Talk It Out Tuesday: Coffee Chat
Live Q + A with Tiffany Learned of Detailed Engagements
Join us as we ask Tiffany Learned of Detailed Engagements the questions most people aren't willing to answer! Why did she start the business? How does she get new clients? What is the best business investment she ever made? What are her biggest challenges as a wedding professional?
Episode 12 Coffee Chat Replay
Episode 12 Podcast
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Lauren Dragon-Cook: Tiffany and I wanted to do a little Q&A. Ask the things you would otherwise be scared to ask because it is us!
Tiffany J. Learned: Nothing is off limits!
Lauren: One thing that Tiffany and I wanted to chat about is if you saw the pricing debacle… scandal if you will. This networking group called the Elite Wedding team had written this blog post, rather they paid someone to write this blogpost for them, and it was very interesting because it ended up saying in one of the bullet points was “know what your competitors are pricing and undercut them just a little bit so you can get all the business”. We wanted to see if you have seen it, read it, what your thoughts were. It created a bit of a storm in the wedding industry.
Lauren: What are your thoughts on it Tiffany?
Tiffany: It is unfortunate because a lot of people when they are starting out, they are going to use these resources. They will go online to these forums, experts, and pros and read this information and take it as the Bible! People are trying to learn, to educate themselves, and grow their business. So if this is what they are reading and learning… then they are taught this is what they need to do. Unfortunately it is so wrong! I want to “Jersey Housewives” flip the table because this is so wrong! This is the worst advice anybody could give anybody who is starting out or wanting to bring up their business to the next level. I cannot say it enough… do not do this!
It is good to know your competitors’ prices. But don’t email them pretending to be a potential client. I can sniff that from a mile away and I will call you out on it. Don’t quote your vendors this way. Talk to them. We will give you where our baseline prices are. I’ll give you a range. If you are starting out, guess what, you are not going to be able to charge what I charge because of the time and experience. So please do not go out there and pretend to be an inquiry. That is so dirty.
I could go on and on about this for days. Here is the bottom line about that piece of advice. First off, if you think that you can undercut your competitors prices and get the clients… you will be out of business really fast. Your mindset should be that you are really really good at what you do. You will get the client.
I’ve had competitors email me “undercover”. It was actually her assistant. So I told her “I am so flattered that you would want me to do your wedding and not your boss!”. How else should I approach this?
There will be dirty people in the industry, people that are not friendly. Do you. Do what makes you feel good. I tell people that I do the shit I do at the end of the day so I can lay my head on the pillow and not feel any guilt at night.
Lauren: Absolutely you need to be able to sleep at night. What is also going to get you ahead in any position you are in, is the dirty always comes out. Always!
Tiffany: Always, you can smell it on people when they are being fake. Not cool.
Lauren: Someone wants to know…
“What do you think about putting pricing on your site. Should or shouldn’t?”
Tiffany: I live by the motto at least put out a starting price. I don’t put full pricing on my website, but bottom line... get them qualified. You need something on your website. To be honest you are just wasting their time and they are wasting yours as well if they aren’t qualified. I start by telling them what the price is for “save the date”. That’s where it starts to give them a qualifier. If they are already a little surprised by that price maybe they are not our client. That is okay too.
Some wedding pros are not in the planning business… they are florists or hair and make up… give them some sort of idea. Even if it is a big range. I know a lot of us are very flexible with our pricing when it comes to things that are very important to us. We are business owners get to be flexible and decide when to switch things up. But we should have something on our website to give our clients a sense of whether or not they qualify for the average pricing.
Lauren: I like to compare it to LuLu Lemon. I fell in love with them, but I knew their pricing going into it. If I didn’t know that those people charge $90-$120 for a pair of yoga pants and I went up to the register and then they told me the pricing… I would be livid. You best believe I would walk out of there. But because I knew going into it… this isn’t something I’m going to buy on the daily, it changed for me.
You need to have a price reference for them. You should have your website set up so within 3-4 clicks they can find it. They get to your homepage then there is your about page and depending on what they are looking for, they will probably end up on your price page. But if they cannot find pricing on your website easily, they will bounce. That is actually hurting your business because you are not getting the inquiry but it is also hurting your SEO. We don’t talk about this aspect of it, because bounce rate is not good. You want a low bounce rate. If someone hops on your website and they can’t find your pricing they are going to hop off and that doesn’t look good. That is hurting your business.
