The Essential Steps to Starting an Event Management Business

The U.S. Department of Labor’s research shows that getting your event management business plan together is a smart move right now. The industry is growing faster than most.

And because no specialized training is required to start one, you can expect to start turning a profit much, much faster.

How do I start my own event planning business?

Like any small business, you have to start out by doing a lot of research and creating a plan for what services you’ll offer and how you’ll market them.

You’ll also have to figure out things like budgeting, whether or not you’ll want to expand your team with event staff or other specialists, and administrative tasks like quoting, billing, etc.

As you can already tell, most of the work is done up front. But you only have to do it once! And even though you’ll most likely tweak your plan as your business continues to grow, the work you put in now will largely serve as a foundation of the company for years to come.

How to start an event planning business

If you’re looking to snag one of the 116,700+ (on average) jobs available to meeting, convention, and event managers out there, here’s what you’ll need to get started.

Step 1: Determine if it’s a good fit.

Like most jobs, your skill set and personality will largely determine your success in this field. And while you don’t need to check off all the qualities on this list, here are some things to consider before you start an event management business:

  • You can keep the big picture in mind while still taking care of all the little details.
  • Whether it’s Sunday brunch or the company holiday party, you’re everyone’s go-to person for all group events.
  • Working within a budget and strict timeline makes you feel creatively stimulated, not stunted.

Step 2: Research certifications.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that demand for event managers will grow an additional 11% by the time we reach 2026. With such a positive industry outlook, it’s good to find new ways to stand out amongst the competition as new event planners enter the market in coming years.

Certifications are fantastic ways to add credibility to your business, regardless of your experience level. Besides proving you’re dedicated to further your education in the field, these credentials show that respected institutions can vouch for your abilities (and your business).

Some of the top certifications event managers pursue include:

There are lots more options to choose from, but these serve as a great jumping off point. However, if you aren’t able to acquire one right now, you can still get your business off the ground without it.

It’s worth noting that beyond certifications, there are no strict college degree requirements (although it seems most event planners do have some sort of bachelor’s education under their belts when starting out).  

Step 3: Fill out an event management business plan.

Any cursory Google search for the phrase “event management business plan” will inevitably lead you to some free wedding and event planning business plan templates.

However, you’ll find that the one we’ve created (below) provides a “not too much, not too little” approach you won’t find in any other guides.

Each point has been carefully selected so that you can create the event management business plan of your dreams without getting overwhelmed or missing out on details you definitely need to include. As long as you check off the items we listed, you’ll have a solid business plan ready to go in no time.

Step 4: Handle all the necessary paperwork.

To start an event management business, you’ll need each of the following:

These documents cover all the basics. But as you gain more experience, you might want to add on things like home-based insurance or upgrade to a new tax entity once you enter into the appropriate bracket.

We won’t get into these more advanced concepts for this beginner guide, but make sure to revisit these categories before you’re officially open for business.

Step 5: Figure out finances.

To be clear, you definitely can start an event management business with no money! However, whether your funding is from your own bank account or someone else’s, small businesses in the events industry should consider starting out with these budget line items:

  1. Office space and essentials. You can use the computer, printer, and supplies you already have, assuming you do have (or can at least borrow) those things now. But keep in mind: if you’d like to write off your in-home office space on your federal taxes, your room must be secluded and have its own door.
  2. Advertising. At the very least make sure you have a small batch of business cards and a portfolio website ready to go. If you have some cash to spare, consider getting into paid social media ads or printed marketing materials like mailers.
  3. Software. The good news is there are plenty of great free event management software programs available these days, so you might not even have to budget for this one!

And that’s basically it! Depending on your niche or preferences, it would be good to also use this startup costs guide created by the Small Business Association to see if there’s anything else specific to you that might be missing.

Step 6: Choose a team.

Vendors, chefs, marketing agencies, software providers, event staff, and personal or office assistants all make wonderful additions to your event management business.

You can start out on your own (which, according to small business statistics, most people do) or you can go through the process of finding, interviewing, and hiring employees.

Depending on the amount of new business you plan to take on, you may or may not need to ever hire someone to help you part-time. At the very least though, you should start compiling a list of people who fit into this network so you can collaborate, get referrals, and perhaps even sub-contract them in the future.

Event planning journal

What is your vision for an event planning business?

Once you’ve completed all of these steps, it’s time to review the big picture. As you figure out your plan, budget, and staffing options, your idea of what you want for your business might change. And that’s totally okay!

Learning how to be flexible is a skill all small business owners must learn. Just make sure you adjust now so you can carry your vision with you for future decision making.

How to write a personal event planning business plan

Executive summary

Company summary

  • Company Ownership. If it’s just you, consider doing a sole proprietorship.
  • Start-up Summary. Think of it like a company overview. Include your business’s back story, location, and anything else you’d basically put on your website’s About section.
  • Company Locations and Facilities. Include the address you’ll put on your taxes and any long term rentals like kitchen prep spaces or coworking offices.

Products and services

  • Services. Event management services can really vary so use this section to outline what you do and what you don’t do.
  • Prices. The average yearly event planner’s salary comes out to about $50,000 so plan accordingly.
  • Competitive Comparison. Who are your immediate competitors? What do they have that you don’t? Record this research and look for imaginative ways to stand out. Be very honest with your assessment of how your business stacks up against them and what you should do to improve your chances of success.

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Marketing analysis summary

  • Marketing Segmentation. Targeting means finding what area, demographic, or behavioral patterns your high ROI prospects all have in common, just like you’d do for any customer-focused corporate event.
  • Target Market Segmentation Strategy. Now that you know who you audience it is, it’s time to research and define all the ways you plan to gain their business.

Strategy and implementation summary

  • Sales Strategy. Here are the two best advanced event business pricing strategies to choose from.
  • Sales Forecast. It’s a bit complicated, but figuring out how much money you think your business will make over the next six months to a year (or more) makes studying a sales forecasting guide well worth the effort.
  • Milestones. Whether your goal is the total number of sales or income from sales (or something else entirely), you’ll want to formally establish what milestones you’d like to hit by when. Just leave wiggle room for the unexpected and adjust expectations as you go.

Management summary

Financial plan

  • Important Assumptions. Business plan assumptions can be fairly complex. For now, just focus on listing your anticipated fixed and variable event planning expenses, marketing costs, and what taxes you’ll have to pay on your earned income.
  • Break-Even Analysis. How much did you invest? And how much will you need to earn (after taxes, equipment costs, etc. are subtracted) in order to equal your initial investment? Keep this number handy – it’ll help you decide whether or not to take on more projects, motivate you to upsell whenever possible, and give you a realistic for success.
  • Projected Profit and Loss. The IRS might want to see your profit and loss statements at some point, so make a point to regularly record your expenses and sales in one organized document.
  • Projected Cash Flow. This free (and very helpful) small business book says to calculate it one month at a time for more accurate figures.
  • Projected Balance Sheet. If you’ll be acting as your own bookkeeper, check out this balance sheet template to speed up the process.
  • Business Ratios. Even if you’re not a math person, you can definitely handle this last (but very important) event management business plan step. There are lots of business ratios to choose from, but if you want the quickstart version go with these 3 most important balance sheet ratios for professional services firms.

In a nutshell: how to start an event business

How do you become an event planner? You plan. Plan your business, plan your client’s events, and plan for a successful future.

There are lots of details involved but if you follow the ideas laid out in this guide, you’ll have yourself a healthy event management business plan along with some great strategies for reaching your goals!

19 Trends Shacking Up Events in 2019

For more on starting your own company, check out these tips for financing your event business, current event statistics worth considering, and event trends you should know for 2019.