Category: Freelance Advice


7 Best Books That Will Make a Huge Impact on Your Life and Career

Last year I shared a post describing five books that will make a huge impact on your life and career. This year I want to share my latest reads guaranteed to also have a huge impact on your life and career.

I’ve read a lot books this past year. But, in an effort to save you some time, I’m only highlighting my top five (with a couple of honorable mentions) that provide tangible take-aways. These take-aways are guaranteed to produce results when you apply them to your life and career.

I’ve personally applied many of the principles from these books. And I’ve either seen immediate results, or the beginning growth of those sown seeds.

Top 5 Best Books

1. Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn

I have several clients considering starting their own business. This is a great book for them or anyone else thinking of starting their own business or side hustle. It guides readers through several litmus tests to help determine if their business idea is viable, prior to diving in with a huge time or money investment.

The first half of the book is very similar to my program on personal branding. The author Pat Flynn (who’s known for teaching people how to create passive income streams) spends a big chunk of the book discussing the importance of having a personal mission statement and personal brand prior to starting any kind of business idea. It truly is the first step to starting anything new in your life or career.

Biggest take-away:

“Make sure you’re running to something instead of away from something.”

This is so true. I see many people who come to me wanting to start their own business for the sheer desire of leaving their current job.

Will It Fly? helps you determine both the right reasons and the wrong reasons for starting your own business. Because it is so important to know these reasons, I did an entire group coaching call on this very topic with this book as the basis for the discussion.

Related Blog Post:

2. The Rise of the Youpreneur: The Definitive Guide to Becoming the Go-To Leader in Your Industry and Building a Future-Proof Business by Chris Ducker

I read The Rise of the Youpreneur on the heels of Will It Fly? It’s a good follow-up after you’ve done all the exercises from Will It Fly? and determined which of your business ideas are most viable and best support your personal mission.

Like Flynn’s book, The Rise of the Youpreneur is chock-full of exercises and online resources to help you get your business off the ground.

Biggest Take-Away

While I’ve been doing a lot of what Ducker recommends to become a successful brand in my own coaching business, I hadn’t been doing all of it because it just seemed so overwhelming. Drucker’s book helped me to organize and prioritize all those things into manageable phases and steps.

I’m currently working through those phases to improve what I’ve been doing and to add in what I haven’t been doing.

Related Blog Posts:

3. Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly About Finances, and Live a Richer Life by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury

I got a copy of Breaking Money Silence from the author when I heard her speak here in Nashville. It is BY FAR the best book on finances I’ve ever read.

Kingsbury delves into the emotional side of money. She talks about the various mindsets people have about money, explaining why money often creates unnecessary conflict between people. It dispels myths both men and women have about money. And it reveals the hidden costs of staying quiet about an often uncomfortable topic.

What I love most about it is it provides tangible ways to have uncomfortable but necessary conversations about money between couples, children and aging parents, siblings, and more. It also helps readers see their worth and the importance of negotiating a fair salary with their employer, something I often teach my clients how to do.

Not only is this a great book for anyone who feels insecure about their knowledge of finances (or thinks they already know everything about finances), it’s also recommended for financial advisers so they can learn how to address the emotional side of money when working with their clients. There are exercises at the end of each chapter for both the interested reader and their financial advisers.

Breaking Money Silence is also a nice prerequisite to one of my honorable mentions listed below, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover.

Of all the books on this list, this is the one I’d buy a copy for everyone if I could. I plan to keep my copy because I know I’ll refer back to it every time I need to.

Biggest Take-Aways

There are too many take-aways from this book to list here, but the big ones for me were:

  • Understanding my own personal money mindsets and where those came from.
  • How to broach difficult but necessary conversations about money.
  • How to best prevent or handle potential financial conflicts in the future, especially if I ever get married.
Related Blog Posts:

4. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller and his wife Kathy Keller

Speaking of marriage, I chose a book on marriage to include on this list, even though I’m not married. I initially read The Meaning of Marriage because it’s also a good read for singles. Plus, I’m always trying to best prepare myself for whatever God has in store for my future.

