Today I’m chatting with Wedding Planning Coach Megan Gilliken about how to set healthy wedding client boundaries. A self proclaimed ‘people pleaser’ Megan has had her fair share of unhealthy working relationships, and now wants to share her story of how she made changes in her own wedding planning business. We explore strategies for boundary-setting in your wedding business and stress the importance of maintaining professionalism, even when dealing with difficult clients or negative reviews.
Links mentioned in the episode:
Find out more about Megan here
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Boundaries and Client Experience (00:00:00) Importance of setting boundaries to serve clients well and maintain longevity in the industry.
Introduction to Megan Gillikin (00:00:34) Background of Megan Gillikin, former wedding planner, and founder of The Planners Vault.
Megan’s Journey into Wedding Planning (00:03:57) Unexpectedly purchasing a wedding planning business and the challenges faced in rebuilding the brand.
Overcoming Boundary Challenges (00:07:47) Mistakes made due to being a people pleaser and the impact on client relationships and work-life balance.
Strategies for Implementing Boundaries: Website (00:10:54) Using website messaging and an FAQ section to attract ideal clients and repel non-ideal clients.
Strategies for Implementing Boundaries: Contract (00:13:18) Incorporating professional vendor, communication, client abuse, and availability clauses into the contract.
Strategies for Implementing Boundaries: Onboarding (00:16:07) Utilizing welcome guides and videos to set expectations and communicate boundaries with new clients.
Strategies for Implementing Boundaries: Self and Mindset (00:18:35) Reflecting on personal boundaries, identifying challenges, and implementing a quarterly reboot to maintain boundaries.
Setting Boundaries with Clients (00:21:07) Strategies for setting boundaries with clients, including communication methods and managing client expectations.
Emotional Investment in Clients (00:22:22) Managing emotional investment in clients, maintaining professionalism, and setting boundaries to avoid becoming overly involved.
Firing a Client (00:26:51) Strategies for handling difficult clients, including the decision to fire a client, contractual considerations, and managing negative reviews.
Responding to Negative Reviews (00:32:01) Dealing with negative reviews, professional responses, and understanding the impact of negative feedback on the business.
Learning to Focus on Personal Growth (00:37:36) Advice on overcoming imposter syndrome and focusing on personal growth in the wedding business industry.
Resources for Setting Boundaries (00:38:45) Information about a boundary setting toolkit and other resources for wedding planners to effectively set and maintain boundaries.
Megan: Boundaries are something that I feel very passionate about talking about now, because I also deeply care about serving your clients well and making sure that you are creating an experience that creates raving fans. You know, just referral machine in your business, but it has to be done with boundaries that keep you in the industry for a long time, instead of getting to a place where it’s too much and you leave because your bank account does not reflect the hustle that you have put into growing it.
Becca: I’m Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing expert, speaker and blogger, and you’re listening to the Wedding Pros Who Are Ready to Grow podcast. I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level. If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business, doing what you love, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get going with today’s episode. Today I’m chatting with Megan Gillikin, former wedding planner and founder of the Planners Vaults. After 12 years of planning weddings, Megan now devotes her time and energy into helping other planners build their businesses. I’ve been wanting to get Megan onto the podcast for a while and having now met her and her husband Jason in real life in Vegas, I’m even more excited to have this conversation.
She is so lovely and I know you’re going to enjoy what she has to say. Megan, welcome to the podcast.
Megan: Becca, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Becca: I’m so excited to have you. Isn’t it crazy that just a few weeks back, we were in real life together in Vegas and now we’re the other side of the world.
Megan: I know. And I remember being in rooms with you on Clubhouse back forever ago, like 2021. So I’m excited that we’re finally having that like actual real life conversation and connection.
Becca: I know, isn’t that crazy? I loved, as much as Clubhouse was like a flash in the pan, I loved it because I met so many great people in that time period.
So yeah, even when these social media sites don’t hang around for long, it’s always worth jumping on them for a while. I loved it. Now, I never got to get to you to record something for the Wedding MBA podcast that I did. So I’m going to do that with you now, because I think you’ve still got things to say.
So despite me not getting it into that episode, I’d love to know. For people listening, what was your biggest takeaway from this year’s Wedding MBA?
