(Video) Obstacles To Overcome When Starting Your Event Planning Career
In this webinar, Michelle gives you some insights into obstacles to overcome when starting your event planning career. Thank you so much to Michelle from Wild Orange Events for sharing her experience and her struggles.
Is An Event Planning Career Right For You?
1:38 How To Manage Your Time When Starting Your Event Planning Career
3:42 How To Maximize Your Time (Whether or not you have a family)
8:52 Why transition From Full Time Employee To Working For Yourself?
11:29 The Hardest Part About Starting An Event Planning Career
16:16 Biggest Obstacles To Overcome 20:20 Best Event Planning Resources
25:37 Best Way To Determine Your Event Planning Rates
Melanie: Hi. It’s Melanie here from Event Planning Blueprint. Welcome to another live free Webinar. Tonight my guest is Michelle McReavy, who is the owner and operator of Wild Orange Events. I’ve asked Michelle to be here tonight because she is not only a full-time employee, which we’ll get into in just a second; she is also running her event business and getting that started. So we want to talk about some of the obstacles that people go through when they’re starting their event planning career or their event planning business. So, Michelle, thank you so much for being here tonight. It’s great to see you.
Michelle: Thank you so much, Melanie, for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Melanie: Yeah, I am as well. So Michelle and I met through my mentoring group that I started earlier this year, and I really loved the action that she takes. She’s so committed to getting her business started, and for me, I just love people who take action and I really admire her and her tenacity. So I asked her to join us tonight and share some of her insights, and some of her struggles that she’s gone through over not just the few months, but the last year when she started to get her business going.
So in no particular order we’re going to go through a few questions, and then if anybody has any questions for either me or for Michelle, please feel free to put them into the chat bar on the side, which should be on your right hand side, and we’ll get on those in the end. We won’t be any longer than 30 minutes, and we’ll leave the questions for the end of the Webinar. So, Michelle, just tell us, you know you’re working full-time and you started your event planning business. How do you manage your time between all that? Because you have your family as well, right?
Michelle: Yes, I do. I have two teenagers and two step kids that are teenagers. So it’s a full house.
Melanie: Wow. So if anyone says they don’t have time to do this, I hope they’re listening.
Michelle: Yes. Well, it’s been a slow process. There is a lot of patience involved. One of the things I’m blessed to be able to do is that at my work I’m able to do stuff on the computer when I’m slow. So that gives me the opportunity to do the things during the day, send out emails, talk on Facebook, and stuff like that. [2:19] Then Google Calendar is my friend. I put everything on Google Calendar. I watch a lot of webinars that come through the events websites, and so a lot of those are during the day so I just put those in my calendar, it reminds me, I can watch those during the day, and then at night, I schedule, am I going to make a phone call, am I going to send out emails, am I going to work on my marketing? It all goes in my calendar so that when I’m doing it, I know, “Okay, I’ve got 15 minutes,” and I’m at the computer doing work.
Melanie: Right. You’re in a special position where you can do that and not everybody can when working full-time. We don’t advocate that you necessarily do that. You don’t want to lose your job.
Michelle: Right. That’s true.
Melanie: Some employers are just not as generous with their time and their resources, but some are not. So you’re in this very special position, what would you recommend, before we get into your schedule and how you manage your time, and I want to talk about some of the points that you just brought up, but if say somebody doesn’t have that opportunity or that luxury of using their time during the day because they are working for somebody else, who doesn’t allow them to use those resources, [3:38] would you have any suggestions that would help them save some time in the evenings? Like Google Calendar sounds great, and the scheduling I think is perfect. No matter how much time or how little time you have, I think scheduling is number one in my opinion.
Michelle: It is. It helps a lot. Whether you have a family or not a family, when you’re first starting out, I’m really beginning to realize that this is your life. If you want it to succeed, I’m finding that a lot of my social time is either with my family or it’s on the business. I don’t spend a lot of – I mean I obviously make time for my friends and stuff and doing things with my family, but this has to be your priority, because I’m finding that talking to people on Facebook, you really need to be there, you need to be present, and it’s not going to get done unless you’re there. So when you come home from work, have dinner, and spend an hour every night doing it. You know, if it’s your passion and it’s really what you want to do, then that’s what you’re going to do to get it started. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of time, but if it’s your passion, then you’re going to want to do it and want to get it done.