Tiffany: It all plays into everything. A lot of people lay the other side of things by not putting pricing on your website. And I get it because when you are first starting out it can be scary. But we have to give this information tour clients. When I first started out I didn’t have my pricing on my website. So when I was talking to clients and sending out pricing I was framing it as “is this okay?” Like what, no! Then I would end up having a conversation with this person, fall in love with them and their ideas, want to do their wedding, and find out their pricing is peanuts. That is not fair to do to anybody. So if you have something in mind, stick it on your website and stick to it as much as you can.
Lauren: Yes, you’ve already touched on this aspect too. You already know the people inquiring with you unless they miss your pricing page completely… they are going to be qualifying leads! There are a lot of pros to it. Obviously.
Tiffany: I was talking to someone in the wedding industry a couple weeks ago. She is a make up artist and she was saying she couldn’t charge what other people in the industry were charging yet. I told her she absolutely could. I told her she has to get out there and own her crap. You need to feel professional. If you have your pricing the same as other competitors it makes you look legit. It goes back to what those people posted on that blog… being the lowest priced person in the business is not a good thing. You are going to get a different cliental. You won’t get your ideal clients.
I hope you figure out what your ideal client is.
Lauren: You will have some people out there that hate the term ideal client. But if you don’t even know who you want to work with, why are you doing it? It is a matter of you yourself need to set up parameters of who you want to work with. It is not so much for them, but for you.
Tiffany: When we say ideal client I’m not saying you want to have blondes that are 5’4”… just want to make sure we are clear.
Lauren: This is not Tinder!
Tiffany: When you go to my Instagram and look at all the weddings I’ve done, they are all extremely unique! But that is my client. My clients want a very unique experience. They are not New England. They are coming here to get married. So when we say have an ideal client, you have to think about a few different things, but one of them is they need to work within your budget. Starting off, I did not do this. I fell on my face a bunch of times. I took on some wedding I shouldn’t have taken. Not that I was in over my head, but they didn’t value and appreciate my service. Because I devalued myself because I put my prices way down… I was new, I was green, I was just building my portfolio… you know all of these things we say to each other to excuse our behavior. I kicked myself in the ass in the end. I charge more now and I am happier. My clients are more appreciative. They value my services more now that I value my services more. MIND BLOWN!
Lauren: Just coming from the woo-woo perspective… a lot of the reason why people undercharge themselves is because they truly don’t feel as if they are worth it. They have their own blocks to sell. That shouldn’t translate to your business. When you’re an entrepreneur you don’t have that luxury. You end up undercharging yourself, working more, and then you burn out and you hate it!
Tiffany: You resent your job. You resent your business. Your baby that you’ve built from nothing. Now all of the sudden you resent going to work. I don’t go to work. I work for myself and I fucking love it. This is not a job to me, this is not a career to me. It is a passion that happens to make the money as well. If you don’t value yourself you are going to start to think of it as work and why do that? I feel so bad for the people that do.
Lauren: I’m right there with you. I am paving the way on something that has not been done yet in this industry. I’m setting the rules, but that is beautiful because you get to set your own ground rules. Don’t let anyone else dictate your own life.
Tiffany: I know there will be people reading this that will say “Easy for you to say Lauren and Tiffany, you’ve been in the business forever”. Which is funny because I’m only 24 years old. But they are going to look at us and say how dare you tell me everything is good and fun. Well its not! It is not easy. Lauren and I had a very heart to heart conversation about 2 weeks ago because I was in a low place. And I needed to snap myself the fuck out of it. Because I worked so hard for my business I need to make sure it is doing what it needs to do. But I am human. We do not need to be on all the time.
If anybody has a perfect Instagram it is because they have a really good app that is taking their photos. That is real.
Lauren: Another thing I want to point out… is sometimes when people are coming into the industry they do not understand the repercussions of their actions. They think their action of charging $200 to do a full day coordination is only serving them. No… it is a ripple effect.
Tiffany: It is teaching the public that that is what the value is. You get Little Suzy who booked someone for $200 to do their wedding, then another person who is getting married asks how much did you pay your planner? Then when someone who comes in who is doing it full time, has the experience, and sends over their pricing they are blown away! You are then dissed for over charging, even though you are not.
It comes back to put that pricing on your website. Justify it! You don’t need to go into a rant, but you build value and your clients see it. They will get those prices and not be super shocked. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. If you don’t like the conversation, change the conversation.
Lauren: Someone asked…
“I just got a booking from my first bridal show and I sent them my first follow up email. How many times should I reach out?”
