Full disclosure (since we're all about honesty here).
I opened this blog post yesterday so that I could tell you all about what planning tools I use to plan my workshops.
And then, this morning I read this post by Leah Kalamakis about how my blog (yep, this one right here) is all about contributing value to the people I want to work with. And while I'm sure you all want to know what I use, I rewrote the post below to create more value around a central nugget of information. And that nugget is:
Planning an event doesn't take expensive equipment or some behind the scenes staff of 25. It simply takes basic organizational skills that you already have.
So, that said, here is what I use to work with my clients and to keep them mega-organized.
I literally am the last person on the face of the earth to get a client management system, but previously (as in, like, two weeks ago), I was simply creating a proposal in a word doc, changing the details, providing a detailed outline of what work I was doing, and then sending clients an invoice via PayPal. Or sometimes a PDF invoice requesting a check. #oldschoolbaby
But because that took me a really long time and I am starting to get to the point where creating proposals makes me want to bang my head against the table, I decided to invest in 17hats.
HOWEVER, I don't actually do ANY planning work in 17hats. I don't use their handy calendar function. I am just starting to do my bookkeeping in there (because I still use Excel to manually track ALL of my expenses. Please leave your congratulations in the comments below about me stepping into the 21st century).
So anyway, I'm listing this first basically so you can congratulate me on being an adult and using real live software. But no, I don't do any planning in there.
Oh what's that you say? Lauren, you Luddite, you? Well, let me keep it real. This biddy uses a paper calendar to track all important events, dates, milestones, and meetings. I don't use Basecamp, except for when a client adds me to their project. I use a paper calendar, I have a list of somewhat important milestones/dates that need to be hit, and I handwrite (like, with a pen) all of those milestones (like "start searching for venue", "source caterer", "think about swag", "sign caterer contract", "send invitations", send "Welcome to My Workshop" emails for clients, etc.).
And for everyone out there who is shunning my ways, I worked for a Very Important Event Planner in New York City for a long time and there was no project management system. There wasn't even a basic checklist of items we had to get to. It was just because we had so much experience doing events (as well as a very well organized binder) that the To Dos just naturally flowed into each other.
Soooo, basic. Can you see where I'm going with this? I use all Google Excel for simplicity of sharing budgets, venue research, catering research, but the truth is, I update all my clients' documents for them, so they are hardly in there tweaking things. I'd use good ol' regular desktop Excel if I didn't have such a commitment to transparency with my clients.
I use Gmail for my mail server (but am slowly moving over to 17hats. Once they get a better project management software, I'm theirs for LIFE). And I don't have it quite together enough where I always respond with my firstname.lastname@example.org email. Yes, the truth is I route my email to my personal Gmail account, and sometimes, I accidentally respond from my personal email instead of my professional email. This is terrible for branding. But again, it works, no one is upset, and I get the job done (though hopefully, I'll be remedying this in 2015. Progress!).
To schedule tweets + stuff because I can't be counted on to remember to do that in real time. Too few hours in the day and all. Again, I don't use this for planning; simply for Tweeting.
We touched on this a bit above, but I use PayPal to get paid and send invoices. Some of my clients pay me through check, which is fine and I totally don't mind waiting a few weeks and saving the money on the processing fee. However, to pay vendors (which I don't do, but my clients do), you can expect to use all the typical payment methods (check or credit card. Looks like most event industry folk are still in 1999. Like doctors, except without the fax machines).
Spreadsheets for everything else. Spreadsheets on my Desktop. Spreadsheets to beat the band, biddies, because it works and honestly? As long as I'm doing the job and I'm doing it well, my clients are happy ladies + gents.
1. Event planning doesn't have to be hard. You just have to be organized.
2. Do not invest in fancy software. You probably don't need it.
3. If you're all "What?! Lauren?! That's impossible! Event planning is HARD" then you need to get on the phone with me so we can do some demystifying.
Okay your turn.
1. Tell me: What products do you use to plan your day or a workshop / dinner party? Anyone use a virtual calendar instead of a paper one? Comment below and let me know!
2. Tweet me: Head over to Twitter and tweet me (@lcasellievents) your favorite organizational tool. Use the hashtag #planningtool2014 and we'll all compare notes like kids in math class, mkay?
3. Meet me: Sign up to my weekly e-gossip rag (aka my newsletter...gossip rag sounds better though, dontcha think?) and get your Essential Planning Checklist, which is totally low maintenance and is what I ACTUALLY use when I go through the beginning stages with a client.
Thanks, sis. Can't wait to start working with you.