Life happens. Whether it’s illness, marital problems, aging parents or prodigal children, personal problems can cut us off at the knees and throw a wrench in our business. When we work for someone else, we often have systems in place for dealing with crises – sick leave, family leave and co-workers who pick up the slack. When we run our own business, we have to keep going.
My family has been through years of grief and stress, caused by a prodigal daughter. Two years ago, we went through a particularly dark period.
I became frustrated with couples who procrastinated and seemed to care less about their wedding being a success than I did. I wanted to scream, “My family is falling apart, and you can’t even choose a first dance song????”
When you want to scream at your clients, adjustments are definitely in order. I decided it was time for me to pivot and use my wedding planning experience to help other wedding planners, rather than continue planning weddings.
Most of the years that I worked as a wedding planner were shadowed by my daughter’s waywardness. I woke up every morning hoping for a good day, but never knowing when I’d be ambushed by someone else’s poor decisions.
Following, are some tips I learned in order to keep both my sanity and business intact:
Take Care of Yourself
Take care of yourself first. Sure, this sounds like a cliché, but as caregivers (and what mom or wedding planner isn’t a caregiver,) we tend to take care of everyone but ourselves. It may not be realistic to exercise everyday but do what you can when you can. A 15 minute walk can relieve stress and fuel creativity.
It may not be feasible to cook healthy meals every day, but eat the best you can. A sandwich at home is better than fast food.
Try to get on a regular sleep schedule. Some people cope with grief by sleeping too much, while others struggle with insomnia. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time each morning can help with both.
Level with Your Clients
Be honest with your couples. I’m a “keep your chin up” private person, so the first time I had a crisis during a wedding week, I didn’t tell the bride. I knew my assistant and I could pull it off, and I didn’t want to cause undue stress for the bride. However, I have to admit that a last-minute calamity left me less than prepared for our final meeting. I didn’t have time to review all the details before the meeting, and ended up asking questions about details that had already been decided.
While I thought I was darn near Wonder Woman to pull off the wedding with all I had going on, the bride didn’t necessarily agree. She pointed out in her review that even though we were on top of the wedding day, the final meeting left her concerned that I didn’t seem to remember the plans. Ouch.
My intention had been to spare her stress, but I actually created stress by not explaining why I wasn’t fully prepared for the final meeting. In retrospect, it would have been much better to explain that I had a last-minute family emergency while reassuring her that a plan was in place for her wedding day.
If your wedding planning income pays the basic bills, you have no choice but to keep going and keep working. However, focus on tasks that keep your business afloat and bring in the money. You’ll need to continue marketing and wedding planning, but how can you do it more efficiently?
If your income pads the family budget, you have more wriggle room. Cut back as much as you need to or can afford to. If you can let something go, let it go.
This is a good time to make sure your contracts cover you if you’re unable to make a wedding. Does it allow wriggle room for you to provide someone else if you’re unable to make it, due to illness or a family crisis? If not, make changes now, so you’re protected going forward.
Even if you’re a lone wolf in your business, you may need help in times of crisis. This is why it’s so important to have systems in place, so someone can step in for us and carry out our business the way we want it. Systems seem overwhelming to creatives, but a system is merely a checklist of all the steps it takes to complete a task.
When you’re in crisis and struggling to get it all done, is probably not the best time to create systems. It’s best to do it before they’re needed. If you’re reading this article and NOT in a time of crisis, make time to create systems now.
With systems in place, you can call on wedding day assistants, fellow planners or possibly even friends and family members to step in and help.
Without systems, we all know it’s easier to do it yourself than tell someone else what to do, and then you’re right back where you started.
Grief and stress affect short-term memory, so make notes about everything. Our clients depend on us to remember details, and we can’t afford to drop the ball on their big day.
If you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, you have a double whammy, so I can’t stress this one enough. Write. Down. Everything.
Do What’s Right for You
While I chose to pivot and mentor other wedding planners, that’s not the best choice for everyone. I have a dear friend and colleague in a situation very similar to mine. She continues planning weddings because it helps her escape from her day-to-day reality.
Several years ago, my father died suddenly while I was planning a regional wedding planner conference. I was overcome with grief at the time, but the conference served as a form of therapy by giving me something other than loss to focus on.
How grief affects your business will depend on you, the depth and cause of your grief and where you are in your business journey. It’s totally your call whether to pull back, push forward, pull out or pivot.
Have you experienced a time of grief while running your business? In the comments section, share how it affected your business, either temporarily or permanently.