Trust me; I know the feeling. It's all too comfortable to have your calendar booked 1-2 years in advance as a wedding photographer (or any wedding vendor for that matter). But what I've learned watching the wedding market over the past couple of years is that it can do more damage than good to your business to be booking wedding clients 16-18+ months out, and here's why:
Account for Future Growth
While having the security of a deposit can feel good in the moment, by booking a client now (at your current, or near-current pricing) for a wedding that won't occur for 12, 16, 18+ months from now, you are not properly accounting for your growth as an artist, business owner, and professional.
With every wedding and every project you take on, you are gaining experience and knowledge that will better your clients. When booking a wedding 18 months out, you will acquire 18 months more experience between now and when you serve your client.
Leave Room for "Unicorn Clients"
"Unicorn clients" are what I love to call those ideal, 'perfect' wedding clients. Almost every 'unicorn client' that I have encountered has booked within about 4-7 months out from their wedding date. Given this knowledge, I always do my best to leave room for these clients in my calendar.
If you find 'believing in unicorns' a little difficult, here's a helpful scenario to imagine for yourself. It's the middle of January of 2022. You've received an inquiry for October of 2023 for clients that have a budget that matches your current pricing. You book these clients, accept the deposit, and block off that calendar date.
Fast-forward to May of 2023, and you receive another inquiry for that same October 2023 date. These clients fit your aesthetic to a tee, their budget aligns with your updated pricing (ahem...higher than what you were charging in January of 2022), and they want to book you for their upcoming fall wedding. You're thrilled to get this inquiry until you realize that you booked this date about 16 months ago at your lower pricing.
Changes in Your Business + Process
Let's look at a personal example of how booking clients 14+ months in advance hurt my business financially: About 5 years ago, I was shooting entirely digitally. I understood approximately what I spent on each client I booked, and I accounted for that in my pricing.
After attending a workshop and getting some 1:1 coaching, I quickly realized that I wanted medium format film to become a large part of my shooting process. Unfortunately, I had to 'eat those costs' with clients that I had booked 12-18 months in advance (before I knew I wanted to shoot film). While it was worth it to learn how to shoot film well during a wedding day, had I not booked clients so far in advance, I would have been able to better account for these film costs, and increase my profit margin on each wedding.
Want to learn more about how I added film to my workflow? Check out this Blog Post.
How to 'Say No' to Bookings
In theory, this seems like a great idea, but you may be asking, 'how can I tell a client I can't book them yet'?
I want to challenge you to learn how to say no (or 'not yet') this month; for your business, and for your future self.
Next on the Educational Blog: How to Make Passive Income as a Wedding Photographer