Speaking Fees

28 Jan

What is a typical speakers fee? How much should you charge?

According to Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, there is no national list or organization that posts speakers rates. She says, “People get paid for what they say, how and where they say it, and sometimes just for who they are. Speakers can earn anything from $25 on up to $100,000 for the top celebrity of the moment.”

As a speaker myself, and in working with thousands of event planners and speakers over the years, I know that many church groups are mentally not prepared to pay a speaker. They are used to hosting “in-house” speakers, gals who attend their own church or are missionaries in whom their church has invested. These speakers provide presentations at no cost, as it should be, because, basically, they are family. They are involved in a mutually beneficial relationship, thus a fee is over-the-top.

But, when a church brings in a speaker from the outside, they should pay her. One idea is ask the committee to add $1 or $3 per person to ticket price or suggested donation, to pay for her travel and time.

No matter how you slice the pie, when speaking at smaller church events, you will always be doing it for love and not money! Having said that, here is my best advice for answering the scary question, “How much do you charge?”

1) Decide how much you need.
Are you earning your livelihood from speeches? If so, and you take an engagement that doesn’t pay, you may have to pass up an engagement that does. Think about this in advance, because you will need to honor your commitment, no matter what else comes along. How many paying engagements, at what rate, do you need? Can you afford to do some pro bona (free) engagements?

2) Who is paying your fee?
If you try to charge a church a corporate fee, you’ll offend people. Every market sector has its own standards for engaging and paying speakers. Even within a sector, working with a small group for a local event is radically different than working with a team who is planning a convention or national conference.

3) Do you have multiple stream of income?
Book authors, professional service providers and others often earn far more from secondary income streams than from their speaking fees. Many such speakers accept engagements for free or low fees in exchange for the opportunity to meet that audience in person.

4) What is your experience level?
When you are just starting out, I encourage you to speak for free for a while. You can learn, polish and improve very fast if you are willing to do this! Consider it an educational expense. If you went to college to learn public speaking, you’d be spending $12,000-$30,000 a year for that education.

Having said all this, when I am personally asked, “How much do you charge?” my standard answer is usually the same. I say, “I try to be as flexible as possible. How much did you pay your speaker last year?” or, conversely, “How much do you usually pay speakers? If at all possible, I would like to work within your budget.”


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