How to Start a Career as a Freelance Event Producer

finale fashion show models runway

The world of events is crazy, chaotic and not at all as glamorous as many think it is. To be a producer, especially in the fashion industry, you need to have razor sharp time management skills, ridiculous attention to detail and the ability to be psychic. No, not really. But you do need to think of all the things that could possibly go wrong, create solutions for them and have those in your back pocket at any point of the production process because 9 times out of 10, you will need to use them.

Event producers are not necessarily all on a freelance level. There are agencies that staff them full time as well as companies who have dedicated event teams. For the purposes of this post, we will look into what it takes to be a freelance producer, how to start and the things you have to keep in mind along the way.

But first…

THE BASICS

WHAT IS AN EVENT PRODUCER?

Event producers take a design and bring it to life – they are responsible for the entire event from conception to reality. What this means: as an event producer, you will work with everyone from audio to catering to staging and will often be in charge of all onsite members. Producers manage large teams to ensure everything runs smoothly the day of the event and then are usually the ones in charge of breaking it all down afterwards. One of the most important jobs an event producer has is to constantly think about new and creative ways to express a client’s brand through their event and how to increase revenue all while keeping total costs down.

A dedicated producer helps define the purpose of an event. A clear purpose will also help determine an appropriate budget, which is extremely helpful and absolutely necessary. In a nutshell, event producers handle analytical and event planning strategies while filling in the blanks with inventive problem solving and practical step-by-step procedures.

What will set you apart from other producers is taking the time to determine the needs of the client, plan the sessions, coordinate the providers and execute what needs to happen. This includes coordinating and hiring talent, determining technical needs, creating session walk-sheets and minute-by-minute rundowns, setting rehearsal schedules, sound checks and AV checks. Additionally, it is the producer’s responsibility to make sure everything is on time and on budget (if you can get it under, the client will love you more) while ensuring top quality and effectiveness.

ON THE JOB

FUNCTIONS OF AN EVENT PRODUCER

Once the design details are set, one of the most important tasks of an event producer is to plan the execution. This can be everything from getting the appropriate number of people to work and set up/breakdown, to making sure each team knows what their involvement is before, during and after the event. 

It’s important to note that each project may bring with it very specific tasks and usually has its own set of requirements. Be sure to identify these first, appropriately position them within their level of importance and estimate how much time you will need for each. A good rule of thumb to follow: always give a project more time to complete than necessary, just in case. It’s better to be done with a task early and move onto the next than not giving yourself enough time and setting the entire project back.  

While this list is not the only thing you should use when building a plan for your event execution, these are the most common tasks event producers will face on any given project. Feel free to use these notes as a guideline, but be sure to edit them to fit your personal project.

Common functions of an event producer:

→ Conduct the research necessary to determine the needs of your target market and how best to tailor the experience to their interests

→ Liaise with clients to ascertain their precise event requirements

→ Create the event’s format and content tailored to the information clients provided during the research phase

→ Handle teams of people who physically carry out the event vision

→ Come up with event elements that are both practical and imaginative, making sure to plan for and carry out each step of the process until event completion

→ Manage client relationships on production related issues, as well as managing client needs and expectations

→ Secure and book a suitable venue or location based on client’s needs

→ Carefully read over venue contracts as these are the most important aspect of any event. Be sure to understand each point, ask questions where necessary and request additional information if needed.

→ Source vendors and negotiate contracts with all

→ Manage production staff – including assigning individual responsibilities and setting deadlines for deliverables

→ Work with in-house design and operations divisions to reach client goals for each project

→ Manage production schedules and logistics

→ Obtain city permits, if applicable

→ Prepare documents for events – including run-of-show and production schedules

→ Produce detailed proposals for events (timelines, venues, suppliers, legal obligations, staffing and budgets)

→ Create, carefully manage and adhere to a budget that both you and client have agreed upon, making sure that any additional expenses are noted and billed

→ Coordinate venue management, caterers, designers, contractors and equipment hire

