When you are starting your own business, there are a few practicalities you will need to take care of first, before you get started on the business of wedding planning itself.
Creating a business plan
Writing a business plan is essential to having a successful business. Business planning involves putting on paper all the plans you have for your business including:
If you are seeking financing for your business from a bank or other lender, they will expect to see a business plan that shows you have a viable business idea with an excellent chance of success. Even if you don’t need financing, putting your ideas on paper will give you the ‘road map’ of where you want to go with your business and how you are going to get there.
A business plan can also help you avoid costly surprises. If you are considering whether to leave a secure job to start your own business, a business plan can help you determine the resources you will need to start your business and decide when the timing is best for you to get started.
Outlining your services and identifying your customers
A key component of your business plan will be deciding what services your business will offer and who you will offer them to. When you are starting out, it’s tempting to say you will do anything related to weddings that people will pay you to do. And while it’s great to have such a can-do attitude, you may find you are able to attract my clients by offering specific services. For example, you could offer any – or all – of the following services.
Full service wedding planning
A full service wedding planner is involved in all aspects of planning and coordinating the ceremony and reception. As outlined in Part 2 of this guide, the tasks you might be responsible for range from scheduling and budgeting to finding and negotiating with vendors. You will be in regular contact with your clients as the wedding approaches. In addition to planning before the wedding, you will be available throughout the entire event to assist with any last minute details that arise.
Wedding day coordination
For couples that wish to plan their own wedding, you could offer your services as a wedding day coordinator. This allows the couple to enjoy their special day without the stress of overseeing all of the vendors and activities. Most wedding day coordinators also coordinate the rehearsal. In fact, wedding coordinators typically start working with a couple about a month before the wedding so they can review what needs to be done, contact vendors, and develop a plan for the rehearsal and wedding day.
For couples who want to do everything themselves – but want to know how to do it as easily and cost-effectively as possible – you can offer brief consultations to help them get started. For example, you might offer an hourly consultation (most planners suggest a two-our minimum) to help them plan a schedule, recommend specific vendors, prepare a preliminary budget, and answer any questions they may have.
Some wedding planners have built successful businesses by offering destination-wedding services. A ‘destination wedding’ is a wedding at a location such as a report that the couple has to travel to. It may involve only the couple (commonly known as eloping) or it may involve guests.
Some wedding planners also offer related products and services such as catering, flowers, or wedding invitations. For example, if you have a talent for baking, you might make the wedding cakes for clients yourself rather than recommending another vendor. If you want to offer services beyond wedding planning, you will need to do additional research about starting that type of business.
Choosing a business name
Your business name can instantly communicate a powerful message to potential customers, so it should be memorable and easy to pronounce.
To choose a name for your wedding planning company, start by taking a look in the phone book or on the Internet to see the names that other wedding planners have chosen. Notice which names stand out. Your name might be creative, or you might choose a name that clearly communicates what your business does.
Examples of business names include: ‘An Affair of the Heart’, ‘Engaging Events’, ‘Weddings by Design’, and ‘The Wedding Experts’.
Legal structure of your business
Your business structure affects the cost of starting your business, your taxes and your liability (responsibility) for any debts of the business. There are several different legal structures a business can take.
Sole trader – If you want to run a business yourself, you will be known officially as a ‘sole trader’. This is the least expensive way to start your own business. It is also the easiest because it requires less paperwork and you can report your business income on your personal tax return. One drawback to this type of business is that you are personally liable for any debts of the business.
Partnership – If you want to go into business with someone else, the easiest and least expensive way to do this is by forming a partnership. Legally, you would both be responsible for any debts of the company.
Before going into business with a partner, you should spend many hours talking about how you will work together. You should identify:
During your discussions you can learn if there are any areas or where you need to compromise. For example, one of you may wish to have a wedding planning business as a fun part-time job, while others may want to work full-time and eventually build a business that will employ other people. You can avoid future misunderstandings by putting the points you have agreed on into a ‘partnership agreement’ that covers any possibility you can think of (including one of you leaving the business at some point in the future.)
Company – Whether you are working alone or with partners, if you want a more formal legal structure for your business, you can form a company. A company can have limited, personal liability and may make your business appear more professional to come clients. However, it usually costs several hundred dollars and there are many rules and regulations involved with this type of business structure.
It’s a good idea to consult with your accountant and/or solicitor before forming a company.
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