Tag: Nashville career coach


You Don’t Have To Be a Slave To a Paycheck

You may remember reading about my client Robert in my post entitled “How to Know If You’re In the Wrong Job”. Robert is the one who has talents and passions in both illustration and foreign languages.

But instead he had a job he dreaded going to every day.

When you first heard about Robert, he was just starting to turn his passion for illustration into a side hustle with the hopes of eventually leaving his job pursuing it full-time.

Over the weekend I received this update from Robert. It truly is inspiring, and can show how applying paNASH’s coaching techniques can be life-changing!


A Drastic Career Change

Hi Lori,

I hope things have been going well for you. I’ve finally had some drastic changes in my career take place recently I wanted to update you on.

A couple of years ago I found out there was an instructor at Lipscomb University who used to be one of the top tier animators for Disney feature films for 15 years. He animated moves like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.

Once he left Disney, he moved here to the Nashville area. Then, Lipscomb University recruited him to teach and develop an animation program.

I had heard about him and for a long time I’d always wanted to get in touch with him. He’s a real celebrity in the animation world and has numerous connections in the industry.

I thought it would be so cool to connect with a guy like him and to learn from him. It had been bugging me for two years that a resource like him lived just 20 miles away and I’d done nothing to try to make that connection.

So, in March, I finally got up the nerve to reach out to him.

I sent him an email explaining my passion for character design and told him how I’m trying to transition into the industry. I asked him if he was open for a discussion and he agreed to meet with me.

It turns out he’s a very kind, generous person willing to help aspiring artists as best he can.

I asked him if it would be possible to audit just one of his classes at Lipscomb. He said yes and after coordinating it with Lipscomb’s admission’s office, I registered for his character design class that would begin in August.

The Inevitable Obstacle

I was so excited!

However, there was one huge problem.

The class was held mid-day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This of course conflicted with my work hours at my job in Hendersonville.

I would have to be away from the office a few hours three days a week, just to take a class that has nothing to do with my job. I knew my company would never approve such a request for that much time away from the office.

So, my wife and I started praying about what to do.

Having a mentor is absolutely essential for an artist to fully reach his potential. I’d already been praying for two years for such a mentor who could help me grow as an artist.

It looked like God was providing an answer and an opportunity for me to learn from the best of the best, but there was the obstacle of my job. Lots of prayer and discernment ensued.

A Fork in the Road

By July God was still putting it on my heart to not let this opportunity slip by.

At this point I decided to sit down with my boss and explain my situation to see if there was anything that could be worked out with my company.

My boss is a very understanding guy and he knows art is my passion, so I knew he would get how big of an opportunity this was for me.

I asked him about the possibility of working remotely on the days I had class. I’d read the book The 4-Hour Workweek you suggested to me when I was asking you about how to pitch working remotely to my company, so I was using what I learned because it was my only chance of keeping my job and taking the class.

When I pitched my idea to my boss, he was supportive, but HR was not.

This didn’t surprise me.

It seemed clear at this point I wouldn’t be able to keep my job and take the class. I was at a fork in the road. I was going to have to choose between my job and my dream.

And I was going to have to make a decision soon because the class was starting in a few weeks.

A Paycheck Isn’t Worth the Unhappiness

My wife and I continued to pray and we talked about it until we were blue in the face.

Through all this prayer and discernment, I realized the only thing keeping me at my job was money. Everything else about my job was not worth staying on for.

I realized it was a dead-end job because if I stayed, I’d be stuck doing the exact same thing ten years from now.

Literally I was showing up every day just for a paycheck.

The most interesting thing I realized though was the paycheck wasn’t as important as I originally thought.

Yes, everyone needs money. But being constantly unhappy was not worth the money.

My wife and I discussed our finances and figured out with her income and our combined savings, we’d be fine for at least a year. She gave me her blessing and support.

She’s the most loving and supportive woman I could’ve possibly found in this world. She told me if God was calling me to pursue my talent in art and we had enough money to make due, to go ahead and leave my job for my passion.

So I gave my boss two weeks notice.

My last day of work was August 17th and my first day of class was August 20th.

It’s a Faith Journey

Now, I’m free of my soul-sucking job and I’m finally getting to do what I’ve been dreaming of for years! (In fact, I’m writing this email from a computer on Lipscomb’s campus!)