→ Organize facilities for car parking, security, first aid, hospitality and the media

→ Identify and secure speakers or special guests

→ Plan room layouts and the entertainment program

→ Coordinate staffing requirements and staff briefings

→ Liaise with marketing and PR teams to promote the event

→ Organise the production of tickets, posters, catalogues and any other sales advertising 

→ Handle any client concerns and troubleshooting on the day of the event to ensure that all runs smoothly

→ Oversee the breakdown of the event, ensuring the venue is cleared completely and efficiently

→ Post-event evaluation (including data entry and analysis and producing reports for event stakeholders)

Once the design details are set, one of the most important tasks of an event producer is to plan the execution. This can be everything from getting the appropriate number of people to work and set up/breakdown, to making sure each team knows what their involvement is before, during and after the event. 

It’s important to note that each project may bring with it very specific tasks and usually has its own set of requirements. Be sure to identify these first, appropriately position them within their level of importance and estimate how much time you will need for each. A good rule of thumb to follow: always give a project more time to complete than necessary, just in case. It’s better to be done with a task early and move onto the next than not giving yourself enough time and setting the entire project back.  

While this list is not the only thing you should use when building a plan for your event execution, these are the most common tasks event producers will face on any given project. Feel free to use these notes as a guideline, but be sure to edit them to fit your personal project.

Common functions of an event producer:

→ Conduct the research necessary to determine the needs of your target market and how best to tailor the experience to their interests

→ Liaise with clients to ascertain their precise event requirements

→ Create the event’s format and content tailored to the information clients provided during the research phase

→ Handle teams of people who physically carry out the event vision

→ Come up with event elements that are both practical and imaginative, making sure to plan for and carry out each step of the process until event completion

→ Manage client relationships on production related issues, as well as managing client needs and expectations

→ Secure and book a suitable venue or location based on client’s needs

→ Carefully read over venue contracts as these are the most important aspect of any event. Be sure to understand each point, ask questions where necessary and request additional information if needed.

→ Source vendors and negotiate contracts with all

→ Manage production staff – including assigning individual responsibilities and setting deadlines for deliverables

→ Work with in-house design and operations divisions to reach client goals for each project

→ Manage production schedules and logistics

→ Obtain city permits, if applicable

→ Prepare documents for events – including run-of-show and production schedules

→ Produce detailed proposals for events (timelines, venues, suppliers, legal obligations, staffing and budgets)

→ Create, carefully manage and adhere to a budget that both you and client have agreed upon, making sure that any additional expenses are noted and billed

→ Coordinate venue management, caterers, designers, contractors and equipment hire

→ Organize facilities for car parking, security, first aid, hospitality and the media

→ Identify and secure speakers or special guests

→ Plan room layouts and the entertainment program

→ Coordinate staffing requirements and staff briefings

→ Liaise with marketing and PR teams to promote the event

→ Organise the production of tickets, posters, catalogues and any other sales advertising 

→ Handle any client concerns and troubleshooting on the day of the event to ensure that all runs smoothly

→ Oversee the breakdown of the event, ensuring the venue is cleared completely and efficiently

→ Post-event evaluation (including data entry and analysis and producing reports for event stakeholders)

tables setup for a presentation

the breakdown

benefits of being a freelance event producer

These days, it seems more and more people are turning away from the classic model of working within a company in an office setting to working freelance.

But what does this mean exactly and why are so many people choosing this over the traditional work model?

Many times, being part of a company means that you have to uphold their aesthetic, vision and ideals. When you are your own boss, you have the liberty to put your name on the work you do without feeling like you have to compromise any of the above. Being a freelancer means that you can offer the services you want, in the way you want, with 100% control over which projects you choose to take on and which you pass. The ultimate benefit for freelancers is that they have full creative and executive control of their events as well as their career and progression.

Additionally, in the event industry, many companies like to work with freelancers. By doing so rather than employing someone on their payroll, it reduces their human resources costs and paperwork.