Melanie: I love that you have a no excuse policy, even though you don’t say it that way. I love that’s what you do.
Michelle: Well, you kind of have to, and even I had this when I started out, and I’m still starting out, but you have this vision of what you want to do and its, “Oh well, you know, I can do this. This is just going to be so easy,” but it’s a good dream. So it’s a lot of hard work, you just have to be ready for it.
Melanie: Yeah, and you’ve also broken it down into small increments, like you just mentioned you work an hour a day on it. Some people don’t even get started because they don’t think that they have time to do it or the resources to do it, but if you just even just do three small activities, which could take you about an hour every day, you would be surprise how far you can get in getting your business started. Or if you already have an event planning business, getting another program going, or whatever it is that you have as a goal, but moving it forward just with as little as an hour a day or three action items a day or five even.
Michelle: Yeah, and I probably learned that from you because I remember that now, it’s coming to my mind. It is, it’s a lot of just saying, “Okay, well, I want to do a Facebook ad tonight,” and doing that one Facebook ad. If that’s all you do, that’s all you need to do for the night. Or you think of one person you want to reach out to. One of my goals I told myself, because one of the things that I struggle with is networking – networking and talking to people, and so I told myself I’m going to reach out to five people a day.
Michelle: Sometimes I don’t make it, sometimes it’s only two, sometimes it’s only one, but that’s my goal is to try and make at least five contacts a day.
Melanie: I love that goal, and the fact that you said sometimes you don’t make it, and you know what, that’s okay, because even if you contacted one or even two people, you still took action.
Michelle: Right. Yeah.
Melanie: Yeah, you are right. I don’t know if you did get it from me, I’m not going to take credit for it, but I’m always talking about is whether it’s in Webinars, in our mentoring group, or in a blog post, or a Motivation Monday video, or wherever else with information. [7:20] Always schedule one to three, and if you can do five things a day, but one to three action items every day and you will start to see changes. That’s what I do every day. I have my list of things that I am going to do. I do it the night before. I know exactly what needs to be done the next day. Often I do a lot more than that, but I have my three critical things that I need to get done.
Michelle: Right, and that’s like when I was putting together my website when I was in your mentoring group, it was very daunting for me, but I took it just day-by-day and I wanted it to be done right away, but it took a couple of months. I just check everything day-by-day, and you know, it took me probably at least three months to get it going even though I wanted it done in like two weeks.
Melanie: Well, we all have that, sometimes my patience wears thin, but you know I have this saying and I may have said this to you before but, [8:25] “Persistence pays when it comes to starting your event planning business.” Let me say that again because I think I just stumbled over my words. “Persistence pays – it’s like a tongue twister – when it comes to starting your event planning business.”
Michelle: It’s a lot of persistence unless you already have clients, and you can just jump right in, it takes a lot of hard work.
Melanie: it does take a lot of hard work. [8:50] So, what makes you want to transition from being a full-time employee where work for somebody else, to having your own event planning business?
Michelle: I’ve had a passion for events and I’ve actually tried in my area to work for event planners, and it’s been very difficult thing to do here. So I just decided, “Well, I’ve got the talent, why can’t I do it on my own?” I’m doing it because I don’t want to be stuck at a desk, I don’t want to be stuck working for somebody else, yes, I want to set on of my own hours even though I know they’re going to be a lot of hard hours sometimes, but I want to be able to say you know, “Okay, this Saturday I’m not taking any events,” and I have Mondays through Wednesday off, or when my kids are in school I can say I’m working from eight to four, and the rest of the nights are fine. Basically, I’m just sick of working for other people.
Melanie: Yeah, I think a lot of people who are interested in starting their own business can relate to that.
Melanie: You want control over your own time.
Michelle: Exactly. Being an entrepreneur is a world where you learn about yourself, but it’s very rewarding in a long run.
Melanie: Absolutely, you definitely do, the good and the bad.
Melanie: You want to throw your computer out the window.
Michelle: Yes, sometimes you do.
Melanie: So what have been a couple of your biggest struggles from starting? First, tell us when you started planning to start your own business or when you started taking the actions to do that, and then share with us a couple, maybe one or two of your biggest struggles that you’ve encountered.
