The Rise of the Virtual Event Planner
Advances in technology have made way for a new type of working within the event industry. There are more opportunities than ever to work virtually, from home, with excellent results.
Event planning has got smarter and technology has opened up possibilities to work globally and flexibly. Virtual working means that you can share your skills more widely and expand your pool of clients across the world. You can also access the skills and support you might need yourself exactly when you need it and without the time, cost and hassle of recruiting a permanent member of staff. Collaboration and business expansion opportunities can be harnessed from the comfort of your armchair to create a network of virtual employees worldwide to work with you towards a common goal.
If you have always wanted to be an eventprof that worked from home it is definitely now a possibility. This handy how-to guide can help you to become an online freelancer, to set up your profile, find work and clients, know how to set your price, stay organized and be successful. No more office, just you planning the events that you love!
So what are the opportunities for this new generation of event planners and how can you start to offer your virtual event planning services?
Getting Started as a Virtual Event Planner
First you need to decide on what you can and want to provide. Obviously as an eventprof you want to organize, plan or manage events but you need to determine in what capacity and the services that you offer. For example:
Are you creative? You could look at offering design services for event logo’s, publications and promotional material.
Perhaps you are more interested in marketing events and can support with event promotion, event competitions, social media pages or online accounts for a specific event?
Maybe you excel at getting in contact with clients, attendees and sponsors to procure funds and create opportunities?
Your focus may be on assisting with administrative tasks or invoicing?
Or you may have lots of experience with the legal side, such as contracts and terms and conditions? Or event health and safety?
You may want to offer event consultations for those who are looking to organize their own events if you have good all-round experience?
Ultimately the options are limitless and you just have to use your own strengths as a guide and build from there.
Setting Your Virtual Price
This can be the most difficult part of virtual or freelance event planning, especially if you have little to no experience of working on your own. There are two risks here with setting your price.
This tells potential clients that either your services aren’t worth it or that you have no confidence in yourself, which means you will either be working yourself to the bone to survive on the small money you offered or you won’t get any offers at all.
This is usually where people go wrong to begin with and can mean that you don’t get the clients because you are undercut on price every time, or the worse part, you get hired by a client that has high expectations because they are paying a high rate and you can’t deliver, which will affect your customer feedback, ratings and could be really damaging.
You want to find a happy medium that allows you to show your worth to a client while also offering competitive pricing over other virtual workers to get the project. You can do this in several ways by considering some of the following pricing options:
Rates offered per projects or quantifiable achievements are popular among those who want a specific job done, for example, setting up a Facebook page for an event, designing a flyer, creating an event registration site. With some basic information you will have a good idea how long this will take you and you can offer a price based on this.
Setting hourly rates is usually reserved for event planning that is hard to define the time input, for example tasks that include a lot of contact or effort that can’t be quantified in set tasks. For example, if you are marketing or assisting with sponsorship, you don’t want to set your price per project because this could take you hours that you wouldn’t get paid for and it is not cost effective. Instead, you want to use hourly rates for situations where you put in time regardless of the outcome and this needs to be made clear to your client from the outset.
Combination or Percentages
This last option is more common when you have more experience and are working with reputable companies that you know are going to do well. For example, you would organize a one-off fee in the beginning to see you through the organizing stages and then you would receive a percentage of the entrance fees on the door or the amount of sponsors that come on board, depending on where your skills have been employed. Many clients like this way of paying as it gives you more of an incentive to work harder for them. Beware this is not always the most lucrative way of doing things though and it is the hardest to dispute if you feel you are underpaid at the end.
Organization as a Virtual Event Planner
Now you know what you want to do and what you want to charge for it, you need to adapt to virtual working. Working in a virtual setting has benefits of working from home (work in your PJ’s, flexibility, no commute) but it also comes with its own set of challenges (more distractions, less human interaction, odd working hours). The thing that really stands out is personal organization and productivity. Working in your own environment, especially in the fast-paced event industry can help to reduce stress (especially for introverts) but it can also easily distract you and reduce your motivation and productivity.
To combat this, staying organized is vital (probably more so than working in a traditional office environment) and you can do this in a variety of ways:
- A personal calendar is an essential. Whether you prefer to use an online calendar or a written one you need it to keep on track.
- Just because a lot of the work is virtual also doesn’t mean that you won’t need to print things out and store them so ensure you have a filing system and special folders (don’t forget you could be taking notes too and they need to go somewhere).
