Speaker Fees: The Ultimate Guide to Determining What You Should Charge

Table of Contents

Introduction

As a public speaker, keynote speaker or guest speaker, it can be super stressful when it comes to determining what your speaking fees will be.

The questions are endless and the scenarios are vast. You want to start or continue speaking professionally, but often times you don’t know where to begin or what to charge for your next gig.

  • What if this is your 1st or 30th gig?
  • Will the travel expenses be included?
  • Do you consider the location and type of audience?
  • What about the industry?
  • Will you be able to sell anything after the talk?
  • How long do I work for free?

I could go on and on with a number of questions I get on this topic.

I know it can be tough and let me tell you, speaking is not an exact science. The list of questions and scenarios are long and the combinations are endless.

The number one question I get from people is, “What do I charge?”

And the real answer is “it depends,” but no one wants to hear that.

When it comes to speaking, the client is paying for three specific things.

First, they’re paying for your knowledge, which is worth so much more than the hour you spend onstage and includes the years it took to acquire that knowledge.

Second, they’re paying for the delivery of that knowledge, because, after all, it doesn’t matter how much you know if you’re terrible at communicating it. They’re not only paying for your presentation but the time and attention it took to practice it so that you could deliver it effortlessly for a live audience.

And lastly, they’re paying for your time, or as I like to joke with clients: they’re not paying me to come speak, they’re paying me to leave my family.

Think of your speaking fee as the culmination of all these three factors coming together, not just the few hours you’re actually at the event.

Although speaking fees vary widely, depending on the industry, the good news is that many speakers in 2023 reported that their fees increased. According to AAE Speakers Bureau (who would know these things), 53% of speakers reported higher fees in 2023 than in past years.

How much should I charge for speaking?

Speaking fees vary widely based on industry, event format, and more, but here is a basic breakdown of industry average ranges based on our experience:

  • $2,500–$5,000 — Brand new speakers with no or very little speaking experience
  • $5,000–$10,000 — Newer speakers and speakers in the education industry
  • $10,000–$20,000 — Experienced corporate speakers
  • $20,000–$50,000 — Bestselling authors, professional athletes, and B-list celebrities
  • $50,000+ — Celebrities, high ranking politicians, sports superstars

It may seem crazy to talk about making this much money standing on a stage talking for an hour, but as long as you’re providing more value than you cost, you’re worth whatever you charge. That’s why celebrities can charge so much money: they tend to draw a huge crowd, which turns into more tickets sold for the event. If you can help a company bring in an additional $50,000 of revenue and you only cost $10,000, that’s a deal.

Even if it’s more difficult in your industry to put a monetary amount on the value you add, this is an important mind-set shift to make: from “it’s crazy anyone would pay me that” to “I’m providing real value for other people.” Because you are.

Where should I set my speaking fee to start?

Where do you start, though? If you’re just getting started as a speaker, a good ballpark estimate is around $2,500, which may sound crazy if you’ve never been paid to speak before, but this is a realistic number in most industries and the going rate for new speakers.

That said, be willing to negotiate, especially at the beginning, varying your rate based on the client’s budget. In some cases, they may want to negotiate, which is totally normal. In response, you could say, “My typical fee is $2,500, but I’m willing to do it for $1,500 in exchange for _____.” Many times, you can negotiate additional value for yourself in exchange for a lower fee. Think things like photography or videography of your session, or the opportunity to sell your book or other product at the event. We’ll talk about that later.

When you’re starting out, you need the experience, so take what you can get, including the occasional free or low-­paying gig. The goal is to practice, build relationships, and get some testimonials.

At some point, though, you will need to start believing in your value enough to charge a fee. For my very first fee, I was charging $1,500 for up to three talks (typically a keynote and two breakout sessions), plus travel. That worked out to about $500 per talk, but it was just as much work for me to do three presentations as it was to do one. I figured that as long as I was there, I might as well give as many presentations as possible.

Find Out Exactly How Much You Could Make As a Paid Speaker

Use The Official Speaker Fee Calculator to tell you what you should charge for your first (or next) speaking gig — virtual or in-person! 

