» How Photography and the Wedding Industry have Evolved Since Full Marriage Equality

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

The aspect I enjoy most about my work is having the chance to talk with wedding professionals about the work they do. Though we often talk about same-sex couples, trends and marketing practices, I absolutely love learning more about the specific talents and “tricks of the trade” of those who work with couples every day.

wedding-photography-marriage-equalityIn this spirit, four years ago, I fielded a phone call from New Hampshire-based photographer Thea Dodds. And that phone call turned into a coffee and a two-day exchange of ideas and professional experience. The end result was our self-published title, Capturing Love, which went on to be published as The New Art of Capturing Love by Amphoto Books in 2014.

The collaboration was meaningful for both of us and I came to understand more about wedding photography — and the challenge of producing beautiful, meaningful and personal images — than I had ever imagined I might.

I decided it was time for us to catch up — and this time on the record. I wanted to know how writing the book and being on tour teaching same-sex wedding photography in the industry has impacted her perspective.

Here’s what she had to say:

It’s been 4 years since we first sat down to produce and publish Capturing Love. How has the experience impacted your approach to wedding photography and couples portraiture?

Four years! That is hard to believe! When we first starting writing this book we could count the number of marriage equality states on one hand. So much has changed in four years.  Co-authoring Capturing Love has changed me, too, both in my business and my personal life.  I’ve learned so much from working with you, my clients, and our contributing photographers, that it’s hard to know where to start.

Overall, I’d say that Capturing Love has helped me connect with my clients more authentically. In a large part, I’m able to do this because I’m more conscious of the assumptions I bring to the table. I also have inclusive language that invites people to share who they are. And all of this blends right into my personal life because this work is really about being a better person.  

How has it impacted your thinking as a small business owner?

Capturing Love was a wake-up call to me about how important our work is. Our photographs influence opinions so we better make sure we know what the work is saying. One of the things that drove me to this project originally was that I felt my photographs of same-sex couples looked more like pictures of siblings. Once I listened to what my work was saying, I was able to change it. Now I am concerned with underlying meanings, power relationships and diversity in my portfolio. For instance, now that I know the LGBTQ population is about 5% of the US population, I want to make sure that my portfolio reflects that. Now that I know a ‘dip photo’ communicates strength and power, I’m a little more cautious about imposing that message on a couple.  It’s not that I never do it because some couples want that iconic image, but I’m just careful that they’re not doing it just because I told them to.

What changes, if any, have you seen in the photography industry?

Change is the one thing you can count on in the world, and the photo industry is no different.  I’ve been photographing weddings for 11 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in my clientele, in industry standards and in wedding traditions, too. In the last two years, I have seen a sharp increase of interest in serving the LGBTQ community. This is truly fantastic change. It’s not every day that you get an entirely new segment of the population entering the wedding industry, so this has been a very exciting time to be a wedding photographer; but, there is still a lot of work to do.

Some photographers may have rushed into being LGBTQ-friendly while not learning how to be LGBTQ-competent. Just like we say in the book, the only way to get better at something is practice, and the one thing you never want to do at a wedding is practice. A wedding is a wedding, but there are some physical and cultural differences that impact our approach to best-serving the LGBTQ community.

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» Having the Best Year Ever? Don’t Stop Now!

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

Perhaps this was your year. The best year ever. The year where everything clicked. When you heard more yes’s than no’s. Maybe you bumped up your salary. Got an office off site. Upgraded your laptop as you simultaneously celebrated meeting your sales goals.

best-year-everIf that sounds like you, then we need to talk.  Because what I’m about to share with you needs to stick with you as you make your plans for 2017.

Don’t stop.

I get it — you didn’t get to this point because of luck. You advertised and stood on your feet for hours at wedding and events. You hit all the local networking events and took out the better part of your region for coffee. You blogged, you shared life behind the scenes on Instagram and even learned a little bit about Snapchat. It’s absolutely normal to feel like it’s time to pull back a little.

But don’t.

One of my best business lessons took place the summer after I graduated from college. I worked for the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. At the time, they were $13 billion (yes, billion) ahead of their next closest competitor. But they never stopped. They never put the brakes on promotion and innovation. And I’ve carried that lesson with me in the wedding industry ever since.

