Negotiate better speaking contracts for yourself.

Copyright 2006 by Andrea Reynolds

Not long ago I learned that one of my clients had been accepting $500 for a speaking engagement that required at least 3 days of preparation, travel and delivery time. She even paid her own expenses in order to sell 100 books to her audience. Her "contract" was merely an email that said little more than "I'll appear at your event on (date) for $500."

In my opinion her fee was too low and her agreement letter didn't protect her interests at all. I developed a proposal template for her, expanded her contract to several pages and showed her a better fee scale. But she wouldn't raise her fees or permit me to negotiate on her behalf.

In my 27 years of negotiating speaking contracts for others I've discovered something interesting. The only speakers who will allow me to negotiate contracts that pay them significantly larger fees are the speakers who are already receiving more than $10,000 for an hour's presentation.

The speakers who can command $30,000 are very comfortable having me be their advocate and don't mind paying me a $4,500 commission. By comparison, I've been contacted by speakers who were offered $1,000 to speak and when I offered to get them a $5,000 contract, which I knew I could, they declined. The idea of giving me a $750 commission – even though they would take home $3,750 ($2750 more than the original offer) – was difficult for them to accept.

I've arrived at the conclusion that bigger money scares many professionals and consultants. Either they resent paying an agent part of their fee, or they are intimidated by the groups they speak to, or they feel they don't deserve the larger income. (I have more theories on this.)

Rather than offer to advocate for speakers who are reluctant to share a 15% commission with an agent who triples their income, I will coach speakers to handle their own contract negotiations. Often they have to take baby steps, but slow, steady improvement is better than no improvement.
 

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