How to Break Into the Event Planning Market & SucceedWritten by Bernard on October 12, 2016
The event planning industry is very healthy—a $5 billion a year industry in the US to be exact. It also has amazing prospects. Through 2024, event planning is set to grow by 10%, a much larger growth than the average for other industries.
However, because it is a discretionary service (meaning that people can live without it, or severely cut back on spending), it was deeply affected by the global recession.
As a ‘want’ industry, it is sensitive to corporate profits, the unemployment rate, and the average consumer’s disposable income. Nonetheless, because of that dip from the Great Recession, event planning has bounced back quite healthily.
As disposable income and corporate profits continue to rise, along with a stable and growing unemployment level, the industry is set for strong growth. Rather than getting lost in the organization and execution of the event, and therefore missing it completely, companies and individuals prefer to enjoy the event and have someone else plan it for them.
Companies will need event planners to organize their annual or quarterly events, their office parties, product launches, conferences and such.
Consumers will need event planners to organize their weddings, birthdays, retirement parties, and all other important events.
They will need quality, organized event planners to help them plan and execute the perfect evening, weekend or week for their events. If you’ve ever considered getting into your own event planning business, now is the best time to get involved.
But as with most people starting any business, there are a few important questions to consider:
- First of all, what are the advantages and disadvantages associated with event planning?
- What are the business aspects I need to take care of to begin an event planning business?
- What skill level, education or knowledge will be required?
- What software will make my job easier?
- What prices should I set?
- How do I find my first customers, and when should I expand?
These are all logical questions and it’s important to look through them and consider each question thoroughly.
So today we’ll look at these and much more as we guide you through the often-confusing maze of starting your own event planning business.
There are many advantages to the business that most people interested in the industry may have already noticed. Let’s quickly go over them.
Be your own boss
The most important aspect of any event planning business owner is the fact that you’ll be handling your own schedule. You’ll be getting your own customers, you’ll be in control of your own business life.
For many people than in and of itself is a major advantage, as they will have the power to determine their own lives. No more bosses handing down tasks and you being at the mercy of corporate politics.
All of it, good and bad, will be in your own hands.
There’s lots of work
Another great point is that there is actually quite a lot of work out there for the grabbing. That 10% growth forecast through 2024 is higher than the average for other occupations.
What this essentially means is that there will be a considerable amount of options for event planners to find gigs. You won’t have to go through overly long pauses in your business as you try to find other clients.
Furthermore, because of the increasing profits and disposable incomes, as well as decreasing unemployment, the frequency of event planning will increase.
Amazing networking opportunities
For the most part, companies and individuals requiring event planners tend to move in certain circles.
For corporate events, the heads of companies will be requiring your attention as you fine-tune the details. You’ll also be planning events with industry leaders and important figures, helping your networking opportunities.
For individuals, if you’ve pulled off a great event, some of the attendees will want to hire you for their next event. Those who attend these events are probably in the same or better financial situation, so you’ll end up getting similar or better gigs.
Potentially great income
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an event planner is $46,840/year or 22.52/hour, higher than the median US salary. Your opportunities for income is great, and there’s lots of room to grow. When you’re working solo, you can start with smaller events.
But once you gain more recognition, you can grow and earn much more income.
And the Cons
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. While it’s great to be aware of all the advantages, you should also keep an eye out for the disadvantages to minimize any unfortunate surprises.
The responsibility of working on your own
Now that you are working on your own, you’ll realize that you are truly on your own. You’ll have the support of your friends and family, but at the end, the buck stops with you. If you don’t hustle to get your clients, you won’t get any clients.
You’ll have to take care of all the financials too, and the marketing, and the customer service, and everything else. All on your shoulders, and for those just starting, this can be overwhelming. At that moment, just stop, breathe. Read some tips on how to avoid burnout.
Remember why you’re doing this, remember the advantages, and you’ll get past it.
Lots of stress, especially from perfectionist clients
Event planning is a stressful job. According to some studies, it is the 5th most stressful job of 2016. Something will go wrong, something always goes wrong.
It is manageable; however, when that thing goes wrong at someone else’s wedding—on their perfect day—it can cause a lot of stress. When something goes wrong at a product launch, you’re the one responsible for it.
Beyond that, there are also perfectionist or picky clients who want everything a certain way and will never seem to be satisfied. These are just the facts of the industry, and keeping the advantages in mind will minimize the stress of the event.