My plan is to spend the semester taking the class and practice my skills to get them to a professional level while also building my relationship with the instructor.

Then, when the semester ends in December, I’ll assess my next steps.

The instructor is known for helping connect his students with other people in the industry. I’m hoping he’ll do the same for me even though I’m only auditing his class.

Since starting the class a few weeks ago, I’ve been making the experience my new full-time job.

I arrive on campus every morning at 7:00am, whether I have class that day or not, and I stay until 4:00pm. I spend my time honing my craft, taking the class, networking with other artists, and building a professional relationship with my instructor.

It’s been great but it’s also been a challenge spiritually and emotionally.

The devil is trying to break me down every day by telling me I’m wasting my time, I’m a selfish, irresponsible husband and it’s ridiculous for me to chase my passion while my wife works.

I expected this to happen because I knew the devil would do this.

And most days it’s hard not to let it get to me. But that’s what comes with the territory of a faith journey.

And this is definitely a faith journey.

No Longer a Slave to a Paycheck

Now that I’ve settled into my new schedule, I’m going to start advertising around campus my Spanish tutoring skills. I think it would be a confidence boost to earn at least a little money while also helping others.

I find I work best when I move between two different things rather than focusing on just one thing.

This will allow me to make my own schedule and charge what I’m worth instead of working part-time waiting tables.

I’m also going to start using the Passion Planner you gave me at paNASH’s client mixer to better structure my day and maximize my time.

For so long my job was holding me back and I was just a slave to a paycheck.

Now I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m not doing it full-time YET, but I am still receiving commissions for my artwork as a side hustle which is helping fund my dream while I learn from the best.

Thank You!

I write all this to say your help is partly what enabled me to arrive at this major career decision to pursue my passion.

The skills you’ve taught me, the encouragement you’ve given me, and the resources you’ve connected me with have all played a huge role in getting me to this point.

And you don’t know this, but your blog posts have really been an inspiration to me as well.

Specifically, the one entitled “When Is the Right Time to Leave Your Job?” was published the exact same day I had to make my final decision about quitting my job, and it helped me know for sure I was doing the right thing.

And the one you wrote the following week about the ropes course also reassured me I’d done the right thing.

Those two posts were divinely orchestrated at just the right time for me.

I really wanted to thank you for the help you’ve given me and especially for being available on occasion even after our coaching sessions were over.

I wanted to share all this with you so you could see the fruit of your diligent work with me.

Thank you!

Robert

Robert’s Art

Reading Robert’s email made my whole week!

He’s such a talented and gifted artist, and I believe in him so much last fall I commissioned him to do a drawing of me as my childhood hero, Wonder Woman. (I’d always wanted to be Wonder Woman when I grew up!).

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Illustration by Robert Hughes

And he’s also taking commissions from anyone else who’d like something similar.

In fact, he’s currently taking pre-orders for personalized holiday cards in which he’ll do cartoon characterizations of your family members! (See samples below.)

To submit your own pre-order, email Robert at rchughes2@gmail.com.

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Illustrations by Robert Hughes

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paycheck

How to Have a Good Life: Do These 7 Small Things

What does it take to have a good life?

As a career coach to those currently going through career and life transitions, I often have clients coming to me because they’ve realized their jobs are eating away at their personal lives.

They feel like they’re life is no longer good because they’ve lost their passion or can’t enjoy their passions due to the rat race.

When this happens, I guide them through several exercises to help them get unstuck so they can either move forward or move on to something new.

These exercises include the following seven small things you can do to help you have a good life.

And who knows? Maybe one or more of these exercises will help you discover a new purpose for your life and career!


1. Know What Energizes You and What Drains You

Pay attention to the daily things that energize you and the daily things that drain you. Be aware of what gives you peace and what stresses you out every day.

Incorporate more of the energizing and peaceful things into each day, while reducing the number of draining and stressful things.

Don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries to accomplish this if you have to.

One very simple thing I do is I don’t take phone calls from people I know who will drain my energy unless I have enough energy to give them. I usually wait and call them back when I have the energy to do so, but within a reasonable amount of time (within 24 to 48 hours).


