Ask the Storytelling Coach » Story Archive » How do I find some paying storytelling gigs where I live?

How do I find some paying storytelling gigs where I live?

The Question

I am a storyteller by nature, love and training, but have had very little time with an audience.

I’ve scraped together a storytelling “group” that has been 2-4 people depending on the month (We just started in Sept and have suspended meeting until Feb – so a different mix for each of 3 meetings). If we can hold it together (unknown) I think it can give me the practice/input I need when I put in the practice ahead of time for my stories.

The real difficulty is finding any kind of a market for something I *have* readied. School teachers are *thrilled* at the idea of my coming in and laud the value of storytelling, until they figure-out I’m not some time-loaded volunteer. Then they cool perceptibly. Others don’t want to surrender any classroom time. The library’s willing to have me (in theory), as a volunteer, but would like to wait until I’m better known around town– especially since I’m looking for an older audience (“young adult”). This is both because of my story choices, and because I feel the young children have plenty opportunities already.

It’s very hard creating the motivation to expand my story-list, or even practicing, when I’ve been unable to find any paying gigs. (Though I have what I think is a reasonable number and range for a beginner).

There are occasional volunteer opportunities, and I can sometimes dig-up an audience for one or two stories, but ultimately it is very frustrating. I have done 4, maybe 6 shows (1/2-hour+ at a time to an audience) in my ìcareerĂ® (the last 2 years), but never the same one, b/c the audiences have been so diverse. I’ve done a nursing home, folk festival family-stage, alternative high school, and elementary-aged kids.

If I didn’t have young children, I might be more interested in volunteering at the schools, but for free, and on their schedules, I’m much less-motivated to dig-up and juggle babysitters. And anyway, I’d certainly like to bring some idea of the *value* of this art to the community. Based on the feedback I’ve been getting locally, that is very lacking.

Do you have any input?

The Answer, from Doug:

Congratulations on your creation of a storytelling group. That will be a huge advantage in the long term.

Thanks, too, for your question. Your situation is not uncommon. I’m willing to guess that what you tell the school teachers you offer is “storytelling”. (Is that right?) I believe that your opportunity for getting a better response lies primarily in how you describe what you offer.

In order for them to be thrilled enough to come up with money for what you do, you will need to show them that what you are offering meets some need that they feel is urgent. There are a few basic steps: 1. Learn more about what troubles them, what frustrates them, etc., in their work. 2. Figure out what your work can do to help with one (or more) of those areas. 3. Describe your work in the terms that they use to describe that problem area.

In the end, you may need to describe what you in quite different terms than you now do. For example, if you decide that your local teachers are starving for ways to motivate slow-learning students around literacy, you might further decide that your storytelling can help get such students interested in writing their own stories – and therefore increase their interest in literacy. So, when you talk to teachers after that, you would not say, “I want to tell stories in your classroom.” Rather, you would say something like, “I have a way to motivate your least-successful reading students to want to learn to write. It requires four classroom visits, and will be enjoyable for your entire class.” Can you see how much more important your work would suddenly seem to them?

In other words, you’re faced with THE classic marketing problem: finding the overlap between what any group of potential customers wants or needs and what you have to offer. The next steps involve finding ways to create relationships with individuals who do, indeed, want or need what you have to offer.

You can find more about this problem on my website at:

After that, you’ll want these CD’s:

I wish you the best, and hope you let me know how things go.

All the best,

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