Dear Designer

Dear Designer: Get Paid What You’re Worth to Speak at Conferences

Knowing your value and negotiating smartly are skills worth learning

Mike Monteiro
Published in
10 min readJun 12, 2019
Illustration: Zak Jensen

Dear Mike,

I’ve been a designer for a while, I’m good at it, and I have some opinions and expertise I want to share with the community. I’ve written a few articles and blog posts that’ve gotten good traction, I’ve given a few presentations at work, and now I’d like to try my hand at public speaking. I’d also like to get paid for it. Do you have any tips?

A designer

Dear Designer,

Yes, I have tips. I was late to public speaking myself. Took a while to conquer the inner saboteur that was telling me not to even try, so first off: I commend you on your bravery. Anyone willing to get out in front of a crowd and talk deserves to be commended for their bravery. It’s a hard thing to do. It’s also labor, so you deserve to get paid for it. How much you get paid depends on a few things, which we’ll get into. But let me say this again so it’s crystal clear for anyone who doesn’t read further:

Speaking is labor. Labor gets paid. Never let someone convince you otherwise.

Let’s deal with my fucking privilege, though

When getting advice, you gotta consider the source of the advice. In this case, as is the case with everything I write, the source is a white guy. Like I said, I was late to the speaking gig because I had to get past the voice inside telling me I couldn’t do it. But it was relatively smooth sailing once I got past that. No one ever questioned whether I belonged on stage because I looked like everyone else on stage. Some of you will have to deal with your inner saboteur only to be reminded (as if you could ever forget) that this industry is still sexist and racist as fuck. Worse yet, those two forces will team up. The voice inside your head will tell you that the forces working systematically to keep you from succeeding are doing it because you’re not talented enough. You are. Those voices are lying to you. I don’t know much about being on the wrong side of systematic oppression, but I do know something about voices…



Mike Monteiro
Writer for

English is my second language. You were my first.