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How to Start An Event Planning Business

Olena Rudenko
Content Writer
Get a pre-made project plan based on this how-to guide.
Are you dreaming of life as a party? Or at least as an interesting event. If you are sociable, organized and ambitious, make your dream come true by starting an event planning business. There are two million events organized in the US every year. That is almost 5,500 events every single day. And a profit margin of planners is 15-40% of the budget (some $500 billion annually spent on events, according to Entrepreneur). The event industry is booming with a 10% growth a year. So, if you have been waiting for the sign to make a living with your passion, this is your big chance.

This guide covers pretty much all aspects of starting and operating a successful party and event planning company. Save it as a checklist to prepare the launch of your event planning company and triumph with success.

Build Up Your Skills

Ambitions can inspire you in a big way, but pure willingness is not enough to make a decent profit. Before taking the plunge of starting your event planning agency, make sure you have the necessary competences in your skillset toolbox.

Skills needed to get into the event planning business: 
  • Exceptional People Skills  
A job in events requires constant communication and networking. The success of an event sometimes entirely depends on your ability to understand the client's needs and your negotiation with contractors. 
  • Project Management 
This includes a lot of organizational abilities like time management, coordinating a team, resources, and logistics. To-do lists are your best friends and juggling multiple tasks comes naturally to you. 
  • Troubleshooting 
Although perfectly planned, things can fall apart (and this happens often). You must be able to find a creative solution and run an event smoothly when unexpected problems arise. 
  • Resilience
You need to remain calm and collected at all costs, even when things don’t go your way. Maybe you have just found your zen. 
  • Eye for Detail
Small things do matter because they tend to lead to big issues. You must have the ability to focus on the big picture and still keep track of the tiniest details.
  • Creativity 
You require the ability to think out-of-the-box and bring your unique ideas to life while meeting budget requirements.
  • Knack for Entrepreneurship
You are not afraid of taking responsibilities, marketing your services and paying taxes.
  • Passion
You love what you do. Events planning is officially one of the most stressful jobs. But if you love making people happy, it is also one of the most rewarding jobs. It is a bonus if you already have all these skills. If not, you will surely develop them over time with experience. Just jump in and start taking action.

Gain as much experience as you can

You can skip this section if you already are a mature event professional with a splendid portfolio. But if you are an aspiring planner, here is where you can get your toes wet in the world of events. Volunteer Non-profit organizations are often looking for volunteers during their events. As a volunteer, you will check the tickets at a charity concert, set up equipment or even bring coffee to artists. Don’t be shy while working behind the scenes and talk to vendors, managers, and other volunteers. These contacts and experiences will come in handy in the future.

Search for a job in an event planning company

Look online for entry-level positions, for example, an administrative assistant, events associate, catering coordinator and so on. Although the compensation is low, the experience is priceless. Reach out to hospitality companies or the organizers of events you admire and see if they can make use of your service and help. 
Start by organizing a small event first

Throw a party for your friend’s birthday, organize a dance evening or a concert for a local university rock band. This does not require much experience, but a lot of passion.
Get familiar with event planning tools

The best event planners are tech-savvy and often rely on tools to catch up with their busy schedules. Explore applications like Casual, Slack, Eventribe, Zapier, to name a few. Here is a long list if you are hungry for more information. 
Become Certified

An events planning job does not require any formal education, but a certificate will boost your market value. It is especially useful if you plan to work with corporate clients. 
Here are some of the most vetted designations: The exam covers planning, site management, event design, marketing, and international standards. Holders of this certification on average make $10,000 more annually than non-certified planners. You can take the exam remotely, but only four times a year. It also requires at least three years of experience in the industry. With this certificate, you get access to a vast network of professionals who are ready to help you grow.The CMM is not only an exam but an entire training program that takes 15 weeks to complete offline, in Indiana. It sounds expensive, but planners with CMMs earn $30,000 more per year than planners without it.  Find a Mentor or Business Partner

It’s hard to start a business on your own and to acquire all the required expertise. So, partnering with someone who has event planning experience might be a very wise decision. He can also guide and support you in the pursuit of knowledge.

Become Certified

An events planning job does not require any formal education, but a certificate will boost your market value. It is especially useful if you plan to work with corporate clients. 

