Rebel Rising Podcast

Unraveling Your Money Mindset with Jen Gresham: How to Set & Negotiate Your Speaking Fee with Ease

You want to get paid to speak, right?

Yet the thought of pricing and negotiating your speaking fees makes you feel uneasy.

You’re not sure what to charge. You don’t know how to negotiate or what to negotiate for. You think “we don’t have a budget” means that you’re not going to get paid at all.

If this is you, you’re going to love our first guest expert interview on The Rebel Speaker.

Our guest expert is Jen Gresham who runs a blog called Everyday Bright, and Jen is truly remarkable. She has a Ph.D. in biochemistry. She spent years in the Air Force, and now she's an executive coach and business strategist. One of her areas of specialty is money mindset.

When I first met Jen, what I loved most about her, was that I could tell she had a very healthy money mindset. She lit up when she talked about money, and that really attracted me to her and her message, and I thought people needed to hear from you.

In this episode (and the transcript below) we are going to dive deep into money mindset issues including:

  • Why is money mindset so important for speakers?
  • How to set your speaking fee
  • How to talk to meeting planners so you understand the value your speech creates for them.
  • A strategy for negotiating a win-win outcome for you and the person who wants to hire you.

Enjoy the show!

Welcome to The Rebel Speaker.  Wooo-hoo. So glad you're here. The first thing we should do is talk about what is a money mindset, and…

Why the heck is money mindset so important to speakers?


Yeah. I think the easiest way to describe a money mindset is it's basically your psychological connection with money. It's how you emotionally and psychologically relate to the topic of money. That can take form in a number of different ways. It can just be how capable you think you are of earning money, how much you think you're worth, and how do you define that? How willing are you to ask for more or to understand where that ceiling is for your prices?

It also shows up in a number of different stories, the stories we tell ourselves about money, how it comes to us, whether we deserve it. All of those things make up your money mindset.


I love that: it's all of those, being willing to ask those questions, finding your ceiling for how much money you can make, and be willing to ask for more because I think that freaks people out in a very big way.


It does. One of the things that I realize … By the way, I didn't always have a good money mindset. I mean, this has been a real road for me as well, so I'm fully understanding of where people are coming from, but most of us, when we start off, we're not so confident, it's scary. We start low because we think that's safe. If I can't deliver on what I'm doing, I haven't charged you that much, so it's all okay.

The problem is that that ends up anchoring where your value is. It's kind of like when you sell your home. The amount that you can charge when you sell it depends on a lot on how much you bought it for, and then you have to justify any increase based on improvements and blah, blah, blah.

People get stuck in that same cycle with their pricing. While it may psychologically feel good to start low, people sometimes cap themselves, or you might even think of it as cutting themselves off at the knees, right from the get-go, so they never have any real understanding that not only could they go much higher, but those low prices could be hurting them.


That's interesting because I know there's a tendency for speakers to, when they're first starting out, to basically take whatever they can get, anything from, “I charge $250 an hour,” and really set it as an hourly. “I'll be there for the speech for an hour, so $250,” or they'll be like, “Oh, money, it doesn't matter. I'll take whatever I can get.”

I never thought about it really anchoring their price early on. What do you think, when you're starting out and you have a low price, that communicates to other people?

What your speaking fee communicates to yourself and others


It depends on how you use it, and this price anchor is in your own head. It's not that other people are going to say, “Oh, hey, but you just charged Sally $200. Why are you charging me $1,000?” It's not so much that because most of that's not happening. It may actually happen more in the speaking world because I imagine that event organizers sometimes talk, but even if they did, that's not so much the problem. It's what's in your head. It's what you think you can do that's the problem.

If that lower price gives you the confidence to get started, that's okay. Great. You don't want to price it so high that you're immobilized.  But you need to have a story there for yourself that says, “Okay. I'm doing this now just to get started, just to get things on my resume,” but you have a plan. “I'm going to get two of these, and then my prices are going to go here,” and I may make a five or ten-fold jump in price because that's where I should be.


