How to Start an Event Planning Service

Put your party experience to good use by planning, designing and throwing events for private and corporate clients.
How to Start an Event Planning Service
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Editor's note: This article was excerpted from our Event Planning Service start-up guide, available from the Entrepreneur Bookstore.

The special events industry has grown enormously in the past decade. According to recent research conducted by Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional), spending for special events worldwide is $500 billion annually. Goldblatt is the founder of International Special Events Society (ISES), the founding director of the Event Management Program at George Washington University, and co-author of The International Dictionary of Event Management. "Suffice it to say, the marketplace is large enough to support and sustain your endeavor," says Goldblatt. "If you're working in one special events area, there are many directions in which you can expand. If you're just entering the profession of special events, there's a lucrative market awaiting you on many fronts."

According to Goldblatt's research, profits in this industry continue to rise. Just a few years ago, Goldblatt says, the average profit margin for an event planning entrepreneur was around 15 percent. His most recent studies, however, show profit margins anywhere from 30 to 40 percent. He attributes the industry's good health to several factors, including the improved economy and the trend of corporate America to outsource their meeting-planning functions.

What Is Event Planning?

This question actually breaks down into two questions: What kinds of events are we talking about? And, what is event planning?

First things first. Generally speaking, special events occur for the following purposes:

  • Celebrations (fairs, parades, weddings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries)
  • Education (conferences, meetings, graduations)
  • Promotions (product launches, political rallies, fashion shows)
  • Commemorations (memorials, civic events)

This list isn't an exhaustive one, but as the examples illustrate, special events may be business related, purely social or somewhere in between.

Now we move to the second question: What is event planning? Planners of an event may handle any or all of the following tasks related to that event:

  • Conducting research
  • Creating an event design
  • Finding a site
  • Arranging for food, decor and entertainment
  • Planning transportation to and from the event
  • Sending invitations to attendees
  • Arranging any necessary accommodations for attendees
  • Coordinating the activities of event personnel
  • Supervising at the site
  • Conducting evaluations of the event

How many of these activities your business engages in will depend on the size and type of a particular event, which will, in turn, depend on the specialization you choose.

Why Do People Hire Event Planners?

This question has a simple answer: Individuals often find they lack the expertise and time to plan events themselves. Independent planners can step in and give these special events the attention they deserve.

Who Becomes An Event Planner?

Planners are often people who got their start in one particular aspect of special events. Business owner Martin V.K. had a successful catering company before he decided to plan entire events. Many other planners have similar stories. This explains why planners often not only coordinate entire events but may, in addition, provide one or more services for those events.

Event planners may also have started out planning events for other companies before deciding to go into business for themselves. Joyce B.W. planned in-house events for a retail chain for 11 years and then worked for another event planning company before striking out on her own.

Becoming Certified

Consider getting a degree or certificate from a local university in event planning or management. A list of colleges and universities offering educational opportunities in this field is available from Meeting Professionals International (MPI). (See the Appendix for contact information.)

Also consider working to become a CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) or CMP (Certified Meeting Planner). These designations are given out by ISES and MPI, respectively. Many corporations, and some members of the general public, look for these designations when hiring planners. Because of the research and study it takes to become a CSEP or CMP, clients know that these planners are professionals.

How to Start an Event Planning Service

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