How to Start an Event Planning Business (Step-by-Step Guide)


Some people have a special ability to plan parties — whether they be weddings, large corporate events or smaller gatherings. If you have a knack for tackling complex problems and making big days run smoothly, you might have a future as a professional event planner. Whether you choose to work alone or with a team, starting an event planning service is no small task. Here are some important questions to consider before launching an event planning business, and a step-by-step guide to starting and scaling your business.

Related: Find Your Event-Planning Niche

What is an event planning business?

Event planning is the art and science of ideation, planning, coordination and operation. When a major event needs to run smoothly — whether it’s a trade show, nonprofit gala or a major anniversary — people will enlist an event planning service or coordinator. Event planners are key service providers who ensure event production and execution goes off without a hitch , most often used for purposes like:

  • Corporate events, like after-work cocktail hours and galas.
  • Educational conventions, like graduations or conferences.
  • Major promotional events including product launches and fashion shows.
  • Celebrations and social events including parades, weddings, birthdays and reunions.

The primary duties of full-time or part-time on-site event planners include:

  • Researching venues and vendors prior to the event.
  • Selecting the appropriate site for the event.
  • Event design and team-building for project management.
  • Creating budgets and running fundraisers if necessary.
  • Coordinating decor, entertainment and food for the event.
  • Sending invitations to attendees.
  • Coordinating transportation for attendees to and from the event.
  • Arranging accommodations, including seating charts and place settings.
  • Coordinating tasks for onsite event personnel, including caterers or entertainers.
  • Being on call for any questions or problems that arise in the event-planning process.
  • Supervising activities at the event site.

Why do people hire event planning services?

People primarily hire event planning services for two reasons: So that hosts and guests don’t have to focus on the inner workings of the event, and so that the event runs smoothly from beginning to end.

Consider a wedding. Many engaged couples hire event planners or event planning services to coordinate, organize and carry out their wedding plans. This helps the couple enjoy their special day and gives them the freedom to focus on getting married rather than worrying about details like catering, parking or the timeline.

Some events are so complex — particularly those with hundreds of guests or more — that it’s almost impossible to properly plan and organize them without the help of a specialist. Knowledgeable, experienced event planners know how to organize groups of people, how much food to provide and other details that can make or break an important event.

Related: The Price Is Right: Turning a Profit in the Event Planning Business

Who should become an event planner?

You might consider becoming an event planner if you’re organized, love hosting parties and find the challenge of coordinating large events to be thrilling. Planners handle many moving parts at once, some of which require overseeing chaotic work and competing agendas. Event planners also often work weekends and holidays since these are the days when most people schedule events.

Many event planners have backgrounds as managers or coordinators in other industries. The events industry, both for wedding planning and other events, requires excellent communication skills. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing or related fields can be helpful but is not required. You should also consider acquiring certification for your event planning service, as it can help you cultivate relevant professional skills and attract more job opportunities. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) offers a list of degrees and certificates from various colleges and universities.

You can also become a Certified Special Events Professional or Certified Meeting Planner, both of which are offered by the MPI or the International Live Events Association (ILEA). By earning these certifications, potential clients will know you have the training and experience necessary to take on a complex event.

How to start an event planning business

Step 1: Form your company

To get your event planning business off the ground, you must first form a company, file the right paperwork and create a business plan — which should include the following details:

  • The business’s name.
  • The business’s tax structure (Sole proprietorship, LLC, S corp etc.).
  • What services you’ll provide.
  • Market research.
  • A management plan.
  • Financial factors, including how you’ll turn a profit.

Related: Check out these business plan templates to get started.

You’ll also want to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), which is essentially a social security number for your business assigned to you by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This will allow you to operate your business independently of your personal affairs, help you hire employees and make it easier to file taxes quarterly.

Step 2: Choose your target market

Building on the research you performed to create your business plan, it’s essential to find the right market for your services. For instance, if you want to primarily work with weddings, you need to determine how many other planners are in your area, how much you should charge for your services and what offerings you’ll need to be competitive.

By doing enough research ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what kind of clients to target and what their expectations will be. This will help you advertise your event planning service to be competitive relative to other local planners.

Step 3: Make a financial plan

When you start an event planning business, you’ll have to consider not only startup costs but also how the enterprise will grow and how many clients you’ll need in order to be profitable. For instance, working from home and primarily by yourself will keep costs low. But if you hire employees, rent office space, or expand to new markets, your monthly expenses will significantly increase – all of these things can add up.

You can always scale your business after acquiring steady work. You may start off as a one-person event planning service that only takes on small events. As you earn money from successful jobs, you can hire employees and rent a warehouse for your equipment, like cameras, chairs and more. You don’t have to have all of the growth questions answered when you launch your business, but you should at least have them in mind.

Step 4: Understand the work involved and consider hiring employees

For your event planning service to be successful, you need to fully grasp the nature of each job and determine if — or when — it’s time to hire employees. This will vary event to event, so you’ll need to determine how much work each event will require. Even the smallest event demands careful attention to detail and advance planning, but as you acquire experience you’ll become more adept at forecasting how much help you’ll need, if any. For instance, you might hire two or three people to be on-site for a specific event, just to make sure things run smoothly.

Related: The Event Planning Recipe for Success

Step 5: Settle on a price structure and fee basis

How you price your event planning offerings will impact how much business you attract. You can determine your pricing structure and fee basis by things like:

  • The market segment you serve: For instance, nonprofit events may have different fee structures than weddings or corporate events. By understanding your event type, you’ll know how much to charge and how to structure your fees.
  • Your location: If you live in a place with a higher cost of living or a competitive events market, you’ll need to price your services accordingly.
  • Your reputation: As your business gains a reputation for success — and especially if you’re so busy clients are competing for your services — you’ll be able to charge a higher premium.

Step 6: Start marketing your event planning service

Once you know how much to charge your clients, it’s time to start marketing your event planning service. Consider using tools like Google ads, social media profiles and other digital marketing efforts like email to get the word out about your business. You may even consider newspaper ads, flyers in public buildings or other traditional low-cost marketing tactics. As your business grows, so too will your reputation, meaning you’ll likely have to spend less on marketing once you’re known. Before you get there, though, it’s important to dedicate significant time and resources to marketing your services (learn more here about the tools and strategies that should be part of creating your marketing plan).

Related: 8 Savvy Ways to Promote Your Event Planning Business

Costs of starting an event planning business

The costs of launching your business will vary greatly based on where you live, what kind of clients you work with and how large you intend to scale your operation. At a minimum, you’ll need to pay fees to incorporate your business, purchase basic technology like a computer, buy business insurance and spend money advertising. But there are many other potential costs, including certification programs, hiring additional employees, renting office space and more. Here’s a breakdown of common expenses associated with event planning, as well as a range of what it might take to get your enterprise off the ground.

Consider Startup Costs

As with any business, the startup costs for event planning vary by the region, the size of your operation and the type of clients you attract. Below are estimates that will help you determine what you can expect to spend in your first year.

Startup Expenses*LowHigh
Rent (monthly)$0$5,700
Technology and supplies (annually)$1,000$5,000
Licenses and Fees (annually)$250$1,000
Payroll (monthly)$0$5,000
Advertising (monthly)$100$1,000
Legal (annually)$120$1,500
Insurance (annually)$400$1,200
Accounting (annually)$1,000$5,000

*All figures are estimates and subject to change based on factors including location, business size and clientele.

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