people at table with laptops

b&b191 DDJA Lesly Simmons on event planning and knowing your worth

Lesly SimmonsLesly Simmons”I’m thinking of getting into event planning.” A lot of people say it, but what does it really take? How do you decide what kinds of events to plan: weddings, holiday parties, conferences, the list goes on with some more specialized than others. Whatever you choose, it takes a lot of dedication and careful financial, as well as event, planning. As Lesly says “Even when I’m not working, I’m working.” She shares with us what it’s really like, how to ask for what you’re worth, and how to know what you’re worth, what kinds of offers to accept, and much more.

Welcome to the Dead Day Job Army, a monthly Brunch & Budget series where entrepreneurs and freelancers of Color share their stories and talk about the real.
It’s not easy to start your own business and it’s even harder when it feels like you have to explain to your family what you do every time you see them, when you walk into an event and can count on one hand the PoC in the room, when you try to ask for what you’re worth, but don’t want to get passed over for the next person. We ask folks to leave their shiny pictures and Instagram highlights at the door and tell us what it’s really like to do the work, put in the time, and devote your life to your work.

Lesly Simmons is the founder and president of Simmons Creative, senior content and events producer specializing in audience engagement through events and social media. She has consulted with companies including Google, Amtrak, Oculus, Airbnb and others to develop and execute content strategies for conferences, product launches and influencer programs for nearly 10 years.
Before founding Simmons Creative, Lesly managed disaster and diversity communications for the American Red Cross in Washington DC, and worked as a reporter for the Washington Post and the Bureau of National Affairs. Lesly has a master’s degree in ethics and philosophy from Georgetown University, and currently lives in San Francisco.

You can find Lesly at and on twitter @leslysimmons


Music featured in this episode:

Cool Story, Bro! by L-EVENT
Party Work Week by Styleons
Fuck dreams, make plans by V!sual


Lesly Simmons: I’m clearly producing good work because I’m getting great opportunity, but I’m not getting the pay and I’m not getting the title that would go along with it.

Lesly Simmons: I did have a support network of my husband had a job so that was one thing. I was just coming off finishing my degree so it was not quite…it wasn’t like I was making a huge shift. I was already kind of doing something different.

Lesly Simmons: It feels like, particularly today, being an entrepreneur can feel like the sexy thing to do. It is a lot of work. And I always tell people there’s always work drama whether you work for yourself or you work for someone else.

Lesly Simmons: I think it is good when you’re starting out…figure out what you think your time is worth an hour, and that means you have to track.

Lesly Simmons: You’re a woman and you’re a person of color. You’re always gonna be low-balled. Even if someone isn’t intentionally doing it, it’s just the way it works. So you should ask for more.

Lesly Simmons: A tactic that I learned early on was when someone throws out a number, just don’t say anything and let them choose to respond.

Lesly Simmons: If you’re not confident in what you’re charging, then maybe you are charging to much. Maybe you need a little bit more experience to get to that level.

Lesly Simmons: Don’t get so excited about the client that you forget about money.

Lesly Simmons: Something that’s been really important for me is finding places where you can bring your whole self to your work.

Lesly Simmons: Think about what you really like to work on and then find ways to let that be the work that you actually do.