AAE Speakers Bureau recently took a 2023 survey of around 500 meeting planners and professional speakers and found that almost a quarter of the planners have more money to spend on keynote speakers. That leaves 75% who don’t. And 53.1% of the speakers have said they have had to raise their speaking fee. The report said that the average fee for a keynote is $15,551. And the average total budget for speakers is $26,583.

Meeting planners expect added value from speakers these days, such as a meet and greet with attendees, social media promotion, a book signing, and a meet and greet with executives. This should all factor into what you charge as your speaking fee. But how do you know when you should raise your speaker fee?

When should you raise your speaker fee?

So many factors go into a speaker fee. And the truth is that there are really no rules about what yours should be. But there are some guidelines.

New speakers

If you’re just starting out as a speaker you can’t expect to get paid very much, if at all. Most speakers start out speaking for free. The only reason I never spoke for free was that I had my own sponsors. I taught other speakers how to make a living as a speaker from sponsorships. It cuts out all competition. Especially if you’re a new speaker. You can’t compete against seasoned professionals for regular speaking jobs, but with sponsorship, you have no competition. You get your own sponsors and create your own paid speaking jobs.

A good rule of thumb is that new beginning speakers can expect to charge between $500 and $2500 per speech. Again, if you have sponsors like I did when I first started out, you can charge as much as you think you can get. My very first speaking job was $2500 because I had several local sponsors and I put on my own event. If you can’t get someone to hire you as a speaker you can always become your own boss and hire yourself to speak. When the speaking industry is down this is a great option to still be able to make a living as a speaker. I used this method all through Covid to create my own virtual content for the sponsors I have in my portfolio.

Established speakers

Ok, so now you’ve been speaking for a while and you’ve been charging anywhere from $500 to $2500 and you’re pretty booked at that rate. By now you should also have at least one book on the market in your chosen topic in which you are an expert. If you’re marketing yourself you probably also have a decent following and are becoming well known in the industry. There’s no timeline about when that would happen. I’ve known very established speakers who spoke for free and low fee for a decade before they raised their rates. But it usually doesn’t take that long to get to that point. Go at your own pace. When you get to the established speaker level you will know it.

Established speakers should start to raise their speaker fee when they are too busy at the lower level fee to keep up with it. There are only so many days in the year and speaking every day of the year is not practical and will wear you out quickly. Speaking takes a lot out of you. Travel takes a lot out of you. And there is a sacrifice to be made in your personal life when you’re on the road so many days out of the year. You need the rest in between and you also need to have time to write more books and customize speeches for higher-paying clients.

Established speakers are able to charge between $2500 and $10,000 per speech. You’ve earned the right to boost your fee. Like every level, you don’t want to jump up in fees too quickly or you may find yourself struggling for work.

Influencer speakers

Once you’ve written multiple books and have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of followers you move up to the influencer level of speakers. You probably also have a strong media presence. These speakers typically are able to charge around $10,000 – $20,000 per speech. Much more is expected of you as you move up to this level. My first big speech in this range was for 1,000 attendees for an engineering summit for Procter and Gamble. I was asked to take a lengthy internal research survey and find solutions for the issues they needed to find answers for. This was my first look at the difference between an established speaker and an influencer. You have to be prepared to up your game a lot at this point if you want to play in the influencer sandbox.

An influencer speaker is a known expert in their field. They don’t usually have an all you can eat buffet menu of speeches on 20 different topics. When a meeting planner thinks of your topic your name should be at the top of their list. This is also when you should start to differentiate yourself from other experts in your field. What’s in your background of experience that makes you different from all of your competitors? Hone in with laser focus on what makes you special, unique and different. What is your niche within your industry?

Celebrity speakers

Celebrity speakers are usually in the $20,000 range and over. If you are a celebrity in another field, such as a famous athlete or actor, you can skip the other steps. You are mostly being hired for your name draw. That doesn’t mean you haven’t paid your dues. Just the opposite. You’ve paid your dues in another industry and have earned the right to stand on a stage for big bucks.

A celebrity speaker is also a speaker who has been around for many years and paid their dues on the stage as a speaker. By this point you probably have multiple books and at least tens of thousands of followers. You are at least well-known in the speaking industry and probably by the general public as well.

Seth Dechtman of The Keynote Curators has a good guideline for working with celebrity speakers.

No rules

Again, there are no hard and fast rules for when you should raise your speaker fee. Being a professional speaker is a full-time job and there’s no contest for your own personal timeline.