As someone who earns my living from writing and speaking, there is one thing that I will never do, and that is write or speak for free. Yes, I understand that I might be missing out on a whole heap of “exposure,” but as I always tell prospective business partners who offer the promise of exposure in lieu of payment — people die of exposure.
Fact: You need to sell a hell of a lot of books or fill a lot of seats in a training room to cover the costs of a cross-country train fare, hotel room and other assorted expenses involved with business travel.
But this doesn’t mean I am 100 percent driven by profit. My rates are always negotiable and sometimes, if the conditions are right, I’ll take on a job at a much lower rate than I normally would.
The Value of Building Relationships
For me, it’s not the question of exposure that is important. If you are put in front of an audience of a million people who aren’t interested in your product or service, you’ll never build any traction. For me it’s all about the relationships I can build and where these relationships might take me.
A few years ago, I was asked to put together a presentation for a major publisher that was attempting to move into the training arena.
The money they were offering was terrible — barely enough to cover my travel expenses and a sandwich lunch on the train home. Despite this, I agreed to do the gig.
I did this for a number of reasons:
- Despite my earlier joke about exposure — as a globally respected publisher, they really did have some clout in getting my name out there to a much wider audience.
- I would be speaking alongside a number of other industry professionals whom I recognized as thought leaders I could learn from (no sales pitches here).
- The value of the relationships I could build upon following the event was immense. This wasn’t just an opportunity to speak in front of a large, targeted audience. It was a chance to work the room, build my LinkedIn network and grow my email list.
What happened after the event?
Well, I did my talk, I worked the room and then I went home.
The next day, I emailed everyone who had kindly given me their email address and thanked them for taking the time to listen to me and offered them the chance to continue the conversation.
The following day I received an invitation to deliver two training seminars in Europe, and both companies were more than happy to cover my standard fees and expenses.
Over the course of the next year, one of these companies booked numerous training courses with me and purchased a number of my books in bulk.
If I had turned down the first gig because the fee wasn’t high enough, I would have been a lot poorer in the long term.
Nothing for Nothing
While I still won’t speak for free (the organizer has to see the value in me if I am going to offer value for them), I do look on some of the work I commit to as a marketing expense and not an immediate profit generator.
Note: I would always question the value of an event I was attending that didn’t offer to pay its speakers. No fee usually results in a load of hastily put-together sales pitches — which are neither very informative nor entertaining.
If you don’t get out of bed for less than $X.XX (insert your fee here) — could you be missing out on a whole opportunity to significantly build your profits? Share your comments below: