When and Why It’s Time to Have a Fee
Last week I focused on the time period before you have formal fees. My personal progression went a little like this:
- Step 1: I insisted on not being paid at all. I was very new and very inexperienced. This is actually a blessed time because usually event planners are appreciative, and the expectations are low. When you exceed them–bonus!
- Step 2: I simply told planners that I would accept an honorarium. I asked them to base it on prayer and their budget.
- Step 3: I adopted a formal fee schedule.
One of the hardest decisions is when you should move from an honorarium to a set fee. First, I want to establish why it’s good to have a standard set of fees at some point.
- It establishes you as a professional. My first speaking event outside my own church was for a church’s women’s beach retreat. The first year I refused payment, and the leaders gave me a beautiful gift that I still use and treasure. I was invited back the next year, and the planner handed me an envelope at the end and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m paying you, because this is what you DO.” That check was a blessing to me on so many levels. Her comment backed up with the check gave me confidence that I had stepped into the ranks of vocational ministry. I cried a good percentage of the way home. Not only that, but I had been praying for God’s provision to attend She Speaks. Guess what? That check covered my registration! It felt like confirmation straight from God, and it helped pay for an investment in the growth of my ministry.
- Event planners actually seem more comfortable with a fee structure. There have been a few exceptions along the way, but I believe in general event planners want to bless you with the fee. When they’re unsure what you would consider appropriate, it’s an uncomfortable dilemma for them. Having your fees allows them to consider their budget but also to feel confident of the amount they’re paying you.
How do you know when it’s time? Here are some of the indicators:
- You’re being asked back. This doesn’t happen lots just because planners often bring in new speakers each year, but you should see it happen some.
- You feel mostly consistent. I don’t think we can ever count on 100% consistency, but you should feel fairly confident in your ability to create a strong message that connects with your audience and your delivery. The value of a speaker’s message should exceed her fee.
- You are getting feedback after events that indicate life transformation. Attendees are saying things like, “When you said ____________, I thought about what’s happening in my life…”
- Event planners are asking for your fee. If they’ve come to you via word of mouth and assume you have a fee, you probably need a fee.
Next week I’ll share a fee structure with concrete measurements to let you know where you should be.
How about you? Do you have a fee schedule/structure? How did you know it was time?
I too, am in this place. What happens when they assume you speak for free? In our small community they don’t even ask what I would charge because I have been free in the past. Some offer a love gift when it’s over which is a blessing but others don’t think about paying a speaker. Moving forward do I only do paid events to keep it all fair – across the board – or do some of both? How do we make the first move to mention we have a speaker fee? Looking forward to your insight Amy!
Great questions, Lori! The transition is tricky. In the last post in the series, I’ll write about having someone else handle your booking/scheduling. I highly recommend this. But when people ask about your availability on a date, I think you can gently say things like, “That date is open on my calendar. Let’s talk what I could bring for your audience, and then I’m happy to send my fee schedule to you to see if I fit in your budget.”
I also suggest having a “board” to help you decide when you can wave a fee. I’ve prayerfully developed my own guidelines for when I’ll consider waving a fee (ie for non-profits who have passions matching mine), but I don’t decide on my own. Having a group who decides with you takes the pressure off a little, so you don’t have to be the “bad guy” if you say no. It doesn’t have to be a formalized board but just a group of unbiased people who love you and your ministry. I actually serve on a formal board for a friend who speaks and has a non-profit. Just recently, we advised her not to cut her fee for daytime events anymore. She is also a writer, so she needs office hours for her writing, and the trade-off wasn’t worth it. It made her easier to say “no” in the context of, “My board, who is made up of people I trust, have advised me…. I’d love to speak for your group, but I need to say no to honor their advice.”
These are truly tough issues. Money and ministry is sticky, but I hope this helps!
Thank you for doing this series, Amy! It’s very helpful!
With your encouragement Amy I have set up a formal fee structure for this year. That has been hard for me to do because I know how tight women’s ministry groups budgets are, and its just frankly hard for me to feel like I am “asking for money.” But I can honestly say I can check off your four items on your list, and it is true, everyone feels more comfortable with a structure. I have 9 events scheduled over the next 6 months and 6 are paid. Two are for ministries I am choosing to not ask for a fee, and the other was booked before I put my fee schedule together. Thanks for the advice Amy! This was my “next step.”
So glad it’s working out. The transition is tough, but once it’s all in place, conversations with event planners get easier.