Megan: My biggest takeaway was that wedding pros right now are many, so many are overwhelmed, exhausted, stretched thin and they are struggling with trying to figure out what action is appropriate for them in their business versus what their competition is doing, what they’re listening to from educators and generally like.
It’s a lot. That’s the biggest takeaway that I got from the conversations that I had.
Becca: It’s so true. People are really overwhelmed at the moment. And I think wedding MBA was just the most insane thing. As an English person coming over to that conference, like I just cannot get over how big it is. And I’ve been joking because I’m speaking at the UK’s biggest wedding industry conference and it’s 150 people and it’s gonna feel really small even though it’s the biggest one here because there is nothing like it.
So I’m trying to convince all my British wedding pro friends that next year they should come out to Vegas and experience Wedding MBA too.
Megan: Oh yes, we would love to have them. That was my third year speaking at Wedding MBA and yeah. Each year it’s just, it gets better and better. So I was so excited that you were there and yeah, come on over y’all.
Becca: You’re welcome. Yeah, hopefully we’ll all be back next year and then we can all come to your mixer as well, which was a lot of fun. So let’s get on to the job in hand. Let’s talk about you. So we are going to be going on to talk a little while about boundaries, which is something my wedding pros really need to hear about.
But before we get into that, I always love to just go back through your journey, because I think it’s important for people to understand where you’ve come from, to see why you’ve got an authority to speak on these such things. So how did you end up wedding planning in the first place?
Megan: It is a crazy rollercoaster ride.
So buckle up. I went on a job interview back in 2010. I was working at the time for Marriott Hotels and I had worked my way from front desk to banquets to catering to sales and I had just gotten married. I was ready for what I thought was like the next step in my career, which was hopefully working for a local wedding planning company.
I applied for a job. Really, I, I reached out to the owner who I vaguely knew of and asked if she had any open positions. She said, yes, let’s meet. I had my resume, my cover letter. I went on what I thought was a job interview and I came out with an opportunity to take over her business. So she sat down in a coffee shop with me and the first words out of her mouth were, I’m burned out.
I’m looking for someone to take over my existing weddings that I have on the books for next year. And I’ll be moving, you know, out of the state in the next few months. And I went home to my husband of about three weeks at the time. And I said to him, Oh my gosh, like it was such a bummer. I thought it was going to be an option to work for her, but she wants someone to purchase her business.
And that is absolutely not for me right now. That might be five years from now, but not now. And my husband, who to this day, 13 years married, is my number one cheerleader. The person that always like kind of pushes me outside of my own limiting beliefs. He was like, Yes, let’s do this. We’ll take out a small business loan.
You, we’re going to figure this out. And so fast forward, I did, I left my job. I took out a small business loan. I actually did not know what I didn’t know at the time. I had never purchased a business before, and I actually purchased a really Terrible business, which was a surprise. There was bridges burned, reputation was not great my due diligence on purchasing the business just wasn’t there because it wasn’t something that I thought about.
So the journey to rebuilding the brand, hiring team members, really like carving my name out in the industry associated with the business was what I did for first few years of owning it. I had the business for 12 years. And in 2022, I sold the planning business to one of the ladies on my team so that I could go full time into education, coaching, and speaking for the wedding industry.
Becca: Love that. What a wild story to find yourself like purchasing a business. We have a thing in the UK. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it. It went viral a number of years ago because this guy turned up at the BBC for a job interview and someone made a mistake. Stake and thought he was a contributor to go on the national news.
And so they took him as if he was going through his job interview and the next thing, he was on live TV asking questions about technology. And he was totally the wrong person. And your story reminds me of that because you turned up somewhere thinking you were going for a job interview and the next thing you find yourself.
buying a business.
Megan: Oh yeah, it was insane. I had a resume, cover letters, I was dressed professionally and next thing I know I’m taking out a small business loan for five figures, I’m quitting my job, I’m walking away from a set paycheck and I’m an unexpected entrepreneur, which probably should have been the name of my podcast, honestly, instead of Weddings For Real.
Becca: I think that’s the case though in a lot of businesses in our industry. So many people I talked to say, well, I didn’t really mean to start a business. I just kind of ended up starting one. So we learn a lot along the way, which is why it’s great that there’s so much education out there now to help people.
