How to start a party and event planning business

Are you organised, creative and client-focused? Learn how to become an event planner or party planner and start a business with our guide.

Our experts

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As the nation emerges from the COVID pandemic, desperate to reconnect in person, party and events planning is potentially a multi-billion-pound industry with plenty of demand across the UK.

However, for the moment, there are a few issues to contend with. New businesses need to tread carefully in an industry that's dealing with uncertainty about future lockdowns, still navigating health and safety concerns, and always brimming with competition.

Luckily, with a clear concept, effective marketing and a few key transferable skills, you’ll maximise your chances of beating out the competition and finding success.

But don't worry if you've not got all of the above just yet – that's where our experts are here to help.

We have been helping businesses to set up across tons of sectors, and we understand the challenges and opportunities that are ahead in the events industry. So put the champagne on ice for now, and read on to learn more about the costs, considerations and benefits involved in becoming an event or party planner.

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How has COVID-19 affected the sector?

What does the future of the industry look like?

In order to combat the banning of in-person meetings, the events industry had partly pivoted towards online. The new fashion for virtual events has forever changed the way organisations will host and engage with their audience.

That's not to say virtual events are here to stay. Given the option, most attendees will want to go to a physical event – as most of us have been ‘Zoomed' out by pandemic working.

But digital events are a growing new branch in the sector which you should keep an eye on to ensure you stay ahead of the market and your competition.

Flexible working is also accelerating the trend. Corporate events will need to consider their employees that are still isolating and working from home. This means your business will need to provide online, offline, and hybrid events solutions.

What COVID-19 rules do event planning firms need to follow?

From August 2021, all COVID-19 safety rules and regulations were fully lifted, which means that you don't legally need to require any specific safety measures from customers or staff members if you're planning to host events.

However, cultural changes have still taken place, including a new understanding about the spread of germs that public places can influence.

There are still some basic safety requirements that help to make your event attendees feel safe, such as:

  • Spaced out seating for social distancing
  • Hand sanitiser stations
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting rota
  • Optional mask wearing

You could consider keeping these rules in place to help returning customers feel more at ease.

Case Study: Above & Beyond Solutions

Sam Stockmans, founder of the newly found events services company Above & Beyond Solutions, has always had a passion for the industry.

“Everyones first nightclub experience is daunting, and I could feel that amongst my friends when we started going out. I wanted to put on parties and make it a more comfortable experience for everyone, so I started by organising 16+ nightclub events.

“I love the events planning industry, that ability to create moments for others through an event you are organising, there is no feeling like it.”

After dabbling in the nightclub events scene, Stockmans went on to organising exhibitions across Europe, before he decided to go it alone with his own venture, Above & Beyond Solutions.

In terms of the biggest challenges he's faced in his near 15 year career in the industry, Stockmans said:

“The biggest challenge is definitely standing out. There are so many competitors in the events industry space. You need to have a USP and you need to be able to sell it confidently.

“For us at Above, our USP is the level of service people receive. My team is made up of highly experienced professionals and creatives.”

And when asked about anything he wish he'd known before he started in the industry, Stockmans said:

“I wish I'd been less arrogant. I made mistakes in my younger years in the industry because I got ahead of myself.

Attitude is everything in this industry, and it will do any entrepreneur wonders to remember that, as the last thing you want is to burn bridges with other companies in the space that you will be frequently collaborating with.”

Define your event planning business idea

When it comes to starting an events company, you’ll first need to decide on the type of events services you want to offer.

Would you like to offer the full event planning service, organising every aspect of an event from inception to execution? Or would you rather focus on one or two particular skill sets? For example:

It’s also key that you decide on the type of events you want to work on. In your early days, you’ll find it easier to market yourself clearly, attract customers and build the right skills and experience if you have a niche.

Events can be classified into four broad categories based on their purposes and objectives:

  • Personal events, such as weddings, birthday parties and family celebrations
  • Organisational events, such as commercial, political and charitable events, conferences and product launches
  • Leisure events, such as sports events and concerts
  • Cultural events, such as ceremonial, religious, art or heritage events

It’s advisable to pick a niche that you’re familiar with and already have a little experience in. If you come from a corporate background, for example, you may have a clearer understanding of what a successful conference looks like than a successful art festival. Remember, you can always take on more specialties as your business grows in size.

Tristan Johnson, founder of TYPE, which provides networking events “that enhance wellbeing and that millenials can afford”, believes drawing on your own experience of the events market as a consumer is a good idea, she says:

“As a young millennial entering the competitive job market fresh out of university, making valuable connections to progress my career was really difficult. Either I’d attend networking events that weren’t relevant for me or find myself spending far too much money. After chatting with a few friends who felt the same, our business model was created.”