- Have a desk, office or personal space dedicated to your work, when you are in that space you are working and being productive. This mentality will soon make it a habit.
- Set timings for yourself, for example a lunch break or tea break because although it might seem counterintuitive it helps to break up the day and keep you better focused to get things done.
Finding Work and Clients
No work means no money and you can’t have that! If you are new to virtual event planning you may not know where to look but in actual fact you have probably already started without realizing it.
An excellent online freelance platform that caters to a variety of different niches from writing to web design and photography. The chances are you will be able to find what you are looking for and match up with some new potential clients. The best part about this site is that you can start small with little projects first if necessary and then build up to full-scale if you choose to.
Upwork tip – always fill out all of your profile information, it takes time but it is definitely worth it and results in higher hiring rates.
Being a virtual planner means you have an entire network at your fingertips if you use it correctly. Set up your own business accounts and use social media to promote yourself and the projects and events you are involved in if you are authorized to do so. This works as a great portfolio for yourself and helps to create buzz about your services. You can also contact new followers (leads) that might be interested in your services.
Social media tip – Don’t alienate your followers by always pushing products or services in their face, offer them value too in the form of sharing interesting content and other posts they might find interesting.
When you are looking for collaborators for an event you also might like to hire virtually (after all isn’t that what you’re doing). Demand media is an excellent freelancer site that specializes in the more creative niches and can be an excellent place to find photographers, designers and other sites to help bring ideas to life.
Demand Media tip – If you offer creative services you should also sign up there and use it as the first place to branch out your business and improve your reach.
This is particularly beneficial for complete beginners and will help you to get the competitive edge on smaller projects before looking at some larger ones. It is an incredibly competitive site so you may look at underpricing in the beginning to get clients but you will find that after one or two your popularity will grow.
Freelancer tip – Take part in some of the skill tests because these can set you apart from some of the others on the site and definitely contributes to higher hiring rates.
If you have more experience and are looking to do things alone this is the site you want to be on. It is more exclusive and has a harder screening process which eliminates those with too little experience but it gives you access to some top level clients and bigger names for larger events and services. These are the kinds of projects you may not want to tackle alone.
Toptal tip – The Toptal community also facilitates their own events for freelancers to meet up and attend so you could even be sneaky and pitch to the company in general.
Word of Mouth
Getting people talking about your events or services is a great way to get re-hired because people trust the recommendations of others. Make sure that you call people or interact with them online to get them talking about your business. Don’t be scared to ask past clients if they are willing to review you too as high ratings and testimonials really count.
Word of mouth tip – When responding online, remember you and your business are always on display.
5 Top Tips for Virtual Event Planning Success
- Engage Your Audience
Unlike conventional event planning you can be more easily ignored when you are virtual which means you will need to bring out the bells and whistles to get things going and keep the attention of your potential clients or attendees. A great way to do this is to create a media kit for your products and services with a professional layout and great graphics to “wow” them from the start and give them a reason to connect to you.
- Play to Your Strengths
Always offer things that you know that you can provide really well so that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Be honest but always be up for a challenge, little experience doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it!
- Build Experience
Start small, don’t feel like you have to plan a sell-out festival on your first try. You could even start with children’s parties, a friends’ birthday or other family events to get a feel for what is involved.
- Be Bubbly and Enthusiastic
Making people want to work with you is an art form which is made harder by doing it virtually and those with happier personalities will often win through. Whether you are trying to convince a client to hire you, a collaborator to work with you or even just to increase your presence online, stay happy and bubbly because it really shows through emails, social media and meetings.
- Don’t Forget to Take a Break
One of the advantages and disadvantages of virtual working is that you can work at your own time and in some cases work and deadlines can take over. Event planning can be tough and stressful and the quickest way to burnout is not taking some time for yourself. As you will be working from home you should have an area that is completely work free for you to relax or avoid the stress (and temptation) of picking your work back up again!
Virtual event planning can be incredibly rewarding and is easier now than ever before. By utilizing technology and social media you can successfully use your skills to plan events and sell your services. It is important to remember that while finding clients and work has become easier with online freelance websites, you will still need to be competitive and have a clear picture of what you are offering in order to compete in today’s market. With our tips for success you should now be able to get started on your new freelance career path and make it work for you.
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