Tiffany: Figure out a way to put something in your subject line that will make you stand out. Hold off a bit until you send that next email. Give them time to breathe. They are glazed over after a bridal show and their inbox is full. I get really good responses on a Sunday afternoon.
Lauren: Over on the Wedding Boss Life shop we have email templates you can purchase and it includes subject lines and content you can literally copy and past. Over 65 email templates that are invaluable! If you use the code “gimmie15” you’ll get 15% off.
Tiffany: And do not worry if they miss it. Because if they are someone who is getting a ton of emails and booking vendors right away, they probably aren’t your client. You want someone who is going to take a minute to make an educational decision, not an emotional one.
Lauren: That is the quote of the day!
Tiffany: I’m going to share a planner story about setting boundaries. First off, if I am not working and it is sunny out, I am on the water. But I am always plugged in. I went away back in January for my grandmothers’ 83rd birthday. We go an inquiry on a Friday afternoon and I didn’t respond to it until 8pm that night. I then followed up on Monday morning. She responded that she had booked the first person who had responded to her on Friday afternoon. I immediately was “nay nay”. So basically what that translated to was she didn’t value our services. She didn’t actually care about who did the wedding. She needed a body to fill the position. That is not your ideal client. Don’t worry about missing the ball. Your right clients will come to you.
Think about it! If I had responded right away, was on the phone with her right away… I’m setting the expectation that I am available all the time.
Lauren: No thanks.
Tiffany: For the last twelve days we’ve had snow, I’ve only had power for four of them. I’ve been taking phone calls in my car because I have a hotspot. But I had to set boundaries with my clients. We had no power, my basement was flooded. And I had one potential client text me and said “I got your auto reply saying you are without power and might be a bit of a delayed response, so I’m texting you to see if you can take a call right now?” This is a potential new client. BYE!
If they Facebook message you, Twitter DM you, Instagram message… reply with an email! Say “I got your message, to keep everything straight I reply through email. All of my communication works like this. I am in the office for X, Y, Z… let me know when works for you”.
When I was an early planner maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I would’ve been so hungry for business I would’ve said “absolutely, let me bend over backwards to be able to call you”. And I ended up reaching out to him later on and he is a really sweet dude. Very excited about his wedding, but I had to set boundaries. He respected them 100%! So don’t be afraid to set expectations either. We teach out clients how to treat us.
Lauren: I find more times than it should, vendors fail to set expectations and boundaries because… 1) they aren’t confident enough of themselves and 2) they don’t want to piss anybody off. That is only going to hurt you, because then when they are texting you at 11:30pm you can’t get pissed at them. You didn’t set up your boundaries. If someone gets offended because you can’t reply at all hours of the night, that is on them.
Tiffany: A lot of us are so afraid to set boundaries and we are the ones who suffer. Clients are fine with you setting boundaries! They are fine with it! And if they aren’t… they are not your ideal client. That is okay. Quality over quantity.
I don’t want anyone to think that Lauren and I are poo-pooing on decisions you’ve made because you’re not as experienced. We’ve made these mistakes too. I fell on my face a bunch. I did a bunch of thigns I thought that were right at the time. You just need to learn how to filter all the stuff out to figure out what you need to do.
Lauren: Stay in your lane! One question I get all the time is
“How do I get new clients? How can I appeal to new clients? Should I be using Facebook Ads?”
If you are just starting out in the industry and you do not have money to be throwing around like toilet paper… Even people that have been in the industry for a long time but they have strict marketing budgets set and they are successful. The main reason why they are still successful and how they have been able to get their name out there is because of referrals and SEO.
The millennial bride hops on google and has to do a quick search, are you gonna come up? If you don’t know what youa redoing with SEO you need to either hire someone to do it for you or learn it yourself. Take a course!
Tiffany: I’m going to take that one step further. This is a mistake I see a lot of new people make. Get your business set up to take a client. Instead of investing your money in Facebook ads, wait until you have a contract. Not one that you go offline. But one you sat down with a business lawyer and fully understand. You need to get your standard operating procedures together… get your shit in order before you take a client. I do hope when people do get excited and jump into the industry, they take it seriously.
