The United States event planning industry is trending upwards. It generated about 5 billion dollars in 2019. Given the strength of the US economy and the amount of disposable income that upper classes of citizens are enjoying, there are no signs of event planning slowing down.
All of that to say, if you’ve ever been interested in getting into the event planning business, now is a great time to do it.
We’ve talked to a lot of people that have aspirations of being professional planners and most of them are unsure as to how they can get their foot in the door of this burgeoning industry. To try and make your pathway to the career of your dreams simpler, our team outlines steps that you can follow which should get you to where you’d like to go.
Step 1. Consider Your Sensibilities
It’s easy to watch movies like “The Wedding Planner” and get taken by the idea of becoming a professional event planner. Just because a job looks great on-screen through doesn’t mean that it’s great in reality.
Successful people in the event planning business possess qualities like creativity, attention to detail, organization skills and the ability to perform under pressure.
If those qualities don’t seem like a good fit for your character traits, we recommend exploring other jobs that better align with your uniqueness. Be honest with yourself in this regard as there’s nothing worse than investing time building a career in a field that you don’t enjoy.
Step 2. Start With Informal Practice
One of the beautiful things about the event planning business is that you don’t need anybody’s permission to try your hand at it. As a matter of fact, we’re willing to bet that you’ll be in charge of planning at least one event this year (your birthday party for example).
There are several excellent ways that you can stretch your event planning muscles and get a better idea of if planning professionally is right for you. Anything from helping with friend’s weddings to working on community events makes for great practice grounds.
Step 3. Consider Getting a Formal Education
As with all industries, there are a number of certifications and certificates that you can earn which may help you look better to employers and clients. While getting a formal education in event planning can’t hurt, it’s also important that you stay vigilant when browsing your options.
Many certification courses harp on their importance when really, their classes are poorly taught and their certification doesn’t hold weight in the industry.
Research educational programs carefully, always be wary of ones that charge exorbitant amounts and understand that formal education may not be necessary for you to reach your goals.
Step 4. Decide on Your Niche
There are a lot of different facets of event planning. There is celebratory planning which covers weddings, birthdays and other parties. There is corporate planning which focuses on putting together work events/conferences. There’s even commemorative planning that works in the funeral niche.
While we get that some of you may want to work on all kinds of events, it’s important that you know where you’d like to focus early so you can pursue opportunities in the places where you excel. Later, you can switch niches if you get burned out or expand into more niches if you’re looking for new challenges.
Step 5. Try Working for a Firm
Most people go into the event planning business with the idea that they’ll start their own company. If that sounds like you, hold onto that ambition.
When you’re just getting started though, you won’t have a lot of (if any) professional experience and won’t have a professional network to tap into. To get both of those things and to start collecting a paycheck, consider pursuing an event planning job before starting your own company.
Large organizations like MKG, Oren Co and Quintessentially Events are great companies that can have a massive impact on shaping your career.
Step 6. Write Your Business Plan
As you’re gaining valuable experience in your event planning job, take your newfound knowledge and bake it into your business plan. A great business plan should detail everything about your business. That includes who your customers are, start-up costs, services you’ll be selling and everything in between.
The more robust your business plan is, the better chances that you’ll have of attracting investors (if necessary) and the higher the odds are that you’ll succeed.
Remember, 70% of new companies fail within a decade of opening. 20% of them fail in their first year. To avoid that fate, planning goes a long way.
Step 7. Get Registered
When you’re feeling confident about getting your company off of the ground, a step that you’ll want to take towards making your ambitions real is getting your company registered.
If you’re planning on being a sole-proprietor when you first open, heading to the IRS website and registering for an EIN should be all that you need to do. The process is free and takes about five minutes. If you’re going to launch as an LLC or corporation, things will be trickier and you may need professional help.
Business registrations are public information. That means that if your employer does some snooping, they may find that you’re opening up a competing venture and could cut ties with you. For that reason, be sure about what you want to do before taking the formal step of registering.
Step 8. Source Funding (If Necessary)
Fortunately, there aren’t a ton of start-up costs when it comes to event planning. In theory, you’ll just need to build an online presence for yourself and may need to have an office that you can meet with clients out of.
Don’t worry about costs related to events that you’re planning. Usually, your clients will pay you at least a portion of your fee up-front which cover those.
If you can’t cover the price of the small handful of things that you require to get started as a planner, you’ll have to source funding. You can do this by talking to banks, looking for a loan through the SBA or even asking your friends and family for help.
We recommend only investing in start-up items that you absolutely need to be operational. All of the other bells and whistles like a laptop upgrade or a personal assistant should wait until you have a few sales under your belt.
Step 9. Market Like Crazy
The only person that’s going to announce that your company is open for business is you. So, make it a point to make a huge splash the moment that you’re ready to start reeling in clients.
Organic marketing through social media, paid advertising through Google or putting up flyers around your community can all be effective ways to drum up initial business. If you’re not sure how to market yourself, hiring a marketing agency could be helpful when navigating this step.
Agencies will cost you money upfront but that investment should pay for itself in the way of more clients.
Step 10. Land and Take Great Care of Your First Clients
After hard work on the marketing front, you should be able to land your first client. That’s especially true if you built a great network of support for yourself in your former event planning job.
How you take care of your first client will have ramifications on the viability of your company going forward. For that reason, you’ll want to do everything in your power to make sure that your client walks away excited to tell everybody how good your services are.
Step 11. Tweak and Repeat
With your first solo-gig under your belt and a new client testimonial to show off, reflect on your first entrepreneurial success in the event planning business. As you reflect, make adjustments to things that need tweaking like which event venues you recommend, how you take payments and other details that may have caused snags.
Once you’re done, move onto your next client and keep refining your business model from there.
The Event Planning Business Is in Need of Talented Individuals Like You
The event planning business is always looking for people that are creative, organized and passionate. If that sounds like you, don’t wait to start on this career path.
With a little bit of hard work and the right sensibilities, believe us when we say that you’ll do great in the world of events.
For additional small business advice, check out more of the newest content that we have up on our blog!