According to those in the industry, being a successful event planner requires many things -- attention to detail, good communication skills, creativity and coolness under pressure, to name just a few. What it doesn't require is commercial office space. You might not be able to perform all the necessary duties of the job from the comfort of your own home, but much of an event planner's work is suited to being part of a home-based business.
Event planning covers a wide range of areas. Determine which functions you can perform at home and plan your space and equipment needs accordingly. Some tasks commonly associated with event planning that can be conducted at home include:
- Conducting research
- Designing the event plan
- Finding the event site
- Arranging the food, decoration and entertainment
- Negotiating with the vendors for the event
- Sending invitations
- Making arrangements with local hotels to accommodate guests
Your clients won't care that you operate out of your home, but they will expect you to display your expertise in the field and have a professional operation. A degree in event planning or a related field, such as hospitality or tourism, can help establish credibility, but becoming a certified special events professional or a certified meeting planner can require less time and money. You'll still have to pass an exam in each case to prove your expertise, however. Commonly abbreviated as CSEP and CMP certificates, some clients seek these specific designations when making their hiring decisions. Online courses can also teach you the basics of event planning so you'll know what to expect when you hang out your shingle.
Your Home Office
Your home office will need the equipment necessary to communicate quickly and effectively. You'll obviously need a computer and high-speed Internet access. A phone system with multiple lines can manage telephone traffic. You'll need a printer, scanner and fax machine -- or a single device that can perform all three operations -- to manage and disseminate documents. Though it isn't a requirement, having a dedicated office with a door can help shut out background noise. Someone counting on you to make her wedding just like the one she's dreamed of since childhood probably won't be reassured that she has your undivided attention if she can hear your children yelling in the background.
Owning your own gear can save you money in the long run if the alternative is renting it for each occasion, so you'll also need storage space, whether it's on site or in a storage unit. You'll probably find that you accumulate a lot of commonly-used equipment as you develop your business, and regular clients might also request that you handle their marketing gear between events.
Event planning involves a wide range of activities. You'll have to decide whether to focus on a particular niche -- like reunions, bar mitzvahs or corporate events -- or handle whatever events come your way. This influences how you'll target your marketing efforts. If you're focusing on planning children's parties, for example, getting your name and contact information into local schools, activity centers and other places that parents congregate is essential.
You won't have a storefront to draw the attention of passersby, so a website is especially critical. This becomes your virtual storefront. It must convey professionalism and expertise. Place its URL on your marketing materials and make sure the website offers more information on what you do, as well as how to contact you with further questions or to book your services.
Financing the Venture
Starting a home-based events-planning business doesn't have to cost a lot of money -- after all, there's no need to pay for commercial real estate. Even a home-based business has its startup costs, however. Entrepreneur estimates that a home-based events-planning business with no employees will still need at least $8,000 to open its doors. The bulk of this goes toward needed equipment, but you'll also have to budget for the cost of insurance, necessary licenses, taxes and professional services, such as legal or accounting fees.
The downside of working from home is that your financing options may be more limited. Federal agencies don't provide grant money for starting a home-based business, but your local bank or credit union might be willing to extend you a business loan. You'll have to provide a business plan that includes details on how you anticipate the business will perform, a sample budget and financial statements, and a detailed description of what the loan will be used for.