In my contact at Detailed Engagements it says our clients will not work with a vendor that does not have a contract or licensures associated with their craft. Now not everyone needs a license to do what they need to do, but they might need permits. Get your stuff in order first! I cannot tell you all enough how many new people I’ve seen come into this industry and I start asking them about contracts and insurance and they look at me like I have no idea what I’m talking about. A contract does not just protect your clients, it protects you. You should have a qualified business attorney make that contract for you and put it together. I spent $1,200 into a revision for a contract I had made. It is a business expense too so it is not just throwing away money. You have to understand your contract. Understand what these terms mean. Invest in yourself first before using advertisements and paying for marketing.
Lauren: I can already tell we are going to have people say “well how do I know I’m going to even get any clients? I don’t want to drop all this money on something that isn’t going to pan out”.
Tiffany: Why did you start this business? Why did you decide one day you were going to do X Y Z? Because you love your craft. Invest in yourself. Believe in yourself. If you get too far ahead of yourself and you get 20 clients because you dropped your prices too low and you are overwhelmed and things are moving too fast. Now you don’t have a contract for when a client says you are not doing such a great job. You have to get this stuff in line.
How do you get a new client? Get into your wedding community. If it costs you $300 a month to advertise on wedding wire, don’t do it. Take that $300 and get coffee with 50 different vendors. Talk to people. Go to other vendors in the industry, bring them coffee, bring them chocolates. Don’t harass them, don’t just show up. But get in front of them. Be a real human. Don’t fake it. Show them what you got. “Hey can I have ten minutes of your time? I know you are really busy. I am expanding my business, I’m taking it to the next level, and I would love for you to think of me for your new clients”.
Get in front of the people who are working with clients already. It will help.
Lauren: I recently heard a story from another client of mine. She has a very good friend in her niche and she was sending $1,600 a month on Wedding Wire. That is a mortgage payment. Please don’t do that to yourself. A) you are going to get the clients who are price shopping anyway. B) Take $200 of that go invest in the SEO course on the website, use the post weddingbosslife, you will set yourself up for success without having to pay $1,600 a month!
Tiffany: I do not spend a penny on wedding wire or the knot for my business. I do not spend a penny in advertising right now. I don’t. I can’t explain it to you… I’ve don’t it a couple of times, maybe 6 months here 6 months here because I’m doing the wrong thing. It never turned out. There was no return in investment. When I realized it was time for me to get involved in my community, it returned an investment like crazy. And I grew and amazing network!
Lauren: One of the best I’ve ever seen.
Tiffany: I am so lucky to be a part of this network, but I couldn’t have done it without getting in front of people and talking to them. Eventually the right doors open and I was okay. That is why now I will take phone calls and emails. I want to help other people the way others helped me.
Lauren: We have another question!
“What are your biggest challenge as a pro?”
Tiffany: Biggest challenge as a pro… two! Feeling like I was a fraud. Feeling like I was still that little kid that was hustling to try to get there. But when I dug deep and really peeled the layers back, it was because I realized I was still working really hard. I was humble about the way I was. I felt like I was not good enough or I wasn’t “there yet”. I was setting those expectations.
I realized I was making those fear based decisions and assumptions. I’m not cocky, but I work my butt off. I love what I do. I love my clients. I give 110% to them. That was a big one.
The second struggle as a pro, the higher you climb the more people who are at the bottom of your ladder trying to make it fall over. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, but I’ve been doing me and I’m fortunate with the direction it has taken. Sometimes it brings about the not so nice people. Stay true to you and what is good for you.
Lauren: Let’s do another question.
“Did either of you have a mentor when starting?”
Tiffany: I did. My mentor kind of went in a different direction than I did as I grew in my business. It can be someone you look up to or someone you learn from. I recently old my mentor that she was my mentor and she had no idea.
Lauren: I never had a mentor. But here is the thing… If I could go back and do it over would I? To get here? No. Because I needed to go through what I went through and learn the way I learned it because I wouldn’t be a mentor myself for people.
What I can’t handle is when people claim to be business mentors or coaches and yet have no idea what the person actually does. It can be in any industry! You have to find someone you jive with.
Tiffany: My mentor came into my life because I think she was meant to be someone who was a solid foundation for me. I wasn’t looking for one. Again, do we have similar paths and career? No, but looking back on it now I didn’t realize the experience I was getting from her.
A mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who is in your position. It can be any facet.
Lauren: Let me re-frame this. The way I started I was a studio manager for a wedding photographer in Boston. She was also my bestfriend. I learned… I got my start in the industry on my own because I was running the business for her. I taught myself but I had the influence and the handholding from her.
Would I have liked a mentor? Yes! I spent many many hours of my life that I won’t be able to get back with my kids! Trying to learn it, so I can push the business forward. That is why I give so much now.
