Ask Me Anything—Sarah Webb
Q: I have my first meeting with a client this week. I’ll be coordinating the day-of for her wedding in September. Any suggestions on what I should bring or come prepared to talk about?
A: Ooh, how exciting! The first of many, I’m sure. I would sit down with them and discuss the day as a whole, then I would ask them about their specific requirements of you—I have been asked to walk a dog with a bow tie before! I would also ask them for a list of contact details and contact information for any other external suppliers. I would use this to call them all to introduce myself and make sure that they are all clear in regards to set up and their individual requirements.
I would also ask for contact details on the day-of from a member of the bridal party—not the bride or groom, in case of any mishaps!
Q: How do you assure clients that you are qualified as a planner even though you are just starting out and your prices are lower than other planners?
A: Great question, this is something that you do have to worry about in the beginning. To this day, I still have my certificates framed and on the wall of my office—although no one has ever asked to see them 7 years into my career, it’s all about the overall professionalism that you offer from day one. Every planner has to start somewhere, but do not undervalue yourself. Be yourself, be confident, offer a fantastic service—this is the only reassurance your clients really need.
Q: What are the dos and don’ts of event planning? What are the potential liabilities?
A: A tricky one to think about! Do always listen to your clients. This may sound simple, but everyone talks—so always remember to listen. Always be professional, be yourself, be confident, and be organized. Do not undersell or undervalue yourself. Always make sure that you get everything in writing and ask your clients to sign a contract in case of any problems further down the line.
Q: Do you charge clients on a percentage basis or by a flat fee? How do you determine a price?
A: Initially, I offer a free consultation (restricted to no more than 2 hours). At this point, I take down as many details as I can, as thoroughly as possible, so that I can get an idea of their exact requirements before I can offer a quotation. I have a one-stop showroom to offer everything from planning to confectionary to venue styling to bridal wear. Pricing is obviously different for each of these services and it depends on how little or how much is required. If a client is solely interested in the planning side, on-the-day planning would have a fixed fee (depending on the client’s requirements), whereas full planning services would be approximately 10% of the full budget.
Q: How long does the course take? How long did it take you to become a lucrative business?
A: I think the course took me about 6-8 months to complete. However, there is no pressure, so you have longer to complete the course if you so wish. I am a very impatient person and expected everything to happen overnight. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. It still takes a lot of passion, dedication, hard work and drive—even now! You should never take your eye off the prize. I am always researching and looking for the next trend to hit the UK.
Q: What does it take to run a successful business? Did you have a business plan before you started? Do you have to have a partner for your business to develop and grow?
A: The true answer here is hard work, long/unsociable hours, passion, determination, drive, commitment and guts! Oh, and not to mention blood, sweat, tears, and laughter. At the beginning I had a plan, but I wouldn’t say it was an official business plan to be honest. Things have changed so much along the way that any plan would be so very different to look at now. A business plan is tricky to write but on reflection, it’s a good thing to have. This is a good way to stay focused and have clear goals in mind. It’s nice to have an extra person for support and to bounce ideas off of, but not essential if you have all of what I mentioned above.
Q: How do you launch yourself in an authentic and powerful way to attract clients?
A: We certainly took the bull by the horns and decided that a great way to launch ourselves in a different and unique way was to plan our own wedding shows. This enabled us to raise awareness of our company and also, it was a fantastic way to build alliances with other related businesses in the area—we still work closely with some of these people after 7 years. Having a strong online presence has also been key for us.
Over the years we tried all types of advertising with lots of trial and error and with lots of cost involved. We find now that having a good online presence, building alliances, and word-of-mouth advertising is best for us.
Q: Do you have any suggestions on building a wedding event planning business in a small, provincial city?
A: I would suggest building business alliances with other wedding industry people in the area you wish to work in. Have meetings, swap business cards, build relationships, and help each other out by recommending one another. Of course, only recommend people that you trust and who have the same work ethic as you. Join local networking groups too and have a strong online and social media presence. Word of mouth is fantastic, but it takes time to build.