Bellace has mixed comedy and psychology as a motivational speaker and stand-up comedian. He has created a profitable career off his "How to get high naturally" program, which aims to empower high school and college students to choose drug- and alcohol-free lifestyles.
Career Path: In June, Bellace earned his doctoral degree in clinical neuropsychology from Drexel University in Philadelphia. But he started landing gigs for motivational speaking 10 years ago and has been spreading his drug- and alcohol-free message across the country ever since.
As an undergraduate biology and psychology major at Bucknell University, Bellace began a drug and alcohol prevention college group called C.A.L.V.I.N & H.O.B.B.E.S (Creating A Lively Valuable Ingenious New Habit Of Being at Bucknell and Enjoying Sobriety), which provides college students with social and educational activities that promote fun without drugs or alcohol. Local colleges and high schools took notice of the program and asked Bellace to speak to their students. The group will celebrate its 13-year anniversary in October.
Bellace also does stand-up at comedy clubs--humor that he also ties in to his motivational speaking. For example, Bellace likes to begin his talks by cracking jokes about his life as a nondrinker in high school and college.
Work schedule: Bellace does 60 to 75 speeches and workshops a year at high schools and colleges throughout the country, sometimes squeezing in three a day. He incorporates psychology into his motivational speeches, such as by drawing from social psychology to explain how to buck peer pressure, and he uses neuropsychology to describe the effects of alcohol and drugs on brain functioning and decision-making.
Best part of his job: Bellace enjoys interacting with the students, who often share their stories of peer pressure and struggles with drugs and alcohol. "Some students don't feel connected to others or feel like they are outsiders" if they don't take drugs or drink alcohol, Bellace explains. "This [program] gives them a chance to be heard and shows them they are not alone."
Salary: National-level motivational speakers average $1,500 per lecture and big-name lecturers can pull in $3,500 to $4,000 per lecture, according to Bellace. Stand-up comedians' salaries depend on experience, he says. For example, beginners often perform for free or make about $50 per show, whereas headliners can make about $1,500 for an entire weekend of shows. Feature acts--like Bellace--bring in about $100 a show.
How you can get his job: The best way to break in to motivational speaking, Bellace says, is to have expertise in a specific area and passion about it.
"Be willing to talk about it for free because in the beginning you probably will have to," Bellace says. He also recommends joining the National Speakers Association or attending its conference or meetings (www.nsaspeaker.org).
"The skills we learn in psychology can be applied to a lot of different areas," Bellace says. "Don't be afraid to branch out...It can really be empowering to take something uniquely inside of you and develop it outside of psychology."
Bellace's Web site is at www.mattbellace.com.