Do you think you have “arrived” in your business?
“When do you think you have arrived at the top?”
This is a question I received from an attendee after my presentation at Let’s Plan Conference in Orlando a few months ago.
I had no hesitation to respond “You are never arrived!” and the entire audience applauded. Apparently, many wedding professionals think like me, and it’s a great thing!
I’m sure you remember those moments when you started your business (or maybe you’re starting one now): that crazy feeling that gets you up in the morning with the excitement, the energy, the desire to create amazing things, and work with the best clients ever. You are super productive, you have ideas coming up every day and you can’t wait to make them happen. Your business is thriving, and you start making good money, and you are happy. You keep going up, you keep climbing.
And then, when you think you mastered your expertise, when you think you got to the top of your mountain and you have done everything, you have experienced everything, you have inspired everybody, you think that’s it. There’s no more room to grow. And that’s when you start feeling out of place, and out of date.
This is a feeling that many solo entrepreneurs (not only in the wedding industry) experience after a few years they’ve been in business. Especially if they own their own business. Maybe you’re the only one working on your business. When it’s a solo business sometimes it’s hard to get encouragement, to get support, and to be motivated to push and move forward. You get to a point where you think you have arrived. And it’s time to sit down and watch things happening around you. But that should not happen. If you own your business and you’re ambitious, and you want to be a role model in your field or industry, you must keep going. When you stop and sit down you will lose momentum, you will lose your creativity, you will lose the energy that keeps you in business. That’s when younger professionals will replace you and they will get the business you were supposed to get. It doesn’t matter if they are less talented and less experienced than you, they are running and climbing like you used to, and you’re not. You stopped doing that. Potential clients won’t find you, they won’t be interested in connecting with you. You don’t have anything new and exciting to offer, you’re not interesting anymore.
So, what do you need to do? You need to evolve, you need to adapt, you need to reinvent yourself. Clients might become younger and younger (they do in the wedding planning world) and, if you don’t stay up to date with the latest trends and tools you won’t be considered as their planner, or as their go-to resource. So, do you see what I mean? You are never arrived! When you own your business, you must be in constant motion, and keep moving forward, learning more, expanding, diversifying.
There are different ways to do so. Here are my five tips for you today.
Don’t be one of those professionals who think they don’t need to learn anything more. They’ve been in business 5, 10 years and they’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all. They reach their plateau and they aren’t able to move up because they don’t have anywhere to go with their old techniques and strategies.
These are also many of my coaching clients, they come to me after being successful for a few years and now they don’t get any client. No lead, no inquiry… What’s wrong? They are not offering anything new. Their website looks old, their pictures are outdated, they don’t use technology to communicate with potential clients, they don’t incorporate the latest trends into their creations. They are not up to date. They refuse to get informed because they think they are the authority. Well, they’re not anymore. You have to be humble enough to accept that there are younger professionals around you who are more driven to learn and serve clients than you. And if you don’t catch up you will be soon forgotten. Attend conferences, meetings, go network and learn from your peers, learn from the big names in your field, learn about the latest trends, participate in floral or photography or calligraphy classes, learn every day. Specialize in something, and that will allow you to stand out.
Share your expertise
This is what I decided to do little by little. First, I started mentoring young wedding planners while I was serving on the board of the Association of Bridal Consultants, then I expanded to coaching. You probably remember a couple of years ago I launched my coaching programs, and I’m still evolving. I’m now offering productivity programs and life-work balance programs where life comes first, then work can get done. I’m very passionate about this and I really want to help as many professionals as possible to achieve their goals with less stress, more focus and more productivity. Thanks to these techniques they will be able to become more successful and more profitable like it happened to me. I love to inspire others, and I hope I will be seen as a role model, as a leader and educator.
If you are interested in sharing your expertise, you can begin a speaking career, you can teach professionals in your field, and allow colleagues to pursue continuing education which is – you know very well – extremely important for your success. Again, we’re never arrived, we keep evolving. And this can increase your reputation, your credibility. Your peers will see you as the go-to resource, clients will trust you more and they will want to work with you.
