No gotchas

There are so many surprises on the journey of entrepreneurship. One of them is with all the fees you can end up paying!

I knew I wanted to be able to take credit cards for my work. But when I signed up for a merchant account, no one warned me about the “gotchas”! Between the bank, the merchant account,, and the credit card companies, there were lots of opportunities for fees. I wonder if all the layers re to make these fees seem less significant. And these fees were removed automatically from my bank account. I know it’s the cost of doing business but I didn’t like the roller coaster ride. I’d see sales happen so I’d think I’d made a certain amount of money. But there was less in my account than I expected due to them taking fees out multiple times a month.

A few months ago, I started with Infusionsoft Payments. One thing I love about Infusionsoft Payments is how straightforward it is. What is sent to my account is mine to keep. No games, no gotchas.

And no gotchas lets me focus on what I love doing: helping my clients and creating new content!

The balance has shifted

BalanceChessboard-ScotlandCommonsFlickr240wI was approached by a major publisher last week to write a book. Flattered, I asked what they had in mind. I figured they had a series of books that had a hole my expertise could fill.

Their reply? A generic book proposal form. “Here, think of something that you’re getting asked alot. Or something you want to write about. Then fill this out and we’ll see if we’ll work with you.”

Thanks but no thanks.

The shift is about access

I’ve written seven books now, two with publishers and 5 self published. It used to be that publishers had the access to readers. It was like that in every area of media:

  • If an author wanted to reach readers, they’d go through a publisher.
  • If a DJ wanted to reach listeners, they’d go through a radio station.
  • If a TV personality wanted to reach viewers, they’d go through a network.

Now that has totally changed. Authors can reach readers for free through blogs. DJs through podcasts. TV personalities through YouTube. Not only reach them, but grow a base of fans.

This shift has been going on for a while now. Since before I started blogging in the late 1990s. But it’s even more prevalent now.

Still a role for the “legacy” systems

There’s plenty of room for all of us in this game. One very important role for publishers, radio stations, and TV stations is filtering. Some call it “curating.”

Just because anyone can create content doesn’t mean all the content is great. Publishers and others can respond to the shift by focusing on credibility and trustworthiness.

To the content creator, they can emphasize the credibility they provide. Sometimes that is internal. It’s great to know I’ve been published by a publishing house. That makes me feel more “legit.” And there is still the external credibility, that to readers, of having a publisher’s name on your book. That is the trustworthiness. Legacy systems could say, “You don’t need to sift through the chaos of information out there. We’re saving you time by doing that for you and bringing you only the best.”

But I’m not seeing that shift yet. Instead, I’m seeing legacy systems trying hard to make what worked last century work today. And being surprised to find that it no longer works.

It used to be that they held the upper hand. It seems to me that we’re now closer to being peers. But I wonder how the legacy systems will adjust to realize they now need to market to both the content consumers and the content creators.

Much is about marketing

I wonder if that is the key. If much of the shift in balance has to do with marketing rather with access. Access alone isn’t enough. We all have access to each other. But only those who market well get heard.

If the legacy systems like publishers were good at marketing, then going through them would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, they’re not. A couple years ago, I was excited to write a book with a publisher because I wanted to learn how to launch the book. I knew there had to be a system for marketing books and I wanted to find it.

I did work with three rounds of editors. That was an important process for me to experience as an author. But the “launch” never happened. Rather than having a marketing system, they seemed to be making it up as they went along. All that access I thought they had? They appeared to think I’d had it all along and were looking for me to give them access to my audience. Worse, I don’t own the content I created with them and they won’t even send me copies of my book despite repeated promises. (Copies I’d be charged for.)

Still room for a mix

I still believe there room for a mix of legacy systems and whatever we call the new reality. Micro-publishers? Content creators? Free range publishers?

But it needs to start with us playing the game more as equals. What about you? Have you found legacy systems that realize the shift of balance has changed?

Thoughts on starting a speaking business

Fundraising training and speaking
As I get ready to be the guest tonight on Michele Price’s #speakchat Twitter chat, I’ve been thinking about building a speaking career. There are lots of thoughts swirling through my mind. I hope these help encourage you at whatever step you are in the process.

