Currency In The Business of Speaking

Side Note: At Way Beyond Ordinary Speakers we encourage you to give back to the world and the community you serve. Your gifts and your method of giving may certainly include your voice and talent as a speaker. There is most certainly a place for good will and giving in any business. In this article we are not talking about charitable giving however, we are talking about business.



Free vs. No Fee

We have all heard it too many times and it usually sounds something like this, “We would really like you to  speak at our event, but there’s no budget for the speaker.” What to do? Do you take the gig or stick to your published fees and let it go?

I’m all about getting paid, and getting paid what I am worth as a professional speaker. One of our reasons for founding Way Beyond Ordinary Speakers was to help authentic talented speakers receive fair compensation for the value they bring to the world.

So, does that mean I’ve never done a professional speaking engagement for free? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Now, let me clarify this. Free is a killer. Free is not right, and free will undermine our value and perception in the marketplace. I say I’ve never spoken for free, but I have spoken many times for no fee. There is a big difference here and let’s talk about what that difference is.

It’s all about the currency and value that you receive. If you’re going to consider taking a gig without getting paid in dollars, you must be able to get currency of some sort from it. This “currency” could show up as a list building proposition, new paying members of your continuity programs, needed speaking practice or rehearsal, the opportunity to shoot video for your reel, etc.  However, I cannot stress enough; you have to get paid somehow every time you take the stage.

I recently spoke in Indianapolis at an event where the client paid only my travel expenses and gave me access to sell products and my memberships to my perfect target audience. In addition, I had another prospective client in Indianapolis who I was able to schedule a lunch with and close the deal for more business in the near future. This “no fee” engagement was a very lucrative trip for me.

In this instance, I knew my conversion rate for closing product sales at an event for this demographic before I agreed to speak for no fee. I also had it clearly understood by the client that I was there to sell product and continuity memberships before I would accept this speaking gig. Be sure to negotiate such sales opportunities up front in your agreement. You want no room for misunderstanding or limitations.

Because of my understanding of this audience and how my programs resonate with this particular demographic, I walked away with thousands of dollars in product sales, a host of new long-term monthly continuity members, as well as a new relationship for several sales schools in the upcoming year. Do you think I got paid for this engagement? Was it worth my while? Absolutely!

Forms of Currency

Here are a few forms of valued currency that you may consider fair trade for your appearance. Before you jump to any one form, make sure you put some numbers to it and know what the true monetary potential is for you.



Audience mailing list Future sales based on your current conversion rate and average revenue per client
Back of room sales Book or product sales closed on site, based on your average sales per event of this size
Back-end sales Future product sales, membership sales, speaking referrals, consulting referrals
Video/Audio Recording Having a live audience recording is crucial to your marketing as a professional speaker, if the client can’t pay you negotiate to have your team, or better yet, their team record the session and give you the recording along with rights to use. Consider the quality of the video, it’s only of value is it’s a good quality video with good sound. Cost of staging a video would run several thousand $
Barter What business is the client in? Is there a fair trade you could negotiate that would benefit your business? What is the value of that trade?
Practice Sometimes you just need an audience so you can test out new material or a new program. Make sure you are getting good and useful feedback from the audience if this is your currency. Negotiate with the client to let you distribute an evaluation/feedback sheet to audience members or schedule a follow-up focus group to gain valuable insights from your test audience.



Remember, I knew exactly how I would monetize the event before I accepted engagement. I see too many speakers accept a no fee/low fee engagement for no good reason, and with no good plan of how they can monetize. Don’t let this happen to you. You must know your outcome before you take the stage every single time.

Worth and Belief

You know, so much of this internal struggle with pricing and value begins with our own belief in the value we deliver. When you get clear about the value that you deliver to your audience and how you impact their lives and their businesses, then you can begin to see how you are deserving of that value in return.

You’re worth your fee my friend! You deserve to get currency every time you speak and it’s worth turning down a gig here and there if the value is not fair.

This is a business my friend, not a hobby. We need to run this like any other business. If a transaction occurs, then currency must change hands as well – and you get to decide what valued currency to you is.


What other currency are you trading to get the value you need from unpaid gigs. Share with us your creative approach.


2 Responses to Currency In The Business of Speaking

  1. Anna Taylor says:

    Nicely written article to help out individuals using guerrilla marketing tactics.

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