Free to Fee: How launched my professional speaking career

Doug DvorakI knew I wanted to quit my day job eventually and become a paid speaker, but I didn’t know where to start. I joined the local Toastmasters Club to help me develop and polish my speaking skills, but I wanted to speak to other groups and organizations around the Chicagoland area. I Googled “Free Speakers” and was directed to Andy Richardson at (The bureau was called Free Speech at the time.)

I decided to call Andy, and that call changed my life and launched my professional speaking career. I have never looked back.

Andy explained what is. Essentially, it is a pro bono speaker’s bureau for the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area. It has sister bureaus in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. All three bureaus connect entertaining, competent, topical speakers with local organizations, associations and corporations that are in need of a speaker but have limited or no budgets.

So, I joined, paid a nominal membership fee of $35.00 and started on my journey to becoming a paid professional speaker.

The first year I was actively involved in, I spoke more than 35 times FOR FREE. As my speaking skills evolved and improved, I starting getting requests to speak and get paid. I was amazed; I never thought I could get paid to to do something I loved so very much – speaking.

It reminds me of a quote I heard several years ago while I was pondering my transition from Corporate America to independent speaker: “Find what you love to do and do it for the rest of your life – let your avocation be your vocation.”

I want to thank Andy and for pointing me in the right direction and helping and coaching me along the way. is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to speak or to make a positive impact in peoples’ lives.

Even if you don’t have a desire like me to be a professional, fee-based speaker, you can still network, benefit and grow your speaking and communications skills through  Thanks again Andy and I couldn’t have done it without you!


Doug Dvorak is a professional motivational keynote speaker and humorist, based in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the most well-traveled keynote motivational speakers available today. Doug has earned his spot in the motivational speaking Hall of Fame. In addition, he has been inducted into the International Who’s Who of Professional Speaking.