What variables go into setting my speaker fee?

As I always remind people, speaking fees are very different based on the industry you’re speaking in, the event type you’re speaking at, and the type of speech or presentation you’re giving at the event. With that in mind, we created a free resource to help you find a specific fee range for you when considering a specific event.

There are tons of variables that go into choosing the right fee, but there are some variables YOU should consider when quoting out your price.

The best way to find out what you should charge in your specific industry is to use the FREE Speaker Fee Calculator. Just answer a few questions, and we’ll tell you what you should charge to speak at a specific event!

Here are a few questions you should consider when setting your specific speaker fee for an event:

  1. How many times will you be speaking at the event?
  2. In what industry is the event?
  3. Approximately how many talks have you given?
  4. How much preparation and customization will be required?
  5. Would this be a new client or a client you’ve worked with before?
  6. Are there opportunities for additional business with this client in the future?
  7.  Will you have an opportunity to sell your products or services?
  8.  Is the event in person or virtual?
  9. Will you need to fly to the event?
  10. Will you need overnight accommodations?
  11. Is the event being held in a location that you’d like to visit for business or personal?
  12. Would you attend the event/conference anyway?

If that sounds daunting, don’t worry — The Official Speaker Fee Calculator includes all of those factors and more when calculating your ideal fee.

If you want a more in-depth breakdown of those 12 questions, make sure to check out this post on how to price your speaking engagements here.

How to set fees for a specific event

For now, though, here are a few factors I want to highlight:

The Type of Audience Matters

Say you’re speaking to an industry filled with corporate professionals. You’re able to charge more based on the perceived value of your information, plus the fact that for-profit organizations have larger budgets to spend on conferences and events.

Who you’re talking to matters.

If you’re speaking to a non-profit organization the rate would significantly differ compared to a corporate powerhouse.

Are Travel Fees Included?

Perhaps you’ll need to fly to the event, which means you’ll have more expenses like car rental, taxi, parking meals etc.

On average, you can charge an additional $750 for long distance gigs.

Now, this expense could be more, it could be less, but this is an average industry standard. There is a lot of room for negotiation here.

Knowing what questions to ask is critical in determining your travel expenses. Again, the numbers in the calculator don’t account for everything. You have room to wiggle here so use your judgment.

Are You Staying in Motel Hell or Hotel Heaven?

No one tells you how awful the accommodations can be when you travel, especially when you’re in no-man’s-land for a gig. Those are the nights you want to cry yourself to sleep in the rental car with the windows down in February. Anything would be better than a rock hard bed, a dirty bathroom, and a floor filled with trash from who knows when.

I’ll spare you the gory details and disgusting stories. But trust me when I say you need to ask about accommodations before you say “yes” to your next speaking engagement.

With that being said, you’ve done your research and checked out the hotels in the area. Luckily, they all have a 4-5 star rating! You lucky dog, you. You happily agree and confirm that you’ll need overnight accommodation. At that point, you’ll need to negotiate that into your fee or choose where you’d like to stay — within reason.

You can’t charge them for the Hotel Heaven when they have a Motel Hell budget.

Location! Location! Location!

We all know that in the real estate industry, location is everything. I feel the same for booking speaking gigs too.

If I’m invited to speak at an event in Spain and I’ve always wanted to go there, I’d be more likely to decrease my speaking fee. Why might you ask? If I have to fly to Spain and my travel expenses are significantly more, shouldn’t I be charging more? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

In my opinion, if the location is amazing and Spain has been on my bucket list for decades, I’d be more inclined to lower my speaking fee just to attend. If you price yourself out of the water due to traveling across the world, you’re possibly allowing your dreams to slowly fade away. Please don’t let that happen.

Take less, find the money and embrace the experience. What you charge doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you get your butt on that plane and carpe diem, my friend! Say YES, call your spouse, book the flight — find a way. And if you’re a beach bum and there’s an event in Aruba — find a way. If you’re a ski bum and Vail is calling your name — find a way.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. It’s why you do what you do. You want to make a living doing what you love.

