In 2013, I wrote an article that went viral. More than 50 million people read my list of the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do and before I knew it, I was being invited to speak to people across the globe.
At the time, I was a psychotherapist, so I was used to speaking to one person at a time in my office, not crowds of people. There was a steep learning curve about the craft of speaking as well as the business aspect.
But now that I've been speaking for a while, I have a better handle on what it takes to get paid to speak.
Every week I field questions from people who want to break into the speaking business. Many of them are eager to get started, but they aren't sure how to become a motivational speaker.
The speaking business can be a little tough to break into. But once you get a few paid gigs under your belt, you'll likely start fielding more lucrative opportunities.
Develop Your Ideas
You won't become a successful public speaker by rehashing old ideas in the same way as everyone else. You need to develop fresh, relevant content that people want to hear.
Invest a lot of time into thinking about your message and how you can deliver it in a way that will inspire, motivate, and captivate an audience.
Identify Your Ideal Audience
It can be tempting to think your message will resonate with everyone. But, the truth is, a message that's too generic won't leave a big impact on anyone.
So rather than decide you're going to speak about sales or that you're going to motivate all business leaders, narrow down your niche. Identify the types of groups who you really want to reach so you can create content that will resonate with them.
Test Your Content
The internet gives you opportunities to test your content before you get on stage. Most people, however, worry that no one will hire them if they give away their best stuff for free.
But if you inspire thousands--or perhaps even millions--of people online, you'll attract attention and people will want to hear more from you.
Use social media to share original quotes or to launch a blog to share your ideas. When things catch on, you'll know you're on the right path. Your audience will let you know what they want to learn more about if you're willing to listen.
Gain Speaking Skills
Having good content is only part of the battle. The way you deliver your message is more important than the words you use.
Even if you think you're a rock star speaker already, there's a good chance you have some bad habits (from swaying back and forth while you talk to using filler words like "um" more than you know).
Join a public speaking group, take a college communications class, or hire a speaking coach to help you develop better communication habits. A few little tweaks to your delivery can make or break your career as a speaker.
Also, record yourself giving a speech and watch it back. It can be painful to watch yourself but it's important to learn more about your hand gestures, body language, and speaking habits so you can improve.
Offer to Speak for Free
Once you have your content ready to go and you're comfortable speaking to an audience, offer to speak for free. Reach out to local organizations who may benefit from your content.
There are many conferences around the country who don't pay speakers (some of them offer free admission to speakers). Apply to speak for them to help you gain practice speaking to a live audience.
Some people do a handful of free speaking engagements before they feel equipped to look for paid gigs while others speak at a few dozen events before they feel comfortable charging. But be prepared to speak for free until you're in-demand.
Once you feel like you have a talk ready to go, start marketing yourself. Build a website that shows you're a speaker. Add "speaker" to your social media profiles.
Tell everyone you know that you're looking for speaking engagements. Word of mouth is often a key factor in getting speaking engagements.
Keep releasing content too. Blog about your ideas, guest post on popular sites, make videos, or write a book. Release your ideas into the world so you can gain credibility as an expert.
Event planners will want to see you in action as they make decisions about who to hire to speak, so at some point, you'll want to create a demo reel that showcases you as a speaker. It may contain footage of you from several speeches, clips of you in the media, or audience reviews of your performance.
Apply to Speak
Early on in your speaking career, you may need to apply for speaking gigs. Be on the lookout for conferences, conventions, and gigs.
Find other speakers with a similar message and see where they're speaking. You might reach out to event organizers and ask them to keep you in mind for future events.
The more your speaking career grows, the less you'll need to apply for speaking opportunities. Eventually, people will seek you out.
And if you're doing well, speaker bureaus will want to represent you and they'll proactively market you as a speaker for events. They'll take a percentage of your fee, but they can help you obtain higher paying gigs.