So, you want to become a wedding stationer… ahh yes, thats whats we’re called, Stationer’s! Trés Chic!
Or maybe you’re just into lettering, calligraphy or painting and want to find a good way to earn a living from it. Wedding stationery is definitely something that can offer you that!
The Australian Wedding industry generates over $2 billion annually with the average wedding costing around $35,000. So there’s clearly enough revenue in this industry to forge a lasting career out of it. Its a beautiful industry to be part of, sometimes stressful, but on the most part, full of lovely, happy people living their best days with you part of it. The other vendors are also really lovely and the competition side of things seems to be low. We are all just one big happy family!
So, back to the point. How to start your career as a wedding stationer? Well, I’m going to share my experience, as thats all I know really. But it is different for others, and will be different for you. So just trust in your process, set goals and reach them!
Decide on your business model…
Are you going to offer hand lettering only? Watercolours? Are you going to be budget or luxe? There are many different types of weddings, and trying to cover all of them will leave you feeling worn out, stretched too far and lacking of identity. I personally have decided to focus on higher end couples with a love of art and watercolours. I offer custom stationery, hand lettering and calligraphy services. I don’t offer cheaper products, off the rack designs or invitations with embellishments such as diamanté, lace or hessian. (I have been know too, but generally steer clear of this). My reason is that my strength is in painting and lettering. Not crafting. I also don’t enjoy buying in large amounts of stock for pocket designs, etc, so when one comes in, it actually costs me more in time and money to source these items. I leave that to other designers who are better and more efficient at this. I also don’t sell designs with florals originating from a photoshop brush or from places like creative market. This is because I have the ability to create it myself, so have no need. I do respect that other stationers do, however, and as such have started to design some images which can help them create gorgeous stationery without those skills.
So, decide your target couple. Who are they, what’s their budget, and what are their styles? From there you can decide what sort of products you are going to focus on, and where your business is going to market itself.
Create a portfolio…
I first created a series of 5 full suite designs which I took to the Gold Coast Wedding Expo, and acted as if those had been previous clients I had worked with. I decided to head into weddings quite suddenly and hadn’t really researched much on what I was going to charge, or costs, etc. So I actually started selling at a very low price, which was unsustainable. The benefit is that I got to secure some real clients, which gave me more to add to my portfolio.
If you are heading in a template direction, then I would have a look around at the trends, and create some designs reflective of weddings at the moment. Its not the same as being a cutting edge artist. Brides do like trends and are inspired by whats available at the moment. So being too ahead of the trends, or far off the trends won’t actually sell well. But it is good to offer something a little different from those around you as well. Find that balance.
One of the most important things I have done in this industry is to network. I made myself known to many venues, photographers and anyone else I could find. I did this by attending as many expo’s as I could, networking meetings, vendor events, all sorts. Given I naturally have a very shy persona, and have social anxiety, this has been HUGE for me to overcome, and even now, I have to push myself to do it. There has been a lot of inner voice motivation going along. Very proud of myself really… pat on the back for me. 🙂
Don’t get disheartened at the Expo’s. Many of these cost a fair amount of money, and yet you don’t take home any clients. It seems like a pointless exercise, but its not. At the beginning anyway. The idea is to see it as an opportunity to network with others in the business. There’s usually a bar available, so you can loosen your nerves! I became friends with a huge amount of vendors, and was invited to be part of many styled shoots. These are great as they provide you with professional photos of your work, and again, networking, and then publication. Winning!
As you then get more established in the wedding world, you can give up many of the expo’s, and focus on other types of marketing. I have only kept the QLD Brides going, as I find this profitable. However, you will find something that works that may be different. Stick with that, and let go of the rest. It all takes time. and money.
Be a part of styled shoots…
This leads on from the last paragraph. Styled shoots are a great way to get your name out there. Brides are forever searching for inspiration, and if you can be in their searches, they are going to start remembering you, and either using you or recommending you. Styled shoots are great for a number of reasons. For stationers, unlike florists, we can be part of these for relatively low costs. We take on the brief, design up some gorgeous pieces and done! You can either send these in, if you are time poor, or attend the shoot and get to be part of the action. I prefer the later. You can work with the photographer and get some great shots of your work. If you are selling template designs, use these as a potential design. If its custom, these are the perfect chance to let your imagination go wild and create some pieces you wouldn’t otherwise get to create.
