The Business of Public Speaking: Transitioning to Paid SpeakingIf you want speaking to become a revenue stream for you, start by getting as many free engagements under your belt as possible. Then begin reaching out to companies and conferences that need speakers. Professional speakers typically earn $2,500 to $10,000 and up for a keynote presentation, plus travel expenses. It can be a lucrative career, though one that takes time and effort to build. Here are some additional tips for paid speaking:

  1. Ask for Payment – Once you have some experience, simply decide to start asking for payment. Small associations and many conference break-out sessions won’t pay, but larger events and companies will expect to pay you. Most importantly, it never hurts to ask. You will still end up speaking for free at some events—most speakers do—but when you start to request fees, you might be surprised to actually earn them! A good starting fee is between $2,500 and $5,000. It may sound high, but it’s the going rate for speakers. You can also negotiate fees and travel expenses. If a company has a tight budget, you can reduce your fee. You might also try bartering for something in return. One speaker I know once got a brand-new car to drive around for a full year in exchange for a one-hour keynote.
  2. Bundle in Books – Some companies will gladly buy a copy of your book for all attendees. This usually comes out of a different budget than the speaker fee, and once again, it never hurts to ask.
  3. Update Your Speaker Page – Add a note on the speaker page of your website that sets the expectation that you charge a fee. Mine says: “Please call or e-mail for speaker rates. A 50% deposit is required to reserve the date with the balance due on the day of the event. Special considerations may be made for non-profit organizations.”
  4. Network with Other Speakers – The National Speakers Association (NSA) is the leading organization for speakers: Locally, I run the Sacramento Speaker’s Network and we welcome new members: There is also Toastmasters, where members practice their skills:
  5. Have Fun – When you enjoy what you do, it comes across. It will take some practice, but when you find your passion for speaking it can have a powerful impact on building your personal brand and your bottom line.

Resources for Speakers


  • Speak and Grow Rich by Dottie Walters and Lilly Walters
  • The Wealthy Speaker by Jane Atkinson
  • Money Talks: How to Make a Million as a Speaker by Alan Weiss

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with checklists, templates and worksheets on professional speaking. Check it out!