I like what you said because I feel like speakers never have a plan for pricing. This is what I see again and again. I have The Rebel Speaker Facebook group, and I swear, Jen, once a week someone will rush into the group because, “Oh my gosh, I just got an email, and they want me to speak, and they want to know what my fee is, and I have no idea what to tell them.”


Right. I am a big fan of custom pricing. It's really difficult to have a price because it makes it sound like the price is all about me. This is the big switch, is that, actually, your price has very little to do with you. It has to do with the value that you can deliver for that person.


That’s important, let me repeat that. Your price has little to do with you and has everything to do with the value you deliver to that person.

What to charge when you don’t know what your fee is


Okay. Let's do a pretend here. Let's say that I'm a speaker, and I come to you and I'm all like, “Jen, I don't know what to charge.” What would be the first question you'd want to ask me?


Where are you speaking?


Like, “Oh, I'm speaking at this local non-profit for people with diabetes.”


Oh, that's cool. How many people do you think are going to be there?


Probably 30, I think they said.


What is the purpose of this meeting for the organization that's putting it on?


The purpose is to help them advocate better for their cause.


So it's fundraising?


I would say definitely fundraising. Yes, that's part of it, and explaining what they do in the community and what services are available.


I would suspect here that you might need to get a little more clarity on what this event really does for them. I would want to know, are they asking people for money at this event? Are they hoping to form partnerships? Is it really just educational where they just want people in the community to know that it exists? What I want you to see is that those three scenarios have very different values.


I like this because that was a totally made-up scenario.


Yeah. If somebody's trying to do fundraising, the potential value that you can bring, if you do it right and you understand how to do that, big, right?

So let’s suppose you could make them an extra $100,000.

That's a big value. It isn't just educating the community about what they do. This is probably … It's not a big win for them, so the values much lower.


And they're not going to be able to pay us much.

Or they're going to say that their budget is much lower.


Right, as it should be.


So it's all about defining your value. One of the things I hear when I talk with speakers or meet with clients and I ask them, “What is it? What challenge are you solving? What value are you bringing?” I hear, “I'm just so passionate, and I just want people to live a better life.”

Who is the REAL customer for your speech?


Good. That's nice, but again, your value has very little to do with you and has everything to do with the value that you're delivering. I think it's easy for speakers to get confused on who the real customer is. It's not the person sitting in the audience.


That is key. It isn't the person who is sitting in the audience. Who is it, Jen?


It's the organizers. It's the person who's paying. This is why you really need to understand what do they want to get out of this event? What does it mean for them? How are you going to deliver that value? What are the expectations on their end for really making this a solid event?

I would ask them what was an example of somebody who killed it for them in previous iterations of this event? Who bombed it? You don't need their name, but what was it that really fell short of expectations? There's a real process here, and it involves understanding the person who's hiring you and what value you can deliver them.


I like that because I think that is key. The other thing I see a whole lot of is people get an email. It's an inbound lead. They're super excited, and they ask, “Well, what's your fee?” Instead of answering that right away, it seems like the best course of action and what I tell people to try to do is get on the phone with the person, so you can ask those questions about, “Yeah. Who's knocked it out of the park for you? Who wasn't as good? What did you learn, and what are you looking for? What are your goals? This is how, then, I can add value and help you get to those goals,” and then it helps you the price.

Would you recommend custom pricing, then, for speakers?


I do, and I do that for my own work. I have a general ballpark that I charge for time, but one of the biggest things I do in my money mindset work is helping people understand that no one's really paying for your time.

If I could knock something out of the park at an event in 10 minutes, they'd be just as happy as they would be with a one-hour talk. It has nothing to do with the time. It's all about the results.

You want to have a band for different scenarios, that kind of thing. For myself …Now, I'm a coach, so it's slightly different, but the way I price is I have three factors.

The first part is what do I think that value is that that person will get out of it? I spend a lot of time figuring that out.

Then I ask myself, “What do I think is the chance of being able to deliver that full value?” which depends on me, and it also depends on them. It depends on the situation. A lot of things are luck, right?   You don't have control over them. I'm making a mental calculation, how likely do I think this person is to get to the value that they want?