Keller, who is the founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, discusses the importance of purpose and vision in a marriage. Purpose is obviously important in helping my clients discover work they can be passionate about, so this concept of purpose in marriage really piqued my interest.

Biggest Take-Away:

A Christ-centered marriage can’t be merely about itself. It must be about something else, something both partners are committed to and passionate about besides one another.

A marriage based on attraction alone does not provide a common vision. Physical attraction and financial goals will bring unity for only a while. But such goals don’t create deep oneness, because eventually you reach those superficial goals (or you don’t), and then what? What is your marriage for? Where are you going?

Related Blog Posts:

5. Your God Is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control by Mark Buchanan

Last but certainly not least is Your God is Too Safe. The very first words of this book in the introduction are:

“I’m stuck.”

This is a phrase most clients say to me when they first reach out to me. Many of them feel stuck in their life or career. My job is to get them unstuck by helping them discover and pursue their passions.

But it’s also common to get and feel stuck spiritually. Buchanan’s book addresses this feeling of being stuck spiritually and how to move to new levels of spiritual passion.

He sets out to diagnose why Christians get stuck in their faith and are unable to see God at work in their lives. He calls this “living in borderland” – the barren but crowded place between a Christian’s old life and their adventurous and abundant new life. It’s a place where doubt, disappointment, guilt, and wonderlessness can keep us in mediocrity.

Then Buchanan shares how to move beyond borderland to a place of excitement, boldness, and exhilaration by not putting our own limitations on God and allowing Him to do beyond all we can imagine for our lives.

Biggest Take-Away

“Christianity without a deep longing for Christ in your heart is no Christianity at all, just a cheap imitation of the real thing.”

This quote actually comes from another reader who reviewed Your God is Too Safe. I believe it’s very well-said.

While as humans we all want to remain safe and feel secure in our own comfort zone, this book reminds us that’s not what real Christianity is. It’s not what we’re called to as Christians. We’re called to live boldly in Christ’s name, even when it’s uncomfortable. Not to do so is to live an inauthentic life and to miss out on all God has planned for us.

Related Blog Posts:

Honorable Mentions

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover is an oldie but goodie in overcoming debt and finding financial peace. It’s a good follow up to Breaking Money Silence mentioned above.

While I don’t listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, I did enjoy this book. I’ve been following the steps in it which has resulted in significant head-way in my finances this past year.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins

Another great read for those who need help understanding their worth. While this book is geared toward artists, the principles can be applied to anyone who’s working for themselves selling a product or service (their version of “art”).

Real Artists Don’t Starve doesn’t provide a step-by-step approach to setting your rates, but it does give you the confidence to ask for what you’re particular “art” is worth and gives you a sense of your art’s value to the world.

Many of the creative types here in Nashville will really appreciate what Goins has to say!

What I’m Reading Next

Right now I’m in the middle of reading two books:

I’m really enjoying Secrets of Six-Figure Women because it turns out it’s not just about money. And the strategies for career success can be applied to both genders.

I have several more books on hold at the library, and several I purchased during the Southern Book Festival here in Nashville.

So I have a long reading list and look forward to sharing another post next year about my best reads. Stay tuned!

Related Post:

best books

Why “Keep It Simple, Stupid” Is the Best Career Advice

You may remember my blog post on the lesson of mindfulness. It was a lesson I learned when I went to the new Adventure Park Nashville ropes course.

It was all about how important it is to focus on the moment instead of always thinking and planning ahead (something I’m guilty of).

Well, when I returned to the ropes course and took a friend with me, it was obvious there was another lesson I needed to share with my readers.

This one is based on the old adage,

“KISS: keep it simple, stupid.”

Keep It Simple, Stupid

This time around I did some courses that were higher off the ground and more challenging. But what I noticed is not every element was as challenging as they first appeared.

While applying the previous lesson of focusing on only one bridge element at a time, I’d arrive at a new element and would study its configuration to figure out the best way to maneuver across it.

