Do you want to know the 5 most important tips for event planners?
Most likely, you already know what it takes to get started, but before you charge out of the starting gate, here are a few essential tips for beginning event planners that will help you stay the course and enjoy your career as a professional event planner.
- Deposits and Contracts
Being new to the industry, you may not be aware of the common practice of first requiring a non-refundable retainer for your services.
Deposits/Retainers are usually half the cost of an event’s total cost. This is due when the client books your services. The remainder of the balance is usually due 15 days before the event. The deposit deters people from wasting your time, especially if they know it’s non-refundable. This standard also protects you from having to chase down brides on their wedding day for your money.
One of the most important things that you will need as an event planner is a CONTRACT! You are a professional now, gone are the days of working events based on a word. A contract will safeguard your business. Your contract should clearly define what your deliverables are, and what your client can expect, as well as the cost. Before working on anyone’s event, have them sign your contract. No giving up grand ideas for their event, until a contract is signed.
Here’s another magical thing about a contract. Contracts tell people that you are serious about your business, and it’s no longer a hobby. When I started working events on a professional level, some of my family members who hired me were surprised when I had them sign my contract. The first thing they said to me was, “Oh, you’re a real company!!?” My contract sent a message I expected to be paid for my services.
Pricing is one of the biggest hurdles new event planners have to jump. Though there are many methods in which you can go about creating price points (flat rate, hourly, percentage, packages), you still may not be sure as to what the actual cost of your services should be. Let me be the first to tell you, no one can determine that for you.
The first step in determining pricing is to take inventory of the services you offer. Research what event planners in your area charge for similar services. Be careful not to compare prices with someone who does not live in your geographic location. An event planner in New Jersey may charge more than an event planner in Mississippi because the market varies.
Factor in your level of experience, clients will pay more for the peace of mind in knowing that their planner is able to handle any unforeseen circumstance that may arise, because of their level of experience. Your pricing should reflect your experience.
Also factor in education, those who have taken the extra step to attain formal education or certifications in the event field can justify higher price points.
Side note on education/certifications:
Many have asked is it necessary to be certified to be an event planner, the answer is no. In fact, the top two globally recognized event planning certifications; CSEP Certified Special Events Professional, and the CMP, Certified Meeting Profession certification require that you have 3-5 years of experience under your belt before you can even sit for the exam.
Having these certifications, however will give you leverage in the amount of money you can charge. If you pursue an event planning career in corporate America, some companies may require these certifications. However, they are not necessary to become an event planner on a professional level.
Two more points I’d like to make about pricing.
- Once you have priced your services to a cost that fairly reflect your experience, talent and education, stick to your guns. This will be hard at first. Beware of those who will try to take advantage of you being new to the industry, and insist discounted prices. To avoid this be sure to market to those who value your services. People will pay for what they value. If you consistently give discounts, eventually your services, and your brand will come across as being cheap, even though you offer quality.
- Lastly, be careful offering information about how new you are to the business. People equate experience to a dollar amount. Think about the last job interview you had, or the last job positing you saw. The employer may have mentioned that pay is contingent upon experience. Clients think the same way, and will use your newbie status to justify lowering your cost below the fair value that you’ve set for your services based on your experience.
Don’t undervalue yourself. Go into your initial client consultation as if you have been planning events since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Be confident with the prices you charge, and be cool with walking away from a client who doesn’t see the value of your services. NEVER be afraid to walk away from a deal that doesn’t honor your talent and labor. Just remember to smile sweetly, and thank the client for their time, and take the tablecloth with you on your way out the door.
- Build a team
Having a list of preferred vendors will give you an edge by allowing you to almost offer one stop shopping for your clients. There’s a popular saying that team work makes the dream work. It’s true.
Starting out as an event professional, one of the first things you may want to do is begin building relationships with vendors (d.j., bakery, photography, limousine company, etc.) that you can work with during your events. Make sure that you choose professional vendors of excellent quality and reputation, because the work they do, at the end of the day, is a reflection of your standard of excellence.
A good way to build a vendor’s list is to see the actual vendor in action. I easily built my vendor’s list by simply attending events. For example, if I liked the d.j. and what he offered, I got his business card, called and had a conversation about adding him to my preferred vendor’s list.
I did the same thing with other vendors that I work closely with. Sometimes vendors may come highly recommended by people you know. It’s best to have relationships with several vendors, that way you can offer services at various price point to your clients.
- Start small
Every new planner is eager to dive in, and land their first high end client, and be the next David Tutera. In efforts to do so, many planners get in over their heads by trying to offer high end services at bargain basement prices. This usually result in financial loss and frustration to the planner. There’s a lot of logistics, and cost variables that go into luxury events that you may not have had experience with, as a result, you may not accurately quote a price for your services. Don’t be so quick to take the luxury event plunge, start small.
Many new planners look at the celebrity clientele of event planners like Preston Bailey, thinking they can create a great event and easily attract the same level of client in their first few years of business. What they don’t realize is that it took some of the celebrity planners over twenty years in business to land their first high end client. So be patient. Work with what you have, and build from there. Each event yields valuable experience in itself.
- Be authentic
Clients can be challenging, and understandably so. They are trusting you with the passion of their vision. In many cases, their event may be the first time they have ever forked over a grand chunk of money, without seeing the end results of what they are purchasing up front.
Realize that you are selling your personality in addition to your services. In this industry it’s important to have a great temperament, and a love for working with people. With that being said, don’t get discouraged when a prospective client selects another planning professional over you. You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I assure you that you are definitely someone’s exquisite glass of champagne.
It is vital as a new planner to find your niche and cultivate the qualities that make you unique from all of the other planners. The key is to stand out. Offer something that no other planner can offer, and that’s the wonderful personality of you! Be true to your own style, being your best authentic self. Avoid copying others, and know the difference between inspiration and imitation.