Time and again I am asked, “what are the steps to becoming an event planner and how do I get started in the event industry?”
It’s a question many ask themselves but often struggle with because they don’t believe they have the right experience to get started.
When I started in 2004, I questioned myself because I loved planning parties and events for friends and family, but I wasn’t sure how to begin my event planning career or where to start looking to get the experience I wanted.
Today I share 10 steps to becoming an event planner because I want you to live your dream, and if becoming an event planner is what you want to do, then you deserve a rewarding and meaningful career in the event industry. These 10 steps will help you use your skills and experience to get started and get paid.
You don’t need a background in event planning to become an expert. If you have a knack for organizing and planning, you have the basic skills required to plan your own events.
Steps To Becoming An Event Planner
Step 1 – Get experience and volunteer your time in a variety of event services such as working with a caterer, a florist, volunteering for nonprofits, or working for an established event planner. Your long-term success in event planning will be based on the experience that you bring to your clients. That means, if you’re thinking about getting started as an event planner, you should understand what an event planner is and make sure you have skills in:
- Verbal and written communications
- Organization and time management
- Negotiation and budget management
- Creativity, marketing, public relations and more
Step 2 – Move into a position with extra responsibility. Instead of just volunteering, become the fundraising chair for a nonprofit, a catering manager, or take on a lead-planning role at an event planning company. Determine your preferred event planning market and focus on getting event experience in those areas. You can offer a wider range of services later; once you’re established, but determining your niche helps you focus on the right type of vendors to work with, clients to establish relationships with, and events to plan. Questions to answer yourself:
- What event services will you offer?
- Who is your target market?
- Will you offer full service planning or day of management?
- Which niche of event planning will you specialize in?
Step 3 – Are you familiar with the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”? In event planning, networking is key! Wherever you go, collect contact information for the people you meet. I always followed up a meeting or introduction with a “nice to meet you” email and below my signature was a description about my my event planning services. For me, this was subtle and allowed me to build stronger relationships.
Step 4 – Create an event portfolio. Showcase your work with photos, brochures, and invitations of the events you’ve planned. Organize each piece in a book to easily present your experience and event stories. Most people are visual so paint the picture for them! (an iPad storybook also works well)
Step 5 – To gain valuable event planning experience and learning how to plan an event properly, take an event course. This helps you gain credibility, keep up with industry trends, and establish contacts within the industry.
Step 6 – Form your business entity and register your event business name. Check local government websites to find out what licenses you need to run a business. And, don’t forget to obtain business insurance to protect yourself. Several forms of insurance exist, so it’s best to speak with a local insurance agent to learn more.
Step 7 – Before you tell everyone you know that you’re now in business, develop a Business Plan. Just because you’ve decided on your market, doesn’t mean you’re ready to share the news about what you offer. Google ‘event planning business plan’ and find a template that works for you. Two key pieces of your plan are:
- Establish your event planning business name
- Determine your fee structure.
Before you decide which fee structure is best for you, determine your operating expenses, salaries and other expenses. As an independent or small business owner there are various ways to cover your expenses and make a profit.
Different fee structures to consider
- Flat Fee – Most clients prefer to know how much a project will cost, inclusive of all fees. The event planner must determine a flat fee and determine what services are included for a specified amount. This is good for packaged events.
- Percentage of Event Budget – Experienced event planners often feel comfortable charging between 15-20% of the event budget. Depending on the complexity of the program and the amount of time it takes to plan and manage the event, charging a percentage, rather than a flat fee, is enough to cover the planner’s time and costs and make a profit.
- Hourly Rate – Similar to the flat fee rate, establishing an hourly rate allows more flexibility for both parties to adjust to changes along the way. The average hourly rate is $50/hr., according to payscale.com
- Percentage of Budget PLUS Expenses – this is my preferred way to charge for my event planning services. Charge 15-25% of the overall event budget as a service fee plus all expenses. This way you’re charging for your time and your client pays all expenses associated with the event. A detailed event budget needs to be presented to your client for every event so they know how much the event will cost them.
- Commissionable Rate – Another way that event planners may collect fees for services is by securing event space through venues that offer commissions. Many travel agents take advantage of this for booking tickets, hotel rooms and possibly transportation. Beware of this option because your client may question your sense of loyalty.
Step 8 – Secure Funding For Your Event Planning Business. Businesses require an operating budget, and it’s important to have access to cash while establishing yourself in the industry. It’s possible to establish your business on limited funds, after all I started my business on less than $500, but it’s important to have enough money to start your business and cover your living expenses as you build a profitable business.
Step 9 – Marketing. Create a website, a Facebook fan page, Pinterest page, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter account to keep your services top of mind. You’ll also need business cards, company stationery, and a client contract. Let your former clients and contacts know you’re now an independent event planner and use those contacts to help get referrals.
Step 10 – Develop your network of suppliers and staff resources and network with vendors you’ve met or worked with at events. Often caterers, photographers, or florists will recommend an event planner to their clients, as long as they know, like and trust you. Clients with major events prefer to use planners and vendors who work well together.