If you have ever set up a party or coordinated a meeting and enjoyed it more than you should, you probably have an event planning itch that most people don’t. Event planning is more than just an errand for you—it is your passion.
Why not make a living out of it with your own event planning business? It is an excellent way to tick a couple of boxes in your life goals: love what you are doing and generate income.
Before you take the plunge, here are a few things you need to know. Take note that this article does not offer legal or financial advice, but it clearly outlines how to start an event planning business from a strategy perspective.
The Event Planning Industry is Huge
Before the COVID-19 virus reared its head, the events industry was estimated to have a value of $1,135.4 billion globally. It is huge by any measure, but it was set to grow even more over the next few years. Experts believed that by 2028, the numbers should be at $1,552.9 billion, which is equivalent to a compound annual growth rate of 11.2%.
The events space is vast and has many players, with corporate events and seminars being the most notable. Some of the other major stakeholders are sports events, concerts, exhibits and conferences, and festivals.
Needless to say, the pandemic put a damper on these high-spirited activities. People were forced to stay indoors and businesses to shut down, whether temporarily or permanently.
At first glance, it may seem that the situation is grim, but before you change your mind about risking your money and other resources on starting a business, consider this: many of your potential competitors have moved on to other ventures, leaving the market wide open.
In addition, the virus is finally loosening its grip on the world. Shops are reopening their doors, people are going back to work, and some semblance of normalcy is emerging, even if it is a bit different from before.
If there was ever a time to dip your toe and test the events waters, it is now. You will be in a great position to secure a significant chunk of a market brimming with unlimited potential, as people are raring to go out and take part in events.
Consider Your Event Planning Experience
An extensive event planning resume helps, as one of the first questions you will hear is “How many events have you organized?” Still, not having one does not have to be a deal-breaker.
While it can be intimidating at first to face potential clients and ask them to trust you even if you are new to the scene, there are a number of things you can do to tip the scales in your favor or at least level the playing field.
Highlight Relevant Skills
You may not have previous clients, but there is a good chance you have experienced organizing events. Focus on the skills that allow you to be successful in these activities and explain how they will help you be effective in organizing events for your clients.
Get a Recommendation
If you can find someone who will jump at the chance to rave about your qualifications, go for it. Showing that other people trust you and your capabilities goes a long way in earning a client’s confidence.
This recommendation does not have to come from a former client, which would be hard in the first place since you are just starting out. However, it must come from a credible source and explain why the client should choose you.
Work for Cheap or Free if You Have To
The time will come when you can choose your clients and even turn down some, but when you are starting out, you might have to take what comes your way. In some cases, even working for free might be necessary to get your foot in the door.
Register Your Event Planning Business to Get Legal
Unlike other service-oriented sectors, you are not required to get a license or certification for your business, but you will have to register your company and get a business name.
However, before you do this, you need to make one important decision: choose what type of structure to adopt for your small business.
If you plan to run the business on your own, consider a sole proprietorship. This business structure will allow you to keep the company’s profits and earnings as income. It is easy to establish or take apart (if necessary) and does not require you to register.
However, take note you would be personally liable for any debt that the company incurs, and you have to get the appropriate permits for events.
A partnership is a company set up by two or more parties who agree to manage the operation and share the profits. It can be formed through a written agreement but it can also be done verbally without any documentation. However, disagreements between partners could come up later, so it makes sense to create a written document.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company or LLC is a good business structure as it will limit your liability. It also keeps multiple individuals or organizations from meddling with your operation as the company is owned by a handful of partners.
A corporation is a legal entity separate from you or whoever owns the company with you. This structure is commonly used by large businesses. It offers the highest level of protection against personal liability, but it costs much more to create.
As for a general partnership you just need to pay a filing fee of $70 and an over the counter fee of $15. Starting a sole proprietorship does not involve any cost, but you will have to register a DBA (if you will use one) for $10 to $100.
Register Your Business Name
If you decide to go with an LLC or a corporation, you need to come up with a business name and register it. Check with local directories and make sure it hasn’t been used by other companies yet. If it is, your application will be rejected and you won’t get the processing fees back.
If you will operate as a sole proprietorship or a partnership and you are not going to use your own name, then you need to file a “doing business as” or DBA name.
Register at the Federal Level
Sole proprietorships using their own legal names and some other businesses are not required to register at the federal level, but doing so will allow you to enjoy tax exemptions and other potential benefits. It is a fairly straightforward process and usually just involves applying for a federal tax ID.
Register with the IRS
The next step is to register with the Internal Revenue Service or IRS. You can do it a number of ways, including online, with a phone call, through the mail, or via fax. However, make sure you have a valid tax identification number or a Social Security number before applying. If you do not have one yet, you can get it online at no cost.
Register with Local Offices
Most business structures need to register with state bureaus and other state offices. Also, depending on where you live, you might have to register your DBA name if you are using one.
