beginning stage of event and wedding planning career

Featured, From the Experts, Your Event Career

Surviving Your First Year as a Wedding Planner—Part 1

Heather Vickery is the Owner and Event Director of Greatest Expectations Special Events and Weddings, one of Chicago’s most celebrated event planning and design firms.

It’s official; you’ve finally launched your wedding planning business! That’s pretty darn exciting, congratulations! Now, how do you make it successful? How do you not work yourself to death?

It’s easy to jump into this industry thinking, “Wow, it is so much fun to plan parties!” and not actually have your act together to be successful. Trust me, if you go into this business thinking that it’s easy and that the pieces will simply fall into place, it’s not going to work out. The same goes if you think you need to work 90 hours a week and be available 24 hours a day. You’ll burn out fast and your final product will not be the best it can be.

I believe there is a three-part process to running a successful business: Business structures, building community and being authentic. If you have these three pieces firmly in place, you’ll be set up for an awesome first year that will lay the groundwork for a long-running, well-respected and successful business.

Business Structures

aspiring event planner putting together a business plan on her laptop

Without the proper systems, strategies and boundaries in place, most business owners find themselves overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid and just plain miserable. They may also have clients who are not completely satisfied with the level of communication and customer service. Not to mention having vendor partners who do not really enjoy working with them (no one likes an unorganized or scattered planner)!

So what do I mean by systems, strategies and boundaries? I mean everything that happens on the back end of your business.

Start by have a dedicated work space

It really should not be your dining room table (yes, we all work from there once in awhile, but it should not be your go-to arrangement!). You need a place to work that feels powerful and serene. A place that gives you the level of internal confidence required to know you can absolutely rock this wedding planning stuff.

My office is brightly painted and the walls are covered in inspirational quotes that make me smile and keep me moving forward. It is also in a sunny spot because I know I am more productive with natural sunlight.

Identify your ideal client

same sex couple needing professional wedding planning services

This is such an important part of the process. Without this step, you could be spending precious time and money marketing in all the wrong places. It is also really hard to sell yourself if you are not 100% confident in who you want as a client.

My ideal clients are professionals who enjoy the finer things in life. They value and respect fantastic customer service and believe that having me onboard will make the planning process easier and more enjoyable. They’ll be able to manage their own lives/careers without wedding planning taking over. I have also solidly established that I am an expert on same-sex weddings.

Put your systems in place

Set solid work hours and clearly communicate them to your clients. Find an accounting and invoicing software that meets your needs and take the time to truly use it. An hour or two on the front end can save you a lifetime of frustrating work in the future. I use Freshbooks for time tracking, accounting and invoicing. It has been a real game changer for me!

It’s also important to have a well designed and functioning website and client contact form. Implement functional systems for collecting leads, following up with them and then booking the business. Develop post-event systems as well! How do you follow up with and thank your clients and vendors? Knowing that sales only really happen inside of relationships, how are you fostering and continuing these relationships once the wedding is over?

Do your research

research event planning apps to help you work smarter

Take the time to research different apps and plug-ins (Google has a ton of free ones that rock my world!) and implement any and all that would make you more efficient. I love Boomerang Grammarly. Create systems for yourself that help you work smarter, not harder. Truly take the time to think about these things. It is not enough to have a nicely organized desk. That alone will not make you more efficient, effective and productive.

Read part two of Heather’s guide to surviving your first year as a wedding planner now!

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