wedding planning business

From the Experts

How to Prepare Your Event and Wedding Planning Business for 2019 (video)

QC Event School graduate and tutor Athena DeVonne owns and runs her own thriving business, Coalesce Creations Wedding & Events, and knows everything there is to know about becoming a successful event planner! Find out how to set achievable goals for your business in 2019!

Did you miss Athena’s webinar on preparing your event and wedding planning business for 2019? Don’t worry! We’re going to recap the webinar along with her answers to her viewers’ questions about goal-setting and education.

You can watch the full video webinar here or read the transcript right beneath the video player!

Let’s Recap!

Invest in your business and get yourself a really nice notebook. Have a blank notebook that you can write in. Let me show you guys mine. This is my notebook, which I consider my lifeline for my business for 2019. I have notebooks all over the place that I’ve been using since I was a student with QC Event School and took the courses while always keeping a notebook. I considered it like my planning bible, things that I learned from my tutor, things that I learned from the courses that I felt that I need to keep in my pocket like the formulas that they give you and templates. I put it all in my notebooks. I would print things out, and fold it, and put it inside my notebook. I still have it. I’m still trying to find it two years later, but I keep getting a new one, one for each year. So what I do is on Christmas day… I kind of made it a tradition for myself. On Christmas day, I will go through my book for my business, and kind of read it as a present to myself, and being able to know what I actually accomplished and learned throughout the year.

So much can happen in a year’s time that sometimes you’re going to forget the amazing things that happened. And I want to make sure you guys focus and remember everything. Our minds are really good at remembering the negative, but I want you guys to remember the positive because that’s what keeps you moving and pushing. Grab some paper right now. This time we’re actually going to do something, you guys. Because why? I want to put you into “praction”…

What’s “praction”?

I said “praction”. I made a new word. I want to put you into the practice of putting action to your goals. I want you to dedicate the first four pages to be blank. These four pages are going to be used for definitions, definitions, definitions. Throughout the whole year, you’re going to learn a bunch of new stuff. And you’re going to have to set yourself up with several new definitions because definitions are the success to goals. I am going to show you an example of something I created for another project that I’m working on.

Athena’s Example: Time Management

So one of the goals I have is time management.I wrote it really big on the page and said, “Time management.” And then I Googled and wrote all the definitions I found for time management. Let me tell you why definitions are important. If you set a goal, but you don’t really understand what it means, you can’t succeed in it. For example, time management, the first definition I came up with, time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities. I wasn’t doing that. I never sat down and wrote down everything that goes on throughout the day, and specified how much time each of those tasks took. There was no way I could manage how much time I needed for something if I didn’t know how much every task takes up in my day, right?

So, I have another page where I break down my goal into categories. I broke my goal down to organize, economize, contribute, prioritize, and streamline. Those are the five categories I came up with for time management.

SMART Goal Setting

Now you’re going to start with the first [non definition] page, which is the fifth page [of your notebook]. I want you to come up with one huge goal. So many of you guys have probably heard of the process called SMART. So this is what SMART means. Now write this on a separate sheet of paper, in your notes, not in your notebook.

Specific

Don’t be general. Don’t just say you want to be a well-known planner. That’s general. Let’s get specific. You want to be the known best wedding planner in Dallas, Texas by X amount of time.

I put the location, I want to be known as best, not just name-dropped, and a deadline.

Measurable

You cannot set a goal that you cannot measure because then how do you know if you ever reach the actual goal? You have to be able to measure it.

Achievable

This is the biggest thing I really want people who haven’t started their event and wedding planning business yet, just started the business, or are within three to five years of the business. A goal that you want to be making $100,000 a year within just starting your business is not achievable realistically. Is it an achievable goal? Absolutely. But be realistic with your goal, with what is within your means, okay. To make money, you have to spend money. Do you have $500,000 to invest in your business right now to make a million dollars? If you don’t, don’t put a million dollars as your goal. Don’t compare yourself to what someone else is doing. Your goal should be your goal. No matter how small or big it is, just make sure it’s attainable for what you can actually do, for what you can actually do.