Upon first glance, most of them looked very complicated.

But instead of thinking too much about how to get across, I would just take the first step onto the element.

Once I did, it suddenly became clear that what looked like a real obstacle requiring a lot of thought and energy to maneuver was really very simple to get around.

We as a society, myself and my clients included, often overthink things when instead we should keep it simple.

Start by Starting

I see this especially in my clients who are thinking about changing careers or starting their own business.

They view the challenge in front of them and immediately start asking a bazillion questions about how they should start.

My response:

“You start by starting.”

I usually get a funny look from them as soon as it comes out of my mouth.

I explain to them it doesn’t matter how or where you start, as long as you take one step to start. There is no certain order you have to follow.

For someone looking to start their own business, it could be something as simple as securing a domain for your future business’s web site for less than $10.

Or it could be first reading Pat Flynn’s book Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.

For someone looking for a new job it could be as simple of a step as updating your LinkedIn profile.

Or it could be reaching out to one person in your network.

One Step at a Time

When a client asks,

“How do I make this big change?”

It’s just like the phrase of advice on how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time!

Of course the idea of changing careers or starting a business seems very overwhelming at first when looking at it as a whole.

But when you break it down into smaller steps, it’s not as complicated as it first appears. Each step is more simple than the process as a whole.

And once you take the first step, you gain the confidence you need to take the next step.

Before you know it, your steps have added up to a really big dent in your goal.

It’s as simple as that!

To learn more about how to break your goals and obstacles into more manageable steps so you’re not overthinking things, subscribe to my newsletter and receive a complimentary copy of the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan.

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How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable

I used to have a full-time job with benefits with a very prestigious university. I later quit to pursue my own freelance business.

However, it wasn’t so cut and dry.

There were (and still are) a lot of layers to pursuing a dream of working for myself.

The process I went through looks a lot more realistic (and doable) than some of the mythical stories you hear these days about making the jump from working for a boss to becoming your own boss.

This process can also spark some ideas for you to realistically take the risk too.

It may even help ease some of your fears and concerns preventing you from taking the leap. Here’s my story that began about 10 years ago.


Don’t Quit Your Day Job

For the first time in my career as a college career adviser, my creativity was being stifled under new leadership. I was also experiencing a lot of micromanagement under this new leadership.

I couldn’t continue to work under both conditions and had to start planning an exit strategy.

At first, this strategy wasn’t to quit my day job.

I started where most people start, looking for another job working for someone else doing the same thing elsewhere. Of course I wouldn’t leave my current job until I found my next job.

But, I never found the right fit.

Instead, I found opportunities that only served as an escape from my current situation. Not opportunities I could truly thrive in.


Ask yourself:

Are you just running to something that could possibly be worse than your current day job?


Don’t Quit Your Daydream

Next, I started listening to what my friends were telling me.

They kept telling me I would be good at wardrobe styling. This was something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time. Wardrobe styling would definitely provide a creative outlet for me.

But I still wanted to use the skills I’d developed as a career adviser over the previous eight to ten years. Those skills included interview coaching.

After giving it much thought and doing some research, I decided to start branding myself as an image consultant since image isn’t just about how you dress, but also how you present yourself in an interview.

Specifically, I branded myself as an image consultant for up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I knew there were a lot of young artists moving to town and taking the risk to pursue music.

I also knew they lacked the ability to properly present themselves to a label (which is basically a job interview) or in a media interview (I’d had some past experience in media coaching too).

I went and got a business license. This is when it became real for me. But I still didn’t quit my day job. Not yet anyway.


Ask yourself:

Is there something people tell you you’re good at? Is it something you enjoy? Do you see a potential market for it?


Making the Shift to Starting Your Own Business

I worked on my branding efforts part-time while still working my day job as a career adviser.

Following my own advice to my students, I also spent my spare hours networking with the few contacts I had in the music industry and growing my network.

I attended as many industry events as I could and conducted informational interviews with several people in the music business, always asking for the names of two or three other people I should talk to.

