I have loved every moment of being a wedding and event planner. That’s not to say that I’ve been in love with every moment. There have been times when I’ve wanted to walk away and take a break. Some great examples? When a guest yelled in my face for taking a seat in a place she didn’t like, a drunk guest yelling to bring whiskey to his table (because the bar closed and he wasn’t happy), or a groomsmen saying derogatory things to me and my staff.
There are moments like this that make me very angry and question whether being a wedding planner is worth it. For me, in those moments there are two choices:
1) Work past it – be the strong, confident business owner that I am
2) Sink back and think that I have no idea what I’m doing.
I’ve gone to both places and I’ll tell you, the first one works better.
There are many things that I’ve learned in the past 11 years of working in the events industry, and in the past 5 years of running my own business. I could go on and on but I want to share the main things that I still focus on and keep myself in check with.
Here is what I’ve learned and what I wish I knew when I started:
1) Get Tough Skin. Fast.
There are many difficult things that can happen when starting an event planning business. Rejection, budget issues, start-up costs, finding great staff, website building, branding, and so much more. Then there’s the whole side of finding and keeping business. It’s not easy. Many people will tell you no, hire someone else instead, and say that your prices are ridiculous.
Remember – it’s not personal. And most of the time, it’s not you, it’s them. Keep working on your craft, your pitch, your brand, and your education. You are doing this for a reason and when you’re first starting out, the only one who is going to stand up for you is you.
2) Be patient.
Building a successful and profitable business takes time. That’s ok. You may start out really great in your first year then have a slow second year. That’s ok too. It’s not always the same. You can’t expect each year to be as good as the last. It might be that the market changed, brides changed, the economy took a dip, there are new planners in your market, and so on.
Keep working at it and things will change. I hate the saying, “It will get worse before it gets better,” but sometimes that’s the case. Sometimes it gets even slower before business picks up. Often, that’s the push you need to really start blogging like you know you should have been doing all along, or it is the push you need to get out there networking like you read in all those “How to get more business” articles.
If you keep building it, they will come! But the thing is, you need to keep building. Don’t just put a website up and expect your phone to ring with new inquiries. You need to be active, always. Every day as an entrepreneur is like being unemployed. You will always be working for your money, for your craft, and to bring in your ideal client.
I say all this not to scare you but for you to be ready for the changes that come with this sort of work. I never want anyone to get discouraged when business slows down. Just know that it happens to all of us, whether we’ve been in business for 10 months or 10 years. We all experience this.
3) Take care of yourself. Always.
It doesn’t matter who tells you this, where you read it, how many times Oprah said it, or how often you see another one of those cute quotes on Instagram: If you don’t take of yourself, you only have yourself to blame. Burn out is brutal and unfortunately, it’s pretty common in our industry.
We all have wedding season and what we call “off season”. The way I look at it, off season is not “off” at all. It’s more of a “get all the mess together and focus on you a whole lot more” season.
Personally, I like to take days off in the middle of summer if I can (I take my “weekend” on a Wednesday). I love to garden. If that was taken away from me, then being my own boss would not be worth it. There are some things that I’m willing to give up. For example, I’m more than happy to experience my summer in the winter through travel, but gardening is not one of those things I am willing to give up.
It’s critical that you set your boundaries and stick to them. You’re the only one who can enforce this. Most of the time, no one will know that you crossed your line except you (think of those times you checked emails on the weekend when you know it’s your time off, or you answered that email at 9pm when your office hours are clearly stated as 9am – 5pm).
If you want to do this full time, long term, or even on the side for many years, you need to stick to your boundaries, take care of yourself, and make your personal life one of your top priorities.
4) Get yourself a business bestie and a circle of cheerleaders.
Don’t try to do everything on your own. There are thousands of wedding planners out there also trying real hard, hustling with all they have, and thinking they’re on their own. Don’t waste time in this. You’ll drag yourself down and you’ll get stuck in self-pity and well, frankly, sometimes you need someone else to help you out of the hole.
