Event Planner Starter Kit

The Event Planner Starter Kit provides everything you need to help you register your business and begin planning the perfect events - including both required and optional permits as well as a printable version of the Event Planner Guide.

What’s inside

Guides (1)

Guide - Event Planner Guide

The Event Planner Guide is an overview of what it takes to open an Event Planning Business in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Related Documents (2)

Business Plan Template – US Small Business Administration (SBA)

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) created this Business Plan Template to help you research and write your business plan.

Business Entity Comparison Table – SF Office of Small Business

This table provides an at-a-glance reference to how the most common business entity types — sole proprietorship, general partnership, C corporation, S corporation, and LLC — compare in a number of key characteristics.

Permits (19)

Business Registration Certificate

The basic city business registration required for all businesses who wish to operate in San Francisco.

Itinerant Show Permit

Allows you to operate any outdoor carnival, show or concession, exhibiting or operating temporarily under a tent, or in the open.

Amplified Sound Permit (Outdoor Loudspeaker or Sound Truck)

Allows you to use outdoor amplified sound, from a sound truck or stationary loudspeaker.

One Night Dance Permit

Allows certain community centers, without Place of Entertainment permits, the ability to hold one night dance events.

One Night Event Permit

Ensures that the place where you will be holding a one-night event conforms to all health, safety, fire, and zoning ordinances.

Masked Balls Permit

Allows a venue or organization to hold an event known as a bal masqué or masked ball, or by any other name where the persons attending appear in fancy dress, or represent any character or personage with masks, whether or not an admission fee is charged.

Mechanical Amusement Device Permit

Allows you to provide machines or devices which, upon the insertion of a coin, slug or token, operates as a game, contest or amusement (eg. pinball machine).

Mechanical Contrivances Permit

Allows you to provide any revolving wheel, chute, toboggan slide, merry-go-round, swing or other mechanical contrivance for use by the public.

Rodeo Exhibition and Show Permit

Allows you to hold a rodeo exhibition or show.

Carnivals and Fairs Permit, Operation

SFFD Permit to operate Carnivals and Fairs. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Carnivals and Fairs Permit, Sponsor, Event

SFFD Permit to operate Carnivals and Fairs. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Carnivals and Fairs Permit, ISCOTT

SFFD Permit to operate Carnivals and Fairs. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Exhibits & Trade Shows Permit, Operation

SFFD Permit for Exhibits & Trade Shows. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Exhibits & Trade Shows Permit, Sponsor, Event

SFFD Permit for Exhibits & Trade Shows. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Special Events

SFFD Permit for Special Events. Must visit the Fire Department to learn more.

Temporary Street Closure for a Special Event

If you or your organization would like to close one or multiple San Francisco city streets for a neighborhood block party, street fair, athletic event, etc., you must formally apply to the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation (ISCOTT).

Fictitious Business Name

Allows you to use a business name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

Valet Parking Annual Special Event SFPD License

This permit certifies and endorses the insurance requirements for valet parking at fixed locations and annual special events.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number. It is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A business needs an EIN to pay employees and to file business tax returns. An EIN does not expire and is unique to your business – once an EIN has been given to an entity, it will never be issued again.

Event Planner Guide

The Event Planner Guide is an overview of what it takes to open an Event Planning Business in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Set Up Your Business

Create a plan

Create a plan that determines what type or range of event planning services you will provide.

Choose a business structure

Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships must register their structure with CA Secretary of State before registering locally.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS. This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number instead.

Register your business

Register your business with the City through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX).

Note
You may choose to obtain a separate business address, or you may use your personal address for your registration.

Choose and file a business name

File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. Research the name’s availability in your county before filing.

Note
If you provide additional event-related services such as catering or acting as a DJ, you may have other requirements. Research and follow all catering and/or entertainment-related rules.

Professional Requirements

Workers' Comp

Obtain workers’ compensation insurance if you will have employees. If you employ anyone you will need workers’ compensation insurance.

General Liability Insurance

Consider obtaining general liability insurance as you and your staff will be responsible for setting up physical spaces at events.

Note
A number of organizations grant formal certifications for event planners. Obtaining one or two certifications can allow you to secure a reputation of reliability and professionalism, and keeping your certifications current can help you to retain your professional credibility. Common certifications are the CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) or CMP (Certified Meeting Professional).

Location

Determine where and how you want to conduct day-to-day operations. There are three main options for choosing a event planning business location: Home Based Business, Commercial Location, and Co-working Spaces.

Note
Key things to know about a home office: (1) Clients cannot come to your home; (2) Employees cannot work out of your home, unless they also live there; (3) You can’t display advertising; (4) You can’t use more than 25% of the space for commercial purposes. Review the SF Planning Department's Guide to Home Offices for more information.

Note
Beware that operating a home based business could violate your lease or Homeowners Association (HOA) charter.

Event-Related Permits

Obtain event-specific permits where needed, whether it be for a temporary street closure, outdoor speakers, or even a rodeo or carnival.

After Opening

Solicit work

Solicit work using the web, word-of-mouth, advertising, partnerships, etc. Create a sales plan or system for marketing and managing leads (such as a CRM).

Negotiate compensation

Negotiate compensation & payment plans prior to signing a contract. Consider when to use a flat project fee, percentage of expenses, hourly rate, and/or commissionable rate.

Establish partnerships

Establish partnerships with key service providers before serving your first clients. Contact travel providers, caterers, hotel chains and event centers, and discuss long-term partnerships. In return for your frequent business, service providers may be willing to offer you considerable price discounts, allowing you to keep your expenses low and maximize profits.

Pay your taxes

Prepare and pay your local, state, and federal taxes. Learn more from the SF Treasurer, SF Assessor, CA Franchise Tax Board, and the IRS.

Note
Depending on the legal form of your business, you may be required to pay the federal self-employment tax, among other taxes. Review the Forms and Associated Taxes for Independent Contractors.