Speaking of Fees: Pulling Back the Curtain on Speakers Fees


If you are a therapist interested in paid public speaking but you are uncertain about what to charge, I am glad you are here.

This seems to be a fairly mysterious topic in our field, and I'd like to shed some light on this important subject so that you can make an informed decision on what to fairly charge for your time and expertise next time you are approached to speak or present.


Note before we begin: This blog is focused on how to set your fee for paid speaking events and is geared toward professionals who have experience in public speaking. This information is not focused on unpaid speaking events. For more information on how to start getting your voice and message out in the world, how to hone your speaking voice, and how to secure more speaking opportunities, this blog on "How Therapists Can Land More Speaking Gigs"  will address this topic, as well as cover some of the benefits of unpaid speaking.

Or if you are just starting out as a speaker and are feeling some fear, (like many of us do when we first begin publicly speaking), then this blog on "Giving Fear the Finger" will be of good support - we all start somewhere!

The following information contained in this blog is written as a supportive tool for seasoned speakers and therapists who are ready to be paid for their time, yet are uncertain about what to charge.

Money Talks Bullshit Walks

A few years ago I was offered my first big paid speaking gig as a therapist. The organization asked me to present on the topic of working with partners of sex addicts, which is my therapeutic specialization and the subject of my book, "Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts."

I honestly had no idea what to charge! While I had been paid as a public speaker for over 30 years in my professional roles in other industries, and I had been paid as a therapist for smaller events, this was a first for me on this scale in the psychology field. The questions that immediately came to my mind were, "Should I simply charge my clinical rate per the hours I speak?"; "Should I check with other colleagues on what they charge?"; "Should I give a discount because I am presenting to therapists?"

And then I reminded myself to take a deep breath, put my business woman's pants on, and get down to business and do the math...the numbers never lie.

Here are my calculations from that time, a formula I still use to this day that works like a charm! This very simple formula helps me determine if it is wise for me to accept the gig if the organization already has a set budget, and/or how to write up a proposal if they are leaving the speakers fee up to me.

Mari's Speaking Fee Formula

1. Consultation and contract conversations/emails:  This will take 1-2 hours between initial emails, calls, and sending your information, negotiating, going over the contract and so forth.

2. Existing presentation prep/practice time: If you have a presentation already put together than only needs some minor updating or tweaking, that is all kinds of fabulous! In that case factor in 4-10 hours of time, depending on the length of the presentation.

3. Original presentation prep/practice time: If you are creating your presentation from scratch, then you will want to factor in approximately 20-30 hours (give or take depending upon the length of your presentation, if it is a training, etc.) of prep and practice time.

4. Time away from your practice: You will want to consider how much therapy income you will be losing if you accept the speaking opportunity. For example if the conference is on a Friday and Saturday and is out of town, and you see therapy clients on Fridays, you will likely miss out on at least one day of therapy fees. Be sure to account for this.

Tip: When you begin your practice, or if you are refining your practice and you would like to accept more paid public speaking, keep in mind that many organizations will ask you to present on a Friday, Saturday and sometimes a Sunday. If this requires travel, then it is wise to set your clinical schedule so that you wrap up with clients by late afternoon or early evening on Thursday in case you must catch a flight in order to present on Friday. Additionally, if you are presenting on a Sunday, you will want to either return home Sunday afternoon or evening, or on Monday. It is wise to do some planning when deciding what kind of clinical schedule you set for yourself if paid public speaking is one of your future income streams.

5. Travel expenses: Is the organization covering your airfare, transportation, gas, food, hotel and other travel expenses? If not, you will need to factor this cost in (or better yet, negotiate for this).

6. Conference presentation: You will want to factor in your actual presentation time.

7. Travel time: Some speakers add this in, some do not. I factor in some of my travel time but not all. Why? Becausewhen I travel I use this time to get quite a bit of work done on an MIS project, catch up business related tasks, or use this time for my writing.

The Numbers Never Lie

Now, let's break this down into a dollars and cents formula using my calculations for the conference where I was invited as the annual keynote speaker and presenter. I am not using my full clinical fee for my prep as I am not working directly with a client, instead I use a prep fee of $125/hour. Why? Because once the presentation is created, it is evergreen so to speak and I can re-purpose the material in other ways (e.g. for workshops, webinars, and so forth), and I can re-use this for future presentations as well. Additionally, knowing I will likely promote my two books and my clinical consent forms packet for therapists, I factor that in as well.

1. 2 hour contract and negotiation time/emails at $125/hr. = $250

2. Presentation creation (some of this I had created for prior smaller talks, and some I created specifically for this audience) and practice time 15 hours/$125/hr. = $1,875

3. Time away from my practice = This was on a weekend and I do not see clinical clients on Friday so no lost income here. However, keep in mind that there is still time involved in traveling, so let's add 10 hours at my $50/hour travel fee = $500

4. Conference presentation time/6 hours. This is what I charged for my actual presentation fee = $1,200

5. Travel and expenses = There was a flight and hotel for two nights = $600 (covered)

Total fee negotiated = $5,000.