Tiffany: Back when we first started, no one was having these conversations. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors. There were a couple of schools you could do online courses with. And books you could fill out. But we wouldn’t be having conversations like this 6 years ago.
We have had things we have had to learn our way through, that is why we are here now. It does us now good if we can’t spread the word through our industry. We are de-valuing our industry if we can’t build people up.
Lauren: I want to ask you a question Tiffany…
“What has been the best business investment you have ever made?”
Tiffany: That is a tough one. I’ve made a few bad ones! For me personally, my office is a very good business investment. Having a physical space outside of my house has been a great business investment for me. Having a space that is work. The difference between work and home. I know not everyone can do this. I couldn’t do it for years. But ever since I moved out, its been great. It has been a scary investment, but a great one for me.
Lauren: That is awesome!
Tiffany: Don’t beat yourself up if you are not there yet. I wasn’t either! I was talking with a client and she was commenting how I talk freely and don’t have a script. And I told her that she couldn’t compare herself to me. Give yourself a break! Own your craft! Invest in yourself.
The office is my first best investment, but my contract was probably my second. A dedicated website and email address. Pay for it. Do not send me an email asking me to refer you to clients if you have an @gmail account. I don’t know if I can take you seriously.
Lauren: You ideal clients probably won’t take you seriously.
I did not have the kind of resources I felt I could invest in a whole lot. I was also so cautious. I think my best investment thus far… I paid for a three hour business deep dive with a psychic. That hands down I started to see immediate growth right after. It wasn’t even actual tips or things I needed to start doing. It was my won mindset and stuff I had been carrying around for so long. The psychic could immediately see it. That was an investment.
Tiffany: Isn’t it interesting we both answered the same question and we had very different responses. That goes to show you need to make an investment that is good for you. You need to do the contracts and basic business stuff down, but other than that you need to go with your gut. What works for me, what works for Lauren may not work for you.
I wanted to talk about not copying someone else. Finding your own path. Being your own person. Finding your voice. I am telling you… there is that voice in all of us. It tells you what you should be doing. It is just drowned out by all this basic shit that you have turned up way too loud. For too many years I didn’t make a huge business moves. I was too afraid. I still worked a side job. It was hard. The second I made the decision to jump off my fulltime job and do this full time… it was so scary. But I was able to let my fears go. I had to listen to that voice that was telling me I could do it! The other voice telling me I was a failure went away.
Lauren: If you let fear and worry dictate that conversation the you are only going to create more of that. You aren’t going to see the results you want because you aren’t open to receiving them. You shut that door.
We do have another question…
“Do you have any advice on hiring independent contractors or permanent employees for your small business? How did you decide fair pay for them?”
Tiffany: That is when you have that amazing business lawyer that is on your side. You can get a business lawyer when good stuff is happening, not just when it is a bad situation. Know the employment laws of your state. Personally I won’t even get into giving advice here because it is not in my wheelhouse. You need to contact local business lawyers who knows about employment law in your state. It is different to NH, ME, AZ… it doesn’t matter. Talk to yoru accountant. Figure out what those laws are before you make a move.
Lauren: Very similar thread, but I did a lot of research myself. I found sage Wedding Pros. She is amazing! She has created essentially employee handbook. It breaks it down as to what subcontractor will look like vs an employee. It was about $150. I thought I wanted to grow and expand. But then I realized I still had questions. I noticed on Sage Wedding Pros will do consult calls. I went into that conversation with all my questions and nailed them all out. I had every single answer I needed and I was able to move forward.
Here is the funny twist of events here. Instead of taking all that advice and putting it to use… it took me spending probably close to spending $600 to realize I hated planning. I didn’t want to grow my business! But it took me taking those steps to find my true calling now. You can view it as a mistake, poor judgement… but if I had never done that I would probably still be doing planning actively and burnt out. I did that all in December, Wedding Boss Life was born in February. One year later! We are here!
Tiffany: That is awesome and really good advice. Sometimes you have to figure things out to figure out what isn’t going to work too. Educate yourself!
I don’t think that was a mistake, that was your path. That was what you were supposed to be doing. You gained a bunch of knowledge! When you align yourself with these professionals and gain knowledge, you are going to be a success no matter where you go in life.
Lauren: That is true for everybody!
I hope all of this was helpful! We love your questions, so please reach out. Have a fantastic rest of your day and week!
Tiffany: Cheers to the sun being out!