So for you, then looking back over your journey, you said you made some mistakes when you bought the business, but what about this topic of boundaries? When you look back over those years, of wedding planning. Were there moments where you realized, yeah, I made some mistakes when it came to setting boundaries between yourself and your clients?
Megan: Oh, I made all the mistakes, Becca, I didn’t make some of them. I identified jokingly, but truly as a recovering people pleaser. I am an Enneagram 3 for anyone that gets into the Enneagram and that is the Achiever type. There’s nine types and I am built to hustle. I’ve come to learn that there is a dark side to that as I have gone through seasons of overwhelm and resentment and burnout in being an entrepreneur and trying to, Stretch myself to be everything to everyone.
And the way that that showed up in my wedding business is that there were certain things that in the effort of trying to build something successful and have happy clients and also be a mom, because I am a mom to three. I, I went so far outside of boundaries that I don’t even think I had in place in the beginning that, yeah, there were red flag clients, there were no sense of work hours or work life balance, there were.
What I joke about is like the quarterly meltdown that I would have as an entrepreneur, where everything starts to build up and you get to that point where it’s sort of a game over meltdown, then reset and do the same thing over again. So boundaries are something that I feel very passionate about talking about now because I also deeply care.
about serving your clients well and making sure that you are creating an experience that creates raving fans, you know, just referral machine in your business, but it has to be done with boundaries that keep you in the industry for a long time instead of getting to a place where it’s too much and you leave because your bank account does not reflect.
the hustle that you have put into growing it.
Becca: So true. And I think there’s a lot of people pleasers in the wedding industry. I think that’s why we go into this business, right? Because we want to please people. We want to make people happy. We want them to have the best day. And I know there will be people listening to this who are.
In that situation that you just described yourself being in, where they feel like they have no boundaries and their clients are contacting them at two o’clock in the morning and they are getting cross with them when they don’t reply to an email after 30 seconds and they just feel completely overwhelmed.
So have you got any practical thoughts, any steps to just help people get out of that space and get into a space where they have a little bit more control and a few more boundaries?
Megan: Yes. Okay. I have, I’ve broken this down really into four sort of containers, four buckets, and there’s, there’s several strategies within each and we won’t have time to go deep into those, but I thought what we could do is talk about one.
actionable strategy from each bucket. Because my goal is that someone is giving their time, they’re listening to this episode, and I want them to walk away with a nugget or something that they can truly take and implement into their business. And before I get into those, Becca, I got to quote my girl, Taylor Swift, honestly, when she says, I’m the problem, it’s me because The reality is if we look at our business, how we show up in our business, what that lack of boundaries looks like, 95 percent of the time we have to turn it back internally and say that we are not one communicating the boundaries.
And if we are communicating them, we’re not upholding them when a client tries to run right past them. So that’s why, you know, I have a candle sitting on my desk that literally says I’m the problem. It’s me. And it’s my reminder of like, Hey. I’m the one that has to, one, figure out what my boundaries are, communicate them, and then uphold them.
So with that, the four different buckets that we’ll, we’ll break this down into is your website, your contract, your onboarding, and then yourself. So number one is your website. And there’s two real key ways to start to communicate your boundaries and attract a client that is going to be your ideal client.
Number one is in the messaging and copy that you are putting out there, remember that speaking to everyone and trying to attract everyone is going to bring in a wide array of client types and some of those are going to be types that really Push up against your boundaries. So getting clear on who you want to work with, who you want to speak to, what those red flags might have looked like in clients you’ve worked with thus far and where they came from and what attracted them to you.
That’s, that’s one piece of work. But then my one actionable strategy for you as it relates to boundaries in your website is highly consider an FAQ. section on your website. This is a great way to attract your ideal client, repel a non ideal client, start to speak about pricing ranges, start to talk about what your packages look like, who you’re for, who you’re not for, and that’s one clear way on your website to start to bring in that ideal client and push away clients that may not be the right fit for you.
Becca: A hundred percent. I love that. I think I’m all about the fact that we want to repel more people that we, than we attract because otherwise we just make more work for ourselves. So that’s a great tip. Okay. Number two, then the contract. This sounds exciting.
