Starting a new business is stressful. And the pressure is even greater in the event planning space. Business owners in this competitive industry need to strategize business operations while simultaneously organizing extravaganzas that make clients swoon. Which is why you need a clear understanding of the building blocks necessary for success.
In addition to your creative flair, effective financial and business tools are essential for establishing an event planning business that flourishes. In this article, I’ll guide you through everything you need to do – and pay attention to – when starting an event planning business.
8 Steps to Start an Event Planning Business
There are a few things you’ll want to do to set up a successful event planning business. We’re exploring eight key steps that will take you from finding your niche to booking events, accepting payments, and tracking your performance to grow your business.
1. Perform Market Research
Successful businesses put their customers first. These entities focus on what the market wants or needs, and create products to fill that gap. But understanding exactly what your clients desire doesn’t just happen. This is where market research comes in.
To attract the type of client you want to plan events for, you need to understand who they are. Market research can reveal basic demographic data (like age range, income bracket, and geographic location) to identify potential customers.
Besides getting to know who your target market might be, market research can also help you to plan for the future. A deep dive into your potential clientele can help you to set realistic targets for your business, develop effective growth strategies, and identify opportunities for future growth.
One of the easiest ways to do market research is to look at companies you think would be your competitors. You’ll also want to conduct some audience surveys. Set these up on your social media channels and promote them to your target audience to attract attention and get responses.
2. Create a Business Plan
Once you know who you’ll be planning events for, it’s time to put together your business plan. This all-encompassing document creates a roadmap for your business, setting out where you want your business to go and how you intend on getting there.
A business plan is especially important if you’re going to be applying for finance from a bank or other financial institution. The document will show your funders how you plan to achieve your financial, operational and marketing goals. And how likely it is that you’ll be able to repay loans.
There are five elements that every business plan should include:
- Business overview: The type of events your business will focus on, its name, location, and who the key stakeholders are.
- Budget: Your projected income and expenditure over the first 12 months.
- Target market: The people or companies who you’ll be aiming to provide event planning services to.
- Competitors: The other companies that work in the same market where your business will operate.
- Marketing plan: How you intend to attract customers and how much doing this will cost.
3. Calculate Your Monthly Operating Costs
As a small events planning business, the most important ongoing costs to think about are likely the ones you’ll incur for using merchant services and products. Especially payment processing. Without this service, you won’t be able to accept any card or digital payments from customers.
It’s best to go with a provider that offers a flat-rate pricing model with a fixed per-transaction fee. This will ensure you know exactly how much you’ll pay for processing each month.
Other pricing models, like the tiered fee structure, lack transparency. It’s often difficult to decipher how the monthly fees relate to the transactions you’ve performed. Plus, it’s near impossible to use your bank statement to project what you’ll pay in subsequent months.
That’s why we use a flat-rate pricing model at Pay.com. This takes the guesswork out of what your monthly fees will be, which makes it easy for you to project costs based on how much business you’re doing – freeing up space for you to concentrate on building the best event planning business.
4. Register Your Business
Registering a business can be a complex, drawn-out process. Fortunately, if you’ve created a business plan, you’ll already have done much of the legwork required to get started.
One important factor to decide on at this stage is the type of business you’ll establish. You can choose from operating as a sole proprietor (if you’ll be running the company on your own), a partnership (if you’re working with someone), as well as other entities that provide limited liability (which ensures you won’t be held responsible for the company’s debts or other actions).
Each of these structures has benefits and drawbacks, mostly related to how much tax you’ll pay and your level of liability in the company’s dealings. It’s best to speak with a lawyer or business advisor with expertise in this field before making the decision.
Once you’ve decided on the structure, you can register the business name, get a tax number, and acquire all of the relevant licenses and permits that you’ll need to operate in your state.
5. Plan to Accept Customer Payments
Cash might be king, but in today’s world, convenience rules the roost. And cards are convenient – especially for big-ticket services like events – so you’ll want a way to accept debit and credit card payments from your customers.
It’s best to choose a merchant service provider that offers a variety of payment methods. Plus, you’ll be able to manage all of your payment-related administrative work in one place.
There are a few options for completing card-not-present transactions. At Pay.com, we offer four user-friendly solutions that all work well for event planning businesses:
- Payment gateway: Accept payments online via your website through a secure portal that protects cardholder details during transactions.
