Professional Speaking – Turning a Passion Into a Career

By Kevin M with Dave Kelly, Professional Speaker

With confidence I tell you, I’m living my dream! As a professional speaker and trainer, I provide programs for colleges and universities, corporations, and associations, including keynote addresses, workshops, break-out sessions, and retreats. I work for myself, and I’m running my own game!

Professional speaking is a creative field. It allows me to have the opportunity to use my creative abilities and talents and to have the freedom to have a lifestyle that I enjoy. I work from home and am able to schedule my days as I wish. There are no heavy demands on my time outside of my speaking schedule. The potential for this career truly is unlimited. And one of the really cool things is that professional speaking can be used to promote other business ventures–yours or anyone else’s! It’s not hard to see the potential in that alone! And that’s the point–you can take a professional speaking career just about anywhere you like.

A career in professional speaking isn’t routine in any way. Each day, each assignment brings something new. Now that I’m established as a speaker, I’ve been able to primarily outsource my marketing to a speaker’s bureau, so I spend only a couple of hours each week working on marketing and sales. Most of my “down time”—the time when I’m not on speaking engagements–is spent working on program development, and that comes in blocks of time as I am requested by clients or as I get inspired to work on a topic. It’s a blank canvas that I can paint any way I like!

There are risks in this career–there are anytime you’re self employed. But some risks I don’t have include: an income ceiling, a daily commute, layoffs, industry collapse, outsourcing of my job, boredom, burnout, or having to deal with the nagging question that hangs over millions of heads, what am I going to do when I grow up! I’m doing what I love and setting my own limits!

It is difficult to evaluate the exact income potential in professional speaking. Much depends on individual ability, time committed to the business, the specific market segments pursued and topics provided for those segments, and of course, the degree to which you’re willing to invest in yourself. It is critical that you make a commitment to “grow” continually. The longer an individual pursues this field, the more their income will grow. I have known speakers who have been able to accelerate to six figures in their first year. This is not typical, of course, but the potential to hit that level within two or three years is very real. The keys are picking topics that the market you are pursuing is interested in, treating your business like a business, not a hobby, and investing in yourself and your abilities.

The future outlook for professional speaking is outstanding. I have experienced no negative affects from the weakening economy—a blessing after my years in the mortgage business–and my speaking schedule continues to fill with paid engagements. Associations will always be looking to bring speakers and trainers to their events. The same is true for colleges and universities, which are not affected by the business cycle, and have to provide entertainment and education to students from the fees every student pays through their tuition. Special opportunity is opening up in the corporate area as companies look to reduce costs by eliminating internal training and employee development departments and replace them with independent contractors in the speaking industry.

I didn’t come into professional speaking in the way you might think. I had worked in the mortgage business for 20 years, and was working as a loan originator for a mortgage broker–not the ideal platform from which to launch a professional speaking career! The mortgage industry began slowing several years ago, and I decided that I needed to consider my next move. Being over 40 and having twenty years in the same (declining) industry didn’t leave me with many options! But I dared to ask myself, what is it that I like to do? That’s was a revolutionary question for me, because while I had worked in the mortgage business for so long, and earned an above average income, I never actually liked it! I had spent 25 years as a member of the Kiwanis Club, primarily working with students. In that capacity, I had many occasions to speak before student groups throughout my home state, something I really liked doing. For most of that time I had entertained the fantasy of doing what I was doing with Kiwanis, speaking before groups, as a career, but I couldn’t figure out how to get paid for it. With the mortgage business in decline, I found myself focusing more energy speaking for Kiwanis, and decided to work toward converting my dream hobby into a career.

The jump into speaking as a paid career didn’t come easily. I loved the speaking assignments I was doing through Kiwanis, and I took nearly every opportunity available to speak in front of groups at my church and elsewhere. But to step out and do it as a career was something that seemed almost like a dream in itself, and I didn’t know anyone who was doing it professionally from whom I could get direction. Then there was the well-intentioned advice of so many people who advised against it. Let’s face it, when most people think of a career, they think of a nine-to-five job, a big company and a salary with benefits. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to follow your passion! I delayed following mine for years, and time has proven that my hesitation was entirely unnecessary. If you have a deep passion to enter a new career, a dream you’ve harbored for a long time, don’t let anything stop you. I was in my 40s and lacked both formal training and necessary contacts when I started speaking for pay. Get started now–YOU don’t need to go it alone!

I am available for career coaching, and if you’d like to have me as your professional speaking coach, you can contact me through Kevin at OutOfYourRut.

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