Mel is struggling with mapping out her pricing as a celebrant, and when she mentioned it to me I went straight to a conversation I had with my brother earlier today. He’s looking at starting a new business based on professional skills he holds, and he was looking for some guidance walking into the project. So I’ll tell you what I told him, then give you ten good reasons why you should charge more.

How to enter a marketplace

Honestly, here’s a secret about business: the two most vacant segments of any marketplace are the top of the market and the bottom of the market.

Every one entering a marketplace aims for the middle of the market. The average, the middle-priced, the same-as-everyone segment of the marketplace where there’s $10 difference between you and everyone else there, and your products and services all look remarkably similar. The market segment already filled with everyone who entered and haven’t figure out how to be sustainable yet.

If you’re aiming to succeed either aim at the top of the market – providing extra value, over-the-top value and you charge accordingly high, or aim at the bottom of the market – where you systemise, automate, streamline, and scale yourself to the bottom of the price chart.

The easiest example of this is airlines: Qantas is a top of the market airline, Jetstar is at the bottom (and I’ll note that they are owned by Qantas), meanwhile Virgin and Rex are fighting over the middle. This is a gross generalisation of the domestic airline market in Australia, but it’s worth noting again that Qantas at the top of the market also owns the bottom of the market, having run Tiger out of town. Which airline is still sustainable today?

More importantly, I believe that a wedding, and your service as a wedding celebrant, firmly belongs at the top of the market. The bottom of the market is sufficiently serviced by government departments (the BDMs and registry offices) and very few celebrants have stories of joy and success from providing a comparable service. Those that do have successfully systemised and automated the process.

How do you know if you’re at the top of the market?

Here’s how you know you’re at the top of the market:

  • You charge more/the most.
  • You provide the most value to your clients.
  • You under promise and over deliver.
  • You’re just easier to deal with.
  • Paying you is easy and modern.
  • Contacting you is easy.
  • Contracting you is easy.
  • Choosing someone cheaper than you is harder.
  • You do one thing superbly well. So well that you are known for it.
  • You specialise in that thing.
  • You are remarkable, so remarkable in that, people are able to remark on you easily and without hesitation.

Ten reasons why you should charge more

  1. Charging more signals to the marketplace of couples getting married that you are doing something different, that you are creating good and important work.
  2. Other celebrants aren’t charging more, in fact they’re discounting and undercutting, which signals to the marketplace that they are doing less and providing less value.
  3. You are a Commonwealth Authorised Marriage Celebrant, you are duly authorised by law to marry people according to the law in Australia. Less than 0.04% of Australia is like you. You’re special, you hold an important and great authority. Own it.
  4. There might be almost 10,000 celebrants but less than 500 of them are operating at a full time capacity. Many are considering retirement in the future because the talent in the talent pool has increased and the pressure on delivering an epic marriage ceremony has increased far past what they were trained to deliver. So being a great celebrant is a rare title to hold. You are in a small community of really really good celebrants, I know that because I know how many celebrants are members and read our blog posts here – it’s so low it’s embarrassing – but the mere fact you are here means you want to grow and improve and become even more awesome than you are! Most of your celebrant colleagues think they’re finished with their professional development, this is their weakness and your strength.
  5. This might be your tenth, hundredth, or thousandth wedding, but this is their one and only wedding. It deserves an awesome celebrant. A celebrant who earns a good wage so they’re not starving, and their home life is sustained and provided for. A celebrant who can afford to take a day, week, or god forbid, four weeks off a year so they can rest and rejuvenate LIKE EVERYONE ELSE WHO HAS A JOB!
  6. If you were a celebrant authorised before 2020 then you have just successfully completed a Diploma in Crisis and Disaster Management. Google for a certificate template and print that out and put it on the wall. You’ve just become an expert in event management through a crisis.
  7. What’s the worst thing that happens? You charge more and earn more and you have a better life? And just say you charge too much, you could just tell me I’m wrong and lower your price and you’ve lost nothing.
  8. Every year the cost of living goes up, the cost of food, houses, rent, cars, fuel, computers, internet, phones, and everything else goes up. Before 2020 the inflation rate was simmering around the 2% mark each year, after 2020 it’s been a little lower, but it’s increasing nonetheless. If your fee hasn’t increased at least in line with inflation you’re leaving money on the table, and worse, the money you’re earning is getting you less, as the costs around you increase every day.
  9. And if you were operating through 2020 it’s a high chance that you actually lost money (sorry if I just triggered you) and that cost of a pandemic is a cost of business, of which needs to be covered by the revenue into that business.
  10. Increasing your price raises your position in the marketplace, and the higher you go, the more joy you will find in your work as people choose you for you, as they choose you for the value you bring and the work you create. No longer will you be getting chosen because you were affordable and available, but because you are you and a couple resonated with that. If you’ve experienced this you’ll know what I mean and you’ll be smiling right now. If you haven’t experienced this then you’re in the fast lane to Burnout Town, population: you. You’re not a commodity, you are a talented, skilled, beautiful individual worthy of being paid a good fee, worthy of being appreciated and remunerated.

And if you disagree, please join me in the comments section below.

Bonus reason

It’s so likely – so likely that it’s almost 100% true for you reading this right now it’s probably not likely for maybe 10 celebrants in the world – that you’re currently undercharging. You’re currently not charging enough to run a sustainable business.

That means that you’re currently, essentially, funding other people’s weddings with your own family’s money. Let that sink in.