Do you want to earn a living as a professional speaker? The job category is a growing one and comes with plenty of unique benefits, like excellent pay, the chance to travel, and making your own schedule. The first step is selecting a specialty or a subject that you already understand well. Common topics for paid speakers include motivational techniques, management systems for small businesses, how to retain and reward employees, how to acquire more customers, and others.
Speaking is one area in which a college degree is almost essential. Your audiences won’t take you seriously unless you are a college grad. In many cases, your major doesn’t matter as long as you’re a bona fide expert on a particular topic. Experience speaks louder than diplomas when it comes to building a career as a speaker, but a four-year degree is a baseline requirement for success.
Learn how to promote yourself or consider outsourcing the advertising function if you can afford to do so. One helpful step is to join a speakers’ bureau, which is a kind of specialized employment agency for the industry. Bureaus get a commission from your earnings, so choose carefully and compare contracts when signing on. One of the best ways to acquire customers, get your name in the public eye, and gain relevant experience is to give a few free presentations to local organizations like chambers of commerce, school boards, charitable organizations, and colleges. Here are some specifics about getting your speaking career off the ground.
Choose a Specialty
It’s important to select a subject area that you feel totally at ease with. In the same fashion you would develop a career plan for yourself you should develop a plan here as well. Most successful speakers choose an area in which they already have some degree of expertise. Others choose a niche that appeals to them and then study it intensively. Experiment with different topics and write a few practice presentations to get the feel of how challenging it can be to present yourself as a subject-matter expert.
Get a Degree
If you don’t have a four-year degree, get one as soon as possible. If money is an issue, use a free online scholarship search service. Platforms like these are a worthwhile way to scan for opportunities at once and apply quickly for ones that are a good match for your skills and background. Start by building a personal and professional profile, and let the search platform do the heavy lifting of uncovering financial resources for you.
Self-promotion is the cornerstone of a successful speaking business. This is especially true during the first two years when you’re building up a clientele and making yourself known to the local and online communities. Use business cards, phone calls, and free services for advertising your company. Join the local chamber and other professional organizations, using every contact to grow your network of potential customers.
Join a Speaker’s Bureau
Speakers’ bureaus are the most direct way to get work as a professional presenter. Most of the reputable companies will ask you to audition by giving a short demonstration of what you do. Expect bureau hiring agents to act as stand-in audience members and pepper you with questions about your special topic. If you’re accepted, work on developing at least three unique presentations.