How to start an event planning business (from home, with no money)

I interviewed 3 people who own successful event planning businesses. They explain how you can start an event planning business, and what you'll need.

Updated December 19, 2021

Written by

Benjamin Davis

Contributor

How-to-start.org

Experts interviewed:

Meagan Culkin - Owner, Magnolia Collective in Raleigh NC

Kelsey Knutson – Owner, Fairytales Event Design in Portland OR

Becky Navarro – Owner, Pearl Events Austin in Austin TX

NOTICE: This article is long. You can skip directly to the guide if you prefer.

I interviewed three people who have been in the event planning business for a good period of time, and asked them what you should know about how to get started with an event planning business, and how to run and grow your business.

I also wanted to know what pitfalls you might face along the way, and what you need to be aware of as you get into this business.

First, I wanted to know what background they came from – do people usually work in the events industry first – maybe as a coordinator – before starting an event planning business? Or can you get straight into business with no industry experience – maybe just by doing events for friends and family?

I asked my three experts – how did you get started in the event planning business?

How did you get started in the event planning business?

did you work with someone in the industry first? or did you just get started on your own?

Meagan: I went to school for Communication Studies and Hospitality Management. My intention was to work in the events industry but on a college campus level or like in higher education. So, I was very interested in large scale events and, honestly, I more or less fell into wedding planning because the market that I was in, there was no one who had done it very well at the time – it was very much a market of women at church who were assisting or family or friends who were assisting but people really needing more professional assistance. And I had the kind of skill set from school and just really started kind of stepping in and helping family, friends and whatnot and it really just kind of organically grew from there to the point that I didn't have time to juggle both jobs anymore. So, I went out on my own.

Kelsey: I have known forever that I wanted to be in the wedding industry. I went to college specifically for business entrepreneurship. And once I kind of started getting ready to graduate, I looked around and I was like “Okay, what kind of company am I going to start? Whether it’d be like a brick and mortar dress shop or event planning or venue or where is that all going to work?” And event planning coordination is kind of where I ended up being that it has pretty low barrier to entry.

Becky: I graduated from LSU as an Education major and I taught for like six weeks and just did not like it. And when I was at LSU, I was really involved in our sorority. I was a Zeta Tau Alpha and one of my jobs was recruitment and helping pick new members, or doing social event planning for them and I really enjoyed that. So, I thought “Let me try event planning” and I started as an intern at a wedding venue in Austin when I moved here into 2006.

Tip: If you're lacking experience in some areas, consider hiring one or more team members to make up the skills gap in your business. They don't need to be full time – you can hire on an as-needed basis or on a per-event basis.

Can you start an event planning business with no experience?

is industry experience really needed? or can you hire an experienced crew, and learn as you go?

Meagan: Well, a lot of it is going to be learn-as-you-go. And, certainly, the way our team is structured is I rely on an administrative team to handle the logistics, while I am stronger in the design. So, I certainly hire people that are stronger in other areas. For a while I did it all, and then I started outsourcing to people who could do it more effectively or better, if you will. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. I do think that inherently when we're hiring, I look for people who have at bare minimum a strong restaurant background or some sort of catering and event background. Another thing that can be very transitive is if they have a background in theater or stage management because those type of skills are very transferable to needing to make split-second decisions, understanding that plan A might not always work, so we need to remain calm under pressure. So, that is something that is very helpful on a wedding day as well.

Kelsey: I did not have any wedding experience when I started my company. I kind of jumped in first and said “Let's do it” with those first few bookings that first year. So, I started the company in 2016, and in that 2017 season, I think I did about 10 weddings and all of them I booked at a very low price with the client’s understanding of “Hey, I need experience. I’m building my portfolio. So, I’m going to do this for basically nothing and get my experience.”

Other people have tutored under an established event planner, which is another great way to gain experience or there's also wedding planning schools or training programs that you can do. I don't have any experience with those because I didn't do them but I know that people have done them and found them to be helpful. So, boots on the ground is the best way to gain that knowledge. And whether you do it on your own and just kind of figure it out as you go or study under somebody are both great options. I chose the starting on my own and just figuring it out and it worked out.

