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When to Charge a Speaker Fee

Plus what to charge and how to decide!!


These are the EXACT same steps I used to position myself as an expert and profit from speaking in less than 6 months.


When to Charge a Speaker Fee


Recently, Wendy, from, asked, “How does one know whether to charge a speaker’s fee, or if the exposure is payment enough?” I told her that’s a great question and that I would blog about it, but, in the interim, the short answer is always charge a fee, and, in certain instances, you waive your fee.

I did some research and found some very interesting guidance. Notice the word, “guidance,” as there are no rules. Just like everything else, you charge what people are willing to pay, right?

To help sort this out, I came up with a set of rules, er, I mean guidelines, to go by:

  • Corporate CEO’s. If you are a CEO of a large company or perhaps the managing partner of a professional services firm, i.e., a law firm or CPA firm, consider how much business you get from speaking for free. If you are getting from $10,000 to $100,000 in annual fees from new clients from speaking, you would not want to seek $5,000 speaking engagements.(Thank you to Patricia Fripp for this insight.) If, on the other hand, you don’t get any new business from speaking, you probably need to tweak your presentation. You are most likely missing opportunities. Read my blog on how to build business from speaking.
  • New Speakers. If you are relatively unknown, you might be better off not charging for your speaking, and, instead, selling your services, programs, and/or books/audios/CD’s at the end of your presentation. Again, you need to weigh these two dynamics, speaker fee versus product sales.
  • Corporate Trainers. While trainers always charge for their corporate training programs, they could possibly charge a speaker fee for speaking engagements. What you charge is based on how well you are known and how much the group values your expertise.

There are different types of professional speakers, those starting out, those who have been doing it for a while, and those who have reached the top of the game. About 1% of professional speakers are at the pinnacle like Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Mark Victor Hansen, etc. However, there are much lesser known speakers who also can command the big fees (like $40,000 on up for one engagement); these lesser known speakers are well-known in their niche. Here’s a guide of what to charge and when:

What to Charge

  • This depends on your value to the group and their budget.  
  • Set your fee and then be willing to make adjustments to it.  As you gain experience, keep raising you fee until you start getting push back 20% of the time.  (Thank you to Nick Morgan for this insight.)
  • You can also say you don’t have a speaker fee; however, you do get paid an honorarium plus travel expenses.  (Thanks again to Nick Morgan.)
  • If you are starting out, your fee/honorarium would be low, but not too low ($300 or more).
  • Whether you set your fee at $300 or $500 or more, you must believe that you are providing more than enough value to equal that fee.  The more testimonials you have the better.
  • Let’s say you set your fee at $1500 (for newbies), and you have been approached by a church to speak at one of their programs.  If you tell them it’s $1500 and they say our budget is only $300, do you take their fee?  That’s up to you.  You have to decide if it’s worth your time and the exposure.  If you are just starting out, you will most likely take it and use it to your advantage. For example, if they can’t pay your entire fee, you could let them know that you would be glad to discount your fee for them if you can sell your products or programs at the end.  Be sure to get it in writing.
  • When you get to the level of charging $2500 and $5000 per speaking engagement, you are on your way to be in the “paid professional speakers” ring.

When to Charge

  • Networking Groups.  These groups almost always do not pay a fee.  However, you should be able to sell your products and programs at the end.  Plus, you can provide a feedback sheet to provide a way for people to tell you what they want from you.  If you have a speaker fee, let them know what it is, but you are willing to waive it in exchange for promoting your product(s).
  • Churches.  Churches usually have budgets so you want to let them know your fee.  You would apply the scenario detailed above.
  • Industry Conferences.  Typically, large conferences pay for their speakers, but it can be highly competitive if you don’t have a track record with them.  There is usually an application process and in some cases you have to provide a short video of you speaking.  If you are serious about getting paid speaking engagements, then you may want to pursue this market.  Remember, however, that there are some conferences that do not pay for speakers, so you’ll “waive” the fee in exchange for promoting your products or providing your own feedback form.
  • Corporate Meetings.  Another great place to get paid speaking engagements are corporate meetings.  These may be harder to get into, but not impossible.  Although the paid speaking arena has changed in the last few years, it still exists and is based on brand/reputation which translates into the value you bring.  You definitely what to charge to speak at these meetings and charge the higher fees ($2500 on up plus a flat fee for travel expenses).

There’s a lot more that can be said about charging fees and when to charge.  But, it all boils down to how you want to get paid (fee vs. selling product/getting new clients) and what the market is willing to pay you.  What has your experience been?

Pam Terry
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  1. Maryann Candito says:

    What a great article, thank you so much! I am in the processes of publishing my first book and have been wondering about speaking gigs and fees. I love the synchronicity – when I need info it shows up at the right time! And your information was very thorough and hit points I wouldn’t have even thought of. Many thanks again!

  2. Pam Terry says:

    Thank you Maryann. So glad that it was on point for you. If you would like to get updates to my blog, I hope you’ll sign up for my mailing list. I appreciate your encouraging words.

  3. Kim Nishida says:

    OK, you just blew my mind with “always charge a fee, and, in certain instances, you waive your fee”! That gave me a major shift in my perspective about the value the speaker brings to the audience. I think it’s very easy to fall into the mindset trap of thinking we’re asking someone to do us a favor by granting us permission to speak in front of an audience. I’d much rather come from a place of, “I’m bringing so much value to this audience…” That’s just excellent!

  4. Pam Terry says:

    Exactly Kim! I like to say that we are all Guru’s because we are experts in our areas and have so much value to bring to people. And, remember what Guru spells – Gee, You Are You!!

  5. Wendy (The Local Cook) says:

    Thank you so much for a great perspective! I love the idea of increasing the price until you get pushback 20% of the time. I have been trying that with my consulting rates and am still raising them 🙂

  6. Pam Terry says:

    Hi Wendy! You inspired me with this topic – you posed such a great question. Thanks for that. Glad to hear that you are able to raise your rates.

  7. Nicholas Harper says:

    Very interesting and very helpful article.

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These are the EXACT same steps I used to position myself as an expert and profit from speaking in less than 6 months.