For nine months I did this and my efforts began to pay off.

I slowly began getting clients. I worked with those few clients on weekends, evenings, and any time I had off from my full-time job.

Then, one of my networking contacts approached me about a part-time temporary job at his small music label.

This opportunity reduced some of the risk and gave me a bit of a safety net to leave my full-time job and pursue my business full-time. (This is just one example of why networking is so important!)

However, I still wasn’t hasty in my exit from my day job.

Instead of giving two weeks’ notice, I gave 30 days’ notice because the policy was I could work for the university again in the future if I gave 30 days’ notice. But not if I’d only given two weeks’ notice.

I wanted to keep as many options open in case things didn’t work out.

I used the three months for the temp job to increase my networking efforts in the music industry and promote myself to potential clients. This way I would have more lined up once the contract was up.


Ask yourself:

What are some small steps you can start taking toward your daydream? Are they things you can do around your day job? Who are some people you can start meeting and connecting with? Can you come up with some ideas for an eventual exit strategy from your day job? Do you have a potential safety net you hadn’t previously thought of?


Don’t Let Fear Overwhelm You

Once I was on my own, I was already getting used to working for myself and there wasn’t as much to fear as I would if I’d left my day job and then started a business.

This isn’t to say I had no fear at all. A few days before giving my notice at my day job, I experienced my first (and luckily my only) panic attack.

Then, when the economy tanked in October 2008, less than two months after I’d left my day job, I started to get nervous.

But, what I saw happening all around me was people being laid off and being forced into becoming their own boss with no real planning or preparation.

Luckily I was way ahead in that department because I’d already been preparing for nearly a year. And I already had some clients.

When I was short on image consulting clients, I supplemented my work with resume writing and career coaching services for those who’d been laid off during the recession and were looking for a new job.


Ask yourself:

Are you still having some fears about pursuing your daydream? Are these fears real or perceived? What are some ways you can calm your fears or put them into a different perspective? What would be the worst case scenario if those fears proved true? What’s the best case scenario?

Click here to read more about the myths of the common fears of leaving your job.

Rely on Connections to Supplement Your Income

Throughout my time as an image consultant I continually made connections through networking which turned into additional ways to supplement my income with my growing business.

While attending a fashion show, I met the president of a small design college who hired me to teach a class on image at the college for a semester.

He also ended up publishing the 2nd edition of my first bestselling book, Advance Your Image, through the school’s small publishing company.


While attending an event at the Entrepreneur Center here in Nashville, I met someone who needed a contract employee with career advising experience to do outplacement counseling for his clients.

I still do this work to this day because I get to make my own schedule and it’s the complete opposite of micromanaged work. I love it.


The connections I’d made through my original day job also led to a part-time (10 hours/week) temporary job at another university, which unexpectedly turned into a part-time permanent position.

I was hired to fill in for one semester while one of their employees was on maternity leave. But when she returned, they asked if I could stay on indefinitely. I got to make my own schedule so I could work it around my business.

Eventually they asked if I could work 20 hours a week. As much as I loved working at this university, I’d already put in so much blood, sweat and tears into my image consulting business that I couldn’t afford to risk that much time away from it to work for someone else.

So I decided to be fair to both myself and the university and leave so they could find someone who was able to give them the number of hours they needed.


Ask yourself:

Are there connections you have now in your current situation which could benefit you in the future? Are there connections you’d like to start making? What are some things you can fall back on to reduce financial risk when your daydream business is slow?


Be Willing to Shift Gears When Necessary

After leaving that part-time job, I realized I was burned out on seven years of image consulting and wanted to do something different.

But what? I had no idea.

I just knew I didn’t want to risk all the work I’d put into developing my brand.

Then a year and a half later I realized I still wanted to do career advising, but this time on my terms. (Click here for the story on how this realization came about.)

I still wanted to be my own boss. And I wanted to keep the same name from my image consulting business.

I was able to do both with a slight shift in my mission and an overhaul of my services.