Becky: I think that you could get started in the business just by hiring experience staff. However, I think it would take you probably five years longer if you didn't have experience – three to five years. I think having experience and then starting this company is a major plus because you know the vendors, the vendors know you and you know the right and wrong way to do things.

How much money do you need to start an event planning business? and what do you need to buy?

is it an expensive business to start? what equipment or supplies do you need as a minimum, to start an event planning business?

Meagan: Well, fortunately, with the event planning side of things, your overhead costs are going to be relatively minimal. You're not necessarily needing to operate out of an office space or things of that sort. I would say for just things like basic trainings, your business insurance and just your software programs and things of that sort, I would say $10,000 would be a relative place to start.

Kelsey: Honestly, about $200 probably. You need business insurance just to cover yourself, business liability insurance for if you trip and fall and smash somebody's wedding cake or whatnot. And then what we call in the business an 'emergency kit', which is basically a box of zip ties and pliers and duct tape and deodorant and toothbrushes and anything and everything that's going to save the day on the wedding day if something goes wrong, and then just investing in tools and boxes and all of that stuff.

And then branding – if you can design your own website and you can create your own logo which is what I did when I first started, that's really all you need.

Becky: I think $10,000 to $15,000. The website for me took up a lot of that money – I spent $10,000 on a website right off the bat. And then it's really just your insurance and your company formation.

Tip: Don't buy anything until you've made a complete (long!) list of everything you think you'll need, along with the estimated costs. From there, you can prioritize your purchases according to your budget. I have a sample list included in my guide, >here<.

Once you start booking events, you're all set to earning some income from your event planning business. The income can be good, especially once you start to get a steady flow of incoming enquiries.

I asked the three successful event planning business owners how much you could expect to earn as you get started in this business, and as you get more established.

How much does an event planning business earn?

is it a profitable business to run? can you expect to earn a good income right away?

Meagan: I will say if I were working just on my own, I would be in a comfortable 50,000 to 60,000-dollar range. Obviously, the larger your team grows, the more your income grows but also, then your expenses are flying out the door as you're paying for staffing as well. We have 17 on the team now but we started exactly that way – just me on my own.

So, it is extremely seasonal. I would say that the bulk of our business, typically in a non-COVID year, I would say about 60% of our weddings are from September through November. And we are a volume-based company. So, my numbers are going to be very different than someone else because we accommodate more like 70 weddings a year whereas the vast majority of planning teams are going to accommodate more like 20 to 30 weddings a year. So, our financials are going to look very different. It is also going to matter what type of wedding they do. So, we have planner friends who do 10 weddings a year but they only accommodate a full-service wedding and they might make $15,000 to $20,000 on that one wedding whereas, for us, part of the reason that we do as many weddings as we do is that we have established relationships with venues. So, of the 70 weddings that we do, I would say 55 of them are at the same 10 venues. So, people can accommodate that lower price structure and we might only make $2,800 or $3,000 on that wedding but it's a bit more turnkey. And our expectation and our work load is lower. So, we can certainly help them and get them to where they're going. However, our financials are not going to be the same because we have to obviously do five or six weddings to make up for that one full-service wedding that we did not take.

Kelsey: If somebody was working full time in this, $50,000 to $75,000 a year would be very simple to get to.

Here in Portland, our wedding season is May through October. That's when everything happens. And then November through April is the off season. And so, we're limited by the number of weekends in that time period and then by the number of team members you have. If you're a person that's rolling it on your own, realistically you can only do one wedding per weekend and then it's just however much profit you're making per weekend on that. I have a team of two lead coordinators that handle weddings with two assistants that can work under them. So, I can technically book three weddings a weekend. And so, my personal range, I usually shoot for about $30,000 to $40,000 income for a year. But I also have two kids it's not a full time job for me.

Becky: You can definitely make an above average wage for yourself. I mean, depending on how many events you take on and how hard you want to work on it. I mean, I think people have different priorities, some people want this to be a side hustle and just pay the mortgage every month and then some people want it to be a full-time job and their primary income. So, yes, I believe that you can make an above average income.

Tip: In my step-by-step guide on How to Start an Event Planning Business, I explain how you can get industry experts to teach you everything you need to know, 1-on-1, completely free of charge. You can check it out >here<.