I have a business bestie. She’s the best thing that’s happened to my business (aside from starting it and succeeding — cause that’s pretty great!). If you have no one to talk to that really gets it, owning your own business doesn’t feel the same.
We all want people to think we’re doing amazing and that we’re super successful, but you need someone that you can just vent to and say “I’m stressed that I won’t make enough this year,” or “I finally got that feature I’ve been trying to get for years.” You need a business buddy or coach who gets you, can relate, encourage, and talk you off the ledge when you’re convinced you’ll be homeless and have to live in your car.
5) Don’t burn a bridge. Ever.
I’ve been plagiarized and stolen from, and it sucks. There’s nothing about it that feels good. I’ve also had vendors, brides, parents, and clients not treat me all that well. No part of that feels good either.
When I was in school (PR & Marketing with a side of Event Management), we were often cautioned to “never burn a bridge.” Many professors told stories of employees who stole from them, co-workers who took their ideas and claimed them as their own, or times when their work was plagiarized. They always followed up with stories of how they dealt with these situations in a professional manner and moved past them. They shared stories of how they encountered those people again in the future — a few of them ended up landing large business deals because of that connection and the way they managed themselves and their dealings consistently in the past.
Like those professors, you never know when or how you might work with someone in the future. You never know how the situation might affect your event planning business and reputation. One big thing you need to remember is that the event industry is only so big. In my market, it’s not that big at all. There is about 1-3 degrees of separation between all of us, and you can find out a lot of information about others really quickly.
The hard truth is if someone wants to take something from you, they will; if someone wants to backstab, they will. But you know what? You have a choice. You can get over it, take the higher ground, and handle it with grace. Or you can add to the negative stereotype.
About those bridges: you don’t have to want to use them. I have many bridges that I didn’t burn, even though I have no intentions of going near them, much less use them. In fact, I want to take a totally different route to get where I’m going. That’s something you’ll have to decide on what’s right for you and your company.
6) Not everyone has to understand what you do.
It’s ok if your family doesn’t get it. If they think you only work on the weekend and sit on the couch the rest of the time. I mean, obviously you should try and explain it to them, but there will always be people who think you do fluff work as a wedding planner.
I remember the time I showed my dad one of my wedding budget spreadsheets. I could see the wheels turning as he took it all in. I don’t know if he was proud of me in that moment, but I sure was proud of myself. I’ve worked hard for everything I have. I’ve created everything in my business: all the products, procedures, forms, wedding planning templates, and my whole process and brand. Not everyone can understand the hard work that goes into that.
I don’t let people demean what I do. I will gracefully correct someone if they are unkind or unsupportive. I can say that I built something from scratch and that I make a lot of money doing what I love. I’m proud of what I’ve built, and what I’m still building. It really doesn’t matter if people don’t get it. The proof is in the pudding which is enough comfort and encouragement for me.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Being an event planner is not easy. I love it though and I’m sticking around. I hoping for another 5 years, and then another 5 years after that, and then maybe another 5 years after that.
I’m always learning new things – better ways to do my work, better ways to be a boss, and better ways to run my business.
Don’t ever let yourself stop moving or growing in what you do. You’ll either start hating it, get bored, or burn out. Or worse – all three.
The beauty of what we do each day is that we get to choose. We can decide each day what our work will look like, how we will make it happen, the time we want to put into it (whether that’s full-time or on the side) and the people we surround ourselves with.
Be proud of what you have – big or small.
This is a guest post from Amanda Douglas. Amanda is the owner of Amanda Douglas Events based in Winnipeg, Canada. Amanda Douglas Events is a collaboration of Amanda’s 11 years of experience in events, hospitality, decor design, and her love for all things elegant, unique, and beautiful. When she isn’t planning events, Amanda is a wife, animal lover, speaker, mentor, and world traveler. She is a huge believer in going after your dreams but also knows you won’t get what you want in life unless you work for it. Connect with Amanda on Instagram and Facebook.