NB: If you’d like to become a wedding planner, be sure to also check out our guide to starting a wedding planning business.

Bear in mind that, once you’ve come up with a concept, you should always test it to make sure it has a good chance of succeeding in the market. To do this, you’ll need to…

Conduct market research

It’s really important that you understand both your target audience and your competition before you decide how to reach out to potential customers, settle on a pricing structure or – in short – do anything else.

Market research will help you to understand:

  • Who your competitors are
  • How you can differentiate yourself from them
  • How much demand there is for your particular event planning service
  • The type of people who are most likely to want/need your service
  • How much your target customers will be prepared to pay for your events, and whether you can make a healthy profit from this

To answer these questions, try:

Researching the competition online

Often a simple Google search will show you who the events businesses in your local area are, but the ONS, the FSB and the British Chambers of Commerce also hold more specific, publicly accessible information about different businesses.

Try to find out how your competitors operate, how big they are, who their customers are, how much they charge, and what their USPs are. Think about how you can bring something different to the table in order to compete.

Running an online survey

Online surveys are fairly cheap to set up, and you can also take to Facebook and LinkedIn to run questionnaires.

Ask people what they would expect from your events planning service, the budget they would have to spend on an event such as yours, how often they’d use you, what would make them want to use you, and anything else you want to know.

Holding focus groups

Essentially a face-to-face version of an online survey, a focus group gives you the opportunity to discuss your business with potential customers.

As well as asking the above questions, you can also talk more specifically about your own business, asking what they think of your concept and branding, and share ideas.

Come up with an event company name

As fun a task as choosing a name for your party planning business may seem, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

Your name is the first thing most customers will hear about you, and so it’s important that it accurately represents what they can expect from your services. Plus, it needs to be something you’re proud to shout from the rooftops.

To come up with a name, try these tips:

  • Think of the type of events you want to plan and the style of service you’ll aim to deliver. Write down every word that springs to mind – no matter how obvious or abstract. The more, the better. Then single out your favourite words and explore them. Do they have synonyms that are better? How does it sound when you combine them in different ways?
  • Consider your own name. Can you name the business after yourself?
  • If you’d like your business to be one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, try thinking up event-related puns or phrases you might be able to use as a name. Just try not to be too cheesy!
  • Think about existing events planning businesses whose names you really like. Take inspiration from what makes them so great – but make sure you don’t simply copy them.

When it comes to coming up with a name, simplicity is key.

On the concept of coming up with a name, Stockmans says:

“Keep it simple, catchy, and memorable. Keep the name strong and simple, the strapline mission statement simple and the branding clear.”

If the name you choose doesn’t make it obvious that you’re an events planner – if you’ve picked a rather abstract word, for example, or are using your name – we’d advise adding a tagline. For example: Joe Bloggs – Party Planning.

Remember, your event planning business’ name should be:

  • Easy to spell and pronounce.
  • Original, and as unique as possible.
  • A good representation of the services you’re offering (don’t go for something jokey and fun if you’ll be planning serious corporate events, for instance).
  • Appealing to your audience. Ask target customers (whether through friends and family, an online survey or a focus group) for their honest opinion of your name.

Once you’ve settled on a name, you’ll need to check that it’s available – you can do this using the Companies House Register – and also check that it’s free to be used as a domain name for your website: for example, www.joebloggs.co.uk. It’s best to register your domain name as soon as possible.

If your chosen name is available, you’ll need to officially register it as your company’s name.

Branding

Your business' name will tie inextricably into your business’ branding as a whole. Its tone will be the starting point for how you design your logo, website, marketing materials and messages, social media posts and more – all together, this should convey the tone and purpose of your business.

Bourlet suggests that you create clear guidelines for targeting your specific target audience with your branding.

Getting professional help

Consulting a graphic designer may help when it comes to creating a logo and other visual assets. Finding yourself a graphic designer is a good creative opinion allows you to brainstorm with an expert third-party.

TYPE founder Johnston says:

“Once you have completed an in-depth persona analysis, ensure all of your work is aiming towards these individuals to gain the greatest results. Building out strong brand guidelines is critical, involving how you deliver your content, the tone of voice, the colour code used on the site and in all branding, and the persona you will be targeting with your marketing.

“Studies have shown our attention span is shortening so branding must be easily consumable, easy on the eye and fitting to your personal brand, be it premium, fun, colourful or sleek.”

Develop your business plan

A business plan is an important document that takes its reader through every aspect of a business – including how it will run, plans for how it will progress, and forecasts of what it will achieve in the future.