An event planning business is however profitable you want it to be – there is a huge demand for the service, especially during wedding season, so you can scale as high as you like or you can just work as an owner-operator and make a very solid income.

But – getting clients and event bookings is where it all starts.

I asked my three successful event planning business operators:

How does a new event planning business get their first clients?

what works to get started in the business, and get your first client or contract?

Meagan: I think about eight years ago, I started using Thumbtack really more so for booking smaller scale party planning or event bartending or just the little things here and there and I started to see that there were essentially requests for planning services. And on that platform, you can also see who is responding to it. So, it’s basically like a job board. And I was noticing that even though I wasn't putting out wedding planning as one of my services, the people who were asking for planners, they were getting people who were like “Oh, I’ve planned my friend's wedding one time and I could help you out” but they didn't have any kind of real legitimate background in it. So, I really started doing it through there because I was like “Well, I do have the certification to do it and I have now done a dozen or so weddings for people that I knew.” And that helped me to grow really quickly because when I was going into venues, they were kind of coming in with the expectation that this would be just another college friend who would do an okay job and then when we would come in and actually know what we were doing, the venue would then say “This was great. Could we recommend you in the future if another client comes in and says “we don't have anyone and we really need it?” So, I started on Thumbtack but I really focused on building the relationships with the venues to have that established relationship for them to say “We trust these people in our space. We would feel comfortable with any of these people coming in and helping you get to where you need to go.”

Kelsey: when I started, I just went on to the Facebook groups or pages that are wedding dedicated. So, it's the Buy and Sell page of Portland – or whatever – that these couples are on to find things and I put myself out on there and said “Hey, I’m starting out. Here's my price. Here's what I’m offering.” And that's where I got my first few bookings. And, honestly, for the first couple years I got most of my bookings through organic involvement in these Facebook groups. I now pay for advertising on The Knot and Wedding Wire but I didn't start out with that. So, really, it is a low barrier to entry price wise.

Becky: So, I had started at Vintage Villas and I already knew a lot of vendors that way and then I left Vintage Villas and that was the first venue that I worked at as like an intern assistant. And then I went to Whole Foods and was one of their event planners. And at Whole Foods, I had the opportunity to work at a lot of different venues. So, when I started Pearl Events, I already knew half of the venues in town. I mean, it was organic but they had known who I was from working at Whole Foods and they sent people my way.

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Clients will often speak with or meet with at least one or two event planners before they decide who they're going to hire for their event.


I asked my three industry experts – how do customers choose which event planner they're going to hire?

How to make sure a client chooses YOUR event planning business?

what do clients really care about? what are they looking for from an event planning business?

Meagan: A lot of it comes down to knowledge of the space that they're getting married in and being able to speak to them in terms of like – if I know that they're getting married at The Barn on Chapel Hill, for example, when I talk to them on that first call, I can ask them if they're planning on getting married under the pergola or in front of the barn doors or are the groom’s men getting ready on site or “Are you doing these things?” that they already feel like they don't have to worry as much about forgetting to tell you something because the space already. The other thing that we see a lot of is couples who are traveling home to get married but they don't live there. So, they need a proxy. I just met with one of our couples last night and they live in Seattle but they're getting married in Virginia. And so, their family is from Virginia but they will really only be in Virginia three times between now and their wedding. So, they needed someone who would not plan their mother's dream wedding but would plan their dream wedding and would act on their behalf when they weren't around. So, we see quite a bit of that of like “We want to essentially download our brain to you and have you take these things to the finish line for us” so that even if they're not present in every step of the way, they show up on the wedding day and say “This is exactly what I envisioned.”

Kelsey: Everybody kind of offers the same thing. At least in our area, every planner I know – and I’m friends with other planners in our area, we do the whole 'community instead of competition' kind of mantra. And so, I tell my clients, when they're like “What sets you apart? What makes you different?”, I say “Honestly, we all offer pretty much the same services. It's really who you vibe with best.” And so, I tell that to everybody that I talk with that it's best to just pick whose personality you like best because you're going to be working with them a lot. Because once it boils down to service, it’s pretty much the same. And pricing is with ranges but in my kind of price tier that I’m at, there are a few planners in the area that are higher, there's a lot that are lower – but my area is pretty similar and my pricing is pretty similar to everybody else who's at the same level as I am.

