Video chat, video conferencing, Skyping, Facetiming, or now, Zooming, is going to be a fairly major way we communicate through this season and into the future. The problem is, I see lots of people on Zoom calls not bringing their A-game to the call. The reason presenting yourself well on a video call matters is because in that online video chat environment we’ve already lost a few of our primary senses from the human interaction, smell, taste, and touch. That leaves our sight and hearing. In the same way that someone without hearing or sight will say that their other senses are heightened, in a video call, we’re missing the hug we might have started the interaction with. We haven’t had a chance to buy each other a drink, or shake hands, or simply see our smiles and smell our perfume, and feel at home together. So let’s make the visual and the audible sensory experience as good as our tools and technology allows us to.
There’s a lot of talk about weddings coming back as COVID-19 restrictions are eased. This is not an article about when and what restrictions are being eased, but a reminder as to how Australia works and how to know if weddings are a) allowed or legal, b) when they’re allowed, c) what will be allowed.
This article does remind you though how Australian governance works. You see, Australia as a nation is a lovely idea, but really, you live in a state. That state, be it Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, or a constant state of joy, has made a number of decisions as to how certain things are governed. Many things are a state business, and they have then handed many things on to the [Commonwealth of Australia] for their governance. This article is an oversimplification of a complex structure, so please don’t quote me anywhere.
Many of us have a problem with selling. It’s understandable, most of us have been sold to before, and we’ve hated it. A “salesperson” is often the sleaziest person in the room, and none of us want to be “that guy.” But here we are, trying to pay our mortgages or rent with some cash we earn from being a celebrant. And traditionally, that requires sales. So, I, Josh-saviour-to-the-celebrants, has a solution!
If your couples don’t have an easy way to pay you with credit card, I’m of the belief that you’re not only missing out on cash flow and cash, but you’re also missing out on the goodwill you would generate by making your couples’ lives easier.
Here are ten reasons I think you should either enable credit card payments (if you already have the option) or look at extending your payment options to include credit card.
Kath asks: Hey Josh, Just wondering if you have any advice on what I should be doing in preparation to “move/expand” a celebrant biz interstate. I am moving to Hobart mid year and would like to make a start on some marketing now which will in turn affect my bookings for the end or the year and the beginning of next. Apart from reaching out to some lovely local celebs in the area to say hello and booking in to attend an expo, do you have any ideas on what I should or could be doing online (website copy, SEO, blogging, google listing, marketing, back end kind of stuff) while I am in this early transition stage.
My favourite computing device is my iPad. I’m actually travelling for up to six months of this year with only my iPad – it’ll be my main computing device. There’s two or three little bug bears that really annoy me about the iPad, but the main one is how the Instagram app is still phone-only. There’s no iPad app for Instagram.
Linda asks: As a regional celebrant I am struggling with travel and how to incorporate this into my fees. I have an “anything over 200km round trip” clause which may seem a lot but its realistic to where I live. My problem is more about inquiry meetings, extra meetings and rehearsals. Obviously I cant charge for an inquiry meeting but do I just have a set higher wedding fee which kind of covers longer distances overall whether the wedding is near or far? Hope you can help!
Sophie asks a very important and pertinent question (which I’ve slightly edited for brevity): A question regarding the safety of couples sending digital copies of their ID via email or within a system like Dubsado. A groom works in IT and raised concern when I asked him to send through copies of their ID to draft their NOIM. I replied saying that I thought uploading their docs via a form in Dubsado would be safe. He replied ’In regards to the Dubsado application or other applications with securing sensitive documents\data, I’m in IT and been involved in data breach incidents. All applications and back end data need to follow ISO 27001 standards, so hopefully Dubsado are complying. Part of the standard is that, these documents provided are extremely sensitive and should not be emailed and secured within the application. Data travelling via networks (internet) need to be encrypted, and not all email accounts or tools do this. Hence why I shared the documents\data via a shared drive for you to sight the files only, then I delete. I informally recommend, not to save these documents\data within the application, unless they are fully encrypted, or deleted 6-12 months after the ceremony. Especially not to save this data on your desktop or email account, and NEVER click on an email or link your don’t know the recipient.’ Wondering what you guys know and think of this? I should probably contact Dubsado directly too, but at times have had couples email and even text me through pics of their ID – is it way too risky and should I use Skype/FaceTime aka ‘real time’ to never run into the issue? Obviously receiving a pic is a lot more convenient most of the time!
