Whether you’re coordinating and facilitating a wedding, a conference, a trade show, or a corporate fundraiser, event planning is a high-pressure, high-stakes job.
It takes a whole lot of creativity, energy, organization, and people skills to thrive in the event planning industry—but if you have those qualities, being an event planner can be a career to celebrate. Knowing how to start an event planning business is your first order of business.
You may have already coordinated events on a smaller or ad-hoc scale. That experience will help you as you move forward in this industry. But launching an official party planning business requires jumping through legal and logistical hoops.
Think you have what it takes to become a professional party planner? (We think you do.) Here’s how to start an event planning business in 5 steps.
Step 1: Understand the job requirements
If you’re brand-new to the official event-planning industry, it’s easy to think that the job is all glitz, champagne, and celebrations. While that’s the result of your careful planning, things are a lot less glamorous behind the curtain. For any event, there are about a thousand boxes you (the professional planner) have to check off to ensure that everything runs smoothly for the client and attendees.
Those tasks may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Creating an event design or theme
- Arranging entertainment
- Finding the venue
- Booking vendors
- Sending RSVPs and marketing information to attendees
- Balancing a budget
- Coordinating with staff and subcontractors
- Decorating the space
- Handling the catering and bar staff
- Supervising the event
There are about a thousand more boxes to check off within each one of these tasks. The Type A personality type is well-suited to this line of work. You need to be:
- Extremely organized
- An ace problem solver
- Have excellent communication skills.
Beyond that, you need to be a savvy negotiator, understand how to manage a budget, and know how to market your services. Especially if you’re a wedding planner, you must have high emotional intelligence to put nervous brides, grooms, wedding parties, and other starring attendees at ease in the midst of high-pressure situations.
If you’re not yet sure that your heart is fully in starting an event planning business on your own, it’s a good idea to give the job a test run. First, consider working as a personal or production assistant for an event planning company or experienced party planner. That way, you can see if the job is a good fit before you strike out on your own and find your corner of the business.
Step 2: Find your niche
Once you’re clear on what the job entails, nail down your niche. Although you may be tempted to advertise yourself to prospective clients as a jack-or jill-of-all-trades, that’s actually not the best marketing strategy. A general title makes it much harder to distinguish yourself in a crowded market. Offering one type of service that you do really well demonstrates your expertise.
There are four primary types of events: social, corporate, nonprofit, and association—each with its own specializations. For example, managing a fundraising gala and coordinating a wedding are both social events, but they’re uniquely different jobs with distinctive requirements, challenges, and demands.
Once you’ve decided on your event specialization, consider your services. If you’re a wedding planner, for instance, will you offer full-service planning leading up to the wedding, or will you also offer day-of coordinating? Will you offer pre-wedding services such as showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and honeymoon planning, as well?
Perhaps you’ll eventually be able to offer a full range of event planning services. But when you’re just starting, narrow it down so you can perfect your flagship service. (Hint: that’s all part of your business plan.)
Step 3: Write a business plan
Writing a business plan is the next step to start a party planning business. Your business plan is a detailed guide outlining your business structure, what it offers, how it operates, its long- and short-term goals, and some crucial financial information.
Your business plan will not only help your business grow and reach important milestones, it can also attract funding.1
Every business plan is different. Some are highly detailed for presenting to investors, and others act more as “road maps” that help the business owner organize a plan of action. At the very least, your preliminary business plan should address the following:
- What services your business offers
- How your business sets itself apart from competitors
- Your target market
- Your mission statement
- How you plan to evolve your business over the next few years
- Your business structure
- Your business budget
- How much money you have on hand, and how much you need to launch
- Your funding sources
Luckily, there are tons of business plan tools and templates available. Start by checking out the SBA’s guide to writing a business plan, which includes sample business plans.2
You also need to make your business official. Start by coming up with a business name and choosing a business entity. Next,register your business with your Secretary of State, Business Bureau, or Business Agency, and gather any funding you need to get your business off the ground.
After you register your business, you have to invite customers to your party.
Step 4: Market your business
As an event planner, you’re probably naturally gifted at networking, so now’s the time to use those skills. Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing skills in this industry. Scour your network for potential leads and send out a mass email to your contacts announcing your business. Ask happy customers to spread the word to their friends, family, colleagues, and social media followers.
With the vast majority of consumers conducting their browsing, socializing, shopping, and pretty much everything else online, having a website for your small business is non-negotiable.
Fortunately, there are website platforms that allow you to bundle a domain name and hosting services and create a website in just minutes. For this step, remember to take the following actions:
- Build your blog to improve search results
- Utilize SEO best practices throughout the site
- Design a site that’s visually appealing, clearly states what you do, and is tailored to your target audience
- Make the site easy and intuitive to navigate
- Be sure to include your contact information, links to your social media accounts, and a portfolio of your work
If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to create social media accounts dedicated to your business. Instagram and Twitter are mainstays. But as your line of work is aesthetically driven, a Pinterest account can also be a great way to showcase your work and inspiration.
Step 5: Get insurance
Big groups of people gathering together is inherently risky. A liability claim filed against your business could ground your event planning business before it even launches.
General liability insurance can cover you for liabilities like non-employee third-party bodily injury, third-party property damage, personal and advertising injury. It provides the investigation of a claim and even the defense of such claim if a client takes your business to court.
Thimble’s Event Insurance is the easiest and most flexible way to protect your business. You can choose a policy that covers you by the hour, day, month, or year, so you’ll only pay when you’re actually working an event.
Along with general liability coverage, Event Insurance offers the option to add liquor liability coverage, which provides coverage for legal fees and damages incurred because damage or injury caused by a third party as a result of alcohol consumption at your BYOB or open-bar event.
To get your quote, just download the Thimble mobile app or click “Get a Quote,” enter a few details about your business. When you purchase, you’ll receive your policy and as many Certificates of Insurance (COI) as you need via the Thimble app and email.
Now, you can run your business with the peace of mind you absolutely need to track down that missing vegetarian meal for the groom’s sister at Table One.
Get the party started
Before you bust out the bubbly, let’s quickly recap the five crucial steps to becoming a professional party planner:
- Understand the job’s extensive requirements. Ideally, work as an assistant to a party planner, or organize small-scale parties to gain hands-on experience.
- Pinpoint what types of events you’ll plan, and any other additional services you’ll offer clients.
- Write a business plan and follow through with foundational requirements, like registering your business and gathering funding.
- Network, create a website and social media accounts, and do whatever it takes to land your first client.
- Protect your business by purchasing general liability insurance.
As you go about launching your company, remember that success takes time. Stick to your business plan, work on building a clientele, create connections in the industry, and take calculated risks. Do that, and your parties will soon be the talk of the town.