Product Speaker vs. Fee Speaker: Which is Best?
There are many ways to monetize your speaking business, and there’s certainly no right or wrong business model to pursue.
However, the primary split within the speaking industry is product speaking vs. fee speaking. Each has its pros and cons, but the real question is which is the right one for you?
This post will run through everything you need to know about product speaking vs. fee speaking, allowing you to make an informed decision regarding your choice.
What is a Fee Speaker?
As you will have guessed, a fee speaker is someone who charges a fee to a planner to deliver a speech at their event. In many cases, the fee is paid in advance, leaving little to no risk for the speaker.
As a fee speaker, you’ll deliver a speech on a subject that will have been outlined in the booking process. Your success will be measured by how impressed the planner and audience are by your speaking skills and whether you can secure repeat bookings from your clients.
What is a Product Speaker?
A product speaker is typically someone who speaks for free on a broad topic and, depending on the event, is usually given a little more license to discuss either their own company or a specific product. In some cases, product speakers may even pay a fee to secure a spot on stage at a prestigious event.
Your success as a product speaker will be measured, unsurprisingly, by your ability to sell whatever your product(s) may be. It could be that you have published a few books, or you operate a high-end membership site. Whatever the case may be, you will use your speaking as a vehicle to increase sales.
What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Fee Speaker?
The obvious advantage of charging fees for your speaking opportunities is that you’ll make a lot more money upfront and the risk level is much lower. Depending on the event, planners may even pay your fees before you even take the stage, making this a very low-risk speaking business model.
Once you have established a base within your industry, you can start to command some pretty hefty fees, meaning you’ll slowly get paid more and more for less and less work – always an excellent trade-off!
However, there are some significant drawbacks. Firstly, by charging fees, you limit the number of speaking opportunities you can secure. While there are plenty of event planners who pay good money for speakers, you’ll have to work for years within your niche to earn the right to charge significant fees or secure headline/keynote speaking slots.
Plus, during those early speeches, you will be going up against free speakers, which is always a hard sell when you are still paving your way within your chosen niche.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Product Speaker?
It might not be obvious from the overviews given above, but, in my two decades-plus of industry experience, product speakers almost always out-earn fee speakers. The reason is that products create nice recurring revenue streams, and you can continue to improve and expand as your market reach increases over the years.
In addition, product speakers get more speaking opportunities overall due to their lower risk profile. Think about this for a second, if an event planner has the option to pick a free well-regarded speaker or another respected speaker that charges a $2,000 speaking fee, which one do you think they will choose? Yep, you guessed it, the free option.
The other advantage is that, because you can speak for free, you can fill up your speaking schedule pretty quickly, even when you are brand new and relatively unknown. A free speaker is a low-risk speaker to planners. As long as you look the part and present yourself well, you should be able to find slots at local associations, networking groups, and small events, all within a matter of weeks after launch.
There is a downside, of course. You won’t be earning any money for your speeches in those early days, and traveling to plenty of events to get your name out there isn’t cheap. Plus, I’ve found that some burn out pursuing this type of speaker model. Some individuals struggle with giving away their expertise for free and can feel that they have “lost” their self-worth.
Verdict: Which is Best? Fee Speaking or Product Speaking?
Both models have their strengths and weaknesses, and your circumstances will determine the best model for you. However, I always try to push my students towards the product-based business model.
Why? Well, firstly, you can pitch event planners with free speaking, which is always music to their ears. Secondly, you’re not reliant on speaking income for your business to thrive. While you may only start with one or two products, most successful speakers have multiple revenue streams, lowering the risk to their business.
That said, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a speaking fee model. Just be aware that you have to have a speaking gift to succeed. It could be an incredible on-stage charisma or expertise and insight that can’t be matched. Whatever the case may be, you have to be significantly better than your competitors to keep attracting hefty speaking fees.
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Meet Wendi McNeill
As the Founder and Owner of Charli Jane Speaker Services®, Wendi has been “Opening Doors of Opportunity” for speakers since 2002.
Charli Jane Speakers provides speakers with support, exposure, tools, tips, speaking and media leads, coaching/learning programs, and much more to assist them in growing their speaking business.
When it comes to Wendi’s clients she is very passionate and laser-focused about how they can grow their speaking business to levels of great success and fulfillment. They work together on strategies to quickly & easily position them as the top expert in their subject matter.
The results are success, financial freedom, and limitless lifestyle choices. Her primary objective is to help speakers/experts properly position themselves so they can get found easily, fill their speaking schedule and increase their income to incredible levels. Also, through the development of multiple streams of income, her clients learn how to rely on more than speaking fees alone to sustain their businesses.
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