Freelancing, Speaking and Why Facebook is Better

From: ToothpasteforDinner.com
This conversation happenned yesterday on Facebook before I even noticed. This is why Facebook is superior to Twitter: Threads. This message was able to become a centerpiece of intellectual discourse because the message was upvoted by the number of likes (7) and the number of comments (21). The conversation all started with a statement I made about speaking for free. I will let the community tell the rest of the story...
Kemp Edmonds
Kemp Edmonds

"I am no longer taking on unpaid speaking gigs. I apologize for that. I would accept an invitation to speak if a Charitable donation ($50+) was made to the charity of your groups choice. I am sorry that I am unable to come as a free speaker."
...
What are your thoughts on this idea?

Matt Astifan
Matt Astifan
$50 to speak or $50 per person? I assume per person. This would change the dynamics of the audience in attendance and their expectations. Not sure how this helps the speaker without knowing the industry and target market. IF that was the entire message you received I'd say this speaker isnt utilizing great communication and/or branding skills..

Kemp Edmonds
Kemp Edmonds
LOL, this is a small portion of a message that I send to someone who asked me to speak.
The minimum donation is $50 for a 30-45 minute talk. For groups with little to no funding what do you think of this format? The idea isn't to help the speaker but to ensure that the audience understands that these things aren't free.

Matt Astifan
Matt Astifan
I see there is much more to the story. Without getting into the back story I'd say get as many speaking gigs as possible and pitch them on your class at the end. It's like the 'valuable bribe' for an email opt-in. You'll probably make much more then $50 :)

Jeremy Lim
Jeremy Lim
I say you whip out your iPad and show them this:

James Laitinen
James Laitinen
I dunno I think that comes off a bit snooty, who are you to teach an audience a lesson that things aren't free! lol

Jeremy Lim
Jeremy Lim
I don't know about snooty, but I'm biased. (I regularly face face similar dilemmas with photography. It doesn't feel sexy saying it, but you have the right to decline free gigs.)

Matt has a point, but if you go that route, tracking is everything. See what groups give you the highest ROI and stick to that demographic. Otherwise, it's your time down the drain - which is the last place it should be.

James Laitinen
James Laitinen
True true, but I don't see the value of saying to someone if you can't pay donate some money to this or that. You might as well stick with your principles and take the money in the first place.

Jeremy, that video is hilarious. I love the part how he compares the high end restaurant to the taco shack. Beef is beef? ha!

Jeremy Lim
Jeremy Lim
That's fair. The issue is more "we have zero money" rather than "we don't think giving money to you is right". You guys ever see what the guys from the Humble Indie Bundle did with their games? I like that model a lot.

As for the video, if I ever teach a freelance course, that's the first thing I'm showing my students.

TO ANY FREELANCERS READING THIS: GET PAID OR GET OUT. Free works kills the industry for the rest of us.

James Laitinen
James Laitinen
I like to get paid in trident layers...just sayin!

Jeremy Lim
Jeremy Lim
Also, to clarify: "getting paid" doesn't always means money has to trade hands, but you have to get back value that's equal to the amount you're producing. Rents don't pay themselves. :(

Josh Rimer
Josh Rimer
I think it's fine Kemp. I just turned down a speaking gig (teleconference call) because they wanted me to do it for free saying it would put me in front of a bunch of potential clients, yet they were charging those potential clients to listen to the call. If it's a free event, then I don't mind speaking for free, but if the organizer is profiting, then you should too (unless you have a good product/service offer at the end that you feel many in attendance would be wanting to purchase after hearing you speak).

Corey Rollins
Corey Rollins
That is the greatest video ever made and I show it to clients all the time. They either laugh and stop being cheap, or they take their cheap asses somewhere else. You have to stop being free at some point, but at the same time you have to actually provide value.

If you feel strong enough about your product, charge it up. 50$ is not a lot of money especially if a bunch of people are going.

Matt Astifan
Matt Astifan
If you create a sales process (not pitch) before you head up the presentation you'll convert your time into money. Even if the organization doesnt have money/budget perhaps the people do (depending on many factors). @JoshRimer if a business was getting paid but put you in front of qualified leads I'd take them up on it, there is huge value in that!

Josh Rimer
Josh Rimer
@MattsMedia agreed - if you have something they're likely to want to purchase after then can definitely be worthwhile. So I guess the moral of the story here is, decide on a case by case basis, but in the end if you feel you should be paid for your time to share your expertise, then don't be afraid to charge or require the charitable donation.

And it really depends on the event too - for example if they just want Jeremy to photograph a random party and he'd "get exposure to potential clients", then it's not so great, but if the event is actually about how to take good photos, then that could actually turn into some great results after everyone there realizes how much better it would be to just have Jeremy do it for them in the end. That's worked well for me with talking about how people can make their own web videos.

