How much should you charge when you speak at women’s events?
When I first started this blog in 2009 I wrote probably my biggest post–on how to create a fee schedule. I think all new speakers are trying to figure out this money thing! How much is it right to charge? And when do you start to move up the fee chain?
I’m in the middle of creating my “Grow Your Speaking Ministry” course–the follow-up to my Launch Your Speaking Ministry course. And so as I was preparing the module on finances I started thinking about fees again, and I thought it was time to revisit it.
I’m going to tackle it from two perspectives: One where we’re just looking at establishing fees from first principles; and one where we’re looking at a sample fee schedule and seeing what different levels usually charge.
But first, some ground rules for setting fees:
1. Differentiate between different types of engagements
For instance, there’s the one time talk, usually under an hour, which you give at an evening event, or as a workshop at a day-long conference. Then there’s the one-day event, where you tend to speak two times. The Friday/Saturday retreat usually involves speaking three times, with an overnight stay, and the full weekend usually involves speaking four times, with two overnight stays. If a Friday/Saturday event required a second overnight stay because of distance for me, I’d probably charge a little more.
You need to have these different fees in your head, because you don’t want to quote a low amount when they’re really talking about a big conference!
2. Always charge travel expenses separately.
Travel expenses shouldn’t be part of your fee, because it would vary based on where you spoke. And you also need to make it clear that the venue is responsible for your expenses in getting there. Sometimes your expenses will be huge! If someone flies me in to speak, and the distance requires a two night stay, quite often my expenses are even greater than my fee! If I were to quote my fee including the expenses, it would sound exorbitant.
So how much should you charge? You should include any actual costs you will incur–hotels, plane fare, rental cars, and parking at the airport if you need to fly, for instance. You should also allocate about $20 a meal while you’re on the road.
If you drive to the event, the best way to charge expenses is to give a per mile rate. The IRS suggests $0.53/mile, and that’s a reasonable amount. You don’t have to charge that, of course, but keep in mind that mileage is not only gas money, but also includes wear and tear on your vehicle.
First Principles Method of Setting Speaking Fees
Know Your Expenses
Not only does your speaking fee need to give you an income; it also has to cover your speaking expenses. These are separate from travel expenses, which are unique to the event. Speaking expenses would be any expenses you incur on a yearly basis that are necessary to keep your speaking ministry afloat. Examples would be: your computer; your internet plan; your phone plan; web hosting; any extra website expenses; your business use of home; any advertising materials you purchase; even special clothes to wear when you speak.
For instance, your expenses may look something like this:
- Computer: $1500 (replace every three years; yearly cost $500). Business use: 1/2, $250 a year
- Web Hosting: $120/year
- Web Tools and Help: $250/year
- Advertising Materials: $750/year
- Phone: $600/year, Business Use: 1/2 or $300 a year
- Business Use of Home: Total costs of $7200; business use 10%, or $720 a year
- Speaking Outfits: $360
Total expenses for year: $2500
Now, we have several ways we can cover those expenses.
- Charge a per hour fee: If you plan on working 10 hours a week at your business, including planning, networking, social media, and speaking events, then you’ll work roughly 500 hours a year. If your expenses are $2500, you’ll need to charge $5 an hour to compensate for your expenses. (keep that in mind; we’ll work with that number in a minute).
- Charge a per event fee: The problem with the hourly rate is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that many of your hours won’t be attributed to any particular event. The other way to handle it is to do it per event. If you speak an average of 20 times a year, for instance, then you can charge an extra $125 per event to cover your expenses for the year. You can always scale this to the event, charging an extra $250 in your fee for full weekend retreats, and $75 for single events.
Know Your Per Hour Rate
The next thing you need to set is your per hour rate. The only way to figure that out is to answer the question: How much money do I want to make in a year?
Here’s how I often calculate it: If I were forced to support myself tomorrow, I’d need to make roughly $40,000 a year. That works out to $20 an hour minimum. I’d suggest that your hourly rate should be at least that much.
Decide how many hours to add to your fee
Include the hours you will spend directly on the event: These will include your planning time; time liaising with the organizers about details; travel back and forth to the event; and the event itself. The event may only take 3 hours, for instance, and you may only be speaking for one hour, but the event may end up eating up 15 hours of your time!
Consider including your “administrative” hours. Take a look at all the work you do in a year and ask, how much is actually spent on events and how much is spent on the business end of my ministry? If half of your time is spent on events and half of your time on ministry, then you may want to double the number of expense hours you charge for.
Let’s take all of this together and see what you come up with.
The Minimum Fee: If an event takes 15 hours, and you’re charging the bare minimum, then you would charge 15x$20 an hour plus 15x$5 an hour (to cover your hourly expenses), or 15x$25 an hour, which is $375.
The Medium Fee: Here we’ll allocate all of our expenses to the event. So we’ll charge 15x$20, plus the $125 per event, or $425.
The “Covering All Expenses” Fee: With this method, we include all administrative hours because we need to earn the $40,000 a year. In this case, we would charge 15x$40 doubled, plus the $125 per event, which would be $725.
Here’s why I don’t always recommend this method: If you’re trying to get to $40,000 a year, there are much better ways to do it than just with your fee! I highly recommend creating products to sell at your book table, since I can double my speaking fees quite often just by selling products at events. It’s usually more lucrative and easier to develop products to sell to augment your fee than to find enough events that will cover all of your expenses.
Now, all of this talk does NOT mean that you can’t offer a discount if you feel God calling you to speak somewhere without charging, or at a reduced rate. But I find that in such circumstances, it’s good to figure out what you would have charged, and then give an invoice for that full amount, with the discount on the invoice, so that the church or organization understands what they’re getting. When they see that you’re worth a certain amount, they tend to take you more seriously.
The Speaking Level Method of Setting Fees
Going through the work of figuring out what you should be charging for an event is a worthwhile exercise, because it helps you see that you really are worth the money! That being said, there’s also such a thing as “going rates” when it comes to speaking. And these “going rates” are set not by your expenses and your desired income, but more by your speaking level. When you’re just starting out, you’ll tend to charge less because you need the experience (and the chance to build your email list and get some recordings of you speaking). As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to charge more.
It’s very difficult to figure out what people tend to charge, and it really does vary by geography (American speaking fees tend to be higher than Canadian speaking fees, for example); denomination; and type of engagement. However, just because people need some numbers, I’m going to take a stab at giving some general guidelines here.
Level 1: Just Starting, and Want Some Experience:
One time event: $200
One day retreat, 2 sessions: $400
Two day retreat, 2-3 sessions: $600
Full Weekend Retreat: $750
Level 2: Established Speaker
One day, 1 session: $500
One day retreat, 2 sessions: $800
Two day retreat, 2-3 sessions: $1000
Full Weekend conference: $1500
Level 3: Advanced Speaker
One day, 1 session: $1000
One day retreat, 2 sessions: $1500
Two day retreat, 2-3 sessions: $2000
Full Weekend Retreat: $2500
So What Speaking Fee Should You Charge?
What I would recommend is that you start at a lower rate, and then, if you find yourself getting booked up, raise your fees. I tend to raise them every season by a bit.
So now let me know: does the idea of talking about money scare you to death? Do you have a hard time quoting a fee? Let’s talk in the comments!