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The Ultimate Guide on How to Start Your Event Planning Business

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We often have those moments where we realize what we are doing currently is not what we want to do with the rest of our lives.

Nearly two years ago, I worked in political journalism, writing about current events and lending my views to editorial columns. While this was interesting for a time, I discovered that it was something that I didn’t want to do forever.

How to Start Your Event Planning Business

I always had an interest in technology and my experience in writing was easily adaptable to other subjects. So after a period of searching, I discovered Capterra, and subsequently, an enjoyment in writing about event management software. But my entire writing career was not without its steps, lessons, and hurdles. It took time, planning, and patience.

Not unlike starting an event planning business.

How to Start Your Event Planning Business

The same goes for those looking to start their own event planning business. There are steps you have to follow, lessons you must learn, and planning that must be done in order to make your new business idea a reality.

I’ve composed a nine-step list on how to start your very own event planning business, from ideation to execution.

1. Identify whether your skills are right for event planning

Event planning requires a very specific personality: one that is outgoing, social, and creative enough to tackle the forever-shifting tasks needed plan a successful event.

If you are better suited working behind a desk with little customer engagement, then event planning is not right for you. If you prefer working alone in a non-collaborative, yet organized environment, then you may want to reconsider this career move. Finally, if on-the-spot creative thinking is not your strong suit, then your ambitions might be a better fit elsewhere.

However, if client-facing work excites you, if teamwork contributes to your happiness, and if a fast-paced work environment fits your pace, managing an event management company might be the perfect business for you.

2. Obtain certifications

Just like any other industry, prior experience is essential to starting a successful event business. Would trust your only car to an uncertified, tentative mechanic to replace its engine? If not, then why should someone trust you with their events if you have no professional experience or certifications of your own?

Before investing your retirement and family time into starting an event planning business, consider the many certification courses out there to prepare you for all of the ins-and-outs of event management.

Even if you have previous experience organizing events for a company, organization, or local group, it is always best to have some formal certification which solidifies your experience for clients. Not to mention, there is always something new to learn.

Luckily, I have already compiled a list of five quality event planning certification classes that will help give you the experience and credibility that you need:

1. Emory University Event Planning Certification

Price: $1,995

Topics:

  • Event Budgeting
  • Client/Vendor/Volunteer Relations
  • Event Logistics
  • “Green” Events
  • Event Marketing
  • Event Terminology

2. Universal Class: Event Planning 101

Price: $70.00 no certificate/$95 with certificate

Topics:

  • Wedding Planning
  • Networking Events
  • Corporate Events
  • How to Start Your Own Event Planning Service
  • Is Event Planning Right for You?

3. International Institute of Event Management (IIEM)

Price: $345 – $875

Topics:

  • Budgeting
  • Wedding Planning Strategy
  • Venue Selection
  • Logistics
  • Aesthetics
  • Conferences
  • Fundraisers
  • Trandshows
  • Contracts
  • Social Event Planning
  • Corporate Event Planning
  • Meetings
  • Career Strategies
  • Birthday Planning
  • Baby Showers
  • Family Reunions
  • Anniversary Parties
  • Event Marketing and Social Media

4. QC Event School

Price: $748 – $998

Topics:

  • Event/Wedding Planning
  • Logistics
  • Starting your Business
  • Vendor/Client Relations
  • Project Management
  • Social Events
  • Wedding Aesthetics
  • Budgeting
  • Layouts
  • Lighting
  • Color Scheming
  • Table Decor
  • Floral Design
  • Rentals
  • Building your Brand

5. Special Events Institute: Event Planning Certification

Price: $199 – $499

Topics:

  • Event Life Cycle
  • Event Types
  • Event Proposals
  • Budgeting
  • Contracts
  • Event Design Process
  • Layouts and Schematics
  • Floral Decor
  • Design Elements
  • Color Schemes
  • Site Selection
  • Event Elements Assessment
  • Catering and Cuisine
  • Tented Events
  • Event Tech
  • Entertainment
  • Lighting
  • Special Effects
  • Service Management
  • Green Events/Sustainability
  • Management Ethics
  • Event Marketing
  • Wedding Planning
  • Corporate Events

These courses will help you know what to do when things go right and when things go wrong. Now that you know all there is to know about event planning, it’s time to decide whether you want to do general event planning or select a niche market to target.

