There are five possible ways to charge for your services. Keep in mind that the going rate for fees varies based on your location. For example, major cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco typically allow for charging higher rates than small towns. Here are the most common ways to charge:
1) Hourly Rate
Ask yourself what you think you are worth and decide on a set hourly rate. The amount of experience you have will play a role in your decision. A common hourly rate can fall within $25/hr for a new planner, and go upwards of $100+/hr for top event planners with amazing portfolios.
Typically you can charge about 30% more for a corporate event than a social event. Adjusting your prices based on the market you are serving (social vs corporate) is an acceptable practice.
2) Flat Fee
Charging a flat fee is the most common and preferred method of billing your client. With a flat fee, there are no surprises to you or your client. Once you discuss the fee amount with honesty and transparency, you and the client can focus solely on making the event as great as possible.
When you outline your flat fee it is normal to charge a fee for your services, plus a percentage based on the total vendor fees.
A standard vendor commission percentage fee is 10-15% so for example if a caterer charges $3000 for an event, your fee would be $300-450 for locating and coordinating that particular vendor.
The above fee structure goes for both social and corporate events.
In order to protect yourself financially, it is recommended to receive a 50% deposit upfront, and the remaining 50% within two weeks of the event.
To calculate what your flat fee will be, you should make your best estimate on the number of hours you will put in toward the planning; plus any expenses you will have like gas, printing, supplies, equipment, etc; plus build in a 10 – 20% buffer in case the scope of the event goes over the initial details and this can be your flat fee that you charge.
3) Percentage of the Event
Some planners prefer to charge clients a percentage of their total event budget. The biggest difficulty with this method of charging is to present it to your client in a way that they will approve it. If you think you can run this by them without the client questioning your billing method then this is a possibility you should consider. Typical percentage amounts are 15 – 20% of the event budget. You can adjust it lower if you feel necessary.
4) Day-of Coordination
At some point in your career, you will be asked to do a day of coordination. These typically happen for weddings but sometimes for special events too. When a client wants to hire you for day-of service, it means they have chosen their own vendors and work with them directly while you come in on the day of the event to make sure it runs smoothly.
You can charge either by the hour or a flat fee for day-of coordination. You should assume 8 – 10 hours of work on the day of the event (multiply that by your hourly rate to get a flat fee), but do not forget the preparation you will have to do.
We like to say you should prepare for at least one month to familiarize yourself fully with all aspects of the event you are coordinating. The extra preparation prior to the event may take you an additional 10 – 20 hours so be sure you take this into account when figuring out your fee.
Since day-of coordination events are less expensive for the client, they have grown in popularity in recent years due to a slower economy. So even if you do not anticipate pitching this service, you may be asked for this by a client.
5) Vendor Commission
A minority of planners choose to either heavily discount their client fees or charge nothing for their service, and make all their money by taking a commission from the vendors they hire.
This method of billing has some supporters and some who dislike it. Those against this method say that you are doing a dis-service to your client by selecting vendors who are not the best at what they do but they will pay you the highest commission. Supporters of charging a commission say they still select the best vendors they know, but they just go the extra step to work out a commission structure.
We would recommend against using this method unless you are 100% transparent with your client about what you do. It may be a tempting way to undercut the competition but overall it will leave more clients questioning your vendor selection than not. By being transparent with your client like in method #2 above, you can better serve your client.
There you have it – the five most common ways to charge for your service. If you would like to read more about starting your own bussiness you can do so here.
Don’t forget to closely monitor your total overhead costs at all times. Overhead costs are made up of all non-labor expenses you have that are needed to put on the event. For example things like additional phone bill costs, gas expenses, hiring temporary help, etc. These overhead costs can be easily overlooked and often make up about 4 – 5% of the total event budget. So be sure to monitor these and incorporate them into your pricing.
Other important items related to pricing:
Receiving deposits – We recommend you receive a 30 – 50% non-refundable deposit at the time of signing the contract. And the remaining portion two weeks prior to the event.
Consultation fee – Planners often ask if they should charge a fee for the initial consultation. If you are just starting out, we do not recommend charging a consultation fee but if you are more experienced, we like this rule of thumb –
Consultations are free within 10 miles of where you live. Beyond that charge a $45 – 75 fee and put it toward a signed contract. Remember that if you don’t charge a consultation fee then don’t give out specific vendor information. Sometimes clients try to fish for vendor, venue and theme ideas only to end up going with a different planner. You don’t want this to happen to you. Here’s a line you can use to offset giving specific vendor contact information prior to a signed agreement or consultation fee – “I work with a myriad of wedding vendors that provide nothing less than excellent service. If you would like to engage our services, I would be more than happy to get the right vendors involved.”
Decor charges – if you also do elaborate decor for the event you can charge extra for it. If you do not view decor as an extra specialty you offer then just charge for your planning services as usual