Now, I offer unique career coaching services focusing on helping people discover and pursue their own passions.

This includes helping them either find a new day job they’ve been daydreaming about, or helping them take the steps (not the leap) to becoming an independent freelancer or business owner. Whichever they’re most passionate about.

My business became more successful once I was willing to make this change.

I was also able to see how the experience I gained and the tools I developed in my image consulting business fit nicely with my new mission and offerings.


Today, I don’t have to supplement my income anymore.

Now, I get to do it simply for the love of the variety in my schedule and the love of the creativity it brings me.

Unfortunately my time only lets me do one additional gig to my full-time daydream.

But I’ve never been happier in my work.

No one is micromanaging me or stifling my creativity.

I get to choose who I take on as clients and which projects I want to invest my free time into.


Ask yourself:

How can I start planning my exit strategy for my day job and my entry strategy to my daydream? How can I reduce unnecessary risk? How can I maneuver around inevitable risk?


How I Did It

I simply started setting goals and then taking small steps toward achieving those goals.


Bottom Line:

You may want to pursue your daydream of starting your own business but think it’s impossible.

And it may be impossible for you if you simply quit your day job to follow your daydream.

I want to serve as one of several examples of how doing it with an alternative, less-risky strategy can make it possible even for you.

Probably more so than you ever imagined.


Biggest Lessons Learned

Want to know the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past 10 years working for myself as a freelancer (so you don’t have to learn them the hard way)?

Check out my post 10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing.

Related Posts:

Click here for more resources and posts on the topic of working for yourself.

starting your own business

5 Common Fears (and Myths) of Quitting a Job You Hate (Re-post)

You hate your job, but because of it you don’t have the time or energy to start the overwhelming process of finding something new.

And you think you can’t quit it until you find another job.

But is that really a true statement, or just a common myth?

Let’s look at some of the common fears most people have about quitting a job with nothing else lined up.

Let’s challenge the assumptions that breed those fears.


Common Fear/Myth #1

I won’t be able to afford my bills. Is this a true statement?

Do you have a little extra money stashed away you can get by on for a little while?

Are there some unnecessary expenses you can cut to help you pay your necessary bills?

For example, could you sell your car and take the bus for a while? Or just park your car and cancel your insurance for a few months while taking the bus instead?

Do you really need cable or a Netfilx subscription right now? Do you need numerous music subscriptions? Or can you just listen to good old fashioned radio?

Are there some things you no longer need you could sell? What about that treadmill the only gets used as a place to throw your clothes when you don’t feel like hanging them up (you know who you are!).

What about the stack of books you’ve already read (or know you’re never going to read)?

If you live alone, do you really need a TV in more than one room?

Are there some other ways you can earn cash like picking up some temporary side jobs or a part-time job?

In addition, can you get a roommate and charge rent to help with some of your housing costs?

Do you own something else others might want to rent on a short-term basis?

Do you have a skill people will pay you to perform because of their lack of that skill?

Click here to see how this paNASH client has been able to affordably quit his job and pursue his passion in art and illustration.


Common Fear/Myth #2

I’ll lose my health insurance and retirement accounts. Not necessarily.

If you leave your job you can always transfer your retirement over to an IRA where it can still earn some money and you can still contribute to it yourself a little at a time until you get your next full-time opportunity.

The only thing you’ll be missing out on in the short-term is your company’s matching contribution.

When it comes to health insurance, you can easily find temporary health insurance, alternatives to Obamacare, and more.

If you happen to do a little freelancing on the side after leaving your job, you may qualify for very affordable insurance through the Freelancers Union at freelancersunion.org (also, it’s free to join the union!). I get my dental and long-term disability insurance through them at very little cost per month.


Common Fear/Myth #3

It’ll look bad on my resume. Sure, if all you do is become a couch potato after quitting, it will look bad!

However, if you use your time to improve your skillset, take some affordable online classes, do some side or freelance projects, volunteer with a local non-profit, raise money to travel on a mission trip, pursue a passion project, or work a fun part-time job, it’s not going to look bad at all.