Megan: Maybe. I mean, it’s, it’s. something. It is absolutely something.
So as a wedding planner for 12 years, I had a legitimate contract, but there were quite a few clauses that I would add to my contract as I encountered some of those red flag clients or boundary pushers. that made me question why I was doing something and how to prevent that happening in the future. So as you’re looking at your contract, I’m going to throw out really four clauses to consider.
I’m not going to give you the verbiage because I’m not a lawyer, but these are things that I would either consult with a lawyer or purchase a contract template that likely includes clauses like this. Number one for me is a professional vendor clause. As a wedding planner, I found myself working with.
Aunt Sally who did flowers from 20 years ago, from brother who’s the DJ but also works as a chiropractor, from the cake artist that was the grandmother’s best friend who made cakes on the side, and all of those things resulted in disasters for the wedding day. So I added a professional vendor clause in my contract that said, if you’re working with me, then I require that you also work with professional.
licensed insured vendors for these particular categories. Now you get to decide what those categories look like, but that’s in short what a professional vendor clause is. I had a communication clause that said my clients need to respond within a timely manner so that that doesn’t hold up the process in working together.
I had a client abuse clause that said verbal physical abuse and it outlined what some of those things might look like will not be tolerated during the planning process as well as on the wedding day and should that happen here are the terms of what the cancellation of our agreement will look like and then an availability clause and this was key as we had a team and sometimes a client would book without having their wedding date.
So this outlined what it would look like, how many dates we would hold, how long we would hold those dates for, and what the time frame would look like for us to select a venue and then partner them up with one of our team members. And it gave options of if a date that they selected That particular team member that they wanted was not available what their options were for working with someone else on the team.
So those are like four rapid fire contract clauses that help set boundaries.
Becca: Super helpful. And I definitely think there’ll be people listening to this that don’t even have a very good contract. So if you’re thinking, Oh, red flag, I don’t even have a contract, let alone all those clauses. Please go and speak to a lawyer or, like Megan said, find a contract template that’s okay to use here in the UK as well because a lot of them come out of the States.
You’ve just got to be careful that it’s right. But yeah, contract is so important because if you do have a problem, which we’ll talk more about in a little while, you want something to fall back on. So that’s contract. Let’s talk about onboarding.
Megan: Okay, this will be quick. This one is, as you’re bringing on a new client, there are two things that are really important.
If you are a volume based business, then you can go the route of recording a short general video that you send to your clients that says, we’re so excited to get working with you. Here you’ll find a link to our client, new client welcome guide, which has some important information on X, Y, and Z. If you are a high level, high touch business, then you need to plan to do either a personal video recording for each client or an onboarding call that communicates the same things, but a welcome guide which outlines helpful information that the client needs.
Some frequently asked questions for a new client. It It eases the buyer’s remorse and it sets you up as the expert and, and communicates things like hours of availability. Do you meet on weekends? What’s the best way to communicate with you? A welcome guide is a, you must have in your business in 2024.
And when I speak on stages and I ask my attendees to raise their hands, if they currently have a welcome guide that they use, I still am seeing about 50 percent say, you know, Kind of a hand raised and the goal of the welcome guide is not to be a It’s a 47 page document that you send at the time that they book and it is never used again.
There’s ways to encourage your clients to use it throughout the planning process. That can be a whole other separate episode. But in short, onboarding and setting expectations through a call, a video, and a welcome guide are key for boundaries.
Becca: So important. And I think the thing is, we’re living in a generation now where people are used to being on Netflix, being on Amazon and everything happening instantly.
They get instant chat with everyone. And so then when they work with us, they forget that we are not like that. So it’s really important. for people to set out those, those hours, because sometimes people come say to me, Oh, this client’s really annoying me because they’re messaging me at 10 o’clock at night.
And I say to them, have you ever told them they can’t? No. So yeah.
Megan: Yeah. If it’s in your head, but not. Yes. Yes. Yes. Which kind of takes me to our last. bucket for boundaries and that is yourself and your mindset. And this is where you have to carve out a little bit of time and reflect on where you are in your career and what’s working and what’s not.
So if you’re looking back at your last year of clients and you’re noticing like, you know what? Really? Like led to some moments of overwhelm, resentment, burnout were the clients that were texting or the clients that were reading emails or the clients that were showing up late to meetings or the clients that were asking me to do things that weren’t part of the package that they had booked me.