2. De-clutter

De-clutter and get organized!

Get rid of clothes you no longer wear. Get rid of devices you don’t use.

Straighten up your surroundings. Make your bed everyday.

Organize your schedule a few days ahead of time.

Having things neat and organized creates a sense of serenity.

A few years ago I reduced my closet down to a capsule wardrobe (about only 30 garments). I got rid of 2/3 of my closet.

Since doing this, I don’t have as much trouble deciding what to wear each day, and therefore I don’t get frustrated and don’t waste time trying on several different outfits.

This also makes me less moody in the mornings and I get out the door on time.


3. Treat Yourself

Treat yourself every once in a while.

If you’re the type of person who never puts yourself first, you need this!

One of my favorite ways to treat myself is going out to eat with a friend.

Another way I treat myself is making time in the middle of the week for my favorite hobby, stand-up paddle boarding.


4. Become Uncomfortable

On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who goes overboard treating yourself, find a way to become uncomfortable. This will challenge you and build your character.

Step out of your comfort zone by taking a class to learn a new language, or volunteer in a setting that makes you nervous. Do something that seems scary, like speaking in front of a group.

Maintain a balance by rewarding yourself only after you’ve done something productive or something where you’ve served others.

My personal goals each year are to learn something new, serve others, and share my knowledge.

While I was able to do all of the above in one week while on my mission trip to the Amazon jungle, I’ve found it easier and more manageable to spread these things out over the course of a year instead!


5. Ask, Listen, & Apply

Ask about and learn from other people’s stories.

Listen to them.

Find out how they got to where they are.

What have been their biggest regrets thus far?

What did they learn from both their failures and their successes?

Apply what you learn from them to your life in your own unique way.

I love having one-on-one conversations like this with people from different backgrounds.


6. Break Out of Your Everyday Surroundings

Break out from your everyday surroundings once in a while.

Take a drive to a nearby town and be a tourist there for the day. Or go visit an attraction in your own town you’ve never been to.

Every year I drive two short hours away to spend a weekend at a monastery where there is complete silence.

They have accommodations and a cafeteria for people to come there for a silent retreat, and it only costs the amount I’m led to give as an offering.

It’s one of the most peaceful weekends of my year.


7. Reflect

Take time to reflect on what you’re truly passionate about (note: this requires some peace and quiet!).

What are the things you lose track of time doing?

What are things you’d do without getting paid?

Incorporate these things into your life as recreation or find a way to make money doing them.

My own passions include helping others pursue their passions, writing, and stand up paddling. I’ve found a way to incorporate all three into my work as a career coach.


How to Get Started on Having a Good Life

If all these ideas sound a bit overwhelming, just choose one or two to try for right now. Give them a long enough chance for them to become habits. Once they do, then try a couple more.

You can also get started by subscribing to the paNASH newsletter and receive a complimentary 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan. Following the steps in this plan will help you not just set goals, but also achieve them!

Before you know it, you’ll see a major impact on your life. You’ll have more joy, peace, and positivity. You’ll have a good life!

good life

What Happens When Your Passion Disrupts Your Career?

It was 2011 and I was working as an image consultant and media coach for recording artists. I was waiting for my new client in his publicist’s conference room. He was coming in to begin his media coaching with me to prep him for his next radio tour.

In our first session he told me his life story, how he got to where he was, and what his future looked like. He was different from most of the other recording artists I had worked with. His values and priorities were on a whole other level.

What was typical.

He told me about how he grew up poor with humble beginnings and how he’d always been passionate about music with goals to pursue it as a career. Not an uncommon story among most musicians who eventually make their way to Nashville.

He was the first person in his family to finish not just college, but also high school. This inspired him to become a high school social studies teacher, something else he was very passionate about.

After college, he pursued teaching to support his music career goals. He did both until he couldn’t any longer.

His music caught on like wildfire. In fact, he was getting so many bookings and selling out so many venues his music career completely disrupted his teaching career. He had to leave his students to fulfill his new obligations to his fans.

Again, this is not an unusual story or scenario for most recording artists as they begin their careers. Most start off doing something else to make a living until they’re able to afford to pursue music full-time.

What was different.

But here’s where it gets different with this particular artist:  he said to me,

“When this whole music thing dries up, which it probably will eventually, my plan is to go back to teaching social studies.”