Whatever you do, do something you find interesting.

I’m sure if it’s something interesting to you, it could be interesting to the people who’ll eventually be interviewing you.

Show on your resume what you’ve done and the skills and lessons learned from those interesting experiences. This will make your resume stand out.

Tim Ferris, author of the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek suggests answering the interview question, “Why did you leave your previous job?” with,

“I had an once-in-a-lifetime chance to do [interesting experience] and couldn’t turn it down.”

He says because most interviewers are bored in their own jobs, they’ll spend much of the interview asking how you made it happen.

You can then respond with how your skills and resourcefulness you used to make it happen will make you the person they should hire.

When I started phasing out my image consulting business due to burnout to decide if I wanted to return to full-time career coaching or not, I worked a few weekends teaching beginner stand up paddling at my local SUP shop.

If I’d had to go through a job interview following that experience, I can guarantee you I would pique the interviewer’s interest if I said,

“I taught people the closest thing to walking on water.”

Then, I would tell them about how I used my teaching and training skills to do so.


Common Fear/Myth #4

I need to have a “real job” instead of trying to freelance. Freelancing IS a real job! And it’s one of the fastest growing jobs in the country.

Don’t believe me? Just check out this infograph courtesy of Upwork.com and Freelancersunion.org:

 

Even if you have no plans to become a freelancer, you still need the skills of an entrepreneur to be successful in your next job. (Click here for a list of those skills.)


Common Fear/Myth #5

If I don’t quit now, I’ll never find a way out and will be stuck in my job forever! Not true!

You may feel like you have to quit your job right away despite the fears listed above, but you don’t have to quit YET!

You can start creating an exit strategy now and implement it later when the timing makes more sense.

Yes, eventually you’ll have to rip off the band-aid and quit, but there are ways to be smart about it. I outline ways to wisely plan your escape route in my previous posts When Is the Right Time to Leave Your Job? and How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable.


How to Challenge Your Assumptions and Common Fears

Whatever your fears are about quitting a job you hate, I encourage you to challenge those fears and assumptions. Here are a few ways to do so:

Challenge #1

Learn how to deal with limiting beliefs (the lies your annoying inner critic tells you).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is this limiting belief keeping me from?
  • What would be the worst-case scenario if I keep believing this?
  • How can I turn this belief around to a more positive statement?
  • How can I benefit from believing the more positive statement?
  • What would be the best-case scenario if I start believing the positive statement?

Challenge #2

Talk to others who currently work in a job or career field you think you might enjoy. Find out from them the career path they followed to get there.

You’ll likely find most people didn’t had a single direct career path that led them there. This will encourage and inspire you.

Also, they may provide you some tips for making the transfer to that industry.


Challenge #3

Take a weekday off from your job and spend the day doing job search activities just to get a feel for what that might be like.

Update your resume. (Click here to read why you should update your resume every six months.)

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with LinkedIn.

Can’t take a day off work to do this? Use one of your non-workdays.


Challenge #4

Put your resume out there and see what happens. Post your resume with no expectations.

You’ll be able to see what kind of opportunities your current resume is attracting so you can figure out how to tweak it with the right keywords to attract better opportunities.


Challenge #5

Write your resignation letter, but don’t send it.

Just write it to help you get used to the idea of what may need to happen in the near future.


Challenge #6

Dip your toe in the freelance water by offering your unique skills or expertise to a few friends or on sites like Fiverr.com or Upwork.com.

Determine from these small assignments if you like working for yourself or not.


Make Time to Experiment

Feel free to find other ways to experiment with the idea of making a job or career change.

Short-term experiments don’t have to financially break you and don’t require a huge commitment.

In fact, these little experiments might be just the thing to provide a little breath of fresh air to your current dreadful situation.

They can either help you hang on a little longer until you’re able to quit your job, or give you the courage now to go ahead and rip off the band-aid.

Related Posts:

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Want To Be a Public Speaker? Beware of the “Exposure” Bait

If your career goal is to become a public speaker, or to offer a service where public speaking will be one of your revenue streams, you should first read this.

