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When Should you Work for Free?

Some people say you should never work for free, end of, but I tend to disagree with this when you are running your own business and here is why.

Sometimes amazing opportunities can come along bringing a chance to collaborate, engage and network. You might be presented with a proposal or situation you really should be involved in and say yes to.

This is so key when it comes to networking in the wedding business, exchanging time or sometimes tangible things for exposure.

Now what do I mean by this, I will share some examples that often pop up in the Business of Weddings. 

Collaborating on a Styled Shoot.

Let's say, for example, you are asked to participate in a styled wedding shoot, you maybe approached to do the flowers, provide a cake, stationery, hair and makeup or be asked if you wished to photograph it.

If this aligns with your brand and you have a gut feeling it is an opportunity not to be missed, then trust your instincts. You are also not limited to a clients budget or taste, you can use this opportunity to be creative and really shine.

Wedding dress designers loan out dresses from their press departments in exchange for images, social media, and, if a good shoot, also press coverage. Their wedding dresses are then being exposed to a much wider audience.

If you were, let's say, a florist involved in that shoot by saying yes, you have opened up the doors to the following.

1. Your work is now being tagged in front of a much wider audience on social media.

2. You are building associations with other businesses leading to building relationships within the industry who will then recommend you.

3. You are more likely to become that wedding planners go to florist so are now receiving their clients paid orders.

Working for Clients Before they Book You

This is always a dilemma for wedding planners. I used to struggle with this one, so can completely resonate with you, I have had clients whose itineraries and venue viewings I organised then ghost me, it happens, so here I will talk about this.

How much work do I do for a potential clients before they book?

Clients will come into your world in two ways.

1. They have been recommended to you by a friend, maybe another wedding supplier or you have planned, photographed or decorated a wedding they have been to.

2. They have seen your website and social media and got in touch.

The first one is obviously a lot easier to get booked, you are already recommended and it is just a case of chatting to them and gaining trust if they need a bit more reassurance.

The second one is harder, you are basically doing a cold sell to them, they have found you, like your work but they need to get to know you, see how professional you are and if you are as awesome as you make yourself out to be!

You must gain the know, like, trust factor with clients, especially when it comes to destination weddings. They are already nervous they have chosen to host their wedding in a different country and have nothing to work on apart from what they can find on the internet.

I recently took a wedding planner through this nurturing client process so I will explain how she went from an enquiry to booked, and yes there was some free work involved.

I sent her a client, so she already had me recommending her. I then got a message from her telling me they want me to do all this work for them and they haven't booked, what should I do?

I asked what work it was. It was they had narrowed down venues and had asked her to check the prices and availability.

I told her to just do it, she had nothing to lose, time was on her side, the information she would receive would be filed and ready for another enquiry.

She was also reaching out to venues who otherwise would never have heard of her before. All the information and the beginning of her networking strategies were being put in place without her realising.

With this information to hand, she was able to go back to the client armed with a confident mindset as she all the information they had enquired about. 

So, not only was she obtaining information for her business and getting visible with venues, she was also gaining the respect and trust of that client. 

It doesn't have to be long winded, she spent maybe a day in total with two phone calls with the clients and a bit of work getting the information they had asked for, that client is now booked and she is utterly delighted.

So, whilst she panicked she was working for nothing she wasn't, she got booked, had a deposit paid, she now has money in the bank and a wedding to work on. 

This will be hugely valuable to her business as it grows, it will lead onto receiving images and building her portfolio up attracting in more clients.

Pitching for business is common, many businesses create presentations to show clients why they should work with them, weddings are no different, you really cannot expect a client to contact you and book you on the spot without pitching for their business.

Working for a Wedding Business to Gain Experience

I train interns each year, they join me in February and do an intensive 4 month training with me. I teach them everything they need to know about wedding planning, styling and also running a wedding business. I show them how to set up a business, how to market a business and how running a wedding planning company actually works. They come out with me on styled shoots, real weddings and leave armed with everything they could possibly need to start their own business.

This is in my mind is gold dust, I am teaching them everything in 4 months that has taken me 14 years to learn and perfect. I would recommend anyone wanting to work within the wedding industry to offer their services for free just to gain real insider experience.

This could be just helping out on the day of a wedding, shadowing a planner for a few months, seeing how they work whilst offering a helping hand to gain an insight into their business.

I hope by writing this blog post you can see the value of sometimes working for free if it is going to bring you exposure leading to paid work, gaining a clients trust leading to a booking, sometimes people are too short sighted and cannot see the broader picture.

What I do always recommend before you embark on any unpaid work is boundaries are set and contracts are in place to protect you.

If you are doing a styled shoot, do make sure you are going to be tagged in social media and you will be sent the images.

If you are working for clients before they book you, do have a cut off point where you ask them if they wish to confirm your services.

If you are working to gain experience from a wedding business, do have in place the hours they expect you to work and also the experience and skills they are going to teach you in exchange for your time.

The more you have in writing and in a contract the better. If you need help on this subject then of course do feel free to get in touch with me and ask me any questions.

You can reach me on

Images courtesy of Bloomfield Photography and Pedro Bellido.


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