Understanding Speaker Fees: How to Price Your Speaking Engagements

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Congratulations! You’re launching a speaking business and picking up paid gigs for the first time. As your first client call approaches, one of the first questions you have to answer is this: how much do I charge to speak? If you don’t have a lot of experience in the speaking industry, deciding on a speaker fee for your services can feel like a huge mystery you have to solve. Fortunately, solving that mystery is one of our favorite things to do at The Speaker Lab. 

Today we’re going to cover all the factors that go into deciding how much to charge for speaking including when it’s right to negotiate a higher fee or accept a lower fee. Virtual speaking gigs. In person speaking gigs. Far-away speaking gigs. Local speaking gigs. Speaking for clients you’ve spoken to before. Speaking for entirely new clients. We’re covering it all, along with tips for knowing whether it’s time to negotiate a higher fee or take what you can get.

Deciding how to price your speaking engagements is a dynamic process. These tips are meant to help you consider all factors to come to a reasoned decision for your speaker fees at a variety of gigs. If you really want an exact number for a specific speaking engagement, you can check out our free speaker fee calculator at myspeakerfee.com

We talk about some of the factors that go into determining your base speaker fee here. Starting out, most speakers can charge at least $2,500–that’s right, even if it’s your very first speaking gig. Once you have a starting point, go through the following criteria to see how you should adjust it for any given client.

Here are the 12 main questions to ask to determine your speaker fee:

  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?

Let’s unpack each one of those questions in more detail.

How many times will you be speaking at the event?

This one is pretty simple. The more you’re speaking at an event, the more you can charge. If you’re delivering five hour-long talks, the amount of preparation and time onstage far outweighs delivering one. Don’t just multiply your base speaker fee by five, determine an incremental fee for each additional presentation with an upper limit for doing 5 or more talks at the same event.

In what industry is the event?

It’s an unavoidable truth that some industries pay more than others. You can’t expect to make the same amount of money speaking for a nonprofit audience as you would on stage in front of an auditorium full of hedge fund executives. Don’t despair, because you can (and should) still charge for the value you add! Just be aware that your client’s budget will be higher in some situations than others. 

At The Speaker Lab, we divide speaking audiences into seven industries. Here they are in order from most lucrative (i.e., you can get away with charging more) to least lucrative (i.e., you will probably have to lower your base fee a little bit):

  • Corporate 
  • Government/Military
  • Association 
  • College/University
  • Nonprofit 
  • Education (K-12)
  • Church/Faith-Based 

It’s certainly possible to build a successful speaking career as a secondary education or faith-based speaker. However, the fees you garner per gig speaking to a corporate audience – especially at the start of your career – could be almost twice as much as those you would earn speaking to Churches at the same stage in your career. 

We covered how to make money as a Faith-based speaker here. Scroll to the end of that article to find several podcast episodes we have recorded with speakers in traditionally low-paying industries!

Approximately how many talks have you given?

Becoming a great speaker is all about experience speaking in front of people (paid or unpaid). (To be fair, some people give talks over and over again and are still terrible speakers because they don’t put the right effort into improving and bettering their speaking business. But we trust that’s not you.) In general, experience the only way to tailor your talk to your audience, get comfortable on stage, and gain testimonials and references. The more of those things you have, the more you can charge. 

Don’t feel discouraged if your lack of experience puts you at the lower end of the fee spectrum. Nobody begins their speaking career making tens of thousands of dollars per gig (exceptions include athletes, celebrities, and career politicians). The speaker fees of big time speakers rest on decades and decades of speaking and improving on each successive speaking engagement. You’ve got to start somewhere, so why not start now!

How much preparation and customization will be required?

Time is money. When you negotiate a speaking fee, you’re not just charging for the time you spend speaking, but the time you spend preparing. If you have to create an entirely new talk for a client, you deserve to be paid for that extra work. Whereas if you’re delivering a talk you have given a thousand times, you don’t need to charge extra for preparation time. Adjust your fee according to any additional preparation and customization required by your client. Your pricing should always reflect extra time you spend working for a client–whether that’s changing up a generic keynote to suit a particular industry or writing an entire presentation on a specific problem a company is facing.

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! 

Would this be a new client or a client you’ve worked with before? 

If a client hires you for a second or third time, they have saved you valuable time and energy marketing yourself and trying to acquire new clients. Building relationships with clients who trust you to speak to their audiences again and again is one of the most important–and rewarding–parts of building your speaking business. Discount your rate for these clients, as they have saved you from the onerous process of getting a new lead through your pipeline. 

Are there opportunities for additional business with this client in the future? 

As we said, repeat clients are a huge asset to a sustainable, successful speaking business. Does your business savvy lead you to the sense that speaking for one client with a narrower budget will open the doors to future engagements? Don’t let attachment to a particular price point get in the way of an opportunity. If you are confident that a speaking gig will be the first of many, making your fee more accommodating is an investment in future business. 

Will you have an opportunity to sell your products or services?

Similarly to the possibility of repeat gigs, being able to sell your merch, courses, or professional services can make a lower speaking fee more amenable than you might realize. Many speakers get into speaking as a lead generation strategy for other verticals of their business. Have you written a book you can sign and sell? Do you have a course that you could offer a special discount code for to your audience? Perhaps you’re a consultant who helps people in your client’s industry dive even deeper into what you explore in your talk. 

Find out from the very beginning if your client is comfortable with you selling your products from the stage and after your talk. If they are, the possibility of getting new customers can make even speaking for free worth it. 

Is the event in person or virtual?

You can absolutely make money as a full-time virtual speaker. In the post-COVID world, more and more industries are shifting toward sticking to virtual platforms (read more about that). We have several podcast episodes on pivoting and succeeding as a virtual speaker. Listen here, here and here to get started. 

When it comes to speaking fees, virtual events do pay significantly less than in person fees. A speaker fee for a typical event will factor into account the extra time spent getting to and from an event and the inconvenience to the speaker. While a professional virtual speaker does have to the same level of prep for their content, a lot of the extra hassle is missing. Furthermore, virtual speaking allows you to deliver more talks to more audiences in a short amount of time. You may only make half as much per gig speaking virtually as you do in person, but you can organize your schedule as busily or laid back as you please from the comfort of your home. Virtual gigs are also easier to plan and put together within a short amount of time, which tends to mean lower speaking fees. 

Now, not all virtual gigs are created equal. If your talk is pre-recorded and sent to the client, you should charge less since you can finesse, prepare, and record on your own time. On the other hand, if you have a state-of-the-art production studio in your own home, you can charge more. Professional lighting and cameras make a huge difference when it comes to virtual presentations, and your clients will appreciate it. 

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!

Will you need to fly to the event?

It’s much easier for you and your event planner if you include a flat fee for airfare in your speaking fee rather than trying to organize a reimbursement system. That way, you can time your journey the way you want on the airline you prefer and not worry about waiting for your money to arrive. Decide on a flat fee based on the distance of the event from your home and communicate this during your discussions. 

If the event is a reasonable driving distance away, you can charge a lower fee based on the lesser inconvenience–especially if you don’t need to stay overnight!

Will you need overnight accommodations?

Maybe the event you’re being hired for includes overnight accommodations because, for example, it’s taking place in a hotel. If it doesn’t, this is another situation where you should integrate a flat fee to account for booking a hotel. Check the surrounding accommodations before you decide this fee. If you’re speaking in an expensive coastal city, chances are you will have to charge significantly more than in a mid-size midwestern town. 

Is the event being held in a location that you’d like to visit for business or personal?

Are you angling for a speaking gig in your dream vacation spot? You can probably afford to shave a few hundred dollars off your speaker fee. Speaking engagements are a great way to see parts of the world that are on your bucket list and have some expenses covered by your client. 

Would you attend the event/conference anyway?

Do you regularly attend a particular conference in your industry and finally finagle a chance to speak there? This is another reason to consider accepting a lower fee. A speaker fee encompasses not just time on stage, but also the extra travel, preparation, and effort required. Speaking at an event you would travel to anyway eliminates several of those factors. 

This sort of gig is a great way to get your foot in the door to the speaking industry. Ask event planners of upcoming conferences you plan to attend if they are looking for workshop leaders or breakout session facilitators. Your familiarity with the event and willingness to accept a lower fee can both be used to your advantage!

Conclusion

Remember, speaking is all about building relationships. Deciding how much to charge your clients requires keen discernment and weighing numerous pros and cons, such as whether you can afford to charge a lesser fee to a particular client. We hope these tips help you along this discernment process, which you may have to adapt anew for each successive client. Remember, if you want a simple calculator that spits out a hard and fast number to charge for your next speaking gig, check out myspeakerfee.com

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