Exactly How I Started Sistered States: Tips on How to Start Your Own Wedding Business
It is one of the questions I get asked the most from brides, other vendors, friends, strangers on facebook.. how did you get started? I love sharing my story of how I fell into the wedding world, and more importantly I love sharing tips on how to get started and what I wish I had done when I was starting! *Warning: this is a loooong post about my personal journey to starting my own business, so if you are looking for the tips and tricks and how they pertain to you, please feel free to skip to the end where I have included a cliff notes version for you, you’re welcome*
The most important thing to know about starting your own business, is that there is no wrong way to start, you just have to actually do it! I was really reluctant to start my business even though everything in my life was pointing towards self employment. I think it took me so long to get started because I did not believe this was a real job that people got to do! It seemed like one of those jobs you say you want to be when you grow up, like when your 10 and adults ask you. You say “I want to be a wedding planner” and everyone says awww that’s cute! Just as if you said you wanted to be an astronaut or a pop star. Like yes, we know these professions exist, but who do you know is ACTUALLY an astronaut or a pop star. Well that is how I felt about being a wedding planner, like whose job is actually that cool?
I fell into the wedding world right out of college when I was interning part time for a wedding planner in Fort Worth. That was my first introduction into the wedding world and I loved it! Through that internship, I was able to learn the ropes, gain experience, make vendor relationships, and see what all goes into being a successful wedding planner. After being in that role for about a year, the woman I was working for took an amazing event planning job for our alma mater, TCU, and just like that, she no longer needed an intern. So I was out of a job and not wanting to leave the wedding world whatsoever. So coming from a family of entrepreneurs (mom is a self made interior designer, older sister is a self made graphic designer), I was being urged to start my own business. And like I mentioned above, I didn’t believe I could… I once again asked, who is actually a wedding planner? Who actually is their own boss/starts a successful business at 22? It just seemed like a fantasy, not something that was actually achievable. So what I did was what I am sure a lot of others do, which is tell myself I would “just do it on the side” until I know that I can do it. For some people this is completely the right path and makes a ton of sense. For me, I honestly was just procrastinating because I was scared. A few months later, I decided to go full in, full time wedding planning mode… and I am not ashamed to admit that I reached that conclusion after reading “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. I recommend this book to anyone toying with the idea of starting their own business and ready to reach their full potential!
When it came to actually starting my business, there was little groundwork that had to be done, which is one of the nice things about being a wedding planner- there is almost no overhead. Literally all I had to do was come up with a business name, buy my domain name and create a website and email- BOOM I just started a business. That took all of one afternoon and about $50. After that, I was fortunate enough to have my older sister create my logo and collateral for me! I cannot stress enough the importance of having an all encompassing brand that represents who you are/your style and one that looks professional. It’s one of those “fake it till you make it” situations, where your branding will do a lot of the “faking” for you, making you look more professional and established, even if you have little to no portfolio! Check out MKW Creative Co if you ever need some branding help!
After my website and branding was set, it was time to get the word out! The nice thing about the wedding industry, at least in DFW, is that everyone is willing to help everyone. Never have I felt a sense of competition from other vendors, but only genuinely kind people wanting to help others succeed. I mean if you think about it, there are hundreds and thousands of people getting married each year, there is enough business to go around! So with that in mind, I reached out to a few vendors, wedding planners specifically, that I had admired and asked them if I could pick their brain over coffee! I met with around 3-4 vendors, explained my situation and asked what they think I should do. And they told me exactly what I am going to tell you- network! The wedding industry is built on word of mouth and referrals, so the more you network with other vendors, the more your name is out there. So I joined a number of networking groups, attended events, and continued to meet with vendors face to face over coffee and learn more about their business and tell them more about mine.
The second thing I did when I first started my business was plan a styled shoot! A styled shoot is the wedding term for photo shoot, where you basically set up a fake wedding and have it photographed for content and ultimately for submission in wedding publications. Seeing as I had no portfolio, I needed images for my website and Instagram account, ones that showed off my personal style and showcased my talents. This was also another great opportunity to network with vendors. I hand picked each vendor for this shoot based on who was similar to my style, and who I know I wanted to work with in the future. Looking back now, I am equal parts mortified and proud of my first styled shoot. There are so many things I would change now, but so proud of what I accomplished. If you want to check out that styled shoot, you can see it here!
Once I had images for my website and Instagram, I just started building from the ground up. I turned to all free social media avenues- instagram, facebook, pinterest, etc. and made sure to be extremely active, always posting, even if it wasn’t wedding related. I interviewed other vendors to do “vendor spotlights” on my blog, kept attending industry events, and made sure to tell all my friends and family about my business and encouraged them to pass the word along. Now the weird thing that no one tells you about starting your own business is that you will feel a weird sense of embarrassment or shame when you first start telling people you have your own business. You think you would have an overwhelming sense of pride (an eventually you do!), but at the beginning when you have 1 or 2 clients and are making almost no money, you will feel like you are lying to people. This is normal, and will go away the more confident you get! Again, don’t be afraid to revisit “You are a Badass” if you need to!
I am so immensely proud of where my business is now, 2.5 years after first starting, and often have to remind myself of how proud I should really be. Not every person can be their own boss, start their own business, that is something that deserves recognition! Like I said before, I love sharing my story of how I started and my advice on how you should start, so if you ever find yourself in the boat of wanting to start your own business, please please please ask me to coffee… I love coffee..
As Promised…. the cliffnotes version:
There is no right way to start, you just have to actually get started
Read “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero
Invest in good branding
Ask for advice from those you admire- preferably over coffee
Networking!! Network your ass off
Plan a styled shoot
Utilize free advertising- instagram, facebook, pinterest, etc.
Have confidence in what you are doing!
Ask me to coffee, I love coffee and over-sharing about how to start a business