You Need To Price What You're Worth

When we dream about our businesses and how they fund our futures, we tend to think big: take that amazing trip, build the dream house, buy the expensive car. That all sounds pretty good, but when it comes down to it, you'll never get there if you don't price what you're worth.

Esther Funk Photography

I know the phrase "you need to price what you're worth" is a major buzzword in the creative industry, and that it encompasses a lot of different topics. Today, I'm writing to those of you who are too afraid to charge enough/more, and in doing so, aren't growing your businesses. And if this is you, you're certainly not taking care of future you.

Are you undercutting your competition to make the sale? Are you afraid to raise your prices in case the inquiries dry up? There are negative consequences to this, and it goes beyond just having a small paycheque. Listen up: I've got something to say to you.

You're hurting the rest of the industry and you might not have thought of it that way before. If you're a side hustle, or part time, or trying to launch your business, or just too afraid to raise your prices, you could be seriously damaging the wedding industry by undercutting your competition. Undervaluing your worth and your services means that any couples who meet with you are going to then undervalue the worth of that service as a whole - not just your particular service.

You might be a wedding planner who is just launching your business, so you're not comfortable charging what you're worth yet. Or you might be a florist who just really wants to book a wedding and so you undercut the quote of another florist. Whatever your situation might be, what you're really doing is damaging the public perception of value to your industry as a whole. After meeting with you, couples are going to sub-consciously evaluate the value of what your entire industry does. Suddenly, wedding planners aren't able to make as much money. Florists lose their bottom line even more than they already do. 

So, how do you go about raising your prices? 

1) Seriously consider a few aspects of pricing:
a) What you need to make in order to "make it." This number is going to be different for everyone - it might mean a $40K income or a $140K income. How many weddings at what average price point do you need to take on to meet your goal? 
b) What is the perceived value of your specific services? Based on your skillset, your individual services might be more valuable than that of your competition. That's okay (in fact, that's great). There aren't that many people out there who can provide a classical string quartet. Your services could be in higher demand, meaning that the value of what you provide is automatically higher. 
c) You need to KNOW YOUR COSTS. This isn't a fun thing to figure out (trust me, I've tried several times and also given up several times!), but it's so important to know what our costs are in order to understand how much we need to charge our clients. It's not fair to you to be running a failing business simply because you don't know your costs!

2) If you're just starting out, or if you're trying to raise your prices, gradual increases are a great way to go. With each new client who books, raise your price by $100 or $200. Little by little, you'll get to that pricing sweet spot. You may want to add a clause to your contract that tells clients they're not allowed to divulge their specific price. It doesn't make sense for a new service provider to be charging as much as established businesses, and you can certainly feel free to mention to your clients that they are getting x pricing because your business is young. It's all about the way that you say it. And then, those gradual increases with each booked client will bring you to where you need to be!

3) If you decide that you want to lower your prices, do it for a specific reason and make sure your clients know. Maybe it's that dream wedding or the dream vendor team that you really want to work with. It's okay to offer a price break to get in the door once in a while, but make sure that your client or vendor partners know that you are doing something special for them.

The bottom line is that every event or client that you take on should be profitable. Each area of the wedding industry has different pricing standards and profit margins. If you don't know what those standards are for your area of expertise, then do some research, talk to other people, seek out some experts and ASK. 

You deserve to get paid!

I recently talked about a few other areas about pricing that you might be interested in:

We Need to Educate Our Clients. Here's Why.

I may or may not recently have gone a bit of a rant on the whole "reasonable pricing" thing. If you want to know why that's a curse word to my ears, you can read that here. But out of all the requests we get from prospective clients to be "affordable" or "fair" in our prices, there's one clear path, as far as I'm concerned: 


Educate your clients on your pricing.

Your clients are fixated on the end product or service, and rightfully so. Unless they've worked in your industry, they can't possibly understand what goes into making that product or service a reality. So it's up to us to make sure they understand the VALUE which they will be receiving.

For example, the cost of greenery garlands running down the centre of tables. In the last few years, garlands have become one of those huge Pinterest trends and somehow couples got the impression that because they were "just greenery," that they were cheap. So whenever I'm asked about garlands and I know it won't fit into a client's budget, I explain it to them: Garlands require both a lot of product (and although greenery is not typically as expensive as flowers, it still has a cost!) and take a lot of time to produce. Once I let them know that there's a ton of work involved, they typically start to understand. 

Another example is when clients come to you with an overall budget but haven't stopped to think about how many times that number needs to be divided by. Maybe they're renting chairs from you and come to you with a budget of $400. $400 might seem like a lot to that client, but when you divide it by 200 people, that only comes out to $2/chair, and of course, the chair the client is looking at is pretty much guaranteed to be at least $8 each. Or maybe they have a catering budget of $3000. Again, it might sound like a lot of money but divided by 200 people, that only comes out to $15/person. Take a few bucks off for place setting rentals and staffing, and that client is trying to get a fully plated, 3 course dinner for about $7/person. 

These things seem pretty obvious to us, but a lot of the time, we just need to kindly educate our clients, breaking these things down so they can process. Rather than turning a prospective client away, do them (and your colleagues!) a favour by gently explaining what a more realistic budget is and a few of the whys behind it.

