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Side Hustle Series: I Get Paid to Speak

by J. Money on Thursday, January 23, 2014

jeff greene speaker

[Please welcome our guest hustler today, Jeff Greene, as part of our Side Hustle Series]

I was kind of a ham growing up, I have to admit.

In fourth grade, I launched my own “weather forecast” by watching The Weather Channel and then using a marker board to draw upcoming storm systems for my classmates. In sixth grade, I won the part of “emcee” at my class talent show and, prowling the auditorium stage, I left the audience of mostly parents and teachers in stitches.

Then, in junior high, I lost the magic. Despite an impassioned speech, I was routed in my campaign for student council president. The council advisor was too embarrassed to tell me exactly how many votes I had gotten, so I had to sneak into his office one day. (I probably should have taken the hint … I had something like 14 votes out of 400.)

When my interest rekindled

It wasn’t until the first few years of my business career when my interest in public speaking was rekindled. I was asked to give a couple free talks at local chambers of commerce and networking groups, with the goal of creating awareness for my employer at the time. I’m sure some of you have done this in the past.

Everything changed in 2004. I was trying to convince a national association to bring me to their annual conference in Memphis. In my book, Speaking on the Side, about getting paid to speak part-time, I tell the whole story. Here’s the nutshell version:

Association Executive: So, we’re trying to find a couple of new speakers, to bring some fresh blood to our national conference, and I thought maybe you would …

Me: OH MY GOSH I WOULD LOVE TO AND I’LL WORK ON MY PRESENTATION NIGHT AND DAY AND I WON’T EVEN STOP FOR A DRINK OF WATER ….

Association Executive: Believe it or not, we are a pretty small organization and we don’t have very large speaker budgets. If we hired you to speak, would $750 plus travel and meals work for you?

Me: (stunned silence)

It was an epiphany. I went to the conference, got paid to speak, and launched a “side hustle” I’ve been managing ever since.

How do you do it?

Well, you’ll need a few things:

  • A dose of extroversion. Not everyone enjoys speaking. You have to feel comfortable sharing stories and helping other people in a public setting. Now, speaking is not just for “Type A” schmoozers: I’m actually more of an introvert! But my “hammy” side gets a thrill out of taking the stage, finding my voice, and touching the lives of others.
  • A topic. The good news is you can speak about nearly anything and find willing clients. What obstacles have you overcome? What skill is uniquely yours? Here are some actual conference speaking topics that I found on the web:
    • Feel the Qi: The Healing Promise of Tai Chi and Qigong
    • Talking with Your Parents about Sex & Sexuality
    • The Global Aluminum Foil Industry: Challenges for Profitable Growth

Come on, I bet you could come up with at least three better topics while in the shower tomorrow!

  • A website. There are loads of tools to make a quick website. You’ll want to include a photo, brief bio, sample speaking topics, and ideally, a video of you in action. (Most meeting planners won’t hire you sight unseen.) How to get a video? Easy – offer to do a free speech for a local group, like a chamber of commerce. Then find a newbie videographer on Craigslist. For a modest fee, he’ll relish the chance to add to his video portfolio. Upload the footage to YouTube and embed in your site.
  • The right prospects. Look to large associations, four-year colleges, and corporations for opportunities to speak and get paid. One of the speakers I interviewed for my book said he simply started Googling the names of nearby states and the word “associations.” Then he would call all the “Kansas associations” he found on Google and ask to be considered as an upcoming conference speaker. He won a few gigs that way!

How much you can make

In the US alone, there are hundreds of thousands of speaker slots that need to be filled every year. Many of those pay speaker fees. And while it definitely takes time and credibility to earn larger speaking fees, I can assure you they are out there. Though my first speaking gig netted me $750, I typically earn in the $4,000 – $6,000 range these days. This year, I booked a pair of gigs for $6,500 each. That’s more than a hustle. That’s real cash.

In conclusion: adding a few paid speaking gigs each year to your revenue plan will require work and resources and practice. But when you land and deliver those first few speeches, I promise you will feel amazing. And your budget—already sexy—will look positively stunning.

Win a free copy of “Speaking on the Side”

speaking on side bookNot only was Jeff kind enough to stop by and share some words of wisdom w/ us today, he also agreed to give away one of his books to a lucky speaker wannabe :)

It’s called Speaking on the Side: The Definitive Guide to Earning Money and Happiness Without Quitting Your Day Job, and runs for about $15 on Amazon.

Want it? Tell us below what topic(s) you’re interested in speaking about, and you’ll automatically be entered to win it. I’ll randomly select a winner sometime over the weekend and hit ya up via email. U.S. and Canada only.

