Estimated reading time: 7 mins
Over the last decade, event planning as an industry has grown in popularity. So if you’ve ever wanted to start an event planning business of your own as a home business, now is a good time.
Author Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional), estimates that $500 billion each year goes into special events. The founder of the International Special Events Society (ISES) and founding director of George Washington University’s Event Management Program maintains that the marketplace is wide enough to support and sustain new event planning businesses. And while you might start in one area, he says that there are “many directions in which you can expand.”
With the industry in a good place for a new business, how do you get started?
Is Event Planning for You?
Whether it’s the celebration of a milestone or the promotion of a new product or business, individuals and businesses hire planners because they don’t have the time or know-how to plan the event themselves.
Most of those who start their own businesses as event planners have worked in some aspect of planning for someone else. Maybe the time is right to strike out on your own. If you haven’t worked in event planning before, but it’s something you always wanted to do, there are many ways to get started.
You could pursue a certificate or degree from a local college or university in event planning. You may also consider working towards becoming a CSEP or a CMP (Certified Meeting Planner). These are given by ISES and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and many individuals and businesses look for these credentials when hiring help.
A Plan for Success
- Target Your Market
When it comes to event planning, you either work with corporate or social events.
When it comes to corporate event planning, you’ll be serving companies along with charities and non-profit organizations. The range of events you plan is wide and can include fundraisers, receptions, and sporting events. Businesses hold everything from conventions, employee dinners, holiday parties, and events for stockholders.
While some of these events might be larger and require a measure of expertise, there are smaller events that prove to be a good place to start.
Social events encompass celebrations in people’s lives like anniversaries, birthday parties, religious celebrations, reunions and more. Some event planners handle many or all these types of events. Some of them specialize in just a single area.
The social arena of event planning only promises to grow over the next several years. The baby boomers, in particular, are a promising group with children getting married, celebrating anniversaries, and more.
The good news about this step is that your startup costs can be relatively low when you start a home business. You may be able to afford a small office space or elect to plan for that as your business grows. It depends on your lifestyle and tastes.
When you work from home and have no employees, you can keep your costs down. You may also be limited in the size of events you can handle on a shoestring budget but you have to start somewhere.
If you try to raise startup funds, there are a lot of options these days. Aside from traditional funding sources, you can elect to use crowdfunding and use social media to spread the word.
- How You’ll Operate
Event planning isn’t a traditional job with traditional hours by nature. You’ll often be working holidays, nights, and weekends. Some of your work may even be seasonal. You need to determine from the beginning how much of your time you’re willing to give to your business and that will still depend on any areas you specialize in.
The social arena of event planning especially eats up your holidays and weekends. Actually managing the events will take some evenings and weekends. The actual planning of the events can be done during your normal business hours as you’ve established them.
What will you be responsible for each event?
- Research the event: Doing your homework is important on many fronts. If you’re new to the business, it may be spending time finding out what vendors, suppliers, and other resources are available to you. If you’ve landed your first large event, you may need to determine if there is a demand for the type of event proposed in your area. You may need to learn customs or traditions for certain types of events. It’s important to start with the client and ask good questions. Interviewing the customer about their needs and vision for the event is always a great place to start.
- Get creative: The tone and style of the event is crafted here. Your creativity shines as you design the event and account for all of its details. Maybe you’ll need a way to sell tickets and will need to find a ticket distribution platform. The interview with your client will be most important here as you create the best event possible within the allotted budget. Remember to clear ideas with the customer ahead of time to ensure their approval to help you ascertain the feasibility of each.
- Proposal time: When you have all the information you need and a game plan in your head, you’re ready to put together a proposal for the customer. It will take time, depending on how detailed you get. You should factor in a consultation fee for your time in putting the proposal together. That way if an agreement can’t be reached, you have some compensation for your time. If the individual or company decides to give you the job, you can apply the fee towards the overall project price. You’ll determine who is your point of contact for the job.
- Execution: This where the real work happens. Here you search for and reserve the perfect venue. You’ll arrange for catering, musicians, rent equipment, rent tables and chairs, and more. And you’ll want to manage your time carefully here to make sure you don’t run up on a situation where you put off a detail until the last minute and there are no resources available to you to meet the event parameters.
- Coordination and management: Once all the plans are made, it’s time to make sure everyone is on the same page and everything is synchronized. Good communication is vital. You’ll want to follow up with all vendors to make sure the reservations are correct and to review schedules. Make sure any third parties involved know the expectations and verify the contracts.
- The main event: On the day of the event, you’ll your best to make sure everything is going according to plan. In ensuring the success of the event, you’ll also be working towards the satisfaction of the customer. That’s important for your business because if the client is happy with the outcome, not only will they seek to hire you for future events, they will recommend you to friends and colleagues. And that’s important in building your business.
- Handling the money
When you’re just getting started, it’s important to look into what to ask for your services. What you charge your customers for events will depend on your location, your experience and reputation, and whether the event is corporate or social.
Many events, according to Entrepreneur, use a “cost-plus” method for calculating fees. They combine the cost of all labor and supplies required for an event to determine the total cost. They’ll then take 10-20% of the total cost and use that as the fee they charge the client for coordinating the event.
This is also where you’ll want to learn about any applicable business filings and tax laws. Should you form an LLC for your business? Will you file taxes as an independent contractor? The earlier you can determine all the legal aspects of your new business, the better.
- Marketing your business
Once your business is set up, you’ll want to get the word out. Websites and social media are an excellent and often inexpensive way to advertise a new business.
But don’t discount the power of physical, printed ads. Having your event planning business in the Yellow Pages is still an excellent idea. Having cards or flyers can also be effective, especially if you can leave them with certain vendors like bridal shops, caterers, equipment rental stores, and more.
In starting your own home event planning business, you are in charge. You choose the jobs you accept, the hours you work, and the vendors you patronize. The flexibility and freedom are one huge benefit of running such a business.
To be successful, you will work many long hours and will need to be dedicated and disciplined. A solid plan is imperative to make your new business a success. Devise a solid plan, and you’ll already have taken a big step in the right direction.