Michelle: [10:38] So, the idea came to me probably in about March of this year that it was something I wanted to do. I actually hired a coach here in my town to help me with the business coaching in May, and I think that was around the same time that we’d started your mentoring. So I’ll say May was when I really started to take action, and my website got completed in July, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it once I got the website up. It kind of made me really nervous and I backed up. So for the last two months, I’ve been really plugging along at it and really trying to get clients. I would say the hardest part is just the confidence in yourself. The confidence that you can do it and the confidence that you can find in the clients. Because I have been in an office job, it’s been trying to find clients, but my confidence is getting stronger. I actually the last two weeks, have been starting to interview people, and just what I’m on Facebook and said this is what I’m doing, would you be interested in having a conversation with me? I’m trying to figure out what my client’s want. That has been an eye-opening experience for me, being able to talk to people and find out the difference between what I think they want, and what actually they want. So it’s helping me put my packages together.
Melanie: That is fantastic. I’m so glad that you have done that and it sounds like, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like it really wasn’t that difficult to do either, at least you contact portion. It may have been an eye-opener to have to change things around which takes some time, but actually contacting your ideal client who, in your case, are entrepreneurs or other business owners.
Michelle: Yes, correct.
Melanie: That is fantastic.
Michelle: Yeah, so every step. I’m in some business groups and just said, “Hey, I’m doing a retreat, are you doing retreats in 2015? I’d just like to talk to you, no sales or anything,” and I said, “It’s just a thirty-minute phone call,” and they’ve all ended up being over an hour.
Melanie: That is so good. So they’re obviously engaged in the conversation if it’s continuing and they’re not trying to get off the phone. You’re learning. From going through that process, what’s been one of your biggest insights or your “aha” moments?
Michelle: [13:09] I’ve had two actually. One is my ideal client is somebody who makes over six figures and can do a luxury retreat, but I’ve talked to some that are just starting out and they are struggling with who their clients are. It’s given me an opportunity to figure out a different kind of package I can do for people who were just starting out. So that’s something I’m going to start working on now, and for the people that are my ideal clients, it’s how to develop my packages so that it’s beneficial for my time, but it’s also beneficial for their time. Because events can take up so much time, and you can start a year out or six months out, so making sure that my packages are not wasting my time and not wasting their time.
Melanie: Nice, and so have you had to tweak some of your packages because of those conversations?
Michelle: [14:14] Yeah, that’s what I’m starting to work on right now, is tweaking the packages and seeing what can I do to benefit me and to benefit them.
Melanie: That’s great, because most of yours are not customized, right? You have actual retreats that you’ve planned and it’s kind of, for lack of a better term right now, it’s not the term that I want to use, but it’s a little bit cookie cutter, like you put it all together and they can pick between one, two or three. Is that right?
Michelle: Not necessarily, I’ve got like one coaching package is I do everything online with them. So it’s I just help them, coach them through it, and negotiate it. And the other one is me being onsite.
Melanie: Got it, okay. So it still satisfies all their needs and you can customize it as much or as little is they need or want?
Michelle: Yes, exactly. One woman I talked to in Australia, she wants to do it in Greece and so she already has her venue picked out, which is nice. It’s just catering it to what each client wants.
Melanie: So, just share with us how did you reach that woman through the Facebook group?
Michelle: Yes, actually I’ve talked to Canada, Florida, Australia, and a couple here in the States. It was really great because I got all different perspectives from everywhere around the world.
Melanie: That’s fantastic. Good for you. I just want to remind everyone who is on, if you have any questions for us, just pop them in to the side bar, the chat bar on the right hand side and we’ll get to those in just a few minutes. Michelle, just share with us a couple of more of your obstacles that you’ve encountered over the last year.
Michelle: [16:10] I would say it’s a lot of just balancing my family time and trying to get the business started, and for me, it’s a lot of the online, learning the online networking, how to do webinars and online business.
Melanie: Yeah, it takes a lot of time to learn that especially if – a lot of people I think understand the event planning side of it, but they don’t necessarily understand the business side of it, and there are a lot of pieces to that as well. So, it’s a little overwhelming.