Good luck! Hope y’all got something out of this! :)

——-
Jeff Greene recently self-published his first book, Speaking on the Side: The Definitive Guide to Earning Money and Happiness Without Quitting Your Day Job. You can read free snippets on getting paid to speak, view speaker links from the book, and unlock the Speaking on the Side toolkit by visiting: www.SpeakingOnTheSide.com.

You can find previous side hustles here.
Have one of your own you’d like to share? Tell me about it.

*************
GIVEAWAY OVER: Congrats to “a terrible husband” for winning Jeff’s book!


{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt Becker January 23, 2014 at 5:55 am

What a cool gig! I’ve heard other people talk about getting speaking gigs before but I’ll be honest that I’ve never really considered it as an option. The travel part of it might not be up my alley, but if it was just a couple a year it could be a fun way to earn some extra cash and meet new people.

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2 a terrible husband... January 23, 2014 at 6:07 am

Awesome! I’m working on a public speaking side hustle myself!

I’m still working on the book, so the speeches are works in progress although here are some off-the-cuff titles that might be fun, in addition to the obvious “Confessions of a Terrible Husband; Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch:

Farting in the Other Room. And Five More Ways to Say I Love You.
If You Can Dodge a Wrench You Can Wash a Dish; A Conversation About Good Husbandry. (too obscure a reference?)
Love is Enough, But Most People Do it Wrong. How to Love Your Wife Well.
and
Baseball. Now That I Have Your Attention, Let’s Talk About How to be a Better Husband.

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3 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

Hahahahha… OMG I love you, man. And I would pay to come listen to that presentation!!

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4 J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Guess what man? YOU WON!!! Emailing you now for info – congrats :) Hope it helps you bring in more money AND help sell your books while you’re at it!

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5 Snarkfinance January 23, 2014 at 6:25 am

Never thought about paid public speaking, although I love public speaking. Perhaps this is something I will look into. Were I to go about public speaking, I think most of my topics would be finance/pop culture related:

1) Pop Culture and Finances: How We Learn to Spend
2) Movies and Our Self-Image
3) Create a Life-Plan Before Life Passes You By

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6 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 23, 2014 at 6:58 am

Very cool – this sounds like a great thing for people to do to augment a retirement as well since they typically have a good deal of experience to speak about and draw on from that.

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7 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:38 am

Agreed. It’s like consulting – something you’re awesome at and passionate about, but also a way to “stay in the game” as well as get paid. It’s partially why I started my blog mentoring service – I’d love to help people grow their site AND get paid for it full-time! Or, part time when I’m retired :)

(My one-pager on it’s here, btw, for anyone curious: jmoney.biz/mentoring)

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8 Liz January 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

Wow sounds like a fairly lucrative side hustle! For 750 I could almost get over my lack of public speaking skills. hahah no seriously I need to work on this for sure. I would love to speak to high school kids about money. I think that could be pretty fun since they are at such a pivotal point in their lives.

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9 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:43 am

You’d have to make it super fun too, that’s for sure. Keep those guys’ attention!

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10 Brian@ Debt Discipline January 23, 2014 at 8:45 am

Nice side hustle! I think would like to speak about personal financial, how to help other get out of debt!

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11 moneystepper.com January 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

Wow – that’s a pretty cool gig. $6k for a speech isn’t half bad!! I better get educated enough in something interesting to tell big rooms of people!! :)

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12 Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions January 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

Nice! I could see myself doing that. I’m very extroverted and love to talk (probably too much! LOL!). I can think of a half dozen topics off the top of my head: Everyday Negotiation, Overcoming fears to pay down debt, Media Literacy: What are tobacco and alcohol advertisers really selling?, Legal Documents Every Family Should Have, Estate Planning for Medicaid Eligibility, and a bunch of other, very specific, legal presentations I’ve already taught.

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13 Chris @ amplifytoday.com January 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

Great idea. I’d like to think I’m a good public speaker but don’t get to do it very often. Never really considered speaking for money – kind of thought that was limited to celebs, athletes, politicians. But why should they get all the action?

I’d be interested in sharing my thoughts and strategies on wearable technology and adopting it to people’s lives. Fitness tracking is growing so I bet there’s an appetite for it somewhere – just need to find it.

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14 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:48 am

Just started rockin’ the Fitbit Force last month! So far so awesome :)

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15 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life January 23, 2014 at 9:20 am

Now THIS sounds like a side hustle I could get into :) My only fear is that someone will look at me and say, What are her qualifications? Why should we listen to her? Do you need to have some kind of credentials?