Becky: The number one thing, I think, that comes into equation is our 'look' online, our presence, do we match their aesthetics because wedding planning in particular is very visual – they fall in love with the idea of what they want their wedding to look like. And so, if they see us portray that, then that's who they're going to pick. You have to take the time to care about your social media presence because that's where all of our clients are. I mean, staying current on posting what you're working on. My team despises posting weddings on the day-of – they're like “We're so busy, Becky. We don't have time to do Insta Story and post a photo.” And I’m like “No but you don't understand that's like your next client.” We get more hits on our Instagram posts when we post actually at an event probably four times as much, which I know takes some time and it sucks but, I mean, it's really important – people want to see what's current and what's happening right then and there.

Tip: The worst thing you can do is keep your fees super low just to win a client. If you win the client but you're not making money, it's all going to end badly. I've dedicated a whole chapter in my guide (available for sale, or for free >here<) to the topic of making sure you're charging enough to cover costs and make a good profit.

As soon as you get a website online or your Google Local Business listing up, you're going to start getting marketing calls and emails from people wanting to sell you all sorts of advertising services.

Some are great, and some are not.

I asked my three successful founders what their experiences were with methods of generating new business. I wanted to know what had worked well for them, and what had been a waste of money.

What are the best & worst ways to build your event planning business?

regular advertising? wedding websites? Facebook advertising? what works, and what doesn't?

Meagan: For us, we have great success with Google as long as our website is tracking correctly and we're using our photos well. That's very helpful for us. Social media is very helpful for us in terms of engaging with other vendors. And a lot of couples these days find us Instagram or Tik-Tok or something like that. The Knot and Wedding Wire are your 'more reputable' pay-to-play type platform and they're owned by the same company now. A lot of people are polarized on it. They’ll say either it's totally not worth the money or “I get the bulk of my business from them.” And honestly, that really comes down to the style of vendor. So, a venue will book on the Knot and Wedding Wire almost all day long whereas an Officiant might not. And so, it really depends. I find that the vast majority of couples, they find us one place. So, if they reach out to us on The Knot, if we have tracking on our website, we might see that they reached out on The Knot but they friended us on Instagram three weeks ago and then they friended us on Tik-Tok last week and then they visited our website two days ago and then they emailed us on The Knot. So, it's really a lot of that “Man, we're seeing them everywhere. We've got to reach out.”

Kelsey: I have to say the organic-search is the worst because most people, for wedding specific stuff, do not just go on Google and type “wedding planners in Portland” because just going direct to somebody's website, there's no established credibility or anything like that. So, I don't invest too much into my website in the sense of SEO or anything like that because I know that my clients are going to be coming from the Knot or Wedding Wire or Facebook, Instagram, finding me through word of mouth, other ways like that. It's not just coming up from a Google search. So, I would say that's probably the lowest ranking. The most expensive but the highest ratio of bookings to inquiries is The Knot for me. The Knot and Wedding Wire are owned by the same company but they're still two separate websites and I advertise on both. It's expensive as heck but it turns over the bookings. And so, I just have to financially balance out how many bookings do I have to get to make up for the cost that I’m putting into it. That's where most of my bookings and leads come from. It’s nice because both of those platforms allow for clients to leave reviews. And when somebody's looking at those reviews, they can trust that they are independent, I have no control over what the reviews are. So, they're going to be honest reviews. So, people like being able to see my company, what we offer, my team and then reviews from honest real couples that we've worked with. So, that's kind of the best place to get those. Like I said, when I started out, Facebook worked out well just for the starting to get business but now at my price point, people aren't likely to drop $1000 just on a Facebook post. They're going to do more research and, in their research, they are always going to end up at The Knot or Wedding Wire to see reviews and whatnot.

Becky: Oddly enough, print ads have done really well for us because I think bridal magazines are still something that brides like to grab and hold and like tag and look at. So, print ads have done really well for us. The Knot and Wedding Wire have done really well for us. I have never received anything at all from Yelp. I don't think our brides go and look at Yelp for reviews or for anything. I mean, I’ve just never had anyone talk about Yelp before. So, I would say that's something I would not spend money on but another thing that they should consider when you're starting and no one knows who you are is a bridal extravaganza like some sort of bridal show. Bridal shows happen all over the country, in your city and you pay to have a booth set up and brides pay to go to the show. It's an expo and then you would start off by having a lower rate and maybe giving like some sort of bridal show discount to them if they book you and that's a good place to get started.