I see it far too often — a company enjoys the fruits of their labor and then decides to pull back. They see an uptick in the number of client referrals or plans to dedicate more time to social media. So they cut back on media buys and submissions or suddenly disappear from the networking circuit. It doesn’t take long before they see a dip in client and vendor referrals, and business in general. So they ramp up their marketing again — and around and around we go.

Because here’s the thing– your competitors want you to take a break. Those eager up-and-coming wedding pros just diving into the market? They’d do anything for you to not be such a permanent fixture at every association meeting and in every real wedding feature. That upgraded listing or fab booth spot you secured three years ago? I promise, that in this competitive market, someone else already has his or her eye on it.

Should the off-season be a time of reflection, where you take a good hard look at your promotional efforts? Absolutely.  But if you want to continue this era of good feeling, I’d encourage you to keep swimming. Check out these helpful past posts on business ideas and tips and get motivated for an even more successful year ahead in 2017!

» Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Website

Is your business website working hard enough for you? After all, your website is often the first impression your potential clients see for your business and plays a huge role in determining if a client is interested in working with your business or learning more about your services.

As you prepare for the new year, consider taking some time to invest in refreshing your website to stand out to newly engaged couples and book more business in 2017. These seven tips from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provide helpful ways that you can assess your site, maximize your marketing potential, and get more leads quickly. From contact form best practices, to adding testimonials and reviews, to copy writing tips, you will want to bookmark this infographic as you prepare for your next website refresh!

7waystoimproveyourwebsitebefore2017

» 10 Marketing Best Practices for 2017

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

As the year comes to a close and busy fall wedding season winds down, now is a good time to review your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Review these ten marketing tips to help keep your business on track and set-up for success in 2017!

  • 10-marketing-tipsKeep your brand fresh. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply renewing your online listings and not making changes to the content or reviewing the design to make sure it’s modern and on brand. Take a look at your marketing materials and your advertising platforms, and consider making some small updates to refresh your branding for 2017 like adding new imagery, refreshing your logo or highlighting your social media accounts.
  • Leverage your in-person exposure. If you participate in wedding shows or local events, don’t let the competition pass you by! Make sure your booth, marketing materials and promotions are up-to-date and make a great first impression to your potential clients. Remember your presentation is not just for wedding couples, but also makes an impact on your fellow professionals who can become referrals in your network.
  • Make website updates. Websites can be like closets… businesses tend to add content, but rarely remove anything old! Set aside time to do a full vetting of your website, including all pages. Consider updating copy, adding/removing staff member information, reviewing pricing, contact forms and images of your work. A modern site will catch the eye of your prospects, and dated material will be a red flag.
  • Highlight your inquiry form: It is critical to have an inquiry page within your site so couples can easily get in touch to learn more about your services. This may be the point important element to drive your leads and sales! She this page as a prominent link and add a link or small contact form to every page within your site for added exposure. To help track your marketing success consider asking your prospects: “How did you find our site?”
  • Add testimonials to your site: Let your past clients do the selling for you! Collect and add testimonials and reviews from happy past clients, and add sound bites to all your marketing materials. Customer praise should be featured throughout your site, and make sure you add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to show off recent reviews, along with any accolades for reviews like WeddingWire Rated or Couples Choice Awards.

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» Winter Reading List for Wedding Pros

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

As the peak season winds down and you find more time on your hands, it’s important to make sure you’re carving in time for personal and business development. There is no better way to do this than to get your reading on! With that in mind, grab a mug of your favorite warm drink, pull up a blanket and get cozy with this reading list for wedding pros as the weather gets colder.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

winter-reading-listThis is my go-to book and I recommend it to virtually anyone who asks for reading suggestions. In fact, I actually gave it away at this year’s WeddingWire World! During my first few months of starting OFD, I made sure to take the time to meet some of my favorite entrepreneurs. In the process, my dear friend Nina, who owns Classic Party Rentals of Virginia (one of my favorite people ever!), told me to buy it. Seeing as I do everything she tells me, I bought it and devoured it within days.