The hours can be long
Event planners can work long hours–waking up at 4am and going to bed at 3am. In the planning phases, hours can be generally similar to regular working hours.
However, on the day (or first day) of the event, you’ll have to be there extra early to make sure everything’s in place and will have to stay extra late to make sure everything gets cleaned up nicely. You may end up working 40 – 50 hours in a regular week, and when the event day comes, you may be there the whole day or longer.
You need to constantly update your knowledge
Event planning is an industry that can change a lot. Because of the role of technology and all the technical details that may surround it, event planners need to stay up-to-date on these things.
It may not mean having to go to night courses (although many event planners do) to get adequate knowledge. It probably means, however, spending long hours (besides your long working hours) trying to understand this one or another thing.
It takes time, and with your busy and stressful schedule, precious time from your life.
Your event planning business
Now that we’ve covered the basics in terms of what to expect and prepare for, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of what you need to start your business.
Creating a strategic business plan
You probably know that you can’t do anything based on intuition alone. You need a strategy, you need a plan.
The business plan is one of the most basic ways for you to make a strategic starting point for your business. And, if you continuously update it, it will become your roadmap to overcome hurdles, adapt, and prepare for the next challenge.
Any basic business plan should cover:
- the business idea, where you’ll explain how your product/service and how you’ll succeed
- overview of the market and the competition to discuss whether there’s space for you and who your main competitors are
- goals and actions to show what measurable goals you have and how you will reach these goals
- your services and their competitive advantages to describe with good data why your products/services are better than the competitors’
- the target market and audience to portray your customers, the demographics, and the methods you’ll use to attract them
- the company structure to explain the management and key employees, if any, or any future positions you imagine will be necessary and why
- any financing needs, which are based on your projected financial statements.
The business plan does not have to consist of all of these, but a good business plan will. It doesn’t have to be of any exact length, just long enough for you to have an accurate idea of your business.
To get started, you can use one of InvoiceBerry’s free business plan templates.
Insurance and other legal necessities
This one is a biggie. For the legal parts of your business, you’ll have to register it according to your state or local laws. This is true for any business, as you’ll need to obtain a business license in order to legally go about your business.
As for insurance, that’s a bit less cut-and-dry.
Many insurance companies will highly recommend you get all kinds of insurance. There are two basic ones that seem to be a must.
The first concerns whether you’ll have any employees. If that’s the situation, you’ll definitely need workers’ compensation insurance because you’re sending your workers out to physical spaces that may have certain risks.
The second necessary type is liability insurance. You and your workers will be going out to physical spaces, and with the risks involved in different types of events, or anything to do with candles, there’s always a risk of damages.
This kind of insurance is great nonetheless, as it will give your customers confidence in your business.
The knowledge & skills you need
Technically, anyone can be an event planner, as it is quite a human-based, organizational profession. However, many event planners have studied hospitality, communications, or public relations at the bachelor’s level.
For those who haven’t, it’s always a good idea to have appropriate certifications in event planning. Acquiring these certifications will have two benefits:
- you’ll get great educational resources that will help you plan events more easily and succeed in your business
- you’ll gain the confidence of potential clients who need some assurances that you provide quality services
There are certain international bodies that grant event planning certifications, so it’s good to check up on which are the most important to have.
The software you can’t live or work without
There are my different types of event planning software that will help you run your event planning business.
This also include ticket selling and registration apps like Eventbrite, and other software that incorporates time management, task management, and other to-do apps.
But your software shouldn’t be related only to your services. As the business owner, you’ll need to take care of your financials as well. That includes sending out invoices quickly and tracking your expenses.
To help you automate the process (with 50-60 hour weeks, you’ll need to save time as much as possible), there’s InvoiceBerry’s online invoicing software.
The service is designed for small businesses, so it has a bunch of features to help make everything easier.
You can auto-fill in your regular invoices, send recurring invoices, keep track of and manage your expenses, and even create necessary reports. Everything’s stored online, so you don’t need to remember any details or take cumbersome notes with you.
Taking care of your job specifics
So now that the first part of your business is taken care of, we’ll need to look at some other important parts, such as what your charges should be, any special equipment you’ll need, and how you can grow your customer base.
Fees & Charges
One of the most important parts of establishing any event planning business is to determine what your rates should be. There are generally four ways to do that.
By far the most popular form of charges, the per project rate means you’ll need to know how much a project will cost from start to finish. This includes things like the venue, catering, logistics, lodging, entertainment, and many others. Remember, of course, to calculate your own time when providing a per project fee.
