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How to Get Started as a Professional Storyteller
by Chris King

As all skilled professionals, professional storytellers make telling stories to an audience appear easy and fun. Perhaps you have attended a storytelling festival or concert and thought, "I could do that. I love telling stories!" Perhaps you already tell stories as a parent, scout leader, teacher, librarian, speaker, or business leader and are wondering how to take your storytelling to a professional level. Perhaps you didn’t realize that there are professional storytellers making an excellent living doing what they do and loving every minute of it. In this article I will share ideas and excerpts from my e-book, How to Get Started as a Professional Storyteller

It is impossible to describe a typical, professional storyteller. Storytellers appear in all guises — a wide range of ages, shapes, sizes, and from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. They tell stories to all age groups from pre-school to senior citizens, with families in between. Storytellers tell (not read) a variety of stories from parables, to traditional folk and fairy tales, to urban tales, to personal stories, to original stories, to business stories. Storytellers have as many styles of telling as there are kinds of stories. There are traditional storytellers who remain seated with minimal movement, using only their words and voice to transmit the story. There are storytellers who add movement, facial expressions, music, mime, percussion, props, and costumes to enhance their stories.

Professional storytellers are in demand. Because storytelling has experienced a rebirth and resurgence during the past 35 to 40 years, there are professional storytellers performing all over the world on stages, in schools, at libraries, and at important events. It takes a lot more, however, than just loving to tell stories to become a professional storyteller. It takes talent, discipline, uniqueness, preparation, tenacity, creativity, and integrity. Even though a good storyteller is always welcomed, a professional storyteller must also approach storytelling as a business if he or she wants to make a living.

What this means is that the successful, professional storyteller has worked and continues to work on developing his/her unique style of telling. It also means that, as with many of the performing arts, the professional storyteller is, typically, not under contract to a single employer, but sells his or her “gigs” to many groups, organizations, and individual clients. Therefore, a good portion of the professional storyteller’s time is used marketing his or her talents — much more in the beginning until word-of-mouth kicks in.

Because professional storytellers come to storytelling in different ways, they also fit into a variety of career paths. Some tell part time on weekends and evenings while holding down another full or part time career. Some are teachers or librarians who tell as part of their employment and then professionally on their own during their vacations. Some couple their professional storytelling with writing — often related to their storytelling and stories. Some are full time storytellers who tell in their own region, while some travel the country and the world. Many professional storytellers started as part time professional storytellers and found the career to be so rewarding and so much fun, they eventually went full time.

What is a typical schedule for a professional storyteller? Storyteller Dianne de Las Casas from Harvey, Louisiana (one of the three professional storytellers I interviewed for the book) answered, “Like any self-employed, professional storyteller, my days, weeks and months vary. I typically perform 150-200 shows per year. Most of my performances are in the field of education — at schools and libraries. In the summer, I tour Louisiana libraries and when I do, I am only home on the weekends. I spend a lot of time on the road and in motels.

"On a performance day, I pack my car the night before (I have a lot of equipment — a professional sound system, wireless microphone, speaker stands, a backdrop, and props). In the morning, I make sure to note my mileage in my mileage book. I arrive at my performance site about 45 minutes to one hour beforehand to set up. Two performances at one site usually take up half a day if it's local. Two performances at two different sites will take up a whole day due to travel, setting up, and breaking down.

"When I am in my office, I return calls, check and respond to email, do paperwork, research, market new clients, create, and rehearse. I am pretty organized so I keep a calendar where I write all of my engagements and my to-do list. I check my to-do list every day and check off items that have been accomplished.

"I also have to continually search for new stories so I have to find time to read. When I am on a "story quest," I can read 50 stories before I find one I feel is right for me to tell. Then I spend time adapting and shaping the story to fit my style of telling.

"My typical day is not typical. It varies from day to day and it is part of what makes the storytelling profession so exciting and appealing to me."

If you think you would like to become a professional storyteller, order the book! How to Get Started as a Professional Storyteller will provide a realistic picture of what you can expect, share the experiences of currently successful professional storytellers, tell you what you need to know, offer insider tips on how to become successful, and provide a step-by-step plan to get you started. And, be sure to let me know how you like it.

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Is it your
dream to
become a

If so, this
Jobs book is for you!

It includes interviews of
three working storytellers,
the steps to take, along with a plethora of useful

If you'd like more information about "How to Get Started as a Professional Storyteller" and how to order your copy, just click on the above book cover or

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