With nearly anything in life, when you’re looking to creating something stable, building a solid foundation is absolutely key. The same is true for your wedding planning business. Growing a sustainable business requires having the proper systems, tools, paperwork, and goals in place from the get-go. But, I’d be lying if I said it was a piece of cake—with weddings to plan, budgets to balance, and, oh yeah, a semi-existent personal life to attempt to maintain (when is your anniversary again?), building a solid business foundation can often get put on the backburner.
Plus, as wedding planners, many of us likely started out our business a bit backwards, putting the cart before the horse out of pure necessity: opportunity came along before you had a chance to put any systems in place for managing your client workflow. You had a friend of a friend who asked you to help plan their wedding and then another…and then suddenly you’re a full-fledged event planner for a living without any foundational business items in place. Or, perhaps you filed business legal documents from the start, but your business took off quicker than expected, leaving you little (or no) time to plan out your long-term goals.
While a short-sighted approach to your wedding planning business may be sustainable in the short-term, problems arise when—months or years later—you find yourself overwhelmed, burnt out, constantly stressed, and barely hanging onto that last thread of sanity. If this sounds at all familiar, it’s likely because you built your business without a solid foundation to help stabilize it as it grows. But, not to fear wedding planners—it’s never too late to take a step back to regroup and reorganize with these five must-have items for building a solid business foundation:
1. Properly filed legal business documents to establish your business: We’ll start with the not-so-sexy stuff: paperwork. If you’re operating as a business (i.e. accepting payments for services), you absolutely have to have your paperwork in order. This may include registering your business as required by laws or regulations in your area, obtaining a business license, etc.
2. Having the business-management side of things in order: Essentials in this realm include opening a business bank account (separate from your personal account), obtaining business insurance, and a having solid contract on hand to send to new clients. (Never, ever work for clients without a signed contract on hand!) You’ll also want to have a great bookkeeping system and a plan for how you’ll issue invoices and accept payments. Pro Tip: Online business management tools such as Aisle Planner make it easy for intelligent invoicing, payment processing, contract management and more!
3. Mapping out your workflow process based on the services you offer: If you don’t have a standardized workflow process in place, it’s time to sit down and map out your planning process from start to finish. What happens next once a prospective new client inquires about your services? What happens once they’ve signed a contract with you? What does your welcome and onboarding process look like for a new client? Which vendors do you book before others and why?
You’ll want to map out your planning sequence all the way to the final wrap-up of your event and, in some cases, even beyond (requesting reviews, sending a one-year anniversary card, etc.). The end-goal here is to have a workflow that can be translated into a checklist that will not only create a seamless client experience, but also keep you on track. Standardizing your planning process in this manner helps to ensure nothing falls through the cracks, and it also allows you to focus on delivering a well-planned, well organized, quality experience for your couples (rather than trying to remember what planning step comes next or if you ever sent off that welcome letter).
4. A system for managing the planning process for clients. Once you’ve mapped out your workflow, it’s time to plug into a system that can help you not only easily manage what’s been done and what’s left to do, but also keep you and the details for each event you’re planning organized. Incorporating professional wedding planning software like Aisle Planner —which offers cloud-based tools for seating charts, RSVP tracking, timelines, budget management, client communication, design inspiration, and more—can make a huge impact on organization and productivity. Plus, it elevates your client experience and helps you put your best, most professional foot forward.
5. Short- and long-term business and marketing goals: This is one I notice so many planners avoid—probably because of how overwhelming thinking about the future can be as a small business owner who’s just trying to stay afloat. But I promise you, once you get over the initial hurdle of forcing yourself to sit down and map out your goals, planning for the future is so empowering. You’ll want to think about how many weddings you will need to book to bring in enough income to sustain your business this year. Once you have that number, you need to develop a plan for how you’ll actually meet that goal—this should include networking, marketing, advertising, social media, and/or PR efforts.
Overall, think of your business like a great piece of architecture. No matter how stunning, artistic, or swoon-worthy it may be, if it’s built on a shoddy (or nonexistent) foundation, it has no chance of surviving long-term. The great news, though, is that—unlike with a physical building—with your business, you can always take a step back, go back to square one, and finally put that foundation in place…and there’s no better time than now to do so! It takes nothing more than a little commitment and some extra (wo)man hours! So cheers, wedding pros, to building a solid foundation for a thriving, sustainable, absolutely unflappable business!
Christina Farrow brings 20 years of wedding planning and expertise to the table as Aisle Planner’s Founder and President. Realizing a need in the industry for better planning and business management tools, Christina turned her attention and years of experience working with couples, vendors and bridal media towards building a platform that would empower wedding professionals to build better businesses and lead more balanced (and more organized) lives.
Photo Credit: Cavin Elizabeth
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Credit 1st image: Rodrigo Garcia