So identifying those, I call them like the soul suck moments of your business, identifying those soul sucks and then asking yourself again, what you just said, Becca is like, am I currently. communicating on the front end with my clients that these are things that they shouldn’t do. And if I am communicating those things and it’s still happening, is it because I’m allowing it or is there some other problem?
And oftentimes this is that 95 percent taking it back to I’m the problem, it’s me. 95 percent of the time you’re going to find that you’re communicating it. At the front end and not talking about it when the boundaries are passed, or you’re not communicating it and it’s just in your head.
So making that list of what you’re not going to allow moving forward and what that plan needs to look like and I just want to Take a moment to acknowledge this because as someone that’s still to this day, almost 14 years into being in the wedding industry, I still struggle with this. I still struggle with setting boundaries and holding myself to it.
Like I am the one that tends to set a boundary and then want to do more or say, you know, okay, well just this one time or for this one person. And so for me, this is a quarterly. Reboot that I have to do within my business. Once a quarter I sit down and I, I analyze like what happened over the last 90 days that really were points of tension.
And how do I not take this to the next 90 days of my business? So it is a constant work in progress. It is not easy. I don’t want to make it sound easy, but it is the work that helps you shift away from feeling all of that resentment, overwhelm, and burnout.
Becca: I love that you’re being so honest about your own experiences and being real about the fact that this is an ongoing process.
And I know there’ll be people listening who are thinking, yeah Megan, but when that bride texts me at 10 o’clock, even though I’ve told them they can’t text me at eight o’clock, what can I do so that I don’t upset them? Like practically, do I tell them that they shouldn’t reply? Do I tell them the next day?
Have you got any thoughts on practically how to deal with those issues?
Megan: Great question. So there’s a couple of different routes you can take with this. One, you can shoot them back a text the next morning and say, thank you so much for reaching, you know, or thank you so much for texting me about this. If you don’t mind, I would love for you to drop this in an email and send it my way because I don’t want it to get lost.
And it’s important that I can follow up on this. And I’m out and about today, or I won’t be at my desk until 10 a. m. and you’ll be one of my top priorities when I get there. Can you please shoot this over in an email? That’s option one. Option two is you can shoot them an email when you do get to your desk and say, Hey, Becca, I saw your text come in last night and I just wanted to make sure that you know that I saw it.
It’s important to me. In the future, if you wouldn’t mind dropping it in an email to me so that I can make sure that nothing gets lost. Your ultimate goal is to communicate to them that the reason why it’s important that they stick to the boundary is for their benefit and their great client experience.
So you don’t have to make it about you like. I don’t respond to text or I try to shut down or I’m with my family. You can just clearly say like, this is the way we do it and it is for your benefit. You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of the behind the scenes of your life. Yeah, that’s really helpful.
Becca: And I think as well, actually it’s okay if they want to email you late at night as long as they know that you’re not going to reply because their schedule might look different to yours. They may be working and then wedding planning in the evening. So you’re right. As long as we’re clear about, you know, I love that.
I’m only replying now because this is my working hours and I want to help you. Yeah, absolute gold. Now, one of the other areas that I find my wedding pros struggle with when it comes to boundaries, and I’m sure you’ll have experienced this a little bit too from what you’ve been saying is becoming overly emotionally invested in their couples.
So it’s a blur of boundaries where they have been hired as the wedding planner or the. Cakemaker the florist and now all of a sudden it almost feels like they’ve become friends and it kind of goes all a bit icky. Any thoughts on how you can become less emotionally invested and keep it like business?
Megan: This is something that I struggled with in my career as a wedding planner. For me, I tried to focus on my time working with them, whatever that period of time is. First and foremost, I have to be the professional that they’ve hired. That doesn’t mean I can’t be warm and friendly and joke and get to know them and their lives and feel like a member of their family.
But at the end of the day, I am hired to be a professional and do a certain service for them. So I focus on that during the time that we’re working together and then I have the friendship that comes. After the wedding day, which I can tell you has absolutely happened. I have been to past clients baby showers.