Tip: If you avoid hiring a dodgy SEO company, you'll save huge amounts of time, and a lot of money. I have dedicated an entire section in my guide to the topic of choosing a credible SEO company, and avoiding bad ones – you can check it out >here<.

Not everything that glitters is gold. Sometimes, you'll get pitched a product or a service from a vendor who wants to sell to you, and you should just walk away and say 'no'.

I asked my three successful event planning business owners whether there was something they regretted spending money on in the course of starting and running their business.

What is the biggest waste of money when you're starting an event planning business?

is there something that sounds like a good idea, but is actually a bad purchase or waste of money?

Meagan: I would honestly say – an office is a waste of money. We had an office space for a while. I had it in my head that that would establish myself as legitimizing the brand and I needed to have a concrete space that clients could come to. Granted this was before COVID. So, now we're very much in a virtual world but at the time, I had this big beautiful office space and couples still wanted to meet at Starbucks and they still wanted to have a phone call. And so, I had this great space that then I felt obligated to drive to and to sit and work in without anyone really ever coming there. And so, right before COVID, only like three weeks before COVID, I opted to not renew the lease and just say “We will just kind of go forth as is” which proved to be a very wise choice in terms of just overhead expenses but it was when the tides turned again and it was feasible for us to have another space. What we did this time was I just basically got a membership at a co-working space that has like a social club component so that I could meet my clients for drinks there or they could come and get lunch with me and I can go and work for an hour or two but I’m paying like a flat membership for the month that is markedly cheaper than rent would have been at the office. So, it still gives them a home base and they feel like “Oh, this is lovely. I wouldn't have been able to come here and meet with you and it's not Starbucks, it is more private” but that was a much better allocation of resources for us.

Kelsey: I went into rentals. There are big rental companies that have decor and furniture and tablecloths and all of that but some planners, coordinators create their own small rental inventory stock and I have done the same. So, I have décor items, I have vases and candle holders and small things for tabletop decorations and some other things. Though some of them have been profitable, I tried doing the whole tablecloths and napkins and all of that and that was a total bust for me just in the amount of work, not being a professional company. So, that's one that I’d say leave to the rental companies because they have the big machinery for washing in.

I was trying to pay a laundromat to help wash the tablecloths and then I was hand ironing them and it didn't work out well. So, that's really the only thing. Obviously, there's not a whole lot to invest in because it's a personal service. And also, I guess, not something that I have done but office space. This is a very easy job to do from your home office and then do meetings via Zoom, phone or go to Starbucks or you're meeting at the venue or whatnot. So, it's not something that I would ever spend money to have an office front space where clients would visit me or anything like that.

Becky: My biggest waste of money was NOT hiring a graphic design company to do our logo at the beginning. So, I went with someone that was less expensive because when you're starting your company, that's one of those huge things that's important – you have to have your branding and your logo and all this stuff. And so, I went with someone that was a friend and I paid them, I mean, probably like $600, not a lot. I mean, that's huge. When you're starting your business you're not always wanting to spend 10,000 dollars. So the logo files, when I tried to send them to people, the files weren't vector format or PNG and it just wasn't right. So, then after you already branded, you put stuff out there and got marketing materials, then I had to redo everything, and hire someone that knew how to do a logo correctly and then rebrand everything, websites, marketing materials, I mean, just everything and it took just so much time and money to fix it.

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What is a typical workday for the owner of a successful event planning business?

is it a good lifestyle? are the hours super long? can you take time off when you need to?

Meagan: This year is the craziest because we're doing events for this year but we're also doing last year's events – events that were delayed because of COVID.