Here are some of the most vetted designations: 
The exam covers planning, site management, event design, marketing, and international standards. Holders of this certification on average make $10,000 more annually than non-certified planners. You can take the exam remotely, but only four times a year. It also requires at least three years of experience in the industry. With this certificate, you get access to a vast network of professionals who are ready to help you growThe CMM is not only an exam but an entire training program that takes 15 weeks to complete offline, in Indiana. It sounds expensive, but planners with CMMs earn $30,000 more per year than planners without it.

Study the Market and Competitors

To know how to start your own event planning business, you need to understand who is in the market, especially in your area. What are the most regular requests from clients? How many events of specific types happen in your area regularly? What do other companies offer, and what are their strengths? What fees do they charge? How can you stand out from your competitors?

Do not just believe you have a good idea, find some facts or at least unbiased opinions to confirm this. Analyze public data and reports on the web and reach out to companies that issue tenders for event planners. Talk to your potential clients to clearly understand their needs.

Pick Your Niche

Trying to offer coordinating services for all types of events is a common mistake, especially among beginner entrepreneurs. Choose a specific niche and dominate it. Corporate SectorClients in this market are corporations, NGOs and charities. 
  • Corporate events include conferences and trade shows, exhibitions, promotional sales, staff workshops and holiday parties and more. They tend to be less personal, have more participants and a larger budget than private events. 
  • Charities often organize fundraisers for different purposes and in various forms. It can be anything from a concert to a marathon. For these events, you are likely to attract volunteers and sponsors.
Social Events

Not everyone wants to plan their birthday parties, weddings or reunions on their own especially if these personal gatherings are big. If you choose this market, your clients will be private individuals. They are in general very emotionally invested in the event. You, therefore, have to be sensitive to their needs, and friendly and optimistic. 
  • Wedding planning is the most in-demand service and the most saturated market for event organizers. But it is also the most profitable among private celebrations, because of very large budgets. The average spending on weddings in the US is about $33,400.
  • Birthday Parties are the second largest market for event managers. Some of them can get huge, wild and quite expensive.
  • Other Family Celebrations. There are plenty of occasions to throw a party: baby showers, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, reunions, christenings, and engagements. Each of these occasions will have a list of specific requirements.

Public Events

These are typically ticketed and aimed at entertainment rather than celebrations or business goals. The problem for a new business is that you have to find a sponsor or risk your own funds in the hope that people will buy tickets. 
  • Conventions are public events devoted to a specific interest or hobby. Comic-Con is a great example.
  • Cultural events such as music or movie festivals, art shows and many more. 
Sports events from local to national and even on an international scale like the Olympics or FIFA World Cup.

Focus on your strengths. So, narrow down your operations to a specific niche in line with your skills, network, and passion. Take action and do your best. But avoid trying to become a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type of company. 

Draw a solid business plan

Creativity does matter, but revenue is defined in numbers. Coming up with a solid business plan is, therefore, a prerequisite for success. Structure your ideas in a document that establishes your goals and strategy. There are different options for how the plan should look like, but  it should at best include the following:
  • Vision. What differentiates your event planning company from other companies? 
  • Company profile. Core services and activities, values and mission.
  • SWOT Analysis. An overview of your strengths and weaknesses. And also research the market possibilities and competition. 
  • Customer profile. What your clients will look like. How old are they and how much do they earn? How do they spend their free time and what do they cherish? You may also make a list of potential clients to approach.
  • Marketing plan. How are you going to attract customers and make money? We’ll talk about the options soon.
  • Financial plan. A summary of cost structure and predicted revenue streams. How are you going to make money and how much? What are your pre-launching expenses and how will you cover them? 
Need some inspiration. Templates would be of tremendous help to get started. Download it here or check examples here.

Plan Your Revenue

As part of the financial plan, attempt to plan your money streams for the next month, three months or half a year. Do not forget the costs of starting a party planning business, as well as payrolls, utility bills, taxes, insurance, and all monthly expenses. Your fees will vary depending on the market segment served, local cost of living, your experience and reputation. 
Determine how much you will charge for your service before starting up your business and include your fees in the business plan. Your fees can be flat, percentage of expenses, hourly rate or a combination of those. But most event planners use the “cost-plus” method, 10 to 20 percent more than an event budget. To forecast your income, you should thus figure out the operation costs of putting together the event: venue, labor, supplies, materials, etc. To make sure you do not forget anything, make use of budgeting software or templates. The last one can be spreadsheets or a printable. Here are a few to download for free:Make Sure to Have Enough Capital to Start

When developing a business plan, think over where your initial startup capital is going to come from. In some cases, party and event planners can start with as little as $5,000-$10,000. For a home office, an event planning startup kit includes a computer, phone and a large network of contractors with their own equipment and personnel.

