What should I charge my clients?

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(My pic of Tasha from Ikonworks Photography hard at work)

So you are a wedding professional and are hoping to encourage couples to book with you. Now you might be the best photographer or caterer in the County with a reputation to envy but unless your prices are right customers are not going to head your way.

As a wedding planner of many years we see businesses come and go, currently there are over 3,000 registered wedding related businesses in Hampshire alone! That is a big pool of skills and talents, so how does a customer choose? One mistake I always witness is the new business (or even the well established ones) panic pricing, they are concerned that they don’t yet have enough bookings in the diary or are just starting out so they want to put an offer out there that is better than the rest.

Now of course offering discounts and incentives in business is fine but be careful not to go too far. I’ve mentioned before that cheap is never a good thing to be, it gives the wrong impression – it says “I’m either not very good or I’m desperate” and you don’t want to be either. Cut your prices by more than 10% and this can look like you are struggling, after all your pricing should reflect your skills so if you have priced your services correctly and then cut your fees too much how can you offer the same quality or level of service and still sustain a good business. After all you are here to run a business?, that includes earning a living for you and your family.

My top tips for pricing:

1) Check out the competition – sounds obvious but you’ll be surprised at how many new businesses start out and don’t do their research! Check out your local competitors, those that offer a similar standard of service to yourselves and those who are of a similar size. If you are a small street food cart for example there is no point comparing your pricing structure to that of a 200 event-per-year catering firm as they offer a different business to yours and have different overheads etc

2) Understand your worth – this is where a lot of people go wrong, they know what to charge for products maybe but when it comes to pricing your actual hourly rate that can be tricky. I also see businesses that fail to price out the ‘unseen’ hours, for example this might be the 2 hours it takes to travel to meet your clients for those 4 meetings prior to a wedding. That’s an entire day’s work and if you don’t allow for your time then you have worked for a whole day for free.

I found this tricky as a lot of our work as planners is our time, resourcing and researching. So I had to understand what I wanted to earn on an hourly basis then times this by the time taken up offering my skills to a bride. If a client wants to meet you to chat through things that are perhaps not part of the package they have purchased from you then don’t be afraid to charge an hourly rate for your time. After all if a client is keen to have your advice and they would be happy to pay the going rate for that knowledge.

Don’t be frightened to charge for your time, it’s precious. Think of it as an office job if that helps, if you worked overtime you’d expect to be paid for that wouldn’t you?

3) Wasted hours – It’s easy to forget those hours you spend on marketing, networking, emailing and blogging, however if you are not earning from these areas (directly or indirectly) then you need to reconsider. Someone once told me that I should put a Ā£ sign next to everything on my work ‘to-do’ list, if any item on the list wasn’t going to earn money then don’t prioritise them. This might sound a bit harsh but the sentiment behind it is true. If you spend every evening creating social media content that no one reads then change this , either work out why no one is visiting your SM pages or reads your blog, or change what you write about.

Understand your market space and know your customer. Understand what works for you and yes take opportunities but only if they will benefit you and in turn, your clients. Use your time wisely, it’s your perfect asset when you run your own business.

4) Offer incentives not discounts – contrary to what many think brides are not always led by price. Most make a decision based on quality and recommendation after they know the price you charge is what similar businesses will charge, just because you are cheaper won’t get you the clients. After all there is a place for the low-fee supplier as well as the higher priced supplier so be sure to aim your marketing at the right clientele. As we’ve discussed before, slashing your prices by 50% won’t bring the brides to your door, it will send them running wondering why you have to offer such a huge discount, what’s the catch? Are you rubbish and desperate for clients?

However try offering an upgrade for free instead of a discount? If a couple book a service then why not offer an extra package on top for free as an incentive to book, add value don’t remove it. For example, a stationery company could offer to include a ‘complimentary table plan for the first ten invitation bookings next month’

A little more on wasted hours ….when I first became a wedding planner, suppliers would ask to meet me for an hour over coffee to chat about working together. Now this ‘working together’ always meant ‘how can I, as a planner, promote them to my clients’ I usually didn’t benefit from our relationship as often I’d promote them to my brides but when it came to them suggesting my services to their own clients in return, that usually fell flat. So the 1 (often 2!) hour coffee had taken up my time -plus travel- and I wouldn’t stand to benefit from it (except a nice chat with a fellow professional!). You might argue that that it benefits me to know these suppliers so I can offer them to my couples? Of course we need to know those companies that we recommend but there are better ways of using my time, I now network with a whole range of suppliers at once. This is a much better use of my time and good for the suppliers too to meet others.

So that’s my thoughts on pricing, know your market and price your worth – then don’t apologise for your fees! If you are offering good value for your skills and services then your prices are right. You just might need to know your market better if you are not yet selling what you should be.

Leave a comment or pop me an email to marie@isabellaweddings.co.uk with your thoughts.

See you next week
Marie x

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