Today, public relations consultant Fraser Seitel let it out of the closet in his professional development column on odwyerpr.com that speechwriting can be lucrative.
To be exact, according to Lynn Wasnak who tracks these things http://www.writersmarket.com/content/hm_charge.asp, the average 30-minute speech earns us in the Silent Profession between $2,700 and $6,000, with the average compensation per speech being about $4,064.
That's not bad compared to compensation in, say, the downward-spiraling print publishing industry, doing marcom freelance at $25 an hour, or posting employee news on the intranet, all day.
The payoff goes way beyond money. Former speechwriters such as Peggy Noonan, Janilee Johnson, and Bill Cox went on to much better things. Conservative Noonan could have made it really big, in fact, had not Ann Coulter stole the spotlight.
Speechwriting is almost a sure stepping stone in a career world with few sure things. See, being a speechwriter gives you access to the corridors of power (what a network that is), insider experience about how the game works, and the paid opportunity to sharpen your own presentation skills. (When I was penning speeches in the petroleum industry they financed my development as a speaker.)
How would I advise a talented communicator to get into this profession?
Well, it's a hands-on field. You become a speechwriter by, yup you got it, writing speeches. With downsizing, more employees are getting a crack at speechwriting. Also, there are many political campaigns that eat speeches. Volunteer to put together someone's remarks. Grow a thick skin for the criticism. Speechwriting is a highly subjective activity and those who evaluate quality and appropriateness often don't understand rhetoric.
Become a news junkie and a quiet intellectual. More and more speechwriters are morphing into one-person think tanks, providing time-challenged speakers with provocative ideas, interesting research, and fresh perspectives.
Develop a sixth sense about who speakers really are versus who they want to be. Speechwriters who can fuse those two identities in one set of remarks become golden to those speakers. Much of speechwriting comes down to knowledge of people, both those who are your speakers and those who fill the audience.
Create a diverse portfolio of knowledge and skills by getting all the different kinds of experiences you can. If you have a full-time job with Company X, do freelance assignments to broaden you. If you are already freelancing, don't grab on to one industry or client.
Although speechwriters should have relatively low profiles, we must enhance our marketability through the usual tactics such as teaching courses/workshops in communications, talking at conferences, and publishing commentary and even books on communications.
Keep up-to-date on trends in rhetoric. That means listening and analyzing how people speak, informally, formally and in the media.