Not long ago, I spoke for free all of the time. While every professional speaker needs to speak for free, there comes a time when the apprenticeship should end. I’d like to share five tips I’ve learned as I’ve gone from from free to fee.


Publishing Credits: It’s a lot easier to book speaking gigs if you have published a book (or two or three!) or have a wealth of columns or articles. Get to work now if you need more publishing credits!

Have a Website or Blog: You need an easy way for organizations to book you and for them to see what you’re all about. Brag that you have speaking experience and be sure to post videos and testimonials from your prior talks.

Establish your platform: As a writer, what’s your niche? What’s your expertise? Are you a technical writer or a memoirist? Do you enjoy giving talks about marketing or about craft? Most of all, be unique. What makes you the person and writer you are today? Bank on your personality and experience! For example, I bank on having a business background combined with a writing one. Develop catchy headlines for your talks as you develop your talk topics. Be clear on your topics and what you can/can’t speak about. How do your talks fill a gap for your audience? What can you give in your talks that no one else can?

As a writer, your audience may be writing clubs, conferences or associations. Venture outside your immediate area. Join out of state writing clubs and networking groups. They may want you at their next conference! You may also want to look at corporate training, professional associations and networking groups that pay their speakers.

Create a One-Sheet Profile: You’ll need to create a one-page profile in Word and then save it as a PDF. This profile will contain your headshot, your bio, your technical requirements (projector, outlets, flip chart, etc.), several speaking topics with 150 word descriptions and at least 3 short testimonials. Keep it to one page! You’ll send this profile next time you receive a speaking query or when you send a query.

 Be Clear in Your Fees: Know what you’re worth and share this whenever a coordinator contacts you. Practice saying, “My fee is _________.” Get comfortable asking for money! Negotiate the fee over the phone and not over email. If they don’t want to pay you or can’t pay you, give the coordinator a referral or two so that you come to mind as a professional.

It’s also a great idea to join Toastmasters to become an even better speaker (get rid of those ahhs and umms!) and once you have given a few talks join the National Speakers Association (NSA). Toastmasters and NSA offer excellent continuing education resources, they host conferences and you can keep your up skills and paid speaking commitment with local chapters.

Your Turn:

If you’re a professional speaker, what other tips can you offer here that I haven’t mentioned? If you want to speak for a fee, what has been stopping you? Please share here!