Are You Kidding? Speak for Free, Again?
Every year, more and more professionals are entering the Speaking Industry. New speakers, and even seasoned speakers, are speaking for free because the industry often demands it right now. The bad news is that it is a trend which has worsened over the past several years. I believe it’s because speakers accept “free” now more readily than they used to. I’m not against free, if it’s feasible and only once in a while to build your business or as a networking experience. It can be like free advertising to a speaker and can have many benefits when leveraged properly.
However, there are speakers who make $1,000-$10,000 a speech. Your payday will be based on the industry, your brand and topics and if there is a buying market for it. It will also depend on your dedication and persistence to get those jobs. The speakers who garner the higher fees are very specialized speakers. They are in a buying market and have products and media appearances under their belt. They have built and nurtured relationships with the people who have the power to hire them in these markets. They have placed themselves and developed their brand as an expert in selective and precisely niched areas.
My advice to keep your speaking income coming in: Re-evaluate where you are. Is your topic still a buying topic? Can you niche yourself well and go with that? Sometimes, we spread ourselves too wide and we just hit walls. We need to be that one solution to one precisely niched group.
After reevaluating yourself, if you feel that you have done the above, then embrace a percentage of the free events. You have no trouble getting those speaking jobs and you should be leveraging them to your benefit. Some speakers talk at free events all their lives and still make a better income with back-of-the-room (BOR) products, programs and services than others do always charging a speaking fee.
Many might argue with me, because they believe it is not right to speak without receiving a fee. I agree, to some extent, but the industry marketplace is what it is right now, so we have to adapt. If we continue to fight it and keep hitting walls, we will not move forward. Speakers sometimes cringe when I say that because they think it is too much work and that they should not have to do all this work for free. Those particular speakers will never advance in their business, because they are too set in their own ways.
Stagnation in Marketing = Death in Your Business.
For example: At many free events, they will allow you to have a BOR table. Say you have a coaching, mentoring program or a course. This coaching program must be presented well with eye-catching graphics and quality binding or packaging. Assuming that your program is a 6-month program for $3,000 and you got a 2% sign-up rate (just 2 people out of 100 people), you’ve just garnered $6,000 for this free appearance. That’s a pretty terrific ROI. If you were great on the stage and you made connections with your audience by making them “feel” and gave great take-aways maybe you will get 4 sign-ups. That’s a $12,000 speech! This isn’t including the opportunity to build your email list with all the people you will get to market to in the near future.
Am I saying give up looking for paid speaking? Absolutely not. I am saying speakers need to keep up with the changing times, take these opportunities, and leverage them so they don’t fall off the path to success feeling confused and frustrated.
Tip: Try offering the hiring party this. Say you will speak for free if they buy a book for every participant. The hiring party can just factor that cost into what is charged to the attendees and make the hiring party look better. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Speaking fees are only one of many streams of revenue to develop as a professional speaker. I wish I could change the ways things are and make it so all hiring decision-makers would see that a speaker’s time is very valuable, that it is a business like any other, that they should be paid. No one can do that though. Just do not give up because you cannot find paid up-front jobs. Focus on the tips shared above and build yourself a solid foundation and a speaking product empire.
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