Morten Rand-Hendriksen
Morten Rand-Hendriksen
The professional speaker market is suffering from people who undervalue their own skill set. For me it's the same as that quote about freelancing: Do it for full pay or do it for free - but whatever you do don't do it for cheap.

I see too many people speaking for little or no money at events where participants pay $500+ to get in. That's a serious problem. It's one thing if you have a vested interest in the event or if you're selling something at the event or your talk will boost sales, but if you're speaking for free and someone else is raking in dough on your talents you are doing yourself and every other speaker out there a disservice ('you' being anyone, not Kemp Edmonds Esq.).

A $50 charitable fee for open talks at non-paid events should be fine and will weed away the less serious people. But for big events it's not enough.

Michael Allison
Michael Allison
Don't apologize for taking people's money who give it to you willingly.

Kemp Edmonds
Kemp Edmonds
First off. Arguable the best fb thread ever.

@MattsMedia I don't want it to seem like I am there to pitch anything or drive them into a funnel. Although I will provide information about courses afterwards: one info slide + handout.

@JeremyLim Great advice and thanks for the laughs.

@ Corey I think we had this conversation about your work about 2 years ago or so. I learned alot then too. This is a small group of entrepreneurs and not a money making machine requesting I come and speak.

@JLate Layers is my currency of choice as well!


@JoshRimer I agree with you. Sometimes it challenging when others are profiting off of something that you contribute for free when it costs you heaps of time.

@Mor10 Thanks for the advice and support for my position. For big events I agree it's not enough.

Owen Greaves
Owen Greaves
This is a very interesting topic, some how I'm not sure your solution is good marketing in the grand scheme of things. Now I'm not suggesting speakers shouldn't be compensated, they should, but only the speaker can determine what that ROI should be. Turning down an engagement because you made a, non-negotiable decision seems short sighted to me.

The value of a speaking engagement or opportunity should never be determined by the compensation one gets. There should be better more relevant markers for determining whether one should accept the free speaking engagement.

I do agree that if the event is charging people to come to the event, then speakers should be compensated, that does not have to be money.

There's much more to be said on this topic, I would error on the side of caution when using money as the deciding factor to speak for free.
Owen Clark
Owen Clark
Today's world expects free, look around, the internet is leading the way, I will give you a real life example of a speaker who adds tremendous value and not only speaks for free but pays for the ballroom, and also has to cover the cost to run his private jet around America to do his talks.

I drove to Seattle a few months ago just to see and meet this guy, his talk is 3 hours long and as @MattsMedia and @JoshRimer mentioned you have to have other strategies...

Quote from @MattsMedia "I'd say get as many speaking gigs as possible and pitch them on your class at the end."

During this guy's presentation he promotes his books, his seminars and his coaching services. His name is Brad Sugars and he is the founder of Action Coach.

Not once did I hear a sale pitch though and he only gave real life examples and then got the audience to say "mmmm isn't that interesting" we must have said that line 20X.

All that being said this guy is doing his own show, but he started out somewhere, most likely talking to as many gigs as he could. (I will ask him)

Would I talk if someone was trying to scoop me...nope

@KempEdmonds I love your idea of charging a nominal fee ($5) at the door with 100% of proceeds going to a charitable organization. If 100 show that is $500...awesome, I might even implement it for my July meetup.

Sorry i missed your meetup last night @JoshRimer I look forward to seeing pics and hearing about it.

Rob Duncan
Rob Duncan
One solution is to have it as a company policy that you will do X number (6?) of pro bono talks for non-profits/causes/associations per year, and once those are gone, they are gone.

You can ration these out over the year so you always have one available for those low-budget, high exposure opportunities that make sense.

The fact is that a lot of big money gigs come about as a result of someone having seen you speak for free. Also, if there's no real budget for a speaker, there can be lots of other benefits you can negotiate such as book sales, donation to Kiva, camera crew, promotional exposure, video testimonials recorded at the event, live webcast, referrals etc. etc.

It will always make sense to do "free" on occasion, and you can judge each situation as it comes. Your instinct to "always get something" for your services is bang-on though.

PS. I was in a speaker line-up a while ago where the $10K keynote was doing a freebie to help out an old schoolmate. Cheers..

Shane Gibson
Shane Gibson
Kemp. Call me tomorrow. I have a paying referral for you :)

Also, search out organizations like the Vancouver Board of Trade etc. that have people in the audience that can actually pay you for your services. I do stuff with them and other associations at a reduced rate because there's 10's or even 100's of thousands of dollars of spin off.

Too many organizations want free seminars and their audience is full of people who can't hire you or expect more stuff for free.

Ryan Arndt
Ryan Arndt
great thread all. coming from games its the same thing. i have worked on a "pay what you think it is worth" situation setting a low end (cost) and high end (you are paying too much) and let the client decide after it is over. It has worked pretty well in past, usually people paying more than I would have expected.

Have done some work for charitable donation as well which helps out in spades later. :)

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