Income Potential: Can You Make a Living as a Corporate Director?



Trusted to serve
by Tamara Paton in Motivation, Work of the board

In 2012, I earned my first dollar for board work. As I held a cheque for $2,500 in my hands, I hoped it would be the first in a series. Given that it represented compensation for 12 months of work, however, it was a small start.

You can’t make $2,500 a year and think you’re killing it.

Since that day, the financial return on my effort has improved. A good portion of my income today comes from board service, work that feels so good I would (almost) do it for free.

That idea probably annoys those who lack a money tree in their backyard. It would certainly irk my credit card company if I tried to pay bills with my sense of impact on the world. Truthfully, most board work isn’t particularly lucrative when viewed in terms of dollars per hour. It can, however, be more than a rounding error in your finances.

Realistically, can you make a living as a corporate director?

You can, but you have to do more than serve on boards.

If you want to be a professional corporate director, you need 3-5 income streams. Beyond board work, here are mine:

  1. Strategy facilitation
  2. Board career coaching
  3. Online course sales
  4. Public speaking

Strategy facilitation is my bread and butter, generating income, perspective and insight. It’s the work that gives me the ideas, expertise and credibility I need to serve on boards. Whatever you do from 9 to 5 may be your equivalent, the role that you point to when a new acquaintance asks what you do for a living.

After a few years of helping friends build board careers, I started supporting strangers looking to do the same. If you consistently get asked the same handful of questions by a range of individuals, there may be an opportunity to trade your support for a modest fee. For me, board career coaching began as advice for those looking to get on boards. It quickly shifted to supporting developing directors so they can thrive in the roles they play.

Once this coaching activity starts to feel like a steady gig, an online business may be the next logical step. In addition to serving clients one-on-one, my online course scales my effort efficiently. Public speaking offers the same opportunity to share my content with a broader group.

In time, I hope to add the following to the mix:

  1. Book sales
  2. Executive coaching
  3. Early-stage investing

It seems that books are taking over as the new business card. When every leader wants to demonstrate her ability to add value, a book provides tangible evidence of value to add. And with 100,000 words already written on my blog, I have a decent start on a book for those building board careers.

Looking further ahead, I hope to serve as an advisor to CEOs and founders. Your experience and grey hair may already convey the “been there, done that” quality of a seasoned pro. Having a board portfolio — even if entirely in the non-profit space — can enhance the perspective you bring to those leading a growing organization. The form of your compensation will depend on the company’s cash flow circumstances and your willingness to accept equity in lieu of fees.

Can you make a living serving on boards?

You can, but you have to work at it.

What are your income streams going to be?

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, please share it with others in your network. Doing so helps my work reach others and would mean so much to me.




Income Potential: Can You Make a Living as a Corporate Director?

by Tamara time to read: 2 min