Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Civil Celebrant | ‘I can’t get any clients’ and other business myths

Due to the amount of activity on your Celebrant Forum recently, our very own Lisa Johnson has written this piece which we think may interest many of your fellow members. 

"I can’t get any clients and other business myths"

Which way to go?
I’ve been having quite a lot of discussions with new planners and celebrants recently about the ‘business side’ of what we do. As creative people, I think most of us came into the wedding industry for the love of doing the actual planning/performing/writing rather than because it was a good business decision but what I quickly realised (I’ve only been in business for 2 years myself) is that the running of the business is what I do with 80% of my time. The other 20% I get to do the fun stuff – the actual planning and meeting couples – the thing that gets me excited to be a wedding planner! The rest of my time is spent on marketing, PR work, blog writing, networking, accounting, advertising, branding, social media and everything else that comes with owning your own business.

So I guess really I’m writing this blog as a friendly wake-up call – a little shake of your shoulders! Yes, running a business is hard and of course nobody wants to do the boring stuff but it’s got to be done in able to get to the good stuff!

Let’s start with setting up a business in the first place. You’ve done your training, you’ve got your name, you’ve even sorted out a pretty cool logo. You’ve really thought hard about your branding and who your ideal client is and your website and branding shows that you know this. It’s all set up and you’re open for business. So where are all the clients?

I’m afraid this is where the work comes in. There is no point at all having a website if nobody sees it. There is a lot more work to be done I’m afraid. You can’t sit there and wait for clients to come to you. I guarantee you that they won’t because there are thousands of other creatives just like you who have done exactly the same thing. You now need to get your ideal clients to find you rather than your competitors, so how exactly do you go about doing that? Here are a few ideas to start you off….

Social Media

Possibly the biggest advertising tool of our time – I’m not saying you have to be on all platforms; you don’t. Your ideal client won’t be so there’s no reason you need to be. Work out which platforms your ideal clients are on and when they look at them and then start posting from a new facebook account opened up specifically for your business (your clients do not want to see your lovely children and pictures of your dinner). Only post content that is in line with what your clients might want to read. There’s a lot of choice out there with the main platforms being facebook, twitter, snapchat, Instagram, pinterest and periscope. If you want to post on quite a few and write all of your posts in one go, I recommend you download Hootsuite – it allows you to schedule all of your posts at the times that give your potential clients the optimum chance of seeing them. It also means you can spend a Sunday writing them all, schedule them and then forget about it for the rest of the week!

I know that lots of us (including me) are holding down full time jobs and bringing up young children as well as running our creative businesses and that means there’s not much time. If time is at a premium, the best way to network is using facebook and twitter. Look up groups in your area that will be of interest – some will be for wedding suppliers only and some will be groups of brides in your area so that’s even better! Don’t go in with a selling post (nobody likes that) – become the expert in your area. Answer queries that people have, post different ideas that might interest the group and be generally helpful and informative. If there is no such group, make one – there will be other wedding suppliers that will be looking for one too. The more you chat to other suppliers in the industry, the more likely a referral will come your way. For celebrants, this means chatting to all suppliers – florists, photographers, planners, bakers and most importantly, venues (we’ll get on to that). There’s a weekly twitter chat on Wednesday evenings on twitter called WeddingHour (find it by searching for #weddinghour) where all sorts of wedding suppliers and even couples chat to each other – it’s a great way to start networking.

If you are lucky enough to have the time – get out there! People will remember you so much more if they meet you face to face. Make appointments with the suppliers in your area and just chat over coffee about your businesses. You’ll pick up ideas about other networking groups in your area from other suppliers and can then choose which ones are right for you. Not all will be and that’s ok too.

Venue Visiting
Maybe not - mid November in the UK!
This is important for all wedding businesses but even more important for celebrants as you have a big advantage – venue managers may not know you exist or how you can help their business. This is brilliant for you. It means you can go and have a coffee with the wedding coordinators at the venue and say “do you ever use that beautiful garden for weddings?” They will say no because the law in England requires there to be a licensed room to marry in. And that’s where you come in. You can tell them there’s a way round that and explain how using a celebrant means couples could get married in that garden/unlicensed room, giving the venue more options to offer to a client, which can only be good for them! Ask them if they are having a wedding fair and would they like you to come in and do a little talk/workshop on using a celebrant (they get a speaker for free that may interest potential brides – you get a captive audience who may decide to then book you when they book the venue). Make sure you ask if they have a recommended supplier list – if they do, they may not have a celebrant on it so get yourself added!

We all want to get to that first page and even that number one spot on Google right? Well one of the best ways to do this is by posting fresh content onto your website regularly. Blogging is the best way to do this. When I started planning I was on page 24 of Google when the words ‘Surrey Wedding Planner’ were typed in. I’m now consistently in positions 1-3 on page 1 (after the paid for ads). I’ve done this completely by blogging. Make sure your website has the right tags / labels in it (words that google will find if someone searches for them) and get blogging. You can blog about anything that you think potential clients might want to read about – what a celebrant is, latest wedding trends, how certain rituals came about, etc. Remember that blogs look better with pictures (this goes for your social media posts too) so ask photographers nicely if you can use their pictures on your blogs and make sure you credit them. Don’t ever use them without permission though as it’s against copyright law. Once you’ve done a blog post, make sure the world knows it’s there by posting about it on all of your chosen social media channels!

