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I’ve been wanting to say something for a while now about what I charge but have been too scared to bring the subject up….so here goes nothing!
Pricing for me has always been the hardest part of this job, anyone reading this who is self-employed will understand where I am coming from, how do you value yourself when it is you and your service you are trying to price?
I did a whole bunch of research when I started my wedding planning business in 2009 into other planners what services they offer and how much they charge. I then went away and decided that I didn’t want to try and compete by being the cheapest in the market, I wanted to stand out by offering a first class service which meant pricing myself above the average in my area…….so this I did.
Now I’m not a greedy person, I have never gone into a job because of the money, I have spent most of my life working for myself, so I am used to being self-employed and all the highs and lows it throws at you…………However over the last few weeks I have come to a realisation that people do not value what I charge and unless I do something about it I will never make a living from this wedding planning work that I love so much.
I have to also stress this is my full time job, I don’t have anything else to full back on, I don’t do this on the side of a full or part time job, this is it for me…..so I have gone into this business head on, determined to make it work! Because if I don’t then it’s game over. I do have a very understanding husband who has supported me from day one, both emotionally and financially, but at the same time this has put a huge strain on our relationship, he has made huge sacrifices for me to ‘live the dream’ of becoming a successful wedding planner, and quite frankly it’s about time this changed!
So what’s your point Kelly? I hear you cry…..well my point is and what I have realised over the last few weeks is that people do not value what I do until it is too late!
When I started taking on weddings, I would do anything to make sure I got that booking; I just wanted to be busy! I set my services and my prices on my website for all to see and away I went.
Some services are easier to price than others, some are a flat fee as they are a standard service, suppliers or venue searches for example. However as I progressed into my career I found more people asking for partial planning and full planning…….and this is where I got stuck.
The first few I quoted were just ridiculously cheap and I realised that way to soon after couples snatched my hand off…after re-evaluating this I put the price up for the next order and again for the next…..BUT if I work it out per hour per job……I would still be earning more if I worked in McDonalds.
Let me give you an example using on the day co-ordination. On the day co-ordination is one of my most popular services, when I started I priced it at £350 a day, it then went up to £399 and I have recently put it up to £450..why?? well because I had to. It took my brother in law (who has 3 successful business) to point out that if I took on 20 on the day co-ordinations a year at £350 that is only £7000 a year and that’s before tax…….not really enough for a full time salary!
But surely £350 is enough for a day’s work I hear you say? Well it’s not just a day. Firstly I meet with the couple for an hour for a free consultation, then I write a proposal for them, then once they book me I meet with them again at the venue once or twice, they have email and phone access to me 4 weeks before the wedding and then the day of the wedding I am there for 12 hour minimum! That’s me, not an assistant, you book me, you get me! I recently put my price up to £450 this is the highest in my area, I know I’ve taken a risk by pricing myself higher, but I really don’t feel I had a choice, now if I get 20 on the day co-ordinations I am earning £9000 a year!. Still not great though!
I think part of the problem is that people don’t really understand how much I will be doing when they take me on. It isn’t until the wedding is over and I’ve spent months working with that couple that they realise what value they have had from me.
Obviously each wedding and each couple are different. Some couples start off in a blind panic and are never off the phone or email with me, they take constant attention and have constant needs that have to be sorted out. In these days of 24 hour accessibility, a day off seems non-existent! Brides will email me at 11pm at night, call me on a Sunday and expect me to answer their queries straight away. I have tried not to answer on a Sunday, just so I have some sort of day off….but this isn’t always possible when brides feel the need for constant reassurance and need that supplier sorted out there and then! On average I work an 80-90 hour week But do they realise all this when they book me…..no!
I have had a few situations when I have given a couple a prices for a service and they have asked for a discount, many do and I guess this is the nature of the word we live in. In the past I may have said yes, but I live to regret it now! Now I’m not the bartering kind so when someone asks me to do a job for cheaper I always feel a bit hurt…don’t they think I’m worth it? Don’t they see what my service is bringing them? It’s especially hard when I know at the bottom of my heart I haven’t charged enough in the first place!
I have had situations when couples have got me down on my planning price only to find out they have hired another wedding supplier at a premium price for a service that takes up a 10th of the time that I am giving them…….so why not pay me what I deserve??
I asked twitter the other day how many weddings other planners take on a year. Some said no more than 2 a month, others said 1 a month…….so how do we make our money? There are only a certain number of weekends in a year and physically and mentally I don’t feel I could do more than 10 partial or full planning’s a year, just because of shear workload involved in each wedding. Personally I’m up to 18 at the moment that’s all different sorts of weddings, some are on the day co-ordination, some are partial planning and some are full planning in Ibiza. I don’t really feel I can do any more than that! And to be honest I am completely wiped out with that amount!
This year has been an eye opener in terms of what I can and can’t charge. They say it takes on average 250 hours to plan a wedding, well at £35 an hour that comes to £8750 each wedding! Now some of my bride’s budgets aren’t that amount!! So who is going to pay me £8750 for my wedding planning services? I don’t live in London I don’t attract the high society bride, I attract the normal bride looking for an alternative day, I don’t want to turn people away who have a low budget as often it’s those people who have the most interesting weddings!
The reality is that in order for me to make a living I need to be charging £2K per wedding. But no one is going to pay £2K for an on the day co-ordination, as that not the market value!
So what do I do? To be honest I’m not sure. On a personal note I can’t carry on as I am. I work 14 hours a day and I hardly ever take a day off, hardly see my husband and never see my friends! So something has to give! Changes need to be made somewhere.
There is of course the whole subject of commissions from other suppliers, do you take them or don’t you? It is deemed unethical to do so! I don’t and I know most planners don’t either (a subject to be covered in a future post I think!)
I put my prices up on Sunday and I intend to stick to them, no more discounts, no more money off. I guess 2010 was a steep learning curve I wanted the work for 2011 and by God I got it, but now looking forward to bookings for next year, I do feel that less is more!
I will be adding some more ‘added extra’ services to my website in the next few weeks/months which I hope will help and I am going to be tacking sponsors on the blog very soon as well.
I guess only time will tell if these actions make any difference. If they don’t then I will have to re asses this wedding planning world, I LOVE it so much but if it isn’t paying then what is a girl to do?
Until people really understand the value of the service I offer and the time and effort it takes to give them the service they expect, then I will never be able to charge what other suppliers in the industry charge.
I hope that as more wedding planners rise up in the industry people will feel It’s the norm to hire one, people will eventually understand what we do and how much we do for people! So in time being able to charge what we feel we are worth!
Feel free to leave your thoughts.
And if you want to see what I do charge all my prices are openly stated on my website www.bohoweddingsandevents.com/services