I had never heard a recording artist talk like this. Most get so caught up in their rise to fame and fortune they think it will never come to an end. They don’t think long-term.

In fact, most of them believe, and are also told by numerous music industry executives, if you truly want to make it in the music business you can’t have a Plan B. Their theory is if you have a Plan B, you’ll never be fully motivated to pursue the Plan A of a music career. They believe you’ll give up too soon and default to your Plan B before Plan A gets off the ground.

This client was the only artist I knew who didn’t fall for that. He strongly disagreed with that mindset and felt it was totally irresponsible not to have a Plan B. Like everything else, he knew Plan A will eventually come to an end.

He also told me something else I’ll never forget. His first big headline show completely sold out, and acts as big as Brantley Gilbert and the Zac Brown Band were opening for him! He said to me,

“To this day, there’s not been one stage I’ve walked onto that didn’t beat the feeling I got the first day I walked into a classroom.”

Talk about a mic drop!

Whether he realizes it or not, this musician is still teaching others in his role as an artist. There are so many lessons from this interaction and his statements I almost don’t know where to begin.

But let’s try to unpack as much as we can here.

1. It can’t be all about the money.

It’s obvious he wasn’t doing any of this for the money. Everyone knows there’s very little money in education. And for someone willing to go back to education after a more lucrative career shows money isn’t a top priority.

As a career coach specializing in helping people pursue their passions, I can tell you if you’re pursuing something only for money with no passion behind it, it’s likely to fail. All the experts will tell you this. This includes business experts, successful entrepreneurs, other career coaches, and the ones who learned this lesson the hard way.

And not only is it likely to fail, you’re also likely to be miserable. If you’re not passionate about what you do and you find no meaning in it besides earning a paycheck, you’re likely to dread going to work everyday. This will wear on you over time.

2. You have to think long-term.

Nothing lasts forever. You could be laid off tomorrow from your current job. Your business idea could take off like a rocket and then just as quickly crash and burn. My former client’s bookings could easily dry up since music fans’ tastes are fickle.

So then what?

While it’s important to learn to live in the moment, there needs to be a balance between living in the moment and considering the future.

One of the things I work with my coaching clients on is establishing long-term goals and helping them figure out how their passions can evolve with those goals.

Sometimes this requires re-evaluating and altering their short-term goals. And sometimes it may require them to alter their long-term goals.

3. It’s not a bad idea to have a back-up plan.

As a result, you may need a Plan B to your Plan A, or even a Plan C to your Plan B.

These plans don’t have to be completely different from each other like they were for my former client. They could be something in the same industry but in a different role or function.

Back-up plans can be a great solution when you’re feeling stuck in your current career situation. I’ve helped many clients brainstorm and test potential back-up plans which eventually got them unstuck.

Do you see any other lessons here I missed? (If so, please comment below!)

Conclusion

My former client had two very different careers he was equally passionate about. One disrupted the other much more quickly than he expected. And it could happen again some day.

This happens to almost all of us, including myself when I went from career coaching to image consulting then back to career coaching again.

What will you do when the career you’re passionate about gets disrupted by another passion? Or if it gets disrupted by an entirely new passion you’ve discovered? What will happen if you don’t have another passion (a Plan B) to fall back on?

If you don’t have an answer to these questions, it may be time to consider the lessons outlined above, or even some career coaching for yourself. To find out if career coaching is your next best step, click here and complete the paNASH intake form. Completing the form does not obligate you in any way.

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career disruption

Why “Can I Pick Your Brain?” Is the Wrong Approach

I was sitting at my desk in my office when the email showed up in my inbox. It was another request for an informational interview. (If you don’t know what an informational interview is, Google it.)

But this request was different from all the others. It wasn’t the usual lame offer to treat me to lunch or coffee.

As much as I really want to accommodate each request since I’m such a big believer in informational interviewing, I can’t say yes to every request. I don’t always have the time to take away from my clients to drive out in Nashville traffic for a meeting and drive back.

So what was different about the request that caught my eye?

This person offered to BRING ME my favorite hot beverage. It was evident she wasn’t just thinking about herself and what she wanted. Instead, she was taking my time into consideration (along with my hot beverage preference).

