The biggest mistake that I see wedding pros make time and time again is this: sending pricing to a couple before they even talk to them.
Here’s how it might play out:
A bride or groom contacts you asking for pricing.
You send a beautifully designed pricing PDF.
They ask if you have their date available (you do!).
They hire you (maybe).
Let’s say they do hire you. Hooray!
For this scenario, let’s say you’re either a wedding photographer or a wedding planner. And, for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that you’re charging them $5000 for “complete coverage” or “full planning” with “unlimited hours” – the flat fee quoted for that package in your beautifully designed pricing PDF.
$5000 seems reasonable. After all, as far as you can tell, that’s around what your competitors charge (maybe). Plus, it’s more than you charged last year, so that has to be good, right?
Then you begin learning the real deal about this wedding you landed:
The wedding is a multi-day event and you’re expected to be at the rehearsal, lobster bake welcome party/rehearsal dinner, wedding morning beachside bike-a-thon and breakfast picnic, The Wedding, after party, and farewell brunch. Your top package promised a flat fee for “unlimited hours” with no limitation on how many days or events those hours applied to.
The wedding is at a venue that has incredibly strict rules about load-in/load-out schedules, which will require you to hire more staff/labor to get everything off the trucks and set up on time.
Some of the events are in multiple locations, so you’ll need staff at various properties to ensure everything is set up and runs smoothly/gets photographed and documented.
You’ll need to manage set up of catering and staffing prep tents, which normally wouldn’t be a huge deal, except for the time crunch this venue has you under.
The wedding is at a venue that has some obscure insurance requirements that your current liability certificates don’t cover, meaning you’ll have to fork out extra cash for a special rider before you can step foot on property.
The wedding is black-tie and the nice-but-not-formal wedding day outfits you typically wear with branded aprons aren’t appropriate. You’ll have to budget for clothing allowances for your team.
The wedding is going to be published, and the magazine has arranged to bring in an outside photographer to exclusively shoot all their photos, so your photo credit won’t be the one featured in any of the press outlets. You were counting on being able to use all the photos for marketing and PR and now that opportunity is gone, without an adjustment in pay for you.
By the time you’ve added up all the hours you’ve spent working on this particular wedding, subtracted payroll, normal overhead like your studio rent or home office costs, the additional unexpected expenditures above, taxes, etc, you’ve probably lost money on this wedding.
$5000 sounded good, but it wasn’t based on real numbers so it ended up being real money running through your pockets and into everyone else’s.
If you send out pricing before having a conversation with potential clients, make today the day you break that habit.
The conversation can be over email, and if you can get them on the phone, even better. A note on this: phone is ideal for a lot of vendors, because it is a more natural conversation, but it can be difficult for potential clients to carve out time for phone calls during their work days, especially if they have demanding jobs (teachers, nurses, doctors, attorneys, finance execs, etc). You’re not the only wedding professional they’re considering and if you make it too much of a hassle for them they’ll move on to the next person on their list without a second thought.
You don’t necessarily need to dial down every detail of their wedding during this initial conversation, but you do need to have a basic understanding of the scope of what they are hoping to accomplish before you quote them a price.
If you are going to be a creative professional, you have to price yourself in a way that is sustainable. Protect yourself from burnout by having these key conversations first.