“The very best impromptu speeches are the ones written well in advance.” – Ruth Gordon
It was a pleasant hour. I stood in front of a small audience and told them what I knew about a subject that fascinated me. The best part? I walked out of the auditorium with a check for $500.
And I’ve done pretty much the same thing more than 100 times over the past few years – earning a nice little chunk of money by sharing my expertise in various subjects that I enjoy talking about.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not a “big shot” professional speaker. In fact, I haven’t had any training at all. But I’ve discovered that if you have knowledge about a subject that other people want to learn about, you don’t need any formal training to earn money by giving speeches.
And you need almost no capital to get started. Plus, it’s something you can do on a part-time basis. You can do it locally or, if you want, you can make presentations all over the country (while making a profit). Next month, for example, I’ll be speaking on two different subjects at the famed Learning Annex in Los Angeles. One night I’ll be talking about copywriting, and the next night about how to start a business by producing and selling your own line of videos.
Another great thing about public speaking: Whatever area of expertise you have, it’s likely that there are people who would like to hear what you have to say. If you’re a relationship expert, for example, there are many women’s groups that would be interested in your ideas on how to have a successful marriage. If you’re a gourmet chef, you’ll have no trouble finding cooking schools that would love to have you share your secrets with their students.
Public speaking is something you can do on the side, in addition to your regular job. (That’s what I’ve always done.) But there are many people who speak on a more regular basis – like Tom Antion, who gets $17,500 per appearance and earns a substantial six-figure income.
Even if you aren’t very comfortable speaking in public right now, you can turn speaking into a nice stream of extra income. Almost nobody is comfortable speaking to an audience … at first. But if you know your subject and practice your presentation, it really isn’t that hard.
And in addition to getting fees for the speeches themselves, there’s the potential of earning even more money by selling instructional materials to audience members. I have personally seen speakers pull in $30,000 in product sales after a seminar.
As you can see, there are many opportunities to earn money by speaking about something you love.
To get started, this is what you need to do:
1. Choose a subject.
There’s an almost unlimited number of subjects that you can choose to speak about. Information about motivational and wealth-building topics is always popular with audiences – but so is information about many hobbies (like cooking, martial arts, and exercise, to name a few) and self-improvement skills (like parenting and coping with illness).
Choose something that you’re passionate about. Your enthusiasm will come across to your audience and make your speech exciting. And make sure you know enough about your subject to not only provide useful information but also to answer any questions your audience might have.
2. Create your curriculum.
Each one of my sessions at the Learning Annex will be three hours long, so I will need to cover a lot of material. But your presentations will probably be a lot shorter when you’re just starting out – maybe a series of half-hour “lunch” talks to small groups of businessmen.
Whatever the length of your presentation, divide it into three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your beginning is your introduction – your opportunity to hook the attention of your listeners. Your middle presents the information. And, finally, you sum up what you said. If you’re going to be selling additional “back-end” products to your audience, this third leg of your talk is the time to do it.
3. Create your marketing plan.
There are many ways to market yourself as a speaker. For openers, you can market yourself directly to the organizations that might hire you. For example, if you have a wealth of knowledge about fishing, there are many fishing clubs that you could approach with a proposal to speak at one or more of their events. Virtually all trade associations hire speakers to make presentations to their members. And, if you have information that could benefit their employees, lots of companies will be interested.
Additionally, there are speakers’ bureaus that can procure speaking engagements for you. While many of these bureaus specialize in celebrity speakers, there are others that will book you as long as you are well-qualified to do a presentation. A search on a major Internet search engine with a keyword phrase like “speakers bureau” is a good way to start.
When you have more experience, you could also hold your own seminars and market them to the public. You would either rent a facility or partner with someone or some group that already has space. To promote the event, you can use traditional advertising methods (like newspapers and radio) – or, if you have an identifiable target audience, direct mail. (Have you ever been to a seminar on something that you saw advertised in the paper? I’ve been to a few, and they’ve always been packed with hundreds of people.)
I’ve personally proven that speaking can be a fun and easy way to make money. If you have an area of expertise and would like to earn additional income with a business that has virtually no start-up costs, this could be the perfect side business for you.
[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a produced screenwriter, direct-mail copywriter, and business author. He is also the creator of the Quick and Easy Microbusiness System, ETR's program for starting a business for under $100.