In these wedding planning days I have gotten caught up in a few different podcasts. As you would think quite a few of them are run by wedding planners, photographers and coordinators. In my research for finding my own vendors, I’ve spoken with quite a few different qualified florists, coordinators, caterers, seamstresses, even my best friend who is a photographer– and I can hear it in many of their voices–the need to justify their prices for the work that they do.
Honestly, it makes me sad, because I get it. I get it on a very big level. Being a dance studio director, what I do is based around a service. What I, and let me repeat, I (because that singular “I” is me, myself, and I, which can often be a lot of pressure to deliver every single day) do in the studio has to be of value and often, I feel that I have to explain that or justify what that service is. If I don’t deliver, the students won’t come. I don’t get to be tired, or moody, or lazy. I have skills that are expected to be delivered.
We service based professionals have done our hard work like everyone else. We’ve gone to school, we’ve done our research, we continue to do our research, we try to keep ourselves and our products relevant, we try to cater to as many individuals (that see our vision) as we can. We often wear all the hats– business owner, teacher, plumber, janitor, consultant, researcher, communicator, community member, financial guru, and guess what? We have to pay our bills, and in some cases, some have to pay student loans for the expertise they have gained.
We are very lucky in having our own businesses that often, and depending on the situation, we can work with our clients to create payment plans that can work for each individual family. We know that real life happens and regardless, we see the value in what we do for a child AND an adult’s life, and thus, want to include people in our little community.
Unfortunately though, and I realize this is on us, but we have people finish out dance years with us, owe us a bill, and then never return to dance. And while we continue to send bills and invoices, we never see another dime. We pay for costumes in good faith and never see those costumes paid for. Money we are just out because we trusted a contract that is signed at the beginning of the year. Because what would you have us do? Announce in front of an entire studio that so and so didn’t pay, so their child can’t have their costume and won’t perform? I will not do that to a child.
I have been at dinner in our little small town, looked over and have seen people that owe us hundreds of dollars. I don’t say this to be rude, I don’t say this to shame anyone, I say this because this is the reality. Another reality is that I invest in my students. I have invested my life in my art, in my teaching, in my passion. I spend my days researching companies and choreography to keep my students’ education up to date. I research childhood mental and physical development so that I know I’m teaching my students what’s continuously appropriate. I went to college for this art. I spend my days exercising and throwing myself around a studio trying choreography so that I can keep my body up to be able to teach and show them quality work (and IT HURTS). I spend my nights reviewing what I said to my students in hopes that I am helping them have high expectations for themselves but in a positive and encouraging manner.
It’s the same for these wedding vendors right? They want to tell us what equipment they invest in, what time it takes to set up, edit, deliver, care. And they should! They should tell you because they should know what their strengths are. All of us should be proud enough to tell you what value we bring to this world. We should be proud to say our prices and expect them delivered in return. (Side note: some people don’t realize that our prices are determined by overhead costs, not just some arbitrary number to be known for offering expensive dance classes). And again, I get real life. It’s not always easy to pay for our services. I can respect that. But I want to work with people. If people are honest and show us their good faith, I want to give something to their lives and help make their lives easier and better. I want to help where I can.
But believe that when you are investing in a service industry, you are often investing in a small business. You are investing in a woman or man making their way in this world to give something to this world that they passionately believe in. And… teach your children… there IS value in that.