However, it's important to keep the following things in mind

if you decide to go the freelance route...

→ You will not get employee benefits such as sick days, 401K and holiday pay. 

→ You will not get a steady paycheck. Some months, this is wonderful as the stream of money keeps coming in. Others, you’re praying for the next project that will help pay your rent. This part is hard, especially in the beginning; even more so if you came from a full-time salaried job.

→ You are 100% responsible for your work and your company’s reputation. 

Freelancing has its pros and cons. In the end, by choosing this way of life, you will be your own boss and make a name for yourself. This is especially the case if you are selective about who you work with and the projects that you take on. Over time, this is a great way to build up your personal brand and highlight your exclusivity.

FREELANCING 101

so, HOW DO YOU BEGIN?

1. GAIN EXPERIENCE

The truth is, you are going to have a hard time looking for work as a freelancer if you don’t have work experience that proves you can do the job you claim you can. So, before starting your career as a freelancer, make sure you get enough experience to position yourself as an expert in your field. Higher exposure to work in your field will lead to more opportunities. Ways to achieve this:  

•  FIND AN  INTERNSHIP 
Internships are extremely valuable and important for any career within the fashion industry. While many of them don’t pay, or pay low, the experience you gain from them as well as the exposure to the day-to-day and contacts you network and connect with more than make up for it in the long run. 

Read all about internships and tips on how to find one easily here.

•  VOLUNTEER AT EVENTS
While this doesn’t necessarily have to be fashion-exclusive, there are various options for volunteering at events. You can look locally for upcoming events in your city. You’d be surprised just how many things go on that sometimes you don’t even know about! Sites like Indeed are a gold mine when it comes to searching for any opportunities. Simply type “fashion event volunteer” and you will get hundreds of search results. 

If you’re in school, try asking your career center. Many times, especially when there are large industry events, such as New York Fashion Week, schools will get requests for volunteers. Additionally, check to see if any teams at your school need help with events. Some schools have dedicated committees or even event planning teams, but if yours doesn’t, start one! 

•  BECAME PART OF FACEBOOK GROUPS
While many people may say that Facebook is a thing of the past, I find that it is a fantastic way to connect with other people in similar niches and experiences through groups. Groups are a helpful (and free!) way of connecting, learning and searching for opportunities. There are thousands of groups for every industry, no matter what you are looking for, all it takes is some searching. 

•  LINKEDIN IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
You can use this incredible platform in multiple ways. Whether you need to find opportunities to gain experience or if you are ready to look for freelance gigs, Linkedin is the way to go. Not only can you search through their updated ‘jobs’ area, but you can search by company and reach out to potential HR managers that are looking to hire. The beauty of this site is that it truly links industry professionals in a number of ways, the trick is just to know what to look for and where to look!

•  WORK WITH A RECRUITING AGENCY
There are many benefits to working with agencies: they look for possible opportunities for you (saving you all the steps above) and sometimes have access to opportunities that have not yet been shared online, giving you a slight advantage. Depending on the agency you use, you could be paired with someone who will work with you every step of the way – asking about your career goals, exact details of the opportunities you’re in search of and can provide guidance on things like contracts and negotiations. Keep in mind that even if you work with agencies, you should continue to look for opportunities on your own or at the very least keep your Linkedin profile and resume up to date on any job search sites.

Some of my favorite fashion agencies include: 
Fourth Floor 
JBCStyle
SBH Fashion 
24 Seven LLC.
Atrium Staffing

Soloman Page 

2. COLD EMAIL, COLD EMAIL, COLD EMAIL!

While many people may not tell you this, cold emailing is one of the most effective methods of finding freelance work. The key here is to be professional, confident, but not pushy. There is a fine line between someone looking to introduce themselves and following up to ensure the initial email was received versus someone who is harassing a company with daily emails. While persistence does pay off, being annoying does not.

