This is a great time to start a small business as a wedding planner. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects event planning to increase at a much faster than average rate between now and 2020.
A wedding planning business may be right for you if you're organized, driven, and creative. Plus, you'll need to have people skills to deal with frazzled brides (dare we say Bridezillas?) and some business know-how to manage your finances.
Here are six practical things to keep in mind before you begin:
1. Startup costs
Luckily, starting a wedding planning business isn't hugely expensive. As an independent consultant, you don't need an office space other than your kitchen table. But you will have some up-front costs. You should consider hiring an attorney for basic legal work, such as protecting your personal assets from liability and drawing up basic contracts you can use with your clients before you take on their wedding. You'll also need to put some money into marketing and office supplies. Consider using a business credit card with rewards to help you lower your cost basis.
2. Business goals
Without a boss, you'll need to set your own goals, to keep your business on track. Give yourself a realistic idea of how much you'll make (the median pay for event planners in 2010 was about $45,260, according to BLS) and how you can improve upon that number.
Set out to meet with local vendors within a certain time frame (such as, say, meeting with 15 local flower shops within a month). And remember to set personal goals for yourself, such as vowing to take a few courses to brush up on business skills.
3. Your portfolioThe main way that you'll sell your services as a wedding planner -- other than word-of-mouth -- is through an online portfolio. Here are a few ideas of what to include:
- A photo shoot of a mock wedding, including the reception table, decorations, and the cake. This is a chance to show off your familiarity with the hottest wedding trends and your attention to detail. Use this as an opportunity to work with local vendors. Offer to give them referrals in exchange for contributing to your mock wedding.
- Written testimonials and pictures from your friends and relatives' weddings to which you have contributed.
- A list of your certifications or professional memberships.
- Samples of wedding timelines you have created.
4. Landing your first clients
Getting the first few clients for your wedding planning business is the biggest hill to get over for many wedding planners. To land them, think of strategies like sending out a direct mailer to just-engaged couples in your area, talking to people you know who are getting married, and offering your services at a serious discount to a friend of a friend.
5. Marketing your business
Most small business owners spend at least 25 percent of their time marketing their company. Fortunately, this critical task doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Besides setting up a website with your portfolio, create a Facebook business page to share the latest wedding trends and statistics, as well as photos from the weddings you've helped plan. You could also create inspiration boards through Pinterest.
And, of course, there are more traditional marketing avenues, including paid advertising in print media. You'll also need to network. Sign up for local wedding conventions, where all sorts of vendors can meet hundreds or thousands of engaged couples.
Consider getting a certification or even a degree for event planning if you don't have one. A degree in hospitality can be helpful for event planners, but short-term certifications from organizations like the International Special Events Society can also be useful.
As a small business owner, you'll need to wear many hats. You'll be not only a wedding planner but also an accountant, a marketing director, and a customer service specialist. When you pull off a successful event, you'll see the hard work will be worth the challenge.