Being a motivational speaker allows you to share your knowledge with others and experience rewarding personal and professional fulfillment.
But before you can book your first speaking engagement, you need to learn how to become a motivational speaker and what to charge for your services.
How to become a paid motivational speaker in 7 steps
Becoming a motivational speaker requires more than simply talking in front of an audience. These seven steps can help you launch a career as a motivational speaker.
1. Self-assessment and introspection
The best motivational speakers have a deep understanding of themselves. They know their strengths and actively work on their weaknesses. If you want to be a motivational speaker, you need to understand all aspects of yourself.
This requires you to look inward and use self-assessment to identify your passions, areas of expertise, and how you’ll use your unique perspective to help others. Journaling, reading thought-provoking books and working with a therapist are among the ways you can start building and strengthening your perspectives.
2. Develop expertise in your practice area
Some people seem to be great public speakers naturally, but everyone needs practice speaking in front of a crowd. You should feel comfortable addressing a large audience before trying to get a speaking engagement. Practice making speeches in front of friends and family, join a local Toastmasters club, or sign up for as many work presentations and speaking opportunities as possible to get comfortable speaking publicly.
You’ll also need expertise and experience in your chosen practice area or industry. For example, if you plan to share your knowledge with small business owners, you will want to have firsthand experience as a small business owner, so you can speak with authority on the topic.
3. Craft a unique message
There are thousands of motivational speakers out there, so you must stand out from the rest. Take some time to develop your distinct voice and message.
Ask yourself these questions to help you find your niche and authentic voice:
- Who do you want to speak to? Who could gain the most from hearing about your experiences?
- What is your ideal audience size or venue?
- What topics or industries are you most passionate about?
- How does your story differ from other motivational speakers or influencers in your practice area or industry?
- What standout personality traits do you bring to your speeches?
4. Build a brand
Motivational speakers are business owners—just like a restaurant owner or clothing boutique owner. Unlike other businesses, however, motivational speakers are selling their stories and personality as their products. To be a successful motivational speaker, you’ll need to build your brand.
Building your brand as a motivational speaker includes identifying your target audience and poising yourself in front of them. Having an online presence via a website and social media channels is essential to becoming a motivational speaker.
You may also want to consider becoming a certified motivational speaker. A certification could help you land speaking engagements when you’re first starting out. There are both free and paid certifications available, and you can earn more than one to build your resume.
5. Networking and mentorship
If you’re trying to learn how to become a motivational speaker, you likely have experience in a certain field. This means you may already have connections and contacts with your ideal audiences. Leverage your network to help book engagements and grow your brand.
Additionally, you can improve your speaking skills by reaching out to more experienced speakers for mentorship. Partnering with a mentor can help expand your network and give you the chance to learn directly from leaders in the field.
6. Gain practical experience
Once your message is set and your brand is in place, you can start seeking speaking opportunities. As with any new skill, it’s a good idea to start small and work your way up to larger engagements. Each successful speech expands your exposure and can help open the door to bigger opportunities.
7. Hone and improve your skills
Good motivational speakers constantly improve their skills and refine their craft. You should request feedback after every engagement and use it to hone your skills, message and brand.
Getting your first paid gig
Unlike searching for a new job, you probably won’t find a list of paid speaking gigs on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. Motivational speakers get most of their paid gigs from their network or by pitching their services directly to event hosts.
First, create a resume that shows how you’ve established yourself as an expert in your industry or on your topic of choice.
Next, you’ll need to demonstrate your skills as a speaker. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with a high quality video of you speaking to an audience. Volunteering as a speaker is often a good way to get coverage of your speaking skills in a real-world setting.
Once you’ve created a portfolio and/or a website, reach out to your network. Some of the best people to contact about potential speaking opportunities are people who know you in relation to your speaking topics.
If you’re discussing business topics, you might reach out to past clients or coworkers to see if their current businesses would benefit from a motivational speaker. On the other hand, if you’re focused on personal passions—such as a community cause—try contacting people in your personal network. For instance, if you previously worked as a management consultant and you want to speak about the power of embracing change throughout your career, reach out to past companies you’ve consulted for, and ask if they have any upcoming events or know of any local conferences that are looking for speakers.
How much should you charge for a speaking engagement?
As of January 2024, the median salary for a motivational speaker is just under $79,000 annually. But that rate fluctuates based on experience and education.
However, many speakers are self-employed or use speaking as a side gig to a full-time career. You can help determine your rates by choosing a salary goal and breaking it down into speaking engagements.
For example, if you want to earn at least $30,000 a year speaking as a side business, plan on speaking at one event per month. You’d need to charge at least $2,500 per event to meet your goal.
When setting your rate, consider your experience as well as the budget of the event. A multimillion-dollar business client will likely have a larger budget than your local nonprofit. Additionally, it’s generally recommended that you start with smaller engagements and then work your way up to higher-paying, larger speaking engagements as you build a portfolio and network. It may take months, or even years, to build enough experience that you can charge high enough rates to make your full salary as a motivational speaker.
5 benefits of becoming a motivational speaker
Becoming a motivational speaker isn’t just about making money. Many speakers do what they do because they enjoy inspiring others to better themselves. Let’s check out the benefits of becoming a motivational speaker, and why you might want to consider it as a career.
1. Personal fulfillment
As a motivational speaker, your speech could make a positive impact and difference in the life of another person. This in turn may lead to personal fulfillment and enable you to experience happiness and satisfaction derived from helping others.
2. Professional opportunities
You don’t have to be a full-time motivational speaker to benefit from speaking events. Many motivational speakers use speaking engagements as a way to diversify their income stream.
In addition, your speaking assignments could lead to career growth. Businesses hire motivational speakers to help boost employee enthusiasm and offer fresh perspectives to workers. A business leader inspired by your speech and experience might want to hire you to help the business in more than a one-time role. They may reach out to you about a potential job opportunity with their company, giving you a leg up in the hiring process.
3. Networking and connections
Being a motivational speaker helps you build a robust network that can lead to new opportunities. A large network can help you book new speaking engagements as connections recommend you to their contacts.
You can also use your network to form collaborations with other speakers and business leaders. You could partner with speakers in your industry to host a business conference to bolster your network and initiate a revenue stream.
4. Personal development
Being a good public speaker is a great skill to hone. When you become a motivational speaker, you’re committing to refining your public speaking skills over and over again. With each event, you improve your confidence and communication skills, which can be important for personal development.
5. Influence and leadership
Being an influential speaker can lead to more speaking opportunities, which will ultimately grow your brand and increase your income. However, the influence and leadership that come with being a speaker go beyond monetary rewards as you affect real change in others.
Influence as a motivational speaker goes beyond collecting a paycheck—the best speakers inspire transformation with their words. As a motivational speaker, your influence can help people start their own journeys toward making long-term, sustainable changes in their lives.
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