For many people, the biggest question in life isn’t necessarily “What am I going to do today?”. Instead, it’s closer to “What legacy will I leave behind?” or, similarly, “How can I make the world a better place while I’m here?” Although there are infinite answers to this question, for a growing number of people, one solution is sharing their message with the world through professional speaking.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re at least mildly interested in the potential associated with becoming a professional speaker. Alternatively, you may already be a speaker and are working to expand your speaking business into a full-time gig. Both of these situations are ideal starting points to either consider starting or advance your existing position in professional speaking. Plus, speaking is constantly changing, making it a thrill as well as a challenge, being part of the speaking community.
Regardless of your goals, however, there’s a lot to keep in mind, good and bad, before launching into speaking professionally. What follows is a breakdown of five reasons why you should become a professional speaker, followed by three caveats to consider before making the leap to full-time speaking.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the details!
What is professional speaking?
For starters, what exactly does “professional speaking” mean? In a nutshell, professional speakers are people that are paid to share their expertise, insight, and/or motivational content with other individuals in their chosen line of work. Also called “thought-leaders,” professional speakers can speak full- or part-time and can offer a wide variety of services as a part of their speaking business. Some of the most common offerings include keynote or guest speaking, executive coaching, professional development, and consulting.
Basically, the phrase “professional speaking” is a blanket term for a range of skills, all of which incorporate speaking and leadership to some degree. Running a speaking business full-time also demands that you combine your offerings with content creation. You can share videos, blog articles, podcast episodes – anything you like. The goal is just to use your content to share your ideas and attract attention for your business. Then, use it to upsell interested people into a speaking contract or other offering.
The “Pros” of Professional Speaking
All in all, professional speaking can be an incredibly rewarding experience and a relatively easy way to make an impact greater than you might at a “normal” job. It also comes with a handful of added benefits that any experienced speaker would mention as a reason they stuck around. Below are five of the most common “pros” our team has heard in working with speakers. 👍
It allows you to share your message with a global audience.
First and most importantly, professional speaking gives you a platform for you to share what you’re passionate about, the areas in which you want to have a leading voice. If you’re concerned about climate change, for example, speaking gives you a chance to share with others why they should be concerned, too. If you’re an expert and know your professional insights could benefit others in your field, speaking lets you educate them and spark their own research or creativity.
In short, your message can be informative, argumentative, or motivational. But, regardless of how you choose to speak professionally, doing so allows you to positively impact audiences worldwide and make a broader mark than you might otherwise. It also tests your message and your own beliefs, as you meet more audiences through speaking experience. That way, you grow personally and professionally as well as those you seek to serve.
It allows you to travel all over the world.
In meeting audiences, the second “pro” of professional speaking also comes into play: travel! As a speaker, where you choose to speak depends entirely on what you want. For many part-time speakers, for instance, local or regional work is preferable. It lets them stay close to home, bring in a little extra cash on top of their day-to-day job, and connect with audiences that understand where they’re coming from, literally (I know. Bad joke. 😂).
On the other hand, if you want to be an international speaker, it’s more than possible to do so. In fact, some of the most famous speakers in the world are those that started their speaking careers with the goal of traveling the globe. Sure, it took a greater amount of effort and strategy than speaking at a local or even national level. But, in the long run, it allowed them to expand their audience and make an impact, all while learning from other cultures.
Whichever option you prefer – local, regional, national, or international speaking – remember that there’s no right answer. And, if you’re unsure which best suits you, just start small. Speaking is ever-changing and flexible, so you can always expand your horizons later if you want to be conservative for the time being.
You’re in complete control of your schedule.
The third “pro” of professional speaking is also about flexibility, namely having a flexible schedule. Although it doesn’t always apply for part-time speakers, speaking full-time allows you to be in complete control of your calendar at all times. No more missing holidays or important family milestones because you have to be at work. When managing a speaking business, you’re your own boss. So, if you want to block time off for self-betterment, vacation – anything, really – you absolutely can.
Admittedly, while this sounds awesome, it’s important to keep in mind that a flexible schedule doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of free time. Especially if you’re speaking full time, having speaking engagements in the books means more revenue. It also means that, while you can speak as little or as much as you want to, it won’t be until you’re well-established (and can charge higher fees per gig) that you can take large amounts of time off.