3. Identify your target market

Before you begin building your event planning business, it is also important to decide on its focus. Decide what types of events you want to plan. Some businesses do industry-agnostic event planning, whereas others capture a niche market, such as corporate events or wedding planning.

According to Entrepreneur, there are four types of events:

  • Celebrational: These events are festive and exciting. They include fairs, parades, weddings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries
  • Educational: More formal and information heavy. Includes conferences, meetings, graduations
  • Promotional: These events are a mix of the first two, combining festivities with information. Examples include product launches, political rallies, fashion shows
  • Commemorative: Finally, these events are formal yet are meant to remember important figures and events with memorial services and civic events

My advice would be to start with a niche and expand outward to other event types, so as not to overextend your resources too soon. General event planning demands more experience, staff, and resources due to the vast differences in these types of events.

For example, if white collar events are more suited to your style, then start with educational events. You should build your business, your clients, your resources, and your staff around the needs of white collar event planning.

Once you find yourself on solid ground within your niche with room to expand, then that is the time to do so.

4. Develop your business plan

Now that you’ve established what your niche will be, it’s time to start laying the foundational work for your event planning business, which includes your business plan. Every business, from Walmart to small nonprofits, needs a business plan to guide their decision making process, educate investors and lenders of your intentions, and to keep your business on the right path when times get rough.

What does every business plan need? According to Forbes, every business plan should include a:

1. Cover page

All this page needs is the prospective name of your business and your contact information so that investors and lenders can reach you.

2. Executive summary

Like an introductory paragraph of a blog post or opening scene to a movie, your executive summary is your opportunity to hook your audience and give them a taste of what is to come. You will describe your event planning business, what makes your event planning business different (AKA your secret sauce), and why your business will succeed.

3. Company overview

Think of this as the Facebook profile of your business. Your company overview will include your company’s location, name, when it was formed, what type of event planning business it is, and in what legal form (like a limited liability company, S corporation, or sole proprietorship).

4. Industry analysis

Create a report on the industry you plan on entering and competing in. What trends are you planning on seizing on? What is everyone else missing that you have? Statistics and charts come in handy here!

5. Customer analysis

Flesh out who your customer base is. Is it corporations? Startup companies? Individuals? Be as specific as possible. Surveys and studies conducted by major event planners have conducted plenty of research into this subject.

6. Competitive analysis

Here is where you get specific about who your key competitors are, what they do, what their ballpark figures look like, and what each of their strengths and weaknesses are. Take the opportunity to further explain your market advantage.

7. Marketing plan

How will you reach out to clients and vendors once your event planning firm is open for business? Go over promotion plans for all outlets, including digital marketing, local press, and traditional advertising.

8. Operations plan

Include milestone goals, planning ideas, and structural organization in a detailed overview of how your event planning business will operate. Be sure to include job descriptions, salaries, logistics of moving materials and hosting guests, etc.

9. Management team

Detail out a list of your team if it has been assembled, including their title, job descriptions, and qualifications.

10. Financial plan

How will you raise money to start off with? Once your event planning business ready to launch, how do you plan to keep consistent revenue? Be sure to include estimates of consumer demand for your services, competitive pricing, and what regular expenses you might have such as catering and asset management.

11. Appendix

The appendix includes all spreadsheets, flowcharts, schedules, and graphs which explain projected income, current balance sheets, and all other data-driven points.

Your event business plan is a living document that will be edited many times over; be sure to revisit it when variables and factors change.

5. Tackle the legal side of your business

Once you set up your business plan, focus on the legalities of running a business.