I have taken a trip to New York City with a client that I worked with, but all of these things happened after the wedding day. So I’m friendly, I’m warm, I’m connected to them, but I focus on professionalism first and foremost. And friendship can come after the fact, like Facebook friend request. I wouldn’t even accept those until.
After I have completed their wedding because I don’t want them seeing that I’m posting something by taking my kids to a fair and I’m not responding to their emails. Like I need a little bit of protection there.
Becca: Yeah, and I think it’s so easy for those lines to be blurred because we are working with people on that special day and they’re all happy and if you, if we let ourselves go too early, then that’s when they start breaking in and breaking those boundaries because they think they can get away with it.
Megan: So true. Yeah, it is so true. And I think that’s where you start doing things for free or you start not sending that invoice because they’re so nice and you don’t want to. So I think that’s where you have to keep that focus on professionalism, first and foremost.
Becca: Yeah. And sometimes I say to people, I’m like, just take a step back.
And imagine, like, when you send a parcel back because you don’t like the clothing you’ve bought from ASOS Online, do you think someone’s sad at the other end that you sent it back? No, because it’s a business, and we are business owners too, so we need to stop feeling so deeply about everything. And just remember, it’s a business transaction.
Like, Starbucks aren’t crying if I say I don’t like their coffee. You don’t need to cry. It’s just a business.
Megan: Right. And I love that you said that because I will also take that same analogy and turn it towards setting boundaries. So take your local coffee shop, right? They have certain hours and they have certain menu items.
If I go to your local coffee shop and I’m like, Hey, could I get some pasta sauce with vodka and you know, on the side, and I know that you closed an hour ago, but I’m just wondering if you could like, figure out how to make it for me. They’re not going to be like, sure, hold on, no problem. I’m going to do it.
No, hopefully they’re not going to be there because they closed an hour ago and they’re going to say, we don’t have the capability to, to offer that to you. It’s not on our menu. However, what I see small business owners doing in our industry is going totally outside of their boundaries and serving in a way that does not serve their clients well and does not serve the longevity of growing their business well either.
Becca: Okay, Megan, so we’ve spoken a lot about boundaries and how a lot of the time it might be an us problem instead of a them problem. But we also know that, you know, in that 5%, sometimes it actually is a them problem. And sometimes we do come across a client who, despite us keep reminding them and setting the boundaries, really takes it too far and starts breaking some of those agreements.
And that’s a really tough spot to be in, especially for us people pleasers. So is there ever a time when it’s right for us to fire a client, and how do we even go about doing that well?
Megan: Oh yes, there’s, there definitely is a time, and you’re right. There will be about five percent is, is my best guess.
Looking at the number of weddings that I did over a 12 year period of time, and the number of clients that I did let go, I fired. It is not easy when you are dealing with someone’s wedding day, and there are high stakes, high demand, high drama, high everything. To, to fire a client is a delicate situation and there’s really no guaranteed way to do it to avoid some potential points of friction that may come up.
But my best strategy here is to Let’s say you have a difficult client and you are feeling like you can’t make them happy and they are blowing past any boundaries that you have set in place and there is a lack of respect. You just feel like not only are you not on the same page, you are in completely different books.
Your first step. is to ask for a, a meeting. I call this internally. It’s like a relationship reset meeting. So this is your opportunity to get them on the phone. This is not an email because this is not something that belongs in an email. Honestly, it is. I’d love to have a conversation with you so we can discuss X, Y, and Z.
When is the time that works for you? On that call, your goal is to acknowledge where the relationship is, try to practice empathy and understand where they may be coming from, and determine if on that call you feel like you can proceed forward and continue working together, or if truly it is at a place of disrepair.
If it is in a place where you feel like there were some misunderstandings, you’ve worked it through and you can continue on, then you need to set your own internal boundaries to know at that point, like, okay, here we go. We’re starting afresh. I’ve said that I will do X, Y, and Z. They said they will do this.
Let’s go. And if 30 days later you still feel like you’re in the same spot, then it might be time to fire that client. Alternatively, if you’re on that call and you determine this is, we cannot see eye to eye, things are not okay, it may be time to fire that client right then. Firing a client has Quite a few different paths of what I call like a choose your own adventure of how you want to handle it.