Reasons to Start a Speaking Business

When I was 16, I promised myself to never be at the mercy of only one stream of income. As a verbal extrovert, speaking was right up my alley! Speaking has the benefits of

  • When you’re speaking, you’re getting to help a lot of people at the same time.
  • As a speaker, you get to travel to various locations (not that you stick around long enough to see the sites!).
  • The very act of speaking at conferences and to teams gets your name out to other people who might want to hire you. Groups love having speakers promote their sessions. And speakers should because it lets prospects know what you do and that you like doing it!
  • Speaking is well suited for other types of products.
    • You can record your talks and sell them as CDs and digital downloads.
    • You can get videos of your talks and sell them as DVDs or downloads.
    • And you can write out your talks and seminars to create blog posts or ebooks.
  • Speaking is incredibly fun. You get to come into a place, share helpful ideas, remind people how great they are, and then go home. Any follow up is another type of income!

Increasing Bookings Using the “Ask Without Fear!” Strategy

In my fundraising book Ask Without Fear!, I encourage people to raise money with a four step strategy: reasearch, engage, ask, love. Let’s see how this works with speaking.

  1. Research
    First you need to know what you know. What are you good at talking about? And why you? What is your unique “point of view”? Why will people hear you?

    Then you need to research where people are looking for something like this. It’s really helpful to have a specific niche. You could talk about sales training, but you will have better results if you speak to a specific type of sales. Cell phone sales in retail locations? Anything.

    You know if you have a good niche if there are already associations, conferences, and events supporting that same niche.

    Pigeon holing yourself to a niche is probably the hardest thing for us as speakers. We know that we can help everyone with our topic. But no one hears something pitched at “everyone.” They start listening as you target them. All my goal setting and leadership expertise wasn’t worth anything to “everyone.” But as I focused on helping nonprofit boards raise lots of money, people started hiring me.

    The funniest thing to me is that once you specify a niche, people from other sectors will bring you in too! The most out-of-niche gig so far was speaking at the Bowl Expo in Las Vegas. But you know what, nonprofit fundraising has a lot to do with owning a bowling center!

  2. Engage
    Get to know the people both who’ll be hiring you and who’ll you’ll be speaking to. What are they currently talking about. What has their attention? Social media? A new gadget? See if your talk can incorporate that.

  3. Ask
    Do all you can to ask to speak. As much as I hate them, I am a sort of fan of cold calls. Really. I find the more cold calls I do, the more calls I get from people actually looking for speakers like me. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m not messing with what’s working!

    One form of “cold call” I do I call a my conference rescue. If you’ve ever organized a conference, you know that speakers always drop out at the last minute. So I call or email offering to help. If they’re interested, we talk about the topic (usually you have to take what they’ve already been publicizing). Then you talk about the fee–in addition to travel expenses. I tend to offer to come down on my rate for the conference rescue folks.

  4. Love
    Thank the people that hire you, the people that listen to you, and anyone else along the way. Thank them publicly on your blog and privately in notes and emails.

    One way I show love to attendees is to offer something of value to them. I usually offer to email my PowerPoint slides to them after the session if they give me their business card. That allows me to follow up with them.

Knowing How Much to Charge

One of the weirdest things is figuring out how much to get paid. Most speakers I know follow a pattern something like this:

  • They start out speaking at conferences they were already planning on going to.
  • Then they get free registrations to those conferences.
  • Then they get some travel reimbursement and the conference registration.
  • And somewhere along the way, they start naming a fee in addition to travel.

I remember the first time I named a fee. I’d been speaking at one industry conference for years. I did it for free but they comp’ed my registration. And I always landed at least one paying client from the gig.

Then one year, they wanted me to speak at a conference I wasn’t planning on going to. A free registration to a conference I didn’t want to attend had no value. And I told them so. I worked up all the gumption I could and told them my fee for that session was $500. They ended up paying it, in addition to the hotel and travel. I now get more than 10 times that amount for the same talk, but that first $500 ask was one of the scariest in my life!