Never sent a cold email before? No problem. Start here:

→ WHO TO EMAIL: There is no exact science to looking for companies or specific people you want to email. A simple Google search for production companies in your area should create a starting point. Check out the kinds of events they do and their overall aesthetic. If you feel it’s a match with your work, look on their contact page or in their footer for an email address. Sometimes you may strike gold and get a direct contact. Most times you’ll find a generic email that looks like “info@Xcompany.com”. 

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Don’t be afraid of emailing executive members. See contact information for a company’s CEO or president? Send them your email! They may want to see you after reading your resume or direct you to the hiring manager. With a recommendation from a high level executive, you’re bound to get to the front of any hiring line! 

→ WHAT TO SAY: The email itself does not have to be long. Think of it like a cover letter, only it shouldn’t sound like it’s for a specific job, but rather encompasses and highlights your most noteworthy accomplishments. Have you worked with well-known companies? Add one or two in there. Worked a large event or managed a large group of people? Include those figures adding a small note about the experience and how this skill can benefit the company you’re emailing. In the end, the question you need to answer is how can your skills benefit this company? 

2. COLD EMAIL, COLD EMAIL, COLD EMAIL!

While many people may not tell you this, cold emailing is one of the most effective methods of finding freelance work. The key here is to be professional, confident, but not pushy. There is a fine line between someone looking to introduce themselves and following up to ensure the initial email was received versus someone who is harassing a company with daily emails. While persistence does pay off, being annoying does not.

Never sent a cold email before? No problem. Start here:

→ WHO TO EMAIL: There is no exact science to looking for companies or specific people you want to email. A simple Google search for production companies in your area should create a starting point. Check out the kinds of events they do and their overall aesthetic. If you feel it’s a match with your work, look on their contact page or in their footer for an email address. Sometimes you may strike gold and get a direct contact. Most times you’ll find a generic email that looks like “info@Xcompany.com”. 

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Don’t be afraid of emailing executive members. See contact information for a company’s CEO or president? Send them your email! They may want to see you after reading your resume or direct you to the hiring manager. With a recommendation from a high level executive, you’re bound to get to the front of any hiring line! 

→ WHAT TO SAY: The email itself does not have to be long. Think of it like a cover letter, only it shouldn’t sound like it’s for a specific job, but rather encompasses and highlights your most noteworthy accomplishments. Have you worked with well-known companies? Add one or two in there. Worked a large event or managed a large group of people? Include those figures adding a small note about the experience and how this skill can benefit the company you’re emailing. In the end, the question you need to answer is how can your skills benefit this company? 

Not sure what to say or how to word that email?
Consider our Custom Email Service. You’ll receive a personalized template designed to include your professional experience that can be used for all your cold emailing needs.  

→ WHAT TO EXPECT: Unfortunately, you will probably get a handful of responses to every 50 you send out. That’s just the way it works. Don’t be alarmed and don’t take it personally. The great thing about this is that the companies who do respond have read your email, liked your resume and want to meet with you. At the very least (if a company is not currently hiring) they will add you to their freelance roster. This is also something you can request if they don’t mention it first. For companies that don’t respond, after sending that initial email, wait a few days and follow up. If you still don’t hear back, just let it go and continue to focus on searching for others. 

→ HOW TO RESPOND: The responses you receive will usually fall into one of two categories: interested, let’s set up an interview OR interested, will add you to our roster. It’s up to you to prepare professional responses in a way that shows the company you mean business. If they ask you for dates and times you are available, be sure to give them a few options, 2-3 are fine. If you’re open, let them know, but don’t just come out and say it. The key here is to be interested, available, but not seem like you are going to drop everything and run to this interview even if you are! Provide some options and then ask them what works best for them. Once you have that information, you can plan accordingly.

