How I Quit My Job to Start an Event Planning Business: Part 2
Alyssa Perna has over a decade of event operations experience for leading multinational business-to-business conferences, festivals and trade shows, press conferences, large-scale fundraisers, complex social events, and more. She is the founder of Experience Events, the Managing Director of Ingenuity Cleveland. She is also the lead instructor (and tutor!) of the Corporate Event Planning course at QC’s Event Planning School.
In November of 2019, Alyssa shared her experience of finally fulfilling a dream that’d been brewing inside her for nearly a decade: quitting her job to become an event planner and start her own business. Part 1 of Alyssa’s story delved into what led her to making such a brave decision, as well as what it was like for her during and after she quit her previous career.
Today, we’ll take a look at Part 2 of Alyssa’s journey – this time, looking specifically at the various difficulties that owning your own event planning business pose. Importantly, Alyssa provides her expert insight into how you can most successfully overcome these obstacles, so you and your business can come out stronger on the other side.
Challenges and Opportunities
You may be an event planning expert, but owning and operating your own business demands that you get out of your comfort zone. You must be able to professionally adapt to operating more than just events.
In November, I wrote about how I quit my job to start an event planning business. But I’d like to shift focus to tell you about some of the challenges and opportunities becoming a business owner has generated, in my own personal experience.
More than events
If you’re just starting out, want to get into event planning, and eventually own and operate your own business, you may be doing this entirely on your own. You might not have a business partner, help, or guidance. This means that a ton of additional responsibilities will fall on your shoulders. This isn’t meant to scare you, though! Rather, I’m trying to paint a realistic picture of what to consider before jumping into business ownership.
Beyond planning events, you’ll need to advertise and promote your organization, so people know about you and the services you offer. As you promote your company, you’ll need to create and foster new relationships in order to generate business for your company. This will allow you to win new business, and therefore, pay the bills.
You’ll need to handle the books and keep track of the accounting side of things, such as what you spend versus what you owe. In short: plan to be not only the event planner, but the salesperson, marketer, accountant, and more. You’ll wear many hats, and will need to make the time and effort in all of these areas of business ownership in order to be successful.
Pro tip: There are tons of small business resources available to the public that can assist you with your journey into entrepreneurship. Your locality may even have resources in your specific area, from mentor-ship to financial assistance available to you. Get on Google and do some research!
Do your homework
Make sure that you set yourself up for success.
If you can, establish your business name, logo, website, and legal business with the state or government. Also, ensure that you set up your business’s bank account before breaking off on your own. It’s better to have everything already prepared and ready for launch before you officially open your business. This way, you can spend your precious time effectively running it, and promoting your business while executing client events.
Look at the competitive landscape.
What are other event planners in your local area focused on? Perhaps the majority of them are wedding planners, while you focus on corporate conferences. What makes you different? How can you stand out from the rest of the competition? Highlighting your unique abilities and experiences on your website, social media, contracts, services, and in your portfolio will make you stand out in a niche that’s not already over-saturated with competition.
Ambition is a great quality, and an asset for any good business owner to bear! But becoming a business owner also requires blunt honesty with yourself. You need to have realistic expectations.
For example, be realistic with your financial projections when you’re first starting out. Many entrepreneurs struggle to pay the bills, namely during that initial stage when you’re building a business and waiting for payments to arrive. In order to survive, cash flow is vital for your event planning business, so set realistic goals that you know you can achieve.
Know that it’s okay to work multiple jobs while building your business. For example, before I quit my full-time job, I was working roughly four jobs in order to make ends meet and save money for the event planning business I planned to start.
I also waited until I had a handful of consistent clients already under my belt, because this meant there would be consistent cash flow. I made sure to secure this step before taking the leap. That way, I wouldn’t have to stress about making ends meet.
Manage your time
Time management is an essential part of successfully operating your own business. If you’re lucky enough to have more work flowing in than you can handle, be careful not to overbook yourself. There are only so many hours in the day! Delivering quality work in a timely manner is crucial to keeping your current roster of customers, as well as potentially renewing business in the future with clients who already enjoy working with you.
Acknowledge your weaknesses
If someone approaches you, and your area of expertise does not align with what they’re looking for, it’s okay to say no. I’m all about taking on new challenges, but be cautious and careful – you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew! You need to be able to confidently execute any and all business you have agreed to do.
If you’re going into something blindly, it could be more time-consuming and costlier than you had anticipated. Because your time and effort is so precious and limited, don’t risk business ownership against something you may not be equipped to handle. Furthermore, you don’t want to damage your reputation to potential clients by over-promising and then delivering poor results.
What are you capable of doing exceptionally well? Where do your event planning skills shine? Focus on, emphasize, and sell those skills when trying to win new business.
Conquer your fears
Don’t expect to have a large Rolodex of customers right off the bat. It takes time to build trust, rapport, and klout for your business. But don’t let this scare you away! Fear is your worst enemy, so believe in yourself and what you’re capable of achieving!
As a business owner, you are the visionary. Sometimes, you’ll have to deal with the unknown. At times, you may need to make tough decisions. But don’t let criticism and self-doubt control you. Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then no one will.
Business ownership is an opportunity to tackle both a dream and a challenge. It’s the chance to prove to yourself that you are capable of achieving great things. I sincerely hope this encourages you to tackle the challenge of business ownership in a responsible and realistic way.
Do you already own your own business? If so, what challenges have you faced? Let us know in the comments!