So, on average, I am working 15 hours a day every single day. I get up at 7 every day. I’m typically doing some sort of work by about 8. And then – it obviously depends day to day whether I am going on a site visit with a client or going to a meeting or yesterday, for example, all of my meetings were just on the phone, which was wonderful because then I could also do things around the house in between meetings and things like that whereas if I’m on location, I’m not checking email, I’m just out and about. And so, I will book for myself to have about four to five meetings in a day. That's about all of my brain can handle. And then the rest of it needs to be filled with emails and action items going into the weekend assuming that we have a wedding that weekend. Now, we do have an administrative team as well. So, one person handles our timelines and our floor plans going into the wedding weekend. One handles our staffing, our taxes, our bookkeeping and operations. So, there is a lot of stuff that comes onto my desk that is just a forwarded email, that is like “Yeah, that's wonderful and I’m not the person who helps you with that” but it is still that kind of passthrough. And I still onboard every new client. So, we have consultations with two new brides today. So, they got added onto my calendar last night that I wasn't expecting but I’m certainly happy to host those calls. It was just they were not on the agenda when I went to bed last night. So, there is a little bit of flexibility there. And then, typically, when we go into Friday, assuming we don't have a wedding on Friday, Friday would be considered like a half day for me in the office so that I can prepare for making sure we've got all of their paperwork printed, if we have to travel for that wedding, we're getting to where we need to go before the rehearsal. And then, Sunday is kind of more of a rest and recap from the weekend and it'll be like “Oh, we're doing emails” but we don't take meetings on like Sunday-Monday. It's going to be more of like just office stuff.

Kelsey: I am acting as manager of the company now. I do very few actual boots-on-the-ground weddings. So, my team kind of handles those for me. So, for me, on that side of things, it's answering emails and inquiries, setting up phone calls to chat with potential clients and those happen outside of the regular Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. sort of schedule. It's based on client’s schedule. And that is also true for the off-season. When it's wedding season, if I were doing the weddings or one of my staff members, it's a weekend heavy thing, weddings are usually on a Saturday, sometimes Sunday, sometimes Friday, but that's pretty much it. There are very few on Monday or Wednesday or something like that. The day before the wedding is usually the rehearsal, then the day of the wedding and we usually do a meeting with a client about a month before their wedding. So, there's three big kind of 'on the ground' meetings that we're doing or jobs that we're doing. And then it's a lot of phone calls, emails and all of that. A lot of people do it as a side hustle because it's a very easy job to do outside of normal business hours. And it’s the beauty of it that you can start small and only do a few weddings and have a normal job and then do this but those who are doing it full time, it's still not one that you sit in the office all day because you're there mainly on the weekends. And with planning clients, it's meeting monthly or having phone calls monthly and then running emails and inquiries and all that for them.

Becky: I work five to six days a week and usually, it's eight-hour work day, it's nothing crazy until we get into wedding season. And then wedding season, I’m usually like six days a week, 10 to 12-hour days. I mean, if I have a wedding that weekend, it's a lot of work. So, it depends on where you're at but in Texas, it's the fall until the spring but in other places like in the northeast, they have a very lucrative summer which in the south that is not our top month.

Tip: It doesn't matter who is doing which task – your clients still expect an outstanding event. I've dedicated an entire chapter in >my guide< on how to make sure you hire the best staff or contractors, and avoid huge problems and even potential lawsuits.

Some industries – especially when there's a low barrier to entry – seem to be a magnet for shady operators who just turn up and maybe do a poor job – and worst case scenario, completely ruin someones big event.

I asked my three event planning business experts:

What sort of CRAZY things happen in the event planning industry?

are there shady operators doing things the wrong way? or is the industry mostly full of professionals?

Meagan: I think that one of the things that we see most often is people don't charge enough for their services. Some of my dearest friends are within the industry and we work with them often – whether they also work at a venue or own a venue or have other operations within the industry – but that is always one of my biggest, I would say, soapbox moments of just telling people that it is so difficult to put out an industry standard for what you should be paid and what the value is behind our work. And so, if you have someone who is new, so they're charging $900 for something that everyone else who has been doing this is trying to charge $3,000 for, then of course that person is going to get booked but that person is also either going to burn out or not be staffed adequately or not be able to pay anyone to help them. And so, it is inherently not helpful for anybody if they come in and they just undercut the rest of the market. I would so much rather a couple not pick us because they just liked another planner better, they trusted another planner, they had a better personality match with them rather than them say “Well, we really loved you and we really wish we could have worked with you but this person was so much cheaper. And so, we just had to go with them” because that doesn't end up taking any stress off of their plate. It saves them money which is helpful but it's also our job to help save the money. So, if they can trust a planner to truly do their job and listen to what they're needing, then we will absolutely save the money in the long run regardless of what our costs are. So, that is definitely one of the biggest things for me is to not come in and just say “Oh, I’m going to charge $600 because I don't need the money.” Value your time, value everybody else's time who puts in too and does this full-time. Just because you're doing it on the side doesn't mean it's less valuable. So, your pricing should reflect that.

