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How to Start an Event Planning Business

Some careers seem more exciting than others, and working as an event planner is one of them. Most people love to attend more concerts and events, and some of the stage glitter sprinkles off onto everyone in the event planning industry. But event planners know all about the hard work involved and that "events" can include more birthday parties than rock concerts.

If you are considering starting an event planning business, here is what you need to know.

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Background Requirements for Event Planning

What life experience do you need to start your own event planning business? It's not mysterious, since most of the requirements are the same as for any new business endeavor. Success in event planning requires training, experience, and industry contacts. Of course, optimism, enthusiasm, and a friendly personality also help. You'll need to acquire all of these before opening your own shop.

But you probably already know this and have likely been preparing for this big move for some time. In addition to getting this background experience, there are legal and business issues that anyone going out on their own will want to explore. These include:

  • Selecting a business name for your event planning company
  • Creating a business plan
  • Considering event planning certification
  • Determining the best business structure
  • Planning your marketing approach
  • Equipping the event planning company operations

Read up on these six steps to get an overview of what might be required to move forward toward your dream.

1) Pick a Business Name

Names are important. When someone is looking online for an event planning business to organize their party, they may select — or decide not to select — a company based on the name.

Consider your target audience before deciding what to name your company. If you are focusing on birthday parties, something cute might be appropriate. If you hope to lure corporate clients, cute might not work so well. If becoming a wedding planner is the goal, choose a name that tells the world about your focus.

Unless you are going to operate under your own name — e.g. Jan Sanchez Event Planning — you'll pick a fictitious name, also called a "doing business as" name, or DBA. States generally don't allow you to open a new business with a DBA that someone else is using. Once you've put together a short list of potential DBAs, run the top choice through your state's database of company names to see if another company is using it.

When you've made your selection and found an original DBA, get back online to register the name with the Secretary of State. It isn't "yours" until you register it.

2) Create a Business Plan

Anyone starting a business will need a written business plan. This is not a legal requirement, but it is a necessary, practical step.

The business plan for your event planning business should include a basic description of your business ideas like a target audience or target market. Do you plan to focus on social events like birthday parties, anniversaries, and galas, or lean toward corporate events and trade shows? Wedding planning is a specialty in and of itself. If you've done your market research, you'll know what types of events are popular in your area and have put together a list of potential clients.

In addition, a business plan must include money matters. You can get the event business set up for very little money if you work out of your home rather than paying for office space. But you will still need to consider finance issues, including:

  • Startup costs
  • Initial funding sources
  • An operating budge
  • Pricing policies

Consider including marketing strategy ideas as part of the business plan. The event planning industry is highly competitive. You'll want to include social media accounts, so reserve domain names as soon as you can. Make a list of referrals: people or companies who will testify to your successful events. Word-of-mouth is important, but it all starts with a good marketing strategy.

3) Certify as an Event Planner

Must you earn certification to work as an event planner? It is not a legal requirement in any state. In fact, the industry is almost entirely unregulated. That means that anyone can call themselves an event planner, even those who have never worked in the business.

But it's important to establish credibility with potential clients. Credibility can be a big factor in the success of a new event planning business. This is where certification can help. Having a recognized certification provides proof that you have the training and experience to do the job.

There are a variety of certifications available. Here are four to consider:

  • The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is an established and internationally recognized certification program for event planners. The program, run by the Events Industry Council, conditions certification on testing. But to apply, you will need to show proof of both experience and training.
  • The Certification in Exhibition Management, offered by the International Association of Exhibits and Events is another program with a good reputation. Those seeking the CEM must successfully complete nine of the 14 classes they offer. Only those with three years of full-time experience in the exhibitions and events industry can apply.
  • Another reputed credential is the Certified Special Events Professional. Candidates for this certification must also provide proof of three years experience in the field. The International Live Events Association manages the program.
  • If you hope to get government clients for your new business, you might need to earn the Certified Government Meeting Professional designation. The Society of Government Meeting Professionals manages this certification, and if you wish to sit for the exam, you must become a member. Some government contracts only hire planners with a government certification.

4) Decide on a Structure for Your Event Planning Business

Think of the business structure as the skeleton for your event planning services. Selecting a business structure for your event management startup is a very important step toward making your dream a reality.

The most fundamental step is deciding what type of business entity works best for your event planning business. For this, you may wish to talk to other event planners to see what worked for them. You might also want to talk to a business attorney to get a professional view as to best structure for your small business.

Most small business owners either open a company as a sole proprietorship or as a limited liability company. While state requirements differ on startup rules, it is not too difficult to begin an event planning business with either type of entity.

Sole Proprietorships

The easiest type of business to organize is the sole proprietorship. In some states, you don't even have to register it. A sole proprietor event planner doesn't need to file a business return. They report all business profits and expenses on their individual tax return.

But consider this: Courts ignore the structure as well when it comes to collecting business debts and obligations. A company creditor can sue the owner personally and take their personal assets and bank accounts.

Limited Liability Companies

You'll have to jump through a few more hoops to form a limited liability company, but the effort may be worth it. A limited liability company — termed an LLC — offers financial protection to small business owners. As the name indicates, an owner does not have personal liability for LLC debts. Setting your business up as an LLC protects you from being held personally liable in case of a business lawsuit.

What about starting a corporation? This type of business also protects the owners from personal liability for business debts, but it is a more complicated business entity to organize.

5) Plan Your Marketing Approach

Marketing sounds intimidating. But in fact, it just means how you plan to get the word out about your event planning business. The more people who know about your company, the more potential clients you have.

These days, social media is one of the best ways to advertise a new business. Ideally, your event planning business will have its own website. Establish your presence on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and any other sites that people visit regularly. If you have contacts in other media outlets, like radio, television, or newspapers, you can use these as well.

What about word-of-mouth? That is also important and depends more on your excellent event planning work than marketing. Make sure that everyone who deals with your business, starting with the very first client, has only good things to say about the experience. Sticking to the event budget will go a long way toward creating happy clients.

6) Equip Your Startup

When you move into a new apartment, you need to buy the necessities to equip it, like a bed, a kitchen table, and a couch. With a new business endeavor, you also need to arrange for the essentials.

For your startup, you will need to purchase business insurance, set up a business bank account, and order business cards to hand out to one and all. It's a good idea to consider getting a separate phone line for your event planning services. Be sure to put an appropriate message on the answering machine. High-speed internet and event management software are essential.

Now that you have an overview of the legal and business matters you'll need to consider to set up your event planning services, it's time to take the next step: check out the simple DIY business formation process for your state.

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