Module 4: Business Tools
A project management software, or CRM, will change how you do business. It can streamline your whole process. When it comes to the wedding industry, there are many different tools you’ll be needing/using. It is nice to use a piece of software that has all the tools you’ll need in one place. So what are your options? Oh, so many—let me count the ways. You have HoneyBook, 17Hats, Planning Pod, and Aisle Planner, just to name a few. I’m sure if you ask me what platforms are out there in a year, there will be at least five new ones. As a business owner, you will need a CRM that has accounting and invoicing, workflow, questionnaires, and a way to deliver contracts, at a minimum. But some other nice features are timelines, task lists, and a way to collaborate.
With HoneyBook you can send contracts, invoices, and questionnaires, and collect online payments. You can create timelines, which is really nice, and if you’re thinking about having team members, this is a great tool. They have a free trial so you can test it out before purchasing. They also have neat feature that lets you connect with other vendors or create opportunities for a job in your local area. This is great for doing styled shoots.
17Hats has a lot of the same functions as HoneyBook. The only true downside is that they don’t have a timeline option and your clients don’t get a full client portal. But it has bookkeeping, contract signing, questionnaire sending, and a workflow option.
I only ever did a free trial with Planning Pod—it wasn’t my personal favorite. But it has changed a lot since I first used it. They have tons of tools but are lacking a workflow option. Workflows automate your work, and since I discovered how to use them, I can’t live without them. For example, I no longer have to think about sending an invoice reminder or emailing my monthly task reminders—HoneyBook automatically does it for me! Pricing is also subject to how many clients you have—and in the wedding world, it can change from day to day.
Aisle Planner is the Cadillac of platforms. It’s niiiiiice! But you’re going to pay a premium for it. I tried it out (and loved it), but for what our company does, specializing in wedding event management, it was just too much. Aisle Planner is for a company that does nothing but full-service planning. It is such a great tool for that kind of work. In the beginning you will probably find yourself with a lot of DOC (day-of coordinating) clients, and so Aisle Planner might be something you can aspire to having. But don’t waste your money on it until you have more than a few full-service clients. You pay on a scale of need.
Email is a vital tool for your business. It may not seem like a very important component, but your email address says a lot about you.
Custom Domain Email Address
It’s far more professional to have a custom domain email address over a generic Gmail or Yahoo account. A custom one says you’re there to stay and you’re professional.
Your Email Signature
An email signature may seem like a pretty insignificant thing, but it actually carries a lot more weight than you might think, especially if you’re a newer wedding planner. Curious minds want to know “who the heck just emailed me?” and having a clickable website to direct them to can make all the difference in whether or not they communicate with you. Be sure to include your name, title, website, social media links, and phone number.
G Suite is a subscription-based service. A lot of their cloud-based services can come in handy for a wedding planner. They can provide your business with a custom company email, video conferences, real-time document collaborations, and the best part, in my opinion, a larger Google Drive storage (this is way better than Dropbox).
So what’s the bottom line? How much does it cost to start and maintain a wedding planning business? Very good questions indeed, and I’m glad you’ve been thinking about it. There are a lot of companies out there that say things like “nothing” and “free business to start,” but the fact is that if you want to be seen as a professional, you’re going to have to invest a little.
Setting up a wedding planning business can be pretty affordable if done right. The hardest part is getting leads when you are new. For newer wedding planners, I always suggest advertising on WeddingWire. WeddingWire is not cheap, though. They charge depending on the area you serve. Because of this, there’s no way to give an exact number on the cost. Another added expense might be education. I would highly recommend taking some sort of formal wedding planner training. It could really help cut down on the mistakes and the hard lessons. The wedding industry market is a bit saturated, and having an edge on the competition is always helpful. We offer a very comprehensive Wedding Planner Foundations course. In this self-guided course, planners learn how to master the art of Month-of Coordinating.
Create a Budget
Eek! Budgets! What a pesky topic! And yet, when first starting out, it’s extremely important to create one—especially if you have nonexistent start-up funds. It doesn’t cost a lot to start a wedding planning business, but you can easily get sucked into a lot of useless hype of promised leads. I have fallen victim to it a few times. To get more leads, you’re just going to have to #hustle—honest truth. Budgeting will help you achieve the goals you’re working toward. Is that a pretty, new website? More education? More advertising? So how do you make a budget? Well, first you take what you have to start a business and then subtract your start-up expenses. Once you start making money, you’ll be able to add more expenses.
As a small business owner, you should learn how to mange your accounting from the very start. Having a CRM system or accounting software is very helpful for this necessary task. You will also want to find one that will send invoices and take online payments. For tax purposes you need to have a system in place to track your all of your income and expenses.
Profit and Loss Statement
Your profit and loss statement summarizes the income, costs, and expenses incurred during a specified period. Get into a good habit of printing off a monthly statement. Double-check the accounting and file it away. At the end of the year, create a Profit and Loss Statement for the year and hand that to your accountant. If your business is a sole proprietorship or an LLC, you’ll file it with your personal income taxes.
You will need to do some research and find out how your state taxes on services. In most states services are not taxed. But there are a few states out there that do tax services, like Washington state. If they are not taxed, then you won’t charge your client any sort of sales tax. This doesn’t mean you don’t pay taxes though. You need to reserve 30% of what you make for taxes.
I highly recommend that you read the book Profit First (or listen it to, that’s how I roll). It will give you some great advice on how to actually make a profit in your business. It gives a very different perspective from what your accountant will say, but I think it’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in a while when it comes to finances.