The beginning of the year is a busy time for wedding planners, we are meeting with potential clients and finalising the planning for current clients. We are spending time on our business marketing before the busy period really kicks in and wishing our suppliers a ‘Happy New Year’.
The start of a year is the time people start to reassess their career, maybe this is the year they will make that step to change their life. To some the career of an event planner is glamorous so perhaps it’s unsurprising I get contacted frequently by those wishing to enter this exciting industry. The questions I am asked are invariably the same each time, in fact it was from advising so many ‘newbie’s’ that the idea of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners first came about back in 2004.
So if you wish to become an event planner read on for my advice:
Approaching other wedding planners for advice
Ok I mentioned I get contacted a lot? So here are the pet hates of mine, a sure way for me and no doubt other planners, to hit delete!
- “I REALLY enjoyed planning my wedding; everyone said I’d make a fantastic planner.” Do you know HOW many times I have heard this line? Go on, take a guess… lets estimate 5 x p/w x say 50 weeks x 9 years = 1,250. Can you hear me scream? Please don’t say that line to me!
- Dear Sir/Madam – I have a name and yes it is plastered all over my website, twitter, facebook. Please just call me Bernadette
- I really want to be a planner, how do I do it, where do you get your clients, what should I charge, what services should I offer, where should I advertise….. the list goes on. Any planner out there will tell you I’m always happy to give advice but be specific, ask me a question and I’ll normally answer you but within reason!
- Can I see a copy of your proposal – err no! When conducting the training courses for the UKAWP we teach you what should be IN a proposal but don’t give you one to use. Imagine if we did, they’d be hundreds of planners out there using the same format – it needs to sure your creativity and personality.
- Can I see a copy of your contract – again no but you can purchase one via the UKAWP
- What is your profit? Just why would I tell you, seriously?!
- Pretending to be a bride – big no no, it’s disrespectful to small businesses out there. I know some online training courses suggest you do this but at the UKAWP we feel this is very bad practice.
Can I get a job?
Very few planners in the UK take on staff, some have part time assistants and freelancers in the peak summer season but if you think you will get a lovely, well paid job working for a planner think again. Unless you want to relocate to the US perhaps? It is for this reason that most planners start their own business but be patient – I’m coming onto that shortly!
So, if you don’t want to start your own business I suggest you contact large event companies or venues in your area that cater for weddings. This gives you the opportunity to gain some experience whilst receiving the security of a regular salary.
What about work experience?
Well this is tricky, I get probably 5 C.V’s per week from people wanting to work for free to gain some experience. But in the government’s wisdom of supporting small businesses & young entrepreneurs like YOU, this is not possible as we would have to pay the minimum wage of £6.08 p/h
So even though YOU want to work for free for just a week or two part time, you can’t. Another possibility is to be a volunteer whereby you choose the hours & days you assist the planner, for more information on the definition go to here. It is frustrating as planners know you want to see what it is like for a wedding planner day to day but independent planners can rarely afford to pay £6.08 for an untrained helper.
So how can I become a wedding planner?
If you are serious about becoming a wedding planner and not approaching this as a hobby or whim then you need to do some serious research and get prepared! Here are my top tips but I have seriously condensed it (for proper training go to the UKAWP)
1. First step is sign up to the UKAWP Business Practicalities course, I know I’m biased as the training director but I think the courses are fabulous. This course really explains how to launch as a wedding planning business. View here for more information. Don’t believe me? Just look at how super fabulous our members are, most of whom have attended our training courses. We run the courses spring and autumn, all the tutors have been in business for at least 9 years so we do know what we are talking about. We pass on real life experiences throughout the weekend and answer any questions you or the other students have. Do view the brochure for more information; don’t forget if you don’t attend the spring courses you will have to wait until the autumn….
2. Research into planners in your area, what is their websites like? What services do they offer and what prices do they charge? What is their USP? How can YOU be different? How can you stand out from them?
3. Start playing with company names, jot down ideas on a notepad and keep with you for those random moments when in bed/on the train/cooking dinner when you suddenly think of an idea! Then check if this name is taken via companies house + also check if the domain name is free. Don’t choose a name you can’t have the matching website to! Make sure it is easily spelt, not too similar to another and not cheesy as the name needs to grow with you as a business.
4. Ensure your website is professionally designed, after all you want to start your business professionally.
5. Meet other planners for coffee in your area, far better to be friendly then start your business under animosity. Attend events run by the UKAWP which include an annual seminar, evening workshops and social evenings.
6. Subscribe to the UKAWP blog for tips and information on industry events
7. Sign up to twitter and start following some respected planners & suppliers out there.
8. Really think about your pricing and take into account any costs, i.e telephone, broadband, travel, stationery & your time
9. Attend the UKAWP training courses – did I mention that already?
10. Be patient, it wont happen over night
I hope this helps – best of luck for those embarking on this rewarding career.
Kerry Morgan and Lloyd Dobbie