(And, if your an aspiring singer/songwriter here in Nashville, you should also read this since the same advice will apply to you. You’ll frequently be asked to perform locally for free at various events and charities in exchange for “exposure,” a common request in the music industry.)

Oftentimes independent service providers and industry experts get asked to speak on their particular areas of knowledge to a local group or at a special event. I’ve been called to do so several times. Here’s how the scenario typically plays out.

The Scenario

Caller: 

“Hi, I’m Ms. Organizer of the XYZ professional group. We found your web site and we’d love to have you come talk about your area of expertise to our members. Now, we’re not a revenue-generating organization, so we can’t pay you to come speak. But, it will give you GREAT exposure to those in attendance who could be potential clients for you!”

Your Reaction

Which of the following would be your initial reaction if you got this call?

  • “Wow! They want ME to come and speak? I’m so honored!”
  • “Well, I could use the exposure since I’m still trying to build my client base. It could be worth my time even though I’m not getting paid I guess.”
  • “OMG! I’m terrified of speaking in front of groups! I think I’m already having a panic attack!”
  • “Last time I spoke to a group they told me it would be great exposure, but it wasn’t. There was no one there interested in any of my services which was disappointing.”
  • “There’s no way I’m speaking for free! My time and knowledge is worth more than that!”

Most people’s reaction is typically one of the above emotional reactions, depending on how long they’ve been in business. But when you take the emotions out of the situation, what should your rational response be? Should you take the unpaid speaking gig, or not?

Before we answer that question, let’s consider a few things.

Do you really need the exposure?

It might be early in your business and you need to get your name out there. Therefore, you may have to do a few free speaking gigs, but eventually will have to transition to opportunities that are more of a win-win.

Some people will dangle the bait of “exposure” and try to convince you that “exposure” makes the request a win-win. However, I’ve found in my past experience that the amount of time spent preparing a presentation was never a fair trade for “exposure.”

Is the cause near and dear to your heart?

If you’re being asked to speak to a non-profit or a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, and your expertise will greatly benefit those being served by that non-profit, by all means provide your speaking services for free!

I have developed a great relationship with a local faith-based organization that helps those who are stuck in poverty get out of their vicious cycle of hardship. Every quarter I go in and teach job interview skills and conduct mock interviews with those enrolled in their work-life program.

I know this audience cannot afford my services and I don’t expect them to turn into clients. I provide my presentations to them and the organization as a way to give back to those in need.

While I once used to speak to groups for exposure, I now limit my free speaking services to organizations like the one described above.

Is there another way to get the exposure you need?

Free speaking gigs aren’t the only way for you to get exposure for your business endeavor. There are other alternatives.

For instance, I love to write and it doesn’t require as much of my time as preparing a presentation. I definitely get a much bigger return on my investment of time with writing than I do with any free speaking gig.

I provide a ton of free content here on my blog, on my Medium and Quora accounts, and in several published articles. Since I have clients located in various states, it makes much more sense for me to provide free content online to an unlimited audience than it does to a small audience only in my local area.

In fact, one of my Quora articles providing free resume advice has over 150,000 views and several hundred upvotes. I could never get that kind of exposure with a speaking gig at a local organization!

To Speak or Not to Speak, That is the Question

So back to the question of should you say yes to a request to speak for free?

What kind of win-win situation is potentially available if you agree? Is it one that benefits the organization’s audience while also benefiting you? For example, could this be great practice for a future public speaking career? Or if you later decide to add presentations to your income stream?

How you choose to handle this situation can set the tone for all future speaking gigs. Also, it can either make or break your piggy bank if you get these kinds of requests on a regular basis. You definitely don’t want to develop a personal brand as someone who will do everything for free!

To help you decide on your response, below are a few suggestions I shared from my own personal experience with the Freelancers Union Nashville chapter.

(Freelancers Union is a national organization that protects the rights of freelancers and independent service providers. They helped get the “Freelance Isn’t Free” law passed in New York. This law protects independent service providers from nonpayment. They have ongoing efforts in getting the same law passed in all other states.)