As well as something potential investors and banks will want to see, writing a business plan will give you the opportunity to break down and plan every aspect of your business step-by step – including details of your business model and pricing structure, a marketing strategy, plans for hiring staff in the future and those oft-daunting financial predictions.

Another great way to organise your business plan is to use a project management software. These sophisticated tools are aimed at delegation and multi-project management, and can help you stay on top of deadlines as you design your dream events business.

Check out our free online comparison tool to learn more about the providers available and their top deals and discounts.

Come up with a pricing strategy

A crucial part of your business model, to plan your pricing you’ll first need to decide whether you want to charge:

  • A flat fee for the whole service
  • An hourly rate for the time you spend working on the event
  • Commission-based prices

You should use what you’ve learnt from members of your target audience and your competitors to decide on which of these you’ll choose, along with the actual prices you’ll charge.

Remember, while your prices should be attractive to your target customer, they must also cover the operating expenses you spend on planning the event, while still leaving room for a healthy profit for you.

Work out how much it’ll cost you to put on an event based on your plans and ideal suppliers, and see whether you’d still get a decent margin based on what customers want to pay.

That being said, making sure you're giving your clients value for money is crucial.

Don't be afraid to adjust your offering if your pricing seems unreasonable. It may be that you need to re-evaluate how much you’re able to spend on pulling together the event or how many services you can offer as part of your package.

Understand the requirements

Qualifications

You certainly don’t need a formal education in events and party organising before becoming a party planner.

However, if you would like to study events management, you can:

  • Research your local colleges and universities, or online facilities like the Open University, to see whether they offer something that suits you.
  • Look into specialist event institutions. Event Academy, for example, offers four accredited event management courses which you can choose to undertake online or on a physical premises in London.

Or, as an alternative to studying, you can always build up your events experience (if you don't have any) by volunteering to help out at local events. This will give you a practical insight into the many cogs that form a single event, and you might be surprised at the level of graft involved!

Regulations

Follow this checklist to make sure you’re operating your business legitimately and without fear of costly legal problems:

✓ Obtain licenses

The licenses you need to operate your business legally will be down to your local authority or council (get in touch with them to find out which licenses you need) and also the venues at which you'll be holding events.

✓ Register as a sole trader

Unless you want to set up a limited company (though most start-ups don’t begin life this way), you’ll need to register as a sole trader with HMRC, and understand the tax implications of this.

✓ Set up a business banking account

This, plus you’ll need to get an accounting and cashflow system in order so you can easily manage invoices and outgoings. It’s a good idea to hire an accountant to help you out in the early stages.

✓ Prepare to take payments

Alongside your business bank account you’ll also need a merchant account. After a client pays you, their money will be held in your merchant account until it is approved by the client’s bank, at which point it moves into your business account – so it’s crucial you have one.

✓ Get yourself insured

You’ll need public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance, plus employers’ liability insurance if you’re going to hire employees.

You might also need buildings and contents insurance if you keep expensive equipment at home or in an office, and vehicle insurance for any vans you use to transport materials to and from venues.

✓ Brush up on your health and safety

While the venues you hold events in will likely have their own set of generic health and safety regulations, it’s vital that you carry out your own risk assessments in advance of your events, detailing the hazards and controls for each.

So, learn how to write risk assessments and consider everything from trips, heavy loads and electric shocks to structural security and food hygiene.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the venue if something goes wrong – but it’ll still reflect very poorly on you if you’ve failed to recognise and manage a risk.

Start promoting your event planning start-up

Now you’re ready to get going, it’s time to show your business to the public (and encourage them to use your stellar event-planning services). Alongside traditional techniques such as leaflet drops and putting advertisements in your local paper, you’ll want to try the following…

Set up a website

Having a website is vital for any small business. It’s a place to explain everything you offer, show off your previous projects, list your pricing packages and display your contact details.

It’s also an opportunity to prove that, even though your business is new, you’re a professional who knows exactly what they’re doing. So you’ll need to make sure your site is sleek and professionally-designed, with no spelling mistakes (an erroneous, dated website is a surefire way to turn off potential clients).

Unless you’re a web designer yourself, you’ll want to go with one of the two options:

  • Hire a freelance web designer to build your site for you. The benefit of this is that you’ll have an expert to discuss ideas with, but you may find that your designer charges for any changes you’d like them to make in the future.
  • Use a website building platform. These are often low-cost, and will likely give you more control over your site and a clearer understanding of how it works. Wix, GoDaddy and Weebly are popular options.

Your website should be in-keeping with your branding and appealing to your target customer, and you should adopt SEO best practice to make sure it ranks well when people search Google for a local events business.

