This week, we are dedicating our posts to the new people in the wedding industry. I often find myself in the middle of something thinking, “Sheesh! I wish I woulda known that when I started.” This week industry professionals will share with us 10 lessons for new florists, new invite designers, new wedding planners, and new photographers. Most of these tips will be helpful for any trade within the wedding industry, so take note!
I always love talking with invite designers. Being one myself, I feel a kinship connection. Reading through Heidi’s list of 10 lessons, I smiled. I even learned a few things that hadn’t occurred to me. Just goes to show, you can always learn something new. Thanks Heidi!
10 lessons for new invitation designers…
by Heidi Bartlett
idieh design, Phoenix AZ
4 years in the biz
1. Create a Brand
Create a brand that represents you and your design style. Think about how you will apply the brand across the board in regards to packaging, marketing materials, website, business collateral, etc. Your brand can always be refined down the road, but really focus on finding the essence of your brand upfront.
2. Network, Network, Network
Don’t be afraid to get out there and build relationships. And don’t only focus on other invitation designers. No matter what their expertise, others who own their own business are chalk full of advice and lessons to learn from. Don’t look at networking for a way of making money or finding more business, but as a way to connect and learn from others who have been through similar experiences, which will, in turn, help your business grow. Remember though, they aren’t there to give you all the answers. You have to put in the hard work to find the answers on your own, but they might help lead you in the right direction. (Create an account on Twitter now! Start building invaluable relationships with people you would originally never had a chance to interact with.)
3. Know Your Client
Create an initial questionnaire that asks questions to help you understand your potential client’s personality and style. What do they want the correspondence to communicate? What feeling / tone do they want to convey with their invitations? The better you understand your client, the better you are able to bring their uniqueness into the design (assuming you do custom work). Isn’t that what it’s all about!
4. Create a Timeline
I can’t stress enough about the importance of a timeline. This allows for clients to see, and hopefully value, the design process. By listing out each step of the process, the client will see what is expected of them as well as what they should expect of you. The timeline keeps both you and your client on track. Remember: Brides likely don’t know or understand the invitation and design process. The timeline is a starting point of helping them to understand.
5. Find Paper Suppliers
Research to find options for paper suppliers you can turn to for wholesale pricing, bulk ordering, etc. Look into both local and national suppliers. One nationally recognized brand that focuses more on correspondence & stationery is Envelopments, but also consider talking to your local printers to see what stocks they offer. Many times, printers are more than happy to get paper samples for you as well as swatch books. Some paper brands to consider are Neenah, Mohawk, Domtar, Wausau and that is just a few of MANY options out there. (Note: Some suppliers require a fee to become a dealer of their product.)
6. Find a Printing Company
This isn’t about finding just a printing company (there are plenty out there), but finding a high-quality and reliable printer. I’ll be honest. This might take MANY trials and tribulations before you find an answer to this one. I would bet money that you will have issues with the printers cutting your stock wrong, printing on the wrong paper, and those are just a few of the setbacks that could occur. Keep this in mind when creating your timeline and make sure to allow for hiccups during the printing process.
7. Become Friends with the Post Office
The post office and I have a love/hate relationship. Sometimes, I think they are the devil, while other times we are BFFs. The best advice I can give is to find a branch you consistently use and that has FRIENDLY people on staff. (This might be harder than you think!) Also, try to avoid going to the branch during lunchtime or right after work, which seems to be their busiest times of day. In terms of design, always take into consideration the USPS regulations (i.e. postcard sizes) when designing, and remember, standard postage ($.44) will not be enough for most invites. Based on weight and size, most invitations will need additional postage. Therefore, be sure to make your client aware of these often “forgotten” additional costs upfront during the initial consult.
8. Create a Blog
I’ll admit, I’m a newcomer to this as well. My blog definitely is a work in progress, but this is one tip I feel you MUST implement to stay competitive in the industry. Here are a few (of MANY) reasons to start a blog: It allows you to display your current projects without having to wait to post them to your website. You can give advice and tips to inform readers, therefore exhibiting your expertise in your field. It allows readers to get a sense of who you are on a more personal level as you develop your blogging voice. It creates another way for potential clients to find you while searching on the web. And there are many, many more benefits. In other words, just do it. Blogger and WordPress are a couple sites to check out to begin creating your blog.
9. Develop a Pricing Strategy
Create a standard pricing strategy that will give you a starting point when pricing each project. Some questions to think about are: How will you charge for custom work? Will you offer packages? Will you have pre-existing designs that clients can choose from? What’s included in your price (assembly, addressing, stamping, sealing, delivery, etc)?
10. Be Patient
Don’t expect to make money overnight. It takes time to establish yourself and your brand. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. With hard work, dedication, and passion your dream can become a reality.