13 professional speakers weigh in: Should you speak for free?

We often get asked “Should I speak for free?” and while there is no black and white answer, we thought we would share some insights from our community.

At the end of the day, as a speaker, you have to decide whether an event is worthwhile to you — either monetary or not. However, figuring out whether it is of value can be a bit tricky sometimes.

In this post, 13 professional speakers weigh in on the question, and offer their experience and insights.

“When you’re just getting started in the industry or when you’re getting back into the speaking industry. Additionally you should speak for free if it will put you in front of a target market where you have the opportunity to sell something else to that group”

-Tiffany Bradshaw, MBA

“I will speak free if there is a group with decision makers for my subject. I also ask for things like a professional video, buying my books, connection with key people vacation expenses, etc. in exchange for speaking for free”

-Arnold Sanow MBA, CSP, Communication Skills Expert

“One of my earliest mentors, Mark Victor Hansen, told me: “Speak for free until you no longer have to speak for free.” That was 15 years ago, and I’ve found that advice to be incredibly helpful.”

-Bill Guertin

“When I retired from pastoring and went into full time speaking, my mentor told me this:
1. Give back at least twice a year
2. Sometimes speaking free allows you to capture footage
3. You can get booked by corporations, who saw you speak at a free speaking event”

-Kelvin McCree, CELC, LGC, LFC

“Why not?”

-Andres Valdes

“I will do the occasional freebie if it opens a new field for me or if the organization really matters to me. I won’t do it if I’m losing money. If there is travel involved, I make sure that is covered.”

-Matt Judge

“There are reasons and value to speaking for free. Gaining exposure and/or experience is one. Giving something back to the community is another. Another reason is because it’s for or related to charity. And being involved with it pro bono makes you look good.

-Ron Auerbach, MBA

“Absolutely, whether you are new or not. It’s an obvious “yes” if you are new to speaking and need experience and visibility. But it is a “yes” for experienced speakers as well, not only for giving back but also for filling your funnel for other types of work you do. Not all companies, big or small, see speakers as doers — experts who can actually implement their speaking message. It is similar to the beliefs many have that consulting companies can come up with great strategies and plans, but don’t know how to implement them (and this is coming from a lifelong consultant — me). Free should not be looked at as a pride thing… it should be used as a strategy thing.”

-Bernadette Boas

“I built my business on the words “Free Meeting!””

-Robert Prentice!

“My short answer: YES! Regardless of your experience, there are 3 reasons that could motivate you to accept some free gigs.

- Sébastien Nuñez

“Only if you have an amazing opportunity to show your brand to a specific audience that is the type of client you are looking for.”

-Livia Bello

“I would if I knew the organization and I also knew they can’t pay. It really is the audience, can they benefit you. Ask if you can you sell your wares, books, etc? Finally, is anyone getting paid at the event? Remember to ask yourself this question, How much am I worth?”

-Don R. Varney

“I always ask for expenses and mileage. Because I often speak at churches, I agree to speak for free for them if it is during Sunday morning Retreats and fundraisers, I charge a fee.”

-Sheila Luck

What has been your experience with speaking, or not speaking, for free? We’d love to hear your insights. Contact us here.

SpeakerHub would like to acknowledge the various speakers who shared their views in our Need a Speaker/Be a Speaker LinkedIn group. If you are a professional speake and would like to be a part of the network, you can join here.

This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.



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