2008 … What a long, strange trip it’s been. The ubiquitous end-of-year mantra “America is hurting” hovers throughout the atmosphere like a thick blanket of smog suffocating us. Those fortunate enough to have dodged a lethal hit in this economic meltdown are paralyzed, like deer in the headlights, afraid to spend their money due to the doom and gloom of this ubiquitous chant, compounding the problem.
A crisp, clear winter day can lead to a happy heart with warm thoughts of the upcoming holidays; thoughts that maybe it would be okay to go shopping—without guilt—for a few presents or maybe even out to dinner. But watching just 10 minutes of CNN is enough to send us cowering back into our bedrooms with thoughts of stuffing the remnants of our nest eggs under the mattress.
The wedding industry—once thought to be immune to economic slumps—is finally starting to feel the pinch, and it stings. Numbers are down for just about all wedding vendors; from event planners to photographers, everyone is concerned.
But take heart! This too shall pass, and even though it may not be easy, we can survive. To do so, we must be smart, sensible, and willing to sacrifice.
My wise Uncle Jack once told me, “Don’t worry about what others think. Just do your own thing.” Just do your own thing. This ’60s slogan certainly doesn’t sound like terribly profound counsel, yet, taken in the proper context, it’s a priceless nugget of advice.
For instance, it’s good to know what your colleagues are up to, but don’t worry about what they’re charging or what kind of equipment they use. Since just about everyone thinks his or her way is the right way, it’s important to note that what may be right for others is not necessarily right for you.
Case in point: HD. High-definition is a great thing. It looks better, it’s 16:9, the colors are richer, and … nobody’s asking for it. If you are still shooting in SD and your clients aren’t demanding HD, why convert? Because some of your colleagues shoot in HD? Never! That type of phantom-menace purchasing does not a sound investment make. My husband, Steve, has his own little mantra: “If it won’t make you money, don’t buy it.” This simple, no-nonsense philosophy has helped us create a very profitable company.
Surviving a downward-spiraling economy takes more than a business strategy; it takes a complete lifestyle strategy. It means cutting back on some of the frills and extras we’re used to and getting out of—and staying out of—debt. It means avoiding the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome. Because the Joneses, with their new cars, pool, and remodel, may be next in line to have their home foreclosed. Bling doesn’t mean bank; the only thing it means for sure is that somebody likes to spend. So don’t allow yourself to get sucked into financially lethal competitions with neighbors or colleagues who may not even be all that they appear.
This is an especially difficult time for young people trying to start their careers; however, there is reason to be encouraged. As tough as it may be, the younger you are, the more time you have to recover financially and do well in the long haul—if you play smart and manage your money wisely.
Pay yourself first. The habit of putting a specified amount of money into savings each month, before anything else, is the golden rule of personal finance. Not only will this build your nest egg, it’s the only way to ever get ahead. And it’s when you get ahead that you have money with which you can splurge.
The economy will improve eventually, but how we handle the current situation will carry over into the recovered market to our benefit or detriment. Instead of lowering the price of your established packages if bookings are down, consider creating additional packages that provide fewer frills which will attract the budget-strapped bride.
There are many ways to do this. A few examples would be to reduce hours of coverage, number of cameras, artistic editing, and/or eliminate preceremony coverage. This makes far more business sense than simply lowering prices and giving away the farm. Moreover, your premium package pricing will be in tack for the more affluent bride; and you won’t have to battle moving back up the price scale to reach your target market when the economy improves.
Equipment is becoming more sophisticated and costly, and the amount of labor that goes into a good, solid, well-produced video is substantial. On the other hand, we’ve got brides with smaller budgets. Even when the economy was good, it was hard to adequately charge for a technically correct production, let alone a truly artistic endeavor. With the present economy and prevailing mind-set regarding video held by the majority of today’s brides, most good videographers cannot charge what they’re truly worth. This, however, does not mean a profit can’t be made. It’s a balancing act to find a happy medium between the extent of investment into one’s productions and the price the market will bear for such a product.
So keep the faith, my friends! Start 2009 with a plan. A plan to give up in order to gain, to stand tough instead of fearful, to stop worrying about what your competitors are doing and, quite simply, to do your own thing!
Laura Moses (info at vppvideo.com) is half of Vantage Point Productions of San Dimas, Calif. She and her husband, Steve, are winners of multiple international awards--including a 2008 Gold WEVA Creative Excellence Award in the Wedding Demo Category--and were selected to the 2006 and 2007 EventDV 25.