Michelle: Yes, and I just want to say to all those that are starting out, that if don’t know events and you don’t know the business side of it, just be patient with yourself. Do one thing at a time, like learn how to do a Facebook ad, and then Webinars has been my challenge. I’ve done the teleseminar. So I started out doing the teleseminars, and I recorded an audio and put them on my website, and just doing the basics and not expecting everything.
Melanie: Yeah, that’s really a good advice, and just being patient with yourself. [17:28]
Michelle: Yeah, a lot of patience.
Melanie: Take care of yourself as well.
Michelle: Exactly. Take care of yourself.
Melanie: Michelle, I really want to thank you for sharing all that information. We do have a couple of questions, so let’s just get into those. Veronica is asking, “Where is the best place to find other planning webinars?” Well, Event Planning Blueprint, I think, but we do sometimes go to other webinars. Can you share a couple of those with us, or where you find those specifically?
Michelle: I want to say that I’ve learned from you, but I’m trying to remember the name, it’s a website and you might know this, I don’t know if it’s Event Profs or….I might have to send it to you so that you can let them know, because a lot of them have the CEU credits where you can watch a Webinar, and if you’re certified as an event planner you can get credits and stuff. I’ve been learning about hotel management or they have all sorts of different hour long Webinars that have been really helpful for me. So, I’ll find that so you can tell them.
Melanie: Okay, that sounds great. We’ll add it into the post when it’s ready next week. I actually can’t comment because all the webinars I watch are business related because the people that tend to come to my website, buy my products, and who subscribe to my blog tend to need help in business. That’s why I skip the business side of it. We hardly ever talk about anything event-related in terms of like décor, but we’ll talk about like contracts and negotiation So for me, I watch mostly business webinars. Sorry, Veronica, I don’t think we’re going to be much help in terms of giving you an immediate suggestion at the moment but we’ll get those for you.
Michelle: No. If I can suggest, one thing I’ve done for ideas for events is gone to some of the big names and I’m totally blanking out their names right now, some of the bigger name event planners and go to their websites or their Pinterest pages to get ideas like that, if looking for that.
Melanie: Yeah. Maybe, depending on what area you’re interested in too, like if you’re interested like weddings, Preston Bailey is great. There’s so many and I agree, go to some of the celebrity event planners and check out their websites. Some of them have their own TV shows that you actually watch instead of doing a webinar. Veronica also wants to know, “What would you say or the best planning resources?” [20:11]
Again I think let’s get into, that’s a bit general so, Michelle, feel free to comment on that. I think it depends again on what area or what niche your picking in terms of event planning. It’s better to get more specific, than more general, but it depends where you’re starting and what kind of information you want.
Michelle: Yeah, I would say that too because there’s so many different avenues to look at. Again, if you’re starting out, Pinterest actually you can go and search in Pinterest is what I did and I found a lot of articles, and then you just kind of feed your way through the article to find out different websites to look at.
Melanie: Okay, yeah. Another good resource is LinkedIn. There are a number of event planning, groups within LinkedIn that are really good. Event Manager Blog which has been around for a very long time is really good for resources, but in terms of beginning, I guess Veronica if you can just get throw into the side bar kind of where you’re at in terms of the stages of event planning or starting your business, then we can get a little more specific for you. We’re going to move on to the next question. So Briana is asking you, Michelle, do you suggest certification anyone other than CMP and CMM?
Michelle: I would say, for me, I would say CMP or CMM are probably two of the better ones that I’ve found. I do have an event certification. I’m not certified as either of those. I haven’t gone that far yet, but I think starting your own business, for me any ways, it hasn’t really mattered that I have it or not.
Melanie: Yeah, I did not get certified either when I ran events. Mostly because I had no intention of running, specifically running meetings for other organizations, like say working for a law firm or another large organization. Where in many cases they do require in order to hire you, they do require you to have those types of certification. Some of the other ones you can get are like special event certification, obviously if you want to do weddings, there’s wedding certifications that you can do, CMP is one of the biggest one that if you can do meetings obviously, and then go on from there, then do your CMM. I think it really depends if you are going to start your own business, and this is my opinion, and people will not necessarily agree with me, however, since I’m opinionated I’m going to throw it in. I honestly don’t believe you need it unless you’re going to work with somebody else.