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16 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:54 am

I suffer from that all the time with blogging, Stef.

“Imposter syndrome”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

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17 Sara January 23, 2014 at 9:33 am

What a great article! I never realized that conference speaking was so lucrative. I’ve spoken at a couple local rotary / chamber of commerce type dealies and never got paid a cent (probably because I didn’t think to ask).

Topics I can speak to include managing and understanding millenials in the workplace, the benefits of attending all-women colleges, and basic technology discussions for people who need a primer. I tend to be that-young-person-who-explains-what-snapchat-is at my work and I know that many, many people would be eager to ask questions about social media, web presence, SEO, cloud-based tools, etc if they knew that the person answering would be patient and kind with them. I could also talk about personal finance and getting out of debt when you have the kind of student loans most people my age are saddled with.

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18 Mike Collins January 23, 2014 at 9:38 am

Wow that’s pretty good money! How much time do you spend preparing for each speech? And have you ever had a really embarrassing moment on stage?

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19 Jeff Greene January 23, 2014 at 11:42 am

Mike sorry I didn’t address the first part of your question in my reply (somewhere below). Most of my speeches are customized for the client. I start with a few foundational topics and then tailor from there. It’s not quick! I probably put in at least 25-30 hours before stepping foot on stage, and often more. That’s why people get paid to speak – it’s not really for the 60 minutes you’re behind the podium, it’s for the prep and research and travel and conference calls and flying through Cleveland during a blizzard (true story).

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20 J. Money January 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm

25-30 hours??? OMG. No wonder the hustlers rise to the top!

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21 Becky @ RunFunDone January 23, 2014 at 9:51 am

This is a side hustle that I would actually enjoy. I like speaking in front of people! I don’t know what I’d speak about though…I guess that might be an important part of figuring out how to be a public speaker!

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22 Carlton January 23, 2014 at 9:58 am

I am not a particularly great public speaker, but if I have a goal when I get up to talk I am not too bad at it. Some things I could talk about are definitely coin subjects (maybe a history of some of the coins that could have been) and another one that I have been considering is working up a presentation for rural museums about how to help their organization avoid law suits, especially over acquisitions of new artifacts.

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23 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

Awesome!! Are you a coin collector? I just started a year and a half ago – I’m addicted now :) And would most def. listen to your talk on any subjects on the matter, really.

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24 Jeff Greene January 23, 2014 at 10:14 am

Hey gang – thanks so much for the positive comments and questions. I had fun writing the article. A few thoughts:

- Mike, the most embarrassing thing that happened to me was probably when a lady in the audience said one of the tips I had just shared was unethical. She went off on me for five minutes! I was kind of stunned, because the tip wasn’t really unethical at all. Fortunately, people in the audience came to my rescue. And I’ve figured out how to deal with the unexpected.

- Becky yes, you need some topics before you approach meeting planners about speaking. What life experiences have you had? What problems have you overcome? What expertise can you share?

- Stefanie, it’s true that the first few times you get up on stage (for free or for pay), you will likely be doubting yourself. I spoke for free for a couple of years at local events, before going after paid gigs. It gave me time to practice and build confidence without worrying about “screwing up” for a paying client. A moving presentation, more than any credential, will confirm to audiences that you are the “real deal.”

Would love to hear more questions and ideas. BudgetsAreSexy is the best!

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25 J. Money January 23, 2014 at 10:51 am

Thanks for writing it all up and interacting with us, brotha. A great hustle we hadn’t covered yet on this site :)

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26 kristin January 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

i’d love to give a talk on how your job doesn’t have to be your passion. You can do a job you enjoy and explore your passion in your free time.

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27 Renee s January 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

I would love to talk about being born with abnormalities and undergoing numerous surgeries, etc. How would i look into finding speaking gigs?

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28 Renee s January 23, 2014 at 11:16 am

you’ve hooked me–i bought the book :) I’m excited about this :)

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29 Jeff Greene January 23, 2014 at 11:35 am

Renee so glad to hear. In fact in my “day job” I work in healthcare communications. There are some specific opportunities for health activists to speak – connect with me and I’ll send you a note with some ideas.

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30 Renee s January 23, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I connected with you on linkedin–thanks for your help :) I have always wanted to share my story and my insights, but never knew how I could *reach* people—public speaking–DUH! lol Thanks again :) Any help would be appreciated!

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31 Renee s January 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hey jeff :)

I emailed you and was wondering if you had received it! Is your email jeffataboutjeffgreene.com? Thank you!

