Congratulations! You have landed your first clients as a wedding planner, and things are definitely looking up on your side. We have all been there before: The nervousness, what to wear, will they be happy with my pricing, can I accommodate them, etc. Your first consultation can either be the best or it can go pear-shaped very quickly. All you can do, is be prepared to the utmost of your abilities! Luckily for you, we have compiled strategies and tips to help you prepare.
Smart Strategies to nail your first consultation + FREE Printable!
What to expect from your first consultation
This might be one of the most important meetings that you will ever conduct and attend. It can be quite a game changer if you nail it correctly (in other words, this couple might recommend you to their friends!). We understand that you are extremely nervous and the thought that anything can go wrong. But, the first consultation is just that: the FIRST consultation. So, even if something does go wrong, you are just starting out and this shouldn’t get you down.
In the first consultation, you will be selling yourself as well as your skills and services you have to offer. You need to aim towards making a good first impression. You should also make an effort to be able to accommodate this couple, and this means that you should be able to negotiate. Remember: These are your first clients. You need them for so many reasons, even if they are not going to pay you a fortune. You need experience and a budding portfolio, and they will help you to get there.
The main reason why there should be a first meeting, is to establish all the important details of the wedding, such as how many guests will be invited, what the budget amount is, etc. Be sure to have a list of what to ask at the meeting, and expand or edit this list as you go along and meet new clients. Always include the most important questions first.
How to be professional
We won’t bore you with the basics of wardrobe styling, but you do need to look very sharp and professional on your first meeting with every client throughout your whole career. Having manicured nails might just land you some fancy clients! And like we said before: first impressions matter.
Also, focus on your manners and etiquette. How is your posture? How do you hold your cup of coffee. If you’re going to order lunch, how will you eat that bowl of spaghetti or large cut salad? If it comes to you naturally, you will feel more relaxed. And if you are relaxed, your clients will also be.
How is your body language and how do you speak? We can give you the whole “practice in the mirror thing”, but truth is, will you be able to keep that up every single time you meet clients? Just being comfortable and relaxed will make you speak naturally to your clients.
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Documents you will need
This might differ from country to country. Essentially, you will need a contract and a welcome package for your clients.
We cannot stress the importance of having a contract in place for every single client you meet. This will save you so much drama when it comes to what you’re willing to do and what not; what are the terms for payment; how does cancellation work; etc. And with this, remember that it sometimes helps to be flexible with your contract. Some clients are willing to pay more if you offer more, but clearly stipulate that in the contract.
Also, be very clear what the terms for cancellation are. Some people refuse to pay (it will be smart to ask for a deposit) after they cancel, and you really needed that money to get through the month. A side note: If you’re going to work with their money, i.e. they actually transfer the lump sum into your account, make sure you have a strict policy for this in place as well. (We prefer to send them the details of suppliers, so that they can pay them themselves.)
Then there is the welcome package. You do not need to include a 100-pager with ever. single. detail. Simply put, the welcome package gets sent out to your clients during or after your first meeting. If you prefer to give it to them during the first meeting, it will include a copy of the contract, services you offer, your business card, and maybe a few extras which you decide on.
If you want to send a welcome package afterwards, we recommend you keep it electronic, and e-mail it to them. It includes the same as above. A nice perk about sending the welcome package after you met, is that you can include the proposal as well…
After you’ve met with your clients and know exactly what they want, you can start compiling the proposal. In the proposal, you will include minutes of the meeting, as well as what was discussed, which package they want to opt for, etc. If it was a tailored package, discuss what will be included. Discuss every detail of what they want, which colors, themes, etc.
The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that you and the clients understand each other’s needs, and that you are all on the same page. It also makes it easier for you to plan their wedding.
Tips to keep your first clients from dropping out
The best tip that we can give here: Always be as flexible as you could be. This will allow you to accommodate most clients, and more clients mean more business. If you do a great job in helping each and every couple, they will surely recommend you to other people.
And with that being said, don’t be too flexible. Some people want everything in life for free. They will spin you the old “we have a tight budget” story, or make you feel sorry for them, and eventually, you get nothing out of this deal. Remember: It is a BUSINESS! Your business. And you also need to make a living.
Be nice to your clients. If you’re going to be stuck-up, chances are, they will stand you up (and with the coffee bill). It really helps to be friendly and to “kill them with kindness”.
Be clear and to the point. Focus on your use of words here. If you “uhm” and “but” a lot, it will seem as if you don’t know what you’re talking about. If clients ask you something that you are not sure about, tell them that you will find out and let them know in the follow up e-mail.
Take notes. If you don’t, it might either seem as if you’re not interested or that you will forget the tiniest details of the bride’s dream wedding. You need to write almost constantly and be sure to take notes of everything. This will also help with creating the proposal. Imagine if you didn’t take notes and can’t remember what was said!
The importance of a contract
This was already discussed, but it is so important, that we decided to mention it again! Have a contract in place!
It is fine if you set the contract up yourself at first, though in some countries it won’t be valid in court. If you have the funds, ask a lawyer to set one up for you. It is worth the investment and it will save you so much court drama.
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The importance of your portfolio
Yes, having a beautiful portfolio will land you more clients than not having one, because this will showcase your life’s work. People want to see that you have done this before and that you know what you’re doing. Another perk of having a portfolio, is that couples can look at it and say “ooh, I want that at our wedding!”. Flowers? Done. That saves time!
Your portfolio can either be digital or print. The upside of having a digital portfolio, is that your clients can look at it, even before you meet. This also saves a lot of awkwardness of them looking at your printed portfolio while you have your first meeting, and you just sit there, quietly.
Facilitating your clients and easing into your first meeting
Just like you, your clients also need to be prepared for the first meeting. When you first make contact, be sure to ask the bride and groom to bring some ideas along with them. Some brides will have a binder which they have worked on for years, other will already have many pinterest boards which they have created.
Next, be sure to meet somewhere comfortable such as a coffee shop. Most planners have a few preferable coffee shops which they suggest to their clients. Others have already made such a name for themselves that they have their own offices with consultation rooms. Pretty neat!
Another great idea here is to let them fill out a questionnaire prior to your first meeting. You can ask questions like where they met and if they have a theme in mind. Leave space for short paragraphs about themselves, why they love each other, etc. The choice of questions is up to you. Let them e-mail it back to you before the meeting, so that you can read through it.
It is up to you which contact hours will be available for your clients when they need you. And that goes for the method of contact as well. Be sure to stipulate this in your contract. Don’t forget to mention contact hours and methods in your packages, such as 10 hours contact time, or 20 e-mail responses. And the option to buy more as well.
Remember to keep contact afterwards as well. Send them a thank you gift with some business cards, or an e-mail. Also remember to ask for some feedback which you can use as a testimonial in your portfolio or on your website.
And as promised, here is your free printable, which you can edit and send to your clients before you meet them.