Pay to Play

Pay to Play by Dawn Bates

Regardless of whether it is a game of crazy golf on the beach, going back stage at a concert, or working 1:1 with an influential leader in our chosen field of career advancement, we all need to pay to play at some point in our lives.

For most of us we are happy to pay for services rendered, others not so much, choosing to be what I call an ‘obese inspiration eater’, someone who absorbs all the free inspirational content and who does nothing with it.

Many of us who are at the beginning of the journey want to get our message out there in some of the most coveted publications and on stages with the BIG names, and the beginning of our journeys are all at very different levels of the game.

For some it might mean going regional, for others it may be national, and for those of us who have been in this game for a much longer period of time, it could be going international, and taking our speaking career to the six-figure price tag.

To get seen, and to have our names headlines with those at the top of our chosen industry, we choose to pay for articles in magazines, pay to speak at events, but there comes a point where paying to play is dishonouring who we are, and the value we bring to the chosen audiences.

We can keep gifting our time, our expertise and insights, and many of us do, so when is it the right time to say “No, I am no longer going to pay to play. If you want me to write for your publication or speak at your event, or be a guest trainer/facilitator, you need to pay me”.

This transition can be a challenging one, one that can sometimes bring a temporary halt to our speaking and writing careers, but we must have faith if we are going to build the next level of authority and take our careers to the next level of success.

Getting paid a minimum of $5000USD is often the starting point for many keynote speakers, with the elevation to the coveted 6 figure sums and beyond being more about our experience, and the all important climb in confidence to command those top level fees.

Looking at these fees is not only about what we deliver on the day, but it is the experience, energy and the promotion we are giving the publications and events in return prior to the event, on the day and for the months that follow.

Our teams are busy promoting, connecting and hopefully doing such a great job they are bringing in the audience members so the organisation paying us $5000USD for a keynote speech get a great return on their investment.

As keynote speakers we not only have to deliver great value on the day, but we ideally need to be bringing in a minimum number of guest attendees at particular price per ticket, and that is if we are only looking at the host breaking even on a financial basis.

Looking at any return on investment on a purely monetary level would be foolish though.


Because the return on investment is the marketing we are doing for the individual event or the cause. The event host is using what is known as an OPP – Other People’s Platform – to get their event known, and if they were to get the exposure through normal advertising channels, the fees would be a lot higher than the fee they are paying us to speak.


Because some of those in our network are not the kind of people you can reach due to their level of exclusivity. We bring new ideas, networking opportunities and wisdom for those in attendance, we bring in referrals, collaborations, as well as a level of prestige to the event.

Others who are not yet at the stage of being paid speakers are going to want to pay to play in our space, which will then bring in another revenue stream for the organisers, something many overlook when considering whether we are worthy of booking.

As someone who has been speaking at prestigious black tie events as an after dinner guest, appearing as a sought after guest, expert panelist and trainer at in person events, as well as on traditional media channels across the globe for the past twenty years in both political, entrepreneurial, fundraising and community sectors, I have a huge amount of experience, knowledge and insight to bring to events.

As someone who lives the nomadic life, it can be challenging to break into new markets in different countries, simply because event organisers don’t recognise our name or experience, but just because it is a challenge, doesn’t mean success doesn’t happen.

In a world of online summits it is now so much more important for us to showcase our experience by repurposing and propagating content, which is easier said than done for those of use who have been guest speaker long before social media became a thing.

We don’t have our after dinner speeches on film, nor do we have the workshops, political hustings or community events on film. We may have once had a press photo somewhere in our press files, but goodness knows where they would be now, or what quality they would be.

Repurposing isn’t something many of us have the time to do, nor do we have the knowledge and experience on how to do it, which is why our teams get to work sharing snippets here and there gifting even greater exposure for the events we speak at.

The demand for speakers and contributors is ever expanding, and the number of platforms is growing at an exponential rate, especially in the US.

The fees for our speaking engagements no longer have to compete with booking a hotel’s conference hall or dining room, and with everything being digital, the costs of printed materials is also removed.

Our social media teams are also more savvy and aware of the competition in a world of white noise, so they have to make sure we as speakers get seen in all the right places, promoting events over a period of time, giving us the edge over those who do not repurpose content.

Event organisers also have a duty to provide their speakers with audience numbers whilst also repurposing and propagating our content to far reaching audiences; which to bring it full circle means the perceived hurdle for our key note speaking fees becomes a moot point.


Because again, back to the numbers, if the event organiser repurposes the content, selling recordings at a nominal fee of $50USD they only have to sell 100 copies of the event content, if the keynote is only $5000USD.

Keynote speaker fees are not something to be afraid of investing in, and result in the organiser being paid many times over, if they play the game of promtion, repurposing and product spectrum bonues properly.

Over the coming months I will be retreating from the online space to venture deep into the Amazon Rainforest, so I can focus on my writing and coaching those on my Authority MasterMinds; all of which can be found over on my website

These are very exciting times, and those who have found themselves setting up in business following redundancy have many opportuinities open to them, and whilst this article may be using the example of investing in a key note speaker for an event, it clearly shows an investment model many can relate to.

With so many new voices in the world of online businesses, and people wanting to get seen, heard and paid, it is time for us to look at how and where we are investing our time and money, and how we are using our success and influence to give a voice to the voiceless and a much more cohesive voice to the many voices already out there.

For those of us who have been in business for the last few decades, we have a golden opportunity to shine a light on the causes closest to our hearts, ones which we have been a private advocate for, whilst freeing up space to those who are climbing the ladder to the top.

We have a duty to those who have seen us succeed, because our journey is never really about any of us, it is about being of service, about being an inspiration, a beacon of light in an otherwise dim or dark world.

Others have modelled their businesses, their lifestyle on the example we have set, and it is now time for us to show them a new way in which to use our success through heart centred movements and gifting them a deeper understanding of what it took us to get to where we are.

We get to write our memoirs, have our biographies written and journey’s published so those not able to invest in our 5, 6 and 7 figure coaching get to understand what it truly takes to get to the top of the leader board.

All whilst gifting ourselves some much needed alone time to write and get present to just how far we have come and what we have achieved for ourselves and others.

This is a time for some major shifts and retreating even further into one’s solitude and privacy, getting present to the really important issues around the world, many of which have been highlighted for me personally by my lifestyle of being an ocean nomad sailing the world alone.

We can choose to ignore the social issues around the world, or we can use our success and influence for the next level of growth for our communities, countries and humanity as a whole.

What are you going to do about it though?

Only you can answer that, and when you do, let me know. I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, the rainforest is calling… and so is another publishing deadline!

Have a great month ahead and I will see you on the other side of the Amazon.

Ciao for now!

Thought-provoking content is what Dawn is known for, as well as her non-stop travel around the world by sailboat and her trademark giggle. To learn more about Dawn, visit

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