My colleague, Gbenga Sesan, took me up on my recent article, Why I Stopped Speaking For Free. If you haven’t read the article, you should.

Price Or Value? Gbenga Sesan Responds To Why I Stopped Speaking For Free

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Price versus value

My colleague, Gbenga Sesan, took me up on my recent article, Why I Stopped Speaking For Free. If you haven’t read the article, you should. Gbenga is of the position that the premise of the argument is flawed. I love a good engagement and so we exchanged thoughts. Note that this is purely an intellectual exercise between Gbenga and myself (I know the tendency for voltrons on both sides to jump in with guns blazing). Gbenga and I are on good terms.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to share his counter arguments and my responses for the benefit of those of you who may have missed out on the Twitter exchange. Enjoy.

Table of Contents show

Gbenga: I can imagine people thinking free means being taken for granted but some of us choose to give back. And yes, exposure pays

Me: Choosing to give back is different from being compelled to give back. I choose when, where, and how to give back. Giving back is voluntary and at one’s discretion. No-one has the right to tell another how/when/where to give back.

Gbenga: Why put a price tag on all of your knowledge? The best of minds are also quick to share and are not scared of being fleeced

Me: It isn’t putting a price tag on all of my knowledge. It is putting a price tag on a service that I provide: speaking.

Gbenga: Saying you’ll never speak for free is surprising, especially when it’s not a professional day-to-day career. But I’m biased.

Me: Who says speaking is not a professional day-to-day career? That you don’t do it as a career doesn’t mean its not for others.

Gbenga: All the best, but I think that guy’s TEDx article is a piece of crap. Platforms like that pay better than cheques can do. Plus life isn’t about money. There’s also something called impact which doesn’t always come in the same envelope with money.

Me: True; some platforms are worth more than money, but it is brash to expect speakers not to be paid as a culture. Anyone can label whatever they disagree with as “crap”. I’m sure that guy thinks your arguments are crap too, but we are not going to ask him.

Gbenga: No one said they shouldn’t be paid as a culture sir. What is ODD here is the “no fee, no speech” cult. Odd.

Me: And the “No fee for your speaking” cult isn’t odd? Truth is, the “No fee, no speech” cult is a response to the “No fee for speaking” cult that has grown over the years. Here in Nigeria, on the tech scene especially, the “No fee for speaking” is standard practice, the norm. Everyone can see it.

Gbenga: There are people who speak for a living. I wouldn’t think you would claim to do that 100% of the time, it’s secondary, no?

Me: There are very few people who do any one thing 100% of the time. It doesn’t change that they do it for a living.

What annoys me is that same people who claim to not speak for free once chased speaking gigs and platforms:( So, it upsets me when you “use” these same platforms to practice and then suddenly grow the “no free” wings.

Me: In every field, people often start out doing free work to build a profile before fixing a fee for their services. Standard practice. Why does it annoy you that speakers do it?

Gbenga: I’m sorry to say this but some of us who don’t insist on fees command much more than those who insist. Odd?

Me: I am glad you said “some”. That’s how life works. There will always be “some”. There are many others who don’t insist on fees, yet command less than those who do.

Gbenga: Your blogpost even mentioned that you won’t speak in a church that can’t afford. Toh, you’ll miss a lot.

Me: You clearly misread my blogpost then. I suggest that you re-read.

Gbenga: Final point: if you’re still insisting on being paid, you’re not yet there. People know to reward real value.

Me: I’m not one to let myself be defined by others’ definition of what “being there” is. I define that for me 🙂 The fact that an event’s organisers invited me to speak in the first place indicates that I have more value to offer than they probably care to admit. 🙂

There it is, folks. Gbenga’s objections, and my responses. What is your take? Are value and price mutually exclusive for public speakers? Are public speakers wrong to demand compensation? Feel free to join the conversation.