Write for a magazine
Get your name and service out there by writing for magazines. Write articles about what a celebrant is or find a twist such as ‘how to decorate an outdoor ceremony’ and then send it in with some photographs. Magazines and other supplier’s blogs need content and you can provide it. Make contact with the magazines in your local area – if they ever need a quote or an expert answer, they’ll come to you.

Valuing your service
I wanted to end with a quick note about valuing your service. I’ve heard way too many planners and celebrants lowering their fees to get more work or even doing it for free, especially in the early days. All this does is devalue your service. If you charge next to nothing, you are devaluing your service as well as the industry as a whole and you’ll attract only budget brides. Work out how much you want to earn per hour, add on marketing and insurance costs (yes you do have to have insurance) and then work out what you need to make at each wedding from these figures. Then stick to it. You will get clients that will pay for your service if you value it and they value it – you may get less clients but they will pay more and will more likely be your ideal client so it’s still worth it. A recent wedding planner told me she was charging £1,000 per full planning wedding. An average wedding takes 250 hours to plan and so she was working for much less than the minimum wage! You may love what you do but it’s a business at the end of the day. If you’re not making a profit, it’s not a business – it’s just a hobby.

I hope this blog has helped some of you with ideas about what you can do to get going with your business and to attract more of the kinds of clients that you want. It isn’t easy – it takes effort, time, patience and lots of work on the business side of things but you will succeed if you put the work in! I’d love to hear about other ways that you get yourselves out there to grow your business, so do let me know.

Lisa Johnson

Many thanks to Lisa for her valuable input.

UK Society of Celebrants Annual Awards 2015 | Winners

Better late than never as they say. 

And the Winners ARE....

Celebrant of the Year 2015 | Julia Hill

Julia Hill

Competition was so tight for this award. Julia has been with us a little over a year now and was one of only a few Diploma Celebrants that have ever delivered both Family & Funeral ceremonies during her training. Notably, her first Wedding Ceremony was held in Rome.

Julia's enthusiasm for being a Celebrant knows no bounds and is infectious. A regular on most of our social media timelines, she actively networks in her community and with other Fellow Celebrants too.

Julia is also a Chef and was the star of the Ideal Death Show, turning our stand into a Cake Stall with delicious Death Theme treats.

Julia can be found here at Silverlode.

Congratulations Julia - Well deserved.

Funeral Ceremony of the Year 2015 | Jane Arnold

As you may know this award is for the Best Funeral Ceremony during training. In the past it has always been the "Charlotte" ceremony that took the honours. Not this time. 

Jane Arnold
Jane aka "The Eccentric Book Lady" produced a masterful ceremony for "Dominic". Many would think it was not possible to perform a natural burial via skype - you'd be wrong. The Lorax would have been proud. The ceremony brought together tears, smiles, sadness and laughter in equal measure and delivered by what appeared to be a Woodland Nymph, which was also reprised at the Ideal Death Show 2015. Genius - thinking out of the box whilst respecting the wishes of the bereaved and honouring the deceased.

Jane can be found here. Leading by example. Thank you Jane.

Family Ceremony of the Year 2015 | Dyane Fisher

Weddings lend themselves to the spectacular in the hands of a skilled celebrant. This year we had three such ceremonies on the shortlist.
Dyane Fisher

The eventual winner was Dyane's wedding ceremony for "Jack & Jemma" which was her creation and not one of our set piece ceremonies.

The ceremony fitted our mantra perfectly - Personal - Meaningful - Professional, being romantic (not saccharine), engaging (at every level), colourful, musical, tastefully tearful and beautifully choreographed and brought a wry smile to all that heard it and or saw it.

Dyane can be found here. Thank you Dyane - bet you didn't see that coming.

Celebrant Marketing / Social Media 
& Awareness Award 2015 | Maria Turley

We are blessed with a plethora of Celebrant Members who devote a great deal of time and effort on their online activity for which we should all be grateful. However, there is one outstanding contributor Maria Anne Turley who has been prolific online through social media since starting her training 2 years or so ago.
Maria Turley

Maria's efforts relatively recently culminated in starting the UKSOC Celebrants Group on facebook. To date there are over 70 members, most of whom contribute regularly to diverse celebrant related topics. A mine of knowledge and experience is the result as well as a forum that has helped many and causing us to do more work too.

Thank you Maria a most worthy winner - getting the word out there about Celebrants & Celebrancy.

Celebrant Guru Award 2015 | Josh Withers

Many of you already follow this young man. Yes - we know he lives in Australia.
Josh Withers

Joshua Daniel Withers aka "World's best most awesome celebrant superhuman person" who can argue with that? We won't!

A self confessed computer / tech / gadget Nerd, Josh is a breath of fresh air and married to the delightful Brittany and lives on the Gold Coast.

If it was possible to make a template for the Perfect Wedding Celebrant - Josh would be it. Not only is he a breath of fresh air to our craft (bow tie too), he is gregarious, quirky, funny and a leviathan with regard to his online presence. An enigma and worthy of the title "Guru", an example to us all. In fact Josh was the inspiration to many of us who took to "Pop Up Weddings" after reading about him. Drop by his site, follow the links and see how it can / should be done.

Josh was delighted when he learned of his Guru Award and we hope to present it to him personally in the not too distant future - someone has got to do it!

Congratulations to all our deserved winners. Trophies will be given in person where possible to all the winners in the coming weeks.

Just  to recap - All the award nominees are selected by our Training Team with the exception of Celebrant of the Year where we will accept nominations from the public subject to approval from the Society. Celebrant Guru Award nominations can only be made by UK Society of Celebrants Members. Currently, our Tutors & Mentors are not permitted to be nominated for any of our awards.