It’s a great book on the power of relationships with the notion that “your network is your net worth.” The wedding industry may continue to change, but by all means, relationships will always be at the forefront so this is imperative. If you’re going to read only one book on this list, let it be this one!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Do you have a new idea that you’re dying to explore? Is there something you really want to get off the ground? Well, the off-season is the perfect time to map out your plan, but don’t do anything until you read this first. This book dives into the world of testing an idea and it has proven invaluable to me as I’ve contemplated the next steps of my business. This is a great read for anyone considering a pivot in their company!

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman

I’ll be honest – I’ve been a longtime fan of Peter Shankman ever since I discovered HARO. He is a customer service expert and this book is perfect for those looking to focus on developing client experience. In the wedding industry, one of the top ways that couples find their vendors is through friend referrals, so this is an incredible read to help you build a loyal fan base among your customers.

Nice Guys Finish First by Doug Sandler

We are so lucky to have Doug Sandler in the wedding industry and this book speaks to the power of kindness in the business. It’s chockful of great anecdotes from Doug’s career and truly showcases how to put systems into place to ensure the emphasis is placed on business relationships.

Get ready for a page-turning off-season! These books are both enjoyable and educational at the same time, so order your first book and get going on your off-season efforts.

» It’s Impossible to be an Expert at Everything – and that’s Okay!

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Recently, I was conducting a mastermind group the other day in the UK for 10 DJ companies, who have varying years of experience (from 5 years to almost 40 years). What stood out to me was that this group, who all have good, successful companies, each have different business skills. Their technical (computer/internet/website) expertise ranged from low to very high. That’s to be expected with any group. What I didn’t expect is that one of the companies, who’s not known for his technical expertise when it comes to websites, was chiming in to help the group with some pretty technical features of Google Analytics. Quite a few of the guys in the room, including me (as I’ve consulted with him privately), were very surprised.

It turns out that he had been studying up, using websites and YouTube videos, and had picked up a few new tricks – and I’ll have to admit, I didn’t even know one or two of them. A couple of the guys in the room are pretty skilled in making websites and knew him personally, so they were even more surprised.

The point of this story? It got me thinking that each of us has our own history, knowledge and skillset.  None of us is an expert in everything, and we shouldn’t ever assume what others may or may not know. We have our own, unique expertise that comes from the combined knowledge we’ve gleaned, and that knowledge is unique to each of us.

impossible-expert-everythingWe’re each a product of our history

Many wedding pros have transitioned into their own businesses after leaving corporate, or technical jobs. They may have deep knowledge of software such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook. While others struggle to make a basic spreadsheet, they’re knocking out detailed reports with ease. However, those same people who have no problem using Excel might struggle with other areas of their businesses (i.e. marketing, design, websites, etc.). None of us is an expert at everything. When presented with a need for our business, we always have the choice of doing something ourselves, or hiring a professional. Knowing when to choose each path is something we often have to learn by trial and error.

It’s often easier to try to learn a new skill or software program, instead of hiring someone to do that task for you, especially when funds are tight. When you realize that the time you’re investing in learning that skill is time away from building your business, or away from your family, often the right answer is to hire the professional – after all, isn’t that why we want them to hire us? If you’re new at a skill, it’s going to take time for you to master it. If it’s a skill that you can profit from, maybe it’s worth investing in the training and time. For others, hiring a professional us a jump-start to that professional level. What’s that worth to you?

When is it time to make the switch?

I realized that when I switched from doing my own taxes, to hiring a professional CPA. My dad is a retired CPA and we would do my taxes together (my degree is in marketing and accounting). However, he’s been retired for a long time (he’s 86 now), so he’s not up on the latest tax laws and software. I never practiced accounting, so even though I have a good understanding, I wasn’t up on the latest info, either. So, a few years ago I hired an accountant, and the first year he did my taxes he showed me deductions I hadn’t been taking and was able to recoup some refunds from prior years. In other words, he paid for himself the first time I used him.

Too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that because we have expertise in one area, it’s automatically transferrable to another skill. We’re comfortable with using a computer, so we think we can make our own website. We’re creative, so we think we can design our own marketing collateral. It’s understandable, especially when you consider that most of us started as, or still are, small businesses, where you, the owner, is wearing many hats. When you’re bootstrapping a new business, you usually do everything yourself. As a matter of fact, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is purported to have said (and I’m paraphrasing) “When I started my business, I knew I’d be wearing a lot of hats. I just didn’t realize I’d be wearing them all at the same time.”

