How much do you charge? As a professional speaker you’ve undoubtedly been asked this question by potential clients, new speakers, and even wondered if you should answer it yourself when giving examples to colleagues. In the National Speakers Association (NSA), we’re not supposed to talk about price. It gets complicated because some chapters are stricter about this than others, maybe we feel more comfortable around close groups of friends, or sometimes we want to teach other speakers and it would be helpful to explain our experiences with price. I think the question is too broad for a simple yes or no, so let’s deepen our understanding of why we aren’t supposed to talk about price.
Setting Your Price
It’s taboo to discuss what each of us charges because we want to avoid collusion. This is the deceitful alliance between speakers with the intent of price fixing. While this is unlikely to ever happen, making it a policy to not discuss price eliminates the potential of speakers banding together to bully clients into paying us all a set rate. Price fixing would not benefit us for long anyway, because if we all knew what each other charged, it would be way too easy to intentionally undercut somebody on price.
Let’s Talk About Price
In large groups, or in professional settings like a meeting, I think it’s proper not to talk about the specifics of price. You never want to use price as a way to brag or distinguish yourself either because it will backfire and no one will be impressed.
Here’s a situation where I do think it IS alright to discuss price. Let’s say you’re in an informal, intimate gathering where you have developed a few relationships. If diving into the specifics of fees illustrates a point that will help someone, and it in no way is used to bolster your ego, then I believe it’s acceptable to talk about price. When someone asks you about price but the group is too large or it just wouldn’t be tasteful to dive into the specifics in front of everybody, kindly ask this person to connect with you at another time.
Do Clients Talk Price?
Have you ever thought about whether our potential clients talk about price with each other? I’ve found that in the corporate and private industry, they don’t really talk to each other. Of course, you want to maintain price integrity because that’s part of your reputation, but when working with these types of groups you don’t have to worry about them talking to each other about you. Government, schools, and public service groups are a different story. These people do talk to each other and often the amount they spend on you is public record, so be consistent!
About five years ago I was contacted by the Washington Department of Natural Resources for a potential speech and workshop. We navigated our way through a mountain of correspondence, and eventually they determined I would be a good fit. The only problem was they initially heard about me because a colleague emailed a proposal I had sent them two years prior, which included a price from when I first began my career. Even though I charged more now, in their eyes it was the same product, so they expected it for the same price.
About Value Trades
This dilemma taught me two things that you can use to protect yourself from a sticky situation. First, always put an asterisk by the price that says (*valid through 2018). Second, never give a client a discount. You will get some clients who can’t afford the full price, so instead of giving them a discount, charge them the full fee and then explain in writing what the value trade will include. A value trade is something that represents value to you, but doesn’t cost the client actual dollars. For example, you could trade introductions to three people who could potentially hire you down the road, a letter of recommendation, or a video recording of your speech. Now if you ever got called out for charging one client full price and another client less, you could show them how you made up the value difference and didn’t give one a pure discount.
Talking about price does not have to be awkward. If you understand the rules of why speakers are not supposed to talk about price, then you’ll know when you can break them.
For more information about Jake, visit his website.