For some reason, when I was starting out I found it easy to say I got $1000 a day. And people went for it. I now receive around $7500 for a keynote. But I’m not impressed with myself yet since I know some speakers get $20,000 – $25,000 for a 40 minute keynote. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pricing is an odd thing. People really feel they get what they pay for. So there is a prestige in paying more for a speaker. A really odd thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to do the things I say if they’ve paid more to hear me. I could say the same fundraising strategy at a free Rotary talk and be completely blown off. But if I say them as a $7500 keynote, people actually act on what they hear. And when they act on what they hear, they end up seeing positive results.

The most important advice on setting a fee I can offer is this: don’t be the Walmart of your sector. Being the cheapest option is a losing proposition. It’s far easier to set a boutique price and negotiate down, than it is to set a low price and try to negotiate up.

Where to Find Speaking Gigs

Every day, people are desperately seeking speakers to fill their conferences and club meetings. How do you find them? Here are some places to find your first gigs.

  • Conferences I was already attending
    I often knew the organizers or was an organizer myself, so I started here.
  • Toastmasters
    I have no experience with this group but people say they’re pretty amazing.
  • Community Colleges
    When I moved back to Maine, I noticed our local community college did a lot of trainings-in-a-box things for companies. You know, curriculum like “Fish” or Ken Blanchard stuff. So I contacted them. They asked me to create something for nonprofits. Those seminars later became the foundation for my first published book.
  • Service Clubs
    I love talking to Rotary groups. Don’t go expecting to hard sell. That’s not why they meet. Service clubs are about the club and its goals. Speakers help make the meetings interesting and informative. So be interesting and informative. The 15-20 minutes you get will force you to be on top of your game. (And be able to give your talk without PowerPoint slides! More time is wasted at these meetings by speakers trying to get the borrowed projector to work!)
  • Local Professional Associations
    Many communities have local associations, women in leadership groups, Christian leaders groups, all sorts of leadership groups. See if they’re interested in your topic.
  • Chambers of Commerce
    One of my biggest encouragers is Chip Morrison, the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Lewiston, Maine. He was cheering me on when I didn’t even believe in myself. I still love testing out new material for his Chamber. (And he still doesn’t pay me!)

I’d steer clear of speaking bureaus. I’ve found speaking bureaus to be more interested in me paying them for a listing than in getting me gigs. Plus, if my listing were found on their site, they’d take a huge chunk of the fee! I decided to make my website really easy to find instead.

Getting Organizers to Call You

Making calls is an important first step. Even more important than having a snazzy brochure or direct mail campaign. But in this digital age, you can do some things to make it easier for people to call you. Here are a couple tips:

  1. Start writing
    My first gig came from an article I wrote about the way I did my work. I really didn’t think it was anything special, didn’t everyone see the world like I did? But it turns out my point-of-view was unique and something people wanted to learn more about. Viola! A seminar was born.

    It used to be that you had to spend lots of time submitting writing to magazines. I’d encourage you to do that, but now you can publish your writing on a blog and start building your own platform too.

  2. Build an Email List
    People that may need you may not need you when you first meet them. So start an email list that will help you stay in front of them. I like my every other week email newsletter. Every other Tuesday was a rhythm I could keep up with. Since you already have a niche, you can offer something of value to that group. I offer a free article on some aspect of fundraising in each issue. What could you offer?

  3. Have a Professional Looking Website
    I’m not a whiz at web design, but I do know that dancing cats and confusing fonts make you look like an amateur. My fundraising training site is based on a free WordPress template. I hired a web designer to tweak that template to make it mine. Now everything looks consistant and professional.

    Be specific with the keywords you use for SEO (search engine optimization). Every self-proclaimed SEO guru was trying to convince me to hire them to get me in the first page of results for searches on “fundraising” or “fundraising ideas.” But I knew that was a waste of time. One search on either term showed that people searching for “fundraising ideas” were looking for popcorn and gift wrap. So I decided to target searches like “fundraising training” and “fundraising webinar.” Those were things that people expected to pay more for. And people searching on those terms were much further down the sales funnel for me.

