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Are Your Speaking Fees a Hot Mess?

How are your speaking fees? Are you able to stand tall when it comes to selling yourself and demanding your fee for each gig? Or are your speaking fees a hot mess, and you are constantly negotiating and lowering them to just get the job?

In this post, I want to talk about what may be causing you to constantly negotiate your speaking fees and what steps you can take to move out of that cycle so you are sticking to your fee schedule.

First, let’s think about why you are negotiating your speaking fee. In my experience, there are typically some common reasons, including:

  1. You expect to negotiate.
  2. You’re just not skilled enough in sales to sell yourself.
  3. You are targeting the wrong market.
  4. You are not establishing enough value.

Let’s unpack these a little bit. 


You’re on the phone chatting with a client, and there’s a little green gremlin on your shoulder that says “they’re never going to pay you what you want.” Have you experienced this? What do you do?

You could listen to the gremlin, and when quoting your speaking fee leave the door open for negotiation. Here’s what this looks like:

You “leave the door open to negotiation” by saying something like, “My fee is $5,000, but if that’s not within your budget, we can make it work.” Basically you’ve just shot yourself in the foot out of fear.

Or, you can ignore the gremlin and stand tall in your fees, which looks something like this:

When you quote your fee, say your number, where you travel from, and then be quiet.  Close your mouth. If the client flinches or says the amount is not in their budget, then you let the negotiations begin.

Many of us open the door long before it’s necessary.  And that means our gremlin is driving the bus. For more on how to tame the gremlin, check out a recent podcast I did with Rick Carson.

One way to overcome constantly negotiating your speaking fees is to condition yourself to imagine that everybody has money. That every single client can afford you. What if you started from that position instead of the opposite? I call this the Wealthy Speaker Mindset.  I encourage you to try it out – what do you have to lose?

#2: You’re Just Not Skilled Enough in Sales to Sell Yourself

For some of you who are just not skilled in selling, it may be better having someone else do the selling for you. You want to give your services away to anybody and everybody. If that’s the case, and you’ve tried getting trained up on negotiating techniques, then you might need to hire and hand off the negotiation piece.  If you do this it’s best for your business manager or agent to be a pivotal part of the conversation leading up to fees so that they have built up some trust with the client prior to having the fee discussion.

#3: You Are Targeting the Wrong Market

Have you ever heard the saying about climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning against the wrong wall?

speaking fees - targeting the wrong market
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If you are targeting the wrong market, you may be climbing the wrong ladder.

No doubt you’ve experienced some shifts moving from market to market. You did the state associations for a while but when your fee got too high, you switched to national associations.  Or you did a lot of regional corporate events and found that the money got a lot more plentiful once you were dealing with head office.

If you find yourself beating your head against the wall on a regular basis trying to get paid, then switch up the wall. Try switching up your market.

#4: You Are Not Establishing Enough Value

not skilled in selling

If you struggle to get a higher speaking fee from clients then consider beefing up your package or offering a full day premium.

Let’s say you charge $7,500 for a keynote. That could be option #1. Option #2 could be a full day at $10,000 where you offer to do a keynote and a breakout session or a special VIP session of some sort. Perhaps you throw in a follow-up webinar. Another option to consider would be including books for everyone in the audience. The three-tier pricing strategy is very good, and you might be surprised at how many people opt for the premium packages.

If you hang up the phone after a client call and you just know that you didn’t get the business, ask yourself this: “How could I have shown more value on the call?” When someone asks you for a fee, often over email, and you answer the email and quote fees, they are shopping based on price only. Your goal should be to schedule a quick call to see if you are a fit and to quote them a package that suits their needs. Getting the client “whooped up” (that’s aBob Scheinfeld term) about working with you prior to talking money is the best possible scenario. Start your conversation with “what made you reach out to me?” and then you proceed to let them sell themselves on why you are a good fit. See what I did there?

We know how important mindset is to being a successful entrepreneur, so how about we raise our expectations when it comes to client’s budgets and go from there?

Then, check out what wall your ladder is perched against. Perhaps you seek markets where the struggle isn’t so intense. 

And finally, by pouring on the value, we are able to get our clients excited about working with us and securing the business no matter what our speaking fee is.

See you soon, Wealthy Speakers!

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