Now, let's take that $5,000 which sounds like a really nice amount, and do the calculations with the net profit (after taxes) divided by the total hours of time involved:

$5,000 gross
- taxes
$3,750 net profit divided by 35 hours of prep, presentation and travel time= $107/hour net profit + approximately $1,100 net profit from the sales of my books and e-materials, and an additional 4 new coaching clients (roughly $2,300 of net income based on 5 hours of coaching per client at my coaching fee), and securing another 5K gig the following year based on the reviews that I received from this event.

Again, the take home was $3,750 net but you must factor in all of the hours and expenses involved in earning that $3,750, as well as weigh in other financial and professional benefits such as MIS sales, exposure, reviews, future speaking events, increase in clients, etc.

Starting to make sense?

The following year I was invited to speak on the exact same topic for another organization based on the positive reviews from this event. Because I already had the presentation completed, I only needed to invest about 8 hours of prep time, however, the rest of the calculations above still applied. This means that my net profit on the second event was $144 divided by my time investment (not including my book sales and materials).

Now, let's look at one more calculation for a smaller 2 hour local presentation:

1. Contract conversation/emails= 1 hour x $125 = $125

2. Prep time and materials (Tip: you always email the materials to the organization, no matter how large or small the gig, and they print out): 6 hours x $125 = $750

3. Travel time = 2 hours x $50 = $100

4. Travel expenses = Gas = $50

5. Presentation time = 2 hours = $400

Total time investment = 11 hours

Gross Fee Negotiated = $1,500 for a 2 hour presentation

$1,125 - gas expense $50 = $1,075 net divided by 11 hours of time investment = $98/hour

This was a worthwhile event for me because it was 2 hours from my home, I love the area, and I have a dear friend who lives there and asked me to stay with her for the weekend, and I did not miss out on any practice clinical income. So, the win for me is that I enjoyed the event, I promoted my products (and sold $550 that weekend), I met some wonderful colleagues, and two of the attendees signed up for my Multiple Income Streams workshop, and 3 others contacted me to work with them as a business coach, and since then, several in attendance have joined my Like A Boss! Facebook Coaching Group.

To Speak or Not to Speak: That is the Question

Is the paid speaking gig worth your time? This is the million dollar question I am asked frequently, and a professional decision that each therapist must make for himself or herself. Here are a few of the questions I often ask myself in making the determination, I thought that it would be helpful to share as a support:

1. Will it support and benefit my professional goals, and my personal and professional growth?

2. Will it generate interest and eventual income for my books and products?

3. Will it support my colleagues?

4. Will it benefit the greater community and/or clients?

5. Will it make me happy to do this (i.e. not drain my energy, feels exciting to my spirit, etc.)?

6. Will it benefit my counseling practice?

7. Will it grow my coaching/consulting practice?

8. Will they cover my expenses and travel?

9. Is it an area that I have friends, family, colleagues or have always wanted to travel to?

10. Does it help further my brand?

11. Will it open other doors and opportunities?

12. Do I believe in the organization and what they stand for?

If I can answer yes to at least 3 or 4 of these questions (and I must always be able to answer yes to questions # 1, 5, and 12 without a doubt), and if it will not take me away from my clinical or coaching practice where I would be losing income, and/or away from an important event in my personal life like a wedding or birthday, then yes, I would likely accept the invitation to speak or present.

Charge your Worth as a Speaker and then be Worthy of that Charge


In closing, what I hope you will take away from this blog is that we therapists must charge a good fee for speaking events and then be worthy of that fee.

And, equally important we speakers must have a formula that we apply in order to calculate the time investment vs. the actual net profit we walk away with.

Paid speaking can be a lot of fun, a nice additional income stream, a great way to connect and expand your professional reach, a wonderful doorway to new opportunities, and a chance to share a specialization or topic you are passionate about.

It can also provide you with a forum to share about your products and services as well. As well as a support to your colleagues and clients. Or...it can be a drain on your time and finances.

Three Important Closing Reminders

1. Be sure to have all of your speaker's information, contracts, marketing materials and topics polished up. If you need help with this or are feeling a bit overwhelmed on how to make this happen, then reach out and invest in working with a coach who has speaking experience and can walk you through these steps.

2. Negotiation is part of being a smart, savvy business person. I happen to enjoy numbers and negotiations, but the good news is you don't have to be a mathematician in order to figure our your speaking fee. It simply takes some practice and in helps to have a road map to follow. I hope by sharing my own formula here is a helpful tool for you so that the next time you are asked to speak, you will have a better idea of how to crunch your numbers and calculate your time investment when deciding upon your speaking fee and/or accepting the gig.

3. If you like the idea of paid public speaking, but feel you need further support or coaching, consider joining my next Like A Boss! Facebook Coaching Group for Therapists who are wanting to create other income streams beyond one-on-one sessions. The next group starts in January 2017 and as of October 2016 there are 2 seats left. If you would like more information, and/or to see what other clinicians have to say about the group you may take a look at the group page here: http://www.thecounselorscoach.com/like-a-boss-facebook-coaching-group/

Do you have questions or comments on speaking? If so, feel free to share in the section below!

Kindly and in support,