Party planners organize and direct different kinds of events, handling every detail from the early planning stages to the after-party cleanup crew. This involves scouting venues, sourcing party supplies and managing equipment rentals and entertainment bookings. Whether they operate independently, for an agency or within a company, party planners tailor each event to suit their clients' needs and wants. And they do it all while working within a set budget.
This isn't a job for the shy, the disorganized or the faint of heart. But if you think you've got what it takes, and you've been wondering how to become a party planner, we've got the background and the three key steps to get you there.
Party planner qualifications
Party planning involves managing details on both the smallest and largest levels at the same time. Team management is essential, as you'll be in charge of every aspect of an event, from location to food to coat check. Flexibility is also a must-have, since as we all know, nothing ever goes exactly as planned, especially at a party. But the most important characteristic of a successful party planner? People skills. Party planners spend a whole lot of time interacting with everyone from clients to caterers.
So if you're a list-maker and an organizer, if you love interacting with tons of people on a daily basis, and if you like to help people have fun, becoming a party planner might be for you.
Party planning school (yes, it's a thing)
Some schools offer programs specifically on event planning or related topics, such as event marketing. Captera hosts an article that lists certification programs offered at different schools. It also shows you how much they cost, and what subjects they focus on.
Many party planners also seek degrees in related fields, such as business management or hospitality. Keep in mind, there are different kinds of events you can put together. So while you're learning party planning, remember to think about what kinds of parties you most want to plan. As you narrow in on an area of specialization, you can tailor your schooling to match. A certification in floral decor might better serve a wedding planner than a corporate events planner, for example.
Average salary for party planners
According to Salary.com, a party planner or events organizer averages about $45,000 to 74,000 a year. This income is based on how many events you book annually, as well as your level of experience and education, and the types of parties you plan. Obviously, planners who work with celebrities and the like have an almost limitless income potential. However, most party planners find a niche and a relatively modest income.
How to become a party planner
1. Gain experience.
A job related to the events industry is the only way to get a clear picture of what a planner does every day, as well as evaluating if it's really the career for you. Working for a catering company, on a set up and tear down crew or for an actual party planning agency is a great way to get your foot in the door. You don't have to have a degree to become a party planner (though it helps), but you do need experience.
2. Work your way up, and apply for internships.
Working your way to a higher position, or attaining an internship, gives you more experience, builds your event planning muscles and adds to your overall party industry insider know-how.
Learning party planning from the ground up gives you valuable insight into how different events are put together. And internships geared toward your specific area of interest, such as maybe corporate events, can be priceless.
3. Hit the books.
Something you can do at the same time as working parties and events is to pursue a certification or degree. A degree related to events organization definitely puts a shine on your resume if you decide to work within a party planning agency or as the events coordinator within a business. But even if you decide to go the freelancing route or start your own business, a certification or degree, or both, goes a long way toward establishing your expertise.
How to start your own party planning business
1. Work toward your niche.
First, follow the above three steps: work, learn and work some more. Grow your experience in the events planning world. Become the expert you're going to market yourself to be. Along the way, you'll get a sense of what kind of planner you want to be, and what kinds of events you want to handle.
You can begin to tailor both your work and your education in this direction, while also cultivating an understanding of your ideal clientele. Once you're ready to start marketing your services, or your company, you'll already know who you need to be talking to, and how.
2. Create your business plan and structure.
After deciding what kind of party planner you want to be, writing a business plan will help you flesh out the kind of business you want to have. Will you be a consultant, or a business owner? With partners, or solo? These decisions will dictate your business structure. And while a party planning business might not be as traditional as, say, a restaurant, it involves just as much paperwork and taxes. Going into business for yourself, as a business owner or a solo entrepreneur, means getting your ducks in a row from the very start.
3. Tap your network, and hang out your shingle.
Chances are, you've made a lot of contacts as you worked your way through the event planning world. By now, you know which venues are best suited for which kind of party, which caterers best suit your needs and what kinds of clients you want to work with. Go ahead and tap this network, letting them know you've gone into business for yourself.
Word of mouth is just as powerful as ever, if not more so, since these days it's amplified across a variety of social media platforms. Between your network and a little savvy marketing, you'll be booking your first clients soon enough. And, having put in all that time (and effort, and sweat) into learning your craft, you'll know exactly what to do next.
Party planning is a special kind of career. To most of us, it lives over in the realm of fancy weddings, legendary parties and huge arena-filling conventions. And unlike careers that absolutely require advanced degrees, planning has a relatively low barrier to entry. From weddings to corporate retreats, party planners can find clients just about everywhere. But don't let that fool you. This job takes time, energy, initiative and grit.