Event Management

Want to Make a Career Change? What You Need to Know About Working in Events

Skift Take

Think event planning is for you? Ready to leave your current industry for a life of parties? Here’s what you need to know before making the big leap.

Many people are attracted to event planning because they notice they have a knack for organization. They get involved as a volunteer or throwing a party for themselves or their company and suddenly they’re hooked. They love the details, the entertainment, and the fun in making people happy. But if you’re considering a career transition into becoming an event planner, there are a few things you should know first.

It’s Not All Parties

Event planning isn’t all fun and games, literally and figuratively. First, it’s not always fun making sure every detail is taken care of. There’s a lot of stress in throwing other people’s events. Second, it’s not all parties. You can plan conventions, meetings, board retreats, team-building experiences, and a host of other activities. Event planning covers more than just the wedding industry and extravagant white-tie events.

Your Network Is Important

Connections and referrals are everything in event planning. If you’re just starting out as an event planner, talk with your network. Let them know about your career change. Post to LinkedIn often so your network realizes you’re doing something new. Ask your network for referrals. Don’t assume because you used to work in an industry far removed from event planning that you don’t know someone in need of an event planner.

Volunteering Is a Good Way to Make a Name for Yourself

Everyone claims to be able to throw a fun party but it takes an amazing person to help a non-profit raise money. Fundraising can be a component of event planning in that if you host an amazing event, people will want to purchase those expensive $200-a-plate dinners. If you have any background in fundraising or development, you can bet there’s a nonprofit that would love to work with you. If you decide to volunteer for them to help make a name for yourself, make sure you ask them for a testimonial or referral as payment. Most are happy to oblige.

The Riches Are in the Niches

This is true of many industries but if you start out in events and try to do a little bit of everything, it will be harder to make a name for yourself. If, on the other hand, you decide you want to cater to a particular type of event or industry you can boast about your specialty and how you know more about that group than anyone else. In today’s world of personalization, that goes a long way.

This Is a Portfolio Business

Depending on the industry from which you came, you may not be aware of the need of a portfolio but potential clients will want to see your work. Your portfolio can be online (and probably should be) in image or video format. You can print brochures too but if it’s online you can share the URL, and the potential client can pass it along to everyone in the office without concerns over how many copies you brought with you.

Look for Correlations Between Your Old Life and This One

If you are making a large career change, let’s say scientist to event planner, you’ll need to show how your former career prepared you for this one. In addition to past experience hosting parties, look for skill sets that event planning and your former position share. These could be:

  • Attention to detail
  • Relationship building
  • Visual abilities and design skills
  • Written communication skills
  • Marketing

Consider Certification

There are a number of certifications you can achieve in event planning. These designations are not always required but they can bridge the gap if you are transitioning from an industry that is very far removed from event planning. The most common designations in the event planning industry are Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and Certified Special Events Planner (CSEP).

Understand the Fee Structure

If you’re becoming an independent event planner and you need to set your own fees, you’ll need to understand how the business works. There are flat fee arrangements, where the planner bids the project out at a total number. Most clients prefer this arrangement because they know exactly what the event will cost them but if you don’t know how many hours it will take, you can end up making very little money this way. A flat fee may not be ideal for newbies unless your time calculations are spot on.

Some event planners charge hourly fees where they set their fee and track their time. Most clients will still want an estimated amount of hours under this fee structure to allocate for their budget. Charging a  percentage of event fees is another way to bill the client. This means the event planner receives a percentage of the total event budget, usually between 15-20%.  You can also bill a percentage of the event fees plus expenses. In order to do this, you will have to show your client a detailed breakdown of costs for the entire event before they can sign off on it. Anything that is not included in this budget would then either be eaten by the event planner or require additional sign-offs.


It’s important to understand some venues offer commissions to event planners who book there. You will need to decide if you want to select venues based on that or whether you’d prefer to avoid those altogether.

Develop a Network

This is not the kind of job you can do by yourself. As soon as you can begin, look for vendor partners who can help you achieve greater success. These may include photographers, florists, entertainment, AV people, and/or caterers. Partner with people you know can be trusted and produce top quality work for a fair price. They’ll make you sparkle and shine.

Eventually, to grow your event planning business you may consider bringing on additional employees. This allows you to take on bigger projects or even book multiple events for the same day.

In Conclusion

If you’re considering a change in careers and want to go into event planning, you should follow your dreams. Just know there’s a downside to every up, and a potential client who will be both for you.