Time is slipping away

An important realization, in any business, is learning to value your time. It’s the one thing you’ll never get any more of. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone to do something you do have the skill for, just because your time is better spent on other tasks. I put off hiring an assistant for a couple of years. I knew it would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense. Everything was getting done, but at what cost? The cost was my time, sitting on the sofa at night with my laptop, working, when I should have been spending time with my family, or even just relaxing.

What’s your time worth? What else could you be doing if you delegated some tasks to someone else (virtual assistant, intern, employee)? None of us is an expert at everything, no matter how long, or short, you’ve been in business. Sometimes we all need help. Becoming aware of that is the first step to accomplishing more, achieving more and profiting more.

» 10 Ways to Avoid Falling Into a Productivity Rut

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

As a busy wedding professional, it’s important to maintain your productivity throughout the day – especially during busy season! While we all strive to be as productive as possible, some days can be particularly challenging. Review these 10 easy ways to keep you from falling into a productivity rut, and instead keep your business on the fast track.

Skip the Snooze Button

Pressing the snooze button seems to provide more rest to start in the morning in the moment, but that’s not necessarily so. When you first awake, your body releases energy getting you ready for the day. Returning to sleep can slow down the process and make you want to continue to hit the snooze button. Those extra minutes in bed can quickly add up!

5 Ways to Take Time for YouNever Miss Breakfast

Getting the fuel we need doesn’t just mean sleeping well. By the time you wake up you likely haven’t eaten for 10 hours or more. The first meal of the day jump-starts your metabolism and replenishes blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar makes it harder to focus and more likely to feel tired, irritable, and impatient – which isn’t a great way to start your morning to do list! Beginning a day with a well balanced meal can help you start the day focused, energized and ready to dive into work, so breakfast should never be skipped.

 Limit Random Web Surfing

It’s not hard to get distracted finding the answer to a random notion that just appeared in your consciousness by searching online, or feeling the need to check in on your favorite social network or online sites. When you get curious about something, just write down what you would like to check on and give yourself a designated time during the day to dedicate to these items. This will keep you on task, and give you ‘free time’ to look forward to.

Avoid Multitasking

When we feel overwhelmed, it’s not uncommon to turn to multitasking. However, when you are distracted by multiple items to do, you are not really multitasking in most cases; you are ‘task switching.’ Work to focus on one thing at a time, and check it off your list when done! Don’t allow yourself to ‘bounce around’ without a plan, as you will likely not complete anything in a timely and thorough manner.

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» Wedding PR: Developing Your Speaking Platform

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

If you’re looking to expand your public relations efforts, professional speaking can be the perfect solution to increasing brand recognition and solidifying yourself as an industry leader. Oftentimes, people get excited and jump headfirst into pitching themselves; however, this can be a mistake if you haven’t put together a strategy ahead of time.

One major piece of your speaking strategy is your platform – it is essential to creating and fine-tuning your topics ahead of the actual pitching process. Ideally, your speaking platform will consist of three or four topics that you are comfortable speaking for at least 45 minutes, but even up to one and a half hours.

meghan-blog-imageSo, what topics should you cover? Good question.

First and foremost, dig deep and ask yourself what subjects you’re equally passionate about and well versed in. If you were standing in a room full of industry peers, would you be comfortable answering everything and anything about your chosen topic? Sit down and map out every topic you can think of, but don’t be too broad. Nobody wants to hear something just about wedding planning – you have to get specific with it. Expect to have a pretty overwhelming list (you do know a lot!), but don’t worry because you’ll be narrowing it down later.

Then, it’s time for research! Look at the places that you want to pitch, whether it’s a local workshop, national conference, association meeting or retreat. Review the speakers who are already booked and what kinds of topics they are covering. Your goal is to offer subject matters that are complementary to what is already there but still offer a unique perspective.

Once you’ve narrowed your topics down to the three or four best options, it’s time to put together your three main components for pitching – a catchy title, a brief description and three or four strong takeaways. Your title should be interesting without being two cutesy, with the description explaining what your speech is all about. Keep it simple at about 75 words or less. As for the takeaways, they should include actionable items that attendees will learn and walk away from your presentation with. Don’t be too anxious about expanding too much in your pitch – you’ll have much more space in your presentation to dive in deep!