→ KEEP TABS ON WHO YOU REACH OUT TO: This is super important. Create an Excel sheet of all the companies you have contacted, the person you originally reached out to (if this information was available), the date of email, whether they responded, notes on the call and which company you sent a follow up email to. Seems cumbersome, but if you are sending out hundreds of these emails, it’s important information that comes in handy. You don’t want to send the same company an email twice, it will make you look like you’re unorganized not the best first impression

→ IMPORTANT EMAIL NOTES: If you’re using Gmail to contact these companies, make sure to be aware of the following: if you send an email with the exact subject line, sometimes Gmail won’t send it. The reason? It treats it like a duplicate and will either not send it or if it does go through, it will be in response mode, where it looks like you’re responding to a previously sent email. Even though it’s easier to just keep resending the same email, make sure that each one gets a slight variation to the subject line. One way of doing this is by adding the company’s name to the subject. This way, no two companies ever get the same version. 

Another important note is to never send your resume as an attachment. While this may go against everything you know, internet servers have gotten smarter and their tracking has gotten more intense. If a company receives an email with an attachment from an outside source, it may view it as spam and either never deliver or send it directly to the spam folder. The trick: upload the file onto Google Drive, create a shareable link and add that link into the body of the email. It’s an easy fix that will help ensure your emails are always delivered. 

→ WHAT TO EXPECT: Unfortunately, you will probably get a handful of responses to every 50 you send out. That’s just the way it works. Don’t be alarmed and don’t take it personally. The great thing about this is that the companies who do respond have read your email, liked your resume and want to meet with you. At the very least (if a company is not currently hiring) they will add you to their freelance roster. This is also something you can request if they don’t mention it first. For companies that don’t respond, after sending that initial email, wait a few days and follow up. If you still don’t hear back, just let it go and continue to focus on searching for others. 

→ HOW TO RESPOND: The responses you receive will usually fall into one of two categories: interested, let’s set up an interview OR interested, will add you to our roster. It’s up to you to prepare professional responses in a way that shows the company you mean business. If they ask you for dates and times you are available, be sure to give them a few options, 2-3 are fine. If you’re open, let them know, but don’t just come out and say it. The key here is to be interested, available, but not seem like you are going to drop everything and run to this interview even if you are! Provide some options and then ask them what works best for them. Once you have that information, you can plan accordingly.

→ KEEP TABS ON WHO YOU REACH OUT TO: This is super important. Create an Excel sheet of all the companies you have contacted, the person you originally reached out to (if this information was available), the date of email, whether they responded, notes on the call and which company you sent a follow up email to. Seems cumbersome, but if you are sending out hundreds of these emails, it’s important information that comes in handy. You don’t want to send the same company an email twice, it will make you look like you’re unorganized not the best first impression

→ IMPORTANT EMAIL NOTES: If you’re using Gmail to contact these companies, make sure to be aware of the following: if you send an email with the exact subject line, sometimes Gmail won’t send it. The reason? It treats it like a duplicate and will either not send it or if it does go through, it will be in response mode, where it looks like you’re responding to a previously sent email. Even though it’s easier to just keep resending the same email, make sure that each one gets a slight variation to the subject line. One way of doing this is by adding the company’s name to the subject. This way, no two companies ever get the same version. 

Another important note is to never send your resume as an attachment. While this may go against everything you know, internet servers have gotten smarter and their tracking has gotten more intense. If a company receives an email with an attachment from an outside source, it may view it as spam and either never deliver or send it directly to the spam folder. The trick: upload the file onto Google Drive, create a shareable link and add that link into the body of the email. It’s an easy fix that will help ensure your emails are always delivered. 

the essentials

freelancer notes

√   Be professional. This is your name and your company you are representing. You know the saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” – it’s a saying for a reason.

√   Honor all of your commitments. Remember that people are counting on you to make their event the best one yet. Keep in constant communication with your clients, especially if there are any unforeseen issues or changes that need to be made. 

√   Ask questions about the project prior to first day. If there is anything you think may be a problem or something you are unclear about, the time to speak up IS NOT the day of the event. 

√   Always make sure there is a contract that is signed. This protects both you and the client, regardless of the circumstances.