Relevant

Relevant means that the goal should fit you and your business. So you can see all these things are married to each other, they all eventually are going to seem to be the exact same thing, which means goal. That’s what we’re talking about here, goals. So you need to specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant to you, you guys. If you’re a student with QC Event School, you know that there’s a lot that we talk about, about having your target client. That means whatever you’re going to do with this goal needs to be relevant to your business and your target. If your target client is a mid-range hard-working woman, you are not going to want to spend a lot of money and invest your goal into things that are for luxury brides, if that’s not your goal, okay? If it is to do DIY brides, then you don’t want to be marketing to mid brides. If your goal is branding, it needs to match your personality. Okay, I have a loud voice, I’m energetic, I’m “woo-hoo!” So black and white don’t match me for branding colors because they’re not vibrant like my personality is. I’m vibrant, so my colors needed to be bright and vibrant.

Whatever you do for your goals, make sure it matches you and your business, not something that you saw somebody else do that you think you should try. Yes, look at other people and take what you can from them but then decipher it into what you need to change and adjust for it to work for you, okay?

Time

Set a deadline. This is amazingly one of the biggest things people do not do when they set a goal. They don’t set a deadline. Now you guys, a deadline means non-negotiable. Do not move it, don’t change it ’cause you feel like it. That’s the deadline.

Here is the way to achieve a deadline, if you don’t hit the deadline, it’s okay. It means it did not work. Now re-evaluate and see why it didn’t work and set that as a goal again, with restructuring it so you do hit it by the new deadline. Don’t do a deadline that’s due February 24th, and then February 1st you say, “Oh shoot, I’m not close to this goal, I’m going to go ahead and push this goal back to March. No. No, because then you’re only giving yourself 30 days to complete a goal that really should take 90 days because you set this back in December. You really are doing yourself a disservice, okay? So set a deadline.

SMART Goals don’t have to be small goals

A SMART goal can be a big goal. If it’s attainable, measurable, and relevant to you and you know you can get it done. Put it down.

My goal is to expand my company. Set one annual goal, that’s a big one. Expanding my company is a big freaking deal. It’s not as simple as just hiring somebody. That’s not the expansion I’m talking about. I’m talking about expanding my company, which is a huge project. And when you set a goal to be done in a year, there’s a couple of things that could happen.

Breaking down your goals into manageable quarters

You break [your goal] down into four categories, and each category will represent a quarter. In business, they think by quarters.

I’m going to break down my goals so you guys can see what I’m talking about. The first category is Launch New Intimate Weddings. I have a brand new scale service I want to do for intimate weddings. That’s what I wrote as one of the categories that have to do with me expanding my business.

A second category I have is Launch Custom-Build Department. My fiancé is moving home and he is a carpenter on the side. He loves it so he wants to start building backdrops and tables and centerpieces, and all kinds of stuff out of wood, plastic, metal, and acrylic for my clients or anyone else. He wants to open up a custom-build. So we’re going to add that to my company Coalesce Creations. That’s a part of expanding my business, that’s a new service and a new department.

Then the other category I have is Launch and Announce New Design Warehouse. Some of you guys said that you’re opening a venue. I’m kind of essentially doing the same thing as in getting a building but I’m not opening it up for a new venue. I am looking to launch and announce my design warehouse. We are in the process of looking for land and building my own design warehouse where I’ll have an office for me and my team and staff in the front and then have a huge showroom. The back is going to be the warehouse where all the stuff is going to be but the showroom is going to be where we can start doing mock events and mock style designs and all those things for clients so they can see exactly what it would look like.

To make sure I successfully launch my business, my [final] category is to Evaluate, Adjust and Celebrate the first three goals that are broken down.

Webinar viewer examples

Starting a business is a really popular [big goal]. The first goal you should have is getting your back-end processes in place. Getting your contract drafted by a lawyer. Not Google, you guys. I can’t stress that enough. Get your contract drafted with a lawyer. You’ll get yourself in a heap of trouble if you don’t do that. That’s part of investing in your business. Get a legal contract. Get your certification, get your business license if you have to have that in your state. Get your name registered with the city. There’s a lot of things you need to do. Get your CRM, the system you’re going to use to communicate back and forth with your clients.

Then the second one should be marketing and advertising. You can’t get a client until you know how you’re going to market and advertise to them. So that’s your second one. Now you think of a third.

Okay, Nikisha thinks she has hers. Her number one is, “Register my business name. Two, create my brand. Three, create my website. Four, advertise and market my business.” Registering your business should take a day. So these categories, we’re going to break up into 90-day goals, which is why there are four categories. Register my business is not going to be, take a quarter to do. So Nikisha, what you’re going to do in that first one is what I just mentioned. All that back-end stuff. So that website, and register your business are all going to go in quarter one.

