From fundraisers and festivals to conventions and seminars, there's something all events have in common: without the right planning in place, they can go from cheery to chaotic in an instant.
That's where event planners come in. With their top-notch people skills and impeccable organization, professional event planners can turn general ideas into flawlessly executed events.
Want to start your own event planning business and be responsible for your area's next greatest events? Use these eight steps to do just that.
You might associate event planning with weddings, conventions or other types of events, but the truth is that there's a variety of event types to choose from.
On the other hand, the most common non-corporate events include:
- Weddings and receptions
- Festivals and fairs
- Charity fundraisers
- School events
So as a professional event planner, it's crucial to find a niche to specialize in — there are simply too many different types of events for one small business to master.
You can narrow down your options by considering what types of events you'd most like to organize, as well as what types of clients you'd most like to work with.
So you know you want to start an event planning business, but how much do you know about the industry you're getting into?
Let's start with the big picture. On a global level, the events industry was valued at over $1 trillion in 2019 and is projected to exceed $1.5 trillion by 2028. And in the U.S. specifically, the event planning market was worth an impressive $3 billion in 2021.
But what about your area in particular? That's what matters most to you, and to find out, you'll need to conduct in-depth market research.
To do so, use every available resource to discover:
Once your research is complete, you'll be ready to start a standout event planning business that rivals the competition.
Ever see a perfect wedding happen completely spontaneously, with no planning whatsoever? Didn't think so.
In the same vein, your event planning business will have a much higher chance of succeeding if it's backed by a solid plan.
Every business plan is different, but you'd do well to include:
Ready to start planning the trade show of the year? Then it's time to choose a business structure and get registered with your state.
When selecting a structure, you have five major options to choose from:
If you don't formally register your event planning business, it will be a sole proprietorship by default. But you can also choose to set your business up as a sole proprietorship yourself (and it's a pretty easy process), though it doesn't provide all the liability protections you might need.
Similar to a sole proprietorship, but with two or more people instead of just one.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
The most common business structure for small businesses, an LLC is simple to start and maintain but will protect your personal assets in the event that something goes south with your event planning business.
While corporations with fewer than 100 shareholders may benefit from becoming an S Corp , this business structure is unnecessarily complex for most small event planning businesses.
In most cases, it only makes sense for large and publicly traded companies to register as a C Corp.
For most small event planning business owners, an LLC structure strikes the right balance between cost-effectiveness, ease of maintenance and personal asset protection. We think the same is likely true for you — and once you're ready to get started, we can help you file your LLC now.
Even the most extravagant festivals start with a budget, and so must your event planning business.
While you may have already estimated your expenses while writing your business plan, it's a good idea to take a closer look at the costs you might encounter.
The good news is that event planning businesses tend to have low startup costs. To get started, all you need is a way to get in touch with potential clients — for many event planners, that means a computer and an internet connection.
But as you begin planning events for your clients, you may encounter a few types of expenses. These can include:
Marketing and advertising, such as social media ads or professional marketing campaigns.
Business cards, which you can pass out at events to grow your business. Hosting fees for your business' website.
Photography of your events, which you can use to promote your services on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.
Conference admission fees if you choose to attend industry conferences (Interested but don't know where to start? Check out these great summer conferences).
Insurance for your events (see step #7 for more about insurance you may need).
Plan for the expenses you're most likely to have, and you can avoid any unpleasant financial surprises in the future.
Events are supposed to be memorable, but only for the right reasons. No company wants its product launch to be remembered for disorganization, and no couple wants their wedding remembered for confusion.
For that reason, part of starting and growing a successful event planning business is establishing a brand that clients can trust with their important milestones and special occasions.
To do so, you can use tried-and-true techniques like:
- Creating a consistent look from your logo to your brand colors
- Building a website to showcase your services, whether you take a DIY approach with a tool like Wix or Squarespace or hire a professional site designer
- Ordering custom business cards using a service like Vistaprint
- Opening branded social media accounts on all major problems
- Choosing a brand personality and tone of voice
When large numbers of people gather in one place, it's best to expect the unexpected (ever heard of Woodstock?).
That's why all event planners need the right insurance to protect their business from lawsuits and other legal issues.
You'd be wise to consider purchasing these three types of insurance:
General liability insurance
It's a good idea for almost all types of small businesses to have business liability insurance, and event planning businesses are no exception.
Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance
If a client claims you made a planning error that resulted in their injury, for example, then E&O insurance will help cover the cost of any damages.
Workers' compensation insurance
If your event planning business has employees, workers' compensation insurance will limit the amount you have to pay if they're injured on the job.
Liquor liability insurance
If the events you plan involve alcohol, then this type of insurance can help protect you from liability if guests decide to have a few too many drinks.
Some insurance providers even combine these and other types of insurance into packages designed specifically for event planners.
No matter which option you choose, if you do your research, then you'll be sure to find an insurance plan that's right for you, your business and your budget.
A great event can't run itself, and neither can your event planning business. That's why you'll need to perform some regular maintenance to keep it updated and compliant.
But don't worry — when all is said and done, your business will still require less upkeep than an open bar. All you'll need to do is:
File Annual Reports
Each year, you'll likely have to submit an annual report to your state's government to keep officials updated on all your business's most important details. This is usually information about its location, purpose, management team and the like.
As someone who's self-employed by your event planning business, you'll probably be required to file taxes several times a year. Learn more about quarterly taxes on our blog.
You'll also have to prepare and file a yearly tax return with the federal government and likely your state government too.
Is the mention of taxes making your hands a bit clammy? No problem — our Bookkeeping and Accounting services can take the guesswork out of taxes.
Renew Licenses, Permits and Contracts
If your state, county or city requires your event planning business to have a business license, then you'll need to renew it on a regular basis.
Need to learn more about the types of licenses and how to stay compliant? We've got you covered with our Business License Research Package.
And don't forget that your insurance plans, supplier contracts, employee contracts and other agreements will also need to be renewed.
Additional Resources for Event Planners
Just as a bride needs her bridesmaids and a headlining musician needs their opening act, every event planner needs the right tools and resources to be their best.
These are some of the best resources for new and experienced event planners alike.
The events-focused section of this travel industry news site has more than just interesting blog posts. There, you'll also find fascinating interviews, in-depth ebooks and detailed reviews.
With decades of experience, MPI is the largest meeting and event planner association in the world. It provides educational resources galore, tons of networking opportunities and a slew of member benefits.
More than 80,000 members strong, this LinkedIn group provides a place for event planners to network, ask questions and share their expertise.