- How to get setup and find wedding bookings?
- Networking relationships and collaboration
- Protecting your business
You’ve honed your skills by practicing like mad, built a small portfolio from doing a few workshops or styled shoots, and are now ready to start a wedding industry business! Thats’ awesome and well done for getting this far, but what now? Well, here’s a few questions to consider when starting out.
- Where to start as a newcomer to the wedding industry?
- How do you get wedding bookings?
- How do you start wedding networking?
- How do you build relationships with suppliers?
- How do you protect your business?
Getting noticed or your talent recognised when you are getting started in the Wedding Industry can be incredibly difficult and can leave you feeling quite anxious and unsure if it’s right for you. It’s a tough industry to crack but extremely rewarding.
How to get setup and find wedding bookings?
You need bookings to get started but have a limited portfolio, you will probably lack real-world experience or you simply just don’t know enough people in the industry to help open doors to new opportunities. Here are a few things to think about when starting out as a new comer to the wedding industry.
Once you have a few portfolio images that showcase you’re offering, it’s a good time to build a website that lets potential clients know that you exist and are looking for work. There are quite a few technical items to consider when building your first website such as hosting, domain names, SEO, image optimisation and how you communicate your message.
There are lots of tools that can help you get started but in the first instance, don’t get overly bogged down with the technical, just build a basic site so you have something to work from. Look at your peers to learn how they do things, DO NOT directly copy or pilfer content. Be unique, honest and genuine as this is what couples are looking for.
It might be tempting to build a custom site or have a designer do it for you but unless you have the know how that it’s quite a pricey solution, especially when you are getting started. Many wedding industry suppliers use WordPress along with a template which is a good staring point. A lot of photographers use Pixieset or Squarespace.
Here are a few links to get you started with building your website
Secure your social media usernames
Once you have a website sorted make sure you secure some social media usernames on the major platforms like Facebook or Instagram, it’s a good idea to secure usernames that are the same on each site because it’s easier for you to share and remember going forward. It’s also more professional in terms of your presentation.
Is finding work through social media groups! Good or bad!
Now you have a website and social media sites secured its time to push out to the wider community. We will start with Social media websites.
Firstly the good. There are tons of great social media groups that act as micro communities and help their followers to build their business through insightful tips and open discussions. These are great and the good ones are lovely, open and supportive. You will gain lots of knowledge and get to ask questions. It’s best to do some research though, look at your peers and see if they have a group to join, if you like their work the chances are you will like their group.
But do be aware that some groups out there just want to hook you in and then upsell a service or product to you later down the line, and can often not be as supportive to your own goals. So only join the ones that will help you reach your goals or strike a good balance between the two.
The bad-ish. A common approach to getting out there is to join every social media group on the planet and respond to every opportunity that is a potential client or assistant opportunity. This scatter gun approach may work out for some but it’s not really a great tactic if you are looking to build a successful and sustainable wedding business. Also, its really important to reach out to your ideal client and not be seen as the cheapest supplier in the business! Yes, there are couples that will book you on price alone and whilst that’s great at first, in hindsight you will soon learn that its not going to help you build a successful wedding business, a name that other couples and other suppliers will want to refer you for when new opportunities arise.
Working for free or for friends
A lot of people get started in the wedding industry by doing a few weddings for friends, we have all been there, and it’s a great way to taste how a day runs from a suppliers perspective. Does this sound familiar?
“Hey, I’m getting married and know you love taking photos, do fancy shooting my wedding” or “Your cakes are always so lovely, i’m getting married could you make mine? “.
It’s really easy to get the buzz for working in the industry, you see a potential to do something for yourself that breaks out of the 9-5 and can give you independence, and freedom that may fit better with your current lifestyle. Sounds perfect.
Depending on where you are within your journey, working for free (especially when you are starting out or trying something new), is a great way to start but you must be 100% transparent in your abilities and experience. A wedding day is a big event and to be given the opportunity to take part is quite a responsibility. Working for free for friends is fine, but I would also be questioning as to why they didn’t ask you to just be part of the wedding day as a guest! ummm!!
Now, you’re best bet when a ‘work for free’ opportunity comes your way is to work along side another working professional as an assistant. You get to observe, learn, and gain some real world experience. A nice supplier will make sure you are fed and watered, and stick a little money in your pocket at the end of the day, so long as you don’t overly much up!
Word of mouth
This also comes in to networking but in a less structured way. As you begin to tell people in your day-to-day circles about what you are doing they will begin to share your business for you as and when they come in to contact with other engaged couples to be wed, these are your friends and become advocates of your new business venture, and most friends will want you to succeed. So tell them about your plans, ask them to share your social media pages and shout-out about you, before you know it some word of mouth referrals will come your way.
A word on pricing your business
All you want is a booking and all they want is someone to do the job! You think, “hell yeah” £150 as a weekend job for doing something I love and gain some experience, “yeah, i’ll do it”! Its easy to just set a silly low price to attract the first couple that comes your way, but is that going to help you in the long term? You will be devaluing your ability and only be known as the cheap supplier, and once you are know for this, it’s hard to raise your prices in the future. Good work is a better way to stand out from the crowd.
From a photographers perspective, all you will get is low-cost weddings at less than ideal venues, this in turn leads to low levels of job satisfaction and then you are more likely to quit… That’s not what you want.