As always, test the waters when pitching. If you’re finding that you’re not getting responses, it may be time to pivot your subjects. Topics are meant to evolve. For example, if you’re focusing on technology or social media, you should expect that your content would evolve quite a bit.

Create a marketing piece, like a one-pager, that really showcases you and your topics. As you’re submitting and waiting to hear back, it never hurts to take those topics and write guest articles or blog posts about them. Making efforts to project one’s self as an industry expert can be the difference in a winning pitch!

» Build a Strong Foundation Before You Expand

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Through my many years around the wedding and event industry, I’ve met lots of people who have successfully expanded their businesses, whether it’s to other services, or to other markets. The one common thread is that they already had a successful business with a strong foundation before they expanded. I’ve also run into lots of people who have tried to expand, but failed. Usually they tried too soon, or didn’t do the leg work necessary to successfully branch out.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider business expansion:

It’s a universal challenge

While speaking in India recently, a make-up artist told me that she wanted to expand to many other countries, and she’d like my advice. I loved her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. So I asked her what contacts she had in those other countries, and she had none. I asked if she had ever visited those other countries, and she had not. I told her that I appreciated her desire to grow, but that she needed to do some research about those markets first. A few things to learn are how they use make-up services, what the competitive landscape looks like, what the pricing and wedding spending are for services like hers, and other key details that will impact her success.

Are you ready to make the commitment?

Are you thinking of branching out? Countless photographers tell me that they’d love to do destination weddings in exotic places. Why? Probably because they see the photos and posts of other photographers in those places and it looks exciting. Who wouldn’t want to do that? What you don’t see, is all the work that happened leading up to the event. How did they get that wedding? What connections do they have that you don’t? What networking brought them to that connection? Was that their first destination wedding, or their 20th? You have to be prepared to take on new challenges and potentially the required additional time or resources that will affect your business.

It all looks great on social media, but that’s just part of the story

The funny thing about Instagram and Facebook posts is that they typically only show the best successes and worst failures. When you see those beautiful destination wedding images on Instagram or Facebook, you don’t get the back story. Were there any logistical issues, travel issues or safety concerns? It all looks glamorous on the surface, but you don’t hear about the mosquitos, the 16 hour flights, countless hours waiting in airports, hotel issues, or in the case of my recent trip speaking in Mexico, the 10-foot long boa constrictor snake that was outside the venue. Yeah, that’s the less glamorous part of traveling for work that you don’t see, or often hear about.

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» How to Take Home More Industry Awards

A key way to expand your business and stand out from the competition is through winning industry awards. Whether you’re a new business or a seasoned pro, earning both recent and frequent accolades, collecting stand-out client reviews, and sharing your best work is a pivotal part of your business success.

In our latest infographic, get insights from Education Expert Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting with these six helpful tips to earn more industry awards!

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For more information, watch the full webinar! All past webinars are available within your WeddingWire account under the Education tab for Premium members to view on-demand at any time.

» Highlights from Wedding MBA 2016

We had a great time at the Wedding MBA conference 2016 in Las Vegas last week! It was wonderful to connect with thousands of pros from all over the country and beyond, share some great education, and celebrate together throughout the week.

Here are some of our favorite conference highlights:

Lots of Learning

We loved getting to share some business tips, industry insights and education with you. Our team and Education Experts presented 11 times at the event — on a wide variety of topics from tech to social media to websites and more. Stay tuned for our presentations which will be emailed to attendees later this week so you can re-visit the presentations for any notes you may have missed.

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Fun at the Lounge

Thank you for stopping by the WeddingWire Lounge to say hello to the team, and grab some fun swag. We met with hundreds of pros to share account advice, set your business up for success on the site, or to collect your product feedback for future updates and improvements. We hope you enjoyed the fun surprises including the t-shirt press, the 360 photobooth and the slot machine prize give away.

louge-close-up-blog

Celebrating with Pros

It wasn’t all business and learning — there was plenty of fun and celebrations along the way! It was great to unwind after a full day at the conference Tuesday night and take in some Vegas nightlife and great music at the annual party in Hakkasan Nightclub. Plus, we loved toasting to the end of the conference and sharing all we learned along the way at the conference ending Happy Hour on Wednesday evening following the final session of the day.

busy-360-blog

Thank you again to our wonderful partners: Jason Jani of SCE Event Group for DJing our party and Happy Hour, DJ Jer Events & Lighting Design for making our Lounge pop, Promovizion for the awesome shades, and Open Air Photobooth for the photobooth fun at the party. Review the photobooth photos here!

