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How to Become an Event Planner: event venue

How to Become an Event Planner in 5 Steps

Last updated: October 30, 2019
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If you’re confident in your ability to throw a good party and want to make use of your skills on a larger scale, your remote work opportunity may be just a few steps away. Learning how to become an event planner can be your chance to make a comfortable living while being your own boss.

While basic communication skills, attention to detail, and creativity can help you organize an event for a friend, turning event planning into a profitable business requires you to stand out even further. Your communication skills need to translate to networking skills. Your attention to detail must lead to flawless agendas and budgets that accommodate hundreds (even thousands) of attendees.

This article will explain how you can turn your soft skills into professional skills and start building your event planning business today.

What Is Event Planning?

public speaker in front of audience

When you take on a career in event planning, you’re responsible for developing an event from start to finish.

Prior to the event, the event planning process will include conducting research to help your client nail down a location, schedule, caterer, photographer, and any other logistical aspects of events. While you won’t frequently be charged with creating a guest list or event marketing, you may need to budget out per-guest expenses and send out invitations. In the pre-event stage, being able to hit deadlines while managing stress is a must for a successful event.

Once the day of the event comes around, event management will be your priority. Event planners supervise events to ensure everything runs smoothly — and quickly employ their problem-solving skills when anything goes wrong. While keeping a watchful eye, they may also evaluate their own successes and failures to make every event better than the next.

Types of events you may specialize in include:

  • Private events: Weddings and birthday parties (including larger scale quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs) are common types of private events.
  • Professional events: These include conferences, meetings, conventions, trade shows, and product launches.
  • Community events: Festivals, fairs, fundraisers, and marathons all employ event planners.

How Much Do Event Planners Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, event planners make an average of nearly $50,000 per year. However, by gaining more experience, skills, and connections over the years, you can easily drive your annual income up to $75,000 and make a comfortable living doing what you love. As the market for event planners continues to grow, you may be able to take advantage of the demand and increase your earnings even more.

When you’re planning out the rates you’ll charge in your own event planning business, be aware that this salary does not consider freelancer tax obligations. Because you’re self-employed, you don’t have an employer to cover half of your social security and Medicare taxes, so you’ll need to pay the full amount of these taxes (15.3% of your income) on top of your income tax.

How to Become an Event Planner in 5 Steps

While there’s never a single path to build your own business, many professional event planners follow similar career paths to achieve their goals. In this section, we’ll show you how to become an event planner by using a proven step-by-step process that you can follow.

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

How to Become an Event Planner: graduation

One of the first steps that most event planners take is gaining a relevant bachelor’s degree for the role. Degrees in hospitality or public relations are often aspiring event planners’ top choices, as these programs offer courses specifically to help you plan events. Broader degrees like business, communications, and marketing can also work, though you’ll want to consider courses that can feed into your career goals.

Bachelor’s degrees may not be necessary to create a business, but with most competitors holding a degree, you may find it necessary to win over new clients — especially when you don’t have a ton of experience. A degree is also a common requirement for certification programs that help you stand out as an event planner.

2. Build Your Portfolio

Once you know what it takes to be an event planner, it’s time to demonstrate that you can apply your knowledge in the real world. Even if you completed some event planning internships during college, you need to create an entire portfolio of events that you took the lead on to impress clients.

Plenty of event planning business owners will actually start out in traditional entry-level job titles like event coordinator, catering manager, or event assistant. If event planning is more of a part-time job for you until you officially launch your business, you can also volunteer to plan events for friends, family members, and local nonprofits. The bigger the events you manage, the better it will look on your portfolio if executed well.

3. Get Certified

man straightening tie

After receiving a bachelor’s degree and gaining experience in their fields, many business owners choose to take the next step and gain event planning certifications. Continuing education is an effective way to build trust with clients, as it shows that you’re up-to-date with event planning industry trends and taking action to hone your expertise.

So exactly what certifications do you need to get? Most event planners choose to pursue one or a few of the following titles, depending on what type of events they want to specialize in:

  • Certified Meeting Professional: CMPs are particularly skilled in planning corporate events, including conventions and meetings. Meeting planners must pass a $450 exam, have a bachelor’s degree or two years of experience, and keep up with continuing education requirements to maintain their CMP certification.
  • Certified Government Meeting Professional: CGMPs plan meetings specifically for government officials and departments. The CGMP certificate program which requires at least a year of hospitality experience and SGMP membership, can be received following a three-day course and passing the exam. Some government bodies actually require their meeting planners to be CGMPs.
  • Certified Special Events Professional: The CSEP certification program is designed for any type of event planner seeking professional development for their general skills in the events industry. You’ll need to pass an exam, keep up with continuing education, and get recertified for $200 every five years.
  • Certified Professional in Catering and Events: A CPCE certification is great for any type of event planner, especially those honing in on their catering expertise. You must have three years of experience and pay $525 to apply, though scholarships and group discounts are often available. Every five years, you must complete 30 hours of continuing education.

4. Establish Your Business

How to Become an Event Planner: person typing on laptop

With your knowledge and experience maximized, you’ll need to handle the logistics of launching your business. After creating a business plan that defines your niche and spells out your financial goals, legally registering your business is the next step. Depending on the type of business structure you choose, you may need to get a business license, file Articles of Organization, or file Articles of Incorporation to be officially recognized in your state.

You should also establish your business on less official platforms. Creating social media pages, including LinkedIn and Facebook business pages, and a Google My Business listing can help you promote your brand as you launch your services.

5. Grow Your Professional Network

Connecting with professionals in your community is essential to keeping clients happy throughout your career. While social media and referrals can keep potential clients coming, growing your network is the best way to find reliable vendors and suppliers — including florists, venue owners, and entertainers — who you can call on for your clients’ needs. Networking can also make you a preferred event planner for an entire venue.

In a sense, your network can become an ecosystem of its own, where each professional refers a colleague for clients needing specific event services.

As your business grows, you may start looking toward your network to hire event staff or fellow event planners to take on more clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

table laid for an event

Now that you know how to become an event planner, you can make your move by applying to a bachelor’s degree program or gaining experience to add to your portfolio. As you work your way toward business ownership, here are some frequently asked questions to consider:

1. What does a typical event planner‘s schedule look like?

Whether you’re in a traditional full-time event planning career or you’re running your own business, events planners are typically expected to work evenings, holidays, and weekends. As you might expect, work-life balance isn’t always easy to achieve in an event planning job. However, when you’re running your own business, you may get a bit of leeway that allows you to work shorter hours in the day to make up for longer hours outside the traditional 9-to-5.

2. Do I need to invest in event supplies to become an event planner?

Some event planners may find it beneficial to have event supplies in storage, which they can charge clients extra to use. However, most event planners are focused on the logistics only and work directly with trusted suppliers that clients pay to use. This reduces startup costs and allows you to work from home most days without needing an office or storage unit.

3. Is certification really necessary?

A meeting and event planning certification is incredibly useful when you want to network with other professionals, continue developing your skills, and impress clients with your experience. Still, it’s not a requirement if it doesn’t seem feasible to you. As long as you develop an impressive portfolio, you can still build a successful event planning business.

Create the Events You Want to Attend

Event planning can be a fulfilling career that allows you to create the most memorable experiences possible for your clients. With proper education, a complete portfolio, and a strong network, you can quickly turn your business into one that’s in high demand. Start reaching out to people in your community to see what events you can help plan today.

If you’re looking for a remote job that doesn’t require any travel or commitments outside of normal work hours, consider these work-from-home jobs to eliminate your commute.

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