Updated: January 25, 2017
You’ve organized some events for your family, friends or community and you have gained a budding reputation for knowing how put events together.
You’ve even started to entertain the idea that you could make a living doing this, but you just aren’t sure how to get started in the business.
You may think that the best way to ensure you of ongoing success in the event planning business is to start marketing your services effectively and hope you get a steady string of clients out of it.
In reality, there are a few basics you should work on before marketing your new business.
1. Create a Vendor Network
The key to starting out successfully in the event business is not so much in building a clientele as it is in building a strong network of reliable vendors.
The image that you’ll be presenting all through your professional event career is one of being able to provide whatever your clients ask for.
Do you want to risk your reputation right off the bat by not knowing what the available marketplace of vendors is like?
Start off your career correctly by looking up vendors of all the services that you can imagine supplying in your events.
After that, reach out and get to know them, and when I say get to know them, I mean personally.
Be able to put a face with a name and make sure they remember you as well. This will be handy in gaining trust if you have special requests later on.
Discuss what each of their capabilities, specialties and equipment inventories are and where they excel. Tell them about yourself and your goals. Treat your suppliers well and they’ll be your allies when things get tough.
After you’re satisfied with your range of suppliers (you should have at least three from each of the services you’ll be providing), you’re ready to move to the next step.
We created a vendor worksheet you can download here that will help guide you through which vendors to contact and you can take notes directly on this worksheet.
2. Billing and Money Management
Presumably, in your past events you’ve only been faced with the costs of the event itself. However, now you will be counting on event revenues to maintain a roof over your head, an office, daily and monthly expenses and maybe some employees.
You need to set up a foolproof billing and money management system to control your costs and know exactly where the money is going.
Figuring out how to charge for your services is very important. This article helps you figure out your pricing.
After you figure out your pricing, do some investigating into software that provides a range of ERP-type services specifically for the event industry. See if these make sense to you from a business and money management standpoint. There are a ton of them out there.
If you’re not comfortable using these, you may want to consider using an accounting service to handle the money matters. Any way you go about it though, the flow of money is something that, as a business owner, you absolutely need to stay on top of.
In the least you can use Paypal Invoicing. You can also accept checks, cashiers checks, accept credit cards and accept online payments through Stripe.
Many planners debate whether they should accept credit cards and the short answer is yes. Even though there is a small fee, it adds to your professionalism and if you want to book a corporate client or higher end clients, they will sometimes want to pay with a credit card.
You can simply let the clients know that you add a 3% fee to credit card payments if you would like. This is an acceptable industry practice and could push your clients toward paying by a different method.
If you use an accounting service, make sure that you keep an open line of communication with them. You’ll probably be talking to them several times a day during the course of an event. Keeping track of incoming client deposits and outgoing supplier payments is crucial to event organization.
3. Contracts and Client Billing
You’ll need to create or adapt a client contract that suits your business and your needs.
As the owner of the business, you’ll have to decide whether you trust your knowledge of the law in deciding on a suitable contract or need to engage a lawyer’s services. However, if it’s the former, there are plenty of contracts available on the internet which can be adapted to suit the event business.
The first rule of events is that you NEVER engage a vendor’s services in the name of a client unless you have a signed contract from that client. Unless the contract is signed by the client, you are the one who will be held responsible for any supplier costs incurred.
Client billing is where you might want to make an amendment to that ‘no contract’ rule to include a deposit.
There are generally three ways that event organizers bill for events:
- The first one is that a flat fee is charged to the client for the event organizer’s time and expertise, generally called a ‘production fee’. All of the vendor’s invoices are then passed to the client to pay directly. As a matter of courtesy to your vendors, you should let them know if you’re going to be billing an event using this model. Suppliers have a right to know who to they should expect payment from.
- The other two billing models normally used are the event planners simply marking up the vendor’s costs by a certain percentage and not charging a production fee, and a combination of a production fee and a percentage of the vendor’s costs.
- The third method is an hourly fee. We do not recommend an hourly fee unless it is your first couple of events and you are still uncertain about how many hours an event will take so you cannot confidently set a flat fee.
Overall we prefer billing method #1 above which is a flat fee.
In all of these billing models you will definitely need to include a deposit from the client along with a signed contract before engaging any vendors. Typical deposits range in the 30-50% range.
And you will have to collect the remaining payment of 50-70% a couple of days before the event.
Do not make the mistake of not being paid in full prior to the event.
4. Employees and Partners
No matter how good you think you are, you simply can not do everything. If you think you can, you’re just setting yourself up, along with your clients, for a massive disappointment.
If you can not afford to hire someone on a full-time basis initially, look into hiring reliable event help on an ‘as-needed’ basis.
A great place to look is colleges and universities that offer event management courses. They will have to show a passion for the business as well as being a calm, organized, rational person with thick skin who can think on their feet.
If you book a good client and need help with day-of planning, the typically assistant will run you about $15 – 20 per hour. Starting out with day-of assistants for your big events is a great step to take before bringing on full time assistants.
5. Marketing Your Event Business
At this point you can start looking into marketing your services and advertising to get more clients. These days, digital marketing is the best option in which to spend your marketing budget. Purchase an available domain name, or pay for an existing one, that has the word ‘event’ in it. This is important in the Google SEO rankings.
Look around the internet to find websites that you find appealing, and hire someone who can replicate that style into your own website as well as give you advice about website content and SEO services.
It is well worth the money to pay someone to improve your rankings if it helps you move ahead of other planners in your area. Just make sure you hire a reputable SEO service if you go this route.
On your website, list the services that you provide as well as your experience and background. Event clients want to see your past work, so be sure you include all the pictures you can.
In no time at all the phone will be ringing and you will be off to the races. Good luck!
Building your event planning business can be hard. If you want to learn how to start a successful event planning business, our Event Planning Course is for you. For a limited time you can get the course for just $1. Check it out here.