How do you tackle the dreaded "What is your budget" question for your prospective clients and HOW do you attract clients with reasonable or higher budgets? Sounds like two different subjects but, believe me, they are in the same conversation as "getting paid what you're worth"!
If you are like most event planners/décor designers (or actually most small business owners of any kind), you probably started out doing events for your family, church, or organization (for free...whew). Now...you have ventured out on your own and you may be still seeing clients who bring or send loads of Pinterest pictures to the initial consult. "This is how I want my event to look"! That is a common statement/dilemma. Our next question logically should be "What is your budget"? Think carefully about how you ask that question. For my prospective clients, I have sent out pre-consult questionnaires where that question is returned blank sometimes. That's a definite red flag!
The follow-up questions from us to our clients should be "Where is your venue" and "How long would I have to setup", (The setup question is definitely a subject for a future blog...but you should always allow at least minimum of 3 - 5 hours in your contract for full event décor projects...definitely no less. These venues are offering our unknowing clients 2 hours, which is fine for minimal events...but not for most of ours.)
Pinterest is our best friend for trendy ideas and our worst enemy for unrealistic expectations from clients who have no idea how much and how long those gorgeous setups take to produce. But, when you get a client who is willing to pay for your "total experience", it is so gratifying!
We love what we do and we would probably do it for free IF we weren't actually running a business and trying to eat and feed our families! So how do we attract the clients who understand the hard work we do and are willing and able to pay!
Well...here are some tips:
Project the Best, Stylish You!
It's all about image - that professional image that projects the style you want to convey! In order to attract higher clients, you have to "play the part"! If needed, refresh your logo and marketing branding - project an impression of high quality. Take a professional style shoot of yourself/your team for your marketing and social sites. Project the style in yourself that others will feel you will reflect in their projects! Create a "bigger" you!!! I am not saying be phony...just don't be afraid to step into a whole different level of yourself and possibly outside of your comfort level! If you have prepared yourself with the right skills and training, YOU CAN DO IT!
People seemed to be drawn to larger than life figures, Don't be afraid to shine your bright light! Talk with confidence and if you need to, get more training to diversify yourself and to be more confident! Build your certifications to show larger clients you are serious about your business and can take on their larger jobs.
If costs are an issue with building your brand, just keep your overhead costs as low as possible. You don't need a big, expensive office (unless you can afford it) - go virtual! You can be professional with a virtual business address, a virtual secretary, and any other low cost items that make you "look the part"! Don't spend money on overhead business items until you have the business to fit it!
I recall an event planners' conference where event planner extraordinaire, Preston Bailey, was the key speaker. I will always remember him saying "I never take a job under $1 million. Whoa!!! He didn't start there, but he built himself to that level. Anybody looking at his work would never ask "What's your budget?" or if they did, they definitely can't afford him.
BE BOLD! BE CONFIDENT! SPEAK AND WALK WITH AUTHORITY!
Finding and Choosing Clients That Fit Your Niche
Don't be afraid to turn away a lead if it doesn't fit, otherwise you will get burnt out quickly. The lower paying client often demands more and you will feel completely drained of energy and time after working with them. If you are truly interested in growing, ask yourself during the initial consult if that client will boost your business or lead to better business or referrals.
Sometimes it is necessary to take on small projects, but don't let that be your 'niche' if you want to build your business!
Team Up with Other Event Designers/Planners
If you want to get the larger jobs, you will need more help. Network and find other planners/designers with skills that complement yours. Together, you can build packages for clients that will be profitable to all of you.
Answering "That" Question
So, you have been handed those Pinterest party dream photos. Now, that question of budget will always have to be tackled next! If you ask "What's your budget" and you can feel all of the air being sucked out of the room, don't show any reaction at all (practice your poker face)! You have two options of things to do at that moment: (1) conclude that this is not a client for you if they refuse to give you a budget or lowball you; or (2) Rephrase: "We can definitely produce what you envision! What are you willing to invest to achieve this dream event?" That question lets them know there is going to be a substantial cost. A less preferred question you could ask is "What do you think is a reasonable price to pay"...but be prepared for bartering.
The money question is absolutely necessary and without it, you should never tackle a proposal. Writing a proposal without knowing the budget creates a huge and unnecessary workload for you. You may suggest some price points to work with in developing your quote. You may have some packages or past projects available to show to give them an idea of your range in prices. When you talk, focus on your value added to their event instead of the cost of the project. With focus on value, they will not feel as if you trying to look in their bank account! Express to prospective clients and in your marketing how you can genuinely make their events better! Ensure your presentation to clients shows them that you are worth what you are charging!
Lastly, let your social media sites reflect who you are and the type of work you do! The client will know what to expect before they even call you! Get off the treadmill and start getting paid what you are worth!!!