How to Host Your First Live Event On a Tight Budget and Make $1,000 In the Process

Earlier this year, I hosted my first live event in honor of launching my first book, Unmasking the Strong Black Woman.  With a full-time job and an infant, I thought it was virtually impossible to do so, but I was wrong.

My first event was well attended and lucrative. Here are the various steps I took to make $1,000 from my book launch on a tight budget.

Before the Live Event

Start with a manageable vision. If you’re hosting your first event, start small in all ways.  Aim for a small number of attendees for a short period of time for a small fee. For my book launch, I set my goal at having a two-hour event for 50  attendees. I set the price at $25 per person. Each purchase included a financial self-care workshop and an autographed copy of my book.

Place your event in a larger context. I planned to have the book launch of Unmasking the Strong Black Woman in March in honor of Women’s History Month. Linking your event to a larger social issue or current event will make it more relevant to potential attendees. It may also make you more appealing to local press.

Set the date of the event in advance.  Even with a small event, I gave myself six months of planning time. Since curating an event requires managing several moving parts and nothing goes off without a snag, I’d even recommend giving yourself more time to move at a slower pace to keep your nerves calm.

Streamline your calendar. I’ve seen solopreneurs attempt to launch several big initiatives simultaneously. And the results have been lackluster. Many of had to cancel their events at the last minute or deeply discount their tickets to ensure that their seats are filled. If you have big dreams for your brand, consider having one or two large events at the same time every year so you can create business operations and establish more predictable revenue streams.

Seek a low-cost venue. Start with whom you know. For my first event, I approached a local bookstore owner. I met her while attending an event for another entrepreneur-friend. Since this bookstore owner was receptive to working with my friend, I figured so would be equally interested working with me. When we met, we decided on a profit-share of the books sold at the event. Other low-cost events include rooms in community centers, universities, hotels, and co-working spaces.

Build a team. To successfully execute a live event, you’re going to need help. Since I already have a social media manager, I worked with her to create a marketing plan to promote the event. The marketing plan included social media posts across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In addition, the marketing plan included email blasts to my subscribers, scheduled blog posts around the topic, and talking about the event on podcasts. I also partnered with Meetup.com leaders to offer affiliate sales for ticket sales.  On top of that, I individually emailed friends and family members about the event.

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Making Money from Your Event

To simply the sales process, I opted to use Eventbrite. Eventbrite allows you to upload your marketing collateral and collect your payments in one place. This, of course, came with fees.  To increase the amount of sales and maximize my profit margins, here are a few strategies that I used.

Figure out how much you want to make. I decided that I wanted to make $1,000 from my event. So I ran the numbers.  Between fees, commissions, and payment for social media work, I needed to gross $1,250 in order to walk away with $1,000 in profit. So I decided to price my tickets at $25 and aim to sell 50.

Offer discounts.  In addition to offering an early bird special for those that bought their tickets in advance, I also offered a “bring a friend” discount. To sweeten the pot even more, I combined these offer: an “early bird bring a friend” discount to make sales.

Think about the upsell.  Upsells are items that you sell to your audience that is more expensive than the initial offering. In my case,  I was able to offer my participants one-on-one coaching with me once they purchased the entry to the event. Other upsells include products like journals, planners, or branded t-shirts.

Get their email address. If you don’t have an immediate upsell available at your event, don’t stress. Think about the long game. If you collect their email address, you’ll be able to nurture a long-term relationship with them so they’ll be more receptive to buying more at larger amounts in the future.

Secure sponsors.  As a personal finance expert, I work with women that have income problems and money-management problems. The former occurs when women are not making enough money to support themselves. The latter occurs when women mismanage their money despite earning more than enough to create financial stability. In either case, many women believe that they don’t have the money to attend financial literacy events. To offset this challenge, I found two sponsors to buy group tickets so these women could attend for free. I reached out to accountants, financial advisor, and lifestyle experts who would benefit from having their name be mentioned to my community. Sponsorship created a goodwill branding for their company while helping me meet my financial bottom line and improve their financial lives. It’s a win-win-win partnership.

Pull in favors. I had a network of friends that I could call on to do favors for me. In exchange for free admission to my event, one of my girlfriends served as the official Frugal Feminista greeter. She checked the guest list and gave recipients their books. Another friend served as the social media manager during the event. In this role, she live tweeted about the event and posted pictures to Instagram and Facebook to show the world what they were missing.  

Two Comes After One

It’s been over six months since I successfully hosted my first live event. In hindsight, there are things I could have done differently to have made it even more profitable. I’ll be using those lessons to improve my second live event.  If you don’t start small and fully execute your vision, you’ll never to able to see what you could possibly impact your business’ bottom line or increase your personal confidence as an entrepreneur.

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