However, you still need to pay your bills before the business becomes profitable. Calculate how much you need and compare it to the forecasted cash flow. Discuss it with your family and partners. If possible, do not opt to take out loans. Save as much as possible before committing yourself to the business or consider alternative income options like a part-time job, grants for new businesses, sponsorship or crowdfunding. Your business plan will be of great help when reaching out to investors on AngelList, CrowdFunder, or Fundable.

Here is a great guide to calculating your startup costs from U.S Small Business Association.  
This was the most strategic part of this guide. Now it’s time for more practical steps.

Kick-Off Your Business

Now that you have all the background planning, it’s time to implement it. You can’t escape the real-world paperwork, but you can make it easier by exploring your local regulations in advance. Make sure you understand what permits, licenses and insurances you need to operate, what taxes to pay and when.
Follow this business launch checklist do it the right and professional way:

Register Your Company
This is a requirement to operate legally and protect your business. The process varies from country to country and depends on the size and structure of a firm. For example, the US Small Business Administration has a guide on how to register a legal entity. Here is a similar explainer for UK residentsAt this stage, you should decide if you want to incorporate your business. Different legal entities have different legalities, filing fees, and tax implications. In the US, for example, they can be:
  • A sole proprietorship (a single freelancer with personal accountability),
  • Partnership (two or more people), 
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC (easy and inexpensive to set up, has the least administrative requirements. You will be protected from personal liability when it comes to the company’s debts),  
  • S Corporation (generally not recommended for smaller organizations), 
  • C Corporation (the most complex type, typically far more than the average event planner will ever need),
  • Nonprofit corporation (probably not your choice, since you do want to make a profit).
Most countries have similar legal entities, maybe with different names. Consult a lawyer if unsure.

Set Up a Bank Account
Separate your personal finances from the company’s finances for tax purposes and to track the money flow. Chase is considered one of the best banks to open an account for starting a small business. Pick a great bank that will provide you with low-interest loans and an unlimited cashback of up to 2%.

You might need to do the paperwork and sign the documents in person. It is, however, essential to have online banking and an online app. A personal bank manager is also highly recommendable. 
Get Necessary LicensesWhich exact licenses you’ll need, will depend on your location (here is a guide for US businesses) and operations. If you plan to sell alcohol during events, you’ll probably need a permit.

Obtain Relevant Insurance
Your business should be covered in case of accidents and insurance is mandatory in some states. For example, general liability insurance protects the business from liabilities in case of damaging someone else’s property. If you have employees, you need workers’ compensation insurance. Other relevant options are public liability, professional indemnity, health and benefits, and others. You may also get specific event insurance for separate projects.

Here is a small guide on insurance types, but we advise you to consult a reputable broker to get the insurance that suits your needs best.

Know Your Taxes

At first, glance, filing and paying taxes may seem extremely complicated. But here is a rule of thumb: hold back a third of your earnings to pay legalities. However, on average, the small business tax rate in the US is 19.8%.
Taxes for an event planning company can include self-employment tax, income taxes, and payroll tax if you have employees. Depending on where and how you’re selling products and services, you may also be liable for sales and excise duties. Check this guide for US and UK tax legislation. You might also be eligible for tax reduction. For example, if you work from home, you can account part of your rent and utility spendings as business expenses.

Get Staffed

If you are a good administrator that is starting a party planning business from home, you can probably manage most of your job on your own. If necessary, you can rely on vendors, location employees or temporary staffing agencies to provide the personnel you need. But even so, the more projects you get, the harder it’ll become to manage your business on your own. Here are a few tips on how to hire staff on a limited or no budget.
  • Have clear requirements for the jobs you need to be done. At the dawn of your company, you might benefit from having a virtual assistant or outsourcing accounting, copywriting, social media content, and design. 
  • Hire on a project basis. Paying other people’s salaries is a big responsibility (and big money too). If you can’t afford it, use sites like Upwork or Fiverr to hire freelancers. 
  • Recruit local students to take internships. Especially for students who take management or hospitality classes. They are interested in getting experience even with little or low payment.

