Running an event planning business can be lucrative and rewarding, especially if you have an outgoing personality and lots of stamina. Whether you’re interested in planning corporate, social, nonprofit or regional events, you’ll want to identify your niche so that you can get started in the event planning business with finesse and confidence. With the right education, a little experience, your own special brand, and a sparkling portfolio, you can be headed in the right direction as an event planner.
Evaluate your characteristics to figure out if you have what it takes to get started in the event planning business. If you're energetic and extroverted and love working with people, event planning may be right for you. Efficiency, organization, self-motivation, detail-mindedness, flexibility, creativity and imagination all play into your success. Strong business, sales and negotiation skills, and the ability to troubleshoot in a pinch when things go wrong also are star qualities.
Get an education and learn all you can about the event planning business. Enroll at your local college or university and work toward a degree or certificate in event or meeting planning.
Study to become a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP), a program offered by the International Special Events Society (ISES); or a Certified Meeting Planner (CEP), a program offered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Corporate clients in particular look for event planners who are certified, as it displays the mark of professionalism evidenced by rigorous study and research.
Consider start-up costs, like rent, equipment, inventory, marketing and advertising, licensing, taxes and insurance. How much capital you'll need to start an event planning business will depend on the economic strength of the area you live in and whether you open up shop in your home or rent out office space.
Offer to plan fundraisers for nonprofit organizations to gain experience. Make a positive impression on people in the community who may recommend you for other event planning opportunities. Don't underestimate the power of community involvement to get started in the event planning business.
Network vigorously at community events and other socials. Introduce yourself to vendors and hotel management staff. There’s nothing more powerful than a firm handshake and a memorable introduction that speaks highly of your competence. Interview potential vendors and ask if they offer discounts. Follow up with a "thank you" note or some kind of acknowledgement.
Work up a Rolodex of contacts and vendors, including hotels, caterers, florists, photographers, videographers, entertainers, professional speakers, equipment rental companies and transportation services. At times you'll need to call vendors in a pinch when you need supplies or services for an important event. Establish good relationships with your vendors so they'll give you special discounts and fast turnaround when you need it.
Create a portfolio identifying your most memorable assignments, including "thank you" letters, successful proposals, and photographs of events you’ve planned in the past, for example. Show it to potential customers and impress them with your special talents and abilities.
Design an effective marketing campaign, including your own special brand. Get business cards and brochures printed that people will remember you by. Mail your business cards and brochures to a list, and build a website to create an online storefront for your business.
Become a member of an event planning association to keep up with the latest trends.
Join event planning committees in your community to get some experience.
Volunteer to organize events at your place of employment if the need arises.
Consider buying event planning software to better organize your business.
Beware: event planners tend to work long hours, including nights, early morning, weekends and holidays.
Avoid spending a lot of money on advertising. Word-of-mouth and networking are usually the most effective.