OK, ladies, be honest… how many of you secretly love(d) planning your wedding and wish it would never end? And how many of you have contemplated making a career change to the wedding industry during or after the wedding planning process? I wouldn’t be surprised to see most of your hands raised right now. A lot of wedding pro’s we know, including many of our talented Little Black Book members, got their start this way and now run successful businesses doing what they love every. single. day.
But making the jump from Bride to wedding pro is not as easy as snapping your wedding-loving fingers and saying “I do!”, there are several things to take into consideration beforehand. Enter Kate of Floret Cadet, corporate publicist turned floral designer. This gal cranks out some seriously beautiful floral pretties, so we’re beyond thrilled that she’s sharing her 8 steps to success. Now, let’s meet the Bride turned wedding pro, shall we?
From Kate of Floret Cadet… It’s no wonder that so many people contemplate making a career switch from hands-on bride to wedding industry professional during their engagements; getting married nudges you to think hard about the future, and wedding planning is such an involving process that can inspire lots of great ideas for products or services along the way. If you have gone the DIY route on a design aspect of your wedding and done a great job, or you just loved the overall planning process and think you’d be great at helping other brides as a coordinator, you might be seriously contemplating turning your own experience into a professional asset. I did just that. Though I’d tinkered with flowers for a long time and had taken some classes, I didn’t get seriously obsessed with floral design until I planned my own wedding. Thankfully, I was talked out of doing my own wedding flowers, but I did start working for other florists and booking small weddings as a side job the instant I returned from my honeymoon. It’s been two years since then and I’m now at it full time and absolutely loving most aspects of my new career (the parts I don’t love: cleaning up after design days, and reconciling expenses). I learned a lot during my slow transition from corporate publicist to small business owner, and am excited to be here today sharing some tips with you!
1. Don’t be tempted to be your own first client
Believe me, I understand the temptation to use your own wedding as an occasion to create the flowers, cake, or decor details of your dreams and build your portfolio at the same time. But your first wedding as a professional will be anxiety provoking, and the lead up to your wedding will be so hectic – don’t combine them and double your stress! With the exception of some graphic design or craft projects that you can do way ahead of time, you should just be the bride at your own wedding. If you are really eager, make something for your shower, engagement party, or rehearsal dinner instead and make sure you get great professional photos of it.
2. Don’t make any major moves until the fairy dust has worn off
Every time we go on a vacation, my husband and I start fantasizing about moving there, and usually get as far as casually looking at real estate circulars. But the second we get back to reality we realize that we’re not serious about moving. It can be the same with weddings. When you are relishing your own engagement, it’s easy to fantasize about how much fun it would be to leave your corporate job and stay on wedding planning cloud 9. But wait until you’ve come back down to earth and gotten exposure to the reality of working (not playing) in the wedding industry before you make any big changes. The reality is that as a business owning wedding vendor you will work long hours, give up your weekends, need to constantly market yourself and find ways to set yourself apart, and reinvest most if not all of the money you’re able to make in the early years to grow your business. Kind of like in relationships, sheer passion isn’t enough – some practical things also have to line up for it to work.
3. Do use your own wedding vendors as a resource
Don’t be afraid to be honest with your own wedding vendors about the fact that you’re contemplating making a career jump. They’ll probably be happy to serve as a sounding board. Of course it’s going to be awkward if you’re asking them about things like their exact profit margins while you’re a client, but you can definitely ask them how they got into the business, how they get most of their clients, and what the best and hardest things about their jobs are. If you really hit it off with a vendor in the category you are trying to break into, maybe you can serve as an assistant to them after your wedding. Or if you forge a great relationship with your photographer, it might make sense to team up and have them photograph some projects for your portfolio later.
4. Don’t come off as a Johnny-come-lately
A common complaint among wedding pros is that the barriers to entry are relatively low and tons of recent brides with only semi-serious professional aspirations are crowding their field. Don’t be perceived as one of them by potential clients or colleagues. Don’t work your own wedding details into every conversation and don’t emphasize the frivolous side of weddings at the expense of the professional side.
5. Do bring your perspective as a recent bride to the table
That said, having recently gotten married yourself can be an advantage if you make it one. You are abreast of the latest trends, you have very fresh memories of what engaged couples are going through, how they’re finding vendors and what they’re looking for in a working relationship. Stay in touch with all of that!
6. Do get a website up and running
Even if your fledgling business isn’t officially launched or isn’t being credited with some aspect of the event, if your wedding photos are published on a wedding blog or the vendors own blogs, there is usually some sort of background information about the couple included. There might be an opportunity to link to your website, even if it’s very basic. My own florist did me a solid and linked to my site here when she blogged my wedding flowers, which was great!
7. Do start your business slowly and strategically
I think the perfect first clients are friends of friends or casual acquaintances. You will probably be working for little profit at first to build a portfolio, and it’s so nice to have early clients who appreciate your talent and feel a little invested in your success rather than random people who are just looking for a rock bottom price. Start your business slowly and let word of mouth build through your social networks. You’re going for this recommendation: “My cake was made by a friend of a friend who has been baking as a hobby for a long time but is just getting started doing wedding cakes professionally. She is so talented and she’s getting more established now, I was lucky to get her when I did,” over this one: “I contacted a bunch of people I found online, and she was way cheaper than anyone else because she is just getting started, so I went with her and luckily she did a good job.”
Also, go after ancillary events, like showers, before you start booking weddings. You will avoid biting off more than you can chew and those events are also very chic, and crawling with other potential clients.
8. Don’t sell yourself short
It’s a big temptation when you love what you do or are still relatively new to the field to price your work like a hobby that you’re trying to subsidize rather than a real business. Of course in the early days, you’ll have to price your services according to your experience, but don’t get stuck there. If you don’t charge fair rates, you will burn out very quickly! Keep evaluating what your fellow wedding vendors are charging and critically assess where you should fit into the landscape.
Thank you to Kate for these fabulous tips! Brides, biz owners, we want to hear from you – have you considered starting your own biz as a result of wedding planning? Are you a Bride turned wedding pro? What tips have you learned along the way? We’d love to hear your stories, aspirations and suggestions below in the comments!