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32 Wendy January 23, 2014 at 10:44 am

What a great idea! I’ve done a lot of speaking and presenting, but never thought of converting it to a paying gig. I’d probably pursue topics that I’ve already worked on–dealing with conflict in the workplace, employee motivation, community involvement in education….Now the wheels are turning!

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33 saniel January 23, 2014 at 11:01 am

Vegan lifestyle
Nutrition
Raw foods
Sprouts/sprouting
Soaking your nuts
Becoming a vegan

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34 J. Money January 24, 2014 at 12:34 pm

“Soaking your nuts” – hahaha…. I’d sign up for that regardless of the topic :)

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35 Georgie Miller January 23, 2014 at 11:05 am

I’d love to do this! I could talk about:

Becoming vegetarian
Taking care of your diabetic pet
Using Pinterest to improve your life

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36 Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) January 23, 2014 at 11:13 am

I am an introvert too but I absolutely love public speaking. I always have. For some reason, I find it easier to talk to 1,000 strangers than to talk one on one with someone. Off the top of my head, I would love to talk to younger people about budgeting in a way that was fun and fabulous. I’d also like to talk about how to hustle and present yourself when it comes to job interviews. In my last job before I was self employed I taught students how to do cover letters and resumes and interview. I’d like to do that again, just minus all the stuff I had to grade so public speaking sounds great!

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37 Jeff Greene January 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

Cat I know there are many opportunities to speak (for pay) at colleges and universities. Though I’ve never done it myself, I know people who have been very successful. It takes a lot of upfront work and networking but there is a strong need for speakers who can present frankly to student organizations, fraternities/sororities, etc. about tough topics. I’m sure budgeting is one of them. Connect with me on LinkedIn or e-mail and I will send you some ideas.

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38 Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) January 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

That sounds great – Thanks Jeff! :)

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39 Veronica Holtz January 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

This is great! I’ve never been afraid to speak in public and I often look forward to it. People have complimented me on my ability to speak publicly, too. However, as a technical writer, I pretty much have zero opportunity to speak in front of others! Usually I’m listening or writing on my own. I’d love to share what I’ve learned regarding knowledge management. It’s a fascinating concept that most people take for granted (or curse with the fire of a thousand suns when they can’t find that one gosh darn document!). I’d also like to get involved with Toastmasters. If I’m going to speak in public, I’d like to do it right!

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40 melissab January 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

This book looks like a great read! I would speak on meal planning, freezing and preserving food that you’ll actually eat, and budgeting!

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41 Ruth January 23, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I’m a ham at heart and love speaking and teaching others! I am skilled and experienced in conflict resolution, which is a topic that scares most people. I agree with Veronica that Toastmasters might be a great place to start in gaining experience and feed-back!

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42 Steve January 23, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I would speak on the challenges of raising a high functioning autistic son with an IQ over 140. It may need to be a week long speaking gig.

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43 J. Money January 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Oh wow…

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44 Jon January 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Hmm I would probably speak on:

1) Divorce and how to see the light at the end of the tunnel

2) Kids! How to keep yourself sane through the teenage years

3) Digital Marketing! Mmmm I love cookies!!

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45 Della A. Beaver January 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

The topic I would love to speak on is being Fierce & Fabulous After 50!

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46 Sarah January 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

This is my dream job!! I am an expert in exactly zero areas, but I do know a little bit about: budgeting, how to survive the baby years, and how to help your husband finish his PhD. I could rock those conference talks!

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47 Matt Giovanisci January 23, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Wait, people get paid to speak?? Damn, I’ve been doing my speaking gigs for free. Actually, I’ve had to even pay to get to the gig. Boy is my face red.

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48 Jeff Greene January 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Matt it’s okay – lots of people speak for free, to get practice, support their businesses, and just for the opportunity to share. You can use that experience and parlay it into a paid side gig, if that would be of interest to you.

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49 Sarah B January 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm

I’ve been considering trying out public speaking from personal experience, specifically:
- surviving and thriving after a PTSD diagnosis
- living with an invisible illness, coping mechanisms and how to educate others to the challenges of those living with them.
Any ideas on how to get started?

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50 Jeff Greene January 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Sarah please connect with me – I have a special place in my heart for health activists who are trying to get onto the speaking circuit. Have a few ideas I will send your way. :)

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51 Sarah B January 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I just sent you a connection request on LinkedIn. I look forward to speaking with you!

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52 Stephanie January 23, 2014 at 9:37 pm

I spent 15 years in Marketing at an insurance company. I spoke to groups as small as 2 and as big as 350, presenting insurance benefits info. I presented in English and Spanish. Spoke with the common workers as well as State Senators and the Guv. A fantastic job I loved!!! I am hoping to pry open that door again at my current job as a Trainer is needed and guess what ?? My luck-it’s all about Insurance again. Though Carlton you made me laugh so hard I cried- would def attend your talk.

