If you are a coach, consultant, or businessperson and you have thought about starting a side business to supplement your income, you might be looking for ways to leverage your expertise to attract new clients. Developing a speaking career can help protect and grow your coaching or consulting business during a recession or any other time. A public speaking career can give you a platform that represents credibility, authority, and visibility. And it can also provide you with new income from speaking fees. But how do you go from speaking for free to fee? How much can you charge? And how much does a public speaker make, anyway?
If you are wondering how much a public speaker makes, read on to learn more. Along the way, we’ll address each aspect of the question with actionable steps!
How much does a public speaker make?
How much does a professional public speaker make? There are a couple of ways of looking at this question.
One is how much does a professional public speaker make in a year? A full-time professional speaker generally can make anywhere between $50,000 and upwards of $300,000 per year, and more if they have an established brand and speaking business.
Another way of answering this question is how much can a public speaker make per gig: while brand-new speakers might earn $500–$5000 for a talk, experts who have written a book or already are well-known in their field can make $20,000-$50,000 per gig.
This raises the question: how much can a professional speaker make with each audience? Some gigs, especially with corporate clients or at major business events, can command particularly high fees. Other speaking engagements, for example with nonprofits or churches, generally pay less per gig.
How do I decide what speaking fee to charge?
To establish yourself as a professional public speaker, one recommended starting point is a base fee of $1,500. Why? Well, that’s an amount most organizations can afford to pay. If the organization can’t afford the rate, then offer a lower rate. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!
However, you might have specialized expertise that should increase the value of your speaker fee. To get a more precise estimate of what you should be charging, check out our speaker fee calculator here.
The more you speak, the more valuable you become to your audience. If you have given 11-50 presentations in your career, you should be compensated for your experience, and all the more as you gain more experience speaking.
How much does a speaker get paid by companies?
Companies and for-profit organizations are typically the most lucrative places to speak. Depending on the experience and relevance of your expertise to the audience, average speaking fees can range from $5000-$50,000 for corporate clients. By contrast, nonprofit organizations such as charities and trade associations, often have much smaller budgets and may only be able to offer a few hundred dollars or even just expenses paid. But keep in mind that your costs of travel, lodging, and food (not to mention taxes) will cut down on the take-home pay you receive. As one speaker puts it in this Linkedin post, “a $10,000 speech doesn’t mean $10,000 in the bank.”
By pursuing the corporate route, public speakers are more likely to charge $20K for a public speaking engagement. There are a few key elements that make this possible. First, many companies are willing to pay top dollar for the right keynote speaker. This is because they understand that a keynote speaker can have a significant impact on their event. In addition, most companies are large organizations with deep pockets. They can afford to pay more than smaller organizations. Finally, companies are often repeat customers. If a company is happy with a speaker, they are likely to book that speaker again in the future.
Mitch Joel, an international public speaker, author, and CEO, has worked with companies like Walmart, Google, and Starbucks. He walks you through the process of how to position yourself as a highly sought-after public speaker that can charge $10K, $20K, or more on episode 144 of The Speaker Lab podcast.
How much does a speaker get paid by churches or other nonprofit groups?
On Episode #37 of The Speaker Lab Podcast, “Should You Charge a Speaking Fee for Churches and Other Non-Profits?” Grant Baldwin discusses how to handle speaker fees for churches and other nonprofits. In his experience, his fee was normally $5,000, but for a non-profit, he’d do it for $4,000 or even $3,500. Generally speaking, there is no easy answer to this question, but the key is to know your value. What baseline speaker fee should you be charging? With that baseline, you can create a non-profit or church tier.
Charging a fee may help to cover the costs associated with giving the presentation, such as travel expenses and preparation time. As Grant points out in the podcast, a gig that is 30 minutes down the road from you is a better candidate for a free gig than one across the country. Charging a fee may also show that you value your time and expertise and that you are serious about the presentation. On the other hand, not charging a fee may make churches and other non-profits feel more comfortable working with you, as they may not have the budget to cover a speaking fee.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to charge a speaking fee is up to you and depends on your individual circumstances. However, generally speaking, a good baseline is 70-80% of what you would charge for a generic gig. So if your normal fee is $1000, you might consider doing a church gig for $750, or simply the costs of travel and prep time.
Want to learn more? Check out our podcast on how to find contacts in the faith-based market here.
How much can a public speaker get paid at schools?
Are you interested in speaking at schools? Do you want to make a career out of speaking in the education market? If you said yes, you are not alone.
The idea that schools and universities don’t have money for public speakers is a myth. In this episode of The Speaker Lab, we talk with Ryan Giffen, a booking agent in the education and university industries. He has booked public speakers for several thousand events in his time with the Premiere Speakers Bureau.
Some of the most common events that public speakers are hired for in K-12 and university industries are professional development events, according to Giffen. Schools typically have professional development budgets that can range anywhere between $2,000 all the way up to $20,000. Some schools pay $15,000-$20,000 for their speakers. As Giffen puts it, “$5,000 is just like a really comfortable range in K-12,” and from a college perspective, student groups typically have $2,000-$3,000 annually in their budget for public speakers. Depending on the size and endowment of the college, this varies. Paradoxically, the most prestigious universities often pay the least.
How to start charging
Working for free can be a nice opportunity to get your feet wet in the speaking industry, but there comes a time when you must provide food, clothing, and shelter for yourself and your family.
One way you can start making money while speaking for free is by offering a product for sale before, during, or after your talk. Sometimes event coordinators promise that you can sell your products or services at an event, but there are often restrictions on what you can and cannot sell—and the promoter may keep a portion of the proceeds from your sales. Before accepting an invitation to speak, ask how much you’ll be compensated, whether you can sell your products or services, and whether the promoter will take a cut of your sales.
One case study: gigs with a sales pitch
Meet Marc. Marc is a member of the TSL community and he speaks for free. Now, Marc didn’t start doing this on day one of his speaking career.
Marc is a high-level coach who gives away speeches for free. In fact, Marc doesn’t charge for any of his speeches because he only books gigs where he can sell his services before, during, or after the event. He knows how to be strategic about his business, and his audience and delivers consistently excellent speeches.
My point is, you don’t have to charge thousands of dollars to become a successful, paid public speaker. You could charge NOTHING and still bring home the bacon in other ways.
Going from free to fee
We previously posted an article titled “How to go from Speaking for Free to Getting Paid to Speak,” and it is chock-full of tips for transitioning from speaking for free to getting paid to speak.
To earn a living from speaking, you need to be willing to charge for your time and expertise. To do so, it’s helpful to keep in mind that you’re providing a valuable service—one that people are willing to pay for.
So you’ve learned how much a public speaker can make, both annually and per gig. You’ve also learned a little bit about what it takes to begin building a speaking business for each target market. If you’d like to learn more about paid speaking opportunities, check out this post on how to find paid speaking opportunities in any industry. Happy speaking!