How to Decide

First, wait until the emotions (excitement, uncertainty, fear, etc.) subside before agreeing to anything. Ask for a couple of days to check your calendar and get back to them with an answer.

Then, in those couple of days, spend some time developing your priorities and a strategic plan for agreeing to non-paid opportunities (because if you get one request, you’ll like get more requests!).

Your plan should be made up of two lists:  a “SAY YES IF” list and a “SAY NO IF” list.

Say YES if…

The “SAY YES IF” list can include any criteria that make it a win-win situation. Suggestions of criteria to include in this list are:

  • If your target market/ideal client is represented in the audience. But don’t take the caller’s word for it. You know your market better than they do. Do your research and ask enough questions to determine if your market will actually be represented.
  • If they allow you to promote your own business/services or sell your products at the end of your talk.
  • If you get to choose a topic that doesn’t require a lot of time for additional research and preparation on your part. It should be a topic you know well enough to speak on without any notes. If it’s simply a Q&A or a panel with other experts, that’s even better because those scenarios require little to no research or preparation.
  • If the prep and delivery time doesn’t cut too deeply into your billable hours. Always keep your paying clients and paid projects your top priority.
  • If they offer to give you an honorarium for your time and expertise. It’s okay to ask them if they ever do that for speakers who agree to come speak for significantly less than what you’d normally charge and/or what other speakers would typically charge.
  • If the organization is related to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.

Say NO if…

The “SAY NO IF” list can include the following suggested criteria:

  • If at least 3 of the criteria from your “SAY YES IF” list aren’t met.
  • If the organization has very specific or unrealistic demands, keeps changing details on you, or does anything else to make things difficult. An example of an unrealistic demand would be them asking you to teach their audience your trade secrets or how to do your job! (I actually received such a request recently.)
  • If you’re not allowed to invite participants to visit your web site or subscribe to your newsletter.

Feel free to add your own criteria to each list. Remember, it must be a win-win situation or you’ll become resentful!

Beware though, when enforcing your criteria people may accuse you of having a sense of entitlement. But it’s not entitlement if you’ve worked hard in your industry to gain the knowledge you have. Besides, who’s really the one with the sense of entitlement? Could it be those expecting you to give them something for nothing?

Be Strategic

You don’t want to say yes to every opportunity. Doing so will cause you to not only lose money but also time you could dedicate to your paying clients.

You also don’t want to say no to every opportunity (no matter how fearful you are of public speaking) because you’ll miss out on helping others and also getting your name out to potential clients.

The trick is to be strategic about it.

If you start to get an unmanageable amount of requests, then it’s time to consider doing one or both of the following:

  • Include presentations into your business as an additional revenue stream since your topic is in high demand. Then charge accordingly.
  • Limit the number of free gigs you do per year to only a few. This will require you to be selective in which organization you want to donate your time and expertise to.

Why You The Public Speaker Are Worth It

Public speaking or performing on a stage can be an extremely stressful thing. In fact, it’s the number one fear, before death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

It can even be stressful for those who love it or have done it for years. Ozzy Osborne has been performing onstage for over 40 years and admits to still getting jitters before every show. Even though I’m energized during or right after a big presentation, I experience a looming sense of dread the week leading up to it.

If you also experience this kind of stress, it can be a tremendous cost to you, including lost sleep or sickness from nervousness.

In addition, you’re sharing your expertise, which is basically your intellectual property. It’s what your clients are already paying you for. You deserve to be paid for your knowledge, and you also need to be fair to your paying clients!

If you have knowledge and expertise that people want, then it’s in demand. Don’t worry if you present it in a different way from other popular speakers. As long as you’re providing something helpful in an engaging way using your own unique approach, then you’re worth getting paid something.

And if none of the above convinces you you’re worth it, then consider this: it’s biblical. Both I Timothy 5:18b and Luke 10:7 states, “the worker deserves his wages.”

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