How much do event planners make, really?
Event planning is a dynamic profession that requires a great deal of creativity, organization, and people skills. Event planners are responsible for organizing and coordinating events such as weddings, corporate events, conferences, and fundraisers. They work with clients to determine the vision for the event, choose vendors, create a budget, and ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
But just how much do event planners make for all of that work? Let’s take a closer look.
First, exactly what does an event planner get paid to do?
Event planners are responsible for creating and executing events that meet the goals and vision of their clients. This involves working closely with the client to determine their needs, preferences, and budget, and then designing a plan to meet those requirements. Event planners may also be responsible for managing vendors, coordinating with staff, and ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
There are many different types of events that event planners may be involved in, including:
- Corporate events
- Trade shows
Each type of event comes with its own unique challenges and requirements, so event planners need to be able to adapt to a wide range of situations.
It’s also important for prospective event planners to understand that while the field can be financially rewarding, it can also be demanding and stressful. Event planners often work long hours, including evenings and weekends, to ensure that events are successful. They must also be able to handle unexpected challenges and solve problems quickly and creatively.
Putting out fires unique to the events industry is one of the reasons event planners earn what they earn.
The 4 types of event planners
There are many different types of event planners, each with their own area of specialization. Some event planners focus on weddings and other social events, while others specialize in corporate events or trade shows. Here are some of the most common types of event planning paths to consider:
- Wedding planners. Wedding planners are responsible for helping couples plan and coordinate their weddings. They may help with everything from choosing the venue and selecting vendors to coordinating the ceremony and reception. There are also different types of wedding planners, who may specialize in event design or coordination.
- Social event planners. Social event planners specialize in planning and coordinating events such as birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, and other events built around family and friends.
- Corporate event planners. Corporate event planners work with businesses and organizations to plan and execute events such as product launches, conferences, and trade shows. They are often employed by the company itself, or by an external planning organization that contracts with their clients.
- Non-profit event planners. Non-profit event planners work with non-profit organizations to plan and execute fundraising events, such as charity galas and auctions.
Event planners may also plan multiple types of events for one company or industry. Whatever you choose to do, knowing the four main types of event planner will give you a better understanding of how much you can potentially earn in this field.
How do event planners get paid?
Event planners may be paid in a variety of ways, depending on the type of event and the services they provide. Some common payment models include:
- Flat fee. Some event planners charge a flat fee for their services. This fee may be based on the size and complexity of the event, as well as the amount of time and effort required to plan and execute the event.
- Percentage of event cost. Some event planners charge a percentage of the total cost of the event. This means clients need to pay attention to the overall budget, which will determine the amount the planner is paid.
- Hourly Rate. Some event planners charge an hourly rate for their services. This can be a good option for a la carte services, like such as vendor selection or day-of coordination.
Planners employed by a company or organization may earn a salary, health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid time off. Some event planners may also receive bonuses or commissions for successfully executing events and meeting client goals. Self-employed planners or those working in smaller organizations will likely not have the same benefits, and will rely on the income from events.
How much do event planners make?
The amount that event planners make can vary widely depending on their level of experience, their area of specialization, and the type of event they are planning.
For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for meeting, convention, and event planners was $49,470 in May 2021. Meanwhile, Zippia reports that event planner salaries typically range between $35,000 and $74,000 a year.
As you can tell from the numbers, answering the question of how much do event planners make can vary widely. Here are some other factors that affect average annual income for event planners:
- Niche. Event planners who specialize in high-end events may be able to command higher fees than those who specialize in more modest events.
- Network. Event planners who have a strong reputation and a large network of contacts may be able to charge more than those who are just starting out.
- Location. Event planners working in major metropolitan areas like New York City or Los Angeles may earn more than those working in smaller cities or rural areas.
- Employer. The size and reputation of the company an event planner works for can also impact their salary. Larger companies with more significant budgets may be able to pay their event planners more than smaller companies with limited resources.
Event planners who work for themselves, on the other hand, may have the opportunity to set their rates and earn income on a per-project basis. This can provide higher income potential for experienced and skilled professionals who are able to build a strong client base and deliver exceptional results consistently, but it does require creating the rest of the business from the ground up.
- Performance. Event planners who frequently deliver successful events and exceed client expectations are more likely to receive higher salaries and bonuses. They may also be eligible for promotions and advancement opportunities within their company.
If you’re considering pursuing event planning as a career, you can use resume boosters to justify charging a higher flat fee or hourly rate when you are first starting out. Professional certifications, such as the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation, can demonstrate an event planner’s expertise and increase their marketability.
Additionally, attending industry conferences and workshops can provide valuable networking opportunities and help event planners stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices.
Understanding event planner compensation packages
Salary is just one component of an event planner’s compensation package. It is essential to consider the entire package, including base salary, bonuses, commissions, and benefits, when evaluating earning potential. Some event planning positions may offer lower base salaries but make up the difference with generous bonus structures, commissions, or opportunities for professional growth and development.
Benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings options, and paid time off can also have a significant impact on overall compensation and should be considered when comparing job offers or evaluating self-employment opportunities.
That said, the pros of self-employment may outweigh the cons of working with an agency or brand. Really it’s up to you to decide which lifestyle better suits you in the long run. If you don’t know right now that’s okay—you can always figure it out as you go!
Want to start earning as an event planner? Here’s what you need!
Young aspiring event planners often start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as hospitality management, marketing, or communications. Some event planners can find success with an associate degree or through relevant work experience. It’s not at all uncommon, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, for people to become event planners after a career in a different field. In that case, the professional certifications become more important.
Many event planners even choose to pursue professional certifications to enhance their credentials and make themselves more marketable in the industry. There are several certification options available, including the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and the Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) certification. These designations often require a combination of education, experience, and successful completion of an examination.
Tips for maximizing event planner earnings
So you have all of the qualifications and education needed to get started. Now what? Set yourself up for success with these strategies to boost your income:
- Prioritize networking. Building a robust professional network can open doors to new opportunities and higher-paying positions. Don’t worry about becoming best friends with everyone you meet or only speaking to people who can give you a leg up. The acquaintances you introduce yourself today will plant the seeds for opportunities in a few months or even years from now simply because you are no longer strangers to them.
- Pick a specialty. Focusing on a specific niche or type of event planning can make you more valuable to both clients and employers. Obtain a specialty certification relevant to the event planning industry to further present yourself as an expert in your event planning niche.
- Learn how to negotiate contracts. Develop strong negotiation skills that can help you secure higher salaries and better benefits packages when working with a company. Having confidence in yourself and your work now will pay off financially long into the future, especially if you secure a higher-than-average starting salary at the beginning of your career.
Event planning is a dynamic and exciting profession that offers a wide range of opportunities for creative and organized individuals. While the amount that event planners make can vary widely depending on a number of factors, it’s clear that there is potential for a good income and a rewarding career in event planning.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in event planning, it’s important to do your research and gain experience in the field. Consider volunteering at events, taking classes or workshops, and networking with other professionals in the industry. With dedication and hard work, you can build a successful career as an event planner and enjoy the satisfaction of creating memorable and successful events for your clients.
Up next, check out our guide to kickstarting your event planning career.