Whim Event Coordination and Design www.eventsbywhim.ca
“The number of forms and contracts you’d need to create! Planning is only easy when you have your 1001 forms made and ready to be used, and when you have a workflow set to manage incoming opportunities!”
-Nasreen Faiz, Rangeen Weddings and Events www.rangeenweddings.ca
“Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a jerk.”
-Suzzette Patten, Exquisite Occasions www.exquisiteoccasions.ca
- “I wish I’d known that I was going to have to face negativity and scoffing from friends and family who thought that this was going to be a hobby business for me. I wish I’d known that I was going to have shut out their negative voices and turn up my own positive voice to drown them out.
- I wish I’d known that life/work balance is largely a myth in the first few years of starting a successful business. When I did figure that out, I wish I’d known that there would eventually come a time where some of that balance could be restored.
- I wish I’d known that the more successful I’d become, the fewer “friends” I’d have, and the more people would talk about me behind my back. I also wish I’d known when this started to happen that ultimately it didn’t matter, as long as I stayed focused on my business and my clients.
- I wish I’d known that perfection, while in many ways a positive trait in this industry, can also be crippling. I spent too much time worrying about “perfect” when “good enough” would have done just fine, especially in regards to internal projects that had nothing to do with clients or event partners. Save your “perfect” for clients, always.
- I wish I’d started tracking my time earlier in my business. Once I did, it made an enormous difference to how I worked with clients and how I charged, as well as who I marketed to.
- I wish I’d known to brand my business based on my target market, not on my own personal preferences. This was a mistake that caused me to have to re-brand in year 2, which cost a good amount of money.
- I wish I’d known that although this industry requires very little in terms of start-up costs, there will always be a need to re-invest in your business. In hindsight, I would have saved up or taken out a bank loan at the beginning in order to allow me to breathe a little easier at the start.
- I wish I’d known that my time = money. I struggled for many years to do everything myself, because I thought it would be cheaper than paying someone else to do it. However, those were hours that I could have spent marketing and growing the business. Choosing to work with a business coach in my 4th year made a huge difference in this regard – I no longer had to problem-solve every issue on my own and I took his advice and outsourced many tasks, which allowed me to devote more time to bringing in more clients.
- I wish I’d had systems and templates and a solid business model in place before I started working with my first client. Instead, I created them on a “need” basis and was constantly torn between spending time with my clients and spending time trying to create a process within my business to be more efficient and organized.’
-Mary Swaffield, Mary Elizabeth & Co. www.maryelizabethandco.com
“Perfection is a myth, don’t become obsessed with it and don’t sell it to your clients. True perfectionists know there will always be something to improve.”
-Gaitree Shivnauth, Plan My Day Weddings + Events www.planmydaynow.com
“I would tell my former self. Never allow others to haggle you on your pricing to secure a booking. Value your creativity and hard work and others will too. Be true to your craft. Don’t settle. Hard lesson learned but worth it.”
-Sandra Colaire, We Coordinate This www.WeCoordinateThis.com
“Before starting up my business, I wish I knew just how much patience organization, and planning is involved in setting up a company. From registering, to insurance, to logos, website, and templates and forms. It’s a lot of work, slow going at times, but oh so worth it!”
-Amanda Kueneman, Like A Star Weddings & Events www.likeastarweddings.ca
“I wish I knew how many phone calls and e-mails I’d receive in regards to marketers trying to sell me ad space, social media strategies or SEO packages. I’ve learned to block calls from people who call more than twice!”
-Poonam Saini, P.S. Eventful. www.pseventful.com
- “I wish I would have known about the amazing resources out there for planners/business people:
- A word of wisdom: “Pick the people you want to have in your every day life. Make sure you pick people that inspire, uplight, challenge and encourage you. This might be online, in person, or via the WPIC or another group in your area. You might get a lot of people that see the light of your success and will want to take a little bit of it for themselves (I don’t blame them, it’s appealing) but surround yourself with like-minded people and a support team that understands you, your goals and cheers you on. Don’t be afraid to ‘weed people’ out”
- Something I learned very quickly when I started out:“Confidence is key. If you can’t make your clients feel secure in hiring you, or in you skills when working with you you’re 1)Not going to close any deals, and 2) you won’t make them feel that peace-of-mind that we all want our clients to feel on there wedding day and throughout the planning process. As soon as you master radiating confidence you’ll do a whole lot better.”
-Amanda Douglas, Amanda Douglas Events www.amandadouglasevents.com
“I wish I could have told my former self to stop COMPARING. When I started, I felt I was JUST a needle in a haystack and no one will ever find me in a sea of creative fishes. I was scared people will judge me because I might not be good enough. BUT eventually I just had to get down and boogie to my own style and approach. It turned out to be an amazing journey. I haven’t stopped boogie-ing since.”
-Maria Chi, Peppermint Weddings www.peppermintweddings.ca
“How to know my worth and the value I bring to clients! Don’t undervalue yourself!”
-Kristine Carr, Kristine Carr Wedding & Events www.KristineCarr.com
“I wish I knew… That you are only as smart as the research and the resources you can find and that exist. If a topic doesn’t exist, why not take the time to study and become an expert. Who knows, others might be quoting you some day!”
-Carmelina Karas, The Wedding Planner Magazine, www.weddingplannermag.ca