After 10 years in the wedding industry, I’ve sure made my share of mistakes. Some I could quickly recover from without (hopefully) many people noticing and others which cost me quite a hefty sum of money in one way or another. They say one of the best ways to learn is to jump right in there and get amongst it, learning by the mistakes and successes you have yourself. But I don’t want you to learn the big mistakes which cost you financially and emotionally when you can get some great advice from those who have walked the path already.
So what’s the difference between businesses who stand the test of time in the wedding industry and those who unfortunately don’t? Here are some of my tips on mistakes to avoid when launching your wedding business.
Spending too much money on unnecessary things when first starting out
Starting up a new business costs money, there’s no avoiding it. Whether you have a lump sum of cash to inject into it or you are slowly investing money from a job into your business, it all adds up. Being as frugal as possible in those early days can really help you boost your business. Some great businesses fall apart when they are too wrapped up in all of the fancy bells and whistles from the beginning – before they even have customers to buy from them.
Consider whether the first stage of your business really needs to be in an expensive location or whether you can perhaps start by working from home and grow into a commercial space.
Can you use second hand items to set up your business, for example do you need brand spanking new garment racks and mannequins when you can get almost perfect ones for a fraction of the price on gumtree?
Keep packaging simple to begin with and as your customer base grows you can move to the more expensive branded packaging.
Think about ways where you can be clever about the start up costs of your business and don’t get carried away with buying everything that’s pretty and wonderful right away.
Investing in too much stock
Similarly to the first point, be smart about your initial financial investment in your business. For those who are a product based business, when starting off, often less is more. Start with a small range of your product and get great at selling that. As your customer base grows you can slowly reinvest your business income to expand your stock lines. If a huge amount of money is tied up in stock from the start and sales are slow, things can get stressful.
Definitely have that incredible big dream for your business, but break it down into stages of what you will offer first and gradually expand your stock as your customer base does too.
Not keeping track of your finances
As business owners it’s our responsibility to know where we stand financially at all times. This is why I recommend having your own dedicated bank accounts for business transactions and also use a cloud based accounting software. If you know nothing about bookkeeping I highly recommend hiring a professional book keeper to ensure all of your financial entries are accurate. It’s also important for businesses to have an accountant to take care of their tax returns and provide professional financial advice.
When business owners don’t have a grasp of their financial position they can easily slip into trouble where they don’t realise they owe more money than they realise or sales aren’t as high as expected and can struggle to get out of the hole.
Pricing yourself too low to make money
This is a tricky one. I’ve been there myself with a brand new business. Because I was new with no “credibility”, despite knowing I had a fantastic product and a high level of service I just felt I couldn’t charge as much as what my established industry professionals were charging.
In some sectors of the wedding industry things can get very price driven and online stores can have us all on a race to the bottom as well. Your strategy may be to have a competitive price and that may well bring in customers for you, but remember you always have to be making money. If you are selling your products or services below what it costs to offer them (including all of the additional costs that go into running your business, not just the hours to create that product or service) there’s no point in being in business.
You have decided to open this business for a reason – because you have something incredible to offer couples for their wedding day and you are passionate about exceptional customer service. So stand by your pricing and don’t devalue your worth. Articulate the high value of what you are offering and couples won’t be fixated on price.
Designing your store / website based on what you like and your taste
Think about your ideal couple and what would appeal to them – this should always be in the forefront of your mind when considering your style and layout of your new website and also your premises if you are a store or venue. Do some research on trending looks that would appeal to that style of couple and use that as a basis for your design rather than your own personal taste.
It’s all well and good to have a space or website that you find attractive, but if it doesn’t appeal to your customers it’s hard to entice them to send you an email or pick up the phone. Couples also use the styling of a wedding businesses website to determine whether that business is on the same page as them for their wedding vision.
Not advertising / marketing enough
Those incredible stories you hear of new businesses who simply take off without investing any money in advertising or paid marketing of any form are so very rare. They are wonderfully inspiring, but sadly we can’t all go into business hoping things will go that way for us. For the great many of us the way we grow our business is to put tonnes of time into marketing our businesses and also spending money wisely on advertising.
Spend time researching which advertising channels are likely to give you the best return on investment reaching your target market and invest in those. Also make sure to allocate plenty of time in those early months to put together lots of great content on your website and social media channels which couples will want to share around.
Get out and network with local wedding professionals, exhibit in relevant wedding expos. Do all that you can to spread the word of your fantastic business!
Not having professional contracts
It’s so important that when couples meet with you they are able to understand clearly what they will be receiving from you in return for their financial investment. One aspect new businesses can sometimes overlook is having professional contracts drawn up which are then signed by all parties at the beginning of the business relationship. These contracts will not only provide an outline of expectations to the couple but also help to protect you should something go wrong.
In this document you can outline:
- the schedule of fees including when instalments are due
- what happens should you as the wedding professional fall ill on the day?
- what is the process should the couple cancel and what is your refund policy?
- how many meetings are included and for how long and where?
- Exactly what services will you be providing including additional equipment / travel etc
Without a professional contract it’s very hard to protect yourself financially should there be any miscommunications between yourself and the couple. The more information you can outline from the start the better your relationship with your clients will be and the higher level of trust they will have moving forward.
You only have one chance to make a great first impression! Make sure that first impression is awesome and consistent across all of your social media channels, website and store. You want your potential customers to find your business and fall in love with what you offer as much as you love delivering it for your couples – so make sure they understand from the beginning exactly what it is that you offer and what sort of experience that may look like. Be recognisable with a consistent logo, colours, imagery and voice of your business so that you can really present a rock solid brand.
If you can avoid these common mistakes you will be well on your way to kickstarting an incredibly rewarding and successful new business!