The Downside To Becoming a Motivational Speaker

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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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The Downside To Becoming a Motivational Speaker - Kelly Swanson, motivational speaker dreams

In pictures, it seems to be all glitz and glory.
But life as a motivational speaker isn’t always as it looks in pictures.

Like any job, becoming a motivational speaker has its downside.

Sure. When you look at the pictures, it looks like I’m jet setting all over the place, laughing with friends, hopping into taxis, laughing from one spotlight to the other. And those pictures are real, and those moments are beautiful.

But there are pictures you don’t see. There is a side to this business that we don’t share on Facebook, or post in glossy frames.

And if you want to be a motivational speaker, then you have to accept the good with the not-so-good.

So in order to prepare you for what the spotlight brings, today I share the down side of being a funny motivational speaker.

My Life As A C-List Motivational Speaker

Yes, I am on the C-List. I don’t share the stage with the likes of Tony Robbins. There are no photographers hiding out in my bushes waiting to get a shot of me naked.

I’m pretty sure, in fact, that it’s too late for me to ever be famous. I can only imagine what their down side must look like.

The Downsides to Becoming a Motivational Speaker:

1. It’s not just about the hour on stage.
You see me on stage for forty-five minutes. What you didn’t see was the three planes I had to take to get there, and three planes home. You didn’t see me getting up at 2:00 a.m. to catch those planes, because I had to drive two hours to the airport, turn in a rental car, and do my hair before I left.  (There’s no excuse for bed head.)

You didn’t see the hours I spent working on that speech – some stories and pieces of it, that I have actually been working on for years.  You didn’t see all the paperwork necessary for me to be there.

2. You think my fee is glamorous.
Until you take out my health insurance that I pay myself. And the other business expenses. And travel expenses. And the taxes taken out. And how many jobs I have to get to equal what you make, and you probably get benefits as part of your salary.

 I don’t work, I don’t get paid.  I am always unemployed until I get my next job.

3. You think I’m always this energetic.
It takes a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy to do this job. And if you’re tired, or sick, or have some personal stuff going on – too bad – the show must go on.

4. You think everybody loves me.
Well, maybe you don’t. But motivational speakers are seen as being cheered, getting standing ovations, high reviews, loved by all. Not true. We’re held up to a higher plane of accountability.

We are judged harshly. There are many people out there ready and willing to “evaluate” us and find us coming up short. I’ve been criticized on everything from my makeup, to my hair, to my clothes, to my jokes, to the way I talk. No matter how used to it I am, it still stings every time.

And being in the public’s eye (even on the C list) allows some people into your world that probably shouldn’t be there.

5. Not all parts of this job are fun.
You think that it would be fun to just hop on a stage and make people laugh and feel good. Yes, it is fun.

What’s not fun is the marketing, selling, administrative work, branding, social media, blogging, writing, publishing, customer service, coaching, traveling, driving, flying, ordering supplies, packing books, unpacking books, getting it wrong and having to figure out how to get it right.

In fact, if you spread this job out over a pie chart – the stage time is a tiny sliver compared to the rest of the pieces that must be done.

6. You have to be “on” when you don’t feel like it.
You have to be nice and sensitive ALL THE TIME. In the hallways, in the bathrooms, in the room before the show, during the show, after the show, in the parking lot, in the airport, on sales calls.

It’s EXHAUSTING being nice all the time.  Bad moods have to be tucked away until another day.

7. We lose time with family and friends.
Yes, I have the luxury of taking my family with me to many of my gigs. But even when I do, I’m still working and highly focused on the task at hand.

I have missed more moments with my son than I can count. I’ve missed weddings and funerals, reunions and girls nights.

8. You have to censor yourself ALL THE TIME.
I don’t like to be censored. But it’s the world we live in. I have to analyze everything I say, everywhere, to make sure I’m not offending someone. And even then, I still end up ticking someone off. It never fails.

 It is so hard as a creator and an artist to be free enough to create, but stifle myself at the same time from saying what is in my heart. And we’ve taken this PC thing WAY to far. It’s out of control.

People are getting offending that really aren’t offended themselves, they just think it might be offensive to someone else, who never was offended in the first place.

I’m going to stop here, because now I’m depressed and wondering why I ever decided to be a motivational speaker in the first place.

Because I LOVE MY JOB!

Yes, it’s true. I love my job. There is nothing else I would rather do. I love changing lives and healing hearts. Hearing thousands of people around me laugh, is intoxicating. I love the stage – even if I only get 20 minutes.

I love the thrill of being booked. I love applause. I love good reviews. I love standing ovations. I love selling books. I love it when people tell me they could listen to my stories all day. I love the hope I spread and the humor that travels with me.

My dream is bigger than my fear. It’s bigger than all the crap that comes with it.
My dream is big enough to carry me through the downside.
Because the up side is beautiful.
And nobody said this would be easy.
Changing lives never is.
So bring it on downside.
Bring it on hecklers and haters.
Bring it on down economy and low budgets.
Give me everything you’ve got.
I’m not going anywhere.
Except maybe up.
Perhaps it’s not too late for me to be famous after all.
Maybe, just maybe, by this time next year I’ll be on the A List.
Doesn’t matter.
Wherever I am.
That’s where I am.
Enjoying the moment.

Kelly Swanson
You. Your Story. Make An Impact!

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