The Golden Cage, and Why I Love Systems
Today I want to talk about what I’m calling the “Golden Cage," which is when you build a business that is MORE stressful than the job you left, as well as why I love systems. Systems are the key to so much less stress in your business. And I love helping wedding pros book more weddings with my proven Gentle Sales System, so that you can build the trust that clients need before they can book you - while working less. My wedding business is pretty much on autopilot now, and I’m really excited to help other business owners do the same. If you missed this live, you can join me in my new Facebook group to catch these videos every Tuesday!
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So, today I wanted to talk to you about what I’m calling the Golden Cage. This is when you build a business in a way that brings in money, but also traps you in a cycle of burnout. I’m going to give you three reasons why this happens, how we can start breaking out of the cage, and why I love helping people with this problem.
How the Golden Cage Happens
Why do wedding pros in particular get stuck in a Golden Cage? First, I think it's because intensity plus creativity are a recipe for burnout. Weddings are intense, and being creative requires a lot of energy. Most wedding pros are creative people - and we are extra prone to burnout. Secondly, we are also in this business because we love to help people, and so much comes from the heart. And in doing that, we often overextend ourselves. We give away too much. We work too hard, and fret over charging too much. And then, we wonder why everything in our business feels so hard all the time. So we trap ourselves in this cycle of overextending, and then feeling burnt out.
In addition, you probably started your business because the 9-to-5 life was not your favorite. And in our past jobs, we experienced a lot of pressure, hustle culture, and overwork. Unfortunately, just because we leave the job, doesn't mean our old habits disappear. So we add those tendencies into an intense wedding business, and it's just a recipe for disaster.
Lastly, wedding pros are also people who got into the business because they love weddings, love helping people, and love being creative. We are amazing at our craft. But most of us did not get MBAs before we started our businesses. So, we don’t always have the skills to do things the “right” way the first time. And we build these inefficient systems that become really limiting as we grow. When you think about most big businesses, they have departments, management, and entire groups of people responsible for small pieces. However, most wedding businesses have ONE person in charge of everything - you. And that creates a lot of bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
Years ago, I was on vacation, and the biggest-budget lead I’d ever had landed in my inbox. I immediately had to go to a coffee shop to get wifi, so I could send her a welcome email. And then, she emailed back right away. She was interested in working together! So I spent hours, the rest of that week, trying to write her proposal because I really wanted that sale. And I got the sale, but I also ruined my vacation. I quickly realized that this was a truly terrible way to run a business. I started my business so that I could have more freedom, not less. I was stuck in the Golden Cage. I was “successful,” and winning clients. But I was also trapped. Because doing everything yourself makes it really difficult to take on more clients, scale your business, or even hire help - because you’re too busy. And you’re always too busy.
So, you’re trapped. You have a successful business bringing in clients, and your clients are happy, but you are too busy, too burnt out, and probably not making enough money for the hours worked. You love what you do, and your clients, but you’re also dying inside. It's not a great place to be. And you know what? A lot of wedding pros quit. A LOT of wedding pros quit during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. But wedding pros are still quitting - there is someone near me who is currently selling off her entire inventory to get out of business. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon, especially now. And the saddest part is that it doesn’t have to be like this.
How to Break the Cycle
First, think about where you are inefficient, or wasting a lot of time. One of the biggest time-wasters is not having your business systems figured out. Your systems dictate your marketing planning, your client workflow, your project management, and your financial tracking. Those processes are SO important, and often get put on the back burner. It’s likely you know deep down where this is already lacking, but you can also use a time tracker to find out where you’re spending too much time.
Before I fixed my business systems, I was wasting so much time on new leads. I’d get a lead in my inbox, then spend hours writing emails and going back and forth on times to get them on a call. Later, I'd find out they had a super low budget. At that point, we’d already spent at least an hour on a call, and I felt bad letting them go. So I’d contort my entire business around their needs and budget, and spend hours more trying to figure out how I could give them something and still make a profit. I’d send them a PDF with custom pricing and everything - and then they wouldn’t book.
Obviously, there were so many issues with my systems. I wasn’t marketing well to attract the right clients. I didn’t have a streamlined workflow for my clients once they inquired. I didn’t have anything automated. I was wasting a ton of time on calls, gathering information that could have been gathered another way. And a lot of my follow-ups fell through the cracks, because it was relying on me remembering to do it. It was a bad “system,” and it made me feel bad.
Now, I really don’t do anything for new clients until they book a call. And my calls are only 20 minutes. So all of my automations do the heavy lifting - sending info, checking in with them, and helping them filter out. Last year, I had a 100% booking rate, which is unheard of. By the time they got on a call with me, they were already sold - we were just hammering out the details. And I didn’t do anything!! To be honest, it changed my entire business to be sustainable for me.
Now, of course, it’s still not perfect. Bookings are really slow this year because of all the tech layoffs, and I’m in Seattle, which is a tech city. But at least I am not spending hours chasing a client who can’t afford me. My business is pretty much on autopilot until the wedding week, yet my client experience is more luxurious than ever.
Why I Love Systems
So, why am I so obsessed with these systems - particularly when it comes to managing clients? I am fanatical about this, because building good business systems is so powerful. They can totally transform a business into something more sustainable than the Golden Cage we built by accident. Of course, a lot of us in the wedding industry didn’t figure it all out before we opened our business. We just thought, "Hey, I love doing this, I’m so good at flowers (or planning, or hair and makeup, or whatever else) - let me start a business."
So we start without the end in mind, build our businesses in inefficient ways, and then wonder why our business sucks. We’re run ragged because we’ve built a business that relies on us to do everything. Wear every hat. Send every email. Write every proposal. Do every sales call. It’s not sustainable!! But we’re always so focused on getting more sales and serving our clients, we don’t stop and fix the actual structures within our businesses that would make all of that easier. I see so much burnout in our industry, and it doesn’t have to be like that. I don’t want to see people continue to quit because they can’t keep up with the Golden Cage they accidentally built.
For this reason, I have really made it my mission to help other wedding business owners create an effortless, elevated wedding client experience that will attract, book, and impress the most luxurious couples - with less work than ever. I am so passionate about making this easier for some of the most creative, hardest working people on the planet. I want you to keep booking fantastic clients, without ruining your vacation. It’s possible to have a wedding business that runs without YOU doing every little thing.
So, I want to ask you, straight up. Why do you want to own a wedding business? What should it give you, that you cannot get from a normal job, or some other kind of business? Maybe it’s flexibility, or more time with your kids, or more vacation time in the off season. And are you running your wedding business? Or is your business running you? If you feel like your business is running you, are there any parts of your business right now that feel inefficient? What are they?
For now, I just want you to marinate on that. I would love for you to join me in my new Facebook Group to chat about it. We have a truly fabulous group of people! I'm also going to keep going live every Tuesday at 2pm Pacific so we can continue digging into this. And lastly, I'd love for you to join our email crew, the Wedding Besties. You'll get my best tips, free and paid education opportunities, and so much more.