Being Fearless with Your Fees

By Jane Atkinson
George called me in a panic. “Jane, there’s a local engagement two weeks from now with a Fortune 100 company, and they have asked for my fee. What should I quote them?”
 
In my mind, I’m thinking, “quote your fee” but in George’s mind is:
 
It’s only two weeks out.
They are expecting a discount.
It’s local, so I should give a discount.Fear
Because it’s last minute, they probably don’t have a budget.
What if I quote it via email and they never get back to me?
 
And on and on… 
 
No doubt, George is not alone in his thinking.
 
Has that ever happened to you? You’ve tried to guess what’s going on at the clients’ end? Then, fear sets in.
 
Well, guess what? My old boss who was a multi-millionaire once told me, “decisions based in fear are typically wrong.” And, you can trust that you rarely know exactly what’s going on at the client’s end (please note, they do not always tell the truth). But you do know what your fee is. At least I hope you do, which leads me to key #1.
 
1.  Lock Your Fees Down.  
Your fees should be printed on a document that is posted on your bulletin board. Don’t wing it! Set your fees and then quote your fees. The same fees should be quoted every time to every client. This becomes even more important when working with bureaus. Everyone should be quoting the same fee whether the clients call you directly or go through a bureau.
 
And a little side note. When a bureau agent calls and wants to negotiate your fee, they are serving their client. Make sure that if you agree, they know it’s a one-time thing, or you will be negotiating your fee with that same agent every time. 
 
2.  Your Inventory is all You Have. That situation with George was a bit different because it was highly likely that George would not have sold that date with only two weeks to go. But let’s say you take an engagement for 50% of your fee that is six months out. And then five months out another booking comes in for the same date. You have just kissed that revenue goodbye. 
 empty calendar
Most of my clients set a maximum number of speaking engagements, and once they sell out a month, they close it. If they have sold any of those dates at lower than rack rate, then they have shot themselves in the foot.
 
I can hear you thinking, “but my calendar is not sold out!” Okay, so your goal is to fill it with wonderful, full fee engagements. Let’s move to key #3 to decide when we are going to negotiate.
 3.  Reasons to Negotiate. My goal for you is that you stand tall in your fees; that you know your value and are confident so that you rarely have to negotiate your fee.  I really believe that this is a “stance” a state of mind. (I know this to be true because it’s how I operate on a daily basis.  I don’t open my mind to negotiate). 
 
But let’s say you are wondering if it’s worthwhile, here are a few things that might go on your ‘reasons to negotiate’ list:
  • Last Minute. Chances are you aren’t going to sell that date, so it might be a reason to negotiate to bring in some bonus income.
  • Ideal Audience. Maybe it’s a group that you are dying to get in front of. For instance, SHRM pays their speakers who speak on the main stage, but if your market is corporate and getting in front of HR professionals is a good path for you, then you might consider reducing your rate for their big annual conference. 
  • Sell Tons of Product.  For those of you who target the Direct Selling world, you know that the audiences are huge and highly motivated to buy a product. Back when I represented Vince Poscente, we booked five events with over 10,0000 people in each audience. We agreed to reduce the fee, but we made up for it with over $20K in product sales at each event.
  • Multiple Engagements?  Now, I’m putting a question mark on this one. Greg Schinkel actually charges more for his big contracts because there is so much administration involved with running a program in multiple locations. Sometimes the way we do things needs to be questioned, and I would ask, “is this going to be more work as a result of multiple cities, or less”?  If it’s more, you might stick with your fee.

Now those of you who negotiate your fee on a regular basis are likely going to argue these points or add other reasons to negotiate, and the list might go on and on. You can justify negotiating your fee all that you want. This is your business to run however you see fit. And if you have bills to pay and are nervous about income, by all means, take those events. But know that over the long haul, negotiating on a regular basis has a price tag.
I truly believe that the path to getting your fee consistently revolves around confidence. 
That’s my rant for today – see you soon Wealthy Speakers!