To bring in the new year, [Stephen Ango asks himself 40 questions]. I liked his list but thought I’d alter it for Celebrant Institute followers so we could reflect on where we’ve been and look at where we’re going. Identify trends, strengths, weaknesses, and things we should simply be proud of as individuals and as a community. Stephen’s is a personal list, and my amendments are focused on your celebrant business. Maybe you want to do both, or just one, it’s all up to you.
Now I’ve reached the stage of life where I have a mortgage and a family I figure it’s time to put a grown up will in place.
This got me thinking about what instructions I need to leave for my surviving relatives and the obligations that they have not only to comply with the law but to also ensure a smooth transition for my couples.
I was wondering if you guys have any tips or could give a basic overview of what process you guys have in place?
Alex asks: My question is regarding communication with couples – specifically timelines. Before I became a Celebrant I remember hearing a few off-hand remarks from a family friend and also a cousin about their Celebrants. The general feedback was that they never heard from their celebrant after booking them, had no idea what to expect (for example commented “we hadn’t heard from her in 4 months”) and both had doubts about how the day would run. I was horrified! To me, managing expectations is super important but I also understand it may be different with each couple. So my question is – sorry it took me a while to get there – do you have any advice on how you communicate a “timeline of events” with the couple – or can you provide an example of one? And also advice for me on ceremony writing….how soon before the wedding do you start it and if requested or preferred by the couple when do you send a first draft for them to review, and how soon before the ceremony do you “lock everything in?”
Victoria asks: I downloaded Notability on my iPad so I could easily get signatures on my doc as you said you found that one the best – however when it opens the filled in versions of the PDFS from the AG’s site as that’s what I use – they appear blank. Any tips on how to get them to appear filled in?
Jeff asks: When you look back on leads, what seems to be working? Do you have a rough breakdown of where/how couples are finding you? Do you find Instagram/Facebook ads work? Venue referrals? The Google…?
Jeff asks: A general price question: when you both set your prices (to their current rates), were you/are you in line with what others charge or are you much higher? Pretty sure I’m the highest priced officiant in my region of 500,000 folks, but @ $650/ceremony I’d have to perform about 27 weddings/week to go legit. That doesn’t work. I have right around 75 weddings on the books for 2019 and it’s great since this is a side hustle, but I want to make the leap but for suuuure can’t at this rate. I’m hesitant because if I jump up to $800-$1000 I’ll literally be charging more than double the price or most others…but I guess someone has to be most expensive, I might as well be that guy…was just curious your thoughts on that.
Theresa asks: I’ve had a couple of last-minute cancellations recently – given the circumstances, I’m happy that the weddings didn’t go ahead. Anyhow, it has forced me to take a much-needed look at my T&C’s and was wondering if either of you would be open to sharing how you deal with the following scenarios/what you have in your invoices or statement of fees: 1. Cancellations, 2. The unlikely event that you are unavailable and need to arrange someone else to step in, 3. The unlikely event that you are unavailable and cannot find anyone else to step in.
A member asks, “Can you claim a tax deduction for the cost of holding a couple meeting at a cafe? Paying for their coffee? I hear different answers to this.”
Do you reduce your rate when a couple is in an awful situation? Terminally ill party etc. I’ve had this arise twice in the last 3 months and never know what to do.