The great thing about styled shoots is you get published. You get your name in magazines, online blogs and all over social media, with really low costs! Winning!!
Marketing is what pushes your brand forward. I had no experience or knowledge of this when I started. No knowledge on how to run a business and I’ve made sooo many errors learning the ropes. Ive wasted money in places I shouldn’t have, been taken advantage of by other businesses and really struggled. Having a knowledge of this prior would have helped me heaps. However, not all is lost if you don’t. There are heaps of online forums and Facebook pages of people in the same position, sharing their tips. Become part of these. Read up on anything you can, youtube, google, blogs, you name it, absorb!!!
I got a business coach, which helped me learn some things I had no time to implement! ha ha… but seriously, after a few years, when I decided to take marketing seriously, I revisited everything he taught me, signed back up with him and started implementing these strategies. it worked! I allocate a whole day every week just to marketing. I research as much as I can about my potential clients and aim my adverts at them. I check on the stats of Facebook ads and reword them, change the pictures and keep testing to find the one.
I sign up to courses about Instagram marketing, Pinterest marketing, etc, and every Friday I put as much as I can into practice. and slowly, it works. yay!
Enjoy and trust…
This one is possibly a hard one! Trust that you will make it. You will survive the years of low income and eventually find your place in the industry and business world. It may seem so frustrating and low at some points. There will be a lot of tears and insecurities. You will take every rejection to heart at first and bend over backwards trying to get clients. But don’t. Trust that your service is good, your product is good and your clients will come. It takes years to build up a reputation and referral cycle. It takes years for your name to get out there and it takes time to learn and perfect. Trust this journey and don’t let your emotions get in the way of the business plan! Clients do not choose another stationer because you are bad. It may be a price point, an aesthetic point or just that they were not meant to be your client. I have found the clients I have worked hardest to secure are the ones I should have definitely let go of! They have been hard work and ones that were probably suited to another business. But I let my emotions get in the way and felt I needed to get these clients or I was failing. Don’t do that!!!!!
And most of all, enjoy it! Its a wonderful industry. So rewarding, so pretty and contrary to popular belief, brides are not bridezillas. Mother of the bride or groom? now thats a different story! ha ha.
A few things I wish that I had not done along the way, which have cost money are,
- Signing up to wedding registries. Waste of time and money for me personally. No business as come from them. I do sign up to ABIA though, as I like the awards show and feeling like a celeb walking the red carpet one day of the year! I certainly don’t sign up to them in the hope of getting clients, because I haven’t. Also, don’t sign up with any businesses trying to launch a new idea for a registry/collective. These are not worth your time either. This does not apply to Elopement packages, or wedding planners. I mean online groups were brides can get all their suppliers in one place. I’ve learnt that brides rely on recommendations, rather than affiliations. So being friends with suppliers, and working WITH them will do far more good than just paying someone to be part of a group.
- Try to please all clients. If a client is asking for a low price, or a product that doesn’t fit your brand, have the confidence to pass them onto another stationer friend who will be more suited. Don’t waste time trying to mould to them. This will set you back emotionally and financially, and so not worth it!
- Offered too many fiddly products to be a ‘one stop shop’. unless you have a MASSIVE team where they have departments, I would recommend focusing on a few things and making them awesome. spreading yourself too thin will lower the quality of the whole brand and leave you really time poor. its not good business sense!
So, thats all I can think of to begin your journey. Apart from creating your initial brand. But thats another post! and something we can help with…hint hint! (click here for branding enquiries)
I hope you found some useful information that you can take away with, and also found confidence in finding out my story and the do’s and don’t’s. There are so many wedding stationers out there, and yet so much room for more. Its a huge world we live in and people are always getting married. And with divorce rates high, second and third marriages have now become more popular, so we have that too! So don’t feel threatened by your fellow stationers around you, reach out, make friends and share your journeys together. Enjoy!!!!!