How to Negotiate Your Speaking Fees
If you’re new to public speaking, you probably have a lot of questions. How should I start my speech? How should I end it? How do I even become a public speaker in the first place?
All of these questions matter. But one of the most important (and most uncomfortable) ones you should be asking is: How do I negotiate my speaker fee?
The truth is, knowing how to set speaking fees can accelerate your success. Yes, it can be awkward, but you need to know how to do it…fortunately, it gets easier with practice!
Think of it this way:
Setting speaker fees is a learnable skill—a skill that will ignite your confidence, ensure equal exchange (to the direct benefit of yourself and your clients), and generate even greater opportunities for yourself in the future. You don’t want to put off developing this critical ability!
Here is a simple five-step process that will help you learn how to set speaking fees throughout your career.
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Step 1: Do Your Research
When it comes to knowing how much to charge for a speaking engagement, keep this mantra in mind:
Do. Your. Research.
You should never go into a negotiation blind. If you do, you might agree to a speaker fee that is too low to cover related expenses (e.g., travel, food, and lodging, as well as time spent preparing your material) and still leave you with enough to sustain your business.
Alternatively, you may end up asking for a price that is far too high. This may paint you as unprepared or ignorant in the eyes of the client and could end up closing the door to any future opportunities with them.
The following are three tasks to include on your research to-do list: estimate their budget, learn who they’ve worked with before, and look for the averages in your niche.
Estimate Their Budget
A bit of simple math can help you estimate your client’s budget.
Start with the cost of each ticket as well as how many tickets the client expects to sell. Multiplying these two numbers gives you the client’s gross budget.
Next, divide this number by four—this roughly accounts for the cost of the venue plus the cost of any additional overhead your client will need to cover (e.g., security, refreshments, etc.). The figure you’re left with is a fair estimate of how much your client has in their budget for speakers.
Finally, you’ll need to know how many speakers the client will have at the event. Then, simply divide the estimated budget by the total number of speakers. The result? A decent estimate of how much your client can pay you.
Discover Who They Have Worked With Before
Knowing who your client has worked with previously gives helpful context when figuring out what they are prepared to pay for guest speaker fees. Are their prior guest speakers well-known personalities or industry-leaders? Or, are they lesser-known individuals who are earlier on in their public speaking careers?
Whether you’re speaking at an annual conference, an academic institution, a corporation, or some other engagement, learn about who came before you. You may be able to find this out online or by asking the client directly.
Look for Averages in Your Niches
Reach out to other people in your field who share your level of experience and ask them what they typically charge for speaking events. Their figure doesn’t have to be the exact same as yours but determining what the “going rate” is can help you establish a good ballpark figure in your mind.
Step 2: Determine Your Bottom-Line Price
Once you’ve done your research about your clients and your industry, it’s time to do some research on yourself. Here’s what this means:
You need to assess honestly your current level of experience and expertise. This way, you can develop a personal “bottom-line” price. In other words, set in your mind, before the negotiation process begins. What is the lowest possible fee you’d accept for a particular engagement?
Stay humble. If you’re brand new, don’t expect a huge fee right away. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short either! Agreeing to engagements that don’t pay you fairly can breed resentment and burnout.
This step is really about knowing your worth and being confident in what you have to offer. Once the negotiation process begins (see step 4), don’t waver too far below your initial ask and never agree to less than your bottom-line price. This saves you the time and energy you would have spent on negotiating with a client that isn’t able or willing to pay what you can comfortably accept, and makes it easier to walk away from opportunities that simply aren’t a good fit.
Step 3: Ask For Details
Now that you’ve done your due diligence by completing steps one and two, the next step is to sit down with your client and get more details about them and the event.
In this step, you can ask your client directly what their speaker budget is, or lead with a more general question such as, “What can you tell me about the event?”, “Is it virtual, or live”, “How many attendees will there be… “, etc.
Don’t be a lazy listener here: if you pay close attention, you can really uncover wonderful gems about the client and what makes them tick. By showing them how you can help them fulfill their goals and objectives, you give yourself great leverage during the negotiation process!
Here are some other valuable details you may want to find out from your client before proceeding with the negotiation process:
- Who the typical audience is (where they’re from, what their typical demographics are, whether they’re paying for the event, etc.)
- Who the other speakers are at the event
- Where you will fall in the speaker queue
- What the client’s main goals and desired outcomes for the event are
- What the biggest successes or failures from past events have been (if applicable)
The key is never to lead with the fee. Spend some time building connections with your client and becoming more clear about what their needs are. This helps you deliver exceptional value and helps your client understand why you’d be a valuable asset to their lineup—and why paying you handsomely will be a worthwhile investment.
Step 4: Start Your Negotiation
It’s finally time to negotiate a fair price for your speaker cost!
In your client’s ideal world, the agreed-upon fee will be on the lower end of the range of what you’re willing to accept. In your ideal world, the fee will be on the higher end of the range of what the client is willing to pay. While these may sound like mutually exclusive goals, it’s totally possible to arrive at a fair compensation—and one that allows you to get the most out of this opportunity.
If your client suggests a speaking fee first, there is an effective negotiating strategy you can use called bracketing. To do, simply counter-offer with a figure that is between 110 percent to 130 percent of the amount offered by your client.
For example, if your client offers you X dollars, you may try using language such as, “Based on my research and experience, I feel that excellent performance in this type of event would be worth between (X*1.10) and (X*1.3).”
This strategy helps your client expand and visualize the upper limits of what they are willing to pay. It also gives you some more buffer room during subsequent negotiations.
Very often, clients end up offering a figure somewhere between the two figures you counter-offered with. And if your client ends up offering you less than what you aimed for—but still higher than what your bottom-line price is (see step 2)—it’s simply up to you to decide if the opportunity is still a good fit…something the final step can help with.
Step 5: Consider Some Non-Monetary Compensation
Let’s say you were able to get close to your desired fee and are still above your bottom-line price, but your client’s budget is limited. Before you sign your speaking engagement contract, ask your client if there’s anything else they can do to help to finalize the negotiation.
Let your client brainstorm first. They may offer some surprising incentives that are above and beyond what you were prepared to ask, such as travel vouchers, recurring gigs, back-of-room sales, or even a role as a keynote speaker or event sponsor.
Get creative! After all, just because they may not be able to offer you more money doesn’t mean they don’t have anything else to offer. Just be sure to get all the negotiations and agreements in writing, and feel free to ask for 24 hours to think it over before signing any contracts.
Set (And Get) Your Ideal Your Speaking Fee With Confidence
A career or a side hustle in professional speaking can be incredibly rewarding and a great way to inspire others. It’s even more rewarding when you know you’re being paid what you’re worth!
Like what you see? Share this article with your peers, and in the meantime be sure to check out 8 Tips to Get Your Name Out There as a Speaker.
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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.