She showed up at my office with a hot green tea. I loved that she actually asked me what I like instead of assuming I’m a coffee drinker, because I’m not.

I also loved that she didn’t ask the question, “Can I pick your brain?” Why? Because when I worked in the music industry I quickly learned anytime someone asked me that question it was code for, “Can I have some free advice?”

“Can I pick your brain?” always puts me on guard.

I went on to have a great meeting with this bright and considerate young woman. A month later I hired her as my assistant.

This exchange occurred several years ago, but I tell this story all the time to my clients so they understand the importance of practicing proper etiquette when asking for an informational interview.

(Want to learn proper networking etiquette? Check out my on-demand program The Secret To Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively.)

A better approach

If you’ve inadvertently made the gaff of asking, “Can I pick your brain?” don’t worry. There are several ways to correct your approach.

And if you’re someone who gets the “Can I pick your brain?” question frequently, there are several ways you can respond appropriately, especially if you have to say, “no.”

It’s all listed below in an article written by Darrah Brustein, author, speaker, and consultant (originally published at www.forbes.com). Darrah was nice enough to allow me to re-publish her article here on the paNASH blog.

It’s a must-read for anyone who’s trying to expand their network (which should be everyone!). Enjoy!

14 Ways To Ask And Respond To The Question: Can I Pick Your Brain?

by Darrah Brustein

I’ll share with you here a number of ways you can respond, some which might even turn into a way to get paid for your knowledge.

These tips also translate if you’re hoping to get advice from someone with more expertise in a particular area.

We all have things to offer that are valuable to others and will help them on their path. Sometimes we charge for those; other times, we don’t. Undoubtedly, sharing knowledge is important.

But we get to choose to whom, what, where, when, and how we offer this advice and counsel.

It feels great to be the one who gives this help. It’s nice to share what we know. It’s even touching to reflect back on the times when we needed help and others offered.

But don’t use that against someone to force them into spending time with you. And don’t let that guilt you into having to say yes to everyone either.

Because we each have a finite amount of time and our own priorities, here are some important things to consider when you want to ask someone for help in this way:

1. Be considerate of someone’s time and intellectual property.

Sometimes that means being willing to offer payment or a value exchange. Would you go into a store, grab some merchandise, and walk out? Hopefully not, because that’s theft. So why do we expect people to offer their intellectual property so easily without expectation of payment or value exchange?

2. Consider the depth of your relationship to the ‘brain.’

It’s most likely that someone with whom you have a real relationship will want to help. But when can you consider a relationship to be established? If you’ve emailed several times or exchanged Facebook messages, does that count? What about when you’ve met once? When do you go from stranger to someone for whom I will make time? There isn’t a clear-cut answer as it’s subjective and personal. However, if you feel it’s a grey area, err on the side of caution, if simply for the sake of being polite. If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship, try to get introduced by a trusted mutual contact. The recipient will be much more likely to carve out time for you because of the carryover of trust they have from the connector.

3. Do your homework.

If it’s not possible to be introduced or to ask someone with whom you have an existing rapport, then it’s imperative that you demonstrate in your first contact that you did your homework. Why should that person take the time to help you if you didn’t take the time to extract as much learning as you can about the subject online beforehand, both in general and specifically from any content they already have shared.

Here’s a quick story of hope to insert at this point: one of my business idols is Julie Aigner-Clark, the creator and founder of Baby Einstein. When I published my book on financial literacy for kids, connecting with Julie to understand her journey in the space was of utmost importance to me. I knew no one in common with her, so I spent hours watching videos, reading interviews, and consuming everything I could learn that was already out on the internet about her. Then I wrote a thoughtful, complimentary and concise email via her contact form. I made it clear that I had done my homework, how much I respected her work, why I was reaching out and what my hopes were for spending some time on a call with her if she’d be open to it.

Much to my surprise, less than 24 hours later, I got an email from her welcoming a conversation. She was flattered by my depth of knowledge about her work, and that ingratiated me to her. Shortly after, we spoke for an hour, then several times after that. And I was careful to ask only questions of her whose answers I could not find online.