Third, how complex is this project? Is this going to involve a huge amount of effort and time on my part? Maybe I'll have to research something to really help them, or is this already well within my sphere of influence that I know a lot about and it's going to be pretty easy?

I use those three things, and I just come up with a price.


I think that makes a lot of sense, especially the complexity aspect, because if you really have to customize a presentation, maybe you're still delivering your core message but you need to have different stories and different examples and those all have to be developed.

Or if they ask you to have a breakout workshop afterward based on your keynote speech, that adds a level of complexity. I like thinking about that, and also how confident are you that you can deliver these results? Because, yes, there's a whole lot out of your control, because sometimes speakers walk in and there's stuff going on that you have no control over.

But if you're confident, then it's like, “Okay. I need to consider that as well.” I love the way you think about it.

Also, I talk a lot about having boundaries around your speaking fees. You can have what you typically charge, what that typical speech package looks like, but having a lower limit … My fee's $5,000. I will not drop below $3,500. Having that lower limit as an automatic no, I think, is a must. Then if you think, “This is going to be a little bit more difficult.” You've got to ratchet that fee up. Having that band, oh my gosh, so, so important.


Yes.. I think the other piece, again, this gets into the mind of the person hiring you, is also thinking about not just what you're doing on the stage or in preparation for getting on the stage, but are you helping with marketing? Are you going to help people show up at this event? That's a big piece of value.

I think this is where understanding their goals and saying, “Oh, I can help you with that. I'm here to speak, but I've got a list of 10,000 people. Because this is local, I could potentially drive a lot of people here and get you more ticket sales. Would that be of interest?”

How to negotiate with ease


Excellent. Going back to the money mindset, the other freak out that I normally see is, “Oh my god, I have to negotiate.” What is the story that people are telling themselves when they are freaked out about the negotiation process?


Oh yes!. What I find is that most people see negotiation as an adversarial process, and because they're conflict avoidant, this feels like a conflict. The big reset here is that the best negotiation is win-win. If one person feels like they won and one person feels like they lost, that's a bad negotiation.

This is a key point. It's understanding that you're trying to get to a win-win situation.

Now, at the same time, understanding how negotiation works, you're going to have to start higher than you actually want to end up. I know that sounds obvious, but I have so many clients who just assume that they can ask for exactly what they want and the other person will just say, “You know, you're right,” and give it to them. That is not how a negotiation works. You need to start high.                      

There's a wonderful book on negotiation, The Secrets of Power Negotiation by Roger Dawson. He has several for different types of negotiations, but the essence of it is to start high. Ideally, you'd like them to put that first amount on the table.

This is where it gets a little tricky for speakers because what often happens is they first hear “What is your fee?” Ideally, what you want to say is, “You know, we can get to that, but first I'd like to better understand what it is you'd like to get out of this arrangement.”

At this point, you should be formulating an idea about what you think this is worth to them. Then, hopefully, you can say, “You know, it would really help me to understand, what is your budget for this event?” They may or may not give you a number. Ideally, they're going to give you a number.

Then, this is the hardest part. You have to act shocked.

Then you come back with, “You know, I was really thinking somewhere here,” and it's higher.

But you need to have the pieces, all of that discussion that you're having with them about what value you can bring.

They might say “There is no way can we do that.”

But, of course, you can justify it. “You know, I'm thinking here's why, because we talked about this. We talked about this,” and then you could say, “Okay. Well, you know what? Why don't I take this off the table? Would something like this work better for you?” But you need pieces that you can negotiate with.                 

Here's the other piece of negotiation that's so important: most people, especially speakers, are only negotiating about one thing. I will go and speak to you, and you will give me this much money, and that is the only thing to talk about.

If you can come up with a list of four to five other things, maybe you're doing an event after the actual talk, maybe you're doing some sort of follow up with their people, maybe you're doing marketing.


Maybe They can buy your book and give it to everyone at the event.

All of those different levers that you can pull at the negotiation.


Yes. The more levers you have, the better position you are to negotiate.

