From joblessness to making $50K per appearance in 3 yrs: the story of a motivational speaker

Abu Mubarik October 09, 2022
Kelly Charles-Collins. Photo: Twitter/Kelly Charles-Collins

Kelly Charles-Collins worked as an attorney while engaging in paid speaking engagements as a side hustle. Her job as an attorney was lucrative but always created a time crunch that stopped her from going for bigger gigs, she said.

“I had one foot in and one foot out. Because of the security of my job, I’d go all out [with] pursuing my dream at times, and then other times I’d retreat to the comfort and safety of my paycheck,” she told Time

At the time, she made around $5,000 to $7, 000 from her speaking engagement but in 2019, she was laid off because the law firm where she worked could no longer afford her pay. For Charles-Collins, this was an opportunity to launch her speaking engagement as a full-time job. 

Today, she makes $50,000 per speaking appearance and also helps women-led businesses and brands to grow.

According to Charles-Collins, becoming her own boss did not come easy. The reality of not having a stable monthly paycheck soon dawned on her and she was unsure if she could secure clients and revenue. 

The first few months were rough for her but as she began to get some referrals, she started to see a rise in the number of people hiring her as a speaker. As she saw a rise in demand for her service, she created her own website and built social media profile to leverage the internet world for potential clients, Time noted.

The death of George Floyd in 2020 also made her take her business seriously. Her son being a victim of police brutality, the mother of one decided to create a safe space for people to have conversations and ask questions through a Zoom call. 

“I told the people who attended that I was not there for their comfort, but that I had perspective, capacity, and context to answer their questions.”

Besides her referrals from people who attended the Zoom conversation, which was also streamed live on YouTube, she went viral and became easily discoverable on Google search results. 

Company representatives also reached out for similar “listening sessions” and Q&As for their teams. She also presented in various social media groups, with corporate organizations and at various town halls. 

“One of the first companies that hired me for listening sessions was Raymond James,” she said. “That was their first-ever town hall event on race. It was myself and Dr Johnnetta Cole who were the speakers, and there were over 3,000 people on that town hall.” 

Charles-Collins has since engaged in speaking and training commitments for organizations like eBay, Cherry Hill Public School District, the Tampa International Airport, and various law firms. 

According to Time, six months after taking a speaking engagement as a full-time job, she was able to match and then exceed her salary as a lawyer. 

“I was very fortunate that, for 2020 and 2021, I got a lot of business through word of mouth,” she noted.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 9, 2022


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