Take those chances, embrace the opportunities and make a difference with your message. As a side note, if you’re organizing an event, please pick a cool place that people would want to go to. Create an experience that people will remember and enjoy year after year.

Be My Guest

I’m not talking about the song from Beauty and the Beast. I’m talking about speaking at an event that you’ll already be a guest at. If you plan on attending the event you’ve been asked to speak at, you could lower your speaking fee or simply have them comp your visit.

No harm in breaking even! Bonus. No-brainer. Where do I sign? If they’re willing to pay for your entry ticket, hotel room, food, happy hour etc. or any of the above, you’re in like Flynn. Can I get a fist bump?

How to get started with pricing

Here’s how to get started with pricing:

Create a fee structure with options

This should accompany your speaking menu that you email to the client. A fee structure allows you to not have to pull a number out of thin air when people ask you what you charge, and it gives you confidence. Clients will also be less likely to try to negotiate with you if it’s right there on the page that you emailed them after your call.

Make your fee structure easy to understand

Include all the details a client may need about what they’re paying for. Also remember, if you’re in more than one industry, you may need to have different fee structures for each industry. This probably won’t apply when you’re getting started, since you should aim for one industry at a time. Years ago when I was transitioning from speaking to high schools and colleges to speaking to corporations, I had to have three different fee structures because the audiences and budgets were so different and the clients needed different options.

Don’t post your fees on your website

The client should contact and connect with you before they discover your fee. If you put it on your website, they will see it and say, “Well, we don’t have the budget, so this speaker’s not a possibility,” when in reality you may be willing to negotiate or there may be some other way to work it out. Some higher-­ level speakers who charge five figures post their fees as a filter to weed out people who can’t afford them, but unless that’s you, I suggest not putting your numbers on your website.

Always give the client more than what they paid for

I have heard event planners say about other speakers, “They were good, but they weren’t $5,000 good. I think we overpaid.” You never want someone to say that about you. In fact, you want them saying the opposite: “I can’t believe we got that talk for that price! I feel like we got a deal.” People want to feel like they got a bargain, not like they were ripped off, so if you’re going to err, err on the low side—­ not be- cause you don’t know your worth or because you’re not confident, but because you want to over-deliver on what was expected. Plus, it’s much easier to raise your fees than lower them.

Raise your fees cautiously

Don’t make huge leaps. Think of it like the occupancy rate for a hotel: If the hotel is constantly booked because people love it, then it’s time to raise the rates. But if your “hotel” isn’t fully booked yet and you’re still having trouble getting customers at that price, you probably want to stick to that price for a while longer, until demand grows. If you are consistently getting booked at your current fee with little to no pushback, it’s probably time to raise your rates.

Who pays for travel as a speaker?

Who pays for travel? There are typically two ways this works; I’ve done both ways. The first is you book your own travel and invoice it separately from the event. That means they pay you your fee, then you keep track of your travel receipts and after the event get reimbursed by the client.

The upside to this is that you get completely covered for all your travel expenses. The downside is that sometimes the cost may surprise the client, and no one likes that. Maybe they didn’t expect your flight or rental car to cost so much. If they were budgeting $750 and you spent $1,200, they’re not going to like that, and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth, even if you did everything you could to keep the costs down. You may feel like you have to justify why you spent that amount on something. Sometimes it can also take time to get reimbursed, and it’s more for you to keep track of, which can honestly turn into a bit of a headache.

The second way to do travel expenses is to simply include it in your fee as one lump sum. The upside to this approach is it’s much easier for you to keep track of and for the client to budget. There are no surprises, and in some cases, you may actually make money on it. You also get paid more quickly, because the client will have paid it ahead of time. The downside is you could potentially lose money with travel expenses ending up being more than you expected. An alternative is to charge a flat travel fee, so instead of saying your rate is $6,000, travel included, you could say it is $5,000 plus a $1,000 travel fee. There’s not a big difference, really, other than showing exactly how much you allotted yourself for travel.

Quick tip: If you’re speaking at a conference, you can ask if they’ll cover your room; often they have discounted or comped rooms for conferences, and that can help cut down on costs as well. You never know until you ask.

Free Download: 6 Proven Steps to Book More Paid Speaking Gigs in 2024​

Download our 18-page guide and start booking more paid speaking gigs today!

Should you speak for free?

Speaking of fees, should you ever speak for free? Speaking for free is a little controversial in our business, as people tend to have strong opinions on the subject. I think it’s a misconception to assume speaking for free is always bad. Of course, you can’t make a living speaking for free, but it can be a smart strategy to get more gigs, if you leverage it the right way.

Some speakers speak for free without any real reason why. As a result, it doesn’t have the intended effect, and they may even end up feeling taken advantage of. How is this benefiting your brand? How is it benefiting your personal life? Will it get you more speaking gigs?

Obviously, your goal is to speak, but sometimes you start going back and forth with a client, and for one reason or another, it doesn’t work out. If you get the feeling that this is going to be a losing situation for either of you, walk away. You’re offering significant value as a speaker and can’t give it away for free all the time. There are some situations when it’s worth it to discount your fee, but there are some when it just won’t make sense. You have to be comfortable saying no. That said, sometimes there’s just not a lot of money in the budget or due to special circumstances, you shouldn’t walk away. You may want to take the occasional free or low-­ paying gig. But how do you know when?

Below are some scenarios when it actually does make sense to speak for free or a discounted rate:

For multiple bookings

An organization hired me for two events then later reached out to do a third and then a fourth. Eventually, they asked, “What if we hired you for ten events this year; could we get some kind of package deal?” Of course. That’s a huge win for me, and I’d much rather work with one client on ten engagements than try to find nine more on my own, so we did a significant discount on each gig since they were booking so many.

Spin-off business

This is when you speak somewhere and get additional bookings from that engagement. If you have an opportunity to speak at an event where you’re likely to get more business, it may make sense to take a lower fee or maybe even do it for free to get the extra business.

Less travel is involved

I’m almost always willing to negotiate or take a lower fee if it means I won’t be away from home long. At our house we always say, “How many sleeps is Daddy gone?” Anytime I can speak somewhere nearby with zero missed “sleeps,” that’s a huge win for me.

It’s a fun place to visit

I’m often willing to negotiate on places where I can bring my family. I’ve always said, only half jokingly, that I’m willing to speak for free in Hawaii if you pay for my family to come. We haven’t made it to Hawaii yet, but my wife and I did recently stay for free at a resort in the Philippines for five days thanks to a speaking gig.

It’s a slower time of year

You’ll find some seasons are busier than others, and for most speakers, spring and fall are when most conferences and events happen. So summer and winter are pretty slow. If it’s a slow season and you’re trying to entice clients, you may lower your costs or create some incentive.

Potential product sales

I’ve had a few events where I actually made more money in product sales than from my speaking fee. If you have a product and sell it at events, you’ll begin to get a feel for events where it sells really well. Sometimes, you may just want to get in front of an audience to sell your product and not even worry about a speaking fee.

Lead generation for a product or service

You may have a book, training program, or coaching program, and this event could be a lead generation tool for that resource. You’re not actually selling it at the event, but speaking allows you to capture leads that you can later convert into sales.

Video footage

You can negotiate a lower speaking fee with a client in exchange for demo video footage. At many conferences a film crew is on-site, and if you want some of that footage, this may be worth speaking for free.

To get more practice

This will be the primary reason you speak for free as a beginner. The only way to get better is to practice, and sometimes that means taking what you can get, even if it’s nothing. If possible, try to do this locally so you’re not out a bunch of money for travel and hotel.

Credibility

TEDx Talks are not paid, but there’s certainly a big benefit to doing one. There may be other events in your industry similar to that where being onstage would be a huge boost to your credibility and thus worth speaking for free.

You want to attend the conference anyway

Sometimes I offer to do a free session in exchange for complimentary admission to a conference I wanted to attend anyway. This way, I at least get a free ticket and some extra speaking practice.

