Are you a speaker who writes or a writer who speaks?

When I began my career as a professional speaker, I had a few choices of who to take advice from; those at the same level as me, totally green. Or the more seasoned, successful speakers.

The same occurred when I began writing books. I could listen to the newer writers who had not had success selling their books, or listen to those who did.

I thought of myself as a speaker long before a writer.

Who to Listen To

Initially, I didn’t know who to listen to in the speaking industry… I was “that” new. I did meet some relatively successful speakers who offered great advice. But the day I met a very successful speaker who said, “I’m an engineer who speaks” my perspective shifted.

Not only did she make a great living speaking, she also had several books and information products to her name.

While Kathy was securing huge contracts, there were others who said, “I’m a motivational speaker,” but had no substance, beyond fluff, to their message. Most of these men and women were struggling to get booked to speak.

I gravitated to this tall, very well-dressed woman in her late thirties. I was impressed with how much she knew and didn’t shy away from answering questions for those who wanted to learn from her. She loved talking about the business of speaking.

Food for Thought

It was a beautiful fall day when Kathy and I sat in a quaint restaurant on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Grateful for the time I had alone with her to ask anything I wanted, Kathy made me feel like I was destined for great things in the speaking industry.

“Kathleen, you’re very talented, but you have to have something of substance to speak about. You’ll get much further in this business if you’re an expert who speaks rather than someone who simply motivates. If you bill yourself as a motivational speaker, you’ll be one among many. Why not lead with being a marketing expert and use this as your opportunity to motivate?”

This made sense. Having recently left my marketing communications position with GTE Health Systems, I had done well for myself with the company; employee of the year, recognition from the CEO and positioned to move up the ranks.

Prior to that I was in broadcast media. Before that my work involved a lot of marketing, special events and tradeshow experience.  I definitely had the experience.

Kathy was highly respected, not only the Salt Lake speaking community, but equally as respected on a national, even international, level. She often took new speakers under her wing to show them how to find their own wings.

With incredible passion, she was willing to spend hours and hours sharing insights about her experience as one of the most successful speakers in the Utah Chapter of National Speakers Association (NSA). Likely, her success was more than 99% of members of NSA, regardless of the chapter.

She said, “It’s better to be an expert who speaks than bill yourself simply as a speaker.” I took her words to heart. Nearly 25 years since sitting across the table from my mentor, I am still in the game of professional speaking.

I Would Rather Thrive

While I not only survived, but thrived, through the ups and downs of the economy, I’ve watched plenty of people come and go in the industry. Most left speaking because they couldn’t make enough money.

I’ve seen this happen with writers. For the purpose of this post, I’m referring to nonfiction writers. Those who write about business, self-help and spiritual topics, health and nutrition, finances and relationships.

Many had the dream of supporting themselves solely with their writing. Yet, like their counterparts in the speaking industry, they struggled.

The Struggle is Real

Have you ever wondered why so many authors and speakers struggle to make a decent living? If you’ve never given it any thought, I’m here to tell you, a great many authors will never make a living with their writing.

Then there are the speakers who get out of the business of speaking because they haven’t booked enough consistent business.

Here’s why…

Most authors view themselves as writers… that’s it… end of story.

Therein resides the reason a high number of authors never make much money. According to many authorities, most books will never make more than $100 in the lifetime of the book.

The sad plight of the author; giving up on their dream.

Then there are speakers who struggle finding enough gigs to barely scrape by. Many would-be successful speakers give up on their dream of supporting themselves within a year or two because they are not making enough to live on.

Early on in my career as a professional speaker I heard a few seasoned speakers jokingly say, “Every time I step off the platform, I’m fired.  I have to hunt for the next job.” Granted, it was a joke, but as my mother said more times than I can count, “Many a truth in jest.”

Kathy never said this. She had various ways to generate revenues which gave her quite an edge in her business.

The sad plight of the speaker; giving up on their dream.

A Shift in Perception

It doesn’t have to be this way. A simple shift in how speakers and authors view themselves and how they generate revenue could dramatically change their financial situation.

So much in fact, one could become a Six Figure Speaker.   

Kathy also recommended I  write books and create information products. I noticed all the highly successful speakers subscribed to this way of thinking.

Back in the 90’s products were physical merchandise. They were classified more as multimedia programs than info products. Today, products can be delivered electronically, which allows for an incredibly high profit margin.

