Here at The Speaker Lab, we have taught many aspiring speakers how to launch a speaking business and scale it into a successful and sustainable brand. Streamlining the process of getting booked and paid to speak is a huge part of our mission. Many people come to us already excited about becoming motivational speakers. We don’t need to convince them why speaking is an amazing side gig or full-time career. But we also hear a lot of reasons why people don’t think they can do that–whether because of logistical obstacles or personal fears. Frankly, the most commonly cited objections to starting a speaking business are by no means insurmountable.
These objections, while founded in understandable concerns, are rarely legitimate obstacles to starting a speaking business. And we believe you shouldn’t let them stop you!
Today we’ll cover the most common objections to starting a speaking business and why they shouldn’t stop you. We’ll start with three logistical problems. Then we’ll cover five core fears–the stuff that’s in your head, holding you back from starting your dream speaking journey. A lot of our work at The Speaker Lab involves solutions to these problems. We’ve linked plenty of resources and information for each obstacle. We’re serious when we mean we are here to help!
Part 1: Obstacles
Money is an obstacle–or at least concern–for just about every would-be entrepreneur. It’s true whether you’re a tech startup trying to raise capital, a craftsman who requires materials to make products to sell, or a speaker who needs to put a roof over their head in between speaking engagements. Financial worries both short-term and long-term hold a lot of speakers back. We’ll cover the long-term outlook in the “fears” section, so we’ll focus on startup costs as an objection to starting a speaking business.
Any new business venture requires a significant capital investment, both up front and over time. The same is true for speaking. It applies whether you are new to the industry or shifting from occasional to professional speaker. The costs involved to start a speaking business include software (CRMs, scheduling apps, website hosting), technology (microphones, cables), professional speaking organization memberships and certifications, travel costs to gigs you take for free or that don’t include travel…the list goes on. Beyond that, you’ll have to financially invest into educating yourself. Education goes beyond how to become a better speaker, but includes marketing your brand, sell your services, and managing the boring business stuff (think accounting and taxes).
You might be tempted to just bootstrap those things. How hard can it be to take on one or two speaking gigs through Word of Mouth marketing and just invest what you earn back into the business as you go? This method is by no means impossible, and if you have a lot of time on your hands (rarely the case–see #2) it might work for you.
Truly, there is no better way to get your speaking career off on the right foot than investing in it from the very beginning. By doing so, you can significantly reduce long-term costs and even make double the revenue you would by bootstrapping. Making a targeted investment will accelerate you to profitability. This could mean enrolling in one of The Speaker Lab’s programs or just paying a professional to make you a great website and demo video,
Ultimately, It’s up to evaluate what you think is worth it. If you’re on the fence about whether speaking is right for you, any investment in your business will feel like too much. But if you are confident that speaking is the direction you want to go, you will want to spend money on programs and services that promise a high return on investment once you hit the stage. Most of our TSL students make back the money they spend on our coaching program with their first 1-3 speaking gigs. In fact, we’re so confident in this result, we offer a 100% money back guarantee. You can learn more here.
Speakers rarely jump into speaking full-time from the very start. Even though it might look like some big-wig celebrity motivational speakers became famous overnight, you’re not seeing the lean years where they worked two jobs on top of speaking to make ends meet. Becoming a successful speaker is a long road that starts with a few hours a day or even a week. Building your website and promotional materials, reaching out to prospective clients, and preparing your talk all take time. You might be writing a few emails every day for a few weeks before you even get your first gig. But if you don’t start now, you’ll never get there!
To overcome this objection, you have to learn how to make the most of your time. This means prioritizing what you do with the time available to you so you can accomplish tasks of the highest importance. It is perfectly normal to build your business incrementally over time. But if you’re not all-in, you’ll end up procrastinating, finding excuses, and wasting the time you have. It’s easy to find yourself floundering and panicking when you have 15 minutes to spare, wondering what line on your agenda to knock off first. If you constantly find yourself feeling like this, it’s understandable to think that time is the biggest obstacle to starting a speaking business!
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Systematizing your speaking business is key. It helps you use your time wisely and push ahead in manageable increments. Committing to a structured game plan gets you booked and paid to speak sooner. That’s why the Speaker Lab’s programs offer a system for managing every aspect of your speaking business. The best part? They’re oriented toward busy professionals who can only carve out a few hours a week toward their speaking business.
Lack of supportive relationships.
This is a tough one. Speaking is a unique career path, and many people still labor under the delusion that motivational speakers end up living in a van down by the river. When you say you are becoming a professional speaker, the reaction from family and friends might be very negative. If you’re struggling with misconceptions among social circles, this blog on what a motivational speaker actually does might help.