    And as you collect images for use on your site, be sure to have images of the audience listening to you speak. (Like the one on this post.) Most of us fill our site with images of ourselves on stage. But a speaking coach told me that organizers want to see that their audience will enjoy you. You have to ask people to get those shots, but they’re worth it. (Web secret: You can put your chosen keywords in the title and alt tags in these images.)

    Does this work? It sure does. Less than a year ago, some conference organizers in Mexico typed “fundraising training” into Google. My page came up on the first page and looked the most professional. As a result, this guy from rural Maine was flown down to give the keynote for the World Fundraising Summit in Monterrey, Mexico.

    It works.

Speaking is a Fabulous Profession

I have found speaking to be incredibly rewarding. I hope this post helps give you some ideas to get you started on a speaking journey!

Please use the comments to let me know what you would add to this post!

501 Mission Place Launches

I opened my email this morning to see this update in a Human Business Works note from Chris Brogan:

501 Mission Place Launches

Hi Marc —

I am so excited to report that 501 Mission Place, our HBW community to help nonprofits and charities grow, is launched! If you run a nonprofit or charity project or know someone who does, this community and learning experience was built for them. Our goal is to help people grow their capabilities in this tough economic time, when giving is drying up exactly at the same moment that people need it.

501 Mission Place started as a conversation between Rob Hatch and me. Over the summer, we went on vacation together, brought Jon Swanson and Marc Pitman along, and by the end of it, we had a lot of ideas how we could help charities do more with less. We then needed a leader to facilitate the experience. Estrella Rosenberg who runs many nonprofits including Big Love Little Hearts for congenital heart defects, was the obvious person for the role. And we added also John Haydon, a smart guy with a lot of feet-on-the-ground experience of his own.

The result is 501 Mission Place, an educational community dedicated to equipping nonprofits and charities for success.

Because this benefits the nonprofit sector, we’ve done everything we can to keep costs down. The monthly subscription rate is just a low $27 USD, about the price of a hardcover book. Annually, that’s a little bit less than the ticket cost of a conference (and you don’t have to pay airfare or hotel fees).

Our hope is that you’ll pass this on to any nonprofit or charity people you know, as they might not already be subscribed to the HBW mailing list, and if you would, we’d be grateful. We think that 501 Mission Place will be very useful to people.

As always, thank you for all that you do. I’ll have more personal development and business growth thoughts shortly.


I am so excited! I’ve been working with the team on this for months. Together, we’re going to help nonprofit people do amazing things!

I’ll blog more about this later (probably at I’m about to get on a coaching call with a very cool client. But I’m so excited I wanted to let the world know!

MK337 Marketing on the Internet

I just finished writing a syllabus for MK337 “Marketing on the Internet,” a course I’ll be teaching in the spring at Thomas College.

I’m very excited about these 16 weeks! One of the projects for each student will be to actually market something, a prodcut, service, membership site…just about anything!

In addition to blogs and articles on the web, the text books include:

It’s an undergraduate course, but if you want to join us, I’m sure the Thomas College registrar might be able to help. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not the best sales tactic

I got spammed on LinkedIn.

There wasn’t anyway to report the message. So I replied telling the sender that it was an inappropriate. My exact response was:

This type of spam is incredibly inappropriate for LinkedIn.

Please don’t ever mail me this kind of message again.

His heated response, basically telling me he was offended that I was so ungrateful for the incredible opportunity he’d offered. Check out his last paragraph:

If you’re so self-righteous that you can “do business” then feel free to remove me from your contact list. Don’t be such a priss. If you’re not interested then just archive the message, don’t snivel about it.

My email may have been out of line. I might have been better saying something like “I’m am confused by this use of LinkedIn. Please don’t include me on this list.”

But the way to win over me if I screw up is not by calling me names. (I’m not even sure what he means by “do business.”)

Have any of you received blind, spam-like email on LinkedIn?