The pay can be quite substantial.
The third “pro” of professional speaking is the pay. Everyone’s heard the stories about top-shelf speakers, many of whom travel around the world, getting five figures per speaking appearance while imparting both information and inspiration to an eager audience. It’s a dramatic, glamorous image, and for many of such speakers, this allows them to charge upwards of $20,000 for a single keynote. That’s a single hour of their time, a day or two of travel, and a speech they don’t necessarily have to customize for their audience. Crazy, right?
In your own speaking career, the same is also possible if you’re speaking full-time and take similar steps in your business. Additionally, even if you don’t want to speak on that level, you can still make a comfortable living, with most new speakers charging $1500-2000 per keynote. You can also supplement this revenue with your other offerings, as we mentioned before, such as executive coaching, workshops, consulting, book or online course sales, etc.
Long-term, the lucrativeness of professional speaking is a huge bonus. Even if you’re only speaking part-time, it’s an easy way to supplement your income and share your expertise all in one move.
It’s incredibly inclusive and diverse.
Lastly, the fourth “pro” of professional speaking is the growing diversity and inclusivity of the speaking industry. In the past, professional speaking was mostly composed of businessmen and celebrities. As silly as it may sound, generally, that was the stereotype – the proverbial straight, white male in a gray flannel suit, delivering a supposedly brilliant speech while an adoring audience looks on.
Thankfully, that stereotype is long gone. Even though the adoring audiences remain, it’s been replaced by an incredible explosion in diversity that is changing the rules of professional speaking at a breakneck pace. Some of this is fueled by expansion into fields outside of the business world. These include creative fields, like art and music, as well as more logical ones, like medicine, science and technology. Many people don’t realize the need for professional speakers in some of these areas. Some are downright shocked to find there’s a huge demand if you have the right message and credentials.
Conversely, some of the expansion is being fueled by personal diversity, too. Don’t believe me? Check out TED Talks. Today, while there’s still room to improve, you’ll see a wide variety of speakers, varying in ethnicity, gender, and race.
Summarily, professional speaking is increasingly inclusive, which means the speaking opportunities out there are growing exponentially, too. When considering your own speaking career, be mindful of this expansion. Remember, no matter what you’re passionate about or what field you’re in, your voice matters and there’s an audience out there that needs to hear your point of view. I guarantee it.
The “Cons” of Professional Speaking
That said, as in any industry, professional speaking isn’t all positives. Unsurprisingly, for all of the “pros” that we just mentioned, there are also plenty of “cons,” some of which are the reasons many speakers stick to speaking part-time or eventually segue out of the industry entirely. The following are the three most common cons we’ve heard from our own clients and industry connections. 👎
Managing a speaking business is a lot of work.
The first “con” of professional speaking is, simply put, the workload. Unless they have money to invest initially, most speakers start off as solopreneurs and have to manage their entire business by themselves for years, simply because of cost.
For some people, that’s good news. Having control of your business can be very empowering, especially initially if you’re naturally drawn to versatility. It’s also definitely an advantage to be in control of the important decisions, as you develop your speaking business.
But too much responsibility can be a real problem, especially when putting the building blocks in place. Almost inevitably, you’ll have to master (to some extent) sales, marketing, and business operations on top of speaking. And, while there are tools to make these things easier, they all require a considerable amount of time to learn and maintain. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed and end up facing some serious time management issues that can either drive you crazy or sink a developing business. Sometimes both. If you know already you’re going to be starting – or growing – your speaking business alone, keep this in mind.
Constantly traveling can keep you away from family and friends.
If you’ve noticed that travel was previously mentioned as a possible lure into the world of professional speaking, you’ve probably guessed that it can be a real double-edged sword, especially if your chosen niche absolutely requires a lot of travel.
This brings us to the second “con” of professional speaking, namely time spent on the road. Although it can be glamorous or enjoyable for some, constant travel can also make it difficult to maintain friendships and personal relationships, no matter how accomplished you are at Zoom interaction and other video formats and especially if you have a family.
There’s also the wear and tear factor. Travel is tough during the best of times, and it can be both expensive and stressful, a combination that makes burnout a distinct possibility for even the most accomplished and dedicated professional speakers.