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53 Aimee January 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

I wish I could do public speaking! For some reason my voice gets very quiet when speaking to an “important” group, even if I’m not nervous! I speak a lot to kids though. I think I would like to speak about:

Financing Education
Girl Scouts/Girl Leadership
Personal Finance for Teens

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54 Jeff Rose January 23, 2014 at 10:57 pm

How cool!

I actually just landed my first paid speaking gig this year. And the best part is I don’t have to travel: it’s in my town. :)

I have a good friend that is a speaker and he’s gradually increased his fees over the past couple of years. After Wiley published his most recent book, his fee jumped to the $7,500-$10,000 range; which is crazy to me!

As Jeff said above, “That’s real cash!”.

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55 J. Money January 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Congrats on the the gig, man! You’re always diversifying over there :)

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56 Tushar @ Everything Finance January 24, 2014 at 12:09 am

Wow, this is one of the best side hustles yet. I get really nervous in large crowds speaking, but I think everyone does. I’ve learned how to tame it. What a great gig – looks like it pays well.

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57 DClark January 24, 2014 at 12:16 am

I’ve been in Toastmasters for a long time and have been looking for the motivation to get out and get paid for what I can do. I would use a speech I did called Getting Off the Nail- the little things that we should do something about but they don’t hurt enough to make the effort. Thanks!

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58 Evanda Henry January 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

The topics that I would speak on is Safety, Wellness, and Health from Work to Home and Understanding Boomeranging ( Adults that return to live with their parents): For Parents and/or their Adult Child.

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59 Ree Klein January 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Hi Jeff,

J recommended that I read your book since I want to add public speaking to my income stream (a teeny tiny stream at the moment!). So I ordered it through Amazon and devoured it upon arrival…

Wow, this is a fantastic book for anyone who has any interest in public speaking. You’ve packed it with actionable tips that would take years to figure out on your own. I marked up many of the pages…”Do This!” “Great Tip!” “Awesome Idea!!!” …and I can’t wait to put them into action.

Thank you so much for taking the time to make this great info available…it’s worth much more than the cover price.

Cheers,
Ree

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60 J. Money January 25, 2014 at 7:32 am

So glad you liked it, Ree! Thought it would be right up your ally :)

(Jeff – I shot Ree your guest post the day I read it as we were just talking about speaking gigs. So she got a sneak peak before it went live here ;))

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61 Marilyn January 24, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Wha?!?!?!? I’m nervous to start typing, because until now I didn’t even know this was my dream. Could I actually do this? Truly. I love creating cool presentations and I love traveling. And I’m pretty sure I have a compelling story. After graduating as a DDS at 24, I developed a medical condition that rendered me unable to practice. Off the top of my head here goes.

Health hacking to Longevity – easy tips from a dentist married to a doctor (floss optional)
Finding Parenting Zen
Rocking Life after Disability
Mundane efficiency to make room for Awesome

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62 J. Money January 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

Y’all have been dropping some GREAT topic ideas!! Keep ‘em coming :) Will draw the winner in the next day or so…

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63 J. Money January 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

***GIVEAWAY OVER***

Congrats to “a terrible husband” for winning Jeff’s book! For everyone else, you can find his book on Amazon: “Speaking on The Side

Thanks for participating!

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64 Daniel Brown September 25, 2014 at 3:51 am

I have restarted this opening line several times for I am not sure how to approach this idea as a whole, however I do love the adding speaking gigs as a revenue stream. My idea would be to take everything to the base and observe life stripped of the advertisement with looks into the transcendentalist movement, in addition to that a heavy focus upon word usage and the dialogue that is choose to express ourselves. Combine that with comparing the middle path seen in Buddhism with the idea of loving your neighbor the new commandment given by Jesus. Finally, a look at current day politics and the issue of not compromising due to the fact of treating the beliefs we have as universal truths and not for what they are a belief. Another topic of conversation is universal truths that transcend past one belief and appear in almost all major religions. Is this something that you see as taking a hold or is no one going be able to listen to me for I am just a young man living in Montana.

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65 darlene December 16, 2014 at 7:50 pm

I want that book!
I want to be a motivational speaker, and this is a great resource to help me get started.
I would speak on these topics:
Importance of meal planning and prepping for financial freedom and weightless simultaneously. BAM!
How to create your own workout plan in accordance with your own personal weightless and fitness goals utilizing free reputable online resources.
Successful goal setting: how to create a goal with meaning and successfully achieve results.

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