How to Determine What to Ask For (Part 1)

02 Mar

So you’ve been blogging consistently for a while, building a nice little following, and giving some free presentations to build your skills and credibility. Then one morning the email that you’ve been waiting for arrives. Someone wants to pay you to speak! Your eyes light up because as Randy Moss says, you’re going to get “straight cash, homey!” Now the question is how much cash should you ask for?

I’m not going to tell you the amount of money that you should ask for, but I will give you a framework for figuring it out for yourself.


For this example let’s say you’re asked to lead a three hour workshop at a conference 500 miles from home. You are not being paid for three hours of work! You are not being paid for three hours of work, plus planning, plus travel time. You are being paid for your years of experience and your perspective on things.

Consider that if the event you’re invited to is 500 miles from your home you’re going to have at least 48 hours of your life committed to being physically present. You’ll need to arrive the night beforehand and, depending on location, you might be there the night after. If you live near a major airport and the event is near a major airport, you might be able to fly home the same day that you present. Factor that time into your asking price.

Responsibilities at home

When I travel I have to either pay my dogsitter to stay with Max and Morrison or pay to have them boarded at the kennel. If it’s winter, I might have to pay someone to clear my driveway while I’m gone too. You probably have some responsibilities at home that someone else will have to cover while you’re away. What does that cost? Even if there is not a monetary cost, there are opportunity costs to consider.

Travel costs

Invoice travel costs separate from speaking fees. There are too many unknowns in travel costs to bill at a flat rate. You never know when you’ll arrive at a hotel and discover that the $139/night rate is actually more like $195/night things like “city tourism promotion” taxes are added-on. (Seriously, I saw that on my bill this morning in Toronto).

I always, always, always make my own travel arrangements (exception being when I work with huge corporate clients like Pearson that have full-time travel professionals on staff). I’ve had too many instances of showing up at an airport and not having a promised car waiting for me or showing up at hotels that don’t have room reserved for me to trust anyone else. And as a bonus, when the hotel room is in my name I get the hotel points.

Ask for 20% more!

Teachers are accustomed to doing a ton of work for little pay. Therefore when someone asks us, “how much do you charge?” we tend to respond with a lower number than people in other professions. This is your chance to help people and get paid what you think you’re worth! Don’t undervalue this opportunity. Take the price you have in mind and add 20% to it. That way if they say “yes” you’ll be thrilled and if they say “no” you have room to negotiate.

The Tax Man Cometh!

Don’t forget that in the U.S. if you receive more than $600 from a single source, you will be required to report it on your taxes. Consider that before you settle on your final asking price. Then talk to your tax professional about ways to mitigate your tax bill.

A big thank you goes to Dr. Scott McLeod who sat me down four years ago and told me that I needed to start asking for more money.

In Wednesday’s post I’ll tackle figuring out what to ask for when someone wants to advertise on your blog. 

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