Preparing Your Event Planning Business for Dry Spells
Regina Osgood is the owner and creative director of Meant2Be events, a top Arizona wedding planning firm that manages over 250 weddings a year.
I’ve never had a traditional 9-5 job, but I hear they’re magical places where your income stays the same from month to month. At best, I had a salary- and commission-based income but it was always dependent upon performance. Now, consider the wedding industry. It can feel like a feast or fathom situation. And for those of you that are not accustomed to this scenario, it can be really scary.
When I made the transition to Meant2Be Events full time, it was after saving 4 months of income knowing the “just in case” fund would be needed in these times. Even then I wasn’t sure how to completely go without a check. I got a part time job in the meantime. When I say part time, it was only one day a week so it basically paid for gas money to get to that job. It was purely psychological. Looking back at it now, I laugh at the whole premise.
Now ten years later, I am much more clear about some real strategies that keep us bringing in cash even when the inquiries slow down. It’s a two-part process.
The first part of this strategy is to accept payments monthly, not all up front or at the end of a client’s planning with you. This means you have monthly or bi-monthly income always rolling in and it’s easier to budget. Now, this also means you won’t have big chunks of cash, but it means you have consistent flow.
The second part of this process is how the smaller payments work. The key is to never forget that you have a pipeline to prepare for—and for planners that means you are building a book that is a year or so away! So the key is to think ahead—always.
Let me give you some examples of what working on your pipeline means.
Never stop networking
When you’re not in someone’s face, you’re not in someone’s mind to refer. So even when you are busy, never stop networking. Everyone knows that one person at a networking event—the one that hasn’t had a gig in months. With every over-enthusiastic handshake and business card handed out, you can feel the desperation seeping out of their body. It’s not their fault. Getting clients isn’t always easy. But, ironically, their eagerness is a client-repellant. Projecting confidence is incredibly important.
A successful event planning career is built on solid relationships.
Even when you are not currently working with your referral sources, be sure to ask how they’re doing from time to time. Share personal details about your own life and show that the relationship is a two-way street. Your connection doesn’t have to end when the wedding is completed. Keep in contact with old clients. Wish them ‘Happy Birthday’. Check in to see how they’re doing. This way, when your calendar is empty, you’re not just coming back to them sniffing for work. And because you’re constantly communicating, you’re fresh in their mind when they are ready to celebrate the next milestone.
Understanding what budget you need month to month allows you to know what kind of income you need as well as what you can save. And yes, you still have to save. You never know when your laptop will die, you’ll need to renew advertising or your car will need new tires. All are necessary to running your business. Some people use percentages to allocate their funds to appropriate places like retirement, taxes, etc. When you are first starting this is hard to do. There are months that you might not even make enough to cover your monthly expenses. In time, you can start to divide your income into the right accounts to cover your future growth plans, taxes and even retirement!
Stay positive & be proactive
Photography: I Do Photography
Without urgent work on the desk, the mind often goes into overdrive. Too many entrepreneurs take dry spells as signs of failure. While focusing on both shortcomings and shortages of cash, many give up on working towards their goals.
In a way, periods without leads can feel more exhausting than heavy workloads. This can be the time to perfect your process, revamp administrative systems, and research. The bottom line: if you get down and stop “working your business” the business will not “work for you.”