  1. I might be likely biased in my own opinion. Well, like Gbenga rightly said; “its not always about the money”. Its about the impact you can offer to people. I’d remember when I was still in the uni. I usually customise mobile devices for people and also tutor them on how best to make use of their mobile devices. And each time someone brings forth his/her device, and I intend to ‘work’ on it, my roommate-cum-bestfriend would object. Saying I’d obtain a fee for the services. The actual fact is, I gained much knowlegde in not obtaining any fee because, if I did then, I might probably not get to know about various devices and their functions too. Hence, for me, its not always about the money. Cheers :).

    @heem_tosh on twitter

  2. Public speakers are not wrong to demand money for speaking, however in a field like public speaking, reputation is everything. You need to build your brand, you need to hone your skills. You will need to speak for free, as a matter of necessity.
    You can have all the knowledge in the world, but people need to know you, to know your track record. (You can’t build a track record without speaking for free initially)

    Free exposure, especially when starting out.
    Free practice, when starting out and even to try new techniques as a veteran
    Fulfilment that you are making impact. (Don’t underestimate this)
    Potential connections and networking with people who will link you with gigs that will bring much more money.
    Free marketing.

    Artistes know this all too well, release free tracks for airplay and download on the net, chase shows and perform for free until they are well known. After they can command good pay for albums, shows and endorsements.

  3. Nicely put Abimbola.

    To add mine, there is a time to plant, and another to harvest. Within different seasons of life, it is important to know when to speak for free, when to speak for impact, when to speak for exposure et al and when to do so for a fee.

  4. I think Nucreed just made a point worthy of note, and the ability to define this thin boundary between the above listed aims and consequent rewards for speaking is a function of a fruitful professional career, a selfless spirit, an appreciation of absolute values and a love for knowledge. Remember that even multiplatinum artists and million dollar rockstars give free shows and release free albums and mixtapes. I personally don’t think its right to insist on payment for EVERY public speaking appearance. Imagine having to pay every cathecist for his/her service.

  5. There is no free launch in free-town somebody must pay. I think the laborer is worth his wages and we must not muzzle the Horse that thread the corn. Money is good it keep the speakers life going like a fuel. Who will invite an unkempt speaker and not well dressed. It take money to do all these.
    Having said all payment must not being in cash, some of our service should be a seed that will grow in latter life. Investment to life, hope for the hopeless.

  6. True! True!! True!!!
    Times and seasons… Planting BEFORE harvest, and yes, a labourer’s worthy of his wages.
    My Bishop always says “Life is in phases and men in sizes: Know your size per time.”
    I also think in every fruit (gift/talent) there’s bread AND seed. What to eat and put back in the ground.
    Just make sure you’re not eating your seed. Or else you can eat (get paid) today and not again.
    I agree a lot with Gbenga AND I do understand your position.
    It’s the timing and spirit behind it all that makes the difference.
    All the very best,

  7. I am of the opinion that, especially in Nigeria one has to take certain unpopular stands and stick to it, same issue with nollywood blacklisting certain actors/ actresses for demanding a high payment. It all boils down to what you think you are worth.

  8. Hmm,
    That was interesting… the cordial exchange of words for and against the subject of “To Speak or Not to Speak FOR FREE!”.

    Gbenga’s right to say “The best of minds are also quick to share and are not scared of being fleeced”

    And Mr. Mo is fundamentally and legally correct to “put a price tag on a service that he provides: speaking” (I rephrased!)

    Price and value are an inseparable pair. Whether or not you are being ‘paid’ what you are worth is secondary to the issue of ‘what you are worth’. So, in a sense, it is one’s prerogative to offer a service FREE OF CHARGE or WITH CHARGE. The attachment to money does not increase or decrease its real value but it does IMPACT on the perceived value of a service.

    But then again, why do people pre-sell? It’s to give others the opportunity to taste for FREE the value of a product or service and experience, risk free, the actual worth.

    I wouldn’t speak for free if I had the chance to bill. But I will speak for free so I can get a chance to bill. *wink*

    So, whether you are Gbenga or Mr. Mo; it’s your choice and the resultant effect is your consequence.

    Thank you Gentlemen for this stimulation… choose another topic and let’s do it again? That is, You Argue. Me Clap & Comment!

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