Once you’ve decided on a legal structure for your wedding business and have brainstormed about your vision for the business, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of setting up shop and creating a professional look for yourself. The following ten items should be top priority as you get set up but you certainly don’t have to do all of them at once.
We’ll cover the topic of setting up a business website and driving traffic to it in a future series of articles as this is a rather large subject, but suffice it to say here that having a website for your website is more critical than ever before. Or to put it another way, not having an online presence for your wedding business will leave prospective clients wondering why you don’t and turning to your competition’s websites for the services they need.
Fortunately, setting up shop online is easier than it’s ever been and you don’t need a lot of technical know-how to create a basic website. If you don’t yet have a website and still want to start booking weddings right away, you may want to at least have a Facebook page for your business so that clients can reach you and interact with you there. We’ll cover Facebook and other social media marketing in more depth in an upcoming article as well.
Second only to a website are business cards. Actually, these little gems are important enough that you should have some on you at all times—both while working a wedding job as well as when you’re simply out and about. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who’s either planning a wedding or knows someone who is!
If you can’t afford to hire a designer to do all of your business stationery and cards, don’t worry. There are some great online services that offer an affordable way to design and order business cards and just about every other kind of business stationery simply by choosing a template and design that you like and customizing it with your contact information.
A few of the services we like are:
In “the old days” (actually, it wasn’t that long ago!) it was expensive and sometimes cumbersome to order a dedicated phone line for your business through the local phone company. Business phone packages are typically more expensive than personal lines, and a technician would have to physically install new wiring in your home or office space if a second physical line didn’t already exist.
But thanks to the internet, you can actually get a business phone number for free nowadays, and simply forward the calls to your cell phone, home phone, work phone—or all of the above. Since you can record a voicemail message specifically for your wedding business on your new number, callers will never know that what they are calling is actually your cell phone.
Our favorite service for free business phone numbers is Google Voice:
One of the nice features of this service is that you can choose to have your phone handset or cell phone display your business number instead of the caller ID of the person who’s calling you. That way, you’ll always know when you should answer the phone as a business rather than a personal call, for example: “Hello, this is Mark from City DJs…How may I help you?” rather than just “Hello?”
Just as there are online alternatives for phone lines, there are also online fax services available as an alternative to purchasing a dedicated fax machine and separate phone line.
Similar to Google Voice, these services provide a phone number for you to use as your own business fax number which you can print on business cards, contracts, etc. When you send a fax, you do so via email or through a web interface—and the online service automatically sends it to the fax number you specify. Similarly, your clients can fax documents to you via the fax number provided to you, and you’ll receive their fax in your email inbox or in the web interface. Faxes can then be printed, forwarded, etc.
Although there is some cost involved in most online fax services (typically a small monthly fee), the convenience of not having to set up and maintain a separate phone line and deal with ink and paper costs often outweighs the cost.
Here are a few of the more popular fax services:
These days, it should go without saying that a computer is a must. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; you might even check out Costco or another warehouse club to find some of the best deals going for computers. For some professions such as photography or videography, you may require more graphics processing capability in a computer, but for most others, a standard PC or Mac desktop or laptop should more than suffice for your business needs.
Also, make sure that you have good anti-virus software installed – the time it takes to remove a virus from your computer is far worse than taking the time to make sure you are properly protected from these threats.
There are some excellent free utilities out there for antivirus protection as well as protection against spyware and other threats, including:
If you are connected to the Internet via a high-speed line or Wi-Fi connection, you should also have either a router or firewall software installed to protect your computer from hackers potentially being able to access your network.
external hard drive
You must back up your data on a regular basis, either daily or weekly. External hard drives are very affordable now – and simple to install (it’s usually just a matter of plugging it in to your USB or firewire port on your computer, and it’s ready to go!) Don’t take any risks here – it’s not worth losing all of your painstaking work, not to mention important client files, contracts, etc.
If you’d prefer to save the cost of a physical hard drive, some excellent online options that offer quite a bit of free storage space in the cloud include:
There are a few different options for getting an internet connection into your home or office. Cable or DSL lines are the most popular nowadays, and can be ordered through your local cable or phone provider (chances are, you already have an internet connection as part of your cable TV or phone package.)
When you sign up for internet service, your service provider will most likely supply you with a CD-ROM that will take you through the set up process and connect you to the Internet. The software on the CD will also likely include a web browser so that you can surf the web (if you don’t already have one installed on your computer), and email software so that you can send, receive and organize your mail.
You can download any of the current popular web browsers for free here:
Internet Explorer: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/download-ie
If you want to send professional-looking correspondence, you should have a laser printer. Like other home-office equipment, a good laser printer is more affordable than you may think.
Tip: If you are considering buying a physical fax machine and/or a copier/scanner for your business, you may want to look into an all-in-one machine that handles laser printing, faxing, copying and scanning. Check your local office supply store’s weekly flyer for the best deals, or look for one at a local warehouse club.
Some vendors also invest in an inexpensive color printer to print out color CD-ROM labels and other materials for clients. If you anticipate needing to print out color information, it is a worthwhile investment. You may even get one for free just for buying a new computer!
Depending on how complex your accounting needs may be, you may want to consider investing in some accounting software such as Intuit’s QuickBooks. This is not essential right off the bat, but can be helpful particularly with bookkeeping if you will have employees working for you, either now or in the future. QuickBooks also helps you with printing out or emailing professional-looking invoices to your clients.
Tip: At a more basic level, Intuit’s Quicken line of products can help you separate personal finances from business activities—and come tax time, transferring your income and expenses from Quicken over to TurboTax is as simple as hitting a button; a huge time-saver!
word processing software
Some form of Microsoft Office is preinstalled on most PCs nowadays and includes Word, one of the mostly widely used and recognized applications for word processing today. If you are sending any kind of hard-copy correspondence to your clients, a word processor is a must. Mac users will likely also have a basic office suite available as part of a new computer, but may want to consider investing in the industry-standard Microsoft Word as well.
Another option to purchasing Microsoft Office or Word is Google Docs—word processing, spreadsheet creation and other apps are available in this free online suite. The nice thing is that in addition to being able to collaborate with others on the same document, your files are stored in the cloud—so no matter where you are, you’ll always be able to access them from a web browser (even on your phone.)
Wedding planners, officiants and other service providers offering checklists or planning spreadsheets to clients can take advantage of collaborating on a Google doc—simply click on “Share” from any document, and enter your client’s email address to invite them to edit or view the file. (You can choose “Can edit”, “Can comment” or “Can view” on any shared file, depending on your particular needs.)