To get your business off to a professional start, I would recommend a basic office suite that, at the very least, includes word processing for letters, proposals, invitations, and menu cards, and a spreadsheet program for budgets, lists, and charts. (You can add to this with specialized software for wedding planners as you grow.) Doing things from scratch will help you develop some basic skills to keep your business and your clients organized and to help you understand the basic steps of your wed- ding planning business. If you don’t want to invest in financial software, you could create your invoices in Excel, but as soon as you can, it would be worth streamlining things and moving to a program that interacts with online banking and your receivables and invoices, such as QuickBooks.
How do I separate my household to-do lists from my event business or wedding planning to-do lists?
While lists are important, too many lists can be overwhelming. Since you may be responsible for being at every business appointment and lacrosse game, a master appointment schedule is the way to go. To complement your appointment book or smartphone or computer calendar, to-do lists will keep you on track to get things done on time. Too many items on your lists can be difficult to manage, so consider grouping them by clients or projects. I am not advocating leaving out details—in this business, it is important to remember even the smallest task—but to organize them in a manageable fashion. I recommend having a notebook or computer document that you can use to create your to-do list, which can be updated daily or weekly. I also have a notebook by my bed that I use to jot down things that I need to get done the next day; by writing them down, I can put them out of my head and get a good night’s rest. I also have small note- books and sticky pads handy in my car and purse for phone messages or things I don’t want to forget; I jot them down and transfer them later to my master to-do list. For your home tasks, consider using a corkboard or message area to enlist the help of other family members in getting things done, thereby removing some of the burden from your shoulders.
I don’t know any specialty vendors. How do you compile and build a list of vendors/resources?
The best way to find good vendors is to ask someone who has used them. If you can put together a networking group to share ideas and issues, you will learn who your colleagues are using and who they have had success or problems with. If you join an industry group such as the International Special Events Society (ISES) or the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), you will have access to monthly meetings and wedding professionals who attend meetings and are members. These are great resources for building your little red book of names and contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask hotels or country clubs you visit who they have had success with. They will be happy to share their top picks for floral designers, photographers, or limousine services.
How many clients should I take on in my first year?
Depending on how much time you have and whether you will start your business full-time or ease into it will determine how much you can take on at the start. My advice would be to apprentice with an experienced planner at the outset, and also offer to help a close friend or family member with his or her nuptials. Start with a smaller wedding with traditional details and ease into the destination or multicultural affairs. During high wedding season (spring and fall), you could end up with a wedding each weekend, but I wouldn’t take on more than two per month to start with. Once you get your planning timelines established and resources lined up, you can take on more as you feel comfortable. At the beginning, you will be doing most of the planning, meeting, and legwork yourself, so make sure you allot sufficient quality time for all of your clients to keep your business and reputation solid.