Starting an events business: what you need to know
There is much more to holding an event than booking a room and calling in a caterer. Successful events - for communities, business and families - have to be very carefully planned. Events planners specialise in organising events of all kinds, and can enjoy a fast paced - and rewarding - business.
Events planning is a multi-billion-pound industry with plenty of demand across the UK. Qualifications exist, and might be useful if you want to get a job as a corporate events planner - but you don’t necessarily need a history in events planning to start your own business. However, you do need organisation and time management skills, be able to solve problems that arise at the last minute – and be able to negotiate.
Events planning is a saturated and highly competitive market and niching can be good for start-ups as you will find it easier to market yourself clearly, attract customers and build the right skills and experience if you specialise in a particular area.
This could include:
- Business events – conferences and product launches
- Political events – such as party conferences and interest group event
- Charitable events – often designed as fundraisers
- Leisure events - sports and concerts
- Cultural events - ceremonial, artistic and heritage events
- Private parties – from get togethers in homes and church halls to major life event celebrations
Whatever you choose, it makes sense to work in an area that you know and understand – and have experience and plenty of contacts in. It can also help your business a great deal if you have a natural affinity with the people you will be working with - a corporate background may be useful if you want to produce business events, for example.
Whatever you decide, it is vital to understand both your target audience and the kind of events they want to be involved in. Your first step might be to look at your competitors, exactly what they offer and their pricing structure. This should help you understand how much demand there is for the kind of event you want to offer, and allow to make a start on planning how you will cost your services.
Google the businesses in your area, and take careful notes about their website, what they offer and how they market themselves. Try to see what they are doing right – and what you believe you could be doing better.
Prepare a business plan
One you have done your homework, you can put what you learned to work in a business plan. This should define everything about your business, from the name to the kind of events you want to run.
Ideally you will have a name which is memorable and distinctive, and which instantly describes the kind of events you want to manage, which will make your marketing task much easier. Once you’ve settled on a name, you’ll need to check that it’s available using the Companies House Register. Then check that it can be used as a domain name for your website (Top tip: it’s best to register your domain name as soon as possible. Many of the best names have been snapped up, but you may be able to find a variation using a suffix like .Biz or even .event.)
If your chosen name is available, register it as your company’s name without delay.
With your business named and your business activity defined, your plan should go on to show how you will market your business and find customers. Most important of all, it will show how you will make money, with details of the projected costs you are likely to face and the income you will generate.
A well-researched business plan will help you spot the challenges you will face and prepare for them. It will also be vital to help you want to raise funding. Lenders will want to see and understand your business plan before they will lend to you, and a professional-looking and detailed plan can go a long way to securing the funding you need.
Your plan should show how you will launch the business – and show where you expect to be in five years’ time. Explain how you intend to get there, what challenges there might be, and a S.W.O.T. analysis – an analysis of your Strengths and Weaknesses, and identifying both the Opportunities open to you and the Threats you face (eg. competition).
Come up with a pricing strategy
Your pricing strategy will be key to your business plan. You need to consider whether you want to charge a flat fee, an hourly rate for the time you spend working on each event, or make commission-based charges. Use what you’ve learned from your competitor research to set the level of charges you will make. As a start-up, you might be tempted to make prices low to bring in business, but be careful. You need to cover your operating expenses and make a profit - or there is no point in launching your business at all. People want value, but they are prepared to pay for excellent service – although you can’t afford to price yourself out of the market altogether.
Rules and regulations
Anyone can set up as an events planner, but you will need to get your business on a really business-like footing by registering as a sole trader or limited company – most events businesses start off as sole traders – but you can change as your business grows.
You’ll also need to register for VAT and to set up a business banking account. Many people will expect to pay for everything by card these days so it’s worth considering a merchant’s account to let you take card payments, whether that be a hand-held terminal or one of the many mobile payment solutions out there.
It is also a good idea to look into a bookkeeping system – there are plenty of solutions that can automate this for you, and some even run as apps on your smartphone.
However, unless you are very confident with managing your money, you should probably get the help of an accountant.
Next comes insurance. You must have employers’ liability insurance if you’re going to hire employees, even if they are just temps. You’ll want to have public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance – because it can get very expensive if things go wrong with a major event. You will also have to consider vehicle insurance for any vans you use to transport materials to and from venues. Venues are likely to have their own insurance, but you will still need your own cover.
Marketing your events business
Word of mouth is a powerful form of marketing, and a great reputation is hard to beat – but neither are much use when you are starting up a new business. These days, you will need a website. A web presence is vital for any business. It can showcase what you do, cover your pricing and provide your contact details. But it needs to look professional in today’s market – hire a freelance web designer to build your site for you and ensure it includes SEO best practice to help search engines pick you up when people are looking for your services.
Support your website with a good digital marketing plan. Social media will be a must for this type of business and you can include images of your events to show just what you can deliver. And, remember, the world may have gone digital but you still need to ensure that you have professional business cards and leaflets to give to people too.
Build your supplier list
The more suppliers you know, the better your events can be – and the easier you will find it to make each one memorable. Having contacts with catering companies, venues, entertainers, cab companies and more will be vital. Ideally you will have a bulging address book with everything from printers to hotels. Florists, video photographers, sound engineers, balloon companies – you never know who you will need to call on. Go to events and network. Remember, these contacts work both ways. You can often get a lucrative business referral from a supplier.
Sort out your funding
Your business will need start-up funding. The costs of marketing and publicity may be moderate compared with other business types, but you may need to operate for some time before you get work. Working capital might be required until you are busy – and depending on the sector you work in, it may take months or even years for you to establish a reputation and get in all the work you need.
Your business plan will be an important asset when it come to approaching lenders for the funding you need. Just as important, it is essential to get a funding expert to help you arrange the finance you want at the most competitive price. A call to Rangewell can help. We work with all types of business, and we understand the challenges of running an events business -and the solutions to them.