5 big mistakes I made in my Wedding Stationery business
Today I wanted to chat about some of the biggest mistakes in my stationery business I have made along the way. And there are heaps!
Most of what you see from the outside of any business is the successes, shared on social media and a shiny pretty website. It’s so easy to think that we’ve all got our shit together all the time, and know how to deal with customer issues perfectly. But that’s far from the whole truth!
Back when I started offering wedding stationery, in 2015, I had no experience at all. There was no one online who was offering help or advice. Other stationers seemed scarce, and the ones I did find were reluctant to offer advice. It’s a silent competitive world, which makes it really hard to break into, and remain confident.
It’s taken me many years to feel confident with my process, avoid silly mistakes and have terms and conditions, which cover the mistakes I have previously made. I know this is true for many businesses too. It’s only over time in business that you can predict what problems may arise and calmly defuse them with minimum damage.
So just for shits and giggles, I thought I’d share five of my big blunders over the years, and how I’ve learnt from them.
- Not having a confirmation of proofing form. So this is clearly a given, but something I had no idea about when I started. Clients would send me their wedding invite information, I would pop it into the design and get them to check it. The only agreement we had was by mouth, and then once spelling mistakes started appearing on printed suites, I found myself having to refund so many jobs. It was a nightmare. Firstly because I was frustrated that after telling them to check, they had not. And I was also really frustrated with myself for missing these errors. But here’s the thing; I’m pretty bad at spelling for a start. I’m a creative, so the written word is not my strong point. Secondly, when you stare at a design for so long, your brain tricks you into seeing words correctly as it knows what its meant to say, so forms that in your brain. In order to get past this, you have a proof-reader who can pick up the errors straight away. If I had been designing with the bride or groom, we were all in this trap. So spelling errors were missed. The worst was when I had to reprint a whole order of gold foiling… and I was so broke at the time. I cried a lot!! So now I have a confirmation of proofing form which I get all my couples to sign, with special advice on how to proof read effectively. It’s safe to say, it’s been a few years now since we’ve had a spelling mistake I’ve had to reprint.
The worst was when I had to reprint a whole order of gold foiling… and I was so broke at the time. I cried a lot!!
- Taking on the wrong client. One of my earliest jobs was an invitation suite which had not a single bit of watercolour or calligraphy on. It was a photograph and some generic font. It was backed onto black and was for a wedding that was completely out of my style. What happened was, I hated the job. I wasn’t interested in the designing, I knew I couldn’t use it on in my portfolio and so my heart wasn’t in it. It was also the wrong client for me, focused on the money rather than the quality and the sentence “Guests just throw them away anyway right’ broke me. But I carried on with the job, they were really happy and even came back to me for other work. But it didn’t stop there! I was so desperate for work, I took this client back on for logo work, knowing we were the wrong fit, and a year later ended up having to let go of that client, write off the outstanding debt and pick myself back up again. He had exhausted me, had hackled me down on every price I gave him and had little appreciation for artwork. Constantly comparing my work to vista print and the likes. And then failing to pay on time, by months! So what did I learn? I now make sure the client is focused on watercolours, or great design. That way we both enjoy the process. Any enquiries I get that are not my fit, I pass them onto someone who may work better for them. That way everyone is happy and the client gets the job they expected
…and a year later ended up having to let go of that client, write off the outstanding debt and pick myself back up again.
- Negotiating prices. I’ve had a few clients in the early days that really hackled me down on pricing. When you’re new to your business, funds are lacking and you’re not 100% sure on if you’re charging the right amount, this can happen. And it’s not a good thing. I try to work with clients who have a vision. Who want to create some beautiful artwork and stationery, those who are emotionally driven rather than price driven. I price myself according to how I value my time, the supplies I use and the overheads I have. They differ from person to person, and I am confident with my pricing now. But it wasn’t always so. I massively under valued myself, so was always financially struggling. I needed more clients to survive and felt that at least I had the job right? Wrong!!! By giving into their hackling, I was working for next to nothing. So I was unhappy. To top it off, when a client doesn’t value your worth, they also give you a hard time during the process. They expect more for less and inevitably are unhappy. So you end up bending over backwards, trying to please while they continue to expect more. Like those awful relationships! So this is a big no no now! No more price budging, you get what you pay for, and if you want my work, you’ll have to pay my prices. Again, that leads to my happiness, which means I create better, the client gets a better experience and we all come away happy.