Educate your clients on your processes.

Over the last 4 years of owning my own wedding industry business, I've occasionally had a client who didn't seem to understand that I actually know what I'm doing. These are the people who attempt to run the consultation, or tell me how much my products and services should cost, or decide to send me an invoice for their own wedding flowers to which they've thoughtfully applied the incorrect taxes :)  Now, I don't give off a vibe of incompetence at pretty much anything other than golf or house painting and I've basically made myself the boss of every room I've ever been in, so I'm not sure why any of these people felt the need to take charge (maybe it's simply because they also like being the boss). 

I'm not saying that you need to teach your clients the ins and outs of every single one of your internal processes (and I'd really rather you NOT do that, because they don't need to know everything). What I'm suggesting here is that we need to lay out the steps for them - such as what they need to know, what they need to do and at what times, what I'll be doing in the meantime, and even better, what they DON'T need to do.

This is a benefit for a few reasons: it calms the clients, while streamlining your work and communication with them.

Earlier this year, I worked with a fantastic local graphic designer, Kyla of Keeks Paper Co to create a "wedding guide" - basically, it's a pretty pdf that outlines how things work with me. I send it to my clients as soon as they've booked with me, and it outlines some practical info like when payments are due, when I need updates and confirmations from them, when my office hours are, how to hold a bridal bouquet, along with some fun, lighthearted things like a studio tour and my favourite date-nights.  It's an awesome way for me to communicate with them at the same time as adding value.

Here's a couple of screenshots to give you an idea:

How to Educate Wedding Clients - Stone House Consulting
How to Build a Better Wedding Business - Educate Your Wedding Clients

What should you be doing differently?

Every business has an area or two that they can tweak in order to streamline processes! For me, that education process starts from the first inquiry email (FYI email templates are your friend!). I outline what will happen in the first meeting, how they need to prepare, and in cases where I can tell that the client doesn't have a realistic budget set up, I'll send them links where they read more about what their wedding will really cost. During our appointment, I set very clear expectations as to when they can expect to receive their proposal, and how it will be laid out. They leave knowing that I've got them really well taken care of, and they can leave it in my hands. Their contract clearly outlines how payments are to be received, how changes to their order are handled, and how best to take care of their wedding flowers on the day of their wedding. Sometimes people still ask me questions, but everything else has been so streamlined!

So here's your challenge for the week: identify if there are any pain points in your client processes where it seems like you might be losing control or when you're constantly hearing, "that's out of my budget." Grab a sheet of paper and a pencil (I always get the best ideas when I write by hand) and brainstorm some ways that you can educate your clients in a positive, value-add sort of way. Plan it out so that next time you get asked those questions, you've got an answer locked and loaded. 

If you need help, I'm always available for a Power Session! I'd love to help you dig into your business and make it as strong as possible.

Why "Reasonable Price" Is a Curse Word to Me

It doesn't matter how long you've worked in the wedding industry...any time you hear the words "reasonable price" or "affordable," you cringe. Probably inwardly AND outwardly. These types of phrases are a curse word to me.

I'm part of a local Facebook group composed of brides- and grooms-to-be and wedding professionals. I so desperately want to take myself out of the group but I always get lured back in. Why do I want to take myself out, you ask? 

Because every other post reads something like this: "ISO of wedding photographer with reasonable prices." or "Looking for recommendations for florists with fair pricing." I know that you've all dealt with the exact same thing so today, I'm here to encourage you NOT to slash your pricing just to get a booking. Here's why: 

I think that "fair pricing" should mean that a business owner can take a vacation, just like that client can. Or that we can afford to save for retirement, just like that client can. The vast majority of my floral clients get this, so this isn't really something I have to discuss with them all that often, but I know there are so many wedding vendors struggling financially because their clients are only willing to pay "what's fair." 

BUT GUESS WHAT. That client who's asking for you to become "affordable" to them has no idea what goes into the product or service that they're requesting. Explaining this in floral terms is easy for me as a florist, so I'll start there: it's so much more than just the final product that the client sees. It's not just the bouquet. It's every single stem that you had to consider, then order, then pick up from your wholesaler, then clean and hydrate, then sort through and carefully select the very best blooms to arrange with. Oh yeah, and it's also the tools that you need to make that arrangement. The time and knowledge it takes to make all of the above happen. The delivery time (and delivery vehicle, and gas, etc etc etc) to get the flowers to them on their wedding day. And rewind even further, it's also the website and social media presence that you've carefully developed to make sure that prospective bride or groom even knows that you exist. It's the time you spent emailing back and forth with them, the time you spent in consultation with them, the proposal that you crafted specifically for them, and all of the administrative work. And of course, there's the fact that what this client is asking for is a perishable luxury item. So what's "fair and reasonable" to that client is probably going to be a heck of a lot lower than what is actually accurate. 

Florist rant over ;) I know that whatever section of the wedding industry you work in, you have all of these behind the scenes bits and pieces that go into the final product that your client wants. 

I'm going to talk more next week about why we need to EDUCATE our clients (on everything from the pricing to the process of working with you), but for now, I'm going to leave you with this: 

You need to price what you're worth. That may or may not be "reasonable" to someone on the outside, so be prepared to stand your ground. You deserve to get paid.