Hot Home Biz: Event Planning

Want to work from home but not sure what you can do? The Hot Home Business Directory helps you find a business to run out of your home, lists the skills you need to do it and tells how to get started and where to get more information. Read on to find out if this Hot Home Biz is for you!

What you'll do: Plan parties and events that may range in scope from a two-year-old's birthday party complete with "live" cartoon characters in costume to an outdoor wedding to a gala corporate Christmas party. You can choose a specialty or be a "jack of all trades." Some party planners are hired to take care of all the details: sending out the invitations, hanging decorations, finding the caterer, choosing the entertainment, selecting party favors, arranging for a photographer and so on.

Skills you'll need: You must be very well organized and detail-oriented to succeed in this field. You'll have long to-do lists filled with tasks that must be completed on time and within budget. A good imagination is also a plus, and don't be surprised if you're frequently asked to find creative solutions to clients' requests. For example, Ansley Youmans Anderson, co-owner of RSVP Parties & Event Planning in Omaha, Nebraska, once had to supply 12 coffins complete with bodies for one ghoulish party. Patience is certainly a virtue, too. Meetings and phone calls with clients before an event can seem endless as you iron out all the details.

Equipment you'll need: Computer, printer, fax and cell phone and a car, van or SUV to carry decorations and props to party locations. You'll also need a portfolio containing party photos, sample invitations and menus to show potential clients as well as business cards. Subscriptions to several lifestyle magazines will give you ideas and inspiration. Some event planners tote their own ladder and tools too.

Start-up costs: If you already own a computer and other hardware, $500 to $1,000 will cover the expense of a business license, marketing materials (flyers, cards, advertising) and a small stash of basic party supplies (a wholesale ID number will allow you to buy those at cost; see resources that follow). A used van in good condition will run you about $5,000.

Potential income: For corporate events, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, large family reunions, fundraisers and the like, many planners charge 10 percent of the cost of the total party. For small birthday or anniversary parties, it's customary to charge per person attending, ranging from $10 to $40 a head and depending on how much you're required to do. Some planners work out hourly fee arrangements with clients, starting at $20 an hour and up. Kim Nocera, a party planner who focuses on decorating, charges $75 to $200 to decorate a room with balloons and $4.50 to $22 for decorative centerpieces.

How to break in:: To get their feet wet, some home entrepreneurs sign up with online direct-sales companies that provides complete theme parties "in a box." The company requires no inventory and minimal investment -- everything can be ordered online and delivered (along with your services) to the customer as needed, and the planner gets a 25 percent commission. But you still have to do your own marketing to build a customer base.

If you're interested in starting your own business, word of mouth is the best marketing tool. But until that gets going, make up flyers and post them on bulletin boards all over town -- in supermarkets, stores and community centers. Hand out business cards to everyone. Submit an ad or blurb about your business to newsletters published by local churches, merchants' or neighborhood associations, garden clubs and schools. Anderson got to know her local direct sales representatives from organizations such Mary Kay Cosmetics, Pampered Chef and Tupperware to plan their home shows. She also suggests volunteering or bartering your party planning services to your accountant, town councilman, local florist, radio DJ or any other potential customers or vendors; in return, you'll get great exposure. And don't be afraid to try corporations and businesses in your area; those gigs can be very lucrative.

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