I'm reposting this column from motivational speaker Kelly Swanson because it touched a very tender spot this morning. I spend last week doing a small book tour in South Carolina, the location of my recent book, "The Road to Frogmore." At every appearance, the crowds were good and books sold well. But everywhere I went, people who had enjoyed my talk wanted to invite me to come back and speak at one of their other organizations. Just one phrase was obviously missing from their enthusiastic invitations; "What is your speaker fee?"
Here's what Kelly has to say:
As a motivational speaker, I get a lot of requests to come speak for free.
And for a while I took this as a normal part of my business. And then I would get on a stage and tell women to believe in their value to the business world, and not to undervalue themselves. I would teach them to ask for what they want, and not settle. And then I would take a job at no pay. Hello – mixed message?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Would you expect your plumber to come work for free? Your doctor? Your kids' teachers? Your hairdresser? No. You would consider it highly rude to call up your hairdresser and ask her for highlights but you don't want to pay for them. So why are you asking that speaker to work for free? Especially you groups out there that claim to exist with the purpose of empowering women. You are sending a mixed message. You are teaching women that they are valuable, and then asking them to provide their value for free.
It's not just one woman's group. It's not just a handful. For years there has been a strong pattern of women's empowerment events seeking free speakers. I think it's time for the conversation to change. It's time to think about the message you send when you ask someone to give of their time, energy, talent, wisdom, expertise – for free.
Does that help the women's movement? Or does it hurt it?
I still do jobs sometimes where I am not paid a fee. But these are not free jobs because in return I ask for something else of value, as a trade. Therefore, I am not doing the work for nothing – but trading value for value. I am paid in other ways.
I agree with her completely! I'm willing to do a promotion for a charitable cause if I support their goals, and if they will allow me to raise my book prices to include a donation to their fund-raiser. Under certain circumstances I'll lower my fee to half-price if it appears that lots of books will be sold. I'll accept a speaking engagement at a conference I care about if they pay my registration fees and other conference expenses. But if I have to drive over 700 miles to get to your event, staying over for one or more nights and eating all my meals at my own expense, I expect you to treat me like the professional I am. Why don't other women understand that?
Kelly's column originally appeared at http://motivational-speakers-review.com/2013/03/25/running-a-business/what-is-the-message-you-send-when-you-ask-women-to-speak-for-free