Another thing that you can consider is offering workshops for your clients. If you are in the event and wedding planning world you could organize workshops for brides and grooms. For instance, teach them how to choose the ideal wedding planner, how to plan their wedding with less stress, how to design their vision boards, how to create a foolproof wedding day timeline… I’m sure you know so much thanks to your experience in the industry, and you can come up with grand ideas for your workshops. If you have a trusted team of vendors, join forces and create a workshop with different topics. Maybe a full-day experience where you will all cover different aspects of wedding planning.
What do your clients like? What do your clients want? What do they usually rent or buy for their events and weddings? Is there a particular trend or pattern that you see? Is it dessert tables? Is it custom candles? Is it specialty linens? Is it favors?
Do some research and consider the possibility of carrying certain products, buying them at wholesale prices and selling them to your clients so you can have an additional source of income.
What about creating an inventory with jars, stands and trays for candy stations and dessert tables? I started collecting pieces of all sorts about 7 years ago and it works great. Keep in mind that, if you decide to carry inventory, you will need to have a space where you will store or display the items. You might need to rent a storage space. Make sure you will cover those expenses in your fees.
Speaking of custom candles, a celebrity event designer, Sasha Souza, started offering custom candles to her clients. I don’t know if she’s still doing this but it was definitely a brilliant idea, a very unique service that she was offering a few years ago. She would have her team make candles in the same exact color palette of the wedding or event. They would make them in house and they would create candles in different sizes and shapes according to the décor. Very clever!
Once you carry collections of rental items you can offer these as upgrades for your packages.
I’m thinking about other possibilities: photo booths. Or, today you can offer social media walls where you just need a laptop and a projector, and you program the Instagram and Twitter feed with a specific hashtag by installing software in your computer. That can be a great way to make some extra money and expand your business offerings.
Very often clients accept to pay for the upgrade when it comes from a vendor they already hired, it’s like shopping from a one-stop service and they like that concept. It means less vendors involved, less stress and less time invested during their wedding planning.
The same can apply to invitations. These can be easier to handle because you don’t need storage space. You just need books or catalogs with samples to show your clients, and you will order the sets. Definitely a better choice if you have limited space to work with.
Another alternative is opening an Etsy shop if you love crafts and you’re creative. I did it a few years ago and it’s very popular among my clients. The interesting thing is that, people find me on Etsy and they end up hiring me for their event or wedding. They order my products but not via Etsy. You will see that my Etsy shop only has a few sales, because clients order banners and signs as part of my design and planning services.
Create a unique product or service
I have another great example here. A planner in Orange County, California noticed that her brides always had a hard time keeping their veil in place during the ceremony or while they were taking pictures when it was windy or breezy. She needed to find a solution (we always want to find solutions for our clients, don’t we?!?) and she came up with this brilliant idea that is… veil weights. These little weights are beautiful pieces of magnetic jewelry that can be attached very easily to a veil. They are not permanent, and they won’t damage the veil. If you’d like to check them out you can find them at SaveTheVeil.
Creating a unique product or service can also help you with your niche, and you can target the right client, the right audience like that. Think about an app, or software that can help other professionals or your clients.
This can be similar to tip 4 however, instead of creating something new like a product or service, you venture into a new market. You don’t have to close the company and start a new one, you can just expand to a different niche. For instance, if you do weddings you might want to start marketing to corporate clients. Which is not so difficult after all because, many of your wedding clients might be business owners or employed in large companies that organize product launch events, holiday parties, meetings and conferences. Ask them if they need a planner or have your client introduce you to the right person in the company. This is ideal for you to get excited about new ideas, new projects, new goals.
Keep in mind that, should you decide to expand, you will need to consider adding members to your team because you won’t be able to do it all: weddings and corporate, or parties and weddings. You don’t want to sacrifice your precious time just for the sake of expanding or diversifying. Also, when you diversify there are many other elements that you need to consider: maybe a different logo, different pages on your website, maybe treat the two niches as completely different divisions, so act smart and make sure that both messages are very clear to your clients. In other words, corporate clients are not into peonies and lace if your website is too wedding related. At the same time, if your website and marketing materials are very “corporate” looking, you won’t be able to get wedding clients.
Never stop learning, never stop creating, never arrive! Our life is a journey, treat your business the same way!
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Holistic Precision Life Coach, Brain Wellness Coach, and Life-Work Balance Strategist for busy professionals. I blend well-being principles with epigenetics, neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness techniques to implement effective behavior changes.