One of the benefits of improving your speaking skills is that you can actually uses these skills to make money, even a living. It’s a great way to put your speaking skills to use and can be rewarding in more ways than just monetarily. If you feel comfortable speaking to groups, becoming a professional speaker can be quite lucrative provided that there are people willing to pay to hear what you have to say.
Professional speakers can make money a number of different ways. We’ll talk about some of them, both the obvious and not so obvious.
This is the most obvious way that speakers make money but it’s also the most difficult. When you first start out, you need to build your brand and get your name and message out there. Often to do this, you need to start by speaking for free hoping that each free gig leads to another gig that is either a paid one or one that puts you one step closer to speaking to a group where someone in the audience might consider paying you.
Some people say that you need to speak to between 50 and 100 audiences (not including Toastmasters clubs) to finally land a paid speaking gig, but I believe that number is significantly less. If this turns you off, don’t let it. It’s good for new speakers to start off giving free speeches so that they can work out any issues with their talks without the pressure of delivering a paid talk. There’s less pressure on you when you’re not getting paid for a talk than there is when you’re getting paid $1000 — however, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put forth your best effort.
You can further reduce the number of free speeches you need to give by speaking to groups where members of the audience have an interest in your topic and the ability to bring you in to speak. This means finding audiences that may include potential buyers. Depending on your topic, it may be to a local conference related to your area of expertise or it could be a small business organization. Clubs like Rotary or Lions are a great place to start and depending on your area and the size of the club, may contain buyers in the audience.
This is the second most popular stream of income for speakers and for some, it’s their biggest source. Products are easier to create today than they ever were. In the past, you’d need to go into a recording studio to record an audio program or connect with a publisher to create your first book. Today, you can purchase a small voice recording device (if you have a smart phone, you might already have this capability) or a microphone for your computer and create an audio program that you can sell on CD and/or digitally.
If you have an idea for a book, there are a number of services out there that take a document created in one of the many common word processing formats and turn it into a printed book or electronic book (ebook). Many of these services have no upfront costs and only charge you a percentage of the sale.
Reduce the audience size for your program down to one and you now have a coaching program. Many speakers offer to work one on one with people in need of their expertise. Even though you’re working with a smaller audience, keep in mind that coaching can be more challenging because you need to be able to help that person with their own particular needs. The most challenging part of a speech is the question and answer session and coaching is essentially one giant question and answer session with some prepared material as the basis for the session. But if done right, coaching can be an effective and rewarding source of income to speakers.
There are three ways speakers make money with their websites. The first one is to sell their own products and services through their web sites. This may require some extensive knowledge in web technologies or tools such as a shopping cart. One major benefit of this is that it can greatly increase your reach. The downside of this is that you’re among the millions of sites competing for people’s attention.
The second option is to sell other people’s products and/or services for a commission — this is known as an affiliate program. The upside of this is that the person who’s services you’re selling often has the sales mechanism in place so all you need to do is refer people to their website and you collect a small commission. And on top of that, you don’t have to go through the trouble of creating your own products. The downside is that you make less money per sale.
The last method is through advertising. This typically means that you display advertisements for other sites on your site and you make money when someone clicks on an ad. It’s much harder to make money through advertisements these days because most people either automatically ignore ads or they use software to block them. The other downside is that you’re redirecting people to someone else’s site, often for just a few pennies. Still, if you can get enough traffic to your website, it can represent a decent income stream for you.
So these are the four basic ways speakers can make money. If you’re just starting out, consider which options will work out best for you. There are speakers that make their living from just one of these methods while others use all four. It’ll take time for you to figure out which methods work best for you, but you’ll never know until you try.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.