It isn’t always easy to know when you’re ready to grow your event business. But let’s discuss some ideas that might make it easier to expand.
Congratulations, you have a sustainable business. You have plenty of experience and fantastic recommendations. Most of your new jobs are from excellent references from previous clients. Actually, it’s like you have too many clients. You don’t have enough time. So now what?
You need to grow your event business. To expand.
That’s a bit vague. How?
I tend to think that expansion comes in three phases. First is maximizing what you can do on your own. Next is outsourcing work that you are the least skilled at to an assistant or a freelancer. Finally, you can collaborate with other professionals to form strong teams. Each of these steps will be looked at in-depth in a separate post, but this first article is about what you can do on your own.
What “On Your Own” means to me
On your own means that you do not have a boss. You may have people that you work with, but not necessarily the same people for each project, i.e., they earn money when they are working with you but are not on your payroll.
Look for efficiencies
The first thing that you need to do is give yourself more time. It’s not impossible, you just need to find out how you are wasting it. This will take some time and effort up front, but it will save you so much time and hassle in the future. Think about the tasks that take up the majority of your time.
Communication is at the top of the list. Many clients like email because it is easy to search and archive. However, as much as a quarter of your day could be spent just on e-mail. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce that. But even if your email is under control, nowadays there are multiple ways to communicate. Do you use phone with venues but Whatsapp with vendors and find it annoying to have to go through different channels? (Hint: Try ThymeBase and bring everyone together).
What about your event task lists? I’m sure that you have a master checklist that you take items from that are specific to the event. Or maybe your checklists all over the place, some digital and others on post-it notes. What may be easier is having many small checklists that you can mix and match for each event. For example, this could be as simple as making sure you have different checklists for indoor events versus outdoor events. Have these in a convenient location so you don’t have to search for them every single event.
Find out what works
Think back about your 5 favorite events in the past year. Why were they your favorites? What do they have in common? Was it the ease of coordination with the venue? Was it the people that you coordinated with? Was it the type of client that you had? Were they the most profitable? Write it all down.
Now do the same with your 5 worst experiences. Maybe the event was great but you felt overwhelmed by a demanding client. Or something went wrong that was out of your control. It could be that the client just took too long to pay.
Streamline your offerings
Review what you have written and really think about what you want to concentrate on. It could be what you are the best at. It could be what you enjoy the most. It could be what makes you the most profit. Use this to decide who your future clients will be.
Maybe you are a wedding planner that does multiple weddings per weekend but have decided that it is too complicated to manage multiple clients per weekend. So in the future, you will only do entire wedding weekends that have at least two auxiliary events such as rehearsal dinner or morning-after brunch. Or it could be that you are a photographer who wants to focus on small corporate events that are held in bars because you love to shoot in low lighting and the guests are friendlier since people drink less at work events than at personal events.
Once you have decided your niche don’t feel bad about turning down clients that don’t fit those parameters. Of course, you can do a favor for a regular client or take a not ideal job when times are a bit slow. But try to focus on saying yes to the type of events that you really care about.
By really reviewing how you spend your time you will be able to expand your business and even find ways to earn a bit more money with the same amount of time. But that may not be enough.
Outsourcing And Hiring As You Grow Your Event Business
As mentioned above, I tend to think that expansion comes in three phases when you want to grow your event business. First is maximizing what you can do on your own. Next is outsourcing work that you are the least skilled at to an assistant or a contractor. Finally, you can collaborate with other professionals to form strong teams. This article is going to focus on the second phase, outsourcing and hiring.
Why discuss both outsourcing and hiring together?
At some point, you’ll grow your event business to a size that you can no longer manage on your own. Once you realize where your strengths are you will need to have someone else do the tasks that you are not able to or do not want to do.
Outsourcing is for highly specific tasks. This is contract work. Hiring is for having someone to replicate or complement what you do. With hiring they become your employee. This article is not a how to, but when to. Keep reading to learn when each should be used.
Outsource non-core specific tasks
Everyone has a part of their job that they don’t like or aren’t good at or just don’t have the time to do. This is usually some sort of task that requires regular maintenance but has nothing to do with your core competency. It is a task that is slightly more complicated than reordering printer paper. You need to outsource those tasks.
As you expand your business it will be more profitable for you to hire someone to maintain your website than for you to spend hours figuring out how to do it yourself. The same goes for your taxes. Or answering initial enquiries. Or even writing blog posts.
