Dear Preston: Clients Won’t Pay Me The Amount I Feel I Deserve

Dear Preston:

After receiving a degree in business and taking three planning courses, I took time out to carefully create a solid financial plan (two years to be exact), and I launched my planning company.  I did a lot of research on what other planners were charging in my city and found the average to be $5,000.00 for full-service planning.  I quoted this cost on my new site with the understanding that it was a fair and reasonable price. I am surprised to find that my potential clients refused to pay this amount to me though they have no problem paying this fee to other planners.

What do you suggest I do?

Not Fair

Dear Not Fair:

I would first like to take a moment to congratulate you on launching your new company.  It sounds as if you have really established a great foundation for your budding business.

Now, I must ask that you forgive my candor, but I have to ask you the obvious question: Why do you feel a client should pay you the same fee they are paying more experienced planners?  In this business, there are a lot of men and women who call themselves planners, but, as in any business, you must prove yourself. In order to collect the larger sums, you must not only have a solid educational foundation, you also need a substantial amount of  real world application.

I am sure that the planners you speak of, if we were to ask them, will tell you that it took them years before they started charging $5,000.00 as their fee.  I appreciate your desire to charge what you feel you deserve, but I’d like to gently suggest you take a step back and take the time to work on your craft and prove yourself (something we all will need to do or have already done) before you demand a large fee.  With each step forward, you will hone your skills and have the ability to raise your fee to one that both you and your clients find acceptable.

Dear readers, what advice do you have for Not Fair?  Do you think she should charge the same fee as more experienced planners?  Why or why not?

I look forward to reading your input.



(Photo courtesy of Pinterest)
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  • Kena

    I think your advice is dead on! My husband and I have been in the wedding industry for many years and we still feel like we are working our way to our potential price range. We both work our company full-time and have other DJs and Entertainment Directors on our staff. But, we are constantly learning and evolving and re-creating ourselves to continue to offer the demands of our market. Don’t worry, Not Fair, start out at a reduced rate, get some clients, go Above and Beyond what they pay for and it won’t take long for you to be in the range of where you think you belong. :)

  • Samantha

    Yes and no.
    I started off doing children’s parties and adult parties/events when I started my business. I didn’t get into weddings until 2 years later. I pride myself on educating myself, my natural ability to adapt to any situation and learning quickly. These make me a fabulous wedding planner. When I started out pricing my wedding packages I started out low, because they were very basic services. As I grew so did my services and packages. I like to think I offer a unique experience to my brides and I do so much and I charge accordingly. It takes a lot of hours and work to do what I offer and I would like to be compensated for it.

    So even though I may not have the “wedding” experience as someone charging the same, I do have real world experience, education and my own skills to get the job done.

    On the other hand, if you come in with no experience AND nothing unique to offer to your market, then no, she shouldn’t charge the same fee as more experienced planners.

  • Merlene

    I agree with Preston, It is wonderful to have your degree but people trust experience. They want to know, and to see your hands on work. It speaks for itself and for you. There is an old saying “a baby must creep or crawl before it can walk”. Give your self that time and start lower and build as you acquire your experience.

  • Helen G Events

    I don’t think she should charge the same as an experience wedding planner. If you charge a high fee there are certain demands and expectations that the client may have that given your limited experience you may not be able to handle. I having been in the business and im the early days I made mistakes and things were not a flawless. Clients will feel very cheated if you charge a high fee and have not delivered to service they expect. Even with 10 years experience I am still learning. So charge a lower fee get some experience and have a good track record so that when you do raise your fees you will know it is well deserved.

  • Betta | linen and silk weddings

    I agree with you, Preston. I’m just starting out and I’ve made the decision to keep my fees at a reasonable low level that doesn’t devalue the work we do, but that also reflects my level in the industry. In EXPOSED Jasmine Star shares her experience when she first started out in photography – she says she started at $1000 and decided to increase (by 20% or 30% – can’t remember exactly) every 3 weddings.
    I think this is a reasonable approach, as the price increase is justified by the experience.
    While starting at $1k may not be reasonable for a planner, the same approach can be applied, and in no time your fees will reflect your value. X

  • Maria

    My dear Preston,
    I couldn’t agree more with you! Every beginning is tough and sometimes it can be frustrating when you want to charge what your work is really worth and you can’t.

    I am currently working in a couple of weddings and actually I am charging just a symbolic amount. I also negotiated to publicity myself in some of the stationery and maybe be able to leave business cards at just some strategic places around the events, in this way if people like or ask for the planner of it, I can get immediate referrals from this point.

    I just moved to NYC last March and finished my certification on June. I am also collaborating in the Mexico Tourism Board as an intern in the area of Romance which is the in charge of promoting Mexico for Destination weddings and Hooneymoons. I have been working, studying and learning a lot in order to know how this industry.

    With that been said I think that you have to proof your experience and like you said before, you only can do it by real weddings and events that you have done. You have to built this after all real events that you have done. At some point you will get to charge whatever the industry and market real value are.

    So, dear not fair please do not get dissapointed, if this is your real passion, the money will arrive but before that you have to learn from the competitors, the industry and give some added value to your future clients in order to close business.

    Good luck!

  • Lisa

    I think a planer with less experience should not charge as much as a more experienced planner.

    However, there are a few things to consider if you want to be legitimate in business. You don’t price yourself into losing money for a long period of time. Planners, remember, there is much frustration at the “newbies” for undercutting the market. You need to break down the cost of doing business to a real dollar/hour amount. Secondly, you need to consider different pricing strategies and compare it to your costs. You will have to take on a lower margin at first, but as you get more experience you can increase those margins. Finally, your “deserving” amount is not only what you perceive it to be, but also what your clients perceive it to be (Preston “prove yourself”).

    A superior level of service is required no matter how much your charge.