Set Up Your Business
Create a plan
Create a plan that determines what type or range of event planning services you will provide.
Choose a business structure
Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships must register their structure with CA Secretary of State before registering locally.
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS. This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number instead.
Register your business
Register your business with the City through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX) and the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.
You may choose to obtain a separate business address, or you may use your personal address for your registration. Whichever you choose, it must be a physical address, not a P.O. Box.
Choose and file a business name
File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. Research the name’s availability in your county before filing.
Obtain workers’ compensation insurance if you will have employees. If you employ anyone you will need workers’ compensation insurance.
General Liability Insurance
Consider obtaining general liability insurance as you and your staff will be responsible for setting up physical spaces at events.
A number of organizations grant formal certifications for event planners. Obtaining one or two certifications can allow you to secure a reputation of reliability and professionalism, and keeping your certifications current can help you to retain your professional credibility. Common certifications are the CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) or CMP (Certified Meeting Professional).
Determine where and how you want to conduct day-to-day operations. There are three main options for choosing a event planning business location: Home Based Business, Commercial Location, and Co-working Spaces.
Key things to know about a home office: (1) Clients cannot come to your home; (2) Employees cannot work out of your home, unless they also live there; (3) You can’t display advertising; (4) You can’t use more than 25% of the space for commercial purposes. Review the SF Planning Department's Guide to Home Offices for more information.
Beware that operating a home based business could violate your lease or Homeowners Association (HOA) charter.
Obtain event-specific permits where needed, whether it be for a temporary street closure, outdoor speakers, or even a rodeo or carnival.
Solicit work using the web, word-of-mouth, advertising, partnerships, etc. Create a sales plan or system for marketing and managing leads (such as a CRM).
Negotiate compensation & payment plans prior to signing a contract. Consider when to use a flat project fee, percentage of expenses, hourly rate, and/or commissionable rate.
Establish partnerships with key service providers before serving your first clients. Contact travel providers, caterers, hotel chains and event centers, and discuss long-term partnerships. In return for your frequent business, service providers may be willing to offer you considerable price discounts, allowing you to keep your expenses low and maximize profits.
Pay your taxes
Depending on the legal form of your business, you may be required to pay the federal self-employment tax, among other taxes. Review the Forms and Associated Taxes for Independent Contractors.