Wedding Planners, do any of these real-life scenarios sound familiar to you?
“My Bride scheduled an appointment for 11:00 a.m. and showed up at 2:00 and stated … ohhh you were on time? We are never on time.”
“My bride and groom called me at 2 am on repeat until I woke up and answered. What did they need? To discuss proper wording for their DIY programs.”
“I received three texts from a bride within a 15-minute span. Normally not a big deal but it was on Christmas morning! I finally texted back “I hope you’re enjoying family time like I am.” She didn’t get the subtle hint and proceeded to ask questions (for her March wedding). I finally got firm and spelled out that I was enjoying watching my son open gifts and I’d call her the next day. Message finally received.”
These are just three of MANY responses I received from fellow wedding planners when I asked for their boundary horror stories.
If you’ve been in business for more than five minutes, you likely have a story that sounds similar. (If you don’t, they are coming, I promise.)
Despite the fact that as Wedding Planners we are in a service industry, I want to be sure we aren’t acting like we are in a servant industry. Doing your job well and taking excellent care of your clients does not mean you need to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It does not mean that you don’t get to have a life, a family, and free time. You need to fill up your tank in order to serve others well.
We train others how to treat us by our actions and words. If you don’t respect and value your time and contributions, your clients won’t either. Print this out and tape it to your computer:
If you’ve been struggling with boundaries and unrealistic client expectations, please know that you are not alone! Every business owner grapples with this at one time or another.
LET’S GET DOWN TO BASICS
1) Establish your boundaries
You can’t enforce boundaries if you don’t know what they are! Take a good look at your likes and dislikes, your lifestyle, and your work habits and decide what is ideal for you. For example, I am NOT a morning person, so my office hours are set from 10 am to 7 pm. I am the grumpiest person before 9 am, so I don’t engage with clients at that time. I don’t answer emails or schedule phone calls until after 10 am. I like to joke and say “Before 10 am, my answer to everything is NO!” The truth is, I’m only half joking!
Speaking of office hours, that is only one of the areas in which I establish boundaries. I also limit communication methods. Email is queen, and I never answer my cell phone unless a client has scheduled a phone call. There’s an important point: All of my clients MUST schedule their phone calls with me. If I answered my phone every time it rang, I would never get any real work done.
I don’t engage with clients on social media messaging platforms (no Facebook messenger or Instagram DM’s), and I’ve never warmed up enough to Snapchat to actually use it. I also don’t encourage text messaging. I like all of my information streamlined to one avenue: Email.
2) Communicate your boundaries early and often
I talk about my office hours during the initial consultation. I want to be extremely transparent and upfront with my clients so that they will have realistic expectations. A few weeks ago, I was explaining my office hours, and I said, “On Fridays, my office hours are 10 am to 2 pm.” The groom said, “Oh, a half day on Friday! That must be nice!” To which I replied, “Oh, those are just my office hours. I’m usually running a ceremony rehearsal on Friday afternoons. I’m still working, I just won’t be answering your emails at that point.” He sheepishly replied, “Oh. I never thought about that.” Well, of course, he hadn’t! Our potential clients don’t know what we do every day – even if they do stalk you on Instagram! Part of the education of our clients and our processes is explaining our working hours and when they can expect to have our full attention.
My office hours and preferred methods of communication are also included in my contract. My clients must initial that they have read it before being able to sign my (online) contract.
I also list my office hours in my email signature, as a reminder to my clients and as information for any creative team members/vendors with whom I am working.
And when my out of office is on? I reiterate my office hours in that as well. “Your email will be answered when I’m back in my office on Tuesday. Office hours are 10 am to 6 pm.”
Repetition is key.
3) Technology is your Best Friend
If you find yourself sending emails to clients after work hours, stop right now. The single best piece of technology I have for my business is an email scheduling tool. I use Boomerang for Gmail, but you could also use Rightinbox or Letter Me Later.
If you send even ONE email to a client outside your business hours, they will think that the rules have changed and then it’s a fast, slippery slope downward into chaos. Let me be the small voice in the back of your mind when you want to just “really quickly” respond to that mother-of-the-bride at 10 pm. DON’T DO IT. Schedule that email response to send at the very start of your office hours.
You have to train them. It’s that simple, and that difficult.
Real-story, from a real wedding pro: “I once got an inquiry at 11 pm. Got a follow up “because they hadn’t heard back yet” at 8 am the following day.”
They have to be trained on how to treat you. This kind of communication can be a red flag for a potentially high maintenance client.
And remember when I mentioned that my clients have to schedule phone calls? I use Calendly for this and it’s been a game changer. No more back and forth email threads that go on endlessly. My clients get a link to my calendar, they choose a date and time that works for them, and it gets automatically added to my calendar. Easy peasy.
Last but certainly not least, let’s get your mindset in order, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a workaholic. And I think we can all fall into the trap of giving too much and feeling resentful as a result.
I like to ask myself two questions at the end of every workday.
1. Am I proud of the work I’ve done today?
2. Did I show up for myself and my clients today? If I feel positive about both, I can rest easy and know I’ve done my best.
And doing my best never includes responding to a text message at midnight.
Let me hear from you in the comments – what boundary issues do you struggle with in your event planning business?
This is a guest post by Renée Dalo. Renee is the CEO and Lead Planner of Moxie Bright Events, a boutique wedding planning firm in Los Angeles, CA. Renée is also a Leader for The Rising Tide Society (Los Angeles-East) and a strong believer in “community over competition”. She can’t say no to anything Kate Spade, a weekend getaway, or a well-made bellini. You can find Renée on Instagram at @moxiebrightevents and on FB in her group The Moxie Collective, exclusively for Planners with 2+ years in business. Join us!