Let’s talk about fees and expenses

When you are setting your speaking fees there are lots of moving parts to take into consideration apart from what you will charge for the speech itself:

  • Travel time
  • Preparation time
  • Travel costs
  • Accommodation
  • Subsistence
  • Visa costs
  • Commissions
  • AV/tech requirements

That list could also include:

  • Stylist
  • Hair/make-up
  • Clothing

It’s enough to give you a headache. 
For some speakers it’s such a headache that they simply set a fee that covers everything and charge the same rate wherever they speak.  That’s great if your local market is strong so that most of your time (and money) is not spent on long haul travel.  If that’s not you, what should you be doing?
For starters your speaking fee should also cover your travel time and preparation time.  This means you’ll likely have different rates for different international locations.  Everything else on the list above should be covered by the client in addition to your fee. 
Let’s look at travel, the area that can cause most problems, in more detail.  Your travel costs should be business or first class and ideally fully flexible in case you have to make a last-minute change.  You don’t want to arrive at the airport to find that your plane has been cancelled and the airline you are booked with has no other flights that day (it has happened).  Your tickets should always be fully flexible. 
Staying with travel, although it’s your responsibility to ensure you have all the correct documentation and that everything is in date and in order, your client should pick up the tab for any visa’s or specialist visa advice.  You want a visa expert doing the leg work for you, the last thing you want is a problem getting through passport control or worse still, getting turned away (it has happened).
Here's a situation that could very easily trip you up, again related to travel.  If you have been booked by a client for an event and you then get another booking elsewhere, meaning that you are travelling from one client location to the next before returning to your home country, you should be splitting the cost of travel between the two clients.  The first client should not be picking up the larger proportion if you have got a second gig on that same continent. 
Here's an example:
You are US based.
You get booked to speak in the UK by client A
Client A pays for your return flights to UK (flexible of course)
You now get a booking in Germany for client B
You discount your fee as you will be “local” for the event only having to fly from UK.
You fly from UK to Germany and change your original booking to allow you to fly back to US after speaking
Client A in this scenario is paying for return business class from US to Europe
Client B has a discounted fee and is paying for a one-way flight from UK to Germany
Client A has subsidised client B’s conference even though they booked you first.  I hope you see the problem with that.
There are many thorny challenges in the business of speaking and as a speaker you shouldn’t have to worry about these, you should be focusing on delivering an excellent speech. In an ideal world you’ll have a professional representing you to handle the nitty gritty, or an experienced assistant.   If you haven’t and would like advice on professional representation, training your assistant, or having someone on the end of an email/phone who can help (me) send me an email and let’s have a chat. 

In the meantime, don’t forget to add your stylist, hair, makeup, and new outfit to your rider.  You know you want to.

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