As you’re viewing this blog post you’ll note that in the URL bar, the part where you type the blah blah blah dot com bit, next to the domain name ‘celebrant.institute’ you’ll see a little padlock 🔓 icon that is a sign that this website is communicating with your web browser securely. If you share any information with this website, by logging in, making a comment, typing in a credit card number, or even just reading blog posts, that content is all secure. Running a secure website today is not only popular and a good look, but it is important for your brand identity and your search engine optimisation. As an example, here’s a screenshot of a website I visited today and I was surprised how negatively I felt about the brand knowing that they had not installed an SSL certificate on their website and made it a secure connection.
I believe with all my mind, body, and soul, that service people aren’t paid per hour, they’re paid for how much value they bring to that hour. So here’s my July challenge for all celebrants …
I’m flying to Europe soon and I’ve put in for a first class upgrade. On Qantas you can apply for an upgrade and it costs you thousands of frequent flyer points. That’s how you fly first class, either that or you pony up the cash for it. In the history of flying the smallest handful of people have been upgraded to first class on a whim.
But if you talk to most people that don’t fly that often they will share the myth that if you are dressed well, looking sharp, feeling pretty, and you are nice to the check-in staff, the boarding staff, and the cabin crew, that you will hopefully be chosen for an upgrade.
That’s the problem with the areas of life that we don’t touch on often, they’re filled with mystery and intrigue …
In the chaotic and wild adventure that planning and hosting a wedding is I always try to remain a calm, cool, friendly face to my couples. This sounds like a great idea, but you need systems and processes to allow yourself to be that cool and calm.
I was inspired recently by Hans Hofmann, the artist, who talked about simplicity as “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” …
A few recent conversations with celebrants on social media have prompted me to the question: what is membership in a celebrant association for? Traditionally the associations lobbied the Attorney-General’s office, and the BDMs of each state, on our behalf – but that role has diminished seriously in recent years, with individual celebrants getting more done than an association has …
We spend a lot of time looking at other celebrants, but here’s a helpful and practical way to look at your competitors and actually form a competitive advantage.
Mark asks, I was hoping you could explain the etiquette for posting photos on your Website, Facebook and Instagram account when supplied by a professional photographer please.
Have you heard of sonder?
Veronica asks: How to you get clients to pay the booking fee, without sounding desperate or annoying?
A celebrant friend has been going back and forth with a couple who want a celebrant that’s not her. Maybe they’ve been on the blogs and Pinterest and they’ve decided that this is how you deal with a celebrant, or maybe their friends and family have told them how to act this way, regardless, they are taking themselves on a different customer journey to the one my friend would normally take her couples on.
Today she asks, “should I fire them?”
“A local celebuddy and I have recently been chatting about being a primary back-up celebrant for each other. As a fairly new celebrant, it got me wondering how other people manage replacements when you have to cancel at short notice (or even on the day). Do you ask the new celebrant to use your script (even if it’s very much in ‘your’ voice)? How do you divide payment? Do you partially/fully refund the couple because you’ve not completely fulfilled the contract? What if you’re in a car accident on the way to the ceremony and you have all the paperwork on you?”
Tenielle asks: Hey guys, I’m hoping you can lend me some advice or wording to send to a couple. Met with them on Saturday and whilst they are lovely, the vibe was NOT there. Conversation was really stunted and it didn’t seem like a natural fit from my perspective. I’m really not wanting to take their booking, but I don’t know how to politely tell them, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. I’m especially aware of any legal obligations we have to marry couples and not discriminate against them.I would use the whole, ‘Sorry I’m double booked!’ route, but their date just opened for my bookings and that would be a blatantly obvious lie.
A new member asks: I have completed my cert 4 at last and am in the process of doing my AG application so now I am thinking about the set up of my business. I have no previous experience in this area and wondering where to start really. Should I be sourcing and / or starting to create a website now ( not go live of course!) do I produce business cards etc, basically when and where is a good time to start if you’re not an expert! Considering it can take up to 3 months to hear back could you suggest a timeline please?
Ella asks: I’ve purchased my PA systems and equipment because this isn’t covered under my home contents as it’s business use. Most home insurers will find a way not to pay if I did try to claim if something happened! (Previous industry knowledge). Who do you use for insurance on your equipment? As my other insurance is the association group on – can’t just add it on it.
