I have to confess. Dealing with the money side of speaking is my least favorite part. Does it make you squirm to anticipate the moment when the event planner asks the dreaded question, “So what’s your fee?” Me too! It’s excruciating for me to talk with event planners about my fee. So I’m far too quick to offer to cut it—or to speak for free—or to offer them the shirt off my back and the keys to my house.
After a disastrous conversation with an event planner who I felt took advantage of my fee-wimpiness, I whined to another speaker about the discomfort I felt in talking about my fees. I told her that I often discounted my fee or even waived it simply as an avoidance tactic. I expressed my frustration with my own lack of backbone and my resentment over not being paid fairly for my hard work. My friend asked, “Why are you talking to an event planner about your fee? I NEVER talk to event planners about money. I want to be free to focus on my part of the event—speaking.”
You may wonder how that’s possible to achieve.
Our Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team has a wonderful gift named Karen Christian in our office. She’s the first contact for all the event planners who want to book a speaker, and she does all the communicating up to contract completion. We love her dearly and are eternally grateful for how she takes us off the hot-seat!
My problem was that I was still discussing fees with planners who contacted me directly, and I’m terrible at it. Based on the conversation that I had with my friend, I changed my policy about discussing and negotiating my speaker fees with event planners. I’ll discuss topics and dates. When fees come up, I say, “Karen Christian, our wonderful speaker coordinator, takes care of our scheduling, contracts and fees. Let me send you her contact information so that the two of you can discuss your budget and finalize the details.”
You can have that wonderful gift too! Even if you’re not part of a large ministry or a team, you can hire your own speaker coordinator.
Hiring a speaker coordinator is a freeing next step.
Here’s my best advice about how to take the plunge so that you never need to discuss your fees again:
Hire a special person with specific skills.
Here’s a list of qualifications you should seek:
- She should be warm, personable and professional.
- She should have a heart for ministry or your speaking niche and believe that you’re worth every penny of your fee.
- She should be able to listen attentively to an event planner’s dreams and then communicate the value you can bring to the event.
- She should have sales experience or acumen without being “sales-y”. A great speaker coordinator knows how to close a contract at the end of a conversation with an event planner.
- She should be organized and communicate well with you.
*Note: I used “she” since I’m involved in women’s ministry, but I’m sure you can find a fantastic “he” as well!
Hire someone who will work for a percentage.
Speaking can be a very seasonal profession, so it may feel fiscally uncomfortable hiring someone whom you pay monthly. My friends who manage their own speaking businesses pay the speaker coordinator a percentage what they get paid for an event. The standard range is 10%-20% of your fee.
If you hire someone who is also interested in marketing your speaking, their pay can go up with the number of events they generate for you.
Make her the first contact for people interested in your speaking.
Set up an email for her that’s included on your website and bio sheet. You may speak to event planners who contact you directly, but I suggest that you limit the discussion to topics and dates. Once the conversation turns to fees, you can use my line, “My wonderful speaker coordinator takes care of my scheduling, contracts, and fees. Let me send her your contact information so that the two of you can discuss your budget and finalize the details.”
Once your speaker coordinator has settled the details of the fees and contract, you’ll take over communication with the event planner.
Taking the step of hiring a speaker coordinator allows you to end the dreaded fee discussion. It lets you leverage your strength, speaking, while employing someone who has business strengths. In the end, your speaker coordinator will likely pay her own way by diminishing the times you cut your fees. She’ll allow you to reduce fees only when you choose without resentment. Win! Win!
What do you think? Are you willing to take the step of hiring a speaker coordinator?
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC with a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and find out more about her speaker coaching services at www.nextstepspeakerservices.org.