Do brand as your quarter two. And then the advertising and marketing in your quarter three.

Marquita wants to know how you can do for marketing. So for marketing, the very first quarter should really be researching your target client. Number two, then you come up with your marketing strategies. So if you know they’re really into social media, then start coming up with your strategy, and your content schedule in quarter two. Quarter three is you put out all the marketing. Print, ad, all those things you want to do. Four, evaluate it. Adjust what you need to do. See what worked, what didn’t, whatever you’re doing you should be able to do measurable. Like we talked about in SMART, and measure the analytics of what you’re using. And then adjust it. In that last month of the year, you’re like, ” I made the adjustments, it worked, I hit my goal.”

For those that want to do marketing, and advertising, and starting your business, your quarter one should be figuring out your target client. That is what your entire business is based on. Who your target is.

Are they going for elegance, are they going for rustic? Are they going for intimate, are they going for out of town, are they going for a boat, are they going for a hanger, are they going for eclectic, are they going for unique? If you were having an event, what are all the event elements that you want? Then prepare all of those elements into a database and information base. So when you get that exact client that you want, you are ready to go. Because if you only have 15 [vendor contacts], you’re going to run to those 15, and then what are you going to have to do? Go back and research. Which means that you’re now using up time with your client that you wouldn’t have had to do. So get your database upfront, your vendor database, your venue database, your materials and suppliers database.

When people ask me how in the world did I become as successful as I have… I said it before. I started my business off $283.63 almost six years ago today. That’s how much I started it. I now profit $60,000 a year in six years. That’s a huge number. I want to congratulate myself. Don’t ever be scared to congratulate yourself, you guys, don’t. But how did I get there? I did this process. It works.

Nico said,

“But don’t you think training and getting certificates will take more than 90 days?”

No, no, no, Nico. I’ll use QC Event School as an example. They give you three years to finish because they understand that life and things happen. But if you’re focusing on too many things at one time then yes, it will take you more than 90 days?

You have to make it manageable for you. If your goal is to get an event planning certification and you know you can’t get that done in 90 days, perfect, make that quarter one and quarter two. There’s nothing wrong with that. You guys, quit feeling you have to have a rush, okay? Success is not to people that are in a rush and quick. It doesn’t matter how quick or slow you get to your goal. The point is that you get to your goal.

How to keep yourself accountable

Use a calendar. I think most people have Google Calendar, but if you don’t, get yourself a task list system and put a deadline to it. Google has a thing called GQueues, where it allows you to set a goal, and then [add] subtasks. I can set reminders for each one of those things. It keeps me focused because if I just write it in this notebook, and I go set this notebook down on my bookshelf and I don’t pick it up, am I holding myself accountable? No.

Accountability partners are perfect

Another thing you can do other than the calendar is get an accountability partner. QC’s Facebook page is huge. If you’re a student with QC, go see who has the same goal as you, and then you guys can work together. I’ve been running my business successfully for six years, I have three accountability partners. We’re together in a group chat and we talk almost on the daily sharing each other, what our goals are.

Remember to check yourself. In that last week of the last 90 days, create a checklist for yourself to see how much time were you really spending on the goal. And did you reach the goal? If you didn’t, what went wrong with it and what can you redo?

You will not reach your big goal if you don’t get accountability measures in place. So, the way I’m getting mine done is number one, I’m carrying this notebook everywhere. Number two, I have reminders set in my GQueues and in my Google Calendar on when I want certain things done.

I’m going to answer Danielle’s question. So Danielle’s question was,

“How important would you say to get certified? Also as a new wedding planner, what class would you recommend taking?”

Let’s get this straight. Certification is about continual education. When you complete an event and wedding planning course with QC Event School, it does not end at the course. You can still be part of the student forum. You can still contact QC Event School. You can still reach out to your tutors. I still have my student login. I still check in and see how people are doing, so I know what the heck I should be saying in my stuff, in my forums, my webinars. It’s a continual thing. I started my business while I was taking my event and wedding planning certification course, and six years later, I’m successful. I still love QC Event School. They’re a huge, huge support to my business.

It’s for your confidence. That is huge because your confidence sells your value. The certification is not for your client, it is for you. A lot of people say that they didn’t get certifications because they’ve never had anyone to ask if they were certified. It is not about if someone has asked if you’re certified or not, but wouldn’t you want to say yes if somebody asked you if you are certified? Wouldn’t you want to be able to say yes? I would. I don’t like saying the word no. If somebody said, “Are you certified?” I would love to be able to say yes.

