Why I Stopped Speaking For Free

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Public Speaking

I used to speak for free. I no longer do so. I can attempt to write a detailed treatise on why I stopped doing so, but someone else has written a very good article that sums up my own reasons. Here are excerpts from Frank Swain’s article titled, Why I’m Not a TEDx Speaker:

I know I’m supposed to swoon a little at the idea of being an Official TEDx Speaker, that doing this will rain down confetti and job offers and fame on me. But in the end it boils down to this: TEDx is just another organisation asking me to work for free.

I’m tired of being asked to work for free. I’m tired of the bullshit idea that exposure is somehow its own reward. I’m tired of the people who can afford to do it justifying this malignant trend.

I can’t pay my rent with exposure and goodwill.

I have said it again and again that every economy grows when everyone earns an income from whatever they do. Here in Nigeria, it is even more important because we are in the process of building our economy. Everyone should be paid for whatever services they offer. Speakers should be paid. Writers too. Everyone.

In his article, Frank went on to highlight an interesting aspect of this subject:

The defence that TED is a non-profit organisation doesn’t fly with me. I doubt this excuses them from paying the lighting guys, the camera operators, the venue hire, the catering. Why pay those staff but not the speakers? Just because you’re a non-profit organisation, doesn’t mean I have to be.

Everyone but the speaker gets paid! That just doesn’t make sense. No; it doesn’t.

I have nothing much to add except to say that I do bend to accommodate event organisers who are unable to afford my fees. I ask them to make me a fair offer, and where a reasonable fee is offered, I accept to speak. But I will not speak for free.

Last week, I was asked to speak at a church service, and I agreed to do it. During the week, I was contacted and told that the pastor of the church insisted that the invitation be put on hold till further notice. Because there were no funds available to pay me a honorarium, he insisted that it would be wrong for the organising committee to invite me to speak. He made sense. That is the way it should be. The labourer is worthy of his hire.

1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn: and, The labourer is worthy of his wages.

  1. I love talking for free.

    Of course, most of the time that does not mean being out of pocket. Although sometimes, even that I can justify.

    I also love being paid to talk. If you want to pay me please do.

    It’s a vocation not a job. I haven’t tried to make a living from it.

    Since it’s not a job I can justifiably choose to talk when I want. I can also choose not to.

    So how do I choose?

    a) I’ve got to want to do it; I don’t do things that don’t make me happy.
    b) I’ve got to be able to add value; Would I want to listen to me?
    c) You have to feed me; Even if you can’t pay me don’t make me go hungry!

    My father once told me that I should know that it was not just hard work that made men rich. If it was, then labourers would be billionaires. God’s grace, or call it luck if you aren’t religious, plays it’s part.

    Well if this is true, then I should be cognisant of the fact that I should give something, not everything, back to society.

    Speaking for free is my way of doing that!

  2. The only thing permanent in life is change. We all evolve. We grow. We die. Life continues.

    Different facets of life.

    In all we do, we must be clear in our mind exactly why we are doing what we are doing .

    If I take part in an activity just for fun, like Maradona in football, I must know that the primary reason is not money. At least not initially. The money would just be an additional benefit.

    I doubt many of the captains of Industry went into what they are now famed for, for the money.

    If during our professional or life evolution, our avocation needs to be turned into a vocation , it’s all good.

    The danger here, of course, is that, while the young grows and eventually refuses to do certain things for free, the younger ones could step in to fill those empty shoes, for free, for exposure, for recognition, for experience.

    No, I don’t believe we need to be paid for every and all activities. There are (philanthropic) activities that are simply quantified in time. We just need to differentiate clearly between philanthropy and a vocation.

    If I go deliver a speech in Unilag.. on Passive Income generation… for free.. because I am intensely passionate about the subject, my payment does not have to be in cash.

    If I do it on humanitarian grounds, the satisfaction would be that I. have been able to impart lessons to the younger ones,, that would radically affect their approach to managing their finances in future .

    If I am a professional speaker, people would know that I charge for speaking, and only invite me when they are ready to pay to hear my drivel..

    Resistance often arises when we get recognition in a field via years of free services, then attempt to start charging for those hitherto free services. Those used to those free services often simply look for rookies still willing to build a followership, via free services.

    That’s why I said at the beginning of this long epistle, that, we need to differentiate early between a vocation as against an avocation, and let people know our stance as regards a particular activity from day one..

    Would I suddenly start paying for KingSoft Office on android (has always been free)? I would probably just shift

  3. I think it just depends on your product like if you have a physical product like selling wine. Then. talking may/may NOT be (in my opinion) FREE, but for people who are brands themselves and need to build TRAFFIC to their NAME eg Linda ikeji., Need to do a lot of FREE THINGS (TALKING, Free E-BOOKS, etc ) from there brands or companies or job opportunities from WORD OF MOUTH starts finding such people effortlessly.

    Sooner or later you will charge for talking unconditionally because you have a high flying brand

  4. Excellent piece of article. Eye.Bee.Kay too made some important observation but again, most everyone needs a degree of exposure in these type of field. If you want to start charging a fee on public speaking, people/organizations will only be so willing to invite you when they must have seen you speak elsewhere or on recommendation from others.

    To build up a reputation, you most likely would have to start offering your services free at first for that exposure and then ask for a fee when you must have grown to a level of recognition. Mr. Mo has been in the field long enough to decide that it is time to render his service for a fee. I also believe that he has enough experience to determine when to offer his service free if the need arises.

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