Management Fees in Event Planning- How Are You Being Billed?


Event planning billing processes can be as unique as the event planner that you choose to engage. Billing and how we build budgets / fees is often a taboo subject and when you’re working with an event planner for the first time it can be an eye opener in terms of  what things cost. This article, by Jennifer James, will delve into some straight talk about money.

There are three popular ways in which corporate event planners tend to build  budgets and the associated fees.

The Markup

You may receive a proposal or quote with a budget; however, there is no management fee included. This is because the fee is already built into each and every line item.

Pros –this may assist those of you who might be put off by the investment of an overall management fee.

Cons – Hidden fees mean you will never know how much you are actually paying for products & services.

Hourly Billing

Yes, similar to lawyers or agencies, many event planners use this as a base line to help build their fee structure.

Pros – if you only need consulting on some aspects of your event, this can be a nice way to keep your costs contained.

Cons – this fee is often higher than what you might pay if you were to pay part of an overall flat fee.  Often event planners are able to  estimate how many hours something might take; however, these estimations are not always accurate. It’s best to consider putting a cap on the total hours that may be allocated. This is especially important when budgets are limited. Also keep in mind that if you run out of consulting hours / budget – you may need to hire someone with less experience to complete your event.

The Management Fee

This is the approach that many event planners use. You will often see the management fee as either an overall percentage of the bottom line or an overall estimation of the hours needed to complete a project/event based on an hourly fee that works into a flat rate.

Pros  – any savings that we find are passed on to the client, as this is part of transparent billing.
Unless there is a huge addition added to the original scope of work / budget – the management fee rarely changes. Therefore if we estimate the event will take 100 hours and it takes 150 hours – that cost is absorbed by the event planner.

Cons – a management fee can be hard to swallow if you are unfamiliar with working with a planner and if you don’t have any idea what it takes / costs to plan an event.

Of course these are popular options– there will always be some variations. Each billing practice seems to be as unique as each client. What I would suggest is working with your event planner to figure out which would work best for you. The last thing to keep in mind is that the billing practices of event planners are (or should be) in alignment with our experience and what we bring to the table.  In other words, remember, “you get what you pay for.” So, if the fees seem too high or too low, don’t be afraid to ask questions and understand the costs associated with putting on your event.

jennifer-jamesJennifer James is a Calgary based Event Planner with over 14 years of experience, she has made a career producing corporate events & consumer trade shows. Specializing in creative problem solving, strategy, marketing, branding and logistical event planning. Jennifer has accumulated a strong network of event partners, planners and vendors that have contributed to the success of every event she has worked on. She can be reached at her agency, Jennifer James Events at