Making a living as a public speaker isn’t easy, but when you get it right, it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever experience. It allows you to put your expertise to good use, going on the road to spread your message and to educate people, while getting paid for the privilege.
The problem is that it’s easier said than done, especially in a pandemic era. It seems as though half of the event organisers out there expect speakers to work for exposure, and as we all know, exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
So how exactly can public speakers go about making a good living? Have no fear, because we’ve got you covered. Here are just a few of our top tips.
1. Get good at what you do
This one should go without saying, but if you want to make a good living as a public speaker, then you need to be good at public speaking. You’ll need to know your subject matter like the back of your hand so that you’re always ready to answer questions, and you’ll also need to know all the skills of the trade so that you can engage audiences and keep them interested.
2. Spend time and money to promote yourself
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re first starting out as a public speaker is that they try to cut corners and save as much money as possible. Now it’s true that you should keep a close eye on your purse strings, because you may not be able to afford to spend money willy nilly if you have no guaranteed income, but you also need to spend money to make money. That’s particularly true when it comes to marketing yourself.
3. Write books and articles
Writing is a great way to get your voice out there and to publicize your expertise, and it helps to promote you as a thought-leader. If you can, try to contribute to well-known publications in your industry, and consider writing a book if you think you have the stamina to see the project through to completion. Be warned though, that your book is doing well if it simply makes its money back. But that’s not really the point, because you can use your book to increase your speaking and consultancy rates.
4. Sign up to speaking sites, forums etc.
There are plenty of online database-based sites out there that are designed to list public speakers and to connect speakers with event organizers who are in need of their services. Our website, SpeakerHub, is just one of them, and we make it super easy for you to sign up and showcase your skills to bring in new business. Sign up to these sites and make sure that you’re also active on social media. The more exposure you have to potential clients, the better.
5. Pitch to events in your vertical
Instead of just waiting for business to come your way, try being proactive by drafting a shortlist of events in your industry and reaching out to the organizers. Ask them if they’re accepting pitches for their next event and whether they have a mailing list that you can join. While you’re at it, send them a copy of your latest resume and suggest one or two topics that you’d like to talk about.
6. Don’t compromise on your rates
Once you’ve decided upon the rates that you’re going to charge, stick to them. If you’re flexible on your rates, you’re sending out a signal that you don’t think you’re worth as much as you say you are. It’s also a slippery slope that can lead to you working for free. Given that this article is all about making a living as a public speaker, this tip is designed to help you do just that – make a living. If you start to compromise on your rates, you’re going to struggle to make enough to pay your bills.
7. Network as much as possible
They say it’s who you know and not what you know, but when it comes to public speaking, you’ll need a little bit of both. Networking is a particularly powerful tool for public speakers because it helps you to get your message out and to start making connections with people who might want to book you for their events.
8. Ensure your website is fit for purpose
Your website is essentially your digital storefront, and it’s usually the first place that people will go if they’re thinking about booking you for their event. You need to make sure that it does a good job of representing you and your personal brand. You should also make sure that they can see examples of your talks, and you must make it as easy as possible for them to book you.
9. Establish a point of difference
The public speaking marketplace is super competitive, and so the only way for you to survive for a lengthy period of time is for you to establish a point of difference. Ask yourself what it is that makes you stand out from other speakers and what you can bring to the table that no one else can. Then make sure that you’re communicating that on your website, your social media channels, and your pitches.
10. Never stop learning
Just because you’re an expert in your field, it doesn’t mean that you know everything there is to know. In fact, one of the big benefits of being a public speaker in your field is that you’ll constantly be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Sure, you could just allow yourself to stagnate and keep on talking about the same thing, but why would you? Instead, seize all of the learning opportunities that come your way and then take what you learn and start talking about it in your engagements.
Now that you know just a few of our top tips to help you to make a living as a public speaker, it’s over to you so that you can put what you’ve learned today into practice. Remember that it can take time to make it out there, and so a lot of speakers start out by also freelancing or even working a salaried job and building their career up around that.
The good news is that word of mouth can be a powerful ally, and once you’ve got a couple of successful speaking engagements beneath your belt, you’ll find that the work will start to roll in by itself. And of course, we’d love to hear from you and keep the discussion going, so be sure to leave a comment to let us know what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for you. We’ll see you soon in another article!