A well-established speaker wrote to me a few weeks ago to share his thoughts about speakers raising their fees “beyond what they are worth” — before they have “earned” their fee level.
Since setting fees is one of the topics I’m asked about most frequently by speakers, I thought I’d give my two cents on this particular issue here…
First of all, I do understand where he’s coming from. As an agent and manager for speakers for over a decade now, I’ve seen $5,000 speakers turn into $25,000 speakers; $35,000 speakers turn into $95,000 speakers; and $100,000 speakers turn into $200,000 speakers.
Short of a few zeroes, the fee increases have often reminded me of what we’ve seen in the sports and entertainment industries. (Remember when Jim Carrey’s $20 million payday was big news? Or when Brett Favre become the National Football League’s first $100 million man?)
As someone paid on commission, increasing fees would seem to be good news for me. But they’re bad news if my clients’ budgets don’t support them.
Anyway, the question we’re focusing on today is, how do you determine what a speaker is worth? And do they have to earn their fee? If so, how?
When you really think about it, one could ask if any speaker is worth $95,000 or $200,000. (The median household income in the U.S. in 2009 was just over $50k, by the way.) I don’t ask that question, though, and here’s why:
Any speaker is worth what the market says s/he’s worth.
It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what you think.
If clients in the market pay a speaker’s stated fee and are consistently pleased with the outcome from the engagements, then the speaker is worth that fee.
And that goes for “young” speakers as well as the “elite” speakers. You can set your fee at any level you want — that’s the beauty of a free market!
Just make sure you can consistently deliver the return on investment your clients are looking for.
If you can, then you’re worth your fee. If you can’t, you’re not… and that will work itself out one way or another.
That’s my two cents. What’s your take?