This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.
When you first hang out your shingle as a new business in the wedding industry, nothing is more exhilarating than signing clients. Signed contracts equal more than just money; they also equal validation. Someone out there sees what you’re offering, and sees the value in it. They see the value in you.
Ironically, many new business owners – and even some established ones – miss the most important part of what I just wrote: value. Eager to attract clients and booking dates, they fall into the “pricing trap” where they under-price themselves to make sales that fill their calendar. They’re playing a numbers game, realizing that low prices attract more people.
The sad fact is, except for a few low-end, volume-based companies, no small business owner wins at the numbers game. Clients who book based solely on price will never truly value your service or product. Below are a few reasons why the “pricing trap” can be damaging for new wedding businesses:
- Pricing yourself too low attracts clients who only care about price. Ideally, we all want to work with clients who are eager to use our service or product and believe our pricing is fair and worthwhile. When what we’re selling isn’t actually important to a client, that client’s only going to be looking at the bottom line, nitpicking everything along the way. If you’re a florist working with a couple who claims to not care at all about flowers, lowering your price isn’t going to raise the value in their minds.
- Pricing yourself too low sets a precedent that’s hard to change later. When you enter the market as a “budget-friendly” business, you need to be absolutely sure that that’s how you wish to market yourself. It may be tempting to keep your rates low when you first start out, but it can cause problems if you want potential clients to see you as a high-end company later. Online reviews, word-of-mouth among engaged couples and industry gossip can make it difficult to remake your image.
- Pricing yourself too low is damaging to the market as a whole. Every good Pro I know is striving to run his or her business profitably. They’re all striving to avoid the hagglers and tire-kickers and defy the myth that the wedding industry is a predatory machine out to take clients’ money. Those companies who undercut their competitors and make the wedding industry all about price only make it that much harder for other businesses to operate with integrity.
- Pricing yourself too low causes you to resent your clients and hate your work. This, to me, is possibly the saddest consequence of falling into the pricing trap. Most of us started our own business to do what we love and experience a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Slaving away on low-dollar contracts, for clients who don’t see the value in what we do, is the fastest route I can think of to misery.
Setting a fair price, one that reflects your talent and provides a living, can feel risky when you’re just starting out. The risk is worthwhile, though, when you consider that you won’t always be a new business. A parenting book I once read offered the sage advice, “Start as you wish to go on.” The author was referring to setting routines for your children that you could continue to live with for the long haul, but I think it’s appropriate in this instance as well.
You’ll have a much easier time (and greater satisfaction) getting through the early stages of your business if your pricing is sound. And you’ll be grateful you’re not buried under unprofitable contracts and an image of being low-end!