The Hardest Easy Job

I attended the National Speakers Association convention this past weekend, and heard a presenter refer to speaking as one of the “hardest ‘easy’ jobs there is.” Made us all laugh.

A friend of mine recently sought a speaker for a 30-minute keynote to kick off her event. When he quoted her a $5,000 fee, she told me, “Must be nice to make $5,000 for 30 minutes of work.”  See, no one sees the incredible amount of effort that goes into the back end of speaking. The countless hours spent producing new talks, marketing, negotiating contracts, customizing appearances, traveling to the event, dealing with follow-up, etc.

And it’s that way with artists too. People notice the $2,000 price tag on a wall-size painting and say, “Must be nice to charge so much,” but they have no idea how much work went into creating that piece.

I was speaking to a wood carver who was charging that same amount for a piece that took him two years to complete. If he spent an hour a day on that carving for those two years, and if his buyer pays what he is asking, he will have earned $2.73 an hour for the work he did. That’s far less than minimum wage. Doesn’t seem like such a high price anymore, does it?

We artists and entrepreneurs love our work. That’s a perk. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be paid fairly.  In the speaking profession, there’s a lot of talk about “charging what you are worth.” It’s scary, but it’s necessary. In order for us to do the work we were born to do, in order for us to use our talents to best serve our communities, we must be able to keep our doors open.

And there’s one thing you can count on with artists and creatives of all kinds, we will rarely let our work get easy. Why? Because once it does, it’s no longer a challenge and it’s no longer unique or original, which is what we think you deserve.


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