In the beginning stages of my startup, Headbands of Hope, I didn’t realize my name was gaining value as my company grew. I was no longer just, “Jess Ekstrom, student at North Carolina State University.” I started to become, “Jess Ekstrom, 20-year-old founder of Headbands of Hope.”
The first time anyone asked me what my rates were to speak, I thought they had the wrong number. Rates? Like money dollars?
I thought, "but I’m only a college student who needs to finish her Spanish homework. Why would anyone pay me to speak to a school?"
I didn’t feel qualified, so I told the school they could just pay for my travel expenses and that would be fine. After I gave my keynote, I received dozens of emails from students thanking me for inspiring them to take action in college.
I remember one email I got was from a student who had the idea of an eco-friendly water-bottle business she’d wanted to start for years, and after hearing me talk, she finally committed to going for it. That was the turning point for me when I realized I have value.
Everything I’ve learned through starting my company, all of the experiences I’ve had (good and bad) have value to them. So much value that it can inspire others and help with their ventures.
I chose public speaking, but here are some other ways to get paid through your personal brand and expertise:
1. If you’re a talker, host workshops and/or seminars.
Did you gain a large social-media following in a short amount of time? Teach people how you did it in a workshop with an entry fee. The good thing about workshops is that they can be in-person or virtual. You can even apply to host online classes on Skillshare and eventually get paid to do it if enough people join your class.
2. If you’re a writer, write a book.
I know, who has time to write a book? A book is not a short-term project, so give yourself a breakdown of smaller goals, such as 500 words a day or 1,000 words a week depending on your schedule. Write about what you learned starting a company or write about why it’s important to find purpose in your work.
No matter how broad or narrow your topic is, you have to really feel something for it in order to devote so much time and thought. Once you’re ready, you can self-publish your book on Amazon’s Create Space or Telemachus Press, where I published my book about college.
Start a blog.
Instead of choosing one topic to turn into a book, create a blog and write about a bunch of different topics. The same rules apply with having goals. Maybe start with one post per week. Gain followers by contributing to bigger blogs for free and have them link it back to your blog in your bio. Once you have enough followers, you can charge for advertisements and promotions.
3. If you’re a relationship person, become a consultant.
Once your company starts picking up speed, people will start to ask you questions.
“How did you create your website?” “What kind of margins should I have on my products?” “How did you start your campus rep program?”
I’m still flattered when I get these questions. However, answering these emails and requests to pick my brain over coffee not only takes up my time that could be spent on my own business, but my knowledge to answer them has value.
I never wanted to stop helping people, but I needed to develop a system that still respected my own time.
Creating a consulting agreement prevents the situation where your time and knowledge is taken advantage of. Price yourself for one-hour sessions or packaged sessions and schedule them in-person or via Skype. Make sure you feel qualified on the topic a potential client is seeking consulting on before you make an agreement.
At first, it might feel weird or awkward putting a price tag on your brand. But remember, all of your entrepreneurial experiences and lessons learned add up to a value for yourself.