When I was a newbie to owning a wedding business, I just went for it. I made a lot of mistakes and had some serious learning curves. I also made a lot of smart, lucky and calculated decisions. Once people started asking me for advice on how to start their own businesses as total newbies, I was forced to reflect on what really worked and what didn’t. After having a few conversations with these total newbies I realized there were three universal business practices that are essential when starting out. Two I did when I started and one I didn’t and learned the hard way.
FIND A MENTOR
Finding a mentor is not as daunting as it seems. This is probably the single most valuable action you can take for yourself and your business. Your mentor doesn’t need to be in your same profession; so they don’t even need to be in the wedding industry. They just need to be a business person that you respect and look up to. A mentor is so amazing, because you can talk to them about topics that seem very daunting, ask questions that feel amateur, discuss pricing candidly and share your wildest dreams for your business. Your savvy mentor knows you, sees your potential and has more experience than you. This is the formula for a mentor helping you to be successful. So, how do you find a mentor? It doesn’t have to be a whole formal to do. Think about people you’ve met or worked with that you respect, click with and feel like you could talk openly with. Maybe your future mentor is a former manager of yours, consultant you worked with or member of the same association you are in. Invite that person to coffee, tell them how much you respect their work and ask them if you can pick their brain about your new business. Most likely they will say yes!
Every business needs a business plan, especially and even when starting. Even if you are not trying to get a loan, a business plan is essential to setting yourself up for success. You don’t need a fancy business plan filled with graphs, formulas, and pages filled with text. A basic business plan will get your business started in the right direction, and you started as a wedding pro. A basic business plan should include:
Summary - What is the name of your business? What are the core values? A general overview. What area do you serve?
Mission and vision statements - These are two different things. A mission statement describes why you exist (what do you do, how do you do it and who do you serve). A vision statement describes what your success looks like in the future.
Services you provide - include the different packages with prices and descriptions
Marketing plan - include social media with IG, FB, and Pinterest as well as in-person networking. This is also a good place to talk about your ideal client.
Operations - What needs to happen for the office piece to run? What do you need in your office (computer, printer, notebooks, etc.)? Will you have staff? Where will your office be? Who do you need to hire (bookkeeper, web designer, etc.)?
Budget - A basic budget with income and expenses. How many weddings do you need to do at which price points to meet that budget?
Start off by using a real bookkeeping program. Excel and Google Sheets are not bookkeeping programs. This cannot be emphasized enough! Especially, if you are not an accounting minded person you should not be using Excel or Google Sheets for your bookkeeping. There are so many free and low-cost online bookkeeping programs out there now. I personally use FreshBooks and love it. It’s easy to use, friendly price and has a handy timer, so I know how long I am spending on each client and business pieces. I know other people like Harvest, Zero, and QuickBooks. Also, have a professional bookkeeper or accountant to do your accounting at the end of the year. There are so many rules and taxes for small business owners; it is much less painful with a pro to help you navigate taxes and bookkeeping. When I started, I did not use a real bookkeeping service (but I did have an awesome accountant). I thought Quickbooks was all there was and I was totally intimidated by it. So I did a horrible job of bookkeeping in Excel. Which at the time wasn’t even backed up on my computer! When I did make the switch to Freshbooks, it made my life sooo much easier, less stressful and saved me tons of time.