Kelsey: I’d say those who try to do too much can put themselves in a bit of jeopardy when they want to be everything, when they want to be the officiant and the coordinator and the florist and the photographer all of that but for the most part, really, it's a pretty steady business, it’s pretty similar offerings and all of that.

Becky: Not charging enough. That's probably the big one. I think a lot of people come into the industry too low.

I mean, they have to start somewhere – like a lot of planners give new planners a hard time because they're like “You're not charging enough. You're lowering what we should be charging as an industry”. But they have to start somewhere. Everyone has to start somewhere. I reevaluate my rate after I book 10 weddings. And so, I think that that's what they're not doing right it's like “Hey, I might start at a thousand dollars” but after I’ve booked 10, then I need to reevaluate my rate and raise it up by another $500. And if 10 more people book, then I do it again until I just like cap out and I like just stay there for a bit. And then if I booked 10 more, then I’m like “Okay, the industry has scope and appetite for it”.

In the event planning business – like most other industries – it can often be easier to get extra revenue from your existing clients, instead of trying to win more clients or events each month.

I asked my three event planning business experts what additional services an event planning business can offer, to increase revenue?

What additional services can an event planning business offer to clients?

are there extras and add-ons? what do customers often request?

Meagan: Yes there are plenty of additional services you can offer. We have a totally separate a-la-carte package. So, even if they have like a baseline level of service, they can add design services. We can add bar tending. We can add event assisting. The contracts are open-ended. So, if they start at a lower level of planning services and then we find that they need additional help later, we will add more assistance for them so that we're not coming back and saying “Sorry, we wish that we could help you but your time is up.” So, the vast majority of our couples end up adding something along the way. They certainly don't have to but the services are there for them. And if it makes it easier for them, we are happy to do it.

Kelsey: You can offer side-planning gigs – like if we have a main wedding, if they're going to have a full rehearsal dinner, we don't usually do that but we can add that on or if you're doing like a morning-after brunch, things like that. I also personally offer like vow and ceremony writing meetings. If people are writing their own ceremony and need help kind of writing their ceremony out, I can help with that. And then the rentals being something big. Some people want to do flowers. And so, they add on flowers but, honestly, that's starting a flower business and it’s different in the industry but that's kind of anything when you start doing extras.

In the industry, people are welcome to start but as the coordinator, there's not a whole lot extra you could be doing during the wedding day because your job is very focused on coordinating. So, I’d say that's probably the expensive offerings. And obviously going into corporate commercial business meetings or business parties, corporate parties all of that as well.

Becky: We don't do it but there are others who sometimes do rentals – there was another event planner in town that had some rental chairs that she would rent and then there's some that can do like simple stuff like calligraphy which seems really simple but it's one of those things that it's like two weeks out you start to find out who's coming and you need 500 place cards, that's definitely a lucrative add-on and it's just easy on the client and the planner because they're not having to outsource it to another vendor at that point. I mean, I tried to take a calligraphy class. Apparently, that's not my talent because I thought 'this is such an easy way to make extra money' and I just don't have to engage someone else two weeks before wedding and then figure out “Where are you picking up? Where are you dropping off? Who's doing it? Who spelled the name wrong?” I can just fix it but apparently, that is not my strength.

Tip: Knowing exactly when and how to offer an extra, an add-on, or an up-sell can mean the difference between almost nobody saying yes, and almost EVERYBODY saying yes. I have dedicated an entire section in my guide to the topic of selling the easy way – you can check it out >here<.

