Gone are the days of attending in person events - whether this be a conference, networking event or a company-wide happy hour, the event industry was faced with an entirely new wave of disruption and change: virtual events
The industry was recently faced with the harsh option to "sink or swim."
This year, (due to the pandemic), organizations of all sizes were forced to outright cancel their events or find a way to bring people together online.
Events, an industry fueled by human connection, and where the norm has always been to meet in person has to restructure how events are organized, planned and executed.
Virtual event planners that are experts in event planning, execution, and technology
How much do virtual events business charge?
virtual events business typically charge on a per-hour basis at an average of $22/ hour.
Why do people need a virtual event planner?
Putting on a virtual event is a foreign concept to businesses right now. By outsourcing this to a professional coordinator, companies are able to focus on what's most important for their virtual event: the content and the overall value of the event.
Small Players (the opportunity)
How It Works
The virtual event coordinator is responsible for:
- Information Gathering: Meeting with the client (decision maker) and establishing timelines, deliverables and overall needs for the event.
- Sourcing: Hiring the proper vendors needed for the event. This ranges everything from the IT person responsible for setting up and supporting the technology, to virtual team building workshops, to gift/swag bag offerings.
- Planning: Gathering RSVP’s, sending emails and reminders, building event registration platform.
- Execution: Remaining available at all times during the virtual event to ensure technology is working properly, client is happy, and the event is flowing properly.
- Follow-up: Surveys conducted after event to gather feedback and present to the client.
We looked at the trends and saw the search interest for virtual events.
This shows us that interest over time is gradually increasing, which proves that people are looking for this type of service.
Here’s an active list of all virtual events and conferences going digital in 2020
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your virtual events business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Here's an example of a great website by The Planner Collective
- Their online events tab states exactly what kind of services they provide
- Personalized and friendly messaging
- Simplistic design
- Soft colors and design elements (which speaks to the type of customers they work with)
Setting Up Your Virtual Events Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
Certifications in the event planning industry will help take your career to the next level.
Here are the top 5 certifications you should consider:
- CMP: Certified Meetings Professional
- CPCE: Certified Professional in Catering and Events
- CGMP: Certified Government Meeting Professional
- CSEP: Certified Special Events Professional
- GTP: Global Travel Professional
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Virtual Events Business
If you are planning to start a virtual events business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a virtual events business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,517
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $28,419
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a virtual events business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your virtual events business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$4,000 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Design: Web design includes several different aspects, including webpage layout, content creation, and design elements.If you have the skills and knowledge to design your website on your own, then outsourcing this to an expert may not be necessary. There are plenty of other ways you can design a beautiful website using design tools and software.||$200||$6,000|
|A Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Server Hosting: To start your business, you will need to set up and manage a server. The cost for this is typically billed monthly and depends on the platform you choose (typically ranging anywhere from $0-$50/mo).||$0||$50|
|Total Website Costs||$232 (min)||$6,425 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your virtual events business.||$50||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business and which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$4,700 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software is used to track your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your virtual events business, implementing this in the beginning may set your business up for success and save you a lot of time later on. For a full list of best CRMs to use for your business, check out the full list here.||$0||$250|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your virtual events business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your virtual events business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$150 (min)||$2,844 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A virtual events business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Networking Membership Fees: Joining local networking groups or your chamber of commerce is a traditional yet effective way to promote your virtual events business - but these fees add up! It's important to choose the right group(s) that align with your business and help with growth.||$0||$250|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$1,400 (max)|
|Credit Card Processing Fees: If you process credit cards then you will need to deal with interchange fees - which is usually around 3% of total charges. These fees are often forgotten about and can hurt cash flow if not taken into account.||$0||$300|
|Time!: Time is money! When starting a business, think about how much time you are spending on certain tasks that could be delegated to another team member or automated. Additionally, spending too much time on tasks that aren't associated with revenue is a hidden cost of running a business.||$0||$500|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$800 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$1,517 (min)||$28,419 (max)|
Since the startup costs to start virtual events business range between $1,517 - $28,419, there are ways you can raise money to cover these costs.
Here are a few ways you can secure additional funding:
- Launch your product on Kickstarter
- Raise capital by asking friends and family
- Apply for a loan
- Find an investor!
Tools to Get Started
As an event planner, there are some tools and platforms you may want to consider when getting started:
- Proposal software such as Proposify
- CRM system such as Pigeon, Hubspot or Salesforce
- Accounting/Billing system such as Quickbooks
- Internal communication (if you have employees or other members of the team such as Slack
Know Your Audience
Identify a Target Market
Depending on your interests and expertise, there are different markets you can focus on in the events world.
Corporate market (the opportunity): trade shows, meetings, networking, company happy hours, non-profit organizations
Social market: birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries
Not to say it’s completely impossible, but capitalizing on the social market in a “virtual” way is far more difficult than the corporate market.
We are seeing big companies like Microsoft, Salesforce and Docusign shift their biggest events of the year to digital, so there’s a very big opportunity for the corporate market when it comes to virtual events.
It's important to research other virtual events business in the area to get a gauge for what the competition looks like and find something that others are not capitalizing on.
This will help you differentiate yourself in the virtual events business space and gain an understanding of what people are looking for.
Research your competitors and figure out what makes you unique, different and why your customers should really choose you. Deliver impeccable services or products. There’s no shortcut to this!
How to get corporate event planning clients [step by step]
Promote your business on LinkedIn
One of the best ways to attract new clients in the virtual events business is through LinkedIn.
Here’s an effective way to reach out to target customers personally through LinkedIn:
- Identify businesses you’d like to work with and do some research as to who would be in the decision maker shoes for that company
- Personalize. For example, recognize something specific about the company and how you could improve that through your services
- Follow up via email and be the squeaky wheel! Sometimes, it takes a few different outlets to reach the right person within the company.
Tap into your network
One of the most effective ways of getting the word out about your business is simply by tapping your network.
This means friends, family, counterparts, neighbors, even your uber drivers!
No matter where you are, there’s always an opportunity to promote yourself and your business.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Looking for inspiration on how others started their own events business? We got you covered.
We do two main things- bring in entertainment for high-end events and also plan, design and produce high-end events. Mostly on the West Coast with our offices being located in San Francisco (headquarters) and Los Angeles, but we work all over the world in major markets.
Professional Event Planner Associations
- American Planning Association
- Meeting Professionals International
- Professional Convention Management Association
- International Congress and Convention Association
Magazines and Publications
- The Business of Event Planning: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Success Special Events
- Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, etc.
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Into the Heart of Meetings: Basic Principles of Meeting Design