To build a relationship with the client

If there is a client or company you want to continue to work with, speaking for free at first is a great way to get your foot in the door and to build a relationship. Don’t explicitly say, “I’m doing this one for free but I expect to get paid in the future,” but do share what your normal speaking fee for that gig would be, and communicate that you hope to do more business with them in the future.

Other tips on setting your speaker fees

Here are a few other things to consider as you think about your speaking fees:

Never Say Never: You can charge a higher speaking fee

These numbers are not set in stone. They are here to get you started. If you feel the number is too high and you “could never charge that,” then don’t, but what if you did?

What if someone actually said, “yes” and paid you that higher rate? Think about it, maybe you don’t feel comfortable charging that, YET, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

If you’re not ready, you’re not ready, but don’t sell yourself short either. I’m not going to dig into money mindset on this, I’ll save that for another post.

Know that all things are possible.

Never say never. …but I digress.

Use the calculator as a gauge to get a ballpark number. At the end of the day, charge what you’re most comfortable with. When it comes to creating your pay rate as a new or experienced speaker, use this fancy tool as your guide.

You can also reuse this calculator again and again with different scenarios as you learn and advance as a professional speaker. I wish I had this calculator when I first started out.

Remember, setting your speaker fee schedule is more of an art than a science.

Speaking experience ≠ Success

Sorry, but that’s the truth!

Increase your skills, practice new techniques, get better over time, and learn from those that came before you.

Study why you felt inspired and captivated by their public presence. Soon enough you’ll know and understand what they’ve done, how they made you feel, and then you can repeat that process in your own career.

Think about it, you’ll be the most sought-after guy or gal in your industry. 🙂

On the flip side, typically with experience, you become better. The more you speak, the better you get — The better you get, the more you charge.

Audience Size Doesn’t Matter

In a nutshell, it generally doesn’t matter whether you’re giving a talk to 50 or 500 people. Your effort is more or less the same.

You’re still spending the same amount of time, energy and expertise on planning, developing, practicing and delivering your speech.

If you’re talking to 5 people or 500 people the prep and practice are the same. Now if you’re speaking to 5 people, your approach could be a little more relaxed and conversational, but if you’re talking to 500 people then your energy needs to be much higher and bigger.

Here’s where audience size DOES matter.

  1. If you’re selling a digital or physical product, audience size does matter. For example, the bigger the crowd the more potential sales there are, so you might be willing to take less money for a larger audience because you’ll make it up on the back-end.
  2. If there are any hard costs associated with your talk. Meaning, if every attendee needs a workbook and you’re covering the costs, it’s going to make a big difference if there are 50 or 500 people in the room.

Conclusion

Like I said in the beginning, speaking is not an exact science. There are tons of variables that go into determining your speaking fees.

If you want a good starting point for setting your fees, I’d encourage you to use The Official Speaker Fee Calculator to get started. And if you want to dive in further, our podcast and blog have plenty of other resources on setting your speaker fees effectively.

Happy speaking!

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Email
Reddit

Explore Related Resources

How to Get Invited to Speak at a Conference: 9 Key Steps
Wondering how to get invited to speak at a conference? Here are 9 key steps to land an invite to the conference of your dreams.
6 Strategies to Effectively Sell on Stage
Selling from the stage is a powerful way to grow your business, whether you’re promoting a book, course, or coaching program. Here's 7 ways to do it well.
How to Get Corporate Speaking Engagements
With these steps, you can find corporate clients, deliver transformative talks, and forge relationships that turn into even more speaking gigs down the road. 

Learn How You Could Get Your First (Or Next) Paid Speaking Gig In 90 Days or Less

We receive thousands of applications every day, but we only work with the top 5% of speakers.

Book a call with our team to get started — you’ll learn why the vast majority of our students get a paid speaking gig within 90 days of finishing our program.

If you’re ready to control your schedule, grow your income, and make an impact in the world – it’s time to take the first step. Book a FREE consulting call and let’s get you Booked and Paid to Speak®.