One, you have to look at what your contract says. Two, you’ll have to determine from a payment standpoint, is this something that you are validated in keeping money that has been paid thus far? Or, is this something where you will need to return money back if you are walking away from this relationship? I have done it both ways in the past.
There have been cases where I have Honestly, I’ve looked at my contract and I have determined that although my contract says that I, it is perfectly acceptable for me to keep my non refundable retainer or deposit, whatever you call it It is in my best interest to bless and release. Is that a term that y’all use over there?
Bless and release. So at this point I’ve decided for my mental health, for just being able to let it go and move on, I will give back money and sleep better at night that I am no longer working with this person. That’s a personal choice. I will not, you know, I, I would never guide you towards a path that doesn’t feel aligned to you as you’re listening to this, but you have to decide, are you keeping the money?
Are you giving the money back? What does your contract say? And how do you walk away from a situation that is tense and does have a lot of. feeling and emotion wrapped up in it and how can you lean into empathy and understanding that your lived experience is completely different than that other person’s lived experience.
And it’s, like I said, it’s a very delicate situation. I don’t know if you have follow up questions for that.
Becca: Yeah, I do have a couple of follow up questions. So the first one is, do you think it’s a bit like what you said before, where we need to make it about them and not us? So are we saying, actually, I think you would do better with a different planner rather than you’re a client from my nightmares and I don’t want you.
Megan: Yes, it is, it is so true. If you can make it about them and the benefit for them, that’s the number one goal is, listen, I don’t think that our team or myself that we have the skill set that you are looking for and that you, you know, ultimately deserve for this very special day. So I think it would be in your best interest for you to partner with another pro for photography, for cake or for whatever that particular category is.
Becca: And the other thing I think people are really scared about, which I think you may have some experience to share is. They’re so scared of getting a negative review, an online review that says something bad about them, that they’d almost rather move heaven and earth and just hate their life for fear of getting this negative review.
Have you dealt with that? Have you had a negative review? And if not, what would you recommend people do about that?
Megan: Ah, such a great question. And I do have a couple podcast episodes that I’ll send you to include if you want in the link for the show notes for here about negative reviews. Negative reviews are scary, but they will not tank your business.
I can say this with 100 percent certainty because about four years into my planning business, we had started to gain ground and build a really strong reputation. We had all these five star reviews. I was feeling really good. And then I had a client come along that was, she was in the 5%. She was an absolute nightmare client.
And I was four months into an 18 month. Contract with her and I turned to my husband. I was like, listen, I am dreading every day of my life. Every time I check my email, every correspondence, everything about this relationship is toxic to my life and I need to be done. I tried to fire the client and the client was like, I tried the whole, you deserve better, like you, you, you should be working with someone that really gets you.
And that client was like, you get me and we are going to continue working together. Like I don’t want to work with anyone else. And I, my people pleaser really had to work through that one, but I ended up. I gave back pretty much all of the money, again, because I wanted the peace of mind with the exception of 400 that covered my travel fee for the site visit.
And the quick version here is that As soon as she got her money back, she went on every review site, wrote horrible review about me on literally anywhere you could write a review about a wedding pro. And I was heartbroken. I reached out to her and I said, I am, I thought we had ended this in a good spot if this is over the 400.
Cause she made a mention in the review of like, she even kept money. from us. And so I said to her, if this is over the 400, you can have that back. Like it doesn’t, that does not matter to me at this point. Then she went back on every review site and wrote, update, Megan offered to pay us to take down this review.
Obviously we declined. So, I tell this story because that was four years into my business. I continued to have the business for eight years. After that, as long as you respond professionally, not with emotion and anger and you know, verb, verbiage that comes off as off putting. If you respond professionally and write it as you want your future client to read your response.
That’s the best way to deal with negative reviews. Negative reviews show that you’re a real business. It shows that you are human. It shows that there are some crazy people out there, which typically you will see in the way that they write their review. And I would encourage you to Ask yourself, is this something that is in my process that I did not do a good job of communicating how we would be guiding them through this?
Did I drop the ball? And is this something that their wedding date is within the next 90 days? That’s kind of where I have like my threshold. If it’s within 90 days, I say buckle up and get through. If it’s farther than 90 days out, Then I think it’s worth considering if you need to end the relationship, but when you touch a cancellation within 90 days, like you’re in for, you’re in for some client wrath, to be honest.
