You’re Certified! …Now What?
It’s official- you’re a certified event planner! You’ve learned theories and techniques, practiced with your friends and family, and you’re ready to start your professional career!
… Now what?
Many beginner event planners feel apprehensive about how to spark their career once they’re finished training. How can you start building a client base? What steps should you take in your first year?
Turning your training into practical work experience doesn’t happen overnight. Here are 8 steps you can take to get the ball rolling!
1. Start networking (if you haven’t already)
Interacting with other event planners, or even just frequent hosts and event enthusiasts, will do wonders for getting your name out there. The professionals who trained you might connect you with job opportunities. Fellow event planners might know of clients they can’t take but that they’d be willing to refer you to.
Network online in forums and on social networks, interact with other planners at conventions, or seek out other professionals who might want to work with an event planner, like caterers, photographers, and businesses that regularly host parties.
Pro tip: While the Internet is a great way to make new contacts, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction! Don’t rely solely on Facebook. Take the time to meet key influencers in person!
2. Consider hospitality
Some qualified event planners look at hospitality work as being a step down from their own independent contracts. Many planners prefer to concentrate on freelance planning that could lead to establishing their own business. In reality, the two jobs can support each other very well.
Especially during your first year in the industry, working in hospitality is both an educational and a networking opportunity. You might plan dinners of various formalities for large hotels or different kinds of parties for a resort. If you decide to move on to freelance work or apply for jobs with event planning agencies, hospitality experience work will look great on your resume.
3.Become an assistant
There’s no shame in starting at the bottom of the ladder. Shadowing a more experienced event planner is an amazing opportunity to refine your skills and learn through hands-on work. That planner’s clients might even recommend you to others if they like what you do.
Shadowing someone with more experience lets you see what successful planners do right and how they handle it when things go wrong. Assistantships are a great transition between your training and your professional career. They’ll prepare you for making your own way in the industry!
4.Volunteer your time
Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should give your services away for free. Doing too much work for no pay devalues your skills. Potential clients might think that you work for free because you’re not very good.
In your first year, however, volunteering your time for a good cause can be extremely beneficial. Volunteering is a great opportunity to practice while you network!
Contact local retirement homes and charitable foundations or donate your time on a special event they have in mind, in exchange for a review of your services. Make sure you network with all the participants of the event!
5. Keep applying
During their first year in the industry, many event planners struggle with inconsistency between contracts and jobs. Don’t let this discourage you from taking temporary contracts or applying for jobs with event planning companies.
Not hearing back from potential employers is no reason to stop distributing your portfolio and resume. Think about it this way: the more resumes you submit, the more potential clients or employers will be introduced to your name. In the time it takes for one of them to call you, submit more applications, work small contracts, take volunteer opportunities, or shadow more experienced professionals.
The things you do between big contracts keep you in practice, teach you new things, and build your resume. It also looks more impressive to potential clients and employers if you’re active between jobs, rather than disappearing from the industry.
6. Build your brand
One of the smartest things a beginner event planner can do in their first year is build their brand and establish a solid presence online and in their local industry.
When you’re not volunteering or assisting, work on building a quality website, starting a blog, and creating a professional portfolio. The stronger your branding platforms are, the more easily potential clients and employers can see the quality of your work, making them more likely to hire you.
Need help to get started? Check this out: Building Your Website: What you Need to Know
7. Organize a styled shoot
A styled photo shoot is probably the single best way you can build your brand and get your name out there. Coordinate with local vendors (makeup artists, photographers, caterers, florists, etc.) and create a theme that will showcase your combined skills.
All vendors (including yourself) donate their time, and once the shoot is completed you all get to use the photos to promote your work.
Want to learn more about styled shoots? Check out these articles: Marketing Yourself through a Styled Shoot, Set Up a Styled Event Photo Shoot
8. Offer lessons, workshops, or parties
If you find that you have space between work opportunities, do something about it! Try not to sit back and wait until something falls into your lap. Event planning is one of the few industries where professionals can create work for themselves.
Between jobs, tell your friends and past clients that you’re available for things like instructional workshops and planning parties where guests learn how to host great events of their own. Even one-time jobs like these support your resume, and they also show potential clients and employers that you’re pro-active about your career.
Keep it up!
Your first year working as a professional event planner might be a challenge, but there are ways to help yourself. Don’t let feelings of uncertainty stop you from taking steps towards an active career and a solid client base. New planners who show initiative and drive during their first year in the industry will spark a successful career for themselves.