Heather Vickery: Ask Me Anything!
After our first AMA with Candice Coppola, we brought QC tutor Heather Vickery on board in February to answer even more of your questions! In one short hour, Heather covered strategies for self-paced study, pricing your services, setting up a strong social media presence, offering memorial services, and more.
Read on for a recap of some of Heather’s biggest questions and best answers!
Q: How do I come up with an original name for my business?
A: Naming your business is super hard! You want a name that really speaks to your target client, one that fits your personality and product and gets people excited to contact you. Try to stay away from anything trite or “cutsie” and try to not pick something that will eventually become dated.
Q: I’m a new student to QC. How can I keep from falling behind on my self-paced courses?
A: This practice of self discipline is really hard (and one that you will need to successfully run your own event business. This is a GREAT training ground for being a small business owner!). I would figure out how much time you have to work on the courses and then set it up for yourself like a regular job. For instance, you might decide to work on your QC courses from 9:00—12:00 every day—or whatever makes the most sense for you. But I highly suggest setting a solid plan for yourself and then holding yourself accountable. Don’t try to overdo it, however! Set achievable and manageable goals for yourself. Always set yourself up for success.
Q: Do event planners ever hire virtual assistants?
A: YES! I have a virtual assistant! They can really be helpful and keep your overhead costs down. There are lots of computer- and research-related tasks that a VA would be very helpful with.
Q: What are the best ways to market your business when you’re just starting out?
A: The NUMBER ONE way to market yourself and your business is to get out into the community! Network like crazy. Do styled shoots. Attend events. Go out of your way to meet and court vendors that you would want to work with (and who can send business your way). Trade shows are tricky. They have never worked for me but that is mostly because my target client does not attend these shows. But it never hurts to give everything a try at least once. WeddingWire is a good source. I would make sure you really know WHO your target client is and then find out WHERE they are going and looking. Once you know that, you can strategically place yourself.
Q: Can you give some tips on building a portfolio or maintaining a strong social media presence?
A: Have you been working in events for a while? If so, anything you have done should be in your portfolio. If you are newer I strongly suggest making some industry friends and doing several styled shoots to show off your creative mind and talent.
Social media requires a LOT of work. If you want to stay relevant in the social media realm, you need to be updating your Instagram several times a day, Facebook at least 3 times a week and Twitter as often as possible. People do not want the same content on all platforms so you must challenge yourself to create different content for each site. My best advice is to map out your social media goals each month. Having a game plan makes it all more manageable.
Q: What do you think about offering memorial and/or funeral services? Could it be successful? How would you promote it?
A: I LOVE this. I have actually done a few memorials (for past clients and friends) and it is really an amazing experience. I think there is a solid business structure here and it is really a valuable service to provide. Just like any other type of event planning, I would suggest meeting and networking with the people that can refer business to you. In this case I would suggest calling on funeral directors and clergy from local churches. This type of planning is a special niche and the right person could really change a community!
Q: How do you price events like birthdays or bar mitzvahs?
A: This is often tricky because the value of your time is the same no matter what type of event you are doing. That said, a birthday party cannot really withstand the same expense as a wedding. Mitzvahs, on the other hand, CAN withstand that expense.
I price all of my packages with a flat rate. That said, I get to my “flat rate” for each client by figuring out how many hours I will be putting into the job. I’m consistent with that structure no matter what type of event I am planning. So let’s say your hourly rate is $50 per hour and you think one job (a wedding) will require 100 hours of your time—you would charge $5000. Another job (a birthday party) will take 25 hours—then you would charge $1,250.
Lastly, I have a personal minimum. For me that amount is $3500. I do not take jobs for less money. Figure out what YOUR personal minimum is and value yourself enough to stick to it! Good luck!
Q: Do you have any advice regarding pricing wedding planning services? How do you come up with a payment plan?
A: Pricing is always stressful. If you read my response to the question above you will see how I personally get to my rate. I have an hourly rate and I multiply that by the number of hours I think each job will take, then provide a custom quote for each job.
Because my focus is the luxury market I find that each event is unique and while some elements are the same, if I provide a custom quote I can really nail what the client needs. When I first started in the business I took a 50% retainer and the balance was due day of event. That has shifted and now I take four payments in total, with the final payment due 14 business days before the event. This was really important to my personal budgeting. It allowed me to have a more steady income stream and really know when money was coming in.
A final word from Heather…
It seemed the most common theme was “how do I make my business successful?” and really the only way to do that is to get as MUCH experience as possible. Get out there and get your hands dirty! Volunteer or shadow other professionals. GET EXPERIENCE in any way possible. And NETWORK yourself silly. Sales calls are important. Making sure the other local industry professionals know who you are and what you do is key.
Lastly, please talk to your QC School tutor. Take advantage of our knowledge and skill set. Ask questions. Dig deep. Give MORE than 100% for the courses. Do the extra credit work. Event planners are the ones that go ten steps further than everyone else and always give the most effort. If you want to be successful, you have to do those things too.