how to get clients and get paid in the wedding and event planning industry

(Image via pshegubj)

I’ve always been more than a bit uncomfortable asking my clients for money. In the past, this has led to a great deal of financial burden. Once, I worked with a client for over three months before she paid me even a dollar. Eventually, I learned how to set up very specific payment schedules. Here are a few payment methods that have worked for me as well as a few that haven’t worked so well.

As many of you probably know, spending a lot of energy bidding on a job that you may not get can be a huge waste of your valuable time. I get many calls from corporate clients as well as brides asking for bids. This is tricky, because I need to ensure that whatever I bid is enough to actually see my design through to fruition. I have three options:

1. I can give clients a price range of what I think the job will cost. However, clients are often not satisfied with this. They almost always want specifics.
2. I can actually design the job and price it. But, this takes up a great deal of time, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get the job.
3. I can thoroughly explain my philosophy and ideas to potential clients, and hope that they’ll trust me enough to take a leap of faith and hire me.

I can’t blame clients for wanting to know what they’re going to get for their money before they sign at the dotted line. On the other hand, if I’m not careful, I could end up in a bidding war, which is a waste of my time and my resources. You’ll probably be unsurprised to know that I almost always go with option number three. And here’s how I do it:

1. I’m more than willing to meet with prospective clients on three separate occasions to answer whatever questions they have. But no more than three times!
2. I’ll always show prospective clients my previous work, and give them a clear understanding of what those jobs cost.
3. And, lastly, I am happy to give prospective clients a written proposal.

Now, on the flip side, after I’ve secured a job, I have to start collecting the money my new clients have agreed to pay me. This is an especially big challenge when you’re just starting out in the wedding and event planning industry, but it’s really pretty simple. I ask new clients for a nonrefundable retainer to “save the date” of their event. This, of course, will eventually be applied to the overall cost of their party or wedding. And only then, when that nonrefundable retainer check has cleared the bank, do I begin the design, planning and presentation process.

A few questions for you: Would you ever design a job before getting a commitment from the client? At what point do you say to potential clients, “I’m sorry, but I won’t do that. You’re wasting my time.” Have you ever invested a lot of time in a potential client only to lose the job to another vendor? What happened?

Later this week, I’ll discuss how to make sure that you get paid in full before the event.

And don’t forget, tomorrow I’ll answer another of your questions for my Dear Preston column. Send me your questions at