I would love to be able to then list all the topics I studied with QC Event School because I’m telling the truth. I have the experience researching and studying timelines, databases, vendor relationships and all the things you’re going to need for me to plan your wedding. So do I think certification is important? Absolutely. Absolutely, because it’s for the education.

I was able to start my business because of QC Event School. To this day, I still use the formulas and templates [from my course]. The budget template they provided, I still use to the day. I didn’t get anything new. I used that particular one. They give you some information on cultures and different things like that. I’ve had three Nigerian weddings, and it’s because I got help from QC Event School. So absolutely. Is it important? Absolutely!

And then you said which courses should you take from QC? That’s definitely really a personal choice. When I took courses when QC first started out, they didn’t have all the courses they have now. So I’m rather jealous of you guys. I’m really jealous. They didn’t have Destination Wedding Planning, Luxury Event & Wedding Planning, Accelerate Your Business… all these awesome courses that they have right now.

If you only want to do weddings, take the Wedding Planning course. If you only want to do events, take the Event Planning course. If you’re not sure yet, take the Event and Wedding Planning course, and then maybe you’ll know from that. If you are really interested in destination weddings, sign up for the Destination Weddings Planning course. If you know for sure you can handle a luxury client,  sign up for the Luxury Event and Wedding Planning course. If you don’t plan on ever doing luxury event planning, don’t get it, but if you are, get that.

If you’re serious about starting your business, I highly recommend the Accelerate Your Business course because all these questions you guys are asking me right now is exactly what the course goes through. All these questions you are asking, “How do I start?”, “How do I figure out my pricing?”, “How do I figure out my brand?”, “How do I figure out my social media marketing?”… That’s exactly what the course is about. So Accelerate Your Business. If you’re ready to start your business, go with it.

The other question said,

“When you’re just starting out, how many hours would you say a wedding takes or a milestone event takes from conception to completion?”

It depends on your resources. In your experience, an average wedding can take anywhere from 80 to 223 hours. But you can’t really base it on that because if a wedding is 18 months out, but another wedding is three months out, well, you don’t have 222 hours to dedicate to an event that’s four months out.

You have to decide, are you going to take clients that have an event that are within 30 days? And if you are, you need to make sure you have the resources to be able to get it done in 30 days.

We’re booking for 2019 and 2020, but I’m not going to book any brides for 2021. Why? Because I know my services might be different by then, my pricing will definitely be different by then. So no, I don’t take anyone that plans past 18 months, that’s me, but I’ve decided what I want.

Put yourself through a mock event. If you want to do someone’s baby shower, plan one. Do your own case study. How much time did it take you to research a venue? How much time did it take you to contact vendors? How much time did it take you to do this? Do a case study on planning out an event in full, and then that’ll tell you [how much time and resources you need].

Your business contracts

There are templates and examples of RFPs, which are requests for proposals, in the courses with QC Event School. I need you guys to understand this, and I’ll make this clear. You should never copy somebody else’s contract. [It doesn’t matter] if they’re a wedding planner down the street. What you need to protect yourself is totally different [than the next planner].

I’ll give an example. I am highly allergic to dogs, smoke, and cats. So if I have a bride who wants dogs or cats to walk down their aisle with them, in my contract, it says that I am allowed to replace myself with one of my high-end dedicated planners. I will not be walking those dogs down or getting them in the line or anything because I’m not going to end up in the hospital for your wedding.

So if you’re not allergic to dogs. So how are you going to justify that, in your contract, if you took my contract and copied it? Okay? Say you [copy] a contract from somebody who’s in New York and you’re in Texas. There are different state laws. So don’t ever copy somebody else’s contract. That’s why at the very beginning, I said you have to invest in your business and get a contract drafted with a lawyer. You’ve got to have it legally done or you will get in big trouble.

You can contact a lawyer for a 30 min consultation and get the guidelines that you want. And sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s $10, other times it’s $30. Is it worth it? Absolutely, because you have to know what you’re needing. They’ll tell you the basic stuff that you need to have in your contract. You could probably also google some things, but I am not a fan of contracts through Google.

Want to know when Athena’s next webinar is? Keep an eye out on our Facebook page!

Want to see the kinds of events you can plan with your wedding planning certification? Check out QC Event School graduate Gianna Luchese’ outstanding work!

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