Apply for Permits
Check with local government websites to learn what permits you need to file to become operational. Take note that the requirements may vary from one location to another, so make sure you are getting the appropriate information.
Get a Business Bank Account
Once your company is registered, set up a business bank account. Look for one that matches your needs or situation. For instance, some banks are better for cash deposits while others specialize in online payments.
There are a lot of banks to choose from, so it is important to narrow down your options. Here’s a list of the most popular ones:
If you have plans to scale your operations up, look for a bank that has a history of approving a lot of business loans.
Get Liability Insurance for Your Event Planning Business
Liability insurance is a must-have for businesses, and yours is no exception. Organizing events involves a lot of moving parts, each one carrying a variety of potential risks, from property damage to bodily injury. You will need some form of protection from all of them.
General liability insurance is the most comprehensive type of policy and is an excellent option, but there are other types of insurance that event planners also get:
There are many options to choose from when it comes to insurance policies for event planners, including the following:
Find Your First Three Clients
Finding clients will always be a big part of your life as an event planner. However, if you are just starting, it is harder to stand out from the competition.
Still, it is possible to attract potential clients, especially if you manage to come up with a unique selling proposition, like offering them a good deal in the form of discounts or extra services. You could take advantage of live streaming tools to promote your business.
Alternatively, you can actively seek out clients through various channels:
- Nextdoor App
- Facebook Groups
- Cold emailing
- Use the “Advanced Search” function on Twitter
- Review sites like Yelp and Thumbtack
Standardize Your Pricing for Event Planning Services
When determining what rate to charge your clients, look at a number of factors, including operating expenses, employee salaries, profit margin, type of project, and market conditions.
At first glance, it might seem like you have to process too much information, and this is right to some extent. Fortunately, there are proven ways to streamline the process by using any of the following fee structures:
- Flat rate
- Percentage of expenses
- Hourly rate
- A combination of hourly rate and percentage of expenses
The flat-rate structure is typically used for package events that include logistics, catering, venue, and other services. For the percentage of expenses, a rate ranging between 15% and 20% of the total event cost is acceptable.
For the hourly rate, you can estimate the total number of h
ours needed to manage the event and bill your client by the hour. It is similar to the flat-rate structure, except with more flexibility.
Finally, if you manage to land a client through an event space that offers a commissionable rate, you can earn anywhere between 10% to 40% for each project, although 15% to 20% is more typical.
Start Implementing Event Management Software
Event planning may seem glamorous, which is true for the most part, but unless you have a passion for it, it can be stressful. You need to juggle several tasks at once while paying close attention to the smallest details. All the while, you have deadlines, budget constraints, client expectations, and a hundred other different things to contend with. This is where event management software comes in.
Using the appropriate software solution can make your life easier by maximizing your registration. It will also allow you to sell tickets online or in-person and accept payments quickly, increasing your sales.
By removing most of the repetitive and time-consuming manual processes, you can focus more of your attention and energy on making the event as amazing as possible.
If you are looking for an online ticketing platform, try EventSprout. It is a system created by people specializing in the experiential entertainment industry and designed for a wide variety of events, from small county fairs to large festivals.
For a free consultation or the latest information on the events industry, learn more about hosting events with their ticketing software, which is free for event planners.
Create Strategic Partnerships
Planning an event involves a wide range of services, including venue sourcing, decor and styling, event coordination, and entertainment. In other words, it takes a village to make an event truly epic.
Since you should not take on all of these responsibilities by yourself, reach out to people who work in the events space and foster mutually beneficial relationships. Get to know the best photographers in the area, discover where the best venues are, and find out who offers the top bartending services.
Once you have made a connection, refer clients and drum up business for them. Even if you do not get anything in return now, there is a good chance they will return the favor and send potential clients your way in the future.
Start to Find Your Niche in the Event Planning Space
As mentioned before, the events space is vast. If you do not find a specific niche to operate in, you could spread yourself too thin and end up with nothing but a handful of dissatisfied clients and a failed business.
Pick out one niche and try to stay in your area of expertise. Specializing in the events space offers a number of benefits, including the following:
- Easier to find and attract clients
- Easier to streamline your business process and maximize your resources
- Being a specialist allows you to charge more
- More cost-effective since you do not have to invest in new supplies for each event
- You can build a network that gives you access to the best rates and deals
Aside from helping you find clients, specializing can make it easier for them to find you and put you in a better position to succeed.
Create a Website for Your Event Planning Business
To reach as many potential clients as possible, you need to increase your online visibility. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a compelling website.
You can try your hand at creating your own website on a platform like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress. If that’s not your thing, you can also hire a web design agency to get a basic site going for you.
When properly implemented, a website can establish your credibility, generate quality leads for you, and give people a way to reach you quickly.
The Bottom Line: How to Start an Event Planning Business
Becoming an event planner involves dedication and many moving parts, and the best event planners use a wide range of resources to foster event attendance, organize the events from start to finish, and build a solid client base. Use this guide to jumpstart your event planning business and get started building the career of your dreams.