I try to work with clients who have a vision.
- Not checking the printing properly. This job my biggest disappointment to date, but also a great learning curve for me. I had a client, they were design driven, the perfect client. We spent months designing some GORGEOUS stationery and we are all really happy. But then came time to print and part of the design was a 3 fold booklet. This is pretty tricky to get right and I used the wrong printer. The folds were not perfect and I didn’t check the bundles. Therefore, a job I was really excited about soon became something I cried about so many times! The client reached out and was really disappointed. Their tone was quite stern and instantly put me on the defence. I was clever enough not to reply straight away, but instead listened to a few podcasts on how to deal with customer critism. I felt confident with my solution, and we went to do a reprint with a better printing company. I chatted to the printers about the papers I had originally used and everything was set. Unfortunately, They printed on a different stock which was a different shade of white. I had also addressed the parcel to the neighbours address, to make it an even better experience! (I am still not sure why this happened. Perhaps my stress around it all, or another lesson the universe was trying to teach?) Eventually the parcel made its way there, but I received more negative feedback about the paper tone. I ended up offering a partial refund, and a massive apology. In all the errors in this job, a lovely design project ended up costing me more money than I made, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. I decided to turn it into a positive though, hold my head up and take notes from it. I now make sure I double check EVERYTHING. I make sure all the papers are correct. I make sure I charge enough to cover this all. I made sure I copy and paste the addresses, rather than rewrite. And I force myself to believe that its not personal to me, it’s a comment/complaint of my business, and therefore an area of improvement needed. I learn from it and be better. And I still really love the design, so that helps! Ha ha
I had also addressed the parcel to the neighbours address, to make it an even better experience!
- Lastly, Failing to take a deposit. Yep, I know right!! Who does that?! Well I did, on my first job ever. I went to an expo, ready and raring to go, having decided to persue weddings. I had no previous clients to display so made 6 suites up and displayed them as my work. I had a huge amount of interest, however only 1 enquiry made it to quoting stage. I quoted them, them were happy and asked to see some designs before we started. If that happened now, I would say, erm…no thanks! But I really wanted the job, was really excited and just jumped into days of designing this suite for a wedding in England. I had 6 designs made up for them, the bride loved them and even asked for some changes to one. I made those changes and then requested funds to go further. Silence! I literately got ghosted. It was heartbreaking. I had poured so much time and energy into that suite. my confidence was really knocked back and I had no way to get back that time. She eventually did contact me and say she wasn’t going ahead with it. But thanks. Uh, ok, no worries love! I mentioned it to a good friend and she instantly told me I had been silly in not taking a deposit. Duh!!! There are so many things I hadn’t prepared for, and this was one. But again, I learnt the hard way, and from then on have taken a deposit before I start on ANYTHING. Over the years, the deposit amount has increased as I have been burnt a few times again since. But now I have it high enough, so no matter what happens, I am always paid for the designs I have created, and if they change their mind, I move on quickly and focus on another job coming my way. After all, they were obviously the wrong fit.
I had poured so much time and energy into that suite. my confidence was really knocked back and I had no way to get back that time.
So there you have it, my top 5 hard learning curves! Ha ha… hopefully by reading this, you may avoid some of those silly errors I made, and be a bit more successful in your business.
I’ve also thrown in a copy of my confirmation of proofing form, so you can see how I advise my clients to check their designs. You can add your business and logo to this template, and make sure you never find yourself in a costly reprint hell!
Have you made any big faux pas? Comment below and share your errors. I’d love to read and find out more about your business!