√   If you need office days and none are offered, inquire. Some companies will factor this in at a different rate. Reasons you may need them: to gather all final notes and paperwork from the office prior to the start of the event. Also, to put all expenses together and submit to your office/agency/accountant after the event.

√   Create an event handbook with all your notes and important information that will be needed for the event. This can include: contact info for manager, vendor agreements, contact info + delivery times, rental agreement for space, schedule for the day, etc. Remember, it’s always better to have more information, even if you don’t end up needing it. This is just another way to be prepared and protect yourself just in case you need to. 

√   When delegating tasks, ask your team to rephrase what’s being asked in the form of a list to ensure that absolutely nothing is being misunderstood.

√   If you manage events in cities across the country (or across the globe), you need to understand the culture and people in each location. Keep in mind bank holidays, special occasions and any other out-of-the-ordinary events that could interfere with traffic patterns or business hours with vendors you are working with. 

√   When designing aspects of your event, remember that every part of your venue is a backdrop for a photo. Think of the visual elements that would get you to stop and take a picture and incorporate them into your event. Also, take advantage of all the different social platforms and their functions. Create a hashtag for Instagram, a special check-in for Facebook or a video area for TikTok. The opportunity for social elements is always there, you just have to find ways of making them stand out.

FROM THE FOUNDER

FINAL THOUGHTS

Event production is all about mixing the creative with the practical. It is a blur of emotions until it’s all over, but the satisfaction you gain after a successful event is unlike any other feeling.

If you’re just starting out as a producer or even as a freelancer, I hope these tips have helped you. Our team is here and ready to provide any additional assistance, whether you need a killer resume to send to companies, help with writing the actual cold emails or freelancing coaching services which include contract negotiations and determining your personal rate, you are not alone! The transition into the world of freelance can sometimes be intimidating and is always nerve wracking (I’ve been doing it full time for 4 years and STILL get nervous at times!), but with the proper training and advice can be more rewarding than you’ve ever dreamed.

Want to join other aspiring fashion professionals looking to get into or already in the event production industry? Join our private community where we offer answers to questions, support and all the insider information to help with those hard tasks of being an event producer.

New to the world of events?

The most important part of being an event producer is being able to keep a level head during those chaotic moments.  Everything doesn’t always go according to plan (it actually rarely does) BUT you have to be able to react quickly and roll with the punches while properly communicating to your team and the client how the plan has changed.  Whether it goes according to the plan or changes to something new, you always need to make sure that the client’s expectations are still met. 

The most rewarding words you can hear from the client at the end of the day are, “We could not have done this without you”… that’s the feeling we, as event planners and producers, are ALWAYS aiming for with each event we create.

x Maria

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12 thoughts on “How to Start a Career as a Freelance Event Producer

  1. I have been writing for a long time and have seen many side hustles over the time but this is a good one. The detail that you have provided is awesome and can be an awesome gig for Extroverts.

  2. Looks like an interesting career for creatives. Love the detailed steps it takes to get started and be successful.

  3. This pretty much sounds like what I do professionally but on a much smaller scale. I loved how you broke all of this down. It gave me new and clearer insight into my role as a corporate event planner.

  4. Great insight into what it takes to be an event producer! Very informative!

  5. Planning and managing events require a certain (organized) skill and lots of energy and patience. This is a great primer of everything event producers need to consider. If I were on this career path, I would definitely pin or save this one to Evernote for safekeeping. 👍

  6. Maria, your career articles are always so thorough and straightforward. I hope more people find your site to help direct them on their career journey!

  7. I love attending events and I have such an appreciation for what happens behind the scenes! This was very informative

  8. Wow this is such a thorough and informative post! Thank you!!

  9. so informative! thank you for sharing!

    Cate ღ 35mm in Style – 2019 Advent Calendars Giveaway

  10. What a great insight into being an event producer! Some great advice too x

  11. Great post. So well put together and informative. Thank you for educating me.

  12. Interesting post. So informative and useful! Thanks for sharing

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