Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Do you love parties? If you go to parties and find yourself wondering where they got the centerpieces and how they chose the theme, and you have good skills in communication, organization, planning and budgeting, this might be the small business for you.
Here are some of the details of this business:
What you’ll do: Party planners oversee all aspects of throwing a successful party. You will suggest themes, prepare budgets, send invitations, choose the entertainment and decorations, scout locations, negotiate with vendors, order supplies, track guest responses, and do whatever it takes to make sure your client has a great party.
You will also be expected to attend the party, to make sure everyone and everything is in place and that everyone has a great time.
You will solicit business from clients, meet with them to discuss their ideas, and prepare proposals and contracts for your services as well as for services and supplies from other vendors.
You can either specialize in one type of party, or you can plan a wide variety of parties, including anniversary parties, birthday parties, dinner parties, celebrations, children’s parties, graduation parties, holiday parties, business gatherings, and more.
What you need to know: The more you know about great parties, the better. Here are some “must knows” for a party planner:
Food and beverage: You will be expected to suggest and help select menus. You should know what foods are currently “in” and how to select appropriate food for different occasions. Ditto for beverages: you may be asked to plan anything from a coffee bar to a martini bar. A good relationship with area caterers is a must and you will need a collection of current menus from various vendors in your area.
Locations: You should know about party locations in your area, including banquet halls, hotels, meeting places, outdoor spaces, and special locations like golf courses, museums, and other non-typical spaces. You will need to know which space will hold how many people and is appropriate for different types of parties.
Decorating: A good sense of style will certainly help here. Color coordination, themed décor, flowers and lighting can make a huge difference in the ambience of a gathering. You will also need to know about table décor, including proper table settings, linens, glassware and flatware.
Invitation etiquette: You will be asked to help with or perhaps entirely handle the invitation process, so addressing etiquette knowledge is a must. You might also be asked to track RSVP’s.
Entertainment Options: You will need a list of good entertainers in your area, including different types of bands, singers, musicians, disc jockeys, emcees, and perhaps even comedians and dancers. The more options you have, the more great parties you can plan. A local entertainment agency can help, but don’t be afraid to scout out great entertainers on your own.
Activities: You may be asked to plan fun activities as well. These will vary depending on the types of parties you plan, but could include children’s party games, bridal shower games, card tournaments, sports activities, karaoke events, auctions and more.
Gift Bags: Creating great gift bags and party favors is another skill you will need. You should be able to create a gift bag or party favor to coordinate with the theme of the party. Being creative will certainly help here.
Vendors: You will need good working relationships with vendors. You will need to know whose work is good and whose work is not. This includes caterers, chefs, bartenders, florists, lighting designers, linen suppliers, party rental shops, entertainers, invitation suppliers, location vendors and more. You will be the “go-between” for these vendors and your client.
People Skills: You will need to be able to work well with different types of people, from your client and their guests to your vendors to the staff working the party. You will need to be able to remain professional at all times, react under pressure to solve problems quickly and keep smiling no matter what. Good follow-up skills, including making sure everyone is paid promptly and sending thank you notes will help you with repeat business. Networking is a must and you will need to be active in a couple of organizations that can help you build your business.
How to Get StartedThis is a fairly easy business to start. Talk to some party planners in your area about what they do. You might be able to “tag along” with them to get an inside look at the real work. Attend parties. Research websites of other party planners to see what they offer.
One of the best ways to get started in this type of business “on your own” without having worked in the industry is to plan a few parties for a much reduced fee, or even free. You need references and experience before you’ll get many top-paying paying clients.
Alternately, you can apprentice with another party planner to get experience.
How You’ll Make Money You will charge a fee to your clients for your work. There are different ways to charge: by the hour, as a percentage or the budget, or a flat overall fee.
By the hour—you set an hourly rate, keep track of your hours and bill them the total. Usually, you will get a “retainer” to begin, usually based on an estimate of the total hours you’ll work.
As a percentage of the budget—If the total party is going to be $5,000, you’d charge anywhere from 10—20%, making your fee anywhere from $500 to $1,000.
As a flat fee—Probably the easiest to sell, the flat fee is just that. You charge the same amount regardless of budget or hours. For example, if your fee is $1,000, then that’s what you’re paid, regardless of the time or money involved.
Essential Start-up Basics Here are some things you need to launch your party planning business:
--Flyers or brochures for trade shows, vendors, brides describing your services.
--Contracts and fee information so you can sign up business!
And, some additional things that will come in handy:
--Recommendation letters and references
--Show book of party ideas (cut pictures from magazines to start, and then replace with your party pictures).
--Vendor lists—a big, fat business card collection!
--Planning guides—either your own or one you’ve purchased
--Calendar and a very reliable organizational system.
Party Planner Resources:
The Party Planner by David Tutera
In-Style Parties (The Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining