How Much Should Motivational Speakers Charge?

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Charing for Motivational Speaking - Kelly Swanson

If I had to pick the number one question most motivational speakers ask, and the number one question least answered, it’s

“How much do I charge?” 

And my answer is simple – it depends.

Speakers’ fees range from free to $50,000. If your fee is over $20,000 you aren’t reading my blog post. Fees 20k and above are usually reserved for celebrities – war heroes, actors, famous politicians, sports figures, and musicians.

The rest of us fall somewhere in between free and $ 20,000 a speech.

How much motivational speakers should charge depends on many factors —

1. How good you are.
2. How long you’ve been doing this.
3. What credibility you have accumulated – a book, career as a CEO, etc.
4. How well known you are in the world, or in your market.
5. Where you live.
6. The economy. And a bad economy affects every business eventually.
7. What you offer and how much value the buyer thinks that has.
8. Who your  market/audience is and what kind of money they have to spend.
9. The return on investment offered to the client.
10. Your perceived value in the market place.
11. The opinion of the person hiring you.
12. How much your time is worth to you. (Not how much you think you’re worth – but what your time is worth to you.)
13. Factors we don’t even know.

How should you decide where to price yourself in the beginning?

What you charge in the first year of your business as a budding motivational speaker depends on how good you are. If you’ve already been speaking and putting in a lot of stage time, and you already have a well-crafted polished speech, or you already have some credibility to your name — then you might be able to charge more than those of us who are out there for the first time.

When I started, I spoke for free.

A lot.

Was that fair to me? You bet.

I was not good at all in the beginning. I should have paid them to come speak. It was practice time. So I found groups who needed speakers but couldn’t afford to pay. Don’t get me wrong — I think we should be paid for what we do, and to expect me to do my job for nothing is offensive to me. But that’s once I know what I’m doing.

Before that, I’m just practicing and learning my craft.

After a while I set a fee of $200. I know, not much. But it worked for me. After a while, I bumped it up to $500 and stayed there for a while. Later I bumped it up to $750, then $1500 – all the while negotiating as I went. Sometimes I lowered my fee in return for something they had that I wanted.

I’m not going to tell you my current fee for many reasons. But I would suggest that you hop on the internet, find some speakers’ bureaus (people who book speakers) and check out the speakers listed with published fees. You will quickly get an idea of what people charge.

Keep in mind that the bureau takes a cut of this, and that there are a lot of speakers who charge less than the published fees you see here. Usually someone listed with a bureau has a good bit of credibility behind their name, and not starting out.

How Much Should Motivational Speakers Charge - Kelly Swanson

When is it time to raise your fees?

I’ve always heard that the time to raise your fee is when you are consistently getting your fee.

So when you’ve spent a year getting your fee almost every time — perhaps it’s time to raise it. It’s not always smart to raise your fee or you might raise it right out of your market.

Some speakers also raise their fee when they hit some level of high publicity– like getting on Leno or Biggest Loser.

There is no shame in an honest day’s work

There are a lot of egos in the speaking business, and sometimes we fall into the trap of looking around and thinking that someone else is better because they get paid a higher fee, or we feel less than because our fee is lower.

Don’t fall into that trap. Fees are fees.

I know plenty of really expensive speakers who don’t work that much, and plenty of cheap speakers who are booked solid. It’s just a number.

And here’s the thing — you’re not gutting chickens. You are being paid to talk. And chances are good you are being paid far more per hour than your audience.

Keep it in perspective.

To your public speaking dreams,