Register your event planning business in whatever state you reside in, obtain all necessary business licenses, cover workers compensation insurance for your staff, and general liability insurance is also a must.

Resources:

Don’t let legal tedium prevent you from being thorough. Preventing a lawsuit or a government investigation is far cheaper than the fees (often costing more than $50,000) associated with breaking the law, even if you’re missing something as benign as a zoning permit.

6. Obtain startup funding

Your business plan acts as a proposal tool when approaching investors and lenders, so they will feel more comfortable giving away their money to your business. These loans don’t have to come from bank lenders either. Since your business will most likely be localized to your area, you should attempt to reach out to friends and family for startup cash.

This isn’t easy of course, since no one enjoys asking for money from those they know, but be sure to communicate this difficulty to them and assure them it is because you value their input into your future. Just like you would do if pitching your business to a bank, have your business plan ready and make sure you are brushed up on the important details. If they are interested at all, they will have plenty of questions.

Not only do traditional funding options apply for your newly created event management business, but there are also options such as crowdfunding over the internet, which lets anyone become an investor into your company. As stated earlier, since your company will be a localized business (at least at first), if you decide to crowdfund some startup money, make sure you try to spread the word with your local networks rather than appeal to strangers from all over.

If you are feeling extra ambitious, there are even those out there that contend you can start your own event planning business with little to no money:

7. Develop your resource network

You will need a network of resources to make your events a reality, such as caterers, entertainers, technical experts, technology suppliers, and marketing experts.

While you organize all of these resources for the events, the vendors will provide the tools necessary. Reach out to friends in the event management industry and check reviews on websites like Yelp to find the right vendors to work with.

8. Begin marketing

With your funding in place, it’s time to start marketing your event planning business out to potential clients, partners, and vendors. The best place to start is your own network.

Social media makes this easier than ever, especially with professional networks like LinkedIn. Likeminded groups exist to connect event planners with other planners, as well as with other vendors and clients.

Don’t be afraid to market your new event planning business in person, either. Networking events are perfect for making others aware of your services, but just remember that those types of events are built on what you can do for others, not just what they can do for you.

To learn more about how to use networking events to boost your event management business, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Fostering Relationships at Your Networking Event.”

9. Your first client

Congratulations! You’ve acquired your first client after all of your hard work. Take what you learned from your classes, your networks, and from your market research to plan your first big event. You got this.

Benefits of running an event planning business

Potentially low overhead costs

If you are able to negotiate beneficial contracts with your vendors, you will minimize your need to store resources. Instead your vendors will house their own materials, tools, and assets for you to use when you schedule for them. However, you may still need some storage space for spare resources for those emergency situations, so be sure to leave some space handy in your basement or garage.

As for staffing, with the social nature of the internet, we are all able to work from the comfort of our own homes more than ever. Of course this only includes the administrative side of event planning, such as scheduling, with a major portion of the job spent in the field, managing these events.

If the situation permits it, running an event planning business out your own home is far more affordable than renting an expensive office.

Flexibility

Stemming off of the benefit of potential work-from-home scenarios, your event planning business grants you certain flexibilities not offered by other service-based businesses, such as food services or retail.

You are your own boss in this situation. You set your own hours, you control the hiring and firing, and you choose your clients.

You should be able to manage all of the logistics from your own home over the internet, making your work schedule far more flexible. This includes hosting meetings with clients and employees over the internet, which can be scheduled at all times of the day.

Other resources to help your event planning business succeed

My event management blog on Capterra is full of resources, lessons, software reviews, and technology updates all at your fingertips to ensure your event planning business is successful. Check out any of these links for event planning professional development:

Was my guide helpful? Are there any steps you feel like I was missing? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below!

Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a Content Writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. He has a background in politics, economics, and journalism, which he dedicates his off-time to contributing his thoughts to other political sites. In his free-time he enjoys reading, drawing, photography, playing guitar, writing, and cooking.

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