Scarcity Mindset Can Kill Your Speaking Negotiation Mojo


Another thing I see a lot of … because I feel like speakers are absolutely desperate to speak, is the thought, “Oh my gosh, I don't want to lose this inquiry.”


Yeah, and that's a killer because the one thing that will kill your negotiation is an inability to walk away.


Yes, and knowing what your hard no is because if you're thinking this project is $5,000 or this speaking engagement is $5,000 and they're saying, “We have a budget of $1,000,” You don’t say  “Yeah. Of course, I'll do it.” It's, “No. We have to talk about this because this is what I'm providing.”


Right. Right. You might even,

I mean, don't be afraid to say, “Why is it so low? Didn't you just tell me you're hoping to do fundraising for this activity, or that you're hoping to sell 500 spots at $1,000 each?”

Don't be afraid to question them on their pricing. Again, not in an adversarial way. You're just trying to understand. If you really want it, you can keep saying, “Look. I'm sure we're going to figure something out here. I really want to do this for you. We just need to get to a place where this works for both of us.”


Once again, going after that win-win result, where it works for you and what you need, and it works for them and they get the value that you can provide. I like that because I think speakers really come at it as s an adversarial situation, and that desperation and attachment of, “I need this gig.” Instead, just switching it to, “I'm not afraid to walk away, and I'm not afraid to ask for more.”


Right. The other thing to remember … because there's this scarcity mindset that a lot of people struggle with, but that's where that inability to walk away comes from.

What I always tell people is that I find you'll spend roughly the same amount of time and effort making a $1,000 sale as you will a $10,000 sale. It's not actually any harder. Your conversion rate may be slightly different, but you get 10 times more with the $10,000 sale.

You can get nine no's and only one, yes to get $10,000. Whereas, at a $1,000 sale, all 10 people have to say yes to get you the same amount.


I love it. So true.


That's why you need to let go of that scarcity mindset and say, “Yeah. You know, not only am I going to get nos … but I am going to embrace the no. You are bold. Embrace the no.

Tweet: When negotiating your speaking fee remember “You are bold. Embrace the no.”


Do you think that's one of the best ways to get over the scarcity mindset? By just embracing the no?


It's what I do with my clients. I try to turn this into a game and to feel good about getting rejected. When I did this with my coach the first time, I went through the game, and I made more money than I had ever made in my life. I mean, I just couldn't believe it, because I kept making proposals that felt outrageous, and people would say yes. Who knew? Who knew, right? Who knew?                      

When I got to the end of that game, he said, “Jen, I'm really happy for you, that you made so much money, but you didn't really do that well in the game.” I was like, “What do you mean?” And he said, “You never got a really strong no. You never had someone say, ‘Are you out of your mind?'” I was like, “You're right. I could have been a lot bolder,” and so shifting that thinking … Again, it takes time. You're not going to do that overnight, but shifting your thinking to, “Yeah. How could I have gotten somebody to say, ‘Are you out of your mind? No. I'm not going to pay you that much'?”

The thing is people think that if you get to that point, it's over like there's no way back. That's not true. It's absolutely not true. You always have the option to say, “What makes you say that?” You can negotiate from there.


Love it. I think that's so, so important that, yeah, make the bold ask, and then you can always back off from there and try to find that win-win outcome.

Jen, this has been amazing, amazing to talk about the mindset issues but also strategies for how to have that pricing conversation in a way that feels good and healthy, and how to negotiate.

Why don't you tell the other rebel speakers out there how they can find you?


The Easiest way is to go to my website, You'll see a contact form there. That'll shoot me an email. You can also look for me on Facebook, Jen Gresham, and I actually reply to everybody. That's kind of crazy.


Woo-hoo. I love that. Jen also has this great article about money on her blog, and she has this talk that she gives about the five tips about money mindset, and it is so valuable to watch because it really changes the way you start thinking about money. As a speaker, that's what you need to do.

If you're a rebel, be bold and ask for more. Thank you, Jen, and this has been a fantastic conversation. I know people are going to really appreciate it.

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