The Reality of Being An Original

Everyone wants to be a pioneer. No one wants the scars that come with going first.

Wedding floral design photo by    Cameron Clark

Wedding floral design photo by Cameron Clark

When up-and-comers decide to do things differently than how the industry has always done them they get labeled as arrogant and naive. Then, when their methods work, they get labeled as lucky.

When people with established businesses decide to change course and try a different tack, they get labeled as desperate.

Everyone wants to be known as an original, as the idea guy, as the first mover, as a pioneer. No one wants to talk about the fact that pioneers have scars.

Scars from mistakes made and errors in judgment.

Scars from overwhelm and letting things fall through the cracks.

Scars from partnerships gone bad, relationships soured, and trust broken.

Scars from losing a lawsuit over your intellectual property and seeing your labor of love awarded to someone else.

Scars from an unexpected, prolonged slow season that resulted in laying off talented people.

Scars from the gossip of competitors who refused to discipline themselves to do the work that results in positive change.

Scars are a reminder that not everything in business is instaperfect or #bosslifegoals, but the most important thing to remember about scars is that they are only created by wounds that are allowed to heal.

Do what you need to to stop the bleeding, stitch yourself up, and keep moving forward. Don’t expect people to fight fair. More importantly, don’t allow that to make you cynical.


Originally published December 2014

The #1 Thing to Remove From Your Website's Inquiry Form

Increase your brand’s word of mouth and your industry referrals.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

The point of your website isn't to close the sale. The point of your website is to get potential clients to contact you so you can start a conversation.

The number one thing on most wedding professionals' inquiry forms that can shut down a conversation before it even starts?

Asking for a specific wedding date. 

This seems counterintuitive at first – after all if you aren't available for their date, you aren't available. That said, asking for the date up front cheats both you and the bride or groom out of a conversation that can leave a memorable impression and increase your word of mouth.

First, depending on your segment of the industry, a potential client may have a few dates in mind. Their decision could depend on when their dream venue or the photographer they've been Insta-stalking for the past year has availability. It may depend on when their maid-of-honor can get vacation time approved.

If the date they enter to get past a mandatory field on your inquiry form triggers an automated "Sorry, we're booked" email reply, you've lost out on the possibility that the date they land on is actually one you have available.

Second, and most importantly, not skipping past that conversation means you have the opportunity to increase your future industry referrals and make the wedding industry better. 

One of my non-negotiable company values is to always provide a referral if I can't accept a project. This can be because I'm already booked, I'm out of their budget, their project isn't in my wheelhouse, or we just may not be a good fit for whatever reason. Giving them the name of someone who may be able to better help them reach their goals is not only beneficial to them, it brands me as helpful and allows me to support the other people in the business consulting space who are the real deal. 

The importance of that last part shouldn't be underestimated. Wedding pros in every single segment of the industry complain about oversaturation. Planners joke that "anyone who walks by a wedding at a resort" opens up shop the next day, photographers complain about people with an iPhone and VSCO calling themselves pros, and caterers complain that "anyone with a kitchen and the Food Network thinks they can do what we do." Some of the new people entering the industry are truly talented. Others are . . . not.

The truth of the matter is that if you are competing at the level you want to be at, most of your competitors will also be excellent at what they do. Bad apples end up affecting everyone, and the best way to ensure that the good people stay in business is to send them business. 

Have a list of names of people you trust and respect, including competitors in your category as well as those who may be at a lower price point but still good at what they do. You can send an actual PDF list or link, but I'd recommend taking a couple minutes to send a personalized recommendation:

"Hi Sally, Your wedding ideas sound beautiful! We are previously committed for your date, but based on what you've shared with me, I'd recommend reaching out to Annie at XYZ Events. Her style is very much in sync with yours, plus I think you'll hit it off personality-wise. Congratulations, again!"

A 90 second email that helps the couple, brands you as generous to both the client and the wedding pro, and earns you karma/reaping what you sow/what goes around comes around brownie points.

This particular couple may not have the budget for you, but "I couldn't afford him, but he still took the time to help me with recommendations," is great word of mouth and a kindness people remember. It also helps build a wedding community committed to excellence and weeding out the charlatans. A win-win for everyone.


Originally published June 2018

'No' Is A Complete Sentence

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

As a professional speaker, I am sometimes involved in conversations that go something like this:

"Hi, we’d like you to speak on creatives charging what they’re worth."
"Okay, my fee is $X."
"Oh, we’re not paying speakers."

Entrepreneurs in every creative field run into similar situations: they are asked to plan a destination wedding for publicity, or produce an event for charity, or to design and provide stationery goods for a conference. At times it makes sense to say yes to working for free

Other times, you need to say no. 

Where we get tripped up – and I see this across cultures – is that we (or the people asking) tend to view saying "no" as us being ungrateful for the opportunity. If we want to thrive, then we cannot allow ourselves to buy into the lie that it is never okay to say no.

  • Saying no does not make you ungrateful.

  • Saying no does not make you disloyal.

  • Saying no does not make you arrogant.

  • Saying no does not mean you are not generous.

  • Saying no does not mean you don't value community.

  • Saying no does not mean you don’t consider it an honor to be asked.

  • Saying no simply means the opportunity doesn’t fit with your priorities in this season of your life and/or career.

You can say no to press opportunities that don’t position your brand in a positive way (ex: reality television shows that make you look crazy and your clients like bride- or groom-zillas).

You can say no to events that cause you to miss a family member’s birthday or milestone celebration.

You can say no to opportunities that don’t help you contribute financially to your family’s goals.

You can say no to projects that will suck the life out of yourself and your team.

"No" is a complete sentence. If you want your business to grow and be better, learn how to remove any shame either yourself or others try to attach to you saying no. 


Originally published March 2017