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For more event take aways and to stay updated on all the latest WeddingWire happenings for pros, be sure to follow WeddingWireEDU on Twitter and Instagram. We hope you see you again next year!

» Helpful Tips to Avoid Digital Disasters

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

In today’s world, unfortunately there seem to be many chances for technology-related problem’s to occur – such as password compromise, information loss or spam attacks. While these issues may seem stressful, there are ways you can take simple steps to help avoid them for you and your business.

Here’s an overview of easy ways to help avoid common digital disasters:

Register Your Domain

The foundation of all-things-internet is the domain name. When you register a domain name, there are four functions associated with it.

  • Registrant – Website Owner
  • Administrator – Website Manager
  • Technical – Usually Webmaster
  • Billing – Accounting

Roles may all be held by a single person; however, it’s not recommended. It’s preferable to have at least two people with full control of your domain.

Domains are renewed annually; however, you can register them for more than one year (especially your primary domains).

Your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.) will notify you, periodically about pending expiration of a domain. The best way to prevent expiration is to link a credit card to the domain and make calendar reminders to check in on its status every so often.

Good news — even if a domain expires, there is 30-day time period to redeem your site and get it back in business.

Pro Tip: Anytime you change webmasters or other personnel on file with your domain registrar, do not forget to update it! Failure to do so can lead to domain problems.

Protect Your Hard Drive

A typical hard drive lasts about three years. The best way to protect your business and personal files and information is to replace it at or before three years to be safe. If you don’t, here are some other pre-emptive measures to keep your business running.

First, it is mandatory to have an external hard drive wired directly to your computer. If the computer has a 500 gigabyte hard drive, it would be wise to have a 1 terabyte external drive.

Second, it is wise to have a wireless backup drive, located in a different part of your home or office. As with the first backup, make sure the capacity is larger than the original computer.

Third, have an external drive backing up by broadband to the cloud. There are several popular products, such as: BackBlaze, Carbonite, and others. This final group is extremely important, especially if you are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood. There is nothing worse than permanently losing data. Saving key documents securely in the cloud is the best way to make certain it doesn’t happen to you.

Set Strong Passwords

Over the last few years hacking is on the rise. The more obvious hacks are big companies such as Target or Yahoo! among other high profile companies and groups.

Don’t think just because you are a one-person operation that you are somehow immune to such intrusion or danger. Whether talking about email, websites, credit cards or anything else, it’s time to take action and be cautious.

The best methods of self-protection are services such as 1Password.com or LastPass.com. These tools will help you generate different passwords for each of your accounts – which you should update often. With just a little effort, you won’t have the need to use the same password for multiple accounts. Plus, you won’t have to simply rely on commonly known information like the names of your dogs or family members!

Focus on Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization requires daily awareness and upkeep; SEO is not a one-time operation. When you build and launch a website, it will only be the first effort to create search engine optimization for your site. It should be monitored and updated often to establish the best performance for your business.

For those of you who use WordPress for your website or blog, one of the best tools is a plug-in, Yoast SEO. It is one of the simplest devices to recognize and apply good SEO practices – no high level of expertise required!

Protect Your Mobile Phones

The device we use most often is our cellular phone. Every year, companies such as Apple, Samsung and others make new versions of their phones – and they are not cheap — often with new models in the $750 range.

Of all the disasters striking a phone user, the worst is the immediate loss (or theft) of their phone. The shock of such a loss is quite jarring.

The iPhone has a feature (for iPhones, iPads, and computers) called FindMyiPhone. You can track down your phone, shut it off, or otherwise take it out of commission should it become compromised with your personal information accessible.

Remember, There’s No Need for Paranoia!

The best approach for safety is a good defense. Making sure you use these tactics will keep your business thriving, and prepared for unforeseen issues that may arise in the future.