How to start an event planning business in 8 steps
- Define your event planning niche to increase your marketability
- Determine a pricing structure that’s right for your services
- Build relationships with vendors to help you plan successful events and market your services as an event planner
Whether you seek to plan birthday parties, corporate conventions, or charitable fundraisers, being a detail-oriented event planner is the secret to pulling off successful events. If you enjoy bringing people together—and bringing a vision to life with many moving parts—then you might have a knack for event management and planning.
The event planning industry is projected to grow 18% through 2030 (much faster than the average 8% growth of other occupations), which means there’s plenty of opportunity to bring your business idea to life.
With event planning, the magic is in the details, and that’s especially important when it comes to launching a company as an event planner. Read on to learn how to start an event planning business.
1. Determine your niche
To start an event planning business, the first step is deciding what types of events you want to organize. Event planning is a diverse field, which gives you plenty of options. While you want to be flexible enough to work with a variety of clients as you’re starting out, having a niche will make it easier to promote and grow your business with your target market.
Event planning services fall under two main categories:
- Corporate events. These include trade shows, conferences, non-profit events, grand openings, corporate meetings and seminars, fashion shows, and other business-oriented gatherings.
- Private events. These social events span a variety of recreational and celebratory occasions, such as wedding planning, baby showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and non-corporate holiday parties.
Defining your niche market will also make it easier for your potential clients to find you when they’re looking for an event planner with specific experience and expertise.
2. Select a business name
Naming your business takes more thought than just slapping something on a business card—it’s the first impression that sets expectations for your customers. Your company name should be meaningful and related to your specialty, which is why it’s important to think about your niche first, brainstorm ideas, then do market research.
When choosing a business name, opt for something that’s memorable, easy to spell, and isn’t too long or complicated. Since having an online presence is critical for any small business, you should conduct a thorough online search to make sure your desired domain name (i.e., website address) and social media handles are available before deciding on a business name. Your domain name and social media account names should match your business name (or come close if you can’t secure an exact match).
3. Choose a business structure
The next step in starting an event planning business is choosing the legal structure—will it be a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation?
The most important factors to consider when selecting a legal structure for your business are ownership rules, personal liability, and taxes. You want to limit your personal liability, which is why an LLC might be the best option when starting out on your own.
4. Register your business
To register your business entity with your state agencies, you must provide your business name, location, and legal structure. There may be additional local requirements for licenses and permits when registering your event planning business, so do your due diligence to avoid complications down the line.
5. Create a business plan
Only about 50% of new businesses survive their first five years, according to the Small Business Administration. But having a business plan can help you beat these odds. Your business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive summary. What makes your business compelling and why does it have potential for success?
- Company description. What does your business offer, what’s your competitive advantage, and how is your startup unique and valuable?
- Business and management structure. Who owns your business, who’s on your team, and what’s your legal structure?
- Products or services. What types of events do you organize and what sets you apart from your competitors?
- Marketing plan. What’s your marketing strategy to reach your target market?
- Financial analysis. What are your estimated revenues, expenses (including startup costs), and profits for each of your first five years? This will be especially important if you are seeking funding.
6. Insure your event planning business
“Always be prepared” is the unofficial motto for event planning professionals, and that applies to protecting your business from unforeseen circumstances. As a small business owner, you’re responsible for protecting yourself and your employees. There are a few different types of business insurance you may need for your event planning company.
Event liability insurance
Accidents happen at events. Liability insurance will protect you financially in case you’re sued for personal injury or property damage that happens during an event. Many venues require event liability insurance.
Professional liability insurance
Clients who are dissatisfied with your work can file a lawsuit claiming you didn’t fulfill your contractual obligations. In such an event, professional liability insurance (sometimes called “errors and omissions insurance”) will protect you financially, covering the legal fees, court costs, as well as any damages that a judge might award the client.
Event planning liquor liability insurance
This type of insurance is essential if you’re going to be planning events that serve alcohol. It will protect you against personal injury and property damage claims when guests have been drinking at an event.
7. Determine your pricing strategy
Determining what to charge for your services is a crucial part of starting a successful event planning business. There are several factors to consider, including operating expenses, staff salaries, vendor commissions, and the value of your time, plus how much profit you want to make. Here are four of the most common fee structures in the event planning industry:
- Flat project fee. While the most straightforward option for your clients, it’s a large responsibility to properly quote an entire event budget, including vendor deposits and services (catering, venue, lodging expenses, logistics), as well as your time.
- Percentage of the event budget. This puts less pressure on the event planner when it comes to forecasting total costs. On average, event planners charge between 15-20% of the total cost of an event as their fee.
- Hourly rate. This option allows for more flexibility for both parties to adjust to any changes that may come up during the planning process.
- Fees based on commission. Although uncommon, some party planners reduce their fees or charge nothing, making their money via commissions from the vendors instead.
8. Market your business
Effective marketing can make or break a party planning business. Create your personalized marketing plan with some of the following methods, and you’ll be on your way to finding new potential clients.
As small business owners know, you can’t put a price on word-of-mouth referrals. And it begins with your vendor relationships. From florists to caterers to videographers, every one of your relationships plays a critical role in a successful event. Vendors also have a reputation and business to protect, so a good working relationship can benefit all parties involved.
Having great relationships with local businesses also provides opportunities to display your marketing materials on their bulletin boards, on their websites as recommended vendors, and even in their social media content from the events you work on together.
Securing your social media accounts is the first step toward managing and maximizing your online presence. Social media marketing is especially beneficial for the event planning industry because it gives you an opportunity to engage with attendees before, during, and even after an event. This type of social engagement will position you as a successful event planning professional within your target market.
Here are a few different ways to use social media to reach your ideal clients:
- Tag your location. When potential clients are throwing an event, one of the first things they’ll do is search for an ideal location on social media. Take advantage of this by tagging your posts with specific locations that will show up in search results.
- Use hashtags. Social media hashtags should be specific to your niche. For example, if you’re planning an eco-friendly wedding, you might use #ecowedding, which will have far fewer posts (and less competition) than the more general #wedding hashtag.
- Reach out first. Start a conversation with potential clients who could benefit from your services. For example, wedding planners can search for “engagedin[city]” or “[city]engagement” to follow users who have tagged their posts with these keywords. From there, like and comment on their photos or posts, or even direct message them to begin a conversation.
In addition to your website and social media accounts, keep your info up to date on local business listing sites to help customers find you when they’re looking for your type of service.
Begin by claiming your Yelp Business Page to reach active users who are looking for event planners or event management in your target market. It’s free and only takes a few minutes to update your company’s contact information, showcase your skills by uploading photos of previous events, and respond to reviews to stay engaged with your customers.
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Get the party started with your own event planning business
Successful entrepreneurship takes time and planning—whether you’re launching a party planning business or something else entirely. Event planning is a competitive landscape, but there’s room to succeed if you follow your business plan, create and nurture your relationships, and consistently deliver great results.
Follow these eight actionable steps to start an event planning business. As you begin to make dreams come true for your clients, learn how to attract more customers to your business.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.