4. Don’t be insulting by presuming that coffee or lunch is a good exchange.

I didn’t ask her for time in person, and here’s why. When you add up the amount of time it would take for someone to commute to and from a given location and share their ideas and expertise with you, rarely will they consider your offer to pay for coffee or lunch a reasonable one. It can come off as insulting, and will quickly close a door to that interaction.

5. Intend to pay or offer value in some way.

If you’re not willing to pay for someone’s time, or offer value in some way before you want to take it, consider if there’s another way to obtain the information you’re seeking. If you can’t afford to pay, be upfront about your desire to give before you take, and suggest a way you could be helpful without paying.

6. Beware of sounding presumptuous.

Don’t craft your message as though their saying yes is a foregone conclusion. Saying something like, “When would be a good time for us to connect for coffee?” in your first correspondence is presumptuous and not respectful.

Now that we’re clear on how to ask someone for their time and advice properly, let’s consider how to reply to these types of requests.

7. It’s okay to say no.

Here’s a piece I wrote about saying no. It’s a helpful starting point for any time you want to decline an offer respectfully.

8. Make email templates.

Consider making email templates for these requests, using a tool like MixMax to auto-insert them into your emails. Ignoring them often leaves me feeling guilty, so this is a great way to reply respectfully without taking too much time.

9. Create a buffer and save time with a virtual assistant.

If you need to put a barrier between you and the asker, or if you get too many requests to handle by yourself, get an inexpensive virtual assistant to intercede. It can be a lot easier for this person to say no, to offer a resource you’ve already produced, or to share your consulting rate.

Or, before handing it off, you can reply by introducing the asker to your assistant. He or she can get a specific agenda or purpose out of them and offer 15 minutes to see if they might translate into a client.

10. Offer pro bono work.

You may want to offer some pro bono consulting. If so, determine what your own boundaries are for this.

For whom will you always make time? For whom not? Allow for some flexibility. Sometimes, you’ll surprise yourself with the ones to which you’ll say yes, because the asker was sincere, authentic and demonstrated that she did her homework, respected your time and was clear in her ask.

11. Refer the request to someone or something.

It’s always great to refer the requester to someone else who is a better fit, or to someone else’s relevant content.

Or, if you have content which you’ve already created on the subject, point them there.

If you get a lot of these requests asking the same thing, write a LinkedIn or Medium post to publish the common answer(s) and then direct people to that. It will also help to solidify your thought leadership in that area.

12. Get paid.

You can try to convert the asker into a client by saying, “I’m at capacity right now, so I’m not taking any meetings. As I’m sure you can appreciate, sometimes you have to put your head down and get work done 🙂 If you’re interested in becoming a client, I can send over info on that. If it’s simply a quick question you have, feel free to email it, and I can see about answering it by email.”

Or, “I’m happy to connect, and I charge $X/hour for consulting. Please let me know if you’d like to set up a time to do so.”

Or, “I’m not available for coffee, but you should really consider checking out my _____ (your product or service). I designed it to help people like you in this exact situation!”

You can also create an hourly or flat-rate consulting platform for these requests. Make the dollar amount worth your time, so if someone buys it, you’re happy to do it.

13. Implement office hours.

If it’s best for you, create ‘office hours,’ which is a specific slot of time that you use for these conversations. It will keep you sane, as well as weed out people who aren’t open to work around your schedule when they’re asking to glean from you.

I’ve found that most of these requests disappear when I offer one specific time frame that’s convenient for me, offer to do it for an exchange of payment, or ask for them to be more clear about their question(s) before we hop on a call.

14. Make it personal.

Sometimes someone reaches out it in a manner that is complimentary, but it sounds like a social call, and doesn’t specify that they want to ‘pick your brain’. However, you know that’s what they want. Reply by saying, “I’ve made a personal rule not to take any meetings when I haven’t made time to spend with my best friend recently (and she and I haven’t connected in ages due to my schedule). I so appreciate your kind words, and hope you understand why I need to pass.”

Ultimately, respect your time and put a value on it. Don’t be afraid to ask for payment, to say no, or to respect your own boundaries. And if you’re in the market to ‘pick someone’s brain,’ put yourself in her shoes to position yourself for success.

Thank you again to Darrah for allowing me to re-post this article!

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.”

Related Post:

Stand Up For Your Worth

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