Thoughts on creating remarkable work, as a marriage celebrant.
I’ve had a few people ask how I sign marriage paperwork on an iPad, and I had the grandest of intentions of preparing a fully professional video detailing that. However we’re expecting a baby any day now and I figured a low quality video with high quality information is better than no video at all…
Every time my car gets serviced, at 10,000km a service that’s about four to five times a year, I have this sinking feeling as I drive away from the mechanic’s workshop. After spending six odd hours away from me, and an average of $500 to $700 invoice, the car I drive away in feels pretty much the same as I brought to the workshop that morning at 8am…
Reading the news today I realised that after Kristy Merlino’s email and Mailchimp accounts were hacked, that Kanye West’s iPhone passcode is 00000 and that Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy – it might be possible that other people aren’t 1) as passionate about Internet privacy and security as I am, 2) and even if they were, they might not know how to protect themselves…
There are only three positions you can take in any marketplace: First, Best, Cheapest. That’s not to say only three businesses can win in any marketplace, after all, there are almost 10,000 celebrants serving over 120,000 weddings in Australia every year, clearly there are more than three people winning.
Great question today: Let’s talk follow up emails. You’ve received an enquiry, or worse, have met with a couple. You’ve sent them an email back, but it’s crickets from their end. How do you word your emails to try and elicit a response from them? I don’t want to rush them, but at the same time I’ve got a business to run.
Mercy asks: I’ve been asked to do a wedding two hours from Sydney and quoted an extra $50 above my usual fee each way, but they want to do a rehearsal the day before which would require me driving an extra four hours plus the time it takes to do the rehearsal. How would you recommend I charge for this?
“I just did my tax and I’m very frustrated!!! I need advice on what software or system to use to make it easier. Most I see are not designed for a sole owner operator that has not registered for GST (I earn less than 75k); they seem too complicated. I know what I earn and spend this shouldn’t be so frustrating. But I never know what category to put things in. I don’t know. What do you use? I have a subscription to 17hats I thought that might help but its basically designed for America.”
A question today about enquiries and how to increase our conversion: I have a question about converting enquiries as I am finding that I get a good amount of enquiries but feel my conversion rate could be way better. Wondering what I could be doing better or is there something I am not doing? Is it the language I am using in my initial contact too passive or boring? Or maybe I am giving them too much information? I currently do not have my price on my website so I am guessing some of the enquiries I am not converting are due to that and for follow up I send out a very short follow up email to them a about a month after not hearing anything. How do I better communicate to my leads in the initial enquiry stage to “seel the deal” with me or at least book an initial catch up meeting. Would love some constructive feedback on my “first email” and “welcome letter” attachment that I send as my first contact.
Ella asks: “Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere… Would you recommend putting your fees on your website? Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don’t. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren’t comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page.” As Sarah noted, everyone has a different answer on this, and here is mine. Don’t count this post as the final word, it’s just a brain dump on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m sure this is a topic we’ll return to over and over, and I’d invite you to list your thoughts in the comments.
Ella asks: “Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere… Would you recommend putting your fees on your website? Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don’t. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren’t comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page.” You will literally get a different answer on this from every celebrant or marketing guru you speak to. So for this question, both Josh and I are going to offer our views! This article is just Sarah’s thoughts. Here is Josh’s article.
It’s every business owner’s favourite time of the year: EOFYmas! As the End Of Financial Year celebrations takeover our lives I wanted to highlight the deductions I think we celebrants should be thinking of, and if you don’t have the record of these deductions from the past financial year, maybe try and keep them for this financial year.
I hope this goes without saying, but I’m not your accountant, I’m not the Australian Tax Office, and I’m not your mum, so make sure you run these things past those guys before taking my accounting advice as gospel. If you need an accountant, I can recommend mine but I’m sure there’s 100 within cat-swinging distance of your place.