Why You Need to Start Charging for Speaking Engagements

How to Negotiate for Yourself And Respond Strategically When They Don’t Have the Budget for You

You’re on the rise and people are taking note. In fact, as you’ve been glowing up, we’d be willing to bet that people have been blowing you up. We know you’re smiling and nodding enthusiastically. 

Yes, ALL the people are reaching out. 

It’s natural for others who are inspired by you to reach out and want you to spread your magic fairy dust with them and everyone they know. They want you to come teach a workshop, be a guest on their panel or even keynote their virtual event. 

But while you’re over there feeling flattered and totally honored by the invitation, don’t let your initial excitement turn into an immediateYES! before you’ve asked this important question:

Do you have a budget for this event that you’re trying to work within? 

We can feel you cringing through the interwebs, but stay with us now. You’re being asked to speak because this individual, brand or organization believes you’re the expert on the subject. They think you have extremely valuable intel and insight to share with their audience. They trust you enough to put you in front of their people and believe that you’ll deliver and exceed expectations. They also know that you’ve put in the endless hours to become that trusted expert. 

And as such, we believe you should be compensated for it. Hell, YOU believe you should be compensated for it. 

But asking for it is uncomfortable—particularly as women—because we’ve been doing “favors” and “solids” for forever and a day now. We’ve made a habit of giving away our time and our expertise to anyone who asks. But that’s old fashioned and we’re on that new-new now. 

So, the next time someone reaches out to and is asking for you to come speak to their group or invites you to keynote their conference, start first by thanking them and telling them that you’re excited about potentially working together. Then… ask what their budget is for the event or engagement. Here’s an example: 

Hi XX, 

Thanks so much for reaching out. This sounds like a wonderful event! Before I can confirm, I wanted to see if you have a budget that you’re trying to work within? 

Look forward to hearing from you soon,
[Your name] 

Whether they are prepared to compensate you or not, you haven’t opted out of it by immediately accepting without understanding all the value exchanging possible. 

But what happens when they come back and say they don’t have any budget? In some cases, we recommend declining—especially if your schedule is already jam-packed with paid commitments. Graciously thank them for reaching out, but let them know you’re not able to move forward at this time. In other instances though, you can use this as an opportunity to explore other types of value exchanges. Here are some examples: 

  • There’s an opportunity to plug your offer or sell from the stage (and you feel confident you can get a few leads or sales from doing so) 
  • They have a large email list and would be willing to do an eblast to their list about you and your expertise before or after the event 
  • They will be recording the footage from the event and will provide it to you after so you can add it to your speaking kit and demo reel
  • They would be willing to introduce you to other event or conference organizers who COULD compensate you
  • They’ll write an endorsement for you post-event 
  • They are willing to cover your flights, hotel and even meals

These are just a few ideas for how you could turn “no budget here” into value and exposure that reinforces your boundaries (let your yes be yes and no be hell no, right?) and honors you, your expertise and your time. Because listen: you can’t get what you never ask for.

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