Surviving Your First Year as a Wedding Planner—Part 2
Last week, Heather Vickery of Greatest Expectations told us all about the importance of setting up effective structures in your business. Today, she shares the other two steps of her three-part business success formula: community and authenticity.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to know the wedding planning community in your area. Go to as many networking events as possible. Meet people, know their work. A good referral is better than any advertising you will ever do. Build a community of wedding industry peers that will lift you, challenge you and help you along the way. Do not ever badmouth another wedding vendor. This will always come back to haunt you and you always catch more bees with honey! Remember that competition is healthy and a rising tide lifts all boats.
Not only is networking an excellent opportunity to meet people who could refer business to you, it is also a wonderful way learn more about the industry and grow as a planner. Partner with other vendors to plan some of these networking functions. Some areas have a program called Thursday Therapy, where wedding professionals gather to meet, share stories and enjoy each other’s company. Another is Creative Chics, which goes beyond social networking and does educational programs as well. Look for things like this in your area. If there isn’t one, create it and become the expert go-to person!
As a new planner, your portfolio will be small and perhaps not fully representative of the types of events you want to do and the clients you want to attract. Styled shoots are a wonderful way to show your talent, build relationships and add to your portfolio. They afford unending opportunities to be creative and collaborate with new people. Many blogs and magazines will publish well done styled shoots so it is a great opportunity to get your name out there and have your work published.
Personally, I believe this is the hardest and, perhaps, most crucial part. Know who you are. Identify what you uniquely bring to the industry. It is so important to spend time knowing why you do this job. What motivates you to get up every day, give 100% and come back again tomorrow? Why are you valuable?
Each of us brings a special and unique “superpower” to the world, and as such to our clients and the wedding industry at large. I believe my super power is the ability to hear what someone is truly saying, re-frame it and then share it in a way that is actionable and productive. What is your super power? Learn it. Share it. Market it. Know that you are the only person who can bring your unique talents to the table.
When you are living an authentic life and running an authentic business, you develop the unique ability to judge yourself solely on your own actions. While you might be inspired by other planners, you are not comparing yourself to them—your superpowers are different—and there is room for all of us in this exciting industry.
Infuse authenticity in every aspect of your business. When you are setting boundaries for yourself, consider everything that is important in your life, not just your business, and plan for those things. Preserve what matters most to you. By valuing those things, you are going to be a better business owner. You will garner more respect from your clients and your job will be so much more meaningful.
For me, my children are my number one priority. Because being their primary care provider is key, I build my work day around their school day. I set firm hours and stick to them. I also stay home on Mondays and Wednesdays with my youngest daughter. I don’t take work calls, check work emails or schedule appointments on those days. I am upfront with my clients about these things and, therefore, manage everyone’s expectations up front. As long as you authentically communicate with your clients and vendors, you can set up any rules of play you want!
Authenticity can also apply to when, where and how you advertise and who you choose to work with. I have some pretty hard and fast rules regarding inclusion. It is clearly stated on my website that my company is committed to creating a culture which reflects the diversity of our clients. With that goal in mind: we understand, accept, and celebrate differences among people. We welcome everyone and do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender. I only work with vendors who believe in the same things. By running an authentic business, I attract authentic clients and creative partners who are passionate, value me and my work and enrich my life (and I believe I enrich theirs as well).