Ways to Stop Giving Away Free Event Planning Advice

Resist the Urge to Suggest Ideas While Still Remaining Responsive

Coming up empty
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Don’t make the mistake of — perhaps unknowingly — working for free.

As an event planner, you will undoubtedly encounter people who will either ask you questions on the spot or put you in their mental contact list for future advice. For example, when you run into this person while waiting in line for coffee at the local coffee shop or while standing on the sidelines at your child’s soccer game, they casually ask your thoughts regarding an event they are planning.

1. Draw the Line

You are a professional, and you are to be paid for the event planning services you provide, including your thoughts and opinions. Have respect for yourself and the work that you do and expect others to do the same. If others feel confident enough to ask your professional opinion on planning an event, then they must — on some level — trust you and your work product.

There is a line between taking the steps necessary to sell your services and giving away free event planning advice. Don’t cross that line. Remind yourself that you are professional and under no obligation to provide your event planning services to neighbors, friends, or family for free.

True friends want your business to succeed and should respect your boundaries. Your family should be supportive as well. Those who claim they are your friends because they only want you to provide free event planning advice were not your friends in the first place.

2. Don’t Take the Bait

Once you take a bite of the bait, you are on the hook. Don’t bite. As you begin discussing event planning, you will slowly be pulled in and may find yourself relaxing, getting into your business mode, and unknowingly start providing free event planning advice. Many of us can think back to a conversation or two when we got caught up, enthusiastically sharing stories of our work in planning events, and provided creative ideas at no charge.

So stop before it is too late. Be mindful of people and situations that may lend themselves to these conversations and be prepared not to get reeled in.

3. Take the Conversation in a Different Direction

When asked for free event planning advice, take the conversation in a different direction. Instead of directly answering a question about how to handle an event complication, use this opportunity to talk about your event planning experience and how you have faced that situation in your line of work. As an alternative to providing a solution to their problem, provide reasons that they should hire you to solve that problem for them. Discuss your success, your results, and reference big-name clients if you have any. Your goal is to position yourself as an experienced professional event planner.

4. Don’t Be a Deer Caught in Headlights

At one time or another, we have all been caught in situations that catch us off guard and leave us speechless or unable to respond how we would like. The key is to be prepared for these situations. If you anticipate a friend or relative asking you outright to provide free event planning advice or services, have your thoughtful response ready. There are several respectful ways of addressing this request; some of which may even garner you new business.

Consider lightheartedly citing how, as much as you would like to help your friend, you won’t have a business if you spend your time and energy working for non-paying clients. If you are exceptionally busy, you can refer to the unfortunate lack of free time outside of work demands. If you would like to help this individual, consider offering them a “friends and family discount” for your services.

5. Dangle Your Own Hook

Once you have discussed your services, experience, and reasons for not providing free event planning advice, dangle your own hook. You have established yourself as a professional that is well suited to plan their event, and connected with this individual on a personal level. The next step is to plant the seed that they formally hire you for your services if they want to continue the conversation.

Suggest a meeting to discuss their event, what they have in mind, and the services you provide. Communicate in general terms how you think your event planning services would be a good fit for what they are looking for with regards to their event. Those who are legitimate prospects will take advantage of the opportunity to meet with you. For those individuals only looking for a freebie, then be thankful you cut your losses up front.

6. Volunteering Your Services Is Different

Volunteering your professional event planning services is an effective tool for building and growing your event planning business. In that scenario, you have a set objective of gaining experience, networking, gaining potential client business, or establishing yourself with an organization. Don’t confuse this deliberate action with providing free event planning advice to anyone who asks.

7. Real Prospects and Fake Prospects: Know the Difference

When you have your own successful event planning business, every encounter with another person is an opportunity to network by making that personal connection. It is important to know how to differentiate between a real prospect and a fake prospect, so you don’t waste your valuable time.

Serious prospects have a clear sense of what they are looking for and a clear objective. Those who are just looking for free event planning advice do not. Learn to separate the two, so you can focus on those potential prospects who are willing to pay you for your event planning services.

Ask particular questions regarding the time frame for the event, the number of guests, what venues they are considering and so forth. Those who shy away from answering these questions or answer in vague responses were not seriously looking for event planning services in the first place.