Michelle: And actually, like I said, I got a certification and it hasn’t done me many good.
Michelle: Yeah. I did learn a lot, but I could have bought a book and have learned almost the same.
Melanie: Absolutely. [23:05] I think getting experience is far more valuable, whether that is going out and mentoring with or interning with another event planner, whether you are going to volunteer with let’s say a charity at an event or even on their board, but making sure that you get the experience, and obviously if you can get hired if you’re just starting out as an intern or as an actual event planner, and then working your way up. That is far more valuable in my opinion, then going out immediately and like doing a CMP. I would go and get the experience and figure out what area you want to work in before you spend the money on doing that. A lot of those certifications are now changing their rules as well, so you have to have a certain amount of experience, say 1,2,3, sometimes 5 or 10 years of experience before you can even apply to get them, to do their programs. So you need to do a little bit of research, Brianna, and just figure out what is best for you, but if you don’t have any experience and you’re just getting started, then I personally don’t think you should spend the money on it. I would go and get the experience first.
Michelle: One thing you’ve mentioned is I actually just volunteered through Facebook, a friend had said that a women’s organization here needed an event planner, that was a volunteer, but it’s such a good organization that I volunteered for it just so I can get the contacts.
Melanie: Absolutely. That’s how was I started my event planning business as well, I volunteered.
Michelle: And it’s an organization that’s very near and dear to my heart too, so if there’s some type of organization that’s near to your heart, go look for them and ask them if they need help with their yearly charities.
Melanie: Yeah, absolutely. You can’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. You have to go out and get them. Find what your passionate about or what area you even think you want to work in, get the experience in that area, and you’ll figure it out very quickly if you really love doing meetings or weddings, or special events, or festivals. You’ll find out very quickly. Like for me, I helped a friend’s wedding once and I knew immediately I had no intention of ever being a wedding planner. I love going to them, but I do not want to organize them. I’ll help out, I’d rather actually volunteer at a wedding than actually running the wedding.
Melanie: I’ll leave that to the experts, but festivals, special events, and corporate, I love that.
Michelle: Yeah, me too.
Melanie: Wendy has a question and her question is, “What is the best way to determine your rates when you start? We get this question all the time. Wendy, I’m just going to throw out before we get into that, I have a number of blog posts and videos on this. So make sure that you go to – just Google it, go to our good friends, the Googles, and just Google Event Planning Blueprint and have a charge for your services and you’ll find the videos and blogs, but either way, Michelle, I’d like to hear how you decided to charge for your services.
Michelle: When we went through the mentoring group, this was a big discussion in there. It was, one of things you had me do was to call other event planners and I had my husband do it while I was at work.
Melanie: He loved it.
Michelle: I was like, “Honey, will you please call these people and ask them some questions?” Because I was at work, I couldn’t do it and he offered to help me. So we got a little bit of details, not as much as I would’ve liked, but the other thing was because I’m a different type of service, I’m kind of actually just went with my gut on a lot of it. I kind of had an idea of what was out there. There are the percentages and then there are the set fees, and then I decided to offer the set fees.
Melanie: Right. Yours is a little bit different than if you were just putting services out, because you are doing packages. In some ways, it is easier for you because you’re doing the packages to determine what all your expenses are going to be, and then add in your fee based on that, right? So there’s certain hours, you kind of know that in the beginning. As if getting started though, and maybe someone’s called to you to plan special event and really have no idea on how long it’s going to take you, there is definitely an element of trial and error.
[27:43]My very first paid event, I actually lost money. It was a learning experience, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, I easily could have quit right then and there, and believe me, I had moments where I thought, “Oh my God, how am I ever going do this if I can’t even make money. My self-esteemed and my confidence were dropped, but I just kept going on and figuring out what works. So the reason I laugh when people ask this question, is because I get it so often, like it’s almost daily that I will get emails or Facebook messages, whatever else. I really can’t say it in any other way. It’s not rocket science, I get it that if you don’t know how to do it, but again just go back and look at some on my blog posts, and I give you step-by-step instructions on how to do it.
