How to Negotiate Value Out of a Free Speaking Gig

Written by the Mic Drop Workshop Team

If you’re just starting out as a speaker, it’s possible that your first few speaking gigs could be unpaid. Don’t let an unpaid gig deter you! There are plenty of ways to negotiate value out of a free speaking gig. The next time you find yourself considering speaking for free, request that the event provide you with one (or all!) of these in exchange for your time and effort. 

1. Ask event organizer to get a sponsor to sponsor your talk

If the event organizers don’t have a speaker budget, it’s possible that a sponsor could cover that. You never know unless you ask! After you speak, offer to meet with the sponsor through a round table or luncheon. Utilize that time to make connections with potential future gigs! 

2. Ask for photos and videos of your talk

One of the most valuable things you can get out of a free speaking gig are photos and videos of you in action on stage. Why? Because these can help you get future gigs. In the age of the Internet, it’s crucial to have high-quality photos and videos for your speaker website and social media. Include this in the contract to make sure you’ll get them! 

3. Ask for a testimonial

Free or paid, you should be doing this for every gig! Testimonials are another powerful tool you can use on your speaker website, social media, and demo reel. If the event is unable to pay you to speak, at the very least they should provide you with a testimonial or review. This can be a few sentences about their experience working with you or the impact you had on the event. Save that to a Google Doc and use it to market yourself to future events. 

4. Ask for 3 referrals to other gigs or opportunities 

It’s highly likely that the event planner or meeting organizer you’re speaking with knows other event planners or meeting organizers. They may even know of upcoming events in the area or similar organizations. In lieu of a speaker fee, request that the organizer refer you to 3 upcoming gigs, opportunities, or industry colleagues. Include this in the contract! 

5. Negotiate for event to buy your books for their attendees

If you happen to be a published author, use that to your advantage when negotiating value out of a free speaking gig. Many conferences and events provide attendees with swag bags, so propose that they include your book among the goodies! If they don’t have a speaker budget, they may have a bigger budget for this. Worth a shot! 

6. Add a clause into the contract that you can accept any paid gigs on the same day with a 30-day notice

Let’s say you accept an unpaid gig, but you get a paid offer for another event on the same day in your inbox tomorrow. You’ll definitely want the paid gig instead! To protect yourself and open up this possibility, add a clause to your contract stating that you can accept any paid gigs that come in on the same day with a 30-day notice. 

Let’s see a real example of one of these strategies in action. #SpeakerSister Karen took on a free gig and received a video testimonial from the CEO of the company she can now utilize in her own marketing. Now that’s what we’re talking about!

When it comes to growing your speaking career, it’s understandable to accept any and all opportunities to get on stage whether it’s paid or not. The next time you run into a situation where a gig is unpaid, use these methods to make sure there’s something in it for you! Build your credibility and make connections for future gigs all at the same time.

For more speaking tips, gig-getting strategies, and a community of like-minded women, join Mic Drop Workshop!

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Mic Drop Workshop® helps women tell and sell their story as paid keynote speakers and authors.

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