I loved reading your comments and emails about last weeks blog post. It’s a topic so near to my heart, and I am so excited to jump right in to Part 2 today!! (In case you missed part 1, you can read it HERE!)!
Last week, we discussed talking with your spouse, looking at your finances & fighting that comparison monster!! This week, I’m going to share 3 ways I grew my business in the first year so that I could go full time in the second.
For my new readers who need a little background: I launched DSE in October 2013 after years of telling myself ‘no’. I had 13 weddings in 2014, launched the Creative at Heart Conference and styled 16 shoots. I currently have 21 weddings for 2015 and a lot of goodness in store of C@H! I worked a 9-5 while growing DSE for the first 17 months (Oct ’13 – March ’15) before taking my small business full time. It was a wild ride, and I want to share a few secrets with you about HOW I was able to do it…
1. Get your name out there.
– I’m not talking about paying for ads in a magazine, newspaper or even a blog sidebar. I’m talking about utilizing the FREE marketing that’s all around you: social media + blogging. Make connects. Build your brand. Form community by reaching out to others in your community! I firmly believe blogging has helped to grow my brand. Using instagram strategically has allowed my audience to grow and therefore the number of brides who have access to my company grow.
– Email & reach out to vendors who are REALISTIC for you to work with. When I started, I sent out a welcome packet to 30 vendors who I felt my business could be compatible with. Business I WANTED to work with. Vendors who ALIGNED with my brand and would therefore enhance my company. Boss ladies who would connect with me and then send clients my way. Don’t be afraid to reach out, introduce yourself and make that connection!
– In a similar fashion, reach out to other business women with a SERVANT heart. (Abby taught me that, and while it stung at the time I am super thankful for her transparency with me; love you girl!) We live in a consumer’s world – it’s all about ME. Well, make it about THEM. Reach out with a heart to SERVE, with a desire to HELP and with a passion to walk alongside them not for selfish gain, but truly because you desire to assist. I promise you that by doing that, they will remember you!
2. Build Relationships
– Through social media and blogging, I have established a very RELATIONAL brand. My clients know me, and therefore I built a desire for them to not only want a wedding planner, but to want ME as their planner. That’s my goal. I want to work with every single DSE bride (which is why I made the decision to not build a team with several associate planners). I want to be there when they walk down the aisle, when they have their first dance and when they run off on their honeymoon.
– I was able to build LASTING relationships with vendors through styled shoots! Styled shoots are useful for many reasons, and one of them is the ability to work one-on-one with vendors you want to align your brand with. They were able to see me “in action”; like a “live interview” if you will:) They were able to see how I handle the stress of the day, how my styling came to life, how the planning came together… and then hopefully, they wanted to work with me again by sending clients my way. Here’s the thing for wedding planners to remember: we are not always the first vendor to get booked (unless its full planning). Sometimes, we can even be an afterthought. A stressed out bride who’s hit a brick wall and wants to hire a planner with NOTHING left in her wedding budget. By building relationships with my ideal vendors, I was able to enhance my vendor referrals and therefore enhance the number of clients I book.
– I was immersed in a community I adore. I’ve talked about the monetary value of relationships (building relationships to book more clients), but I also want you to grasp the importance of building relationships because you CANNOT do this alone. Isolation kills small businesses. You give up because you are your own worst enemy. Find women who understand, and cling to them when you’re having a rough day. Send each other funny texts about random you tube videos then laugh hysterically at your phone for 10 minutes and I promise, you’ll feel better. Building your tribe takes time and dedication, but allow yourself the right to find friends who are walking on this journey too.
3. Build your portfolio.
– Ever heard the term “fake it ’til you make it”? That’s exactly what a new business owner has to do. I needed to prove to clients that although I was new, I was WORTH it. I needed to show them experience, expertise and passion. I did that through jumping head first into styled shoots (it’s why I actually had more shoots than weddings last year!). I knew I needed portfolio images to show clients the kind of work I was capable of!! When I launched, I had planned a friend’s wedding & planned my own. That’s it. As much as I LOVE my own wedding photos, I didn’t want to plaster them all over my site. I wanted NEW content. NEW ideas. And really amazing photographs. Styled shoots were the golden ticket.
– When you’re new, and sometimes even when you’re experienced, you aren’t always working with your ideal client. There will be weddings that don’t set your heart on fire based on the unique details. There will be times when it’s a LOT harder to find images that really flow well with your brand. I challenge you to TRY. I challenge you to show off images from EVERY SINGLE wedding or shoot you work on. Not necessarily EVERY image, but images FROM every event!!
Why? When you’re new, you’re building your portfolio and also trying to get people talking. You want whispers of your name being mentioned in the field. You want people to say GREAT things about you and your company right?! You want to get them talking!! Well in order to do that, you have to show them something worth talking about!!! Maybe the wedding wasn’t ideal because the centerpieces were lax, or maybe the photographer wasn’t ideal for you, or you’re nervous the other details won’t measure up. Focus on the POSITIVE and show THOSE off!! I’m not asking you to blog 100 images from every event. But I firmly believe you can get one kick-butt instagram with the right light & the right editing!!:)
– Place images on your home page that speak to your ideal client. This is CRUCIAL, friends!! Your website is your storefront and it needs to WOW. Think about it: if you’re walking in the mall and you pass a new store, are you going to go in if NOTHING in the window display intrigues you? It’s the same for your potential clients!! They won’t stop and look if they aren’t drawn in… YOU have to draw them in!!
When working on styled shoots, plan shoots that fit your aesthetic, ideal client and overall brand. Work with vendors that ENHANCE that! Then use those images on your home page, on your blog, and in your portfolio to allow brides a glimpse into the style that sets your heart on fire!!
What do you think?! Are you in the middle of trying to grow your business while working full time? Have any of these tips worked for you?