You should set a price for your services based on your ability, your experience, and your local area. Be realistic and ask yourself what are your services worth to you and what’s it worth to the client? Can you sustain a living at this price point? Is it going to devalue the industry or knock your reputation?
One approach to getting out there is to pay for advertising through sites like Facebook, Google or Bing, or through a supplier directory (free with Wed Link). These pay for advertising platforms do work and will bring you some business but at a cost.
In a very basic explanation, online advertising works by paying to display your message in the form of an advert to people searching for your service. You are bidding to appear on the search results page and you are charged for click throughs to your website, know as ‘cost-per-click’.
What about traditional advertising in local shop windows or newspapers? These are all possible routes but they don’t tend to have a great return and unless you create a special offer your advert is not easily measurable in terms of performance. With online advertising you can see the number of impressions and click through rates to see how effective your campaign is. Wed Link includes performance analytics so you can understand how effective your Wed Link eCard is.
Networking relationships and collaboration
Networking and relationships are by far one of the best ways to build a sustainable wedding industry business, but it’s often overlooked when starting out. By building relationships with people in your network from the start, you will be really helping yourself to grow and super charge your business, best of all it’s free, and you get to work with your ideal clients and at a price that’s works for you.
Collaboration is a great business model and works hand in hand with networking and building business relationships, a word of advice… you should never see someone who does the same as you as a direct competitor. You should embrace other suppliers in your area and not see them as a threat. There’s plenty of room for everyone in the industry to be successful because we are all targeting different types of couples, venues, religions and cultures. There are so many variable that it’s easy to craft your own niche.
Learn from similar businesses and embrace a positive approach from the off. Any decent wedding industry supplier will love to help you grow, I even give guests at weddings who are taking photos advice to get a great shot!
When you are part of a wedding supplier network you can learn from your network peers and receive opportunities to work with them when they reach out for help, and in turn you will do the same for others as you grow your business and need assistants or want to refer opportunities to others.
Building a wedding supplier network is truly one of the fundamentals that you should adopt from the start, and I wish I was told this when I began, I for sure wouldn’t have wasted the countess hours on Facebook groups hoping for someone to give me an opportunity.
How do I build a wedding supplier network?
Wed Link is all about providing you with the tools to connect with other wedding suppliers, share and receive opportunities and start building your relationships. Check out this page to see how to connect with other Wed Link users.
Once you have started building your network you will see the importance of having the right people to hand when you need them most.
How do I build relationships with wedding industry suppliers?
Building relationships with other wedding industry suppliers is a big topic but in short its all about engagement, it takes time and you have to nurture your connections while you grow.
You can reach-out to other suppliers either online through social media groups or during an actual wedding day whilst working along side them, but it all starts with being a good, honest and nice person! Who wants to build a relationship with unpleasant people?
When reaching-out you don’t have to be sycophantic or obsessive to other suppliers to get noticed, just be the best of who you are and treat them like normal people, they are also building networks and will love to hear your positive feedback and kind words.
All you have to say is, “I will write up a blog post about the wedding, could we ‘Wed Link’ so I can share your details for other couples to see?”. A simple and easy approach that will 9/10 times get a yes please response.
Wed Link works well for when you work along side another supplier during a wedding day and you want to keep in touch. Yes, you can just share Instagram accounts but this tends to end up as another like or follow for that person and doesn’t help you to build a relationship, by using the Wed Link eCard you gain all the persons contact and social media details for later use.
For later use I hear you say? Once you are connected through Wed Link you will have all their contact details organised in smart groups to easily find them at a later stage. From here you can follow them on social media and comment on their posts to start building your relationships.
When opportunities come up in the platform you can also engage with them through the opportunity message system, you can start a conversation thread with that supplier directly and build a direct relationship with them to secure the opportunity.
You can also use that suppliers details in your blog posts which they will be extremely happy about. If you took a photo of a supplier working, share them working on social media and in most cases will love to see themselves in action. So by having access to the details to easily reach when needed, you can start engaging with them and building that relationship. From a good relationship will come more opportunities though referrals or assistant work.
Protecting your business
Before you get your first booking I strongly advise you to put a few things in place to protect yourself and your business.
Firstly, a contract, you must have an agreement in place to protect your business that clearly outlines your terms and conditions. This covers everything from who the clients are, your expectations, their responsibilities and how you will deliver the service.
You would need the client to agree the contract before they secure a booking with you.
Secondly, insurance. Insurance is a must have and it will protect you from any business equipment loss, mistakes, accidents and legal fees that may happen during the day to day running of your business.
And thirdly, public liability cover. This is normally sold together with a business insurance policy and protects you from accidents that may occur during the wedding day and covers compensation claims and legal costs.
What if a child tripped over your bag because you left the strap hanging out and they had a nasty injury or you accidentally scalded the bride whilst straightening her hair. A nightmare on the day to deal with but at least you are covered. Don’t take the risk on this one.
When you first start out you might not be thinking too much about how you might account for your business. In the early days all we care about is any money coming in, but that’s a simple mistake to make. Every business asset, expense and income needs to be accounted for and in most cases you will have to pay TAX and National Insurance contributions on your earnings.
Most new industry suppliers start out putting everything down on an excel spreadsheet, but in time and as you grow you will find that it soon becomes unmanageable. My advice here is to hire an accountant from the start so you are in good stead from the get go. They will do everything for you each month and you can live worry free knowing that you have accounted for everything and not left with any big bills to find at the end of the tax year.