If business has been tougher than usual for you this year or you've found yourself in an inexplicable slow season, there are two things you should know: 1) it's (probably) not in your head, and 2) these types of seasons are normal in the wedding industry.
If you’ve been in business for more than ten years, then you know weird seasons (or years) are par for the course, and aren’t always directly tied to the economy like 2008-2009 were. Still, in an industry where what gets booked now goes on the calendar for next year, it can be nerve-wracking when cash-flow is not anywhere near where it was projected to be.
Maybe this year has been great for you. If that's the case, you are likely still aware that you'll have a weird year when others are busier than ever. Here are a few things you can do – in addition to prospecting for new business – to navigate surprise slower seasons:
1. SET UP A SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR YOUR BUSINESS
We all know that we’re supposed to have 4-6 months of expenses set aside in a personal savings account in case of an emergency. This is a good rule of thumb for business, too. This way – in a “feast or famine” industry – you have a little bit of breathing room financially. This is easier said than done, of course, but a good goal to work towards.
2. GO ON FAM TRIPS
FAM (familiarization) trips are often offered to event professionals who have the influential ability to bring business to a property or destination. Traditionally this has primarily meant planners, though with Instagram and growing audience exposure, the invitations have been extended to people who don’t typically help their clients decide on location.
Everyone knows that when wedding season is booked up, designers and planners barely have time to get to the hair salon to get their roots touched up, much less fly to Fiji for five days. However, if your season is slower, take advantage of FAM invitations to vet new destinations on the host property’s dime. It may not be money in your pocket this season, but it does provide the ability to authoritatively sell future clients on a destination wedding vision that adds to your portfolio later on.
3. KEEP YOUR BLOG UPDATED
It doesn’t matter if you hate writing it and you have 100k Instagram followers. Instagram is important and has its place, but it doesn’t help your SEO or make your website easier to find by a potential client or journalist. A blog updated a minimum of three days a week does.
Your posts don’t have to be pages long, they just need to have around 200-400 words so that Google can crawl and index those words as keywords for your site (and honestly, most people’s Instagram captions are blog-length anyway).
Even if you never get daily readers like the “good old days” of blogging, keeping it updated for SEO alone is crucial to long-term success. The majority of the people in the luxury market who were working consistently in 2016 and 2017 and who didn’t see a dip in sales were the ones who didn’t stop blogging over the past few years when everyone else told them they should. This isn't coincidental – blogging has always been a long game and its benefits accrue like compound interest.
Juli Smith, who founded and then sold the wedding blog United With Love, has created an online blogging course for creative professionals based on her in-person workshops. In it she teaches what took her over 5000 posts to learn. Juli is no-nonsense and informative and if you want to create a blog that works even harder for you, her course is worth it. Prior to working in weddings, Juli worked in public relations in the White House, and she has a pragmatic, helpful teaching style.
People do business with people they like, regardless of whether the economy is good or bad or whether or not we’re in a stressful political climate. You need to network both on and offline.
Show up to meetings with the other person’s favorite latté. Remember birthdays, and not just on Facebook. Do these things first because you are a good person, and allow whatever networking karma to accrue second. Attend WIPA and ILEA events. Show up at happy hour.
You don’t have to do it all, but you can’t bow out of everything and expect people to still have you top-of-mind when it comes time to refer someone for a job.
5. WORK ON THE THINGS YOU'VE BEEN PUTTING OFF
All of the necessary yet boring stuff that's been pushed to the back burner every busy season? Get it in order now.
Your file cabinets. A new inventory labeling system. All your past photos tagged so you can find them easily for future blog posts and Instagram features. Sketch out new ideas that you'd like to produce to show potential clients. Write up an employee handbook or internship systems guidelines if you haven't done that yet.
Start outlining your book – you know, the one you've always wanted to write and possibly haven't told anyone about – and work on it for 15 minutes every day. Just 15 minutes per day is more than two 40-hour work weeks per year. You have more time than you think.
6. KEEP YOUR MENTAL SLATE CLEAN
Managing stress that comes from fewer bookings, slower cash-flow, and business projections that ended up completely missing the mark is difficult, but not impossible. Make it a priority to keep your head in a healthy space.
If you're prone to "compare and despair," take a break from Instagram or limit how often you check in. It's important to remember though that social media doesn't make someone better or worse, it amplifies who they already are. So if it seems like Instagram makes you feel a certain way, take the time off of it to work on that root issue, because Instagram is not the actual problem – it is simply the platform shining a light on the problem. There's no shame in this – we can't improve our thought patterns until we get honest about what they actually are, where they're stemming from, and how they're impacting us.
Meditation was one of those things I was super skeptical of and needed the science behind it to convince me. It is now something I regret not starting sooner. If you haven't yet tried it, I'd recommend downloading an app and giving it a shot for a week (I recommend Calm or Headspace). We also tend to forget that our brain is in our body, so taking care of it comes in large part from taking care of our body: drink water, eat well, get enough sleep, have some sort of daily fitness routine.
STAY THE COURSE
As I said earlier, weird seasons (or years) are normal in business, and in an industry that is already so inconsistent, can be difficult to manage. Do what you need to do to provide for your family and your employees, but hang in there, because it will even out again. The weird seasons never last forever.
Originally published in 2016.