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There are far more unpaid speaking gigs in the world than there are paid opportunities. Even major events like TED don't pay their speakers. Yet taking an unpaid speaking gig isn't necessarily a bad idea. The reason that there are hordes of people clamoring for TED talk slots, as well as less prestigious unpaid speaking opportunities, is that there are other ways to make money once you've managed to get on a stage in front of an audience.
The obvious option is to pitch those audiences on your services: just by talking about how awesome you are and how you've helped your other clients, you can often convince people to hire you on the spot. But there are other effective options to monetize your speaking, as well.
1. Sell a Recording of Your Talk
Not everyone obsessively takes notes at each event they attend. If they want to go back over what you said, they may wind up trying to piece it together from tweets, other people's notes and whatever they can scrounge together.
Such people are often willing to buy a recording to avoid the hassle. Another market for recordings are people who couldn't make it to your live presentation. Particularly if you knocked the socks off of your audience, the folks who missed out will love a second chance.
The cost of offering your past talks as products doesn't have to be high. A freelance videographer can tape and edit a talk, often fairly quickly. Then it's just a matter of making the recording available. You do need to make sure that any event you're speaking at approves of your offering such recordings; some don't, and some offer their own. Double-check to avoid trouble.
2. Write a Book for Your Audience
Often, when you're speaking, you're only able to cover a fraction of the information associated with your topic. The common cure for this situation is to use your speaking opportunities to build up interest in your topic or idea as a whole, which you then offer in a book or another format that your audience can purchase after your talk.
You'll see many speakers offering books: it's a reliable way to increase your income as an expert.
You'll see many speakers offering books: it's a reliable way to increase your income as an expert. It's crucial that you speak to the correct audiences to promote your book.
It may also be worth exploring other formats for the information you want to sell, depending on your audience. A series of videos, a workbook or another format may prove more useful for some people. It's even possible to line up a whole series of information products to offer after you've been in the business for a while.
There's often a question of whether you should go through a traditional publisher or self-publish your book. As long as you've already established a following as a speaker, you're able to do either fairly easily. Generally speaking, self-publishing is harder because marketing such a book is difficult, but with an established speaking platform, that concern disappears. It's really just a question of how much you're prepared to invest in creating your information products: traditional publishers handle most of the work, so that you can focus on writing and marketing, but they also take a bigger cut of the proceeds.
3. Create the Tools Your Audience Needs
If you dedicate yourself to speaking in a niche on a regular basis, you'll have on-going access to people who are in the same industry and demographic on a regular basis. That access is invaluable for creating new tools or software for that industry. Take advantage of the reach you have to figure out what tools are most needed and then build them. Your reach can be valuable in other ways, too: you can find people to test out your new tools at the next talk you give. You can even turn your speaking career into the main way you market such a tool.
Even if you can't personally create the necessary tool, there are numerous firms out there who are always willing to work with an expert who already has reach into the appropriate industry. To look for such partnerships, focus on companies that are already targeting the same niches you speak to. Your audiences will hopefully trust your opinion on what can help them improve their businesses or lives, so why not reward that trust with a truly useful tool?
4. Train Your Audience
Giving a talk to a large group of people can often serve as an introduction to your work. You may get a few audience members who want an easy way to bring that knowledge back to their businesses or another group. By offering follow up training or workshops for those small groups, you can build on the connection you've already established with a few audience members.
Training can require different skills than public speaking, despite the fact that both involve talking in front of a group of people. You'll likely want to structure your training sessions for smaller groups, as well as focus on doing activities together that your audience can learn from.
It's worth building a training program that you can test out before agreeing to offer that training to paying customers: there will be bugs in the program the first few times you give it. Just as you may take unpaid speaking gigs to build up your skills before looking for paid speaking opportunities, you can offer to give your training program a few times for free to make sure it's top of the line.
5. Promote an Affiliate Product
It's possible to promote affiliate products in several ways as a speaker: you might point your audience to a certain link to make their purchase through or give them a coupon code that gets them some benefit when they buy.
An affiliate product is something that you did not create, nor that you sell directly. But any time someone purchases that product as a result of your recommendation, the company that does offer that product gives you a small commission. It's possible to promote affiliate products in several ways as a speaker: you might point your audience to a certain link to make their purchase through or give them a coupon code that gets them some benefit when they buy. Either way, the company you're marketing for will know how many sales you're responsible for.
However, it is important to make it clear to your audience that you are benefiting if they make a purchase. Trying to hide your association with an affiliate product that you're promoting is rarely successful and your audience may feel betrayed if you attempt to do so. It doesn't take much to relieve such concerns, though: by announcing your association and moving on, you can be transparent without making a big deal of the whole thing.
There are a variety of different types of affiliate programs. You may even be able to find a program that allows you to earn a commission from products you'd like to promote even if you weren't earning money.
6. Use Your Expertise to Land Other Gigs
Once you've successfully given a few talks, you've got a seal of approval from the organizations you've worked with: you're officially an expert on your chosen topic. In addition to using that expertise as leverage to sell any services or products you currently offer, you can also use it to land new gigs.
The opportunities available to experts vary widely: you can be paid for writing articles about your area of expertise or for testifying in court trials that require an expert witness. It's all a question of what opportunities appeal to you and how hard you're willing to chase them. It's important to market yourself as an expert, as well as a speaker. Make it clear that you're open to other opportunities, even ones that you can't yet predict, both in your marketing materials and when you network.
7. Organize Your Own Events
After you've been speaking a while, you may have picked up a solid understanding of how an event is organized. That can allow you to set up a small conference, a workshop series or another event that requires speakers. While you may still not get paid for speaking, you can earn money through ticket sales, sponsorships and other financial support for the event.
It can require a lot of work to put on events, but if you work in a niche where attendees expect to have to pay for the pleasure, you can get an excellent return on the work you invest. Make full use of your opportunities to speak ahead of time if you're considering using your knowledge to set up your own events. Shadow the event organizer as much as she will allow and see how much you can pick up on just from being in the area. You can also sit in on talks given by other speakers and decide who you might like to have at your own events. Consider every speaking invitation an opportunity to scout out the competition.