Everyone Has a Story: Here's How You Can Get Paid to Share Yours

If you've transformed yourself from mess to success, you might have the makings of a new career helping others as a motivational speaker.

learn more about Judy Carter

By Judy Carter


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Public speaking is one of the most successful ways an entrepreneur can promote products and services. As a speaker, I not only get paid to give a speech, but there's also always a long line at the back of the room where I sell books and coaching services. Sometimes I speak for free because I know can make up for it selling product.

In my work as a motivational speaker, I travel first class and get paid to share my message with appreciative audiences. It's a far cry from my time as a standup comic. Back then, I flew coach so I could get heckled during my set and share a room at the local Motel 6. I now earn more from one speech than I did performing nine shows a week at a comedy club. My website offers video lessons, coaching sessions and online workshops to help people connect to their own stories.

Related: 10 Ways to Become a Paid Speaker

Do more than simply entertain.

Even motivational speakers hit low spots. When the recession hit in 2008, the public-speaking market went downhill along with many others. Companies could no longer justify hiring a pick-them-up, make-them-laugh speaker. They needed more than entertainment. They needed someone with a message who could deliver takeaways that improved efficiency, reduced sick days and boosted the bottom line.

I saw the writing on the podium and adapted my delivery style. I switched from being a "lighten-up humorist" to addressing topics such as stress reduction and leadership. I continued to use my comedy material to keep the audience laughing, but I added specific action steps to make my points and create lasting results.

Related: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the World's Best in Comedy

Define your 'mess-to-success' story.

Developing these steps is essential for anyone considering how to relate his or her money-making message to audiences. In my online speaking workshop, students define these crucial action steps by examining their own "mess-to-success" journeys. Then, they learn how to take advantage of the specifics that worked for them.

Each of my students has experienced his or her own life-changing events. But few of them had thought to examine how they lost weight, conquered a depression or started a business. They were so busy keeping up with LinkedIn and Facebook, they overlooked what life had taught them about overcoming a particular challenge.

Related: 5 Ways to Maintain a Positive Mindset (No Matter What Challenge You're Facing)

Find your action steps.

Getting in touch with your action steps is the way to earn extra income as a speaker. My personal action steps even transformed into a book, "The Message of You." Here's a brief guide to help you find your action steps and become a motivational speaker:

  • Make a list of your successes.
  • Next to each, note your starting point. It might be bad health, feeling directionless or something highly specific.
  • Explain how you got from your mess to your success.
  • Identify three things you did differently in your daily life to support that transition.
  • Give a name or label to each of those three tactics. These are your action steps.
Judy Carter

Keynote speaker, speaking coach, and workshop leader

Judy is an international keynote speaker, speaking coach, and workshop leader on the power of personal stories and humor to inspire others and decrease workplace stress. Her “wake-them-up” keynotes have thrilled attendees at many Fortune 500 companies including Fedex, Oracle, Disney, Boeing, as well as hundreds of finance, healthcare and women's events.

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