Becca: That’s a great story. I mean, horrendous to look back on, but wow. And a reminder to us all that, yeah, a negative review isn’t going to ruin your business. And again, kind of going back to what we were saying earlier. I think we can take note from places like Starbucks, the big people, because they’re getting negative reviews left, right and center.
Let’s watch what they do. They reply to the review, normally very matter of fact saying, we’re very willing to talk to you about your experience. We’re sorry that this happened. Please send us an email.
Megan: Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. What I’ve seen some really like heated, passionate, angry business owner replies to reviews.
And that always. It makes me feel a certain way. And also, you know, while I have you, listener, I would say leaving a negative review not responded to is also not a good move. You need to respond to that. Yeah, absolutely.
Becca: And sometimes we just need to sleep on it and suck up our pride before we go right back on there and reply to that response.
Megan: I need that feedback too because I’m a you wronged me and I want to take action right now type of girl and luckily I have people in my inner circle that are like, no, let’s just calm down, like let’s sleep on it for a moment and then, and then we’ll figure out what happens.
Becca: And it always feels better the next day.
And we need to remember, right, we’ve, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff here. We’ve got very real and honest, and hopefully it’s been really helpful for the listener. But this is only 5 percent of the time. If you’re new to planning or new to the industry, don’t let this scare you. There’s not that many nightmare clients out there, is there, Megan?
Megan: There is not. There really is not. And also, I would just say, like, So, the things that we talked about in this episode as far as how we set boundaries prior to nightmare clients will also help tame and reduce the percentage of nightmare clients.
Becca: Yeah, absolutely. Oh, this has been so much fun to go all over the place and talk about boundaries.
I know it’s going to be a lot of things in here that my listeners are going to find super helpful. I always end my podcast with the same question, Megan, so I’m going to ask that to you now, which is this. What’s one thing you personally wish you’d known sooner in your own wedding business?
Megan: Ooh, Becca, this is so hard to answer.
Just one thing. I think I would say, I wish I had known sooner that putting energy and so much thought towards what others in my industry, my competition were thinking about me was so wasted instead of just putting my head down and doing it. leaning into what I knew I could deliver to my clients and what I was going to bring to the industry.
My, my imposter syndrome, my inner critic, my worrying about what others believed was a real slow down for me in my career.
Becca: Absolutely. Such good advice. Stay in your own lane and don’t get distracted by everyone else. Megan, it’s been fabulous. If you want to, people want to find out more about you, more about how to work within these boundaries, where’s the best place for them to find you?
Megan: Yes, I would love for you to come find me on Instagram. I’m at weddings for real, which is my podcast for wedding pros. And then I also have a membership for wedding planners called the planners fault. And I’m on Instagram there at at planners fault. And I was just thinking as we were talking, I have a boundary setting toolkit, which we can include the link in the show notes too, if you’d like, which has some email templates.
It has an editable welcome guide, and that may be a really great resource. For those of you that are like, okay, Megan, I hear you on the welcome guide. Yeah, I, I think in the boundary setting toolkit, Becca, I have three ways to say no to a, an inquiry that is not an ideal client. So we make it, it’s a, you have all the choices there.
Becca: I love that. So helpful. So yeah, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, I resonate a lot with this and I need to sort this out, go and check that out. I will make sure I link to all of Megan’s things in the show notes and that episode she mentioned from her own podcast, all about how to deal with those negative reviews.
Megan, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here and hopefully we can be in a room together in real life somewhere again soon.
Megan: Let’s do it. I can’t wait. And thank you so much for having me on the show. What a great conversation. It was fabulous.
Becca: Thanks for being here.
I love that conversation.
I know we went quite deep, but I think it’s really important for us to talk about the real side of the industry. There’s no point in us talking about all of the shiny things all of the time. Actually we all know that there’s real things to deal with, difficult customers, difficult customers. It’s really important.
Boundaries that we have to overcome. So I hope that you’ve taken away something really positive from this conversation. And if you’ve got more questions or you’ve got things you want to chat through, drop myself or Megan a message, and I’m sure we’re happy to help. I’ll see you next time.