Well here's a blog post I never thought I'd write!
Jump the Broom is going to be 2 in July, so whilst I was anticipating a little reflective love-in, I wouldn't have imagined myself sitting down to pen the slightly less-than-glamorous side of stepping into the world of weddings; however it seemed like maybe it could be useful to anybody about to embark on their own journey as a planner, to give some insight into what it takes, and signpost a couple of the hard lessons I learnt as a fresh-faced new kid on the block.
There have, of course, been hundreds of lessons, thousands in fact. But the angle I'm taking with this post is going to focus more on the human side, the connections you'll find yourself making, the friends, the opportunities and sometimes, sadly, the games, the threat and the competition. The way I want to do this is by telling you a story, about one particular connection I made way back when I started out, which was exciting, promising and still, to this day, one of the worst business decisions I've made. So whilst also hoping to find some cathartic release in sharing an unpleasant experience, why not use it as a lesson for us all, eh? Using this particular tale as a backdrop, here are 5 top tips from me to any new planners, on how to make sure you start off with all the optimism and enthusiasm you need, topped off with a healthy dose of street-smarts.
1. Set your own worth...
When you start out you should work for free right? You've got nothing to demonstrate how good you are, no five star google reviews, no gorgeous wedding snaps, no happy and content clients. Wrong. In my first year I did a lot of work and spent a lot of hours for little immediate financial reward, which actually, is kind of how it goes when it comes to styled shoots, networking and professional development. This issue began when I started working real weddings for peanuts. I'm not talking about the first couple of weddings I did free for friends of friends (those were a blessing as I was flexing my muscles and building some content with a safety net) but instead when I started working for another planner 'in exchange for testimonials and experience'. If you've ever tried to pay your gas bill with a testimonial, you'll see the first issue. So how much do you charge? Well, you probably can't be TOP END, but if you've got the skills and you know you're going to bring some value to an event, then put a price on those skills, whether it's an hourly rate or a flat fee. If you want experience, ask for it and offer up your time, but don't be afraid to ask for payment; planners are more than capable of charging their couples a little extra for an extra pair of hands, and if you're as good as you think you are (which of course you are because, obviously, back yourself babes) then they'll be glad to have you.
2. Say YES... and then say No.
The whole 'be a yes-man/woman' angle is all very well, but don't be afraid to only say yes to jobs and opportunities that directly correlate with you and your brand (if you don't know what your 'brand' is... get on that as soon as you can, it'll pay dividends I promise!) When I was new I was KEEN as mustard for any and all opportunity that came my way, and honestly that it a VERY good mindset to have when you're starting out; you won't have any actual clients and you'll be needing to start building that network as quick as you can. In one year I organised and styled four shoots, attended any industry event I could, talked to anyone that would listen and basically made a lot of noise about myself and the people I met along the way. The trick came in when I started to saying yes to work jobs and shoots that didn't build on the brand I was trying to create, I was dragging myself around chasing content and spending hours investing in other people's success for little gain. So whilst 'yes' is a powerful word so, would you believe, is 'no'.
3. Place value to be valued.
Asking for free stuff isn't a good look - have you seen how much 'influencers' have been brought down a few pegs for requesting free clothing/cakes/holidays/personalities in exchange for likes and shares? If you want to be paid, expect to pay others, whether it's in the form of a skill swap, some of your (valuable, remember) time or just in cold hard cash, always be prepared to offer people something tangible for the work you want them to do for you. Styled shoots fall under a slightly different category as there is more of an 'in it together' mentality (although, to be clear, always always pay your models as much as you can!!) but if you want that dollar bill, just remember everyone else does, too. Placing value in other people also works both ways, if you get people jobs, pay them for their time and look after them then they'll be far more likely to do the same for you when the time comes around!
4. Be just as good, then be better.
One of the greatest mistakes I think I made when I started out was idolising people; ego is an easy thing to inflate and sometimes people just end up believing their own hype (I mean, always believe YOUR own hype though, always.) Don't be afraid to tell people how much they inspire you, always compliment the work of other suppliers that you love and focus on the idea that if one of you works, you all do (there are actually quite a lot of weddings going on in the UK so there's plenty to go around!) Just make sure you don't set yourself off as 'less' than anyone else, in fact, be inspired by the content and then make more, be creative, be forward-thinking and be better.
5. Keep friends close, and good friends closer.
Enemies happen. It's a shame, but there are going to be people out there that don't want to see you succeed. Whilst the wedding industry is jam-packed full of wonderful, inspiring, brave, supportive people there are a few bad eggs, just like in any workplace, who'll feel the THREAT of another planner in the mix. Over a year ago now it was brought to my attention that the same planner who I'd worked for (free) decided to claim that I'd plagiarised their website. This wasn't something I was approached on by them, but instead a series of posts and comments on social media uncovered a campaign they were on to undermine me. Being brand new in the industry and working this out I immediately got in touch with them, ready to offer my sincerest apologies and bend over backwards to smooth things over; they'd mentored me and I'd been impressed by them, so of course my budding brand had been influenced by their style, but I don't remember ever sitting down, rubbing my grubby mitts together and exclaiming 'This! This is how I'll make my millions! *Insert evil cackle here*'. After (several) apologies from me, the site taken down and voluntarily offered up to be 'read over' by said planner I thought all was done. In fact the words 'no hard feelings' where said. Sadly, that was not the end of it, as my own brand and style grew and I found my footing more surely in the industry, the campaign continued on the sidelines; whisperings of unprofessionalism on my part, suggestions I was dishonest or malicious and a general sense that I would never, ever be 'forgiven' (as it turns out, I realised quite quickly there was nothing to forgive, this wasn't about plagiarism, this was about old-style competition squashing). This has been something I've been battling for nearly 12 months now; watching my name being dragged through the dirt by someone I once hugely respected, realising that they are always going to hope to see me fail and that, as with much of the world, not everyone can be nice. The biggest lesson to take from this though, is that actually this planner now has no effect on my work; I'm still successful, I'm still booking the clients I love, I've still got a network of amazing suppliers and friends around me and the poison just won't spread as fast as they'd like. So DON'T dwell on your enemies, focus on the people around you who make you feel good, who want to see you thrive and who aren't scared of a little healthy competition.
Value yourself, value others and you'll see the work rolling in.
Love, Kate x
Branding shot (Top) Roshni Photography
Styled Shoot (Middle): Chloe Mary Photo
Brunchfest Party (Bottom): Lex Fleming Photo