Let’s consider taxes. You may have hired an assistant/apprentice who moonlights as a tax accountant. If so, that’s great, you are quite lucky. But for really specific tasks, you should consider hiring multiple contractors, one for each function. For example, you can hire an accountant for two hours a week to do your taxes. Maybe the accountant can also do another hour a week of client billing. But they are not who you are going to hire for online marketing.
Hire to be in two places at once
You cannot be in two places at once. You just can’t. Yet sometimes you are expected to be. Hiring someone who can carry out your plans is like being in two places at once.
When your business is small and you are doing simpler events this may not be a problem. But as you grow your event business and take on more and bigger events you will need the physical presence of another person. This person will be able to carry out your precise plans easily, especially if you coordinate through a digital platform (really, consider ThymeBase’s event planning software for this). This could be an assistant who has experience in this type of work. However, you could also choose to hire an apprentice.
Consider an apprentice
This could be a great opportunity to take on an apprentice. An apprenticeship is basically hiring someone who you intend to teach. This means that you would be in the role of a mentor, teaching someone who possibly has little experience. But this is also a great opportunity for you to figure out where you add value. If you can teach someone to replace you for a single event when you get sick, that is great. If you can teach someone to understand your job and add their own ideas to it, that’s even better.
Keep in mind, teaching is a great way to show that you have mastered a skill. Think of the countless times that you have done the same task. Then at one moment, you are asked why. Your answer should be something more than just “because” or “that’s how I’ve always done it”. If it’s not, then you need to spend the time to really get to an answer. This will help both you and your apprentice.
A hire can replicate or complement
Whether you choose to have an assistant or apprentice or someone with a completely different title, this person should either be able to do the same things you do in the same way or to bring other skills that you do not have. Having someone who can replicate your work will make it possible for you to expand by planning more of the same type of events. Having someone who can complement your work will make it possible for you to focus more on your competencies and get more lucrative work.
However, if you want to work with someone who you feel has complementary abilities but is at the same level as you, you may want to consider collaboration.
How To Grow Your Event Business Through Collaboration
We’ve discussed the first two phases. First is maximizing what you can do on your own. Next is outsourcing work that you are the least skilled at to an assistant or a contractor. Then, you can collaborate with other professionals to form strong teams. This article is going to focus on the final phase, collaboration.
Look for partnerships with complementary services
Some partnerships were meant to be, like a warm chocolate chip cookie with a cold glass of milk. If you are a wedding photographer, consider pairing up with a DJ and offer both your services together, giving the client a discount if you are both hired. A sound designer can pair up with a lighting designer. Find like-minded partners who you trust and you can refer each other to jobs.
Some combinations may have multiplicative effects so be sure to consider a partner whose skills really augment yours. For example, teaming up with anyone who is bilingual will be an enormous advantage if your focus is planning international business events.
Market yourselves as a team
Once you find who you want to work with, spend time determining how you are going to market both yourself and your partner. The wedding photographer who teams up with a DJ can put together a slideshow that combines a photographic portfolio with a musical one.
This means that you will need to learn more details about the business of your partner and they will need to learn about yours. Neither of you needs to be an expert in the other’s profession, you just need to know enough to convince a client you know what you are talking about.
Keep in mind that once you find someone that you enjoy working with you may want to formalize your arrangements.
Get it in writing
You may just have a handshake agreement with some friends to pass on referrals. That’s fine. But if it is any more complicated than that, get it in writing. If expenses will be shared, get it in writing. If you are going to incorporate as a business, get yourselves lawyers and have them put it in writing. They will be able to figure out what is the best proper legal structure for your partnership.
Have an exit strategy
Always have an exit strategy. When going into any partnership make sure that there is a fair and agreed-upon way to get out of it. While you may have the best intentions going into it, life happens.
Sometimes partnerships break up because of a falling out between partners and the results can be contentious and last for years. But sometimes partners separate because of an illness or family move and a partnership still needs to have a proper map to dissolution. I have personally seen a 20-year friendship and decade long professional relationship fall apart because the new wife of one partner had a grudge against the other partner. The year-long dissolution cost lots of time and money and caused a great deal of stress between two former best friends.
Creating an exit strategy doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. It just needs to be clear and fair. That also means each partner has their own representative that is looking out for their interests.
This is how a business grows. Congratulations on getting your business to this point. It’s worth mentioning that growth often happens so gradually you barely notice it. Other times it’s like someone lit rocket fuel beneath you. However you grow, dream big. I’m rooting for you!