careertrend article image

How to Become a Motivational Speaker

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Share Your Heart to Impact Others

Motivational speakers share information and strategies with the goal of inspiring and impacting others to improve their lives. Their work often inspires individuals to reach for the stars and achieve their highest potential. If you have expertise in a particular area or have overcome significant obstacles in your life, you could become a public speaker and use those things to make a difference for other people. Hours can be unpredictable, and sometimes travel is involved, which could be difficult with children. However, your little ones will see you living your dreams, which might inspire them to do the same.

Job Description

Motivational speakers travel to conferences, events and corporate gatherings to speak publicly in an engaging way that inspires others. Plan to spend time preparing speeches, rehearsing speeches, traveling to events, speaking publicly and engaging the media on important topics. In-depth knowledge of your subject matter is integral, as are dynamic public speaking skills, charisma, people skills and self-management skills. Many motivational speakers are skilled writers who also publish books.

Education Requirements

Educational requirements vary for public speakers, since they are often self-employed. Your success depends on the depth of your knowledge and your charisma in conveying it.

Obtain education in your field of study, such as finance, music, art, psychology, spirituality or personal growth. Often, a speaker can simply meet the basic educational requirements for the field. For instance, a physician who speaks about health has attended medical school and completed a residency, while a minister has attended seminary and is ordained. Many life coaches become certified through various programs to lend legitimacy to their skills in the eyes of the public. However, extensive education is not always required for motivational speakers. Some well-known motivational speakers, such as Patsy Clairmont and Joni Eareckson Tada, use their personal experiences in overcoming obstacles to help launch their careers without pursuing advanced education.

Try to obtain excellency in public speaking. While some people are natural public speakers, most people benefit from some formal instruction and practice. Consider joining Toastmasters to learn the basics, and then volunteer to practice your new skills with community groups or at religious gatherings to hone them and feel more confident. As you gain experience speaking about your area of expertise, create a portfolio, launch a website, register with a speakers' bureau, or even publish a book to get your name out there. Issue press releases on important topics or events you host to get your face and name into your local community, or even make a guest appearance on a local morning show. Over time, when people feel inspired by your work, they are likely to recognize you and request you more.

While it's true that big names like Zig Ziglar or Iyanla Vanzant probably enjoy(ed) extremely large salaries as motivational speakers, it's also true that most motivational speakers work in smaller settings and earn a more modest income. The median annual salary for all lecturers and speakers is $50,016, which means that half earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent earns more than $81,000, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $31,000. Expertise, charisma and connections to the right media outlets have more to do with income than education, as in many other broadcasting arts.

About the Industry

Motivational speakers are generally self-employed professionals who work in the environment they are contracted to appear in. This sometimes requires flights and visits to other parts of the country or world. Be prepared to work in settings such as places of worship, community centers, convention centers, hotels, board rooms, corporate meeting halls, radio stations and television sets. Some motivational speakers also offer live broadcasts on social media and spend solitary time writing and researching books to help their fans. Travel and unpredictable hours can be difficult with children at home.

Years of Experience

Salary varies widely for motivational speakers. Some work nearly free by speaking in places of worship or at small community events. Others are widely recognized millionaires with a worldwide following. Speakers in more typical settings earn a solid income, but it does not always increase with time, and it may ebb and flow throughout your career. One projection looks like this:

  • Entry-Level: $26,179 - $100,743
  • Mid-Career: $31,952 - $95,624
  • Experienced: $34,726 - $116,350

Job Growth Trend

Motivational speakers are often considered part of the self-help industry, which was a $9.9-billion industry in 2012, with an expected growth of 5.6 percent by 2022 to a $13.2 billion industry. This is slower than in other industries. Part of the slowdown may be due to an increasing use of podcasts and free self-help and motivational material on social media. To set yourself apart and excel in this slow-growing industry, keep current on technology and communication trends for younger generations and meet your audience where they are.