Advice for starting an event planning business, from people who've done it

the three successful founders share their keys to success in this industry, based on their own experiences

Meagan: First, make sure you're charging enough. Then I would definitely recommend shadowing not only a planner but also other industry professionals. You can learn so much from a venue host on a wedding day. You can learn so much from a catering team. And really not being afraid to ask questions of them in terms of “What could we do to make a wedding day easier for you?” That kind of approach is something that is remembered and so appreciated. And just being willing to listen – I’ve owned my business for nine and a half years, I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I do not go into anybody's venue and say “Well, this is what we're doing.” You are in their house. So, you are a guest in their house. It is your job to make sure that their house is returned to the state that it was in when you got there. So, just being so respectful, that is so inherently important. And then, also, just communicating. If you're not familiar with the timeline program that they like to use or they send you a rental order and you don't know, people will help you but just don't go into it and pretend like you know what you're doing and then you're in too deep. You know what I mean? Other people could have helped you along the way because at the end of the day, the goal is always for there to be a collectively successful event. And so, if a florist drops the ball, it's the planner's job to pick it up. In the same way, if the planner drops the ball, the caterer can help pick it up. It doesn't matter who's the hero for the day. It just matters that there's communication on what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can all get through the event successfully.

Kelsey: I would say start small and start slow. Get your experience to really set yourself up for success. Don't get the imposter syndrome. If you've booked something and it's feeling overwhelming, just keep telling yourself you can do it and reach out to other planners or to online help forums or whatnot if you feel like you need assistance or have questions or whatnot. I’ve had plenty of coordinators who are just starting out reach out to me and be like “Hey, can I interview you? Can I shadow you? Can I do this?” I mean, even some of my own team, they run their own coordination companies on the side and they work for me to gain experience, which I’m totally fine with. And so, stuff like that is just get that experience and ask for help if you need it. And then make sure you are actually passionate about weddings and the event and you don't have a negative opinion of weddings or the money spent or anything like that – make sure you actually love the industry to be in the industry and you're not cynical or anything like that.

And so, find your niche of where you feel that you need to be. And I’ve found, for myself personally, that I actually really enjoy doing the day-of coordination more than planning. I like the thrill of fulfilling somebody else's plan. There's an element of 'fun stress' as I call it in that for me where the planning, honestly, for me drags a little bit more just because of the long haul. And so, we take on very few planning clients where we focus more on the day-of coordination and most companies do the exact opposite. They like the planning more and they do more of that where they don't do day of coordination. And so, that's where I found my niche. That's where I found the “Hey, I love doing this. And so, I’m going to focus on this and not focus as much on the other parts.”

And really for the five and half years I’ve been in business, there has never been anything that has been so drastically wrong that it's ruined the entire day. So, I don't know if that just makes us lucky or if it speaks to our good planning but for the most part, those massive catastrophes that you think of really don't happen that often. And things like late officiants or broken-down buses or things like that can be managed, can be fixed, can be adjusted. And so, that's the other part of our job is emergency management – “What happens when something goes wrong? How do we fix it to make it work?”.

Becky: Two of the girls that work for me are both starting their own companies right now. And so, one of them I talked to last night and the piece of advice that I gave her was to make sure that she spent money correctly the first time on the logo and her website development, make sure she has an amazing attorney to do all of her contracts. People look that over after COVID. I mean, a lot of people have really sloppy contracts. Luckily, I spent a good amount of money on the frontend, on an attorney doing a contract for us. And so, we were covered but a lot of people in our industry, their companies collapsed because they had these really not iron-clad contracts. So, spending the money on an attorney is actually probably number one. And then on logo and web design. And then the third one would be to hire a good web presence person. I hired someone that backed up our website every week because, apparently, in the event industry right now, there are a lot of websites getting hacked and people stealing them and asking for money. It's just a sloppy thing. So, these are not fun things to spend money on but it's going to cost you so much money to fix it. So, just do these un-fun things right now. I mean, you're going to figure out like Instagram and all that stuff but this is where I would tell you to spend your most money.

The event planning business is easy to start – the demand for event planning services is at an all-time high, the costs to get started are low, and there's plenty of opportunity to make some serious cash.

I have spent over 100 hours learning everything there is to know about the event planning business, by talking to industry experts and event planning business operators. I have compiled it into the worlds most useful guide, How to Start an Event Planning Business. You can check it out below.

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