Saying Something Important for Nothing

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An intersting exchange is noted in the comments for the posting Speaker Fees
that merits a comment about doing lectures without a fee. Generally this bothers me a bit. I do find it troubling to think we'd expect a mechanic to do our car repairs for nothing because he belongs to the same ball team as we do.. But I am not bothered by the idea that he might offer to do it for nothing. Consider the following case

Lets assume that Tracy is a professional genealogist who works about 25 hours a week researching for clients, writing articles for Family Chronicle and Everton's Genealogical Helper and teaching a 6 session beginning genealogy class every fall at the community college. She makes just above the poverty line annually, but things ar getting better she thinks. She'd like to work more, but she wants to be home after school for her kids to supervise homework etc. She thinks her lectures, expanded from some of her lessons are worth $75 for 60 minutes time because she's invested hourds in putting them together, time awy from client research. So she let's it be known that she's available as a speaker in Snodgrass and adjacent counties. Snodgrass County Genalogical Society offers her $40 for her lecture. Its a start. Then the Peapod Co. Historical Society and several others offer similar amounts and she's got a start. But constantly offered less than she thinks she'sworth. Then along comes the Rosebud Community School's brilliant idea to host a FREE genealogy fair with no vendors, just demonstrations and student exhibits, and 16 free classes. They approach Tracy. THey have nothing to offer, but they ask for her help though her children never attended there and she's never been involved before.

Give me four good reasons why she should accept the committment to give two free lectures on a Saturday.

Now, change the sponsor to the LDS Family History Center, and think about those resons. would they be different?

Finally, what proportion of one's total number of lectures given in a year should be done without charg?


2 responses to “Saying Something Important for Nothing

  1. Ken,

    I think I made the comment…

    I do not consider myself a professional genealogist. I don’t have clients (other than my friends that I give free advice to!), I am not certified, I’m not an official member of APG (although I read the list), etc. I could be a pro if I made an effort to be certified and took paying clients. The reason I don’t is mainly time – I’d rather do my own genealogy than someone else’s in the time I have.

    I have only spoken to my local cash-strapped society to date. My policy is to waive the speakers fee for societies that I am a member of – as a donation, so to speak. It’s my choice, since I am not a “pro.”

    Tracy is a professional, but pros in many fields do pro bono work in the community – it’s her choice whether or not to speak for free to the local school genealogy fair or to the local FHC. If the FHC is going to charge for her talk, then I think she, as a pro, should get paid a fee.

    Cheers — Randy

  2. Connie Moretti


    I weighed in on this before, but will do so again… I look at an area conference where I speak for free as a form of free advertising. However, as a professional, I do not think more than 10% of my lectures at most should be fee-free. That said, no amount of standard advertising can compare with an in-person presentation. People will go back to their home societies and say “so-and-so gave a really dynamic lecture on such-and-such… we should have them speak for us” – you get the drift. Looking from both sides (society and speaker) I can think of times when a speaker with a great brochure has been contracted and bored the audience to death… so I stick with my willingness to do one or two free programs a year.

    Connie Moretti

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