The other thing that you can do is you can have a look at Business Launch Formula on my website, and I give you step-by-step instructions in there on exactly how to figure out what you need to charge, what’s going to be your best option in terms of, you know like Michelle has a set rate. When I started, I did not have a set rate, I did have an hourly rate, but that worked for me and that works for her. Go through the steps in Business Launch Formula, and have a look. The other thing that you can watch for which is coming up, Michelle and I have talked about this a little bit, is the mentoring group which is going to be launched in January of 2015. So keep an eye on my website for that because that will not only include Business Launch Formula, but the mentoring side of it as well. So, Wendy, I hope that gives you some insights into how Michelle started it or how I’ve started it.
Michelle: And expect it to change…
Melanie: Yes, [29:38] you have to be flexible. The average, just as kind of an indicator for you, the average depending on where you’re located, is anywhere between $50 an hour to about a $125 an hour. Again, that completely depends on where you’re located. When I started, I started at $75 an hour because that was what was conducive to the city, and the environment, and the type of events that I was planning. Michelle, maybe you can just comment about this because you mentioned you asked your husband to call some of the event planning companies in your area. What kind of questions did you have had ask them? [30:16]
Michelle: I had him pretend that he was looking to do a business event. So I think I just had him ask how much it would be for a Friday night, all day Saturday, if we had to do food, kind of questions based on what I wanted for that day. There was like 5 or 10 questions that I wrote down for him. So just write it down, what you want, or what you think your client would ask you, and then ask them that.
Melanie: Right. Yeah. I’ll just share a bit about how or what I suggested to the mentoring group and what has Michelle talking about. [31:08] Actually, this came from, I can’t even take credit for this, this actually came from Addie Graham Kramer, who I did a Webinar with a few weeks ago or maybe month ago now, and you can go back and watch that on the YouTube channel or scanning EventPlanning BlueprintTV, one of the things she suggested in terms of how she determined her rate, was calling event planners in her area and just coming up with a fake event, and finding out what they charge.
I kind of hesitate when I say that out to the people in the world, because it sounds to be a bit deceitful, but you really need to find out what the people charge, competition, and you can’t fool yourself because any other company, like if you go into McDonalds, they’re going to their competition, they’re sending in their teams of people into their competition, and buying the products, seeing what their process is, and how much they charge, and what’s included, and then they break that into the whole analysis that goes into that, and break that down to figure out what their best price and it would be in terms of being competitive as well. So, it’s the same thing, I don’t want to sound deceitful but is just market research.
Michelle: Yeah, it’s exactly that. It’s market research and everybody does it.
Melanie: Yeah. Wendy, I really hope that the answers or helps you and then like I said, go back and Just watch on those couple of videos and read the blogs. Wendy says, “Thanks, I’ll look for your info.” You’re welcome, Wendy.
Michelle, do you have any other insights to share before we log off here we’re kind of coming to end the day in our time, and I just want to be respectful as always as everyone else’s time.
Michelle: [32:54] Right. Just what I said in the beginning, just be really need to be patient with yourself and don’t give up. If it’s something that you really love are passionate about, just know there’s going to be a lot of hurdles the first year. Just keep going through them and it’ll give you more confidence in the long run.
Melanie: Absolutely, I agree. So, I just going to do a quick screen share here so you can check out Michelle’s website and see what she’s up to. Just bear with me. We will do this, it just takes a second, I’ll make it look prettier than it looks, so here’s what’s next – you can sign up for our free weekly advice at eventplanningblueprint.com and get your copy of The Event Toolkit or the Product Launch Formula which I mentioned just a few minutes ago, and then absolutely go in to visit Michelle at wildorangeevents.com. She has made massive progress since I first got to know her earlier this year, and she’s doing so well. I’m so proud of you, Michelle, and I know you’re going to do everything that you want to do and I know that you’re going to do amazing things with Wild Orange Events.
Michelle: Thank you, that means a lot coming from you.
Melanie: Keep us updated because we want to know how everything is going, if you’re doing an event in Australia, or Greece, or all the other clients that you have contacted. Thank you, and thank you guys for all tuning in and watching, and we will have another live Webinar here on, just let me make sure that I’ve got the right date. We are going to be talking specifically about how to get your event planning business started, and my guest is another event planning business owner and also an author, so that’s going to take place on Tuesday, December 9th, so make sure that you join us for that. I will have all the information available.