Nevertheless, the silver lining in this “con” to professionally speaking is the growth of virtual technology. Nowadays, if you can’t travel (or just prefer not to), virtual speaking is becoming a more and more popular option. Even though you can’t generally make as much money per gig as you would for a live event, it’s a great way to avoid nonstop travel while still reaping the “pros” of speaking that we already covered.
You’ll be asked to speak for free a lot, initially.
Last but not least, the final “con” of professional speaking relates to sales. For some people, selling comes naturally. In some instances it’s even related to what they already do for a living. This makes selling their services as a speaker an easy hurdle to clear and includes part- and full-time speakers alike.
More often than not, however, most new speakers have to work to develop a sales mindset. This means learning to argue for your worth, take rejection often, and balance free speaking gigs with paid ones.
You may be thinking, “Well, that doesn’t sound unreasonable in the short term,” but free speaking is kind of a trap. While you may have to speak for free, initially, to get hired and gain experience, after a while, it can be hard to charge more. For many speakers – including some of our clients – it gets harder and harder to sell themselves for what they’re worth because they’ve gotten into the mindset of free speaking.
In the end, building a sales “backbone” can be tough, and getting past the free speaking phase can be tougher. When you’re weighing the pros and cons of professional speaking, bear in mind the consistent sales efforts that speaking demands and how much you want to delve into sales long term.
Resources for Aspiring Speakers
Ultimately, whether or not you pursue professional speaking full time is completely up to you. As mentioned initially, everyone’s experience in the speaking industry will inevitably vary. In your case, considering these pros and cons, your job is to decide which prevails, the former or the latter.
In the meantime, should you jump into the speaking industry, we at SpeakerFlow are here to help! As essentially thought-leaders for thought-leaders, our passion is sharing as many resources as possible for running a successful speaking career. That way, you can focus less on running your speaking business and more on making an impact.
With that in mind, below are four tried-and-true sources of information and insight from our team to yours. 🚀
No business is complete without a tool to keep track of your ongoing deals and existing contacts, which, among speakers, is SpeakerFlow CRM. Built with the help of speaker and innovation expert Julie Holmes, SpeakerFlow CRM brings the management of your speaking business under one roof. Whether you’re closing deals, forming partnerships, or expanding your sales efforts, it has an adjoining app for it all. Plus, aside from the onboarding fee, the final subscription for all of these 40+ apps is only $45/month. Take it from us and the 100s of hours our team’s spent researching CRMs: You won’t find a deal like that anywhere else.
SpeakerFlow Intel Engine
Speaking of closing deals, one of the biggest challenges in professional speaking starts with the gigs themselves. To put it simply, finding events for which you could speak can be a pain in the neck. That is unless you have the SpeakerFlow Intel Engine! Built alongside speaker and sales expert Sam Richter, the Intel Engine essentially acts as a Google search engine overlay, allowing you to search the entire Internet (rather than the standard 4% of it) for speaking opportunities and find qualified leads in minutes. Like the CRM, it’s also incredibly affordable and at $39/month will undoubtedly give you a return on investment in the time it saves you and the money you earn from your newfound leads. Win, win!
Aside from paid tools, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share what we’re most passionate about here at SpeakerFlow: our Resource Library! Because speaking is largely about making a difference and giving back, we’re big believers in supporting those efforts free of charge. We’re also staunch advocates for democratizing the speaking industry. So, whether you’re looking for sales, operations, or marketing advice for your speaking business, our Library has you covered.
Speaker Coaching & Coursework
Don’t like working solo? Want to learn how you can grow your speaking business with the help of a community? We’re here to support you there, too, with SpeakerFlow University! Made up of dozens of speakers with varying levels of experience, SFU is all about learning from and encouraging each other. With coursework, group coaching, exclusive resources and content, and regular “office hours” with our leadership team, it makes speaking less daunting and, frankly, less stressful. In short, entrepreneurship can be hard, especially when you’re trying to master stagecraft, too. With SFU, we aim to make it easier for you and your team.
Hopefully, these resources help you get a head start on speaking success. If not and you run into a specific question or concern, no worries! We’re always here for a quick call if hands-on help will be better. Just schedule a call or shoot us an email, and we’ll get back on track in a jiffy. 👌