If you need a hand setting up a website, be sure to check out our review of the top 5 web design companies in London.

Tom Bourlet of brands Fizzbox.com, which offers group activities and experiences for any event, and stag and hen party organisers The Stag Company and Hen Heaven, says:

“It is important to understand what terms you are targeting, the competition you are up against and what you can afford to spend on PPC (pay-per-click).

“When starting a new business, you can’t rely on organic or direct traffic, therefore PPC will be pivotal, and there will be a turning point where it goes from experimentation to profitable. For this reason, you need to ensure you have the funding to put into the ads, while working on the SEO and UX of the website.”

Websites are a great way to attract and retain customers, as they allow you to build a larger audience base from across the UK.

Read our guide to the top 7 website builders for small businesses, to learn more about the benefits and methods to making your own online page.

Use social media

Social media is massive and if you’re not on board with the digital world then you will fall flat on your face. Get a good digital marketing plan in place with social media leading the charge.

With social media, you can get the word out about your business for free, sharing details of your services, special offers and – with your clients’ permission – images of your events to give potential customers an idea of what you can deliver.

In particular, Pinterest can be a goldmine for party and events planners. The image-based platform centering on inspiration and idea-sharing, Pinterest is the place to find people looking for ‘inspo' for their next big bash – and show them what you can do.

You might also find Facebook's groups valuable. Brides-to-be, for example, are increasingly joining locally-focused Facebook groups in which they can discuss and recommend local caterers, boutiques, planning services and more. Try joining up to relevant groups and sharing a tailored special offer with members.

Of course, there's no point in spending energy and resources maximising your Pinterest and Facebook profiles if your target market don't spend a lot of time on them.

Instagram is integral to many businesses success, be sure to check out our extensive how to use Instagram for business guide for everything you need to know.

Send emails

Sending engaging marketing emails to both customers and those who have expressed an interest in your services is an excellent way to communicate with the public, sharing updates and special offers, encouraging engagement with your business and keeping interest high.

A CRM (customer relationship management) system will help to streamline this process by personalising emails to make customers more inclined to read them, automating email sends, collating customer data and more.

Attend fairs and exhibitions

Some events, such as weddings, often have regular fairs and trade shows where small businesses like suppliers and party planners can host a stall and show off their products and services to visitors.

This is a great way to get your service in front of the people who need it. Furthermore, chatting face-to-face with potential customers will give you a unique opportunity to explain what you can offer to them specifically. Plus, they’re more likely to remember you if they’ve had a friendly and promising conversation with you.

Make sure, though, that you have professional business cards and leaflets printed so you can give them something to remember you by.

Try cross promotions

Seek out other small businesses in the events industry and see whether you can partner with them to create a promotional offer that you’ll both benefit from.

For example, a local independent caterers and offer a discount from both yours and the caterer’s prices to those who use your services and select that caterer.

Find suppliers and build contacts

As the old adage goes, it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. When it comes to events planning, what you know is obviously crucial – but you’ll also find having a portfolio of industry contacts very useful.

Of course, finding the right suppliers for each event will mean carefully considering your client’s wishes and budget. But building relationships with reliable suppliers will give you options right off the bat, saving you time – provided they fit the requirements.

If you’d like to plan weddings, for example, having contacts at catering companies, local venues, entertainment providers, et cetera will prove handy. If you’re specialising in corporate events, you may need to find contacts at banner printing companies, potential sponsors and more.

Here are a few ways to start building up that contacts book:

  • Visit online event supplier databases. Alive Network, for example, lists thousands of UK event entertainers and suppliers along with reviews and prices.
  • If your competitors run public events, see if you can attend them. Make a note of who they’ve used as a caterer, venue, equipment supplier etc. If any suppliers or sponsors are present, get talking to them and ask for their details.
  • Attend trade shows, seminars and exhibitions where suppliers will be showcasing their offerings. 
  • Join local events groups on social media, where professionals share details of the companies they’ve worked with. Be proactive, joining in with discussions and asking for opinions.
  • Use your personal network. Use LinkedIn to the full as well, make new connections daily and interact with them if only to simply introduce yourself.

As you build your network and liaise with suppliers and customers, you may want to consider getting a business mobile to separate your business dealings from personal calls (more information on our page on business mobile phone contracts.


What's next?

The party and events planning market is hugely competitive, but with the tips, tricks and tools in this guide, you’ll set yourself up with the best chance of success.

Want to get started on building your business now? The first step to opening any business is sourcing finance. Our free online comparison tool can help you to compare the best business loan providers across the UK, and get refreshingly honest quotes for early-stage finance.

Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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