- Pay Virtual Terminal: Collect credit card details from customers (e.g. over the phone) and input them into your Pay Dashboard to accept payments.
- Pay Links: Use the Pay Dashboard to create a payment link with a personalized checkout page that can be sent to your customer.
- Pay Checkout: Generate an invoice with a payment request and unique payment link to send to your customer.
Offering your customers a variety of payment options makes getting paid easier and more convenient. On top of that, a seamless payment experience will help to boost your brand and build trust.
6. Set Up a Merchant Bank Account
If you’re planning on accepting debit or credit card payments in person or online, you may want to set up a merchant account. This account stores your customer’s funds while a transaction is being processed.
Although they’re usually a foundational merchant service product, some merchant service providers offer solutions that eschew the need for a merchant account. Especially if you’re just starting out in business.
Let’s say you decide to work with Pay.com to manage your digital and card transactions. Rather than going to the bank to open a merchant account, finding a partner to host your payment gateway, and connecting with a company that offers payment processing, you can combine all of these services on one platform.
With just a few clicks, you can set up an account and start accepting a variety of payment methods without having to open a merchant account. What’s more, you can use the Pay Dashboard to easily view and manage everything and anything related to your payments.
7. Market Your Business and Start Planning Events
Now that you know the types of events you want to plan, the clients you want to work with, and how you’re going to accept payments, it’s time to start bringing in some business! This is where marketing comes in.
Every modern business needs an online presence. It’s a super cost-effective way to promote your new event planning company to customers and potential partners alike.
There’s no need to overcomplicate things: a simple, one-page website and key social media accounts are more than enough to get your brand noticed. Be sure to create relevant posts on a regular basis – and don’t forget the power of advertising on social media.
Once you’ve drummed up some interest online, you’ll be on your way to booking your first client (or clients!) and planning events.
8. Track Your Success
To know where you’re going, you need to know where you came from. If you want to make decisions that grow your event planning business, you need data. Having information about how your customers behave is invaluable for planning and strategizing.
One great way to monitor this is through social media activity. Create event-specific hashtags for guests to use when posting photos to various social media channels. This will enable you to monitor how engaged attendees were and has the added benefit of promoting your services to those guests’ social media networks.
Another strategy is to survey past and existing clients. Ask them how they heard about your business, why they chose to work with you, and if they’d use your services again. Remember to include some specific questions about the event, too (e.g. about the venue or entertainment). This will help you to identify any possible areas for improvement.
This data will not only help you to make better decisions as your business grows, but will also enable you to provide personalized customer experiences that keep your client base engaged.
The Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Event Planning Business
The event industry is bursting with glitz and glam, but there are some downsides to starting your own event planning business.
- Flexibility: You are the master of your own fate when you start your own event planning business. Who you work with, where you work, and when you work are all up to you.
- Repeat business: If you’ve organized an event that’s the talk of the town for weeks after, that client is likely to use your services again and again.
- Creative expression: Unlike the typical 9-to-5, event planning allows you to express your creativity to produce unforgettable experiences for your clients.
- Networking challenges: It takes time to build relationships with the service providers you will need to work with – especially in places where there are already many event planning businesses.
- Difficult to scale: Event planning businesses are resource intensive and it’s difficult to increase revenue without increasing resources or raising your prices.
- Long, irregular hours: Planning is done beforehand, but you’ll be expected to be on site when the event happens – that means working when everyone else is off and enjoying themselves.
The Bottom Line: Is Starting an Event Planning Business Right For You?
Event planning is a fast-paced job that will require you to be inventive and work with all sorts of interesting people. An event planning business is the ideal company to start for anyone who’s creative and client-focused – and wants the excitement of flexible work.
You’ll want to have all of your bases covered before you set about putting your first party together. A solid business plan is the best place to start. Having a definite direction for your event planning enterprise will help you to make decisions that keep you on track and help your business to grow.
Finances are a major factor when it comes to owning and operating an event planning business. So you’ll want to work with merchant service providers who minimize money-related stress for you and your customers.
Choose a full-service provider that offers quick, easy and convenient ways to accept payments. It’s best to go for a platform that allows you to set up accounts, configure payment methods, and manage customer profiles in just a few clicks – and for a fixed fee. Like Pay.com.
If you’re up to the challenge of operating in this competitive space and you’re motivated by seeing people have a good time, starting an event planning business might just be right for you.