In some ways, popular misunderstanding of the unique solo-preneur speaking lifestyle works in your favor. It means that a lot of folks in the speaking community have been there before. Seasoned speakers, beginner speakers, and everyone in between have probably faced some straining of relationships when they announced their new career plan. Building a network of people who have been in your shoes is a sure-fire way to feel less alone on the journey. The Speaker Lab community is often attested by our students as one of the best parts of being in our coaching programs. We speakers are a friendly bunch, so with a few networking strategies in your pocket, you’ll find the support you need easily.
With that being said, it’s essential to have the support and approval of people who depend on you before you take the leap into speaking. If your spouse and kids are concerned about whether they won’t have a roof over their head, take some time to do three things. A) Set aside some emergency funds. B) Make sure you’re ready to put in the time, money, and effort to become a successful speaker. C) Demonstrate the return on investment of becoming a speaker to your loved ones. You want to be on the same side, so don’t take the leap without their trust.
Part 2: Fears
There are a few situations where you might not be in the right financial position, lack adequate free time, or need a little more family stability before you dive into speaking. But what about if all those things are in place but you still have doubts? There are five core fears that hold potential speakers back from putting their plan into action. These fears–and how to address them–round out our list of objections. We unpack these five fears in more detail on our podcast here.
Does my message matter?
Once you start researching the world of speaking, you might suddenly start worrying that nobody wants to hear what you have to say. In the sea of speakers with great popular messages, will your little voice really be heard? Will anybody find it meaningful?The answer is almost certainly yes–if you’re flexible. You might have to adapt your message a little once you better understand the needs of your audience. Or you might have to shift gears and repackage the same message for a different audience once you get a better feel for the market. Ultimately, if a message is tugging on your heart and you’re yearning to make an impact, someone is probably out there just waiting to hear it.
Am I good enough?
Even once you decide your message is worth it, imposter syndrome could kick in. That insidious voice in your head starts telling you someone else can tell it better. But if you don’t speak, there is always a chance someone better will do what you want to do. You can only become a good speaker by speaking. Nobody starts out with perfect content and delivery. Making mistakes, figuring out what works with your audience, which jokes flop, and which stories stick with your audience takes many, many iterations.
Grit, determination, and practice will take you to the next level.When you’re discouraged by imposter syndrome and feel like you’re not any good, remember your passion. You are exploring something you are passionate about. You don’t have to be perfect to find that fulfilling. And when you start to see the impact of your message, you will reap even more rewards as a speaker.
Can I make a living doing this?
This ties back into the question of money, but there’s more at stake in the long term. Speaking can play a variety of roles within your life. Robust side gig. Main source of income. A piece of a suite of services you offer. A launching point to writing a book…the choice is yours. Make your individual financial forecast based on the part you want speaking to play in your career.
Regardless, you cannot make money as a speaker if it’s some secret side gig that you don’t tell anybody about. The first step to successful marketing is telling everybody you already know that you’re a speaker. Friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers–you’d be shocked at how many people in your existing network know someone who hires speakers. As we said above, you do have to be all-in on your investment, especially when it comes to time. If you don’t have the energy and commitment to put in the work over a couple years, you probably can’t make a living as a speaker.
To an extent, the fear never really goes away. Many longtime speakers admit that a bad month, year, or even day can make them question whether anybody will ever listen to them speak again. In time, you will learn to manage this feeling without letting it get you down too much.
Here’s one helpful strategy that comes up when we discuss career paths with our podcast guests. Before you take a big leap (like quitting your full-time job), make sure you have a “cushion” appropriate to your state in life. This could mean a year’s worth of living expenses, no student debt, or a couch in your parents’ basement to crash on. This “cushion” will allow you to take risks without feeling like your livelihood is on the line.
What will others think?
Even if your immediate family is supportive, there might always be a nagging worry about their opinions. Innocent questions might make you wonder–does everybody think I’m insane?The solution here is simple: don’t take it personally. And follow our strategies from objection #3 for building a supportive community.
Am I alone on this journey?
Even when you find a healthy community among other speakers, speaking is still a largely solo-preneur operation. You will spend many nights alone in hotel rooms, away from your family, in strange cities with bad weather and bad food. As a speaker you will spend a lot of time in solitude or surrounded by strangers.Here’s the thing. As we hinted to in the response to fear #2, nothing is more rewarding than working within your passion. Working within your passion is what keeps you going even before the cash flow starts. And beyond that? Think about your impact on your audience. Your connection to loved ones. The other speakers who see and empathize with both the passion. Holding those things close to your heart will keep you from feeling truly alone.
One of the best ways to get around these obstacles is your mindset. Shift your fears and apprehensions around speaking from “I’m scared to death” to “I’m excited.” We get it–speaking is a lot different from your average 9-5 job, and even from many well-known forms of entrepreneurship. While we can’t solve your fears for you, knowledge is power and pressing onward often comes down to mental resilience.
And we are here to help. Starting a speaking business is a process with many small tasks and victories. What we offer you at The Speaker Lab is truly a one-stop-shop for that entire process. When you invest in one of our programs, you are investing in leads, mentorship, guidance, marketing help, and so much more. Learn more here.