This may be calculated on a per person basis with different stipulations and other details.
Rates by the hour are also very popular.
This allows clients to know exactly how much your services will cost and help them calculate an appropriate budget. This is also good because the client has the option to adapt to any unexpected expenses.
Standard rates are $50-75/hr for regular planners, $25/hr for beginners, and even $150/hr for experienced event planners.
Remember to also decide how often you’ll send a bill or invoice for your services. This hourly rate does not come to just the actual event.
For example, if you’re hired to plan the company’s Christmas party, with over 60 guests expected, you’ll probably start in advance, in June or earlier. Negotiating prices for catering, venue, entertainment, marketing and everything will also need to be billed.
Just make sure you determine exactly what services you will provide and how much time you expect to be working on certain tasks.
Percentage of expenses
Clients sometimes prefer to pay event planners based on a percentage of the expenses for the event. Based on industry standards, this percentage is between 15% and 20% of the total cost of the event.
Therefore, for example, if you are planning a conference with 50 guests at $120 per person, the total cost of the event will be $6000. At a 20% charge, you’ll end up making $1200.
Percentage of expenses + hourly rate
Sometimes, however, a percentage of expenses rate will leave you in negative.
Let’s imagine you determine your hourly rate at $60/hr. Your client wants you to organize a complex combination of events, such as a conference, party, city tour and team-building (for some reason). It all comes to $15,000 but will take about 70 hours. At even 20%, that’s $3000. At your hourly rate of $60, it should be $4200 for 70 hours. You’re now $1200 in the negative.
In this situation, you can agree to the 20% of expenses plus an additional 20 hours at $60/hr. However, this scheme is not particularly popular.
Getting your event planning customers
Great. You’ve got everything in order, including your strategic and thorough business plan, your necessary software and your rates. But now, the important part—getting your customers. Let’s look at some great ways to do that.
Go old school
Just because it’s the digital age doesn’t mean that you need to give up on everything the older generation did. Going old school in terms of marketing here is great because event planning is such a people business.
One great way is to use paper marketing. This includes business cards, brochures, and paper advertising, such as in glossy magazines and even Yellow Pages. For most paper marketing, remember to include any satisfactory customer testimonials.
Another old school marketing method is networking. This is perhaps the greatest and most dependable form for event planners, as you really get to show off your people skills.
An advantage of event planners in terms of networking is that their current jobs can be a networking opportunity for their next job. Every event that you plan is a potential resume or proof-of-concept for your future clients.
Therefore, if you provide a great service, your “networking” can happen either by future clients seeing your work in action, or by your current satisfied clients singing your praises.
Use social media
Social media is the go-to marketing method for most start ups, entrepreneurs and burgeoning small businesses because it’s the least cost-prohibitive marketing.
Most adults use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, and you probably already have a profile on one or all of these platforms.
For Facebook, you’ll need to create a business page, and there you’ll get to share all the wonderful photos and information (with the client’s permission) about your events. You can share this on visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest as well.
Your social media marketing strategy should probably be one of selling elegance, exclusivity, fun and quality, and there are many ways to do that online.
Remember also to try and use as many customer testimonials as possible. Facebook is great for that, but don’t just stop there. Use social media as a platform to humanize yourself and interact with your fans (they don’t have to be potential clients) on a regular basis.
All these methods will help establish a wonderful marketing presence for yourself.
For further information on using social media for small businesses, read our full guide here, and download our new ebook The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses & Freelancers.
To sum up:
Event planning is a wonderfully varied industry with lots of great opportunities and advantages. These include:
- the ability to be your own boss
- the chance to find lots of work and many new clients through networking
- the opportunity to have a great income
Of course, there are some disadvantages, such as:
- the stress and chance of burnout from running your own business, usually by yourself
- lots of stressful situations, perfectionist clients, and long hours
- the need to constantly update knowledge to remain competitive
With these in mind, you should focus on creating a strategic business by:
- writing down a thorough, well-thought out business plan
- taking care of your insurance and legal obligations
- getting appropriate local and international certifications
- using necessary event management software and invoicing software, such as InvoiceBerry
Then you’ll need to establish your job specifics and how to grow your customers, such as:
- deciding if you’ll set fees by the hour, project, as percentage of expenses or percentage of expenses + hourly rate
- using networking events, paper marketing and other old school methods
- building your social media presence to increase your customer base and brand awareness
With these steps taken care of, you’ll be succeeding in your new event planning career in no time!