Every step in your professional journey presents its own unique set of challenges. When you first get started, finding clients and securing contracts is the hard part. Once you get going, however, it's staying on top of everything and efficient that becomes the hard part! In order to help you tackle the challenges that come along with growing your business, we're sharing our top 5 tips for maximizing your workflow below. Read on—and start making plans for all of that extra free time you'll have on your ever-efficient hands:
1. Templates and Tools.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: template any task you perform more than twice! This includes your initial inquiry emails, reminders, confirmation emails and so much more. Sure, every wedding or event we plan is unique—but so much of the backend work is similar or, in many cases, the same. Having these foundational processes setup as templates will save you a ton of time in the long run.
We LOVE using Aisle Planner and Honeybook for our workflow. These two tools allow us to streamline every single stage of planning, without having to reinvent the wheel each time around. The best time you will ever spend is in the backend in the templates section. The time I spent perfecting our templates (TIMELINE, BUDGET, NOTES, etc.) ended up being an amazing investment—it ensured that each project we created for every new client was consistent with our business processes and also allowed our large planning team to seamlessly follow the same processes, ensuring that our entire team was working from the same, streamlined templates. Hello, time saver.
LVL TIP: Think about all of the questions you get asked or all of the last-minute items you need to get from your clients. Create a note template to save yourself from having to type these things out every single time they come up with clients. You can thank me later! ;) Oh and if you click on the Honeybook link above you will get 50% off, how about that!!
2. Get Organized.
There was a time where a day planner and a note pad worked for wedding planning. Unfortunately, that pen-and-paper process went out the window years ago. Google Drive, Google Calendar and Dropbox have all completely changed my organizational game. Paired with Aisle Planner, I can easily map out my schedule and weddings months ahead of time—allowing me to see what's coming up in the near future and stay on top of tasks.
I also recommend getting list crazy. Create a workflow or running task list for each client, a list for your business to-do's, one for marketing tasks and one for personal tasks. Then, try blocking off parts of your week (8-10 a.m. every Tuesday, for example) and dedicating this time to one of your lists. By making this a habit and training your brain to focus on certain task lists at scheduled times, your productivity, efficiency and, ultimately, work/life balance will improve.
LVL TIP: The simplest—yet most important—thing I ever learned about mapping out my schedule and workflow is this: block off one hour after every single client meeting. Use this time to send a detailed recap to your clients. Then, copy that recap into your notes section in Aisle Planner and—ta da!—you have a next-steps to-do list. Then, send off all the emails you can in the remaining time to quickly move through that list. Doing this when the client's details are fresh in your mind makes staying on top of things so much easier.
3. Phone Appointments.
The most efficient business practice we've implemented—hands down—is what we call phone appointments. First off, calling them phone appointments instead of phone calls instantly changes the way potential and booked clients view your time. They learn to look at the time as a meeting—rather than just a conversation—which helps them use their (and your) time more responsibly.
We implemented phone appointments because we realized one key thing about the planning industry: most planners meet too often. Yep, I said it. More than likely, you're meeting in person more than you need to. If your clients are not full-service planning, much of the planning process (especially those tasks that don't involve other vendors) is more efficiently planned via phone appointments. This not only saves you time, but it saves your clients' time as well—which is after all, a key part of your job.
4. Clearly Communicate.
Spell it out. Repeat yourself and then say it again. Use the clearest terms and language you can—avoid industry jargon. As planners who've tackled more than one super stunning rodeo, we tend to forget that it's our clients' first time doing this. They don't know how the process should run, when certain tasks should be completed or even what their overall role should be—that's why they hired you.
LVL TIP: I recommend rereading every single email you draft before clicking send, and asking yourself if it would make sense to you if you'd never planned a single wedding. Look for opportunities where you can better explain the how-and-why behind certain tasks, as well as opportunities to clearly outline what they should expect (so that they are no last-minute surprises). The more clearly your communicate, the better your overall client experience will be.
5. Map Out Your Breaks.
Wedding planning is no joke—we're tasked with planning, organizing and executing the most important, emotionally-charged day of a person's life, after all, which often means working when we should be sleeping and going years without a proper vacation. In fact, if you were to ask me when I last had a day off in the thick of wedding season, I can promise you I would either laugh or cry—either way, hysterically.
My best advice to avoid a this-job-is-swallowing-my-life-whole! breakdown is to schedule your breaks. I'll say it again: Schedule. Your. Breaks. Whether it's penciling a 10-minute fresh-air walk into your daily schedule, or scheduling an unplugged vacation once every sixth months, if you don't force yourself to break, you never will. This is coming from someone with decades of experience learning the hard way. I have a tendency to put my work, clients and business first, which, in the long run, only served to take a toll on my health, my relationships and—here's the real kicker—my work!
In the end, I've learned that schdueling time to sleep in, work out, meal prep, watch the sunset, read a book, have dinner with friends and celebrate the holidays with family are far more valuable than getting everything done. And, when all is said and done, it's these things in our personal lives that help us stay sane and on top of it in our professional ones!