Do not hire your friends, family or hobbyists. You don’t want to be a boss to your husband or wife or criticize the work of your best friend. They can be your partners, but not employees. Hobbyists just want to have fun, they usually have neither the skills nor the dedication.

Develop Your Network of Suppliers

Connections are arguably the most valuable asset of freelance event planners. To grow your support web, contact local venues and vendors, visit public events for networking opportunities. You should get acquainted with caterers, florists, photographers, musicians, MCs and whoever else is in your event planning checklist. Tell them how you can bring value through your service. Establish connections with different types of suppliers so you know who to call when you need a DJ or an ice cream shop for an event. It’s also important to get quotes quickly.

Create Your Brand Identity

You can market to clients with your own name or with the company name. Anyway, make sure that your brand is catchy, memorable and unique. This may require some brainstorming and research. Share your ideas with trusted people to test and see their reactions. When decided, register your company name and logo, buy a domain, and start developing your brand identity.

If you are not sure about your visual creativity skills, hire a designer. They can also help with business cards and websites.

Set up a Marketing Plan and Budget

You need to spend money to make more money. At the very beginning, the marketing budget may be up to 30% of your business expenses. Seems like a lot, but you need a lot of things: 
  • A website with your project portfolio,
  • Business cards,
  • Ads (we suggest online advertising in search engines and social networks, both with targeting within a 50-mile radius in your area),
  • Travel expenses to attend networking events.
Decide how much you are willing to spend on marketing. If you don’t have a decent budget for a website yet, it’s better to work with Facebook or Instagram pages at first rather than have a low-quality Internet presence. Your website should be professional-looking, feature your services and portfolio, clients’ testimonials and contacts. However, if you have enough time and funds, there are website builders that help create professional-looking websites.

The goal of early-stage marketing is to get your first clients. If you deliver a memorable event experience, they will stick around and recommend you to others. Then your marketing expenses will eventually go down.

Use these guides and templates to create your marketing plan. 
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Try to introduce your business value and unique selling points in 60 seconds or less. Write the speech down first. Edit and rewrite. Practice it in front of the mirror. So that when you meet a potential client or sponsor, no opportunity is wasted.

Write Proposal Templates

Every event will be different, but you should be able to respond quickly every time you get an inquiry or find an interesting opportunity. It would be easier to change a thought-out template slightly than writing every letter from scratch. 
You should also have a refined pricing structure and be able to estimate your fees confidently.

Get Testimonials

As soon as you finish your first event and get paid, ask the client to write a few words about your work that can feature as a review on your website. It will boost your reputation and brand.

Add photos and videos of successful parties to your portfolio every time after an event (ask for permission first). But have them professionally filmed and edited.

Develop Business Opportunities

Even if you’ve already secured your first projects, the process of finding new ones never stops. Take every opportunity to promote your company: contact local bloggers, get featured in a magazine, buy ads in social media. Organize your ideas in a mind map or visual planner. Research where you can meet potential clients and get their contacts. Keep a list of prospects. For example, you can introduce yourself to owners of new restaurants and hotels. Offer to organize parties at their venues with a serious discount. They can be your clients first and partners later. Use all your charisma to connect with prospective clients. The key to getting a contract is mutual understanding and authentic dialogue. Make every client feel important. Your goal is to build trust with emotions and ideas. Keep Up with the Trends

Trends are fleeting, but people still want to have what is in fashion now, so make sure you know what it is and give it to them. Pinterest is a good place for inspiration in this case.

Constantly Improve Your Skills

The world of events is constantly developing, so you can’t afford to be lazy. You need to grow as a professional and improve your service. You can film the backstage, the process of creating an event, to demonstrate that you are open and keeping up. Try completing an online course on event management, like this one on Udemy.

Humans are social creatures. We want to get together to celebrate an occasion, accomplish a shared goal or indulge in our interests. And oftentimes, we do not have time and discipline to organize these events. There will always be a job for all the types of event planners who are experts in coordinating dozens of moving parts of the great happening and occasion. 
So, if you enjoy helping others to celebrate, welcome to the business.
Story by
Olena Rudenko
Content Writer