Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

New to the ancient art of storytelling

Hi, everyone,

I'm new to this site and to the ancient art of storytelling. I have some questions, and I hope you will share some of your experiences with me.

When I lost my job as a specialized librarian (engineering) four months ago, all I knew was that I did not want to go back to the corporate world. As I went through the process of discovering my "strengths and weaknesses" in order to find my next job, all that kept running through my mind was 'I like to tell stories'. So, I've decided to give it a try.

As a Toastmaster for a cumulative 23 or so years (concurrent memberships in 2 clubs) I've given a lot of 5-7 minute speeches/stories - not very long at all. My first question is, when you are contacted as a storyteller, what is the average time requirement for the stories you tell?

My second question, is how long has it taken you to build a clientele or to get your name out there so that people are calling you for their paid events?

I'm sure I'll have more questions as time goes by. I hope my questions help other new storytellers as well.

I look forward to your repsonses,






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Comment by Rita Reisman on April 13, 2011 at 4:49pm
Thanks, Sean!
Comment by Sean Buvala on April 13, 2011 at 4:11pm

Hi Rita-

Welcome to storytelling! Some quick thoughts. Take what works for you. Probably more info than you asked for :-).


As a storyteller, you want to have stories that fill at least twice the amount of time you are being booked for. If your client wants 45 minutes on average, you need to have at least 90 minutes of practiced, skilled and audience-ready material in your mental "tool box." There is no average show length, but most libraries and schools ask for 45 minute programs.


Find a temporary job that will pay the bils for the moment while you learn to transistion from an employee of a company to the "small business owner." It takes 5-7 years to develop a serious business where you can make a living off of working as a storyteller.


Specialize. The generic "I tell stories for all ages" won't get you booked. Specialize and find your niche or two.


 You'll need to develop multiple streams of income so that your bank account is always receiving funds. For example, I had two surgeries in March which left me unable to perform. I still brought in about $500 in income from automatic streams of by books, referrals, CD's etc. It was enough to keep my family fed while I was unable to work, along with the planning I did knowing that I would not be working "live" at all in March and through the middle of this month.


Here is a ton of free files, audio and downloads to help you learn more about marketing. Take advantage:


Immerse yourself in the free articles, stories, and interviews at . Tons of good learning there. Start with this article:


I usually offer several free telecourses in the Summer. Watch this site. Also, join the Emailing list over at and you'll get weekly updates and reminders.


Think about not using the term "ancient art." Storytelling is alive, breathing, current and comtemporary. It grows, bends, supports and creates both our audiences and ourselves.  


Learn learn learn learn learn. Constant learning.


After 25 years of telling, I know that storytelling is the greatest job I have ever had and it has enhanced the jobs I have worked in. You will have moments of great joy and complete frustration. Usually both in the same day. :-)


Good wishes on your new adventures!


Comment by Rita Reisman on April 12, 2011 at 12:55pm

Christi, I'm a librarian too, but I'm unemployed at the moment.

Thanks for your response, it is helpful and I appreciate it.

I'll be happy to be one of your cheerleaders!


Comment by Christi U. on April 12, 2011 at 12:30pm

My first stories were ranging between 15-20 minutes. They were interesting, but much too long for children and for some adults. Our guildmaster likes to say anybody will listen to anything for 10 minutes, so she urges us to cut down all of our pieces with that guideline in mind. So, when I'm hired for a 30-45 minute performance, I'm often telling 2-3 stories, with some commentary, songs, or audience participation in between. Of course, I've only been doing this, supplementing my music librarian career, for about 2 years and am still experimenting.  

   It really depends on the ages and purpose of your audience, too. It took me a 6 months to get my first paying gig and that was with a friend. It took another 6 months to get a stranger's reference. I'm still telling once a month at the bookstore who champions me to everyone.

   You are going to feel a bit corporate with all of the required marketing we self-promoters have to do. It's all about networking and knowing your audience and building a relationship, just like in any industry.

   Thanks for joining up. Now, we can be each other's cheerleader.



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