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A speech writer will write a script for a speaker to follow when they address a crowd. While most people think of politics when it comes to speech writing, there are plenty of other markets for this skill. Everyone from business executives to motivational professionals may need someone to help them create a speech that speaks to their audience.
Who is this business right for?
This business is excellent for someone who loves inspiring people with words. It’s a niche form of writing that is far more dependent on choice of vocabulary and syntax than it is on technical writing skills (e.g., formal grammar, etc).
What happens during a typical day at a professional speech writing business?
Speech writers may participate in the following daily activities:
- Marketing to new clients
- Researching industries/markets
- Composing speeches according to client specifications
- Giving feedback to clients
What is the target market?
The target market is anyone who may need to speak in public. This is not limited to leaders in companies, non-profits, or activists. A speech writer can work with anyone at any level — even a nervous best man who has to give the toast at his friend’s wedding.
How does a professional speech writing business make money?
Most speech writers start on a freelance basis and make money based on the length or word count of the speech. Writers will vary their price ranges based on the effort it takes to compose the speech. A highly researched, industry specific speech to high profile business executives may cost several times more than a general motivational talk to a high school.
What is the growth potential for a professional speech writing business?
This is a highly specific skill that is not necessarily translatable across all writers, so the growth potential is high. Like any type of creative writing, there’s a lot of leeway for a writer when it comes to how they structure their speeches to achieve the most impassioned reaction. Those who hit the right combination will find themselves in high demand.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful professional speech writing business?
Most people who jump into this business are already writers. Experienced writers already understand how to link ideas in a logical manner, which can make getting started much easier. However, what really matters is the ability to inspire. Some people are naturally able to convey their thoughts and ideas in such a way that makes people want to listen. In that case, they may not need any kind of formal training to transfer their passion to paper. And while formal education may not be a requirement, many clients will be looking for someone with at least a bachelor's (if not a masters) degree.
What are the costs involved in opening a professional speech writing business?
Most speech writers only need a computer and a fast internet connection to do any type of research they may need.
What are the steps to start a professional speech writing business?
Once you're ready to start your professional speech writing business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your professional speech writing business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your professional speech writing business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting a professional speech writing business?
If you’re already a freelance writer, consider marketing your new skill to existing clients. After all, you probably have some insider knowledge about their company. Mention that you’re available if they’re looking for someone to craft an in-depth speech that really speaks to their audience. In the same vein, may also want to give some thought to specializing in a particular niche for speech writing. Focusing on one market (e.g., CEO-level speeches only, etc.) can make it easier to develop your brand.
A speech can go a long way to instilling values in a crowd. Your goal is to show people why your words coupled with the speaker’s enthusiasm can be just the driving force a client needs to turn things around. Not only should you have excellent sample speeches available, but also video footage of how the speeches come to life at the podium. (If you’re just starting out, you can video the speeches yourself.)
You can also start offering your services for free to community organizations who may want to promote certain causes in any given area. Public groups such as Toastmasters will give you a chance to both write and deliver your speeches, so you can learn what people respond to and why. Analyze famous speeches to see why they succeeded where others failed. Read relevant books and develop a relationship with a speech writing mentor in an effort to get a better foundation.
How to promote & market a professional speech writing business
Start to develop relationships with both community leaders and business executives. Networking events can be a great way to get a handle on the immediate needs around you. Leave your business cards at major organizations who may need speech writers for any number of occasions. Also, invest in your website so you can branch out to other locations. A solid web presence will increase your exposure to people far outside your community.
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How to keep customers coming back
People will come back if they feel they've made an impression on their audience with your help. This is one of the reasons why speechwriters have to be exceptionally thorough before they start putting their speeches together. An audience of professors will likely respond better to formal language while an audience of auto executives may want something more a little more laid back. All speeches will need to be specific enough to keep people interested without overwhelming the audience with a flood of new information or facts.
How and when to build a team
Once you reach a point where you can no longer handle the demand on your own, you may want to hire an assistant to help you research your speeches or even to rough out the first draft. Look for people who understand how to make a crowd connect with an idea.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a professional speech writing business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
How much can you charge customers?
The median income for a speechwriter in a full-time position is about $75,000 – $121,000 (depending on the source you check), so people are willing to pay big bucks for a good speech. When first getting started though, you may want to work at a lower hourly rate. Based on your current obligations and demand, calculate how much you want to make per hour. Whether you’re charging per word or per project, estimate how much time the speech will take you from beginning to end before quoting a dollar amount to a client.
What are the ongoing expenses for a professional speech writing business?
Ongoing expenses for a speech writing business will usually remain low, but can include office rental space, marketing costs, and employee salaries.
How much profit can a professional speech writing business make?
Profits can be substantial, especially considering how low the upfront and ongoing costs can be. If a speechwriter charges an average of $200 a speech with an average of 10 clients a month, they may only need to deduct the direct costs of their monthly internet bill for a total profit of around $1,950.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Speechwriters may want to consider branching out to coaching up-and-coming writers or ambitious executives who want to write their own speeches. Offer ‘polishing’ services where you alter someone else’s content rather than creating it on your own.