It took more to publish books back then, even as a self-published author. We didn’t have the resources for print on demand that we have today. It was much costlier to get books to printed 25 years ago than it is today.

The product recommendation was some of the best advice I received in my career. You see, no matter what the economy and no matter who is hiring me as a speaker, I never have to worry if people will buy my products or pay me to speak

As a speaker who writes and a writer who speaks, even if no one is hiring, like during the downturn of the economy after 9/11, I can create self-staged events, either charge, or not, and make my products and books available to those in attendance. I can also offer private consulting and coaching packages to those in attendance.

I’ve had occasion to generate six figures from self-staged events that were cost free to attend. In essence, I was showcasing my knowledge. When I filled the room through effective marketing, gave a “knock their socks off” presentation and made an offer that fit the audience, people were willing to buy the offer.

Granted, I didn’t start out making six figures from self-staged events. Early on, I might make a few hundred, then a few thousand, dollars. The more I presented, the better my talks and the better my products and books, the more money I had the opportunity to make.

I could also speak at countless locations locally and nationally.

  • Association meetings
  • Brown bag lunches
  • Trade shows
  • Conferences

Often a speaker is given the opportunity to present, make an offer and give up to 50% to the meeting planner. If you know how to close on the platform, this can be an incredible win/win/win.

Win for you. Win for the meeting planner. Win for the audience.

Imagine having the opportunity to present to a roomful of your ideal clients. Just imagine. Not only can you make money from what you make that day, there is long-term opportunity for consulting, coaching and bulk book and product sales.

I’ve heard some experts say, “I would never give 50% to present. They can pay me.” Again, if the economy is in the dumps and there are very few opportunities, having a built-in audience, where all you need do is show up, present and make an offer, why wouldn’t you?

Online Opportunities

In person is not the only platform to host self-staged events. Webinars and teleseminars are another way to sell from the platform.

Years ago, when I tapped into the power of teleseminars, I immediately began making thousands of dollars from free online events.

What’s in a Name

Personally, I could care less how you define me, a writer who speaks or a speaker who writes. In reality, I’m a content creator and content marketer. Plain and simple. If I worry about labels, I block my opportunities.

If you want to expand your impact, increase your revenues and influence more, consider the fact that you may be both a speaker and a writer. Taking on this belief could very well improve your revenue stream in leaps and bounds. Why? Because it allows for multiple streams of revenue.

When you have various ways of generating revenue, you minimize the stress that comes with running a business.

As an author, it helps to get your books noticed. The more your books gain visibility, the more opportunities, such as speaking, you experience.

One way to do that is to get great traction on Amazon.

Want to learn some great ways to market your books while getting them high on the charts of the world’s largest book seller? Get my FREE report – Hit #1 on Amazon at www.oneonamazon.com for power packed book marketing strategies virtually any expert who writes can apply.

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Comments

  1. I love this topic, as I had never really thought about it that way. I am a writer who will need to speak. I am hopeful that the more I do it, the easier it will become. A professor once told my husband that everyone needs to find a way to generate multiple income streams. You can no longer just sit back and rely on your retirement.

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      So true Allison – the more you speak the easier it becomes. It’s like anything, getting in the game makes you a real player. Good advice from the professor.

  2. Kathleen, I am always, always, ALWAYS struck with major a-ha moments when I read or listen to what you have to say. I’ve been stuck in the “I’m a writer” space for years. When I started doing Facebook Live and YouTube, I confused myself with what I began discovering about me. And then… the title of your piece immediately piqued my interest.

    And then… you (and Kathy) confirmed what I’ve known all along. It makes such perfect sense. Less navel gazing. More production.

  3. Jim Hopper says:

    I took a cue some years ago from the late Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes. He said, “I’m not a speaker, I’m a writer who reads what I write.” I’ve had some article-length pieces published, but disliked speaking. I used Andy’s techniques to speak at both my parents funerals. That started me on a path. Since then, I’ve done several speaking engagements to a crowd of about 60 people using a script, most men’s events at church. When I mentioned to a friend that I was reading from a script, he said, “I had no idea, I thought you were just referring to notes.” I’ve found if you have something of value to say, it’s much easier to speak in front of a group. I have since